NBA Preview — The Wizards Are In Control

Washington is the heavy favorite to win the third seed in the East

NBA Standings

Take a look a the top four teams in the East as of Monday morning. The races for the first and second spots aren’t terribly close, but the Raptors and Wizards are battling for a critically-important third spot. But even though the teams are only separated by a game, Washington is a clear favorite to win this fight.

A few days ago, Washington and Toronto split a home-and-home with obvious playoff implications. The Wizards won the first game north of the border, but the Raptors managed to stave off a sweep by taking the second game in the nation’s capital. Even with that outcome though, Washington is effectively in the driver’s seat right now.

It all comes down to Kyle Lowry’s injury, of course. At full strength, the Raptors are easily the second-best team in the East, at least a half-step ahead of Boston. Without their best player though, fourth or fifth in the conference seems more appropriate. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Lowry is by far the most important player on this roster, and even the trade-deadline additions can’t take away the pain of not having him on the court right now.

The Raptors can still win the third seed. To do that though, they will need some incredible luck. Without it, they’ll face a decent Hawks team in the first round and the dreaded Cleveland Cavaliers in the second. Playing Cleveland is unavoidable, certainly, but there are clear benefits to postponing this series as long as possible.

The Raptors are enjoying arguably the best period of success in franchise history. It would be a shame to see that success hurt by an injury to the team’s best player.

Predictions

I went 7–7 last week, bring my overall record to 146–111. TNT has two games tonight:

Indiana at Charlotte: Charlotte

I continue to think that the struggling Charlotte Hornets are better than their paltry 27–35 record, but there’s a little less evidence to believe this every day. However, tonight they’re at home, against a tired Pacers team that played yesterday. Charlotte should win this one.

Boston at LA Clippers: Clippers

Another team that played yesterday (Boston) on the road in this one. LA is still finding its feet as the playoffs approach, but I like them tonight. The Clippers are clearly better at full strength, and playing at home should allow them to compensate for not having worked all the rust out yet.

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