The NBA’s Eastern Conference is as tight as it can be heading into Thanksgiving. Eleven of the 15 teams have a .500 record or better, and more than half the conference is within a game of making the play-in tournament.
The Brooklyn Nets (13-5) sit atop the East standings more than one-fifth of the way through the 2021-2022 season. The overwhelming preseason NBA favorites, Brooklyn has rebounded from a slow start and the loss of Kyrie Irving.
Kevin Durant leads all players with 28.5 points per game. James Harden is coming along with averages of 20.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 9.1 assists per game. The Nets have won 11 of their last 13 games.
Just prior to their hot streak, the Nets were beaten soundly by the Miami Heat (12-6). Miami is a game behind Brooklyn for the No. 1 seed. The Heat are the only East team that ranks in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
The Chicago Bulls (12-6) are also on Brooklyn’s heels with a dominant head-to-head victory over the Nets on their resume. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan give Chicago the only pair of teammates averaging at least 25.0 points per game.
The Washington Wizards (11-6) have fallen to the No. 4 seed after a brief time atop the East standings. Washington has lost three out of its last four games, including two defeats at the hands of the No. 5 seed Charlotte Hornets (11-8). The Hornets have won six of their last seven games.
The New York Knicks (10-8) are the current No. 6 seed and the final team in the latest playoff bracket. New York shares the same record with three other teams, all of which are currently in the play-in tournament because of tiebreakers.
The Boston Celtics (10-8) and Milwaukee Bucks (10-8) are playing better basketball now that they’ve gotten healthy. The Philadelphia 76ers (10-8) have battled injuries and COVID-19 in the first few weeks of the season.
The defending champion Bucks are still expected to finish near the top of the East with so many games left on the schedule. Giannis Antetokounmpo remains a top candidate for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (9-9) have lost four straight games since an elbow injury sidelined Evan Mobley. Despite their skid, Cleveland is in the play-in tournament bracket and only 1.5 games out of the No. 5 seed.
The Atlanta Hawks (9-9) have gotten hot with five straight wins. Last season’s East runner-up has the NBA’s sixth-best offense. Trae Young is averaging 25.0 points and 9.0 assists per game.
The Toronto Raptors (8-10) and Indiana Pacers (8-11) are on the outside of the playoff picture. The Detroit Pistons (4-13) and Orlando Magic (4-14) are the only teams in the conference that aren’t considered postseason contenders.