The Milwaukee Bucks are obliterating the Central Division, the Miami Heat are soaring ahead of the rest of the Southeast Division, but in the Atlantic Division, it’s a very different story altogether.
Just before the trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors were blazing on a huge win-streak, the Boston Celtics were in good form, and the Philadelphia 76ers were on a bit of a slump but still in the race for the division. At this point, just five wins separated the Raptors and the 76ers, with Boston sandwiched in the middle.
While it’s all about clinching a playoff place in the conference rankings, with all three set to breeze into the postseason, the battle for the top of the Atlantic Division is set to be an incredibly exciting one.
Raptors surge to the top
As the reigning NBA champions, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Toronto Raptors are leading the Atlantic Division. That said, they went all-in on bringing in Kawhi Leonard to win it all, and then he left.
Now, the likes of Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Marc Gasol are powering the team forward, with the team going on an almighty 11-game winning streak to smash into February.
Coach Nick Nurse put Toronto’s surge to the top of the division down to the intelligence and versatility of his team. Across the winning streak, the Raptors used many different defensive strategies, with the in-game point-scoring being led by six different players across the 11-game streak.
The kind of versatility and intelligent plays displayed by the Raptors over this absurdly successful spell is certainly swaying the experts trying to predict the division. As it stands, the Raptors are the 6/5 favourites in the latest basketball odds to win the Atlantic Division, with the Celtics trailing at 5/4 and the 76ers back at 4/1.
However, the Raptors’ winning streak has to come to an end, and a losing streak will come. As they’re only atop the division due to the win-streak, some consecutive losses could see the lead change again.
Celtics and 76ers still very much in the race
Both the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers boast incredibly talented rosters, and they both happened to exit in the Conference Semi-finals of the NBA playoffs last season. The 76ers are still working things out, with young star Ben Simmons saying that they play too soft, but are still a contender for the division.
The Celtics, on the other hand, are going to be one of the top seeds in the Eastern Conference, and could certainly make some noise in the playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks are certainly the top team in the conference right now, so it’s difficult to see either the Celtics or Raptors getting past them.
That said, they looked phenomenal last season, but then Toronto surged to the finals and put an end to a dynasty. The Boston Celtics could be that surprise package this season – especially if they finish strong to take the Atlantic Division.
The Atlantic Division is certainly too close to call right now, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Raptors react once the streak comes to an end – and if the Celtics or 76ers make the most of the window.