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Mid-Season: How the NBA Eastern Conference Teams Are Performing

   Mid-Season: How the NBA Eastern Conference Teams Are Performing

January 20, 2020

With half of the games played already, the trajectory of this year's NBA season is beginning to become clearer. Of course a lot can change in the second half, and the ultimate NBA Championship winner is not necessarily going to be the team that performs best in the regular season.
That said, a strong performance in the regular season is always a good indicator of a team’s strength, and can give an idea of what we can expect to see in the playoffs.
This season, the Eastern Conference is home to the best performing team in the regular season. However, of the three main favorites to win the NBA Championship this year, only one is from the East.
Here is a look at the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season, how they’ve performed, and what their future looks like.

Milwaukee Bucks

Having performed better than any other team in the NBA so far this season, the Bucks are coming off favorably in picks and predictions. Major sports bookmakers have the Bucks, the LA Lakers, and the LA Clippers on similar odds to win the NBA Championship.
Sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference, they have won 38 games from 44 so far this year. This has some pundits making them their favorite to win the overall NBA Championship this year.
With 11 more wins than the Miami Heat in second place, it seems unlikely that any other team will be able to catch them up. Anyone who paid attention to last year should not be surprised by this strong performance though. The Bucks ended 2018-19 with 60 wins, more than any other team in the NBA that year.
They look set to beat that number, with 70 or more wins not seeming unreasonable, provided they can keep up their performance in the second half of the season. If they were able to do this, the Bucks would be in a prestigious club of just three teams that have won 70 or more games in a season.
Last year the Bucks missed out on the NBA Finals by two games. They appear to have bounced into 2019-20, hungry to go all the way. And with an 18-game winning streak shortly before Christmas, they’ve demonstrated that they’ve got what it takes.
Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers are currently fourth favorite to win the NBA Championship, although their odds are significantly worse than the top three. They sit sixth in the Eastern Conference, with a 28-16 record, ten wins less than the Bucks, although not distinctly different from the teams in 2nd to 5th places.
They’re in a position to turn their season around, with half of it still to go. They’re a team that is more than capable of winning games, but they currently lack the consistency required to go all the way. Success in the second half of the year will require them to solve this issue, and to actually translate their strong talent into regular wins on the court.
As the NBA enters trade season, 76ers General Manager Elton Brand is thought to be looking for a strong shooter to have in rotation. However, as with the current players, success will come from having the team work together consistently.
Miami Heat

Sitting second in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat are nine wins behind the Milwaukee Bucks, although they’ve played three less games. Continuing at this pace could see them end with a 58 win record.
Heat fans have a lot to be happy about. They have had their best start to a regular season since the 2013-14 season, when they ended as Eastern Champions and came close to winning the NBA Championship.
Coach Erik Spoelstra is taking nothing for granted though. He said that they are happy with their wins so far, but will be focused on winning the next lot of games.
Miami Heat have a strong mix of good management and players, and they’ve been able to bring it all together to make what appears to be a team that could go all the way. Despite this, bookmakers are not giving them good odds to win the NBA Championship, as they currently are ranked 10th favorite.
Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors made history last season when they won their first ever NBA Championship. Despite this success, the Raptors lost star player Kawhi Leonard in the summer, resulting in a hole that looked like it would make further success more difficult.
All things considered at the halfway mark, they’ve had a good start to the season, with a 28-14 record. Despite losing Leonard, other players have stepped up. Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby have all performed well. In particular, Siakam has stepped up to fill Leonard’s shoes, and has become the “go-to-guy” for the Raptors.
Their defense is strong, thanks to the newly signed Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Shooting is also strong thanks to OG Anunoby, who has made a big step up on last year.
Many wrote the Raptors off before the beginning of the season after they lost some of the players who had been critical elements of their success last year. The team have surprised most pundits and fans, and have held their own despite a changed line up.
Sitting third in the Eastern Conference demonstrates their continued abilities and makes them a strong candidate in the playoffs. Their first NBA Championship was a fairytale story, but a second win, despite the setbacks, would be a truly epic tale that would go down in history.
With half of the season gone, the Bucks, Raptors and 76ers are three teams that are looking good for the second half of the season. Of course, much can change between now and April, and there is still a lot of work for all sides to do if they want to secure a place in the playoffs and the NBA Finals.
At present, the Bucks are looking the strongest team, but anything can happen when it comes to the playoffs.

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