The Brooklyn Nets are slipping down the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings. The team went 8-4 in December. January was even rougher for the Brooklyn club as they had a 6-10 record. The Nets finished the month on a four-game losing skid. That skid hit five straight when Brooklyn lost to the Phoenix Suns by the score of 121-111. Despite the team’s .500 record over the past two months, the Nets remain the favorite to win the NBA’s Eastern Conference in 2022.
While the Nets held onto the top spot, two teams have been getting better as the 2021-22 NBA season progresses. Those teams are the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami and Philadelphia look like they might give the Nets, and the other top contenders a battle for the Eastern Conference crown.
2022 NBA Eastern Conference odds
|To Win Eastern Conference|
|New York Knicks||+6600||+10000||+6600||+6600||+4000|
On January 16, the Brooklyn Nets found out that the team’s star, Kevin Durant, had sprained the MCL in his left knee. Durant’s estimated recovery time for the injury is four-to-six weeks. The club has gone 2-6 without Durant in the lineup and that does not bode well for the Nets. Kyrie Irving has returned to the team as a part-time player (no home games). However, he has not given the team the lift it needs without Durant on the court.
I expect things are going to get worse in Brooklyn before they get better. The Nets are in sixth place in the East.
The Milwaukee Bucks won the 2021 NBA title and right now the team does not look like it is going to repeat as Eastern Conference or NBA Champions in 2022. The Bucks are in fifth place in the East and went 7-8 in January. That run included three stretches where the team lost back-to-back games. In the first three months of the NBA season (Oct-Dec), the club lost back-to-back games four times in total.
If the Bucks want to repeat as Eastern Conference champs, they need to turn things around in a hurry and win on a more consistent basis.
Believe in the Heat
The Miami Heat are the No. 3 team in the Eastern Conference with a record of 32-10 and it looks as if oddsmakers are beginning to see the Miami club as a threat to come out on top of the Eastern Conference.
Miami is one of the best first-quarter teams in the NBA right now. In a recent homestand, Miami outscored their opponents 97-60 in the first quarter. If the team can build those kinds of leads more often than not, they will be incredibly hard to beat.
Jimmy Butler has missed some games this season, but when he has been on the court, he has averaged 21.8 points per game. Meanwhile, Tyler Herro looks like he will be in the running for the Sixth Man Award in 2022, as he is scoring 20 points per game off the bench.
76ers a team to watch
The Philadelphia 76ers climbed to the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference on the strength of a 12-3 run in January. Another thing that has helped the team is the hot hand of Joel Embiid, who is second in scoring in the NBA right now with 29.1 points per game. Embiid’s play has him near the top of the list of players being considered for the 2022 NBA MVP.
Time to take Chicago seriously
The Chicago Bulls are the No.1 team in the Eastern Conference, yet the oddsmakers see them as a longshot to represent the East in the NBA Finals. I think it’s a mistake to overlook the Bulls. They are 32-18 on the season and have been playing well with DeMar DeRozan and Zach Levine leading the way.
With Brooklyn far too reliant on one player, I think they lack the depth to come out on the top of the Eastern Conference. As we head in February, I see the Miami Heat as the team to beat in the NBA’s Eastern Conference in 2022.
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