The NBA regular season is coming to a fast end and the playoffs are right around the corner, can I personally say it’s about time. The Eastern Conference was definitely a spectacle this season as we saw the Indiana Pacers and defending champion Miami Heat solidify their presence early as the alpha dogs. We watched a Bulls team without their star point guard Derrick Rose once again manage to make it work, even after trading away Lou Deng. The strong play from Joakim Noah has catapulted the Bulls into the fourth seed in the East. The Atlantic Division has been one to forget as the 76ers chase history in the consecutive losses department. The Knicks have become an afterthought as they try to claw their way into the playoffs behind a slipping Atlanta Hawks team. Mean while the Raptors are preparing for the playoffs as the dark horse Brooklyn Nets may be the sleeper in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards and Bobcats have found themselves in unchartered waters, sitting in the sixth and seventh seeds respectively. What remains to be unseen is who will dethrone
LeBron James, the two time remaining MVP and Finals MVP. The Pacers seem to be the only logical answer in the East, or maybe we’re looking on the wrong coast.
The Western Conference has never failed to amuse basketball fans with a high level of competition. Once again a team with a record of .500 or better may not be playing come April. The Spurs and their recent winning streak have once again proven themselves to be amongst the basketball elite as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli defy Father Time and continue to lead this team. Sitting at the top of the West the Spurs are looking to redeem their Finals defeat and look prime to return. The Thunder have continued to light it up behind the electric play of Kevin Durant. My biggest concern with the Thunder revolves around the supporting cast of Durant and whether they will be able to reach the a finals once again. The Rockets, Clippers, and Portland have all proven to be legit contenders in this tough conference, and despite sitting towards the bottom, the Warriors, Grizzlies, and Dallas are no push over squads that won’t come prepared for a dog fight. The west has no clear contender who will run through the playoffs the way the Spurs did last year. Oklahoma City may have a much different playoff fate this season then last considering if Westbrook remains healthy. The Clippers have a lot to prove considering their short comings in the past few playoffs and under Doc Rivers must show that it was more of coaching problem rather then a personnel one the last couple of seasons. Dwight Howard finally found a team in Houston and the Rockets can definitely make it out the West behind the solid team that they have. The Warriors and the splash brothers are surely a threat as well but they won’t surprise teams the way they did to the Nuggets last year. If the Grizzlies and Mavericks manage to maintain their current playoff positions they will also prove to be a challenge in the playoffs.
At the end of the day, defense is going to separate who the real contenders are. What team makes the stops and breaks down their opponent, what team executes efficiently down the stretch, what team will rise to the next challenge.