The self-sabotaging methods of NBA teams must stop. Now, you may think I am talking about the teams tanking at the bottom of the standings. However, a real problem persists with the NBA teams vying for playoff spots and seeding.
If you take one look at the Eastern Conference standings, not much has changed. Yet, a closer look examines some incredibly disturbing occurrences. For example, 7 out of the 8 teams in playoff seeds right now have lost their last game. In fact, the No. 9 seed Charlotte Hornets have also lost. Meaning, some of these teams are indeed planning to back their way into the postseason. However, this isn’t necessarily a problem with the Hornets.
The Milwaukee Bucks lead the NBA with a (48-15) record. They came into Saturday with a seven-game winning streak. The Bucks also outlasted the Los Angeles Lakers in a thrilling game on Friday night. Keep in mind, the Lakers do not look like a playoff team right now. Although the win was nice, it wasn’t the most impressive game on their west coast road trip. They faced the Utah Jazz in a back to back. Instead of going in and trying to punish the Jazz, the Bucks sat their starting backcourt. Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon didn’t make an appearance and the Jazz defeated the Bucks, 115-111. And just like that, the Bucks’ winning streak is over. Yes, they clinched a playoff spot, but they hardly have home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Earlier on Friday, Kawhi Leonard stopped the Portland Trailblazers with a game-winning baseline midrange dagger. The Toronto Raptors (46-18) are only 2.5 games out of first place and they should be vying for the best record in the NBA. Yet, Leonard rested on Sunday in a loss to the Detroit Pistons. It wasn’t even a back to back. Moreover, the Raptors don’t have a back to back until next Monday.
Keep in mind, neither of these teams have lived up to the playoff hype in previous years. The Raptors may be trying to avoid the No. 1 seed. On the surface, it seems like it hasn’t helped them in the past. However, the Raptors have been to an Eastern Conference Finals and a pair of second round matchups. They wouldn’t have made it that far without the homecourt. As bad as it has been for the Raptors it has been far worse for the Bucks in the postseason.
Let’s not act like Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the Bucks to the second round. He is (0-3) in the postseason. This is their best team by far. However, the Bucks still have to learn how to win big games in the playoffs. There’s no better atmosphere to learn how to do that than in Utah. When you haven’t won a single playoff series, you should try to win as many games as possible. The process should be to dominate the league. Furthermore, if you’re going to sit players, they should rest against the under .500 Lakers and not the surging Jazz.
The No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers lost their last outing against the Orlando Magic. Meanwhile, the No. 8 Magic lost their last game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Magic have been playing well going (7-3) in their last 10 games. However, it’s those type of losses that could be the difference between the NBA lottery and a postseason run.
The Pacers are also in peril of dropping down the the No. 4 seed. We all thought it might happen, but now the Philadelphia 76ers are .5 games behind the Pacers. They haven’t had the luxury of sitting players recently, although they have rested guys throughout the season. Joel Embiid has been out of action since All-star break. He should return soon from knee soreness.
The No. 5 Boston Celtics may need to rest Kyrie Irving. Ever since he reached out to LeBron James, the Celtics have been on a freefall. Their incessant talk about losing has actually created a losing culture. Irving has fostered a self-fulfilling losing prophecy that has been ingrained into the Celtics’ locker room. They aren’t in any danger of dropping in the playoff race, but home court advantage in the first-round seems to be out of their grasp.
Meanwhile, the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets have lost three games in a row. They are now a half game behind the No. 6 Detroit Pistons. In fact, the Pistons are the only team in the Eastern Conference with consecutive wins currently. Their two-game winning streak has put the Pistons in a great position at (31-31). They have won 10 of their last 13 games dating back to the last day in January. As a result, they are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. If their ascension continues and they win up to 45 games, we will be talking about a team that’s ready to compete in the first-round.
With only one NBA champion crowned every year, teams should attempt to go for spectacular records. They should try to have spectacular seasons. If the 76ers claim to ‘trust the process,’ everybody else should trust the process of the NBA season. Go be great. It’s almost like teams try to temper expectations in the regular season just to lose in the postseason anyway.
If the Bucks and Raptors meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, it would be interesting to see if the series went seven games. Now, imagine an NBA Finals appearance being decided by home court advantage. All of a sudden, a meaningless game on the first day of March would loom large in retrospect.