The end of the regular season is just under two months away. This is the time for teams to win if they want to make the playoffs or else they will miss the postseason. Each game is crucial for any team trying to earn a spot in the playoffs. Also, teams that are already locked in the playoffs need to make sure that they don't slip-up and fall to a worse seed.
Some teams will really shock fans around the country after being a perennial playoff team, to missing the postseason for the first time in years. Other teams will finally make the playoffs after a long drought of missing it. Here are five surprising NBA teams to watch out for as the regular season nears.
The Milwaukee Bucks haven't been in the playoffs since the 2009-10 season. However, this year looks like they will finally make it back into the postseason. The Bucks are sitting in eighth place with a five game lead on the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers. Guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have led Milwaukee with a combined average of 37 points and 11.8 assists this season.
The Bucks received J.J. Redick, Ish Smith and Gustavo Ayon in a trade with the Orlando Magic at the deadline. Although Smith and Ayon won't be productive players for the rest of the season, Redick is a very good outside shooter. The move should certainly help them sustain their spot in the playoffs.
Offseason moves to get James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik have really helped the Rockets this season. Harden brings scoring depth, Lin is an excellent facilitator and Asik attacks the glass game after game. Houston is second in the NBA with 106.3 points per game. Harden's ability to score from all over the court has been one of the reasons for the Rockets’ success.
The Rockets need to continue to play excellent on the offensive end, if they are going to make the playoffs. Losses will really allow the Los Angeles Lakers to make up ground and take the playoff spot from them. In the long run, the Rockets will miss the playoffs because of their below average defense and the Lakers hot finish to end the regular season.
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of those teams that have really fallen below their potential this season. Under head coach Doug Collins, the 76ers made it to the playoffs for the last two years, but it's not likely that they will this season. They are five games behind the eighth-place Bucks and really have not been playing good basketball.
They have lost seven of their last eight games, in which their only win came against the Charlotte Bobcats. There is a lot of talent throughout their roster, but injuries have hurt this team. Andrew Bynum's injury has been very detrimental to their success and is one of the main reasons why they won't make the postseason.
In the preseason, many people around the country predicted the Los Angeles Lakers to win the title because of their All-Star roster. But, the team has been dysfunctional, which has hurt their chances of even making the postseason. The Lakers lost 10 of 12 games in the beginning of January. Since the poor start after the New Year, there has been a change of events. The Lakers have won 11 of their next 16 games.
The Lakers are starting to play better as a team and Kobe Bryant has not only been the veteran scorer, but also the facilitator for the offense. If the Lakers are going to make the playoffs and close the gap between them and the Rockets, then they will need to win tough games. Beating the Thunder, Pacers and/or Warriors on the road would certainly help their chances. If they don’t earn victories in the upcoming games, then they might miss the playoffs for the first time in a very long time.
The Toronto Raptors have had a lot to overcome just to keep themselves in the playoff race. The Raptors lost 19 of their first 23 games to start the season. Since then, they have come out on the winning end more times than not. Adding Rudy Gay has been one of the reasons why the Raptors have had success.
If they can win a majority of their last 25 games then they have a shot at the playoffs. However, the deficit between them and the Bucks might be too much to overcome in a limited amount of time. Making it to the playoffs will be a very tough test, but maybe the Raptors have it in them.