By Austin Kent
With all the twists and turns that go on in the NBA’s Atlantic Division, it’s hard to keep up. I’ve been given the opportunity to summarize, in a weekly recap, the latest news to hit the Atlantic Division. Whether you’re a Raptors fan, or a Celtics, Sixers, Nets or Knicks fan, I’ll do my best to keep you posted.
Recap Rewind: As the final stretch of the season came and left, the undermanned Boston Celtics stuck to their losing ways and managed to stretch their skid to seven games in a row… Celts fans will continue to wait until the NBA draft lottery in May for any form of consolation from this horrible season… On top of losses to the Bucks and Hawks, the green and white fell to Philadelphia, Orlando and Detroit, their sole victory coming in the final seconds of a contest in Miami.
Notable News: On April 10 Gerald Green poured in a career high 33 points and Leon Powe followed suit with a 19-point career high of his own. Powe shot 11-13 from the free-throw line but the Hawks hung on for the win despite missing Joe Johnson, Zaza Pachulia and Josh Smith… It couldn’t have been made more obvious than it was against Philly on April 11th; the Celtics need an injection of big man talent. The Sixers outscored Boston in the paint 60-28… Fifty years after winning their first of 16 NBA titles, the Boston Celtics celebrated by losing at home to the Bucks on Friday…
Fast Forward: Ping pong balls. The Celtics finished the season with the second worst record in the league behind only the Memphis Grizzlies. Boston fans will be crossing their fingers in these next few weeks hoping that karma will repay them for this dreadful season in the form of either Kevin Durant or Greg Oden.
New Jersey Nets
Recap Rewind: The New Jersey Nets finished the season on a strong note and their final push not only secured their playoff spot, but vaulted them into the 6th Eastern Conference playoff spot… Since the Tuesday before last, the Nets won games in Washington, Indiana and New York as well as once again at home against the Knicks… Their only losses in the last two weeks of the season came to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls (twice).
Notable News: Vince Carter topped his own franchise record for total points in a season on April 10; he finished the season with 2,046 points. Also in that game against Washington, Jason Kidd came 4 points shy of logging a triple double. Kidd finished with 14 rebounds and 11 assists… The Nets clinched their playoff spot with a win over New York on Friday, and Jason Kidd added his 87th career triple double to boot. Kidd finished the game with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists… Bostjan Nachbar continued to prove that he can be a legit threat for the Nets, especially after going 6-6 from three-point range in Sunday’s win over the Pacers… Vince Carter added his second triple double of the season on Monday night against the Knicks, scoring 29 points while adding 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Fast Forward: With their win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday the New Jersey Nets snuck into sixth place in the East. They now face the Toronto Raptors… Had the Nets lost to the Bulls on Wednesday, they would have had to meet Chicago in the first round… The Nets split the series with the Raptors this season, with both teams winning their games at home… The first round should be an interesting series for all of those involved. Not only does it mark the first time since 1987 that New Jersey made the playoffs in three consecutive years, but it also marks Vince Carter’s return to Toronto… The last time Toronto reached the playoffs they were led by Carter, and Raptors fans haven’t forgotten his messy exit.
New York Knicks
Recap Rewind: After convincing their fans that making the playoffs was an actual possibility, the Knicks began to stumble and fall off course… If not for squeezing by the Charlotte Bobcats in the final game of the season, New York would have closed the campaign on a six game losing streak… Since the Tuesday before last, the Knicks have dropped contests on the road against the Nets, Bulls, and Raptors and then to the Nets again at home… The Knicks were able to save face in their final game of the season, a win on the road against the Charlotte Bobcats
Notable News: The Knicks were absolutely abused by the Bulls on April 10. The final score read 98-69 as New York continued to play without Quentin Richardson, David Lee, Jamal Crawford, Stephon Marbury and Renaldo Balkman… The Knicks were officially eliminated from the playoffs after their loss to New Jersey on Friday and that apparently did not sit well with Jared Jeffries. Jeffries, according to Sports Illustrated, was awarded a technical foul for delivering a chopping blow to the groin of Nets forward Vince Carter late in the third quarter… Malik Rose added a season high 18 points in Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors… Mardy Collins capped off a successful week with a career high 23 points Monday night. Collins contributed a then-career high 21 points the last time the two teams met just three days earlier… Thanks to Eddy Curry, the Knicks can end their season on a good note. Curry tipped in a Malik Rose miss with 0.6 seconds left of Wednesday’s ball game in Charlotte, giving his team the 94-93 victory.
Fast Forward: The New York Knicks don’t exactly have a whole lot to look forward to in the next while, except for some relaxation time to get their injured players healed and ready to go for next season… The Knicks would have had a decent shot at the Greg Oden lottery in May, but they gave their draft pick away to the Chicago Bulls in the deal that brought them Eddy Curry.
Recap Rewind: The Philadelphia 76ers had an up and down last few weeks of the regular season but fell just short of the postseason… The Sixers, who had continued to improve since shipping Allen Iverson off for Joe Smith and Andre Miller, won 4 of their last 6 games, including wins on the road against Detroit and Toronto… Philly’s other wins came against the Celtics and Pacers while falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic… The Sixers finished the season tied with the Indiana in 9th place.
Notable News: Andre Iguodala sat out Tuesday’s game against Indiana with a strained lower back. Iggy then sat out the following game in Boston but returned for Saturday’s bout with the Orlando Magic. Unfortunately that would be the last time the new AI would play this season. He sat out the remainder of the week… Loius Williams scored a career high 18 points twice in two days, once against the Pacers and then again against the Celtics… The Sixers were officially eliminated from the playoffs after Saturday’s loss to the Magic… Willie Green finished the season with a career high 37 points on Wednesday, while Andre Miller and Joe Smith added 29 and 26 points respectively. The Sixers topped the Raptors 123 to119, and it was their highest offensive output since a 123-108 victory over the Chicago Bulls on November 24.
Fast Forward: The 76ers have a lot to look forward to thanks to a positive second half of the season… Philly finished the year 30 and 29 after giving up Allen Iverson in late December… Since releasing forward Chris Webber in January the team finished 16-21… The Sixers have three first round picks in this summer’s NBA draft including one lottery pick.
Recap Rewind: After clinching the Atlantic Division crown the Raptors sought out to clinch home court in the playoffs and on Friday night they did just that. The 87-84 victory came at home against the Detroit Pistons… Two nights later, the Raps squeezed by the New York Knicks, giving them their 47th win of the season, tying the franchise best set in the 2000-2001 season… Unfortunately the fun would end there for Toronto as they failed to hold off the Eastern Conference-leading Pistons a second time, this time in Detroit on Tuesday… The Raps closed the season with another loss at home against Philadelphia.
Notable News: With the Atlantic Division clinched, the Raptors had the opportunity to test some of their reserves, including Kris Humphries. Humphries responded well on Friday grabbing a career high 18 rebounds… The Raptors clinched home court with their victory over the Knicks on Sunday night… Dreading any last minute injuries, Sam Mitchell sat Chris Bosh and Anthony Parker as precautionary measures on Tuesday, but the Raps were unable to escape the game unscathed. In the final two minutes of the contest Morris Peterson limped off the court with a hyper-extended knee. Although Peterson sat out the following night in Toronto he was confident that the injury was minor… Uros Slokar scored a career high18 points on Tuesday, to put things in perspective, leading up to the game Slokar had 20 points over the span of his career… Rookie forward Andrea Bargnani returned Wednesday night after missing 14 games as a result of an emergency appendectomy in March. Bargnani hit for 17 points in his return… More good news came for the Raptors Wednesday in the form of recent acquisition Luke Jackson. Jackson erupted for 30 points, eclipsing his previous career high of 14 points, giving fans reason to believe that he may be able to contribute next season.
Fast Forward: The Raptors will face their good friend Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the playoffs next week…The Raptors and Nets split the season series this year with both teams winning twice at home… Bryan Colangelo can give himself a pat on the back as the Raptors have returned to the Promised Land for the first time since 2002, but things could have been even better for Toronto. Had the Chicago Bulls beaten the Nets in the last game of the regular season, the Raptors would have faced the Gilbert Arena-less Washington Wizards.
Make sure you check back here every week for an Atlantic Division recap and then go to ProBasketball.About.com to get recaps for the other Divisions.