Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and the NBA's Most Dreaded Playoff Foes

Ethan Norof@ethan_norofCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2012

Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and the NBA's Most Dreaded Playoff Foes

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    The Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs are often described as aging teams, but neither should be taken lightly when it comes to the postseason.

    Strange things can happen over the course of a seven-game series, and nobody should be counting against a few teams surprising during this whirlwind campaign.

    Kobe Bryant is in search of his sixth ring, Derrick Rose is looking to earn his first and Kevin Durant wants everyone to know why Oklahoma City should be in the conversation when talking about title contenders.

    Here are eight teams that everyone should keep a watchful eye on as we creep closer to the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets

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    Danilo Gallinari's fractured thumb is going to discourage some about the prospects of this team, but he should be back in time for the playoffs.

    This is the deepest team in the NBA.

    The addition of JaVale McGee could prove to be a critical x-factor moving forward, while the re-signing of Wilson Chandler after his stint in China will bolster Denver's perimeter defense.

    There aren't a lot of clubs that can keep up with the energy the Nuggets bring for a full 48 minutes, and that is going to be a competitive advantage in the playoffs.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    The Grizzlies were the scrappy team that nobody wanted to play in the 2011 postseason, and there is little reason to think that's going to change this time around in 2012.

    Getting Zach Randolph back on the court is an impact addition for Memphis, and the improved play of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley has been huge so far this year.

    There is more depth here than the team gets credit for, and this is a group that is looking to build off of their previous success.

Boston Celtics

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    The Boston Celtics are old, the team has dealt with a plethora of injuries this season and are unlikely to win a title as the roster is currently constructed.

    However, that doesn't mean they're just going to pack it up and go home without a fight.

    There is a lot of playoff experience among this group, and these guys are going to put the pedal to the metal when it matters most knowing that this is their final season playing with this core.

San Antonio Spurs

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    All of those who claimed the San Antonio Spurs were too old and Tim Duncan was over the hill are rapidly reevaluating their opinion of this team.

    Tony Parker has played like an MVP candidate all season, Duncan is showing that he's not done yet and the addition of Stephen Jackson gives the Spurs an added weapon that was previously absent.

    If Manu Ginobili can prove he's able to stay healthy for this team, nobody is going to want to go head-to-head against San Antonio at any juncture of the postseason.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    This is a young Thunder team that has no problem gearing up for a big matchup, and that is something that will benefit them greatly.

    With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden all under 24 years of age, Oklahoma City is going to be a tough matchup for any opposition that they're lined up against at any stage of the process.

    There is a reason that so many predicted this club to represent the Western Conference in the championship round.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    The bench is still underwhelming and the Los Angeles Lakers are prone to struggles when one of the key cogs has an off night, but this isn't a team anyone wants to see in the postseason.

    Most teams simply don't have an answer for the size the Lakers present in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant's playoff success speaks for itself.

    The addition of Ramon Sessions gives this club an element that just didn't exist previously, and the Lakers are a tough out for any opposing squad in a seven-game series.

Miami Heat

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    Who wants to see the Miami Heat in the playoffs? Nobody.

    The speed and athleticism this team has in transition is second to none, and when everyone is firing on all cylinders it's near impossible to slow the Heat down.

    Despite the struggles LeBron James had late in games during last year's postseason, Miami is a motivated bunch and anything less than a title would be a disappointment.

    This is a better Miami team than the one that reached the Finals last season.

Chicago Bulls

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    The Bulls have proven capable of winning without Derrick Rose in the lineup, and the team is doing the right thing by letting its most important player get healthy before the playoffs.

    An incredibly deep team that is buying into Tom Thibodeau's philosophy, the Bulls present a ton of problems for any opposition and defenses have a hard time because Chicago has so many options at the offensive end.

    With strong chemistry and an understanding of how to play together, it wouldn't be a shock to see the Bulls cruise to success in the postseason