As the shortened season closes out in the National Basketball Association, you get the sense over the last few weeks that some of the veteran championship teams of recent years are all turning up the energy to playoff levels. It does look like a wide open year and in the playoffs where anything can happen, you have several teams who could make a run at the championship and add to their legacies. The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs all have their game faces on heading into the playoffs.
Let me address one other veteran championship team – the Dallas Mavericks. Only a miracle can save this team now. There will be no repeat, there will be mo miracle run. They have looked absolutely awful at times, and team chemistry has been out the door after losing core guys Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea. Dirk Nowitzki never got his game up to the level of last year, and dont forget that this team’s core were America’s favorite chokers for many years. Look for Dallas to be gone in the first round of the playoffs.
Boston is going to have a challenge coming out of the East. With the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls 1-2 in the standings, they have two younger teams ahead of them and may have to defeat both to get to the finals. But Kevin Garnett has been playing very well for several weeks now, and coach Doc Rivers has tinkered with the lineup, moving Ray Allen out of the starting lineup, so the men in green are gearing up for this last run. And this will certainly be the last tie we see this Celtic incarnation.
The Lakers have Kobe Bryant, that in itself gives them a fighting chance. Last night, they stole a game from #1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder, sending a message they are getting playoff ready. Overall, the Lakers are still transitioning to relying on Andrew Bynum as the number one inside option, and not Pau Gasol. Bynum has responded by playing well in the second half of the season and as a result, the Lakers have the strongest inside duo of any team in the playoffs with Bynum’s emergence.
Then there is the San Antonio Spurs. They were victims in the first rounds last year, caught by Dallas’ title run. But this has never been a team that you can characterize as chokers, and they have quietly played as well as any team in the second half of the season. They have managed Tim Duncan‘s minutes very carefully, and he has responded with a much stronger statistical year than last year.
Perhaps a new champion will emerge in the NBA this year, as the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder will both likely be the number one seeds. Or perhaps this will be the start of the Miami Heat dynasty. But whatever happens, there are three veteran teams that have come through and have to feel strongly they are in the mix. Should make for a very interesting post season.