The Eastern conference has been a whole lot of fun so far
The Eastern Conference is the deepest it’s been in eons, and it’s been a wild and enjoyable ride so far. Coming into the season, we expected teams like the Nets, Bucks, Sixers and Heat to be contending, but the start of the season has thrown in a lot of surprises.
To paint you a better picture, the two 2021 Eastern Conference finalists lie in 10th and 11th place with identical 4-4 records. For the Bucks, who reign as NBA champions, some of these problems can be attributed to them already struggling with injury problems. The Hawks have been up and down to start the season as well, and they’re not being helped by the sudden rise of a few teams.
The East’s current top dogs are surprising, considering how badly the Miami Heat were wrecked in the playoffs by last season. Bringing in Kyle Lowry is starting to pay dividends, and the Heat’s league-leading point differential of +16.7 doesn’t even feel surprising if you’ve watched their games this season. It’s almost unfair that they have Tyler Herro coming off the bench. We all know that Jimmy Butler is the kind of guy to take losing personally, and it seems like he’s back with a vengeance this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers still don’t have Ben Simmons, but it looks like Joel Embiid meant what he said when he shared that he didn’t care about that guy anymore. The Sixers are 6-2 to start the season and have adopted a ‘next man up’ mentality that will undoubtedly have Sixers fans pleased.
The Chicago Bulls have become relevant again after putting together a strong four-man group in Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine. They’re sitting third in the conference and are proving a headache to deal with.
The Toronto Raptors are surprisingly in fourth place thanks to a five-game winning streak that’s pushed their record to 6-3. They were maligned for choosing Scottie Barnes, but in seven games the rookie has so far produced 18.1 PPG and 8.9 RPG and has been a solid contributor to the Raptors’ success. OG Anunoby’s been on a bit of a tear too, averaging 20.3 PPG. Oh, and did I mention that the Raptors haven’t even seen Pascal Siakam take the court yet?
The Knicks, who the Hawks dispatched in five games, continue to stay competitive, and their new signings of Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker (who is on a very team-friendly contract) have been working out so far. This has made it interesting for basketball fans in New York, since the Brooklyn Nets are also starting to find their stride while still missing Kyrie Irving.
The Washington Wizards, who were Toronto’s latest victims today in a 109-100 defeat, have been a far more balanced team after the Russell Westbrook trade. Montrezl Harrell has been a double-double machine and Spencer Dinwiddie is getting his chance to shine.
The Hornets have been a surprise too, and have played solidly to a 5-4 record. They’ve fallen off a bit since starting the season 3-0, but are still looking dangerous on a lot of nights. Hell, even the Cleveland Cavaliers are getting in on the action a bit, with six players averaging in double figures, including rookie Evan Mobley.
Only 2.5 games separate first place and 11th place to start the season, and if this trend continues then there’s going to be a wild fight for the play-in. I’m all for that.
KD cooks the Hawks
The Brooklyn Nets are now on a three-game winning streak after beating the Atlanta Hawks 117-108, and are 4-1 in their last five games.
Kevin Durant played a big part in today’s victory, as he was basically unstoppable and shot 13 of 20 from the field on the way to 32 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and a block. James Harden struggled with his shot, going 5 of 14 from the field, but he did go 5 of 11 from three. He finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and a block, showing that his value isn’t just on the scoring end, but also with his elite playmaking. It was a good game for the Nets overall as six players scored at least 10 points.
De’Andre Hunter had a great game for the Hawks, shooting 10 of 11 from the field and a perfect 6 of 6 from deep on the way to 26 points. Trae Young narrowly missed a triple-double with 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists but had problems hitting shots again as he went 6 of 22 from the field.
In other additional news for the Nets, coach Steve Nash has said that the Nets would welcome Kyrie Irving back, vaccine or no vaccine, if the New York City mandate changes. This came up because they’ve elected a new mayor, who opened the door to potentially negotiating on the vaccine mandate for city-wide players. It’s an interesting development because Nets owner Joe Tsai is a strong supporter of the vaccine mandate and wants Irving to get the vaccine.
Of course, if city mandates change, then a team owner who wants to win a championship may change his tune if it means the third superstar on his team can return to work without being vaccinated.
Paul George is earning his money
Paul George had another big game for the Clippers tonight with 32 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists on 11 of 18 shooting. The Clippers took the 126-115 victory, and even though George had 8 turnovers, they’ll be happy with his overall contribution. More importantly, he got a lot of help from Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum, who combined for 49 points.
It’s been a bit of a tough one for the Clippers overall, and they currently sit in ninth place in the West with a 3-4 record. They’ll be able to bank on George doing his best to keep them in, at least!
Jordan Poole carries the Warriors to a 6-1 record
Before today’s game between the Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Hornets, you wouldn’t have been wrong to get excited about seeing LaMelo Ball and Steph Curry duke it out. Both had solid games, with Curry finishing with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists, a steal and a block, and Ball finishing with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assist and 4 steals.
However, the star of the show today was Jordan Poole, who finished the game with 31 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals that helped carry the Dubs to a 114-92 win. Golden State needed every one of those points, too, since Miles Bridges bounced back for the Hornets with 32 points and 9 rebounds while Gordon Hayward had a double-double with 23 points and 11 assists.