What needs to bother the eastern contenders

Everyone in the East has fatal flaws that can come back and bite them into the playoffs, even if the conference has made a leap this season with quality.

Here’s what you need to worry about the four best seeds.

Attack of Philadelphia in a late game

On the face of it, it sounds ridiculous when Joel Embide and James Harden led the way, but since losing to Denver on March 14 (scoring just 22 points), the fourth quarter has been a big loss in the last month.

Putting 14 in a sad loss from Toronto, where the 76ers scored just 51 after the first quarter (yes, you read that right). On March 27 against “Phoenix” he played to 18, when lagging behind by five, entering the fourth, winning game.

They scored 27 in the match against Milwaukee in that tent game where Janice Antetokunmpa stuffed Embiid on the rim to close it, but the offense looked so smoothed and unrhythmic until the very finish.

The Coup de grâce had an alarming 15-point result in Detroit, where the 76ers were nearly doubled in the Pistons ’fourth team, which would not mind losing the game to stay in the good lottery.

How can Joel Embide and James Harden control the offensive in the fourth quarter to ensure Philadelphia stays fighting in the East? (AP Photo / Chris Szagola)

Harden is intentional and you can trust the resentment in his hands. But he is deliberate and dominates the ball, so you don’t get a lot of opportunities, the pace won’t increase and he hasn’t been incredibly effective, which makes the situation worse.

Tobias Harris is lost if he is not shown, Tyrese Maxie has passed too many fourth quarters without getting a chance, and playing with Mathis Tiboul, the defense will dare to shoot him. Maxi and Tiboule clearly love to play faster and get lighter sides, and although the fourth quarter usually runs much slower, so it’s not limited to the 76ers, it feels worse because of the style.

Many are standing around, waiting for Harden to make the move. If he doesn’t get better and we all know he’s not one of those people to be threatened with the ball, he’ll have to give up that place to Embiid – but you risk exhausting him more because of his load on the defensive part.

There are no clear answers when they struggle, but it is clear what the problems are when they do.

The Celtics did not win the team; they have beaten their Thor hammer power by an average of 22.1 points in their last eight wins. But when they fight, it’s when one of their two stars, Tatum and Brown, fight on the offensive.

Brown scored 5 of 14 in the second half against Miami, while Tatum remained effective. A similar story was in the Celtics’ 95-92 loss to Dallas – another hot team – in mid-March, where Tatum scored 7 of 23 and Brown was only slightly better at 6 of 16. Chances are both will fight for significant distances. in the playoff series seems unlikely, and while they’ve been incredibly effective the last two months, none have hit the free throw line.

It’s an average 3-point shooting team, and only Grant Williams shoots above 40% among regulars. Dallas guarded Tatum with length and changed coatings, while being allowed to play with him physically.

When Brown fought Miami, it was a similar formula. Duration and some effort.

Conceding a place to Marcus Smart or turning El Horford into a reluctant scorer could be a game plan, even if Smart and Horford find themselves with auspicious matches.

In the early days without Robert Williams III, the Celtics ’defense was solid, in part because Smart is vying for the Best Defender of the Year award. These figures need to be moved when the playoffs begin next weekend.

Tatum was much smarter in his choice of shots, but distributing and making him a facilitator could mean that he will get the action started, which may prove to be someone’s only hope.

Teams need to slow down Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum to have some advantage in Boston.  (Adam Glanzman / Getty Images)

Teams need to slow down Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum to have some advantage in Boston. (Adam Glanzman / Getty Images)

Miami‘s the identity of the crunch time

Given Eric Spoelstra’s magic, what to worry about in the heat seems to be more like a bug than huge checkpoints. They don’t have the traditional “tide lifts all the boats” closer, but Jimmy Butler has traditionally been someone more than reliable because he makes informed decisions and doesn’t overdo them too much, in addition to coming out on the free throw line.

In a sharp time, which NBA.com defines as the last five minutes, Butler beats off 32%. Tyler Era, who made the leap after a sort of recession in his sophomore year, is gaining 34.7%. For reference, Tatum shoots 37.2% and Brown – 42.6% – the defense is usually strengthened, so that’s not a scary number.

Butler is deliberate, Hero is a little more cheeky. It can bring the best of both worlds if it works – if it works.

Miami hangs a hat on defense, so having a PJ Tucker on the floor is very important because it’s so versatile in its size. He shoots 41% out of 3 per season, but only 23% after a break at All-Star Game. Butler, who doesn’t shoot, increases the interval for shooting and lanes for Kyle Lowry or even Bama Adebayo.

The recent presence of Max Strus has borne fruit, and they recently gave Victor Aladzip minutes in Toronto, but it is unclear whether they will include him in the playoff rotation when the games count.

Lowry can be a great equalizer because Butler trusts him and he is comfortable playing with the ball and out of it in situations at the end of the game. Whether it’s the appearance of control or the possibility of spontaneity, this is something Spoelstra will have to juggle late.

Milwaukee Defense

This is surprising considering that Atetokunmpa is being discussed for the title of the best defensive player of the year, but the Bucks are a mid-level defensive team. The absence of Brooke Lopez hurt, which led to Atetokunmpo being over-stretched and playing in the center line rather than a little more roaming.

Jru Holliday is still capable of dressing someone in a restraining shirt like he did with Caira Irving in Brooklyn last week, turning the Nets offense into a one-dimensional crawl.

But the numbers that Bucks gave up were appalling: 138 in Minnesota in late March, 127 in the Memphis Grizzlies without Ja Maranta, 118 against Dallas in the defeat on national television. 153 for the Clippers wasn’t good, but hardly any of the Bucks regulars played after the overtime win over Brooklyn.

Giving the most threes last season was the championship formula, but teams are more comfortable bombing, and with the margin of error to be slimmer (as shoes are half the size of the overstated) – maintaining this can be a top priority.

It requires a lot of ground to cover, especially with perimeter defenders away from Hollid.

Last year, we weren’t sure Atetokunmpo would become an impregnable offensive offensive in prime time, but he more than answered those questions.

This makes them profitable and perhaps even superior to other equal teams.

It also compensates for their lack of overall continuity, the honesty they will be counting on in the coming months, with their top five barely playing together for 300 minutes – like most other contenders in the East in the 400-minute range.

But everyone has a certain level of vulnerability, the only question is who can better exploit it.

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