The chase for a playoffs spot is believe it or not even crazier in the East. They might have worst records than the West playoff contenders but there are currently 5 teams still in the running for the last 2 spots; arguably 6 for the last 3 spots, but since the Milwaukee Bucks (35-36) seem to have luck on their side as of late I'll let them keep the 6th seed for now. They won themselves a 2 game advantage after beating Miami on a 3 point buzzer beater on Tuesday (UGH Khris Middletone stop causing me ache).
The Miami Heat (33-38), Boston Celtics (31-40), Indiana Pacers (31-40), Brooklyn Nets (30-40) and Charlotte Hornets (30-40) are all still fighting to make it. If we can put any faith in Hollinger's Playoffs odds (which we shouldn't because it has the Suns at 2.4% chance of making it, Pelicans at 7.5% and OKC at 90.2%) the Heat have a 76.9% chance of getting in while the Celtics (29.3%) are projected to get beat out by the Pacers (53.4%).
Luckily for Boston Isaiah Thomas has returned from a back injury that kept him sidelined for 8 games. IT has brought the same fire to his new team as he did to Phoenix. Except his production has gone up; in his 10 games before getting hurt he averaged 21.4 points 5.4 assists 2.7 rebounds on 41.1% shooting in 27.6 minutes and all while (still) coming off the bench. His first week's performance with Boston, which included a win against the Suns, also earned him the title Eastern Conference Player of The Week. He has been flourishing there and as always plays like he has everything to prove on every possession. The Celtics seem like a good fit for him and have gone 6-5 in the games he's played for them.
One of those losses happened last night when 2* ex-Suns went up against each other in Boston. It seemed during the game there were moments when both were trying to make a point (maybe to Ryan McDonough) but reportedly there are no ill feelings between the two.
IT's performance was subpar by any standard, especially his own since he called it "one of the worst games I've ever played" - 4 points on 2/7 shooting, missing all of his 3 free throws and committing 3 turnovers in 20 minutes. Normal rustiness they say, so I expect he'll be back to normal soon and fighting as hard as anyone to get his team into the playoffs.
The Heat won the game 93-86 despite playing without leading scorer Dwyane Wade, center Hassan Whiteside and backup Chris Andersen . All this after already losing Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh for the season. Coach Spo sure has his hands full with his lineup adjustments. Goran Dragic was the driving force in the win with 22 points (8/16), 7 assists and 5 rebounds, effectively beating out Isaiah in this battle.
Sure, sure IT just came back from an injury, but Goran has been playing with soreness and pain in one part of the body or another for the last month. As expected he hasn't let that bother him much. The Heat are 9-7 with Goran in their lineup and 4-2 in their last 6 games in which he's averaged 18 points on 54.3% shooting, 6.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 37.5 minutes of playing time. (Which is the only thing I'm sort of frowning upon because I selfishly need him in the summer)
It's obvious Goran is enjoying his time in Miami and really so am I. I had forgotten how much fun it is to watch him with the ball and it gets even more awesome watching him share the backcourt with the likes of Dwayne Wade, who I've suddenly found myself a fan of (because Wow). When Chris Bosh returns that lineup will be something to awe at provided the Dragon re-signs with the Heat in the summer. All signs point to that being the plan as Goran has expressed a wish to stay in Miami on multiple occasions.
Honestly, I don't think the Heat would be in the position they are now had Pat Riley not acquired Goran before the trade deadline. Though Wade has been playing bonkers as of late I assume even some of that success has been due to Goran putting added pressure on the opposing team defences. Now the Heat just have to make this last push to secure the 7th seed and maybe even optimistically reach for the 6th if the Bucks don't buck, because for some reason no one wants to play the Cavs in the first round.
Unfortunately neither ex-Suns pg has helped the Suns in their playoff hunt since they've both lost to OKC recently.
*shoutout to Shavlik Randolph who is also a Celtic, but didn’t play and this story wasn’t about him so