Raptors, Bulls, Cavaliers are struggling to avoid play-in games as the season draws to a close

The Cleveland Cavaliers have not reached the playoffs since 1998, except for LeBron James.

This season, they have secured a place in the play-in tournament after an impressive change.

The 10 teams from the Eastern Conference that will advance beyond the regular season of the 82-game are already set. The only suspense left is to determine the seeding – and which teams will skip the play-offs and go straight to the playoffs. Chicago, Toronto and Cleveland, who finished 11th, 12th and 13th in the conference last season, are now battling to stay in the top six.

The Bulls (45-33) and Raptors (45-33) are in fifth place just above the playoff cutoff. Horsemen (43-36) are in seventh place.

Chicago has not made the playoffs since 2017. Cleveland has not made it since 2018 – before James left the team for the second time. Previously only Charlotte (2016) had a long playoff drought and Hornet played-in last season and did it again this year.

The Cavaliers went 22-50 a season ago, but they will end with a 2021-22 winning record. Cleveland received the fifth-best defensive rating in the league this season after finishing 25th a year ago. It wasn’t a great stretch for the Cavs, who have lost six of their last eight and advanced to the playoffs.

After the recent win at the New York Knicks, coach JB Bickerstaff said, “My biggest concern is our habits, and if we do things right.” The habits that we are focusing on and doing the right thing, and then you let the teams in front of you do what they have to do. “

Cleveland still has Kevin Love, an experienced link to the Cavs’ 2016 Championship, but young players like Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland, Rookie Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen have really helped.

Markkanen flew from Chicago to Cleveland in an offseason trade, but the Bulls have done well without him, climbing to the standings after going 31-41 a season ago. Their big new addition, DeMar DeRozan, is building a career-high 28 points per game, helping to significantly change the Bulls’ outlook.

The Chicago defense actually slipped from last season, but its offensive rating has risen from 21st to 11th in the league. Derozan scored 50 points in an overtime win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night. Derozan said a missed free throw late in the fourth quarter disappointed him, but the Bulls took the game anyway.

Coach Billy Donovan says, “I think he’s really crazy all the time,” said coach Billy Donovan. “I think he’s made himself so good, and I think that’s what makes him a great player.”

The next two games in Chicago are tough – against Milwaukee on Tuesday night and against Boston on Wednesday night – but they are both at home. The Bulls then hosted Charlotte before the game in Minnesota to end the regular season.

Toronto ends with home games against Atlanta, Philadelphia and Houston, then a game in New York against the Knicks.

The Cavaliers need help from an out-of-town scoreboard to avoid a play-in, and though they have a very winning game in Orlando on Tuesday night. They will then play against Milwaukee in Brooklyn and at home.

Other races

Miami (51-28) is still in contention for the top spot, hoping to retain Boston (49-30), Milwaukee (48-30) and Philadelphia (48-30). The hit is the home game against Charlotte and Atlanta before the Orlando tour. Milwaukee will host Boston on Thursday night, but it remains to be seen whether either of those teams still have a chance at No. 1.

Of the top 10 spots in the East, the biggest difference between any two of them is the three games, so there is still a lot of uncertainty left, even if all but those 10 teams have already been eliminated. This is very different from the West, where Phoenix (62-16) is at the top and Memphis (55-23) is at No. 2.

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