NBA / Feb 29, 2012 / 5:00 pm

5 Burning NBA Questions: The Atlantic Division

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony, Dime #25

The push this year will come stronger and faster. You can’t work your way into it. There’s no waiting for tomorrow. You have until April 28 – that’s less than two months – to work your way into the postseason. If you’re in the East, there’s hope. Outside of three or four teams, everyone else is one big injury away from a five-game slide and a shot at extinction. Outside of Miami and Chicago, get too big-headed and you’ll be slain. Lose your confidence and you’ll take up residence next to Washington and Charlotte.

Questions abound for everyone, but each team has specific discrepancies they must address if they are going to maximize their potential. We hit you with the Northwest earlier today. Now, here are five burning questions for the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.

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Defensively, the Celtics are still No. 3 in the NBA in efficiency, a product of a mentality that’s heard to break. Even newcomers like Keyon Dooling and Chris Wilcox, once they’re in Boston, they buy into it.

But the same problem they’ve had for the past few years is still there: scoring. Their offensive efficiency is just No. 23 in the NBA, and they have a turnover rate of 27, barely better than dead last in the NBA. With no post presence, and with a point guard who excels at dishing rather than finishing, Boston’s entire offensive game plan revolves around getting Paul Pierce isolation touches, and Ray Allen open looks off screens.

As this season has wore on, Rajon Rondo has actually started getting touches in the post, fascinating because who REALLY wants to double team a 6-1 guard who can’t really score? Alas, Rondo’s best characteristic as a scorer is his ability to contort shots from out of nowhere at the rim. Before last night’s shocking undressing against Kyrie Irving, he was having his best season as a scorer (he’s averaging 14.1 points per game).

With Rondo in the post surrounded by perimeter shooting, it’s a nice wrinkle to have. But hardly a solution.

Their largest problem of all? Their two best scorers line up at the same spots as Miami’s, who also happen to be two of the top five defenders in the world. There are rumors of a Rondo-for-Pau Gasol swap, and while that might not change anything, it would help to balance out Boston’s perimeter-heavy lineup.

After shooting out of the gates at 18-7, the Sixers have sputtered to only three wins since a five-point home win over the Lakers in the first week of the month. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see Detroit, Cleveland and Charlotte are the team’s only Ws during that stretch. Why? For starters, once they stopped doing people early in the season like Gaear did Carl in Fargo, they quickly found out why most organizations would rather have one or two great players rather than five or six good ones: Late in games, you need a pecking order.

Many of Philly’s problems can be traced to the continued absence of Spencer Hawes (he’s expected back on March 16) and the time missed by Elton Brand. Amazingly, they haven’t broken the 100-point mark in over a month. January 23 against Washington was the last time they did it, and YOU BETTER score 100 against the Wizards. These injuries have placed too much of a burden on the team’s perimeter players. Andre Iguodala, for one, went multiple games recently without scoring a single fourth quarter bucket.

Brand’s having a dismal season by his standards – 10.6 points, 6.1 rebounds a game – but when you were starting Lavoy Allen and Nikola Vucevic for a brief period, you need help almost as much as you need air.

The only way Philly can advance in the playoffs is by beating a good team. The only way to do that is to develop a fourth quarter rhythm and get healthy. They better start soon.

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  • heckler

    front court.
    if you look closely, this team is weaker than the Clippers up front. Chris Wilcox?…hahahaha.
    Jermaine O’Neal has NO LIFT and Kevin Garnett hasn’t had a low post game since his last 2yrs in Minny (he is line-drive a jump shooter). If they can’t beef up their front court, expect them to get a lower seed. Their team defense will keep them in every game, but they cant rebound nor get paint points.

    They need a go-to guy! Andre Iggy is one of my fave players to watch. His game has really grown. not to star level, but as a playmaker. early on, he was just a wing finisher. now he can initiate an offense. But if you have this team down by 5 with 2mins left, I dont think they know where their going to get quality shots from. They should have traded Iggy to Denver for Carmelo last year…

    can Jeremy Lin survive the 4th quarter? and can the final 5 share the ball? When its the last 5 minutes in the 4th quarter (i imagine) the lineup will be Baron Davis, JR Smith, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Now, on paper, that may be the BEST finishing five in the league. problem is, its also the MOST SUSPECT finishing five. none of those guys willingly makes plays for anyone else. sad because they all can, they just dont.
    I doubt Jeremy Lin finishes games ahead of Baron Davis in 2 months. That buzzbeating game winner was nice….but it came again jose calderon!

    Who is running this franchise? the just SUCK.
    Does the NBA really need a team in Canada? Why not move them to Seattle and move the Hornets back to the eastern conference.

  • s.W.o. 4 Life

    The Raps just gotta keep doing their thing and establish a defensive culture. We #tankswaggin’ all season until we grab a minimum top 5 pick to put next to Valanciunas.

    Tank Swaggin’, just to get by. Ain’t suppose fall past pick #5.

  • Rainman

    @ heckler: The Raptors are moving in the right direction, lets consider they’ve been playing without their best player (bargs) for most the season, they have The lithuanian center coming in next year, a top 5 pick this year, to go along with Bargnani , and maybe Jose at point (who has proven to the league he’s still very good) if we keep him. And with Casey holding everyone accountable(that guy is a real good coach, the raptors look like another team in terms of D and effort, surpisingly its their offence that hasnt been good this year, their D has been pretty good-and Bargnani alone answers that. They’re 1 game under .500 when Bargnani has played) This team has got a good core to go off of, and a good future. U heard it here first. Im from Toronto, i watch the Raptors , and it hasnt been nearly as painful doing so as it has been the past few years lol

  • matt

    @ heckler, you know the raptors are owned by MLSE, Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment, right? They own the Maple Leafs, aka the Knicks of the NHL, they have loads of $ available. Also, raps are 10-15th in revenue and attendance. Let’s see, the raps have balance, DeRozan can be a decent starter, the fact that Jose averages almost 9 dimes with the lack of talent around him is insane, the raps were a 9th place team with Bargnani playing, they are adding a 2 lottery picks (Valanciunas and hopefully one of Lamb, Beal, MKG or Barnes) and there are no horrible contracts. Bucks are a horrible team, why not move them to a much better city like Montreal or Vancouver (aka WORLD CLASS CITIES) :P

  • matt

    @Rainmen you beat me to it.