Now that the dust has settled from the rather subdued trade deadline, here’s where things stand in the Eastern Conference.
Virtual daps: Al Horford
Heading through the trade deadline we, the collective NBA fan base, have essentially expended the entirety of our Atlanta Hawks-related energies towards the exhausting Josh Smith trade rumor carousel. In the process, we have glazed a blind eye over what has been a heck of a stretch for their big man, Al Horford. Dating back before the All-Star break, Horford has been incredible. Prior to tonight’s game, he strung together 5 straight games of 10+ field goals made on 50%+ shooting, with a flat 10.0 average on the boards. A staple in the middle for the Hawks for years already, it’s hard to believe that Horford is only 26 years old and entering his prime, but the best is yet to come for him. What did he do to follow up, last night? How does 23 points, 10-13 shooting, 22 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 2 steals sound? He even sank a 3! Keep ballin’, Big Al.
- Them Indiana Pacers. Talk about a hot team, I’m very glad that the Grizzlies’ path to and through the playoffs does not have to go through these guys. As Paul George told 3 Shades, when teams like the Grizz and them play, it’s a “slugfest.” The Pacers put a beating on their opponents night in and night out, leading the league in defensive efficiency and points allowed in the process. They’re 8-2 in their last 10, and Danny Granger has just returned.
- As hot as the Pacers have been, there’s nothing in the East hotter than heat. That is, the Miami Heat. The defending champs have won their last 11 now, and are dispatching opponents with calloused disregard. In their last contest it appeared as if Kyrie Irving in the Cavs may have actually had a chance to steal the W as the Heat took their foot off the gas, but they were able to tighten up when it mattered most and come out alive.
- The Ed Davis-less Toronto Raptors have taken 6 of their last 8 contests to the bank, as the infusion of Rudy Gay has seemingly done some real good things for them. Save the two six-point losses: one to our Grizzlies and last night’s against a much improved Wizards team, the Raps have been doing work north of the border. They’ve beaten some good teams in the span, too, including the Pacers, Knicks twice, and the Nuggets.
- The winners of the purported J.J. Redick sweepstakes (although judging by the yield, it’s hard to believe it was exactly that), the Milwaukee Bucks, are really in a bad place right now having lost 8 of their last 10. After beginning the year flirting with the top of the Central Division, they’ve seen themselves leapfrogged by the very apparently superior Pacers and Bulls. As bad as they have looked though, they’d be in possession of the 8th seed if the playoffs were to start today, which is more an indictment on the balance of power in the Eastern Conference than anything else. Side-note: man this is hilarious.
- The New York Knicks aren’t exactly in a tailspin, but the local media out here would have you believe it! To be fair, they were losers of 4 straight prior to scraping out a win against Philadelphia. Carmelo Anthony’s “scuffle” with Spencer Hawes was foreboding-ly expository of how he can let his frustrations (see:Kevin Garnett) get in the way of the task at hand. If the Knicks are going to go far this year, they need Melo to stick to showing off his quick trigger with the basketball rather than a “short fuse” towards opponents.
- The Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers are both not-so-proud losers of 5 straight. For the Magic, this is sadly unfamiliar territory, as they’ve seemingly been carrying losing streaks of 5+ more than they have not. On the other hand, Philadelphia is slipping out of the playoff picture ever so slightly, but as illustrated by the Bucks above, there’s always hope in the East.
Some of the week’s sweet reads by our TrueHoop brethren:
- Grizzlies fans, there’s a must read over at Hoop76 by Tom Sunnergren regarding Sixers coach Doug Collins and his war vs. analytics. Sound familiar?
- On the TrueHoop home site, Kevin Arnovitz has an analysis up on the “Killer Lineup” of the Indiana Pacers.
- Over at Celtics Hub, Brian Robb tells the interesting story of why a prospective D-League call-up turned down a 10 day contract offer with the C’s.