The NBA regular season is entering its final stretch. There is a month left until the playoffs begin, the moment of truth. Everything that has happened so far is just the prelude to see who participates in the playoffs, if a team has a home field advantage over another and what rivals it meets on the way to the champion ring. With less than four weeks of regular season left, the Denver Nuggets are the clear leaders in the Western Conference, while the Milwaukee Bucks have overtaken the Boston Celtics in the East. The excitement, in any case, is more at the bottom of the table in each conference, in which teams like LeBron James’ Lakers or Zion Williamson’s New Orleans Pelicans struggle not to close the season too early.
Each conference has 15 teams. The first six of each of them go directly to the playoffs while those who remain between the seventh and tenth places participate in the play in, a kind of repechage. The seventh plays against the eighth and the one who wins occupies the seventh place in the playoffs. The one who loses of those two plays against the winner of a match between ninth and tenth, and from there comes the eighth place for the playoffs.
The latest trades have apparently raised the level of the West at the expense of the East. The Brooklyn Nets have lost their two biggest stars: Kevin Durant, bound for the Phoenix Suns, and Kyrie Irving, who has joined Luka Dončić’s Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers, the Clippers and the Warriors, who recover Gary Payton II, have also come out stronger in the last market window. This is how the American professional basketball league is one month from the playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets (46 wins and 23 losses) have a comfortable lead in the West, despite not going through their best moment. Nikola Jokić is nominating him to win the league’s best player award for the third year in a row. Under the Serb’s leadership, the Nuggets turned their home court into a stronghold in the first half of the league. Some doubts have arisen because they are living their worst streak of results of the season, with four consecutive losses, but they have done their homework on time and maintain a solid lead over the Memphis Grizzlies, second and the Sacramento Kings, third.
The Grizzlies have temporarily removed their star Ja Morant from the team for displaying himself with a gun on social media. With a balance of 41-26, it is expected that they will compete for second place in the conference with the Kings (40 wins and 27 losses), the fittest team in the West right now, thanks in large part to the good form of Domantas Sabonis. , another European center that makes a difference, and De’Aaron Fox, the team’s top scorer.
Behind those three teams, the Phoenix Suns (37-31) are fourth in the West and fifth, the Golden State Warriors, current NBA champions. Stephen Curry’s men have gone from less to more and are another of the fit teams. They can’t be ruled out at all, but they aren’t even guaranteed playoff entry.
Between the fifth place of the Warriors, with 36 wins and 33 losses, and the twelfth in the West, occupied by the Utah Jazz (33 wins and 36 losses), the differences are very small, with 3 games with 13 remaining to play. In that small margin are the Clippers (36-33), the Timberwolves (35-34), the Dallas Mavericks (34-35), the Lakers (34-35), the Thunder (34-35), the Pelicans (33 -36) and the Utah Jazz (33-36), in that order.
In this group, it is surprising how badly Irving has fit in at the moment in some Mavericks somewhat hit by injuries, the collapse of the Pelicans after a brilliant first third of the season and the good moment of the Lakers, who have at their disposal at least the play in and, if he continues in his current state of form, return to the playoffs. This Tuesday, with LeBron James out, those from Los Angeles passed over some aimless Pelicans.
In the East, the team approaching the playoffs in the best shape is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks, another candidate for best player of the regular season thanks to his average of 31.5 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. . In addition, those from Wisconsin are a compact, serious and disciplined team in defense, which has maintained a good level even during the moments of loss of its star. With 49 wins and 19 losses, they not only lead the East, but also have the best record in the entire NBA.
The second in the East (47 wins and 22 losses) are the Boston Celtics, conference champions last year and finalists, therefore, in the NBA in 2022. After the controversial replacement of coach Ime Udoka by Joe Mazzulla, the team He has been the leader for a good part of the season, but now he is going through a mediocre streak of results. With a victory-hungry Jason Tatum and a Jaylen Brown that complements him perfectly, they are candidates for everything.
In the East, the other clinched playoff berths seem somewhat more definite, with the 76ers in third position (45 wins and 22 losses), followed by the Cavaliers (44-27), the Knicks (40-30) and the Nets (39-30). Only the Miami Heat (seventh with 37-33) have any chance of entering the fight for the six direct places.
What is animated is the struggle for the play in. The Atlanta Hawks, eighth with 34 wins and 35 losses, have some advantage, but then there are four teams in a close fight for the remaining two spots. After a spectacular first quarter, the Raptors beat the Nuggets, leaders of the West, on Tuesday and have 33 wins and 36 losses. For now, the Washington Wizards are tenth, who this Tuesday comfortably beat the bottom club Detroit Pistons at the Capital One Arena in the capital with a very good game by Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porziņģis, which leaves them with a balance of 32- 37. They are close on the heels of the Chicago Bulls (31-36) and the Indiana Pacers (31-38), who have not yet said goodbye to the playoffs.
The regular season will close with the 15 games of the super day on Sunday, April 9, which will finish defining the positions. The parties of the play in they will be played between April 11 and 14 and the playoffs will begin on April 15. After a month and a half of playoffs, the NBA final, between the winner of the West and the East, will be played in the best of seven games starting on June 1.
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