In what was one of the most difficult weeks for the NBA in recent memory, teams still had to go head-to-head on the court. As the all-star break nears, teams are starting to get ready for playoff pushes, not only are teams looking to make the playoffs but there are also teams fighting for seeding. For example, the Philadelphia 76ers have had a somewhat disappointing season to date, but with that being said they are one of five teams within four games of second in the Eastern Conference. Teams at the top of the conferences are looking to distance themselves from the back, the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers both lead their conference by 3 or more games and are looking to increase that gap before the break.
- Milwaukee Bucks
This week: MIL 151-131 WAS, DEN 127-115 MIL
The Milwaukee Bucks are by far the best team in the league this regular season. They boast an impressive .854 winning percentage and are 26-3 within their own conference. In their game against Washington they were without Giannis Antetokounmpo, but Khris Middleton scorched the Wizards for 51 points. This Bucks team has a deep roster and they’re getting meaningful contributions every night from their role players, it’s tough seeing anyone in the East beating this team in a seven-game series.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
This week: LAL 119-127 POR, SAC 113-129 LAL
The Lakers have been very professional and consistently great this season. Every time a team looks at closing the gap on the best team in the West, the Lakers somehow maintain a healthy gap at the top. This week was impossibly difficult for the whole NBA and this organization especially, their results are easily forgiven and do not necessarily reflect the quality of this team. As the season goes on LeBron and Anthony Davis have been great every single night and their chemistry continues to grow. This team is incredibly good.
3. Toronto Raptors
This week: SAS 106-110 TOR, TOR 130-114 ATL, CLE 109-115 TOR, DET 92-105 TOR
Currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors are on fire and are in the midst of a ten-game winning streak. This week the Raps handled each game with Championship-Contender level of professionalism. None of these games were in doubt and this team has one of the deepest squads in the league, as evidence of their record through all the injuries they’ve had to deal with. These Raptors are on pace for more wins then they had last season, Coach Nick Nurse and these players deserve all the credit in the world.
4. Denver Nuggets
This week: DEN 117-110 HOU, MEM 104-96 DEN, UTA 100-106 DEN, DEN 127-115 MIL
Except for the close lose to Memphis, this week Denver showed why they’re a real threat in the West. With wins over three top play off teams these Nuggets are legit. The play of Michael Porter Jr. is one of the many bright spots from this season for Denver. In their victory over Milwaukee, every single player that got on the floor for Denver (nine) scored in double digits. It’s tough to guard a team that always has five players on the floor that can get buckets. Maybe the most impressive part of this team is their work ethic on the defensive end, holding the Rockets, Jazz and Bucks to an average of 108.33 points a game this week.
5. Boston Celtics
This week: NOP 123-108 BOS, MIA 101-109 BOS, BOS 119-104 GSW, BOS 116-95 PHI
Kemba Walker proves every week that he is the point guard the Celtics have been missing. Despite not being nearly as talented as Kyrie, Kemba just fits with this team perfectly. The big four of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Walker are among the toughest to guard in the league. Playing against the Celtics is like a death by a thousand paper cuts, their system puts teams under pressure and almost forces teams into beating themselves. The victory against the Heat was a statement of intent from this team.
6. Los Angeles Clippers
This week: ORL 112-97 LAC, LAC 103-124 SAC, LAC 118-106 MIN
This was an average week for the Clippers, with their only loss coming in a game that Kawhi didn’t play in. The depth of this team must come into question though as they keep dropping games without their best player, especially against a team like Sacramento. With that being said, when Paul George and Kawhi are on the floor these Clippers are a great defensive team, and as long as they’re healthy, they will be a serious problem for teams in the future.
7. Miami Heat
This week: MIA 113-92 ORL, MIA 101-109 BOS, ORL 89-102 MIA
This Heat is a representation of Erik Spoelstra’s dreams. Being in Miami athletes can easily get… distracted, but nothing can distract this team. Maybe one of the mentally toughest teams in recent history, the Heat go out and get their job done consistently with less talent on the floor than their opponents. The loss against Boston is a smudge on a near perfect record in close games. The battle between the Heat, Raptors and Celtics for the second spot in the Eastern Conference will continue to be fierce the rest of the season.
8. Indiana Pacers
This week: POR 139-129 IND, IND 115-106 CHI, IND 85-92 NYK
This team is led in scoring by none other than TJ Warren. Yes, you read that right. Warren is averaging 18.4 pts a game this season and has been nothing short of consistent. Domantas Sabonis has been the real key man for this Pacers team and his first ever all-star game selection is well deserved. Victor Oladipo has just returned from injury which will give the Pacers a boost for the rest of the season. Once again Indiana is a team that proves you don’t need stars to compete with the best in the league.
9. Houston Rockets
This week: DEN 117-110 HOU, UTA 117-126 HOU, POR 125-112 HOU, HOU 128-121 DAL
Russell Westbrook is back to his best, okay not really, but he has just set a personal record of 22 games with 20+ points, so things are looking good. James Harden has cooled off a bit as Russ carries some of the scoring load, by cooling off I mean he’s only averaging 35.6 pts. The first three games of this week were all on the road against top teams, the loses to Denver and Portland are forgivable as both those teams are on fire right now. Their win against Utah and Dallas showed class, they could’ve crumbled mentally, but they showed composure and got two very good wins against two very good teams.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
This week: PHI 115-104 GSW, ATL 127-117 PHI, BOS 116-95 PHI
Joel Embiid made his much-anticipated return from injury this week and proved against Atlanta and Celtics that he and Ben Simmons still can’t be great together for extended periods of time. Their play styles clash, but that’s a whole other discussion. This Philadelphia team has started to find their form, climbing to within four games of the Toronto Raptors. This team has the potential to be a defensive juggernaut, but they need to start working as a unit rather than a group of individuals.
11. Dallas Mavericks
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
13. Utah Jazz
14. Portland Trail Blazers
Riley Fussell is a Journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto Canada. Riley is originally from a small town on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada, he is a passionate writer that takes interest in nearly all sports, but especially Basketball. Riley played Basketball all through high school and being from the west coast he was able to watch two games nearly every night. He is a big fan of the Toronto Raptors even though Damian Lillard is his favourite player to watch.