The Ides of March are upon us and while March Madness reigns in the NCAA, the Eastern Conference continues to be under the calm and collected control of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The team holds a three-game lead for first place over Toronto. The Cavs magic number is down to 16. It's no 72-10, but I think it is safe to say a 50-plus win team is perfectly passable for the Beasts of the East.
So, let's get to it. Another week, another run through of the best teams in the East besides the Cleveland Cavaliers.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (9-57)
Hey, um guys.
14.Brooklyn Nets (18-48)
13. New York Knicks (28-40)
I mean I know that you are busy. But I think you should look at this.
12.Orlando Magic (28-37)
11. Washington Wizards (31-35)
The Wizards are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The team followed up a promising 7-2 start after the All-Star Break with five straight losses. Bradley Beal missed three games last week with a sprained hip, but returned to the starting lineup on Monday with 12 points in a 124-81 win at home over the Detroit Pistons. If this team wants any hope of making the playoffs they need to find consistency from a roster that has shot 68.0% from the free throw line and 33.3 percent from distance since the All-Star Break.
10. Milwaukee Bucks (29-38)
9. Chicago Bulls (33-32)
No really, ahem... GUYS.
8. Detroit Pistons (34-33)
UMMM. GUYS. UM GUYS.
7. Indiana Pacers (35-31)
Nope. Nope. Nope. GUYS.
6. Miami Heat (39-28)
5. Boston Celtics (39-27)
Boston is struggling through a tough stretch of games in March, facing the Trail Blazers (twice), Raptors (twice), Cavaliers, Rockets, Clippers, and Thunder. They just lost Jae Crowder to a high ankle sprain, which could leave the team without a key wing and defender for 2-6 weeks. Despite these setbacks, they are 7-3 in the last ten games with convincing wins against the Heat, Jazz, and Trail Blazers. If the team can make it to April and bring back Crowder at full strength, they will be a difficult out in the playoffs.
4. Atlanta Hawks (38-29)
Haha. Not funny, GUYS. Seriously.
3. Charlotte Hornets (37-29)
The third most popular team of the Carolinas is trying to capture some of the March Madness and its fans. So far this month, Kemba Walker and Nicholas Batum are averaging 28 points and seven assists and 17 points and six assists respectively.They won seven straight games, including big wins against the Pistons, Pacers, and Rockets, before falling to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. The Hornets continue to linger at the middle class of the Eastern Conference and are peaking at the right time. The efficiency statistics are intimidating for Charlotte. They are scoring a top-five 109.8 points per 100 possessions since All-Star Weekend, good for the third-best net rating in the NBA (+8.0 pts per 100 possessions).
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-19)
The Cavaliers are nothing if not consistent so far in March. They bounced back from a two-game skid at the end of February with a three-game win streak, capitalized on a great win over the Celtics. The next week, they returned to the whole demoralizing loss thing, this time against a depleted Memphis Grizzlies. But no worries, the Cavaliers bounced back again with a second three-game win streak, this time ending on a high note with a dominant win over the Los Angeles Clippers. And here they are again on a Monday, with a gut-punch-loss to the Utah Jazz. See? Consistent.
It's fine. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James are averaging a combined 48.7 points and 12.1 assists in March. The team should expect some off shooting nights as they try to find rest for their starting rotation before the Playoffs. Plus, the Cavaliers are scoring 111.4 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star Break, the second highest in the NBA after the...
Oh no. RUN.
1. Toronto Raptors (44-21)
Yes. Since the All-Star Break the Raptors hold the league's best offense; they're putting up 112.5 points scored per 100 possessions, with a 57.1 percent true-shooting percentage. DeMar DeRozen leads the team in March with 29.7 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting. The rest of their efficincy statistics, 108 points allowed per 100 possessions and a 3.4 net rating, are a bit less frightening. But the Raptors expect to have DeMarre Carroll return to the lineup in time for the playoffs and let's not forget that they won the regular season series against the Cavaliers, 2-1. Ignoring a close loss to the Bulls at the hands of Doug McDermott, the Raptors strung together an impressive set of wins against the Trail Blazers, Hawks, and Heat in the past two weeks and look to be the leading candidate to not only challenge the Cavaliers, but maybe chase them off the Eastern Conference Island. Matchups with the Celtics (twice), Hawks, and Thunder before April should test the teams standing at the top of the food chain.
Be careful out there, and go Cavs.