The NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture in 2022 is where everyone’s eyes will be in the final stretch of the season. For the first time since maybe ever, the East is actually more competitive than the West.

There are currently four teams fiercely battling each other for the number one spot and there are less than two games separating all of them. This is exactly what you want to see as an NBA fan.

Let’s break down the NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture in 2022.

NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture 2022

There is no doubt that the final few games of the season are going to be crucial in deciding playoff matchups, and the NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture in 2022.

If we’re lucky, we might even witness some new rivalries the NBA desperately needs.

 
 
 
 

The Heat, Bucks, Celtics, and Sixers are the top four teams in the East respectively. But the margin separating them is so thin that the Eastern Conference playoff standings could look very different in just a few days’ time.

The battle for the best team in Eastern Conference has already begun, so let’s take a look at the top four dogs in the fight and discuss their playoff chances.

Honorable mention

It would be majorly disrespectful to talk about the NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture in 2022 without including the Brooklyn Nets.

Even though the Nets are most likely to be competing in the Play-In tournament, they are still considered the best team in the Eastern Conference and are the favorites to come out of the East. The basketball Gods have also been kind to them as of late with the new vaccine rules in New York.

Kyrie Irving can now play home games!

This is huge for the Nets, but the road ahead is not an easy one. There is still no timeline on Ben Simmons’ return, and they could be facing a very scrappy Toronto team in the Play-In tournament.

Canadian vaccine rules will not allow Kyrie to play in Canada, and if they end up playing in Toronto, this could be very crucial for their playoff chances.

It would be foolish to bet against Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving making the playoffs, but the Nets have their work cut out.

Doubting the Heat

The Miami Heat are currently the top seed in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game ahead of the Bucks. There is no doubt that the culture in Miami is one of the best in the NBA, but the Heat seem to be imploding at the worst time.

The Miami Heat’s latest results have not been pretty.

They lost to a Sixers team that was resting both James Harden and Joel Embiid, then to the Nets at home. Jimmy Butler seems to have lost his jump shot and the team chemistry that got them to the Finals in 2020 appears to also have escaped them at the worst moment.

We can get into the Udonis Haslem, Jimmy Butler incident but the picture is clear enough at this point.

If the Heat don’t find a solution quickly, they could be finding themselves exiting the playoffs much sooner than they expected.

Bucks are the team to beat

Just in case anyone forgot, the Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions. They also have an MVP on their roster in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a proven playoff performer in Khris Middleton. Despite earning their championship pedigree, they still seem to be flying under the radar this year.

Giannis scored 40 points against the Sixers and blocked Embiid in the final seconds to lead the Bucks to a 118-116 victory on Tuesday night.

They have the league’s second-best offense since the all-star break, and they just got Brook Lopez back.

Lopez is a key part of the Bucks’ roster on offense. He is a force to be reckoned with on the glass and he can shoot the three. Having him back is a big deal, even though the Bucks’ supporting cast stepped up to the challenge in his absence.

Their defense isn’t looking as good as it did last year, but the Bucks are still a contender with a big C.

Beware of this Bucks team come playoff time. They are the scariest in the East.

Surging Celtics

Just a couple of months ago, the Boston Celtics’ playoff chances were hanging by a very thin thread. They didn’t seem to buy into their new head coach’s system, they were playing too much iso-ball, and the chemistry just wasn’t there.

Well, Ime Udoka seems to have pulled a rabbit out of his freshman coach’s hat, because the Celtics have turned their season around in a very dramatic fashion. They are currently one of the hottest teams in the NBA, winning 24 out of their last 30 games. They were 11th in the East end of last year, now they have a chance to finish 1st in the East.

Unlike the Heat, they seem to have found their mojo just in time for the playoffs. They have a versatile roster that defends every position viciously and plays collectively on both ends of the floor.

It’s not all rainbows and butterflies in bean town though. The Cs recently got delivered a major blow with Robert Williams’ III torn meniscus.

The Celtics’ big man is having a breakout season and has a strong case for the Most Improved Player of the Year. He has been the team’s anchor on defense and the Celtics’ success this season is due to their defensive identity.

Even though without the Time Lord the Cs are vulnerable, they are still very adaptable.

The Celtics are a team to look out for despite their recent spell of bad luck.

The Sixers face uncertainty

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded for James Harden, they were automatically elevated to contender status and their odds of winning a championship sky-rocketed even before Harden put on a Philly jersey.

Things seemed to have calmed down lately with Philly’s recent performances. Harden does not look to be the same man he was back in Houston. A big part of his game is beating players off the dribble and getting to the rim. He hasn’t been able to do that recently and there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever be able to do that again.

Without Harden scoring a bunch of points to offset Philly’s questionable defense, the Sixers aren’t looking too frightening in the East.

Embiid may very well be the MVP, but without Harden playing at an MVP level, Philly’s path to the Finals is questionable.

A game of chess

The NBA Eastern Conference playoff picture is far from set in stone, and the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoff standings is still up for grabs. The question that remains here, is should teams fight for the top spot if it could mean facing the Nets in the first round?

Between the teams discussed above, the Bucks seem to be the most equipped for that challenge. A rematch of last year’s second-round matchup could potentially feed the flames of a rivalry every NBA fan will enjoy.

So get ready for the playoffs and let the game of chess begin!

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