In Eastern Conference, it’s all about the battle for No. 2 seed

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler looks to pass.
Photo of Ricky Dimon

Ricky Dimon

NBA · 2 years ago

Show Bio

Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

In the Eastern Conference, you’re pretty much either really good or really bad. There’s not much in between. Case in point: six teams boast a winning percentage of at least .628. After the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers (27-16), you have to go all the way down to a 20-22 record to find the next best team (the seventh-place Orlando Magic). The 18-22 Brooklyn Nets round out the current playoff field. Yes, four games under .500 gets you in the tournament.

The point here is that there are six good teams in the East. That means two of the first-round playoff series will be blockbusters: No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5. To avoid that, the goal is to finish either first or second and feast on either No. 7 or No. 8. The Milwaukee Bucks, of course, already have the top spot on lockdown. Thus the importance of the battle for second cannot be understated.

Let’s address the contenders.

Miami Heat

In South Beach, the LeBron James era ended a while ago, the Dwyane Wade era came to an end last year, and Chris Bosh also recently departed. No matter. The new-look Heat are led by newcomer Jimmy Butler and a whole bunch of young upstarts. Their 18-1 home record is the best in the NBA, so needless to say getting home-court advantage for one or even two postseason series would be massive.

Boston Celtics

Is it too early to say that replacing Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker was an upgrade? Well, one thing Walker does is he stays on the floor. He does plenty of other things, too. With the former UConn and Hornets star leading the way, Boston currently finds itself in third place behind the Bucks and Heat. Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jalen Brown are all averaging at least 20 points per game.

Toronto Raptors

Heading into Saturday’s date with Minnesota (check out our free NBA expert picks), the defending NBA champions are 27-14. Sure they are not expected to repeat with Kawhi Leonard having taken his talents to Hollywood, but so far this has to be considered an overachievement. Pascal Siakam was the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2018-19 and he is only getting better and better.

Indiana Pacers

Along with Miami and Oklahoma City, Indiana has to be considered one of the most surprising teams in basketball. Despite still not having Victor Oladipo at their disposal, the Pacers are hanging tough at 27-15 (No. 5 in the East). Malcolm Brogdon has provided a big boost on both ends of the floor, one of three guys contributing at least 17.7 ppg (also T.J. Warren and Domantas Sabonis). Oladipo could return as soon as Jan. 29.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers took care of Chicago 100-89 on Friday, improving to an incredible 20-2 at home. Like the case with Miami, it is paramount that Philadelphia bag a top-four seed to begin its postseason campaign at home. The No. 2 spot, of course, would be ideal. That would guarantee two series with home-court advantage. But in sixth place right now, Joel Embiid and company have to get going sooner rather than later.

Virginia Bonuses

See All
FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 No Sweat First Bet on Rams vs. 49ers

Sign up for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account and make your first deposit of $10+

Place your first bet up to $1,000!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

Must be 21+. First online real money wager only. $10 first deposit required. Bonus issued as non-withdrawable free bets that expire 14 days after receipt. See full terms at fanduel.com/sportsbook.

DraftKings

$200

Bet $5+ on Rams or 49ers ML, Get $200 If Your Bet Wins

Sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Bet $5+ on any NFL pre-game ML

Win $200 if your team wins

Offer valid for new players only. Must be 21 years or older to play. Reward paid in site credit. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Unibet

$100

Get a $100 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $100 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $100

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.

PointsBet

$800

Get 4x $200 In Free Bets on Rams vs. 49ers

Sign up for a new PointsBet account

Bet up to $200 and If you lose, you get a refund

You will receive Free Bet(s) in the amount of the losing wager(s), up to $200 each for four days.

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.

Caesars Sportsbook

$1,250

Get a $1,250 risk-free bet on Rams vs. 49ers

Sign up for a new Caesars Sportsbook account

Place your first bet of $10 or more

If your first bet loses, you’ll receive a refund up to $1,250 from Caesars in free bets

21+. Terms and conditions apply.

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet on Rams vs. 49ers

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

BetRivers

$500

Get Your First Bet Risk-Free Up To $500

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make your first deposit & get up to $500 in free bets

To get $500 in free bets, wager $500

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

DraftKings

$100

Bet $5+ on MLB and get $100 in Free Bets Instantly!

Sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Bet $5+ on any MLB team to win their next game

Win $100 no matter what!

Offer valid for new players only. Must be 21 years or older to play. Reward paid in site credit. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

PointsBet

$500

Get 5x $100 in Free Bets on Rams vs. 49ers With PointsBet's Second Chance

Sign up for a new PointsBet account

Make a bet of up to $100 and receive a refund if you lose

Get this offer once a day for the first 5 days you sign up

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

PointsBet

$2,000

Get $2,000 in Free Bets on Rams vs. 49ers

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit

Receive a free bet refund up to $500 if your first fixed odds bet loses

& a free bet refund up to $1,500 if your first two PointsBetting Wager loses

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim Instant Deposit Match up to $100 + Free $5 game

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

TVG

$200

Get Your First Single-Horse Win Wager Back Up to $200 if you don't win

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $200

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$200

Get a $200 Sign-Up Bonus with Twinspires Racebook!

Open your TwinSpires.com account using offer code BET200

$200 bonus cash will be credited in increments of $100 for every $400 wagered

To earn the full $200 bonus players must wager $800 within 30 days

21+. Terms and conditions apply.

Underdog Fantasy

$100

First deposit is 100% matched up to $100 with Underdog Fantasy

Sign up for a new account with Underdog Fantasy

Make your first deposit

Every dollar (up to $100) will be matched! Deposit $25, get $50; deposit $100, get $200, etc

Must be 21+ to play. Terms & conditions apply