Predicting the Eastern Conference Playoff Race

1/27/14 in NBA   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Jan 6, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce (34) drives past Atlanta Hawks power forward Mike Scott (32) during the fourth quarter of a game at Barclays Center. The Nets defeated the Hawks 91-86. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsAs bad as the Eastern Conference is this year outside of the top two teams, there should at least be a rather entertaining scramble for seeds 3 through 8 in this year’s playoffs.
 
Here’s how I see the top 8 in the conference rounding out at the end of the year:
 
(win-loss records going into Monday night’s action)
 
1. Indiana Pacers (34-9, 1st place currently)
 
Their 2.5-game lead over Miami isn’t huge, but the Pacers know the importance of home-court advantage against the Heat, so expect them to continue playing their best basketball the second half of the season to hold onto the lead.
 
2. Miami Heat (32-12, 2nd place currently)
 
They’ve got a target on their backs no matter who their opponent is on any given night and while surpassing Indiana isn’t out of the question, I believe they’ll continue winning games at about the same pace the rest of the year and in the end that won’t be good enough for the top seed.
 
3. Brooklyn Nets (20-22, 7th place currently)
 
Let the “rest of the pack” sweepstakes begin! After a nightmare start to the season, the Nets are finally starting to figure things out. They’ve won 9 of their past 10 and their platoon of veterans has arisen. Their age will make them vulnerable down the stretch and especially for the playoffs but expect the team to keep rising in the standings due greatly in part to the mediocrity of the rest of the conference, as well as the fact that they need to win now more than anyone else in the conference, or entire NBA, really.
 
4. Chicago Bulls (22-21, tied 4th place currently)
 
With 7 wins in their past 10 games, the Bulls are following the same trend as the Nets. A deep, well-coached team, the Bulls are always pesky and determined so it would really surprise me if they failed to take advantage of the weak competition in this year’s playoff race.
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