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3 NBA groups rising, 3 groups falling forward of the 2022 playoffs

The NBA All-Star break is meant to characterize the halfway level of the season, however in actuality it marks the start of the stretch run earlier than the playoffs. Most groups had already performed greater than 70 p.c of their video games by the point the season paused for All-Star Weekend. Which means each sport of the “second half” is essential each for playoff seeding and discovering the right combination within the rotation earlier than the postseason begins.

The league schedule popping out of the All-Star break has felt much more vital this 12 months due to the flurry of activity at the trade deadline. The Philadelphia 76ers had been welcoming James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets had been attempting to get Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons wholesome, and groups just like the Celtics and Pelicans had been integrating main items within the backcourt.

It feels just like the title image is extensive open this season, and the primary week of video games popping out of the break has provided much more proof of which groups ought to be feared, and which groups may need peaked too early. Listed here are three groups rising and three groups falling out of the All-Star break.

3 NBA groups rising after the All-Star break

Philadelphia 76ers

There was a wholesome quantity of skepticism when the Sixers pulled off a large commerce for Harden on the deadline. Harden had not appeared as explosive as he usually does throughout his time with the Nets this 12 months, and his scoring had fallen off. How would he match alongside one other ball dominant famous person in Joel Embiid? How dedicated would he be after basically quitting on two straight groups?

To this point, Harden appears to be like wonderful by his first three video games. We named the Sixers the biggest winner of the trade deadline, and prediction appears to be like lifeless on thus far. Will it final?

Harden is averaging 27.3 factors, 12.3 assists, and 9 rebounds per sport since he placed on a Sixers’ uniform, numbers which might be near being consistent with the very best of his profession averages. He appears to have a bit of extra pop on his drives to the rim, and his passing within the pick-and-roll has been a giant assist for Embiid and the remainder of his teammates to date. It’s additionally price noting that the Sixers have performed the Knicks twice and the Timberwolves as soon as on this stretch, and the schedule is about to get much more tough.

Philly undoubtedly appears to be like prefer it has an opportunity to succeed in the NBA Finals this 12 months with Harden and Embiid main the best way. Simply don’t anticipate it to at all times be this straightforward. How will Harden reply when adversity hits? That’s only one factor to observe the remainder of the season.

Boston Celtics

For the reason that calendar turned to 2022, the Celtics have the league’s No. 1 defense by a wide margin. They added one other key defensive piece on the commerce deadline by buying guard Derrick White from the Spurs, a lockdown level of assault defender who additionally offers fast ball motion and a few capturing on the offensive finish.

Whereas many had been fast to jot down Boston off after a sluggish begin, they’re out of the blue wanting like some of the formidable groups within the East. The Celtics are 4-1 out of the All-Star break, headlined by a win over the mighty Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. Boston now sits No. 5 within the East they usually’re solely two video games again of the No. 2 seed.

The Celtics have two isolation scorers in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown who’re good for playoff basketball. They’ve a dominant protection and an improved bench. In addition they have younger large man in Robert Williams who looks like he could possibly be a breakout star within the postseason if he can keep wholesome. Boston is legitimately scary.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz had been struggling when Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert had been in-and-out of the lineup in Jan. and Feb. It ought to be no shock that Utah has appeared wonderful since getting its two stars again after the All-Star break.

The Jazz have gained 9 of their final 10 video games, together with a 3-0 mark out of the break with wins over Phoenix, Dallas, and Houston. The streak has pushed Utah inside three video games of Golden State Warriors for the No. 2 seed. Immediately, that is once more beginning to appear to be the group that completed with the NBA’s finest document and finest web ranking final season.

The Jazz’s beginning 5 has been great, and Danuel Home has offered some capturing and protection off the bench. Final 12 months’s postseason run was tanked by accidents to Mitchell and Mike Conley, and if each are on the prime of their sport this 12 months, Utah will probably be a tricky matchup for anybody.

We’re nonetheless a bit of skeptical of the Jazz’s postseason probabilities within the West due to their shaky perimeter protection, however there ought to be little query this group has a puncher’s probability to succeed in the NBA Finals if the whole lot clicks.

3 NBA groups falling after the All-Star break

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have been at or close to the highest of the East all season, however the mixture of ongoing damage points and a tough schedule is beginning to meet up with the group. After successful 5 straight video games going into the All-Star break and beating Atlanta to start out the symbolic second half, the Bulls have now misplaced three straight to the Grizzlies, Warmth, and Hawks. The schedule doesn’t get any simpler from right here.

The Bulls are nonetheless with out Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball, and the protection has tanked due to it. Chicago had a top-10 unit earlier than Grayson Allen took out Caruso in mid-air, and now they’ve fallen all the way to No. 20 on that finish of the ground. Zach LaVine can also be enjoying by a knee damage that has made him a bit tentative to assault the rim. DeMar DeRozan’s late sport shot-making has been saving the Bulls all 12 months, however it’s exhausting to win in opposition to good groups when his supporting solid is struggling to get stops.

So long as Ball and Caruso come again wholesome, the Bulls ought to be able to go within the playoffs. It’s simply honest to surprise what seed they may finally get after what’s shaping as much as be a tough finish of the common season.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors had been anointed title favorites after a powerful begin to the 12 months, however nothing has come straightforward for Golden State for the reason that calendar flipped to 2022. Stephen Curry is a in extended capturing stoop knocked him far off the MVP favourite standing he as soon as held. Klay Thompson is again within the lineup, however he understandably has but to regain his former degree defensively. The largest cause for the Warriors’ decline is the absence of Draymond Inexperienced, who has been out for the reason that center of Jan. with a again damage.

The Warriors are 1-3 out of the All-Star break with two losses to Dallas and one to the Timberwolves. Inexperienced is reportedly a “couple weeks” from returning. Getting him again to one hundred pc could be the one most vital swing issue within the NBA title image.

If Draymond is at his finest, the Warriors nonetheless have an opportunity to win all of it. If not, you surprise if Golden State will remorse not dealing a few of their younger items for win-now veterans on the commerce deadline. This core solely has so many good years left, and failing to maximise a championship window can be a large disappointment.

Los Angeles Lakers

Bear in mind when the Lakers had been pegged as preseason championship favorites? Whoops.

LA’s nightmare season is just getting extra embarrassing popping out of the All-Star break. The Lakers have now misplaced seven of their final eight, together with a number of defeats by the hands of a Kawhi Leonard and Paul George-less Clippers group and a pathetic efficiency in a loss to the Pelicans. Anthony Davis is injured once more, the Russell Westbrook experiment has been a catastrophe, and head coach Frank Vogel looks like he’ll be fired as quickly because the season ends.

The Lakers are wasting another brilliant LeBron James season. How LA plans to repair this dumpster fireplace will probably be one of many offseason’s largest tales. This 12 months’s group appears to be like absolutely cooked.

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