|New York||18||5||.783||–||10-0||8-5||3-1||12-2||103.2||96.1||+7.1||Won 4||9-1|
|Philadelphia||12||12||.500||6 ½||8-7||4-5||4-3||7-9||92.5||95.3||-2.8||Lost 3||4-6|
This continues to be one the deepest divisions in basketball, but has been dominated by the red-hot New York Knicks. While I expect the Knicks to come back down to earth somewhat, they look to be a clear favorite in this division and the east (along with the Heat of course) going forward. The league’s MVP so far Carmelo Anthony, has been playing through the roof, scoring 27.9 a game, good for second in the league and shooting his highest field goal percentage since he came to NYC (47.3%). He is thriving in the spread offense as it makes it difficult for teams to double cover him, or else they leave one of the many shooters on that roster open for a three. As a team they are shooting 41% from downtown, an incredibly high number, and they take shade over 29 a game. Right now, with Tyson Chandler cleaning up the glass near 10 a game and backup center Rasheed Wallace continuing to preach his ball don’t lie mantra to every opposing player, the front line here is exceptional on defense. When Amare returns, we will have to see how the rotations change, but it’s pretty clear this is the conference’s best team. The Knicks are first in the league in turnover differential at 5.3 a game less than there opponents and average an NBA best 10.6 turnovers a game, a low number in general but especially for such an up and down team.
The biggest story with the Nets, at least for me, is the poor play of Deron Williams. Deron is shooting just 38.8% and 30% from downtown, both unacceptable numbers for a franchise player. Thankfully for the Nets, Brook Lopez has returned from his foot injury and looked pretty mobile and active Saturday scoring 18 and grabbing 10 boards. His offensive play is going to be key in opening up shots for Joe Johnson, Williams, and Gerald Wallace as most teams will have to send a double team at him when he gets the ball in the post. This team has a ways to go, but increased play from Deron should make them a more serious contender. Currently they are 27th in the league in opponents field goal percentage, allowing opposing teams to shoot 46.1%, a number that is way too high for a team that ranks in the bottom half in scoring themselves.
Philadelphia is a very interesting team to watch. The team was built to be around center Andrew Bynum, but as he has continued to be plagued by knee troubles, the supposed supporting cast has stepped up in a big way. Prior to his foot sprain (it’s mild, he’s day-to-day and should be back before the weekend) Jrue Holiday was playing at near an all-star level for this team. Leading the team in Points (18.4), assists (8.9) and PER (player efficiency rating, his is 18.2) Holiday has taken the next level jump this season that many Sixer fans had been hoping for. He has incredible speed, but what makes him truly special is his ability to create space from his defender, whether its in the lane with his floater or stepping back on the perimeter. Combining with Holiday, we are seeing both Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner finally making strides in there play. Evan Turner is showing the potential that convinced the 76ers to draft him 2nd overall. The confidence I’ve seen in his play over the last two weeks, makes me scared of the 76ers. He’s there real x-factor with his ability break down defenses.
GREAT NEWS out of Boston today with the return to practice of defensive ace Avery Bradley. Bradley not only sparks the defense, but his ability to get out on the break offensively is a deadly combo to pair with the speed of Rajon Rondo. The C’s continue to under perform, but as the season progresses and all these new pieces become more accustomed to Doc Rivers’ defensive rotations, the improvement should be drastic. Kevin Garnett continues to be fed the ball early and often at the start of games as the C’s loook to get the big fella involved in games while his legs are fresh. Look for Rajon Rondo to start taking a few more shots a game too, as his jumper looks to be much improved so far this year. This team is the second best team in the division despite the slow start.
The Raptors continue to be plagued by not being a good basketball team. Although he is now denying it, Andea Bargnani referred to his team saying “we are the worst in the NBA” and I can’t argue with that. This team losses despite not turning the ball over, but they shoot the ball terribly from three point land and give up way to many points. They are last in the NBA in the number of free throws there opponents take a game. They give up over 28 (28!!!!) free throws a game to their opponents. The real bright spot for the has been the play of Ed Davis. He leads the Raptors in rebounding at (GULP) 5.9 rebounds per game. Yes, that wasn’t a typo, he leads his team with less than 6 boards a game. Horrible stuff from Canada.
The best divisional game this week is the Brooklyn Nets finally visiting MSG and facing the NY Knicks, Wednesday night at 7. The season-series is 1-1.
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