The All-Star game is in the books, the Trade Deadline has passed, and it’s time to talk about the stretch run of this fascinating NBA season. Here’s a look at the teams, trends, and players to keep an eye on as the season winds down.
Teams to Watch
As usual, the Cavs and the Warriors are the kings of the hill in their respective conferences, but a few other teams could make things interesting come playoff time.
The Boston Celtics have the best shot at unseating the Cavs as Eastern Conference champs. Isiah Thomas has been playing out of his mind all season and with everyone buying into Brad Stevens’ scheme on the defensive end, the Celts have a chance to knock off Lebron and friends.
It’s almost impossible to imagine anyone out West beating the Warriors in a playoff series, but one team looks to put up more than a Washington Generals-type resistance when the Golden State juggernaut comes to down.
Never count out the Spurs. They’re always in contention with Greg Popovich scowling on the sidelines and with the usual suspects whipping the ball around, the Spurs might have the firepower to challenge the Warriors.
Break Out Players
The two players to watch as the NBA season winds down are the Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins and Toronto’s DeMar DaRozan. Both have been on fire of late, with Wiggins finally becoming multi-dimensional under coach Tom Thibodeau. He had a pair of 40-point games recently and can now contribute even if his shot isn’t falling.
DaRozan has been on a tear since coming off the injured list. When his 43 points helped Toronto take down the Celtics, it was a clear signal that the Raptors weren’t quite ready to give up their status as the East’s second best team.
Who’s Trending Down?
Any talk of trending down has to start with the Sacramento Kings. They were bad before the trade deadline, but after getting fleeced in the Demarcus Cousins trade they look downright purgatorial.
The Pacers’ Paul George is trending down as well. Seemingly poised to attain Top 7 status coming into the season, the two-star has seen his numbers decline as the season’s progressed. Even worse, his complaining and me-first attitude have alienated Indiana’s old school fan base.