NBA Eastern Conference power rankings
- April 20, 2013 - 3:33 PM
Are you going to bet against the best player on the planet and a team that won 27 consecutive games on its way to a 37-2 season finish?
The streak-busting Bulls won 45 games without Derrick Rose, so don’t underestimate coach and defensive savant Tom Thibodeau, particularly if Joakim Noah comes back healthy.
3. New York
Seemingly the biggest threat to Miami in the East, particularly given the way Carmelo Anthony finished the season, but a first-round meeting with nemesis Celtics could be tricky.
The Pacers are back in playoffs one year after leading the Heat 2-1 in the second round, this time with an improved Paul George and their physical defense anchored by 7-2 Roy Hibbert.
Deron Williams played as well down the stretch as he stunk early this season, but the Nets might only go as far as Brook Lopez takes them.
With Ray Allen gone to Miami and Rajon Rondo out injured, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are left to carry on, but the Celtics’ chances might rely on an emerging Jeff Green.
Last chance for Josh Smith and Hawks to make a playoff run before management likely tries a complete rebuild this summer.
The only playoff team with a losing record, the Bucks might need Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings to play great to avoid a Heat sweep.
© 2013 Star Tribune