As the end of the 2011 NBA regular season approaches, teams will be looking to make their last run into the playoffs. With teams attempting to gain momentum, teams know having home court advantage for each round is crucial to gain that momentum. Momentum swings can be very dramatic in the playoffs, especially over the course of a 5 and 7 game series. One game can give a team enough energy to swing the momentum in there favor, and momentum is all a team may need to get past their opponent. The regular season has around 20 games left until the end of the season and there have been some hot and cold teams as of late. The Boston Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs have been the top two teams this year and even through injuries, they have been the most consistent all season. The 5 through 8 spots in the Eastern Conference are still up for grabs.. The teams out of the top 8 that are looking to make a move are the Charlotte Bobcats and the Milwaukee Bucks with the Detroit Pistons looking at an outsiders chance. The Indiana Pacers have picked it up since firing Coach Jim O’Brien but have lost their last 4, from the looks of it the Pacers will once again choke and with the Bucks getting healthy at the tight time I have a feeling they will make the final 8th spot leaving the Bobcats and the Pacers out. The Western Conference is also in a very tight race, more tight than the East, and the last few spots may come down to the last week. The 5 through 8 seeds are also the seeds in the West that are up for grabs with the 7th and 8th seeds really close together. Phoenix, Utah, Houston, and Golden State are the close outsiders looking in at Denver, Portland, New Orleans and Memphis, who rank 5th through 8th respectfully. Look for an exciting finish to the 2011 NBA Season and an extra Good Luck to the New Orleans Hornets, the Drs. team. Here is a list of teams that are hot and some that are not and also a view of the current conference standings.
Chicago – Even though the Bulls have had a plethora of injuries all season, missing Joakim Noah and Carlos boozer each for more than a month, they have been the surprise of the Eastern Conference. Maybe not the shocking-aw effect surprise because most analyst and fans expected the Bulls, who acquired Boozer in this past off season, were gonna be one of the best teams in the East. What is shocking is they are 2nd in the standings behind the Celtics and have an MVP candidate in Derrick Rose leading the way with a roster full of talent at every position. No one expected the Bulls to be this good, and what is even more impressive is that not only are they ahead of the favorites Heat and Magic, they have been beating these teams on their own home courts. If the Bulls can keep it together and keep the Heat down at number 3 in the standings, this could lead to a Heat vs Knicks first round playoff match up full of All-stars, and this could be by far the most watched first round playoff series.
Philadelphia – With Andre Iguodala back at full strength the Sixers are back to full strength. With a much improved roster and more experience together as a team the Sixers have made some decent runs within the season so far. Over the last 10 games the Sixers are 8-2 behind Iguodala who has been putting up close to triple-double numbers every night. The Sixers 1st round draft pick last year, Evan Turner, is still a work in progress and is still learning the speed of the game at the NBA level. The two Sixers that have stepped up so far this year is 2nd year man Jrue Holliday and the resurrected Elton Brand. Brand is averaging 15.2 points 8.6 boards and 1.1 blocks per game, which is much improved from his stats from last year averaging 13.2 points per game and 6.1 boards per game. I would keep a close eye on Philadelphia down the stretch as they could end up with a 5th 6th or 7th seed, and have the pieces to pull an early upset over one of the top teams.
LA Lakers - The Lakers have been labeled all year as a playoff team, and a team who just does not have the motivation for a full regular season. The Lakers are coming off back to back championships and are hungry to complete the three-peat. The Lakers have been pretty consistent all year though looking sluggish at time, they have been efficient ever since the all-star break they have been looking like the champs of old. The Lake Show is 8-2 in their last 10 games and are currently on a 8 game winning streak. The question has been all year, “Can the Lakers stay motivated enough in the regular season to get through the playoffs? Or will their sluggish efforts cause them to turn it on a little to late?” The Doc has the Lakers still as his favorite until someone shows they can challenge the champs in the playoffs. Kobe and Pau both indulge themselves in the pressure and rise to their highest when the games are on the line.
Portland- Brandon Roy, the once beloved star for the Trailblazer for the past few seasons is working his way back into the lineup after a huge knee injury that has doctors saying he only has 2 to 3 seasons left. But with Roy returning and the new acquisition of Gerald Wallace the Trailblazers went from a one and done playoff team to a team that could get hot and make a run. They are very talented at every position with center LaMarcus Aldridge playing the best basketball of his career this year and becoming the new face of the franchise as Roy gets healthy. Wesley Matthews has also been a great acquisition grabbing him from the Utah Jazz in the off season. Matthews gives the Trailblazers a deadly shooter from deep who can also drive and create his own shots and shots for his teammates. I believe the playoff run for the Trailblazers will come down to chemistry and if the team can get their chemistry right in order with Roy coming back and newly acquired Wallace stepping in. Wallace had his best game of his short career with the Trailblazers so far putting up 22 points and 9 boards against the Heat.
Dallas – A few weeks back before the trade deadline I felt Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would make a big move that would shake up the NBA. The Mavericks did nothing at the trade deadline except picking up newly released forward Peja Stojakavic. The 3 point sharp shooter may be all the Mavericks need to compete with the rest of the NBA. They are solid at every position and will always be a contender with J.Kidd running the show and with Dirk being as smooth and stealthy as he always is. I thought Cuban would make a run at point guard Deron Williams, putting him in the back court with J.Kidd, since Kidd may only play another year or two. That didn’t happen for whatever reason, maybe the asking price for Williams was too high and Cuban did not want to give up half his team or he just did not want to ruin the chemistry Dallas has right now, sitting in 2nd place and looking to be a major contender in the playoffs going 9-1 in their last 10 games . Dallas is still playing for the number 1 seed in the Western Conference, only trailing 5 games behind the Spurs,and they have a good chance to make a move to the top.
Miami – The Heat may be the joke right now in the NBA, and they are at least a joke to Dr. Hustle. Over the past two weeks the Heat haven’t just been losing, they have been losing at home and have been giving up leads at the end of games. Whats wrong with the Heat? They are supposed to have two of the three top closers in the game, James and Wade. Maybe the critics were right King James is just a prince after all, he may be a beast in the first 3 quarters, but he disappears when the game gets to crunch time. You can say the opposite for his teammate Wade. D-Wade is the definition of clutch, besides the Black Mamba, he knows when and how to turn his game on and when he is in the zone he is hard to stay in front of. The Doc lost a lot of respect for Lebron when he left his teammates in Cleveland, who by the way finished with a better record last year than the Heat are going to this year. The Heat are in the biggest slump of their`season now losing the last 5 games, 4 of which were at home. You may be able to give them a pass on all 5 loses based on the fact that all 5 teams are in serious playoff contention; Knicks, Magic, Spurs, Bulls, and Trailblazers. The one thing the critics still have on the Heat is that their record vs teams with winning records or the top teams of the league is terrible. This may come back to hurt the Heat as it seems they just cant pull it together to beat the better teams. The Heats season may come to an end earlier than Heat fans would like.
Utah – The Jazz lost a lot when they let go of All-Star Deron Williams. The Jazz have been declining since the summer with the free agent losses of Carlos Boozer to the Bulls and Wesley Matthews to Portland, the sudden retirement of Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, and last the blockbuster trade giving Deron Williams to the Nets. At the end of the 2010 NBA season it looked like the Jazz were still one of the top franchises in the NBA, only to be a completely different team in less than 365 days. The Jazz have been struggling of late finding wins, going 2-8 in their last 10 games. Utah can still make the playoffs as they sit only 2 and a half games out of 8th place behind Memphis and Phoenix. Al Jefferson has been the only bright spot for the Jazz since the recent changes and he needs a lot of help to get the Jazz into the playoffs. Devin Harris was a great addition with the loss of Williams but he brings a totally different style of play at the point and is just not as dominating as Williams can be over the course of an entire game. The Jazz are one of the most beloved franchises in the NBA and Dr. Hustle wished them the best of luck for the playoffs.
|6||New York||33||29||.532||13 ½|
|New Jersey||19||43||.306||27 ½|
|4||Oklahoma City||39||23||.629||11 ½|
|7||New Orleans||37||29||.561||15 ½|
|LA Clippers||24||40||.375||27 ½|