The 2012 NBA playoffs are only one month away, and the excitement is starting to heat up.
Teams like the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder are the favorites, but the playoffs are a whole new season, and many times unlikely teams come alive in the postseason and steal the show.
Who will creep out of the shadows and shock the world? Here are five NBA teams that could make a splash in this year's playoffs.
The Clippers looked like a possible contender to start the season, but things quickly started to fall apart once veteran guard Chauncey Billups suffered a traumatizing Achilles injury 22 games into the regular season.
To make matters worse, sources say the Clippers may be looking to replace head coach Vinny Del Negro, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard.
Since the Clippers lost Billups, they have gone 11-14 and are in jeopardy of losing a spot in the playoffs. But don't count the Clippers out just yet.
They went 15-7 to start the season and along the way earned themselves some impressive wins against top teams such as the Heat, Magic and Thunder.
Laker Land soon became more famously known as Lob City due to the constant acrobatic alley-oops between DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul and master dunker Blake Griffin.
The “Lob City” craze has recently lost its fervor, but if the Clippers can squeak into the playoffs, they are a dynamic team that can dominate opposing defenses with their freakish athletes led by All-Star point guard Chris Paul.
Also, the Clippers moved in and traded for Washington Wizards guard Nick Young, adding a nice young shooter to their already explosive offense.
The Clippers keep their No. 6 seed going into the playoffs. The L.A. Lakers overtake the San Antonio Spurs for the No. 2 seed, and the Spurs lose to a younger, more athletic Clippers team.
They play the Houston Rockets in the second round and win Game 7 but ultimately get stomped by the Thunder in the Western Conference finals, four games to two.
Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks have won five straight since the resignation of coach Mike D’Antoni.
USA Today compares the last 10 games under D’Antoni and the five games with Woodson as head coach. The results: Basically, the Knicks are just a better team without D'Antoni.
They have only allowed one 100-plus-point game compared to seven under D’Antoni, and they're allowing 17 fewer points a game. The Knicks look back on track to make a playoff run this year.
They have one of the NBA’s best pure scorers in Carmelo Anthony, a versatile big man in Amar'e Stoudemire and a budding young star in Jeremy Lin. The Knicks have a solid cast of supporting role players such as Tyson Chandler, Mike Bibby and newly acquired J.R Smith.
There’s no way you can count this team out of the playoffs.
The Knicks start playing like the team everyone thought they would be and eventually claim the No. 6 seed to start the postseason.
They outscore the Orlando Magic and move on to face the Indiana Pacers in the semifinals. After a tough series, the Knicks win a clutch Game 7 and move on to the Bulls but fall short in the Eastern Conference finals, four games to two.
Currently, the Celtics sit one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers and the No. 4 playoff seed.
If the Celtics can find a way to right the ship and even muster a No. 8 seed in the playoffs, they will be a serious threat in the postseason. This is a very dangerous team.
With two future Hall of Fame players in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, versatile scorer Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, this team is built for the playoffs.
Tragically, the Celtics have been struck by a series of impactful injuries to key players: center Jermaine O’Neal (wrist), forward Jeff Green (cardiac issues) and power forward Chris Wilcox (cardiac issues). To add another big man, ESPN reports the Celtics are looking into acquiring center Ryan Hollins, who was waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While Hollins is not a game-changer, he will take the burden off Garnett and allow the Celtics' best player to get some rest before the playoffs.
Brandon Bass, whose minutes have recently increased, is one good sign for the future and will be an X-factor for the Celtics in the postseason. No one is talking about the Celtics right now, as the Bulls and Heat are stealing the spotlight, but the Celtics are in no way an afterthought going into the playoffs.
The Boston Celtics hold on to their current No. 7 seed and play the Heat in the first round.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade treat this as a blow-off series and take the week off. The “Big Three” in Miami coast and end up losing in the seventh game. LeBron takes off his jersey at the end of the game and requests a trade to the Bulls. Bulls refuse.
The Celtics play the Bulls in the conference semifinals but fall short, four games to two.
The Rockets are not good enough to win a title this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make some noise in the playoffs and maybe attract some talent in the offseason.
What they lack in superstar leadership the Rockets make up for in team chemistry, defense and athleticism. They’re eighth in the NBA in points per game (97.9), and they have a lot of young players who could prove beneficial due to the concentrated regular-season schedule.
Against some of the older teams in the Western Conference such as the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks, the Rockets can use their speed to control the pace.
The Rockets adopt the underdog mentality and get hot for the remainder of the regular season, claiming the No. 5 seed and facing the Mavericks in the first round.
Kyle Lowry has a great series to beat Dallas, while Kenyon Martin and the Clippers stun the world by beating the Spurs, four games to three. The Rockets then lose in Game 7 to the Clippers in the semifinals.
The Grizzlies have had a roller-coaster season so far, and many don’t see them as a legitimate threat against the Thunder and Lakers.
However, they currently sit fifth in the Western Conference and have one of the NBA's best frontcourts in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Rudy Gay has been highly productive this season and has emerged a leader of this scrappy Grizzlies team. He’s averaging an impressive 19.0 points per game and has proven he can make big shots in clutch moments.
Consistency will be the name of the game for the Grizzlies if they can make the playoffs, and they could be a sleeper team that steals the spotlight.
The Grizzlies enter the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and make it a series with the Thunder. Every game is close, and Game 7 comes down to the wire.
Unfortunately, Kevin Durant hits a game-winning shot and ends the Grizzlies' playoff hopes.