NBA recap: Christmas Day hoops, MVP race and more

(Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
(Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) /

8-seed in Eastern Conference gaining interest

The depth and quality of teams in the Western Conference playoff race makes every game important with the 1-seed and 14th place being separated by only 8.0 games. The Eastern Conference lacks that top-to-bottom competitiveness, but the race for the bottom three spots in the playoff field has tightened up in recent weeks.

Two teams playing some of the best basketball right now in the NBA have crept into the race, with the Miami Heat currently in seventh place thanks to a five-game winning streak. The other is the Brooklyn Nets, who have won eight of nine games, including notching dubs over the Lakers, Raptors and Sixers over that span, and sit one game back of the 8-seed.

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The inconsistency of teams ahead of them have helped, with the Detroit Pistons 2-8 over their last 10 games, and the Charlotte Hornets 5-5 over their last 10 games. Despite struggling as late, the Orlando Magic are only 1.5 games back of eighth. Even the perennial soap opera that is the Washington Wizards is only 3.5 games back and still has the two best players out of all teams in this race.

The teams and talent are not as strong or entertaining as their Western Conference counterparts, but three of these teams will likely make the playoffs in the East. Who knows if they’ll steal a game of any of the Eastern Conference contenders, but watching this version of the Nets or Magic make the playoffs would be a nice underdog story and surprise for organizations and fanbases that entered the season with limited expectations.