NBA Regular Season Nears End

Kane Edwards, Contributing Writer

The start of the NBA playoffs is right around the corner, and the excitement couldn’t be greater. In the last stages of the regular season, each team has seven-to-eight games remaining, with playoff aspirations higher than they have ever been. 

In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics have completely taken charge of the top two seeds while having the two best records in the entire NBA. Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has had another dominant season, averaging 31.1 points per game (fifth best in the league) and 11.7 rebounds (third best). Likewise, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum is also lights out, averaging 30.1 points (sixth best). Both teams have depth and look prepared to go far into the playoffs. 

The Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers have been holding down the third and fourth spots in the East. The two teams are not far behind, and if they maintain this level of play, they will also look to be serious contenders in the postseason. If the season ended today, the play-in tournament would consist of the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and Chicago Bulls. The Washington Wizards are a potential team that could be knocking on the door, but they are the only team in a position to do so.

The playoff race in the Western Conference is as close as ever. Standing atop the madness virtually unaffected, the Denver Nuggets have been in firm control of the top seed and haven’t relinquished their throne for the majority of the season. Back-to-back MVP center Nikola Jokic has been nothing short of miraculous, averaging 24.9 points (17th), 11.8 rebounds (second) and 9.9 assists (fourth). He can do it all. Aside from the Nuggets, the remaining spots are all up for the taking. The Sacramento Kings, who have had an unbelievable season, are a game and a half back from the Memphis Grizzlies for second place. With the recent controversy surrounding Grizzlies star Ja Morant and his subsequent absence, it is relatively likely that the Kings have a chance at overtaking Memphis.

But after this second seed battle is where the true madness begins. The third through tenth spots are all subject to change as the end of the season looms. The Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz are all within three games of each other. To put into perspective the precariousness of each spot, the Mavericks lost back-to-back games to the Charlotte Hornets this weekend and fell to the 11th spot from the seventh. Every win is extremely crucial, as it not only determines who will make the playoffs, but also which teams will have home-court advantage and will avoid the play-in tournament.

All in all, basketball is becoming as exciting as it usually does as we near the end of the regular season and the commencement of the playoffs. While the Nuggets are currently the only team with a solid hold on their positioning, every other team in the Western playoff race is fighting desperately to move up in the standings. This should make for an extremely interesting end-of-season run.