Celtics best team in East

Apr 8, 2008 7:00 PM

Feist Facts by Jim Feist | It’s been a long haul, this 82-game NBA regular season, but the playoffs are just around the corner. Only the 2004 Detroit Pistons and 2006 Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference have won an NBA title since Michael Jordan retired.

Pistons: Last stand for the old warriors? The Pistons have great depth, talent and balance. The strong backcourt of Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton lead in scoring, while the front line features Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess.

Detroit is allowing 90.4 ppg, second in the NBA and third in opponents shooting (below 44 percent). The under is 21-14 at the Palace of Auburn Hills with an average yield of 88 ppg.

Celtics: Talk about a transition of the century! Boston had the second worst record in the league a year ago, and now owns the NBA’s best record. Paul Pierce (20 ppg) had had to carry the team for years, but was delighted to get help outside in Ray Allen (18 ppg) and inside with Kevin Garnett (19 ppg, 9.4 rpg).

The improved defense has been the biggest story, ranking first in points allowed (90 ppg) and shooting (41.9 percent. The under is 21-16 at the Fleet Center. If you’re anticipating a Boston/Detroit showdown in the East, the Celtics are 2-1 SU/ATS during the regular season.

Cavaliers: So what about last year’s East champs? Well, that was last year. They still have LeBron James but almost everything else has changed. James is a remarkable talent, averaging 30.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.3 assists. Don’t forget he just turned 23 Xmas week.

Outside of 7-foot-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas, he isn’t surrounded by the kind of supporting talent Boston and Detroit have.

Magic: Orlando certainly looks like a young Wild Card team. Who wouldn’t want a talent in the middle like Dwight Howard? At just age 22, the Magic center averages 21.2 points and 14.5 rebounds per game. In a loss to San Antonio, Howard scored 24 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. It was his eighth 20-20 game of the season! Former Seattle forward Rashard Lewis (18 ppg, 5.4 rpg) has upgraded the offense.

Raptors: Toronto has assembled a nice young team, with 6-10 center Chris Bosh (22.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and playmaking guard T.J. Ford. Bosh turned 24 last week, while Ford is 25. The Raptors continue to be a strong team at home, but struggle on the road (16-21 SU, 17-19 ATS). There is not a lot of defense or rebounding muscle.