These 2 lead very dangerous teams heading into the postseason
The regular season is almost complete with only 1 more week left to play. Some teams look to enter the playoffs on a roll; others are bound to limp across the finish line. What teams seem to control their own destiny? Who looks the most ready to make a serious postseason run?
5.) Denver Nuggets (47-30; 7-3 in last 10 games)
Remember when this team was supposed to trade Carmelo Anthony and then begin the rebuilding process? Well, they did ship Melo off to New York as planned, but instead of losing games, a strange thing happened: they started winning…a lot. Since “the trade”, the Nuggets are an astounding 15-5. How are they winning so many games now that Carmelo Anthony (not to mention starting PG Chauncey Billups) is no longer donning a Nugs jersey? For starters, team chemistry seems to be at an all-time high. No longer are they worrying about what hour of the day their star player is going to be shipped off. Also, the new pieces they acquired in the Anthony deal (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton) have all been contributing on a nightly basis. Couple that with the fact that they were already one of the top scoring teams in the league before the Melo trade (they are currently sitting at #1 in the NBA, at 107.2 ppg), and you can see why this team isn’t just thinking about making the playoffs, something they will do comfortably, but are looking to go deep once they get there.
4.) Orlando Magic (49-29; 7-3 in last 10 games)
Some people might think that this is a team that has no business being ranked as a top 5 most dangerous team. I would tell those people that they’re crazy. Why? Because they have the most dominant defensive presence in basketball, Dwight Howard, who has had an MVP-type season and has kept the Magic a serious contender. A team that is top-5 in defensive efficiency is most certainly always going to be a good team, but one that is going into the playoffs seemingly on a roll, something the Magic appear to be doing, is even more scary. The real problem with this team, however, is what player is going to step up in the playoffs not named Dwight Howard? Jameer Nelson? Jason Richardson? Hedo Turkoglu? Somebody is going to have to be ‘that guy’, and I’m just not sure who that is. Luckily for them, I don’t see that being much of a problem in the first round (a probable match-up against Atlanta should be Magic in 5 even though Atlanta has beat them 3 out of the last 4 in the regular season). Still yet, you have to wonder who helps shoulder the load with Howard. Regardless, this team is as dangerous as they come with the way they seem to be playing right now, and one that I would be very weary of facing.
3.) Miami Heat (54-23; 8-2 in last 10 games)
Well, well, well, look who it is? The “Big 3” have had an up-and-down season together, but right now, things seem to be going along just fine. LeBron James has had a phenomenal year and he and D-Wade have really clicked the second half of the season. Sitting in the #3 spot in the East and with a date to tangle with Boston on Sunday, Miami hopes to solidify itself in that #2 slot with a win. The way they are rolling right now, I fully expect them to do just that. In fact, with the Heat on a current 3-game winning streak and with 5 games left to play, I think Miami wins out and goes into the playoffs as the hottest team in basketball. That would mean facing the trifecta of James-Wade-Bosh at the wrong time. I still believe that a team of 3 superstars in the playoffs is as tough a match-up as you can have, so if they continue to pile up wins and corral momentum, how much better will they be?
2.) Chicago Bulls (57-20; 8-2 in last 10 games)
The Bulls have been brilliant this year, led by probable MVP Derrick Rose. They are a team that is guided by their superb defense (2nd in the NBA in points allowed at 91.5), and have continued to win late in the season because of it. Since the beginning of March, the Chicago Bulls have been an NBA-best 16-3, beating the likes of the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets, Atlanta Hawks (twice) and Memphis Grizzlies. And now that they have Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah seemingly healthy together for what feels like the first time all season, this team has their eyes set on their first NBA Championship since Michael Jordan was in uniform. If Derrick Rose continues to play like, well himself, and the big men down low play strong basketball side-by-side, I don’t see any team beating Chicago in the East, especially against a team that looks to have the #1 seed locked up and who has the best record at home in the Eastern Conference. Yes Miami, Orlando and Boston, I’m talking to you.
1.) Los Angeles Lakers (55-22; 8-2 in last 10 games)
The Lakers had won 9 games in a row before a recent 2-game swoon against the red-hot Denver Nuggets and the “we fell off the face of the earth once we traded our best player” Utah Jazz. Still yet, the Lakers are as hot as any team in basketball, losing only 1 game in March, and winning 17 out of their last 20 games. Kobe is playing his best basketball of the season (was high scorer on the team in 10 of 13 games in the month of March), as is center, Andrew Bynum. The one thing that seems to concern a lot of people is the health of young Bynum; however, if the game against Utah last night was any indication, I don’t believe that should pose too much of a problem (12 pts, 23 rebs, 4 blks). Also, Pau Gasol has been a bit hampered lately by a bone bruise in his knee, yet last night, he posted his usual solid line (19 pts, 5 rebs, 4 assts, 2 blks). With health seemingly the only real worry for this team going into the playoffs, one I don’t see catching up with them throughout the postseason, the Los Angeles Lakers look to be the most dangerous team heading into the 2011 playoffs.