Cavaliers vs Celtics?

Who will be the top NBA team in the East?

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Yes, the Celtics could absolutely knock off LeBron and the Cavs in the East | FOX Sports

The Boston Celtics took care of business against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, winning handily, 111-98, on the road. The Celtics are now 23-7 over their last 30 games, trailing only the Warriors for the best record in the league over the last 8 weeks. (Golden State is 23-5.)

After the loss, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who knows a thing or two about winning an NBA title, was blunt with his praise, saying of the Celtics: "They have a legitimate chance to get to the Finals through the East with that team."

Boston has quietly, along with the Washington Wizards (themselves 23-7 over their last 30), become the hottest team in the NBA. And the way they’re built, and the way they’re coming together, has me thinking something I never would have imagined this season: The Celtics could absolutely knock off the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference.

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East v West: The basketball battles

By Dan McLaughlin

Boston Celtics were once the dominant force in the NBA (National Basketball Association), winning 21 Eastern Conference titles and a staggering 77 NBA titles. Like the Roundheads in the English Civil War, this great force has been usurped by the Cavaliers, this time, from Cleveland led by LeBron James.

The Cavaliers have been crowned the Eastern Conference Champions over the last two seasons, winning the NBA finals against Golden State.

The East is made up of 15 teams in one league, organised in three divisions: Atlantic, Central and Southeast. The three division winners and the non-division winner with the best record are seeded from one to four for the playoffs - with the remaining four other non-division winners seeded five through eight.

In a post season tournament, the Eastern teams playoff against each other at the same time the Western teams do. The winners from the East and West playoffs compete in the NBA finals to be crowned the overall winner of the NBA.

Currently, the Cleveland Cavaliers lie on top of their Central division and are the leaders of the Eastern Conference, followed by the Boston Celtics who are top of their Atlantic division.

Sports Illustrated argues that the East is "pure chaos" right now. Citing a game in December, where sixth-place Bucks faced tenth-place Wizards, whom they had beaten by 27 points a few days previous. With Bucks looking like a playoff team, and after a dominant first three quarters, Washington Wizards fought back with a three in the final minute securing their victory.

Sixth-place Milwaukee Bucks became eighth-place, whilst the Wizards chasing them half a game behind. In the most recent standings, the Wizards are in third place topping their division whilst the Bucks are out of the playoff places in ninth.

An exasperated Sports Illustrated describes the East as a "combination of overachieving bad teams and underachieving good teams", where the hierarchy has the potential to change on a nightly basis.

The East still falls behind the West in terms of quality. The West was better than the East during regular season for the 16th time in 17 seasons.

However, the gap is slowly closing. Where in the 2013-14 season the West had a 118-game advantage, and 76 in 2014-15, the East came much closer last season with just 14 games over .500.

The Guardian argues the gap could be due to the economic differences between the two conferences. Many of the bigger cities in the East are once-thriving metropolises now starved of the kinds of jobs that have been outsourced to Asia, whereas West coast cities have varied economies. This means in less affluent towns and cities there is disposable income for entertainment, like sport - so smaller fanbases, budgets and investment into a team.

The East Coast is fighting back. Whilst Sports Illustrated bemoans the competition in the Eastern Conference, it means there are surprises in store; and that makes the league and the playoffs just that bit more interesting.

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