Column: NBA Eastern Conference power rankings
With the NBA season in its final playoff push, it is time to look at the power rankings in the Eastern Conference. This is a ranking of the teams that are capable of winning at least one playoff series this year.
Indiana- Although Miami has claimed the top seed, I still have the Pacers as the best team in the conference. Their win over the Heat last Thursday spoke volumes and has helped to set the stage for when these two titans meet in the Conference Finals. Indiana is leading the season series 2-1 off the strength of their stifling defense. They also have a player in Lance Stephenson who can take a page out of Jason Terry's book and get under Miami's skin, as long as he can avoid another ejection. Roy Hibbert will also always be a matchup problem for opponents.
Miami- This team is still head and shoulders above every other team in the conference, but they sometimes struggle to find their identity. With Dwyane Wade in and out of the lineup they sometimes lack continuity. However, I have confidence that they will be able to get their rotation together by the end of the month. Miami's one area of weakness is their lack of a post presence. Miami attempts to adjust its style by playing Greg Oden and Rashard Lewis against the Pacers, but their offense seems out of sync at points. If Miami can find a lineup to match up with Indiana's size, they will be able to once again handle them in a tough seven game series.
Brooklyn- The Nets are quietly one of the hottest teams in the league, clawing their way up the standings into a battle for the third seed. Brooklyn has won 14 straight home games and have a veteran team that can put up a fight in a playoff series due to their experience. First year coach Jason Kidd has turned around a team of savvy veterans, while Brook Lopez is once again having a solid year.
Chicago- The Bulls will always play tough defense; that is not going to change with or without Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah is having the best year of his career and has led a team that could have easily folded after another devastating injury to Rose. The Bulls just do not have enough scoring, but I am confident they can provide a tough second round challenge just off the strength of their defense and will to win.
Toronto- The Raptors have been a steady surprise this year, especially after trading Rudy Gay. The Raptors have the third seed in the East, thanks to the tandem of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. The Raptors end the season with a relatively soft schedule so they should be able to hold off the surging Nets and capture the Atlantic Division title. Toronto has done a good job at winning the games they are supposed to win and I can see them getting out of the first round this year as a three seed.
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