Blogtable: Pacers, Heat … then what?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: The rest of the East | The MVP of the Clippers | Phil Jackson’s debut

VIDEO: The Starters break down John Schuhmann’s weekly Power Rankings

> OK, so it’s Miami and Indiana. How do you see the rest of the East shaking out?

Steve Aschburner, No one should want to be No. 7 or No. 8, no matter how vulnerable Miami or Indiana has looked in recent weeks. That creates some serious pressure from down under in the East bracket even if the newly invigorated Knicks do not. Six games separate Nos. 3-8, which could make for a wild finish. But I expect the current order to hold. Toronto is the best of the bunch overall, followed by the ever-overachieving Bulls. Brooklyn and Washington each might think it is better off facing the Raptors, but then, there’s that nuisance of going back and forth through customs in a long series. Charlotte is just happy to be there and Atlanta, as the sub-.500 entry, is just lucky to be there. Viva la status quo! (Oh, and the Raptors, Bulls and Bobcats have the best chance of making upset mayhem in the conference semifinals, depending on matchups.)

Fran Blinebury, Since the Knicks have won six in row, we know from past experience that things will soon turn bad. I don’t expect them to creep into the playoffs just because of Phil Jackson’s Zen magic. The Cavs are also dead. So we have the eight teams. It’s only a question of the order. I could see the Nets beating out the Wizards for No. 5. But do they want to walk into a possible 4-5 first round meeting with the meat grinder that is the Bulls? I could really look forward to a first round series between the Heat and Bobcats. Charlotte is a team that finally has a purpose and a direction and Al Jefferson could make things interesting.

Carmelo Anthony (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Carmelo Anthony (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, Of course you have to be impressed with Toronto and the job coach Dwane Casey has done in the final year of his contract. And coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls, what more can be said about this group’s resiliency? But check out the Brooklyn Nets. Coach Jason Kidd has figured out a thing or two, not the least of which is how to stalk a sideline. The talent on this team has really shown itself since the calendar turned to 2014. Deron Williams has endured injury and struggle and is playing some of his finest ball of the season. Joe Johnson‘s been solid. Paul Pierce has seemed to finally embrace the journey. The addition of Marcus Thornton has provided a nice jolt. Put it all together and the Nets are a savvy, veteran ballclub that won’t wilt under pressure.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The Bulls get past the Raptors, the Nets get past the Wizards, and the Bobcats stay in the top eight. Most of all, I see the playoff group is set. The Knicks have some forward momentum so breaking in wouldn’t be the biggest surprise. But the jockeying will mostly be within, the order of the first eight. One of the subplots will be getting to at least sixth to avoid a 1-8 or  2-7 with the Heat and Pacers.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Bulls have the easiest remaining schedule (they have six more games against the Sixers, Bucks, Celtics and Magic), so they should grab the 3 seed, with Toronto, Brooklyn and Washington finishing behind them in that order. There’s very little chance that Charlotte or Atlanta budge or win more than one game in the first round. Those 3-6 and 4-5 series should be a lot of fun (even though Bulls games are the ugliest in the league) and the teams with the experience (Chicago and Brooklyn) should have the edge. But I love that we have some fresh blood in there with the Raps, Wiz and future-Hornets.

Sekou Smith, I think the eight Eastern Conference playoff teams we’ll see in mid-April are the same eight teams that are occupying those spots today. New York and Cleveland had their windows of opportunity to catch the Hawks for that eighth and final spot in the standings (the Hawks lost almost every time they hit for the floor for dang near an entire month and still had a cushion). Whatever that 3 through 8 breakdown is at the end of the this regular season is almost inconsequential to me. In fact, I joked to Lang Whitaker and Rick Fox last week on the Hang Time Podcast that we should go ahead and play the No. 3-vs-No. 6 and No. 4-vs-No. 5 series, whoever matches up in those spots, give the Pacers and Heat a first-round bye and tell the bottom two teams that we appreciate all of your hard work but there is no need in you getting your noses bloodied merely for our entertainment.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: One of the teams that is currently in the playoff picture — but only one team — will not make the postseason. I think Atlanta is due for a run, after their long losing streak, and even as well as Charlotte has played of late, my guess is they’ll hit a tailspin as we head down the stretch. Which means? That’s right, Phil Jackson’s New York Knicks will make a late push and qualify for the playoffs. They don’t have their own Draft pick anyway, so why not go all out?

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: I think it will stay as-is, meaning that the Knicks won’t make it. The eight teams that are in there should stay, it’s just going to be a question of where they’ll all finish and who will secure third and fourth position –  and that hugely important home court for the first round. Charlotte and Atlanta seem to be the obvious candidates to finish in seventh and eighth, but the battle between Toronto, Chicago, Washington and Brooklyn will be intriguing. Just 2.5 games separates those four teams.

XiBin Yang, NBA China: The Bobcats really played some good games after the All-Star break. Al Jefferson has reached his summit of career, and he demonstrated that he could play some solid defense, if the coach is able to establish an effective system. Maybe they could make a leap in the last month. The schedule of Brooklyn is better. So, if the Nets continue to embarrass their opponents, maybe it’s not so far away to see them eventually seize a home-court advantage in the first round.


  1. vern says:

    I’m a Knick fan so all I can do with my team is hope. Chicago, every team should want to skip Chicago. Those dudes play hard and smart. They don’t have much offensive power but they sure have defensive power. I just think the “don’t quit” attitude gets them past the first round if whoever they play slips just a pinch.

  2. okc2014 says:

    Atlanta needs to not be the 8th seed. They will get creamed by, “whoever”. I’m a Hawks fan, but they are literally limping through this season. Give it to the Knicks, who are in much better shape, and quite honestly deserve it more. I hate saying that. Let’s not go Hawks!

  3. Knicks are going for a 2nd cinderella run in their franchise histrory.
    Funny thing is that back then it was Heat no.1 & Pacers no.2. They did defeat them both!! & here we are agian with almost a similar scenario.

    Hmmmm naaah let it go, Knicks are out in april.

  4. Manuel Rodriguez says:

    Wow i dnt think brooklyn is getting enough credit yea they get sloppy at times but there doing it without lopez plus there an older squad they just find a way to do it wouldnt b suprised if they made it deep in the playoffs they got #34 the truth

  5. Mdawg says:

    I think all of these writers are not giving enough credit to Atlanta and Charlotte. Miamis biggest flaw is going up against opposing bigs as they’ve made Roy Hibbert look like wilt chamberlain the last 2 years. Big Al will be able to dominate them inside so wouldn’t be suprised to see them steal a game or two. And Atlantas ball movement has been phenomenal. You guys seem to forget our place in the standings before we had about 5 players out with injury that last month. Were finally healthy and look whats happening (5 in a row). No i dont think they will beat miami or indiana, but yes i think they will put up a fight and be fun to watch #norespect

  6. Scisca says:

    I’d love to see Miami face the Knicks in the first round, considering how the NYK have been able to defeat MIA most of the time recently. That would at least make the first round interesting, cause Hawks/Hornets are gonna be eaten alive. I know chances are slim, but I’d like to see it. When it comes to the rest, I was believing in Washington, but ever since Nene went down, they lost their punch. Still, if Chicago gets the 3rd spot they are golden – let’s not forget Wizz swept Chicago this season and Nene is coming back for the playoffs. Gortat, Nene and Gooden can handle Noah, Boozer and Gibson well enough to allow Wall, Beal and Ariza to dominate Chicago’s backcourt and get the win. On the other hand Nets vs. Toronto – would be awesome as well! So I think the best 1st round would be MIA-NYK, IND-CHA, RAP-NETS, CHI-WAS. Personally, I’d love to see Pacers face off Nets and Wizz fight with Miami next round. This would really make for some awesome Playoff games in the East, even though the Conference was so bad whole season.

  7. Brian says:

    Steve Aschburner, nuisance of going back and forth between customs? Please. This is not even an issue. Maybe for the everyday traveler who has to wait in the customs lines but these teams are accommodated greatly.

  8. Etsfan says:

    1. Pacers
    2. Heat
    3. Bulls
    4. Nets
    5. Raptors
    6. Wizards
    7. Bobcats
    8. Wizards

    • Thunderfan says:

      I’d much rather it come down to Indiana and Zmiami in the conference finals instead of the semi finals. But, that probably won’t happen. :/

    • Noli says:

      Wizards should have advantage as they took 6 and 8 on your list.

  9. dustydreamnz says:

    I’d love to see the Heat or Pacers bundled out in first round but they’d have to play on April Fools day.

  10. Luc Longley says:

    Blobcats = NBA Champions 2014 Al Bloberson and Kyrie Irving are unstoppable during clutch time. I have the utmost confidence in these players from different mayors.

  11. Bratislav_metulski says:

    John Schuhmann, are you serious? The Bulls play Basketball as a team and that is NOT ugly!

  12. RaymondG says:

    If the Knicks beat the pacers tonight they are making it to to playoffs!

  13. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    oh and which one of these so called experts recently said that Atlanta wasn’t even interested in getting to the playoffs and were losing on purpose ?

  14. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    i hope the Pacers get that 1st seed they so desperately wanted, and then lose to the Raptors/Nets in the second round or get creamed 4-1 by Miami after. they’ve been acting like primadonas lately

  15. Game Time says:

    I think it’s smart for Miami to avoid taking on Knicks. Atlanta won’t care to make a playoff run and if it’s the Bobcats drop to 7, well it’s the Bobcats so those are both teams it would be wise to land as opponents.

  16. lbj says:

    Commenting on the eastern conference standings won’t give these writers a ring. They need to play with “The King” Lebron. We are willing to trade a decent and future hall of famer point guard Norris Cole along with some draft picks.

  17. laker says:

    Bulls then Toronto..yep the raptors

  18. MichaelHasNoIdeaAboutTheNBA says:

    XiBin Yang y u no speak chinese? Just had to let that one out. Anyway I think the bulls get the 3 and the nets slips in to the 4 toronto gets the 5 and atl will drop. at least that’s what i hope to be

    • C says:

      You had to let your racist remark be displayed in a public forum?

      Please, go play in traffic while blindfolded.