This week's NBA Power Rankings represent the variety of teams gaining momentum and challenging the conference favorites. Even prior to this shortened season, it seemed like NBA fans and experts alike were assuming the Heat and Bulls would be going to head-to-head in the East, while the Oklahoma City Thunder would be the team to beat in the West.
But sure enough, while these teams have lived up to their hype, there also are an array of squads proving their resilience and dogged spirit as the playoffs draw near.
The Magic Trick
Dwight Howard threw down 24 points and 25 rebounds last night to propel the Orlando Magic past the Miami Heat. Jameer Nelson also contributed 25 points, Hedo Turkoglu 16 and J.J. Redick 17. The Magic have been on a tear, winning seven of their last 10 games and showing that they can give D-12 the support he needs to make a legitimate run in the playoffs.
In terms of the Heat, they should brush it off, just as Miami supporters should. The Heat are in about as much trouble as Albert Pujols is financially. That would be all of, well, none.
Between Miami's depth and trio of superstars, the Heat have the capacity to not only reach the NBA Finals again this year but to also win it all this time.
Within the context of the NBA, it's important not to overlook the progress the Lakers have made recently. Nobody has forgotten L.A.'s loss to the Washington Wizards,—nor should they since it was an embarrassment—but what they should be concentrating on is that fact that they've surpassed their L.A. rivals, the Clippers, and are now just behind OKC and the Spurs in the West.
Like the Magic, the Lakers have also won seven of their last 10 games, which is in large part a product of their role-players finally backing up their stars.
Metta World Peace, formally known as Ron Artest, has not only been contributing on offense but he has also been consistently playing shut-down defense. Matt Barnes, Derek Fisher and even Steve Blake—who for most of the season have been ebb and flow on both ends of the court—are beginning to establish an effective rhythm within Mike Brown's system.
Overall, though, the Lakers have truly re-emerged in the West because of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, who've been reliable, fearless and making an impact day-in and day-out.
The Indy/Philly Conundrum
These two teams are incredibly similar in that they succeed and fail in almost identical ways.
When you look at either roster, you recognize a couple of big names and All-Stars, but nobody who realistically contends with the Kobe's, LeBron's and D-Will's of the NBA.
Don't get me wrong, Danny Granger is a phenomenal talent, as is Andre Iguodala. Each player is leading skilled, deep squads.
But as well as each of these teams have done,—Philly is 25-17 and Indy is 24-16—I can't help but think that they'd match up poorly against Chicago and Miami, the powerhouses of the East. Although the 76ers and Pacers each beat the Bulls once this season, when it comes down to crunch time—especially in the cut-throat playoff atmosphere—my money will be on Miami or Chicago every time.
What I would love (but don’t expect) is to be shocked. Remember when Memphis stunned the Spurs in the first round last year?
The playoffs are not far off, and NBA adrenaline is only surging. Below are my Top 10 Power Rankings for this week.
I look forward to your comments!
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