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Teams to Watch in the NBA’s Second Half 2021

March 13, 2021

The NBA’s second half of the 2020-21 regular season is already underway. For several teams, it will be a sort of new beginning. For others, it will probably be much of the same old thing.

For fans and bettors alike, there are a handful of teams that you already know are essentially locked into a playoff spot. Teams like Milwaukee, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia in the East and the Lakers, Clippers, and Jazz in the West. Phoenix has been a pleasant surprise and appears to be headed to the postseason, but what about the rest of the league?

Surely, there are some surprises out there. Here is a look at teams to watch over the remaining half of the season.

Turn Up the Heat

Don’t look now, but the Miami Heat have won eight of their last nine games. The reason?

Jimmy Butler.

The Heat star scored 27 points and had 11 assists as Miami started the second half of the 2021 season with a 111-103 victory over Orlando. The win moved Miami over the .500 mark for the very first time this season. The Heat are now 19-18 and sit atop a very crowded Southeast Division.

They are also fifth in the Eastern Conference standings and could break their way into the top four by season’s end. Here’s why. The schedule gods have been very good to Miami. They will play the second-easiest remaining schedule in terms of opponents’ winning percentage. The Heat’s second half starts with seven games in a row against teams at or below .500 right now.

It’s not all champagne and roses for the Heat in the second half. They will play their first five games of the second half in seven days and they will have a road-heavy stretch of eight games in 12 days from April 13-24. Still, the easier schedule will help the Heat in their playoff run.

Bulls Market

Yes, the Bulls lost two of their last three before the break and lost their first game back to Philadelphia, but you have to like Chicago’s playoff chances with an MVP-caliber Zach LaVine averaging 28.4 points a game and Lauri Markkanen (19.4 ppg) back in the lineup after missing a baker’s dozen worth of games with a shoulder injury.

Chicago will have a difficult time though as they will play the NBA’s toughest remaining schedule in terms of opponents’ defenses. A total of 15 of their 37 second-half games are against teams that rank in the top 10 in defensive rating. Nine of Chicago’s first 13 second-half games are against teams with a top 10 defensive rating.

Luka Does Dallas

Dallas has now won 10 of its last 13 games and is 19-17 overall. The Mavericks started the second half with a big win over San Antonio then rested both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in a 116-108 loss to Oklahoma City.

With Doncic averaging 28.4 points, 9.1 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per game and Porizingis adding 20.5 and 8.6 boards, the Mavericks are going to lock in a top-six playoff berth. Dallas started the season outside of the top eight for much of the season’s first half but got hot just before the All-Star break.

The Mavs will be aided in the second half by a schedule that is one of the easiest in the Western Conference. It gets easier as it goes along too with 10 of the final 11 games of the season against teams that are currently .500 or below.

The only difficulty for Dallas is they will have nine games in which they will have a rest disadvantage. Five of those come in a span of 14 games in 22 days. Regardless, consider Dallas a top-six seed in the postseason.

Pelican Watch

If you’re going to watch the Pelicans try to make the play-in tournament, good luck. New Orleans is currently 11th in the West and started the second half with an ugly 30-point loss to Minnesota. The Pelicans have one of the more difficult second-half schedules with the fewest number of games remaining against teams with a losing record. After facing Cleveland on Friday, New Orleans will play eight straight against teams with a winning record. Don’t forget; the Pelicans rank 29th in the league in defensive efficiency.