The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors currently hold the number one and two seeds in the East. Both have now clinched their place in the playoffs with around 25 games left in the season and both holding a six and eight game lead over the third placed Philadelphia 76ers respectively. The race for the eight seed is hotting up as well, with the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets all residing within a game of each other for that final playoff spot.
In the Western conference, the Golden State Warriors continue to hold off the Denver Nuggets and the surging Houston Rockets atop the West. Elsewhere it seems the Los Angeles Lakers will miss out on the playoffs as they have hit a five-game skid whilst the Los Angeles Clippers are on a four-game winning streak which has stretched their lead over the Sacramento Kings to four games for the eighth seed.
Portland Trail blazers @ Los Angeles Clippers – Tuesday 12th March 2019
The Clippers have been on a great run of late, since trading Tobias Harris they have been able to tighten their grip on the eight seed and their place in the post season. This game against the Trail Blazers will provide them with a great test of their playoff credentials. If they are able to pick up a win, they will extend their winning streak and show that they can match some of the teams that will almost certainly be in the post season come April.
A win over the Clippers will provide the Trail Blazers with a chance to wrestle the fourth seed away from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Home court advantage can be massive for a team in the playoffs and for the Trail Blazers could be the difference from winning a playoff series and being one-and-done, as they hold a losing road record at 15-17 but have only lost 9 games at home so far this season.
Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets – Wednesday 13th March 2019
The Rockets have been streaking of late, behind the play of their MVP candidate, they have thrust themselves into the conversation for the top seed in the West. They will have a chance to close the gap when they host the Warriors. If they can beat Golden State Warriors, they will create a real jam at the top of the conference and potentially could steal the top seed and home court advantage for the playoffs.
As for the Warriors, the game against the Rockets provides them with a chance to get right and reassert themselves atop the West. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games, this was punctuated with a difficult loss against the bottom ranked Phoenix Suns. With the Nuggets just 1.5 games back, a loss against the Rockets could see them ousted from the top spot sooner rather than later.
Philadelphia 76ers @ Milwaukee Bucks – Sunday 17th March 2019
The 76ers put on a great defensive show in the third quarter against the Pacers on Sunday as they restricted their opponents to just 11 points in the period. They have managed to haul themselves into the third seed in the East and a win against the Bucks on Sunday could prove that they are a force to be reckoned with late in the season.
For the Bucks it is about maintaining their grip on the first seed and holding off the Raptors who have been resting Kawhi Leonard periodically to ensure he is ready for the postseason. A win over the ‘Sixers would lay down a marker to the East that they are the superpower in the East, especially after their recent win over the Raptors.
By Sonny Cohen