When Prince made the record 1999 back in 1982, the lyrics “they say 2 thousand 00 party over oops out of time, so tonight we’re going to party like its 1999.” had so much meaning going into Y2k. But who knew that Prince would be so prophetic with those lyrics as they pertained to the Eastern Conference in the NBA.
Since 1999 the Eastern conference has only won 7 out of 22 championship appearances, roughly 31 percent. The Miami Heat won 3 of those championships, and the Pistons, Celtics, Cavs and Raptors contributing the other four. The Western Conference winning an astonishing 15 of the 22 appearances (68%) their dominance had reigned supreme.
All-Star appearances are difficult to come by in the Western Conference; Mike Conley Jr just got his first all-star nod this season after years of playing at a high level. Compare that to the 2015 Eastern Conference All Star team that included 4 of the Atlanta Hawks starting 5, Al Horford, Paul Milsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver. Typically the 7th and 8 seeds in the eastern conference have a losing record, and in 2017-2018 season we saw both the Nuggets (46-36) and Clippers (42-40) miss the playoffs.
Things are slowly changing; the 10th seeded Spurs in the western conference and the 10th seeded Pacers in the eastern conference have an identical record of 33-38. The 3rd seeded Bucks are 46-25 and the 3rd seeded Nuggets of the western conference are 47-24, just one game off. The Nets who finished 7th seed last season, are now 2nd seed, the Boston Celtics who are currently the 7th seed finished as the third seed last season, the Knicks who had an abysmal record last season are currently 4th seed in the east, we are seeing highly competitive basketball in the East now and most importantly parity.
The old cliche defense wins championships, is still very relevant to this day. In the playoffs, the game slows down, the analytical 3 point shot isn’t as applicable, and we see that two pointers become more critical; team basketball comes to the forefront, but in the end your best player has to perform ie Lebron James last post season and Kawhi Leonard the year before. I think a healthy Nets team can be really dangerous in the playoffs if they are able to force stops and Kevin Durant plays lights out; we could see the eastern conference hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy for the second time in three seasons.