Breaking Down How Every NBA Team Can Compete with Heat and Lakers in 2012-13

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIAugust 24, 2012

Breaking Down How Every NBA Team Can Compete with Heat and Lakers in 2012-13

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    The rich got richer this offseason, as the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat each made franchise-altering decisions via trade and free agency. From Miami's acquisition of Ray Allen to L.A.'s trades for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, it's not difficult to see why they've become the paper favorites.

    Fortunately, the NBA isn't won on a piece of loose-leaf. We play the games.

    With the target clearly set on Los Angeles and Miami, the question on everyone's mind is, how will any team defeat them? How could any NBA franchise match up against the elite roster of the Los Angeles Lakers? Is there even a chance that someone knocks off the defending champion Miami Heat?

    To put it simply, yes. There is not only a chance, but there is a likelihood that someone defeats these teams during the regular season, and potentially, the postseason as well.

    Whether or not they take the series from them is another question.

    So how will it get done? How will these teams fall with rosters that have the dazzled questioning whether an 82-0 season is truly possible? For that answer, take a gander at the following slides.

    You'll find out how each and every NBA team could take down the mighty.

Atlanta Hawks

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    While Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace are far from easy opponents to score on, the Atlanta Hawks must utilize their multitude of elite three-point shooters to pull this one out. Josh Smith and Al Horford will take it in on Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, garnering better results than the average, but without the sharpshooters to combat the dry spells, there is no hope.

    Fortunately, the Hawks have Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and John Jenkins under contract. They also have Lou Williams, who is a threat to put up 20 on any given evening.

    With these plays firing and draining three-pointers and jump shots, the Hawks actually stand a fighting chance. Regardless of how hot their game is from beyond the arc, however, Josh Smith and Al Horford must carry their weight.

    Fortunately, they too have solid mid-range games to take Dwight Howard out of the paint.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Believe it or not, the Atlanta Hawks' strategy against the Miami Heat should be the exact opposite as it is against the Los Angeles Lakers. While their shooting wouldn't hurt, Miami's questionable interior defense is the place to target.

    With Lou Williams and Devin Harris penetrating, as well as the pairing of Josh Smith with Al Horford in the paint, that shouldn't be an issue.

    While LeBron James is capable of defending a 4, especially one of Smith's make, it would not be a lockdown situation. Instead, Smith should be able to find the occasional basket and take the pressure off of Al Horford.

    Horford, of course, has one of the best mid-range games in the league and is also a solid low-post scorer. Consider him the counteract to Chris Bosh.

    This would be an uphill battle, but with the penetrating and sharpshooting abilities of the Atlanta Hawks, it could be done. Having two borderline elite big men improves the likelihood accordingly.

Boston Celtics

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    If anyone can defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, why wouldn't it be the Boston Celtics? After all, the unwritten rule is that rivalry often times trumps a disparity in talent.

    The second rule is that Kevin Garnett disrupts the flow of just about every player he faces. Dwight Howard is no exception.

    While the Los Angeles Lakers may have arguably the best starting lineup in basketball, the Boston Celtics are as deep as any team in the NBA.

    With Rajon Rondo, Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley making up the backcourt, it's safe to say that the Boston Celtics are prepared for any perimeter opponent. With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and two energizing rookies in Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo manning the frontcourt, the quality continues.

    While they may not have the star power of the Los Angeles Lakers, they have forces of their own at every position. Rajon Rondo is an equal facilitator and far superior defender than Steve Nash. Kobe Bryant holds the clear advantage, but the Celtics possess superior depth.

    Paul Pierce over Metta World Peace and KG matching up against Dwight Howard further solidifies this lineup. The question is, how will Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger fare against Pau Gasol?


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Do the Boston Celtics really need a lesson in how to defeat the Miami Heat? Not only did they take the Heat to seven games during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, but they nearly won Game 2 behind Rajon Rondo's 44 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and three steals.

    Unfortunately, no other Boston Celtics showed up for that game. That includes Ray Allen, who is now a member of the Miami Heat.

    Don't forget, Allen shot just 37.7 percent from the field against the Heat. While his presence was felt, his production did absolutely nothing to improve the Boston Celtics' chances of winning.

    Boston has replaced Allen with Jason Terry, an equally as deadly sharpshooter, and Courtney Lee, a solid shooter and better defender than Allen. This seems to have given the Boston Celtics a stronger unit at the shooting guard position than they had in 2012.

    While Ray Allen deserves all the praise we can afford to give him, there is no way around the facts. The Boston Celtics are a better team in 2013 than they were in 2012, specifically at his position.

Brooklyn Nets

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Prior to acquiring Dwight Howard, the Los Angeles Lakers were engaged in fan-oriented debates over who had the best starting lineup in the NBA. Their main opposition just so happened to be the Brooklyn Nets, who certainly do have the impressive five.

    Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez can hold their own against any team. In fact, they can pull off a win against even the greatest of teams this league has to offer.

    The question is, what would it take to overcome the L.A. Lakers?

    Brook Lopez is far more criticized than he deserves to be. With that being said, to compare his abilities to those of Dwight Howard would stretch beyond the confines of ignorant. Fortunately, he's not alone.

    Kris Humphries will not score or offer the versatility like Pau Gasol is capable of. What he will do, however, is out-rebound any and every opponent he faces.

    This tenacity on the glass should set the tone for the Brooklyn Nets early and establish themselves as a foe who does not fear Dwight Howard.

    Deron Williams, meanwhile, is one of the Top 15 players in the league while Joe Johnson is one of the most lethal scorers in the world. Between the two of them, the Nets' size and skill on the perimeter should offer them a great chance at a W.

    Williams and Johnson can both shoot the lights out and facilitate an offense to perfection. Should they do that against the Lakers, the Nets could pull out the win.

    Fortunately for Brooklyn, it has another important piece to the puzzle. Gerald Wallace, one of the Top 10 defenders in the game, can lock down any opponent from the point to the 4.

    Expect him to do just that as MarShon Brooks shifts in and out of the game, pushing Wallace all across the floor depending on the rotation the Nets use. Regardless of where he is, expect him to make the game-changing play on either end.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Gerald Wallace matches up well with LeBron James, while Joe Johnson has always given Dwyane Wade fits. With that being known, why don't we acknowledge one thing: From a talent perspective, it's not unfair to say that the Brooklyn Nets are the better team with Wade and James out of the picture.

    Chris Bosh is the superior player, but could be bullied by Kris Humphries on the interior. Humphries, the superior rebounder, could force Bosh out of the paint and make him rely on his mid-range game more than he'd like to.

    This opens the door for Brook Lopez to score against either Bosh or Udonis Haslem. While Lopez has become the target of a significant amount of negative attention, he's a 20 point per game scorer, and that cannot be overlooked.

    With the Brooklyn Nets keeping it close with the Miami Heat, we now get to the greatest advantage the franchise possesses: Deron Williams.

    D-Will has long been an elite point guard in this league, as he's just as likely to put up 20 points as he is to dish out 10 assists. As of the London Olympics, we've also seen an elevated level of defensive effort that has led to smothering ball pressure.

    With the temperamental Mario Chalmers as his assignment, don't be surprised to see Deron Williams to decide this game. If not, take note of the fact that Brooklyn has all but copied the Miami Heat's system for success.

    With MarShon Brooks coming off of the bench, the Brooklyn Nets can now go small with the Miami Heat and play the same style. Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Shane Battier, LeBron James and Chris Bosh can now meet Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez.

    Now if this isn't a great matchup, I'm not sure what is.

Charlotte Bobcats

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Serious question: Can the Charlotte Bobcats actually pull a victory like this off?

    Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions will not slow down Steve Nash, but they can counter him from an offensive point of view. After all, Sessions did average 8.0 points and 7.0 assists per game while playing Nash and the Phoenix Suns in 2012.

    Walker, meanwhile, dropped 22 points the only time he played Steve Nash.

    The difference this time around, however, is that the duo will be driving in on Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Consider that advantage damaged, but not entirely nullified.

    Both Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions thrive in transition. Recently hired head coach Mike Dunlap, meanwhile, has been encouraging his team to push the tempo.

    If Walker and Sessions can get out and run with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson and Ben Gordon, the Bobcats could actually keep this thing close. Close enough that some late-game heroics could be in store.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The Charlotte Bobcats selected the two best perimeter defenders in the nation during the 2012 NBA draft. Both of those players happen to play small forward and will be tasked with defending LeBron James.

    From an optimist's view, at least your best defender is going against the other team's greatest offensive force.

    As for how this will play out, don't expect either player to slow down LeBron James too much. Instead, expect their presence to be maximized by their ability to force turnovers. This will enable the Bobcats to keep the pace where they want it as they score in transition, but set up shop on D.

    As for how they could sneak out a W, look to Ben Gordon. He's the best three-point shooter on the worst perimeter scoring team in the NBA.

    If his shots aren't falling, write all of this off as an impossibility.

Chicago Bulls

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Los Angeles Lakers are a team built from the inside-out. While one could argue on the behalf of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, it's fair to say that such an argument holds no weight when the depth behind them is evaluated.

    Such bodes well for the Chicago Bulls, considering they are a team built in the same way. Joakim Noah will not give an inch to Dwight Howard and constantly hassle him on each and every possession.

    Carlos Boozer, meanwhile, had a great year in Chicago and bounced back from a lackluster 2011 campaign.

    Throw in Luol Deng possessing a clear advantage over Metta World Peace, and you suddenly have a matchup worth watching. You also have the end of the Lakers' slight advantage.

    Kobe Bryant is an elite scorer who plays All-NBA worthy defense. He's also one of the greatest late-game performers this league has ever seen. Matching up against him will be two players who may not slow him down but will force him to work on D in Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton.

    Two players who move well without the basketball and could wear Kobe down.

    At the point, meanwhile, there is a battle of the all-time great facilitator, Steve Nash, and the all-around menace, Derrick Rose. While Nash remains the superior facilitator, Rose holds an advantage in just about everything else.

    D-Rose will counter Kobe's scoring. The Bulls frontcourt will fight for every inch against that of the Lakers. What more do you need to believe this will be a close battle?


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    There should be no question about whether or not the Chicago Bulls are capable of defeating the Miami Heat. With Derrick Rose healthy and Tom Thibodeau at the helm, it's safe to say that anything is possible for this franchise.

    The Chicago Bulls may have been overwhelmed by Miami's talent during the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, but that was a much younger team. Now, D-Rose has felt the agony of lost playing time due to injury.

    Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, meanwhile, have all improved their respective abilities. With an All-Star caliber frontcourt and a former MVP at the point, why wouldn't Chicago be able to pull this off?

    A lack of a shooting guard is a solid answer, but it's not quite as big of a problem as one might believe. Dwyane Wade would likely shift to defending D-Rose to begin with, and the Bulls' 2-man is valued as a sharpshooter.

    Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton can be just that. Consider this team to be a better unit, albeit with a different roster, than they were in 2011.

    Also, look for Taj Gibson to make a difference with his defensive versatility and the undervalued ability to finish around the basket.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the best closers in the game, Kyrie Irving, and a potentially elite interior defender in Tristan Thompson. As long as the players around them perform adequately, the Cleveland Cavaliers have the leaders to pull off an upset of any opponent.

    Yes, Lakers Nation, that includes you.

    Irving may not yet be the facilitator that Steve Nash has long been, but he's an excellent defender. While he won't lock down Nash, as no one is capable of doing so, Irving could slow him down. The 2011 first overall draft choice could also light the scoreboard up for greater than 20 points.

    Unlike 2011-12, he'll also have a shooting guard to defer to when his shot isn't falling.

    Rookie Dion Waiters has drawn comparisons to Dwyane Wade, and for good reason. His ball-handling is elite and penetration skills virtually impossible to defend. While Waiters' jump shot could improve, he's the type of player who could keep Kobe Bryant active enough on defense that Kobe's offensive flow is temporarily stunted.

    With the backcourt working well and Thompson's shot-blocking ability and physicality frustrating Pau Gasol, an upset could be in the works. If the game goes down to the wire, we could also see a legendary battle between Irving and Bryant.

    We might even be surprised by who comes out on top.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    With the passion of a city behind them, the Cleveland Cavaliers need not do anything but feed off of the passion of the moment. That moment, of course, is the never-ending "hate LeBron James" saga that has tortured Cleveland more than it has LeBron himself.

    Counterproductive or not, a fired-up crowd can change any game. After all, who wants to be in that atmosphere when the entire Quicken Loans Arena is going as hard against the Miami Heat as they are for their own Cavaliers?

    As for how it could happen on the court, we already know what Irving will bring to the table. We also know that the Waiters v. Wade battle will be a fun one to watch, as each play virtually the same offensive game.

    This battle will be decided by the frontcourt, however, as the recently-signed C.J. Miles looks to contribute while matched against both Shane Battier and James. Should he find his shot and force turnovers with his length, the Cavaliers could get enough transition buckets to keep Miami on their heels.

    Once that occurs, who knows what the crowd could do?

Dallas Mavericks

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    When you have Dirk Nowitzki on your roster, you're all but guaranteed at least one victory over an elite opponent. With Rick Carlisle roaming the sidelines, you could tack on another win for safe measure.

    Against the Los Angeles Lakers, the caliber of the rosters are virtually irrelevant. Nowitzki will keep things close throughout the entirety of the game, and the value of a rivalry will be on full display.

    O.J. Mayo, meanwhile, will have his first chance to prove he can be a franchise player.

    Between Dirk's 25-to-30 points and Mayo's hopeful 20, the Dallas Mavericks would be in prime position to pull out the W. Chris Kaman may not be a superstar, but he's rugged and will give Dwight Howard a run for his money.

    The question is, will Shawn Marion revert to the old days and shoot the lights out or remain a defense-only player? If Marion can get the threes to fall and attack the basket with tenacity, we could find ourselves with a victory for the D-Town mavericks.

    As noted, expect this all to run through Nowitzki.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The Dallas Mavericks are a franchise well-versed with how to defeat the Miami Heat. After all, they did so to win the 2011 NBA title and have lost aging veterans that have been replaced by improvements at virtually every position but the 2.

    If Mayo pans out, feel free to retract that last statement.

    Marion has shut down everyone this league has to offer, including LeBron James. He knows how to force LBJ out of his comfort zone and will do just that when they play, forcing him to rely on his jump shooting to contribute.

    Beyond Marion is the brilliant mind of Carlisle, who has mastered the art of defensive rotations to prevent slashing scorers from doing their work. Having Kaman in the middle certainly doesn't hurt either, as the Mavericks have improved in a major way on the interior.

    Nowitzki, meanwhile, will tear up anyone who defends him. Nowitzki was born for big games and has already proven that he can outperform the entire world when on his game. After a relatively quiet 2012, expect a roster filled with fresh legs and shooters to open up doors for Nowitzki's return to dominance.

    Also expect Miami to fall victim to its longtime foe.

Denver Nuggets

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    For those believing that the Los Angeles Lakers have improved to the point where they wouldn't go to seven games with the Denver Nuggets, you're correct. No longer is Kobe Bryant the only perimeter scorer on the team, as Steve Nash brings a whopping 10-to-12 points per game!

    Let's be real, folks. Nash will make everyone better, but who is going to score when it isn't coming from the low-post? Until Metta World Peace is replaced with a better option, the Denver Nuggets will do exactly what they achieved in 2011-12: capitalize on limitless transition opportunities from a reliance upon jump shooting.

    Ty Lawson can blow by anyone in the league, while Andre Iguodala can finish like it's nobody's business. Iguodala can also lock down any perimeter player he faces and frustrate them to the point of no return.

    It's what made him an All-Star in 2012 and a member of Team USA this past Summer.

    While Dwight Howard will improve the team's interior defense, Denver has never been a solid half-court scoring unit to begin with. It averaged a league-high 104.1 points per game in 2011-12 by virtue of its transition prowess and will likely duplicate the number against L.A.

    When you've added crafty veterans and no perimeter athleticism, that's going to happen. That's also going to be a potential reason that the Lakers could cough up a loss to the Denver Nuggets.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The Denver Nuggets will get out and score; we all know that. LeBron James will also get back and perform a few of his signature trailing swats.

    Unfortunately for highlight fans, he won't do that every time down. There's a reason the Denver Nuggets are the best scoring team in the NBA, and it has absolutely nothing to do with a blind attack of the basket.

    Ty Lawson is a threat for 20 points, and,quite frankly, Mario Chalmers isn't going to slow him down.

    Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, meanwhile, are talented enough on offense, where Dwyane Wade and LeBron James could potentially turn their focus to the two stars.

    Even if Shane Battier was tasked with one of those two, LeBron would have his hands full with rebounding machine Kenneth Faried.

    With JaVale McGee displaying an unbelievable amount of improvement in terms of the fundamentals, Miami could struggle with the big fella. The fact that McGee has spent the offseason working with Hakeem Olajuwon should bring the development process along in a major way.

    With every member of the Nuggets entering their prime at virtually the same point, this could be a team that sneaks up on the big dogs. They could also be a team that pulls out victories against the best in the game, including the Miami Heat.

Detroit Pistons

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Chances are, the young tandem of Greg Monroe and rookie Andre Drummond will be overwhelmed by Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. As a result, the outcome of this game will be determined by the perimeter players that can be described as an underwhelming force.

    If the Detroit Pistons want any chance at all at pulling out this victory, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey better go full-throttle and find a way to make their jumpers fall consistently.

    While Ben Gordon may have been inconsistent, he was clearly the team's best three-point shooter in 2012. Now, that honor lies with Brandon Knight, who shot 38.0 percent from distance as a rookie.

    Unfortunately, the next best option is veteran Tayshaun Prince, who shot 35.6 percent but has never been a consistent three-ball shooter. For the first time in his career, Rodney Stuckey better shoot the lights out from distance.

    Stuckey, who is praised by Pistons fans as an underrated shooting guard, has never averaged greater than 16.6 points per game. Most recently, he averaged 14.8 while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and a career-best 31.7 percent from distance.

    If the Pistons are to stand any chance of defeating L.A., Stuckey must flirt with 30 points, as he did with 34 in Detroit's victory over the Lakers in 2012.

    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Fortunately for the Detroit Pistons, their greatest strength is the Miami Heat's greatest weakness: interior play.

    Greg Monroe should be able to find scoring opportunities against Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. Andre Drummond's size and rebounding ability will work well against the same tandem and LeBron James.

    The key here, however, is for Drummond to remain out of foul trouble and provide an adequate amount of blocks to keep Dwyane Wade and company from attacking the basket, a plan that is the furthest thing from fool-proof.

    While the Miami Heat may possess elite three-point shooters, the Pistons should feel confident if the team must live and die by the three-ball. Mike Miller and Ray Allen are both coming off of injuries, while Rashard Lewis' name holds more weight than his recent production.

    James Jones and Shane Battier, meanwhile, are two great threats from the perimeter. They're also players you'd rather see score than allow the Big Three to go to work.

    If Brandon Knight can run his game and provide some solid pick-and-roll opportunities, the Pistons will be in business. As long as Rodney Stuckey doesn't perform a disappearing act, they could also pull off the unlikely upset.

Golden State Warriors

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    With Andrew Bogut and David Lee in the paint, the Golden State Warriors have a solid counter attack to Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. Should Stephen Curry remain healthy, Klay Thompson flash his late 2012 form and Harrison Barnes pan out, the Warriors actually match up well at every position.

    The Lakers may have an advantage, but the Golden State Warriors have an answer. Plus, they can actually shoot the three-ball.

    With Curry, Thompson, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush, who all shot greater than 41 percent from distance in 2012, the Warriors are as dangerous a team as any. With David Lee a nightly lock to put up 20 points and 10 rebounds, their high-low game becomes all the more lethal.

    With Rush and Bogut on defense, this team also has two elite defenders in the consistent rotation. Rookie Barnes is also a fundamentally -ound defender who could potentially lock down opponents once he has adjusted to the pace of the NBA.

    While Kobe Bryant will likely continue his string of success against the Golden State Warriors, he now has a scoring opposition in Thompson.

    The Lakers, meanwhile, have as tough a test as any team will give them, as they face one of the more balanced teams in the league.

    An upset could be in the making.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The Miami Heat are an elite three-point shooting team. The Golden State Warriors, however, go above and beyond the Heat in that category, no matter how many big names you want to source on the champions' roster.

    The Warriors also hold a significant advantage on the interior, where David Lee matches Chris Bosh on offense and Bogut trumps anything the Heat have for interior defense. While this is where the advantages end, keeping the game at the pace Golden State is hoping to play could lead to an eventual victory.

    The question is, how will the Warriors compensate for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James' production?

    If Mario Chalmers is on his game, this win doesn't happen. If he has a pedestrian outing in which his production is limited, however, Curry could become the deciding factor in this contest.

    Should Curry put up 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds like Warriors fans have come to expect, there's a great chance the Warriors will sneak out a victory. Thompson will keep D-Wade active on defense, while Rush is strong enough to give LeBron James some issues.

    As it must be for every team who attempts to defeat Miami, everything must be clicking.

Houston Rockets

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    There's no way around it; this one will be an uphill battle for Kevin McHale and the Houston Rockets.

    While Kevin Martin remains a borderline elite scorer, there isn't much in place to help him aside from a cast of four potential rookie starters. Those players include Royce White, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas and the man who could take his job, Jeremy Lamb.

    Forgive me for not liking their chances.

    Fortunately, the Rockets do have a player who has had success against the Los Angeles Lakers. That would be another Jeremy, of course, and that's Jeremy Lin.

    Through all of the media hype and fan distaste, there is a legitimate NBA player within Lin's system. He's a pure playmaker who can both score and facilitate at a high level. Lin is also criticized for his lack of maturity on defense and his high level of turnovers.

    Two traits that fit just about every point guard at the age of 24.

    Going against the Los Angeles Lakers, Lin's ability to bring a crowd to life could cause the outcome to swing. It could also influence his young teammates to step up and perform at a level one might not have expected of such an inexperienced group of players.

    Anything is possible when Linsanity is alive and well.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Lin was dominated by the Miami Heat during the 2012 season, and the Houston Rockets didn't fare much better as a team. Lin finished the game by going 1-of-11 for eight points and committing eight turnovers. Houston lost 97-88 in a game that was pivotal to its postseason chances.

    With three of last year's four best players on new teams, it doesn't appear as if the Houston Rockets are in store for much of a change. With a new fire in the belly of their players and a greater sense of athleticism, however, we could be surprised.

    Lamb may be a rookie, but he's a defensive weapon due to his 6'11" wingspan and unbelievable athleticism.

    Martin, meanwhile, remains a threat to drop in 30 on a good night, while Omer Asik's energy inside could disrupt the Heat's rhythm early.

    It'd take some sharpshooting and a great deal of defensive pressure, but don't count out the man they call Linsanity!

Indiana Pacers

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Fortunately for the Indiana Pacers, their greatest strength happens to be with David West and Roy Hibbert. These two should be able to put up a solid enough fight against the tandem of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard that perimeter play could decide this bad boy.

    Time for Danny Granger to revert back to his 2009 form, when he averaged 25.8 points per game on 40.4 percent shooting from distance.

    With George Hill and Paul George matched up against Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, it's safe to say that the Indiana Pacers must exploit any advantages they might have. Granger is the perfect guy to get that job done, as he's an elite scorer with deep three-point range, something he failed to prove in 2012.

    Should Granger find the shooter's touch, he and the recently-signed Gerald Green should be able to overcome the tandem of Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks. If they can, that may just be enough to steal a victory from the vaunted L.A. paper defense.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Can the Indiana Pacers defeat the Miami Heat? After witnessing them taking a 2-1 series lead during the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals, it's safe to say that the answer is yes.

    If they continue with a lack of direction on offense, however, the same result will occur: great defense and poor offense leads to keeping games close and losing in the end.

    The key to this victory is Paul George, who has underachieved despite the high praises Pacers fans offer him. He's a far better shooter than his percentages would suggest, which is a direct result of his inability to adjust to a recent growth spurt.

    At 6'10", George is the tallest shooting guard in the NBA and must now discover how to utilize that significant advantage. Against a 6'4" Dwyane Wade, it could be what separates a close loss from a powerful victory.

    Along with Paul George will be West and Hibbert, who played excellent basketball against the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, Frank Vogel didn't preach a low-post attack, and the team consistently settled for jump shots late in the shot clock.

    If West and Hibbert are given the ball to go to work and do what they're best at, a victory is far from out of the question. Especially not when the Pacers have such a dominant defensive unit.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Is Chris Paul on the roster? OK, then this is possible.

    CP3 has been defeating elite teams since he's entered the league. He nearly took out the 2011 Los Angeles Lakers virtually by himself during the postseason. With a much better team around him, Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers should have no problem throwing their cross-hallway rivals a few curveballs.

    As for how the Clippers can win this game, the key is getting out into transition. With elite finishers such as Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan at his disposal, Paul can get quick and easy points against the aging legs of the Lakers.

    With shooters such as Chauncey Billups and Willie Green, the transition attack would give the Lakers even more trouble.

    In the half-court, we already know that Paul will find a way to get points. Whether he's shooting or facilitating, he'll overcome the presence of Dwight Howard because that's just what he does. Every time out, he gets the job done.

    The question is, will his teammates be there carrying their weight?


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Once again, with Paul on the roster, this is more than possible. In fact, this is a much more balanced matchup than one might have previously assumed.

    CP3 and Billups will team with Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe to make a lethal backcourt. From the elite defensive pressure to the surplus of playmakers, the Los Angeles Clippers should have absolutely no issues finding a player who can produce.

    As long as Caron Butler can stay healthy on the perimeter, tack on another one or two bombs from three and some solid defense, the wings are set and the point guard position is beyond ready to take over.

    In the paint is where this battle will be won, however, and it has nothing to do with offense. Instead, the game will be decided by what Jordan can or cannot do.

    If Jordan can be the defensive weapon that the Clippers have been waiting for, then L.A. could walk away with a victory. If he finds himself in early foul trouble and fails to hold down the paint against the numerous Heat slashers, the result won't be as pretty.

Memphis Grizzlies

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Memphis Grizzlies may not have Dwight Howard, but they have an elite frontcourt of their own that can be just as lethal. If you don't believe me, ask Pau Gasol how good is brother Marc is.

    With Marc Gasol at the center position, Howard will have quite the difficult time getting into a rhythm on either end. Gasol's ability to pass out of the post will keep Howard off of his toes and should disrupt his timing when attempting to block shots.

    Alongside Gasol will be one of the best low-post scorers in the game today, Zach Randolph.

    Randolph was battling injuries in 2012 and failed to perform up to his usual standard, but should return to form in 2013. If he does, Pau Gasol will be the second elite big man to have his hands full and thus open the door for a battle of depth, a battle that should be won by the Memphis Grizzlies.

    Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are arguably the best backcourt tandem in the NBA. Mike Conley, Jr. and Tony Allen, however, are two elite perimeter defenders who will create turnovers and forced shots.

    Rudy Gay, meanwhile, has a clear advantage over Metta World Peace. He's a far superior scorer and athlete, and unless his mind shuts off on him, he might as well be penciled in for 20-plus points.

    With Marreese Speights and Jerryd Bayless coming off of the bench, as well as sharpshooter Wayne Ellington, the Grizzlies might actually steal a game or two from the Lakers. By steal, of course, we're speaking based off of reputations.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The Memphis Grizzlies have an elite frontcourt and a stellar defensive backcourt. If anyone can beat the Miami Heat, it might just be the Grizzlies.

    Tony Allen isn't known as the best perimeter defender in the game for no reason. He will hold his own against Dwyane Wade, while Mike Conley Jr. battles Mario Chalmers and forces turnovers out of the often sloppy point guard.

    On the wing, it's clear that LeBron James has the advantage over Rudy Gay. Shane Battier should even disrupt Gay's flow as an elite defender in his own right. Do not underestimate the former Connecticut Huskies star, however, as Gay has thrived in the hero situations before.

    Between their big men, defensive pressure and depth, the Memphis Grizzlies could pull this one out. While the star power of James, Wade and Chris Bosh comes with superstar ability, there is no reason Memphis can't counter that.

    Expect big things from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2013.

Milwaukee Bucks

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Milwaukee Bucks may not have the talent of the Los Angeles Lakers, but they certainly have an advantage in a handful of key departments.

    For instance, this is a team that can live by the three ball, thus taking Dwight Howard out of things. They're also a much quicker team with two ball handling guards that can either drop 30 points or dish out a solid amount of assists.

    Regardless of what they do, the Bucks will get it done by pushing the pace, the one thing that the Los Angeles Lakers' offseason acquisitions have not prepared them for.

    Dwight Howard may be a phenomenal athlete, but he will not chase down Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis. Pau Gasol, meanwhile, could have his hands full with the athletically-gifted John Henson.

    Unfortunately, this game is all but over if the Lakers can control the pace. Milwaukee is effective in the halfcourt, but even Ersan Ilyasova's brilliant play cannot lead the Bucks in this situation.

    Push the pace or face defeat.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    As previously noted, the Milwaukee Bucks are at their best when they get out and run. They have a surplus of blazing guards who are deadly in the open court, as well as some athletic big men who can throw down a slam or two.

    Throw in the fact that Ilyasova can both dominate the glass and connect from distance at a rate of 45.5 percent, and you have a perfect recipe for a victory. Contrary to popular belief, it's just not the recipe to take when facing the Heat.

    The Bucks may have improved their defense with the acquisition of Samuel Dalembert and selection of Henson, but they remain a relatively weak unit on that side of the ball. Fortunately, the Miami Heat find most of their points in transition and often struggle to score when LeBron James isn't drive-and-dishing.

    For this reason, the Bucks must play in a half-court set, something Brandon Jennings,  Ellis and Ilyasova are more than equipped to do.

    Should the Bucks attempt to get into a transition battle with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, they'll fall short. If they can keep it in the half-court and maintain a slow but steady pace, they could keep it close enough for Ellis to flash that late-game brilliance he's become known for.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    For Steve Nash, there is Ricky Rubio. For Pau Gasol, there is Kevin Love. For Metta World Peace, there is Andrei Kirilenko.

    Once you get beyond all of that, however, the one-on-one comparison should end. The Minnesota Timberwolves simply cannot overcome the level of talent the Los Angeles Lakers possess by virtue of a positional breakdown.

    Once the game plays out, however, the T-Wolves will be right in the thick of things.

    Rubio can run an offense as well as any player in the game, and J.J. Barea has a proven history against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Love, meanwhile, will flirt with 25 points and 15 rebounds while receiving solid production from Nikola Pekovic.

    What's most important about this team, however, is that Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger are two recently added shooters. In 2012, the Timberwolves had just three players who shot above 34 percent from distance.

    Love, Barea and Michael Beasley. To say that they've improved would be one heck of an understatement. 

    It'd also be selling short the way that Minnesota can defeat the L.A. Lakers. With sharpshooting and a flowing pick-and-roll offense, the T-Wolves can take it right at Dwight Howard and company without thinking twice about a negative outcome.

    Such fearless pursuit of points could be enough to win this game, as their defense certainly will not be.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Kirilenko and Derrick Williams will have their hands full with LeBron James. Roy, Budinger and Alexey Shved shouldn't have it any easier with Dwyane Wade.

    Fortunately for the T-Wolves, newly-acquired depth in the frontcourt should make life a little easier against a penetrating Miami Heat unit.

    Greg Stiemsma and Dante Cunningham are two energy guys who disrupt shots and crash the boards. They're also capable scorers around the basket who should offer quality minutes when either Love or Pekovic takes time to rest.

    Of course, when those two are in the game, it's likely that the T-Wolves will see roughly 40 points and 20 rebounds between them. Just don't think that big men decide this.

    If the Minnesota Timberwolves watched the Miami Heat face off against Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics, they'd know that elite facilitating point guards can get the best of the Miami defense. Rubio can do just that for the T-Wolves, but it's Shved and Barea who are most important.

    Once the defense clamps down on Rubio, we don't know how he'll react. This means that Shved and Barea, two talented ball-handlers with solid passing skills, must step up and help create offense in the halfcourt and transition.

    Without them, even a great performance from Roy might not be enough.

New Orleans Hornets

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Could Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon actually outproduce Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant? If the New Orleans Hornets are hoping to pull out this victory, the answer better be yes.

    For the NBA fan, Gordon achieving the feat is not far-fetched. He has grown to be a player of superstar respect for the average viewer despite his 2011 average of 22.3 points per game coming in an outrageous 37.7 minutes per game.

    Nevertheless, EG can light up the scoreboard. And he'll need to, as he's the best scorer on a New Orleans Hornets team that has far too inexperienced a defense to slow Steve Nash down.

    Rivers, meanwhile, will need to have that pretty jump shot on full display. He and Ryan Anderson will spread the floor, thus creating opportunities for Al-Farouq Aminu to penetrate off of the dribble and Anthony Davis to fight for offensive boards.

    While this one will take nothing short of a miracle, the possession of a multitude of scorers certainly bodes well for a team that is capable of going all out on the attack.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Davis may be a rookie, but his experience with Team USA should go a long way towards helping him establish early efficiency on defense. Considering he will be facing Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh here, and not Dwight Howard, expect his prowess to shine through in this battle.

    Dwyane Wade is crafty enough to get around AD, while LeBron James would overwhelm him with power. For players such as Mario Chalmers and Chris Bosh, however, Davis is the perfect defender.

    He can block or alter shots, of course, but his pressure on the ball is what could frustrate Bosh into a frustrating night. As for Chalmers, going over Davis isn't something he should try.

    With the defensive presence established inside, New Orleans must fight fire with fire.

    Ryan Anderson, Gordon, Rivers and Xavier Henry must all be stroking it from three to combat Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, James Jones and Rashard Lewis.

    Gordon, Rivers, Henry, Greivis Vasquez and Aminu, meanwhile, must close out on the Heat's perimeter shooters and accept their fate.

    LeBron and D-Wade will get to the basket; there's no way around that. As soon as New Orleans accepts such a fact, it can play the defense necessary to pull out the W: stopping everyone else.

    If it does this and its shooters are on it, an upset is not out of the question.

New York Knicks

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    For one, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire must discover how to coexist and dominate as a tandem. If that can happen and the Knicks can garner roughly 45 to 50 points a night from the two, they could potentially compete for a title.

    They could also beat the Los Angeles Lakers, which is the conversation at hand.

    On paper, the Knicks match up well with their cross-country foe. Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard are both strong forces on defense and consistent on offense. Stoudemire and Pau Gasol, meanwhile, are both weapons on offense for different but productive reasons.

    While Steve Nash holds the point guard advantage and Kobe Bryant stands tall over J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, Anthony virtually nullifies that when facing Metta World Peace.

    So that's the positional breakdown.

    On the court, it's imperative that Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni hold down the point guard position. If they cannot bring flow to the Knicks offense, this will be a one-sided battle that leads to nothing but wasted possessions.

    On defense, it's equally as important that a direction is known. When the New York Knicks are shifting and rotating properly, their current group of players makes for one of the best defensive units in the NBA, specifically when Smith and Anthony are going all out. That must occur for the Knicks to find themselves on the good side of a victory.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The New York Knicks know what it takes to defeat the Miami Heat, but that doesn't mean they can do it.

    When the Knicks pulled out an 89-87 victory in Game 4 of their opening series with the Miami Heat, they did so with a combined 61 points from Anthony and Stoudemire. Other than that, it was all defense and literally no other offense.

    Only one other player shot the ball more than five times, as Smith went 3-of-15 from the floor. That left a total of 18 field-goal attempts by the remaining Knicks.

    How did they win then? For one, the 'Melo and STAT tandem can win a game by themselves if we're speaking offense only. What it's truly about, however, is the fact that the Knicks played outstanding defense and were not afraid to make their presence known with physicality.

    Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby will take on that responsibility this time around, while the presence of Ronnie Brewer offers a sense of security on the perimeter. All in all, physicality and a bit of STAT and 'Melo should do the trick.

    Whether you're a Knicks fan or Knicks hater, acknowledge facts: This roster is built to win.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Oklahoma City Thunder need to do just one thing to pull off this victory, and that's play like they always play.

    With smothering defense and the presence of three superstar scorers in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, this team remains the best in the West. While L.A. may have the paper advantage, there is a reason the Thunder have made consecutive Western Conference Finals appearances.

    With Durant on the roster, it really doesn't matter what a team throws at the Thunder. That is, unless the Lakers recently acquired Shawn Marion, which it looks as if they haven't.

    As for Westbrook, he's an elite perimeter defender who will experience nothing new when defending Steve Nash. He'll need to pressure the ball, play the passing lanes safely and accept the fact that Nash will get into the paint if he takes a second off.

    As for his offensive production, it's hard to imagine that taking a hit when playing a defender like Nash.

    Harden and Thabo Sefolosha are the keys here, however, as we know what to expect from Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. What we don't know is how Harden and Sefolosha will fare against Kobe Bryant and Jodie Meeks.

    Harden is one of the best scorers in the game, while Sefolosha is a top-10 perimeter defender. If the two can't come together with those efforts and there is a disparity from starter to sixth man, Bryant and Meeks will take over with their scoring and shooting.

    If that occurs, the battle will be won before we even find the paint. If not, the Oklahoma City Thunder will see Durant put on yet another memorable final-minute performance.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The Miami Heat have come out victorious against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2012 NBA Finals. It wouldn't be wrong to claim that the Thunder learned from their loss, however, and that is significant for a team who has proven to gain knowledge from experience.

    Just look at the fact that they've gone from the first round to the Western Conference Finals to the NBA Finals over the past three seasons. Is the next step in progression a title?

    If it is, they'll likely have to go through the Heat all over again. If that's the case, expect Durant to be much less conservative with his shooting as he fires from all angles and carries the Thunder on his back.

    And watch in awe as Westbrook and Harden follow with 20 point performances of their own. Otherwise, pray that Ibaka finds his stroke, or else this bad boy is over.

    The sad fact of the matter is that the Thunder cannot score if it doesn't come from their Big Three. A majority of their players are defensive-minded, and their best shooter, Daequan Cook, doesn't see much playing time at all.

    Unless rookie Perry Jones III breaks out in a major way, the Thunder must rely on their top-tier defense and the production of three gifted scorers. 

Orlando Magic

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Does an argument for revenge work here? Let's hope so, as the Orlando Magic don't really have much else going for them.

    Arron Afflalo is stellar perimeter defender with plenty of experience against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Hedo Turkoglu remains one of the more dynamic playmakers in the game, and Jameer Nelson is always reliable.

    Beyond that, it doesn't really look like the Orlando Magic have much going for them.

    What the Magic have managed to hold onto are a surplus of three-point shooters. J.J. Redick, Afflalo, Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson and Al Harrington are all threats from distance, which could make the difference here.

    A few three-balls in a game in which the Orlando crowd is fired up to boo Dwight Howard, and who knows what could transpire? If the Magic fail to hit those threes, however, we might as well write this one off as a blowout.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Does the in-state rivalry work for this one? Let's hope so.

    Orlando can counter the Miami attack nicely with its shooting and the presence of solid big men. Don't forget, Glen Davis averaged 19.0 points and 9.0 rebounds during the 2012 postseason and Al Harrington was a runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year.

    Nelson, meanwhile, has a solid history against the Miami Heat, and Afflalo is used to big-game situations. While this one will need to be a miracle, nothing is impossible. Not even a basement team upsetting one that's raised the ceiling.


Philadelphia 76ers

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Los Angeles Lakers are well-aware of how influential Andrew Bynum can be. With him now on the opposing end of the floor, don't expect Bynum to do anything less than dominant with or without Dwight Howard in his way.

    The question is, what type of contributions will Bynum see from his teammates?

    With all due respect to Andre Iguodala, the Philadelphia 76ers have not had as dominant a force as Bynum since Allen Iverson. Considering Iverson was a 6'0" (if we're being generous) scoring guard and Bynum is a 7'0" center, it's safe to say that rallying around their current centerpiece should be an easier task.

    Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday will play a two-ball handler backcourt, combining to facilitate the offense. What they will also do, however, is bring size to the perimeter that could potentially force the Los Angeles Lakers to go in low for their scoring.

    As if that's such a terrible fate.

    On the interior, however, will be Bynum, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Kwame Brown. While Brown is one of the more scoffed-at individuals in the league, he remains a big body in the paint who crashes the boards and plays physical ball.

    Between those four bigs, as well as rookie Arnett Moultrie, the Sixers could do enough on defense for Bynum to carry the scoring load. As long as a secondary scoring option emerges, the Sixers should keep the game close and potentially walk away with a W.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Against the Miami Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers really shouldn't be doing anything different. Pound the ball into Bynum, expose the Heat's greatest weakness and do not back down on defense.

    As long as Turner can handle LeBron James' physicality and remain in flow on the offensive end, there's no reason the Sixers can't pull out this upset.

    While the starters will need to play to the best of their abilities, the key here will be the second unit tandem of Nick Young and Dorrell Wright. Both players can get hot from beyond the arc, and they'll need to do just that to counter Miami's sharpshooters.

    As for which individual you can expect to shine, look for Thaddeus Young. Young has star ability and a great motor on both ends of the floor. He can play both forward positions and will likely be tasked with LeBron James in small and power forward situations.

    As long as he can attack the basket as well as he's known to do, Young and the Sixers should have be in this thing until the end. The question is, who will step up with the game on the line?

    Time to earn that max contract, Mr. Jrue Holiday.

Phoenix Suns

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    With Goran Dragic, Shannon Brown and Marcin Gortat all facing players they once sat behind on the depth chart, this one should be fun.

    Dragic was once the prodigy of one Steve Nash in Phoenix. Brown was the spark plug for the Los Angeles Lakers while sitting behind Kobe Bryant.

    Gortat, meanwhile, was the reserve center behind Dwight Howard on the Orlando Magic.

    Now, the three have a chance to defeat the players who once held them back. And boy, do they have some valuable help beside them.

    Luis Scola is a veteran power forward who defines efficiency. He's consistently been one of the most accurate jump-shooters of any player at his position and always manages to compete for the boards with bigger defenders.

    The Argentinian's long history with the Spaniard Pau Gasol should see another memorable chapter as Scola moves from Houston to Phoenix.

    Michael Beasley, meanwhile, has long been labeled as a star on the bubble. The second overall draft choice in the 2008 NBA draft averaged 19.2 points per game in 2011. Unfortunately, 2012 saw Beasley fall into Rick Adelman's doghouse and find himself with limited minutes.

    In Phoenix, expect the minutes to go up and scoring to go with it. If not, expect a Lakers victory.

    As for the trio previously mentioned, each will score the basketball. Dragic is as dynamic a penetration artist as any in the game, while Brown has pogo sticks for legs and a lethal three-point shot.

    As long as Gortat can attack the basket and draw fouls more than he commits them, the Suns should be able to keep this rivalry alive.

    Oh, and did we mention Nash left the Suns this offseason for the rival Lakers? This will be fun.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Beasley has never performed well against his former team. More times than not, this has come as a result of a lower shot count than one might expect out of the score-first forward.

    Should the Phoenix Suns hope to pick up this W, that must change.

    The 6'10" small forward must be in attack mode from the opening tip, taking it to LeBron James and sending a message to the man who took his place on the Miami Heat's roster. His jump shot must fall, and Beasley can do nothing but go hard to the rim.

    If not him, former Timberwolves teammate and recent Suns acquisition Wesley Johnson must take over the duties. Who do you trust more?

    Beyond Beasley, Gortat cannot come up short because of the physicality he faces. This has long been an issue with his game, and he must learn to overcome such deficiencies or the Suns will not pull this, or many other wins, out.

    Also look for Scola and Markieff Morris to combine for quality minutes and roughly 25 points between them. This is all a likely result of Dragic's elite pick-and-roll abilities, which he learned from Nash.

    The perfect storm must occur for this one.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Portland Trail Blazers are a much better team than their potential win-loss Record will suggest. LaMarcus Aldridge is a Top 20 player in the game, Damian Lillard is a superstar in the making and Nicolas Batum breathes versatility.

    If those three can play at the top of their games, with Wesley Matthews remaining a defensive force and a three-point threat, this victory could occur.

    Aldridge has a beautiful mid-range jump shot and some of the most polished low-post scoring skills in the game. This was evident against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, when Aldridge dropped in 28 points and snagged 10 rebounds against Pau Gasol and company.

    He later had performances of 18 points and eight rebounds on February 20 and 29 points and nine rebounds on March 23.

    As for Batum, his length and athleticism must finally be utilized properly. With Metta World Peace far from an offensive threat, but convinced he can still score 20, Batum must come up with turnovers and lost possessions every time MWP touches the ball.

    The Frenchman must also stroke it from distance and attack the basket, thus drawing fouls on the Lakers bigs.

    As for Lillard, there is no way around how special this kid is. He's a phenomenal jump-shooter, wise decision-maker and a killer in the clutch. He's an efficient passer with beautiful, widespread court vision.

    Working against Steve Nash, he better be. This game rides on his ability to produce across the board and lead his team to a close enough game where Aldridge can take over in the fourth quarter for the W.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Aldridge will get his; we all know that. The question for this game, however, will be whether or not Meyers Leonard and J.J. Hickson can perform at a high enough level on the offensive end to keep a young perimeter in this thing.

    Cleaning up the offensive glass will be important here, and Hickson is great at doing just that. Leonard, meanwhile, is a physical, tenacious player who attacks the basket with ferocity and fights for every loose ball.

    As long as those two stay true to form, this game should be close to begin the fourth quarter.

    That's when Matthews, as well as rookies Will Barton and Lillard, must take over. As the three best jump-shooters on the time, it's imperative that they find their stroke to combat the runs that Miami is bound to go on.

    When you're playing a team that has LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, that can be expected.

    With their shooting, Lillard can now attack the basket and either facilitate or score to keep it in reach. Once it gets down to the final minutes, we all know how unpredictable the game of basketball becomes.

    Unfortunately, this unpredictability is the only imaginable way that Portland pulls this off.

Sacramento Kings

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    When DeMarcus Cousins meets Dwight Howard on November 11, we should be prepared for one of the best one-on-one battles we'll see all year. When they face off again on November 21, March 17 and March 30, expect the battle to grow to an even greater level of ferocity.

    The best center in the NBA will look to hold his ground against the best up-and-coming big man in the league. In the words of Jay-Z and Kanye West, it's time to watch the throne.

    While D-12 has the clear advantage at this point in his career, don't think DMC will back down for a second. Cousins has a solid mid-range jump shot with range out to the three-point line and the quickness to take a defender off of the dribble.

    He also possesses a versatile set of low-post scoring skills that could create foul trouble and lead to a night of 20 and 10. The remaining production rests on the, perhaps too deep, perimeter.

    While Thomas Robinson and Jason Thompson will contribute on defense and the glass, as well as posting respectable scoring numbers, they won't be the difference here. Instead, it will be the never-ending list of guards that makes up the Sacramento Kings.

    Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas, Aaron Brooks, Jimmer Fredette—you get the picture.

    If Thornton, Brooks and Fredette can get the shots to fall, this team could pull off the upset. If Evans can finally discover which position he's meant to play and Thomas can bring the energy he's known for to the court, the Lakers are in trouble.

    As we've seen over the years, however, the Sacramento Kings don't play in sync that often. You know what they say, though: Never say never when it comes to a rivalry.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Some will view this as a battle of athleticism, but in truth, it's not. The Miami Heat are a mature defensive unit that run their offense through the consistency of their three-point shot.

    The Sacramento Kings, meanwhile, are a team who lacks such a direction. While they've begun to build a reputation as a giant slayer, playing their best against elite opponents, it will take more than just energy and effort on January 12 and February 26.

    The keys to this victory will be Evans and James Johnson. Not so coincidentally, they happen to play the same position as LeBron James.

    We all know the story about Evans. He's an elite ball-handler who can penetrate and finish around the basket as well as any player in the NBA. Unfortunately, he's occasionally a liability on defense and not quite the jump-shooter one would hope.

    This one-dimensional attack could make Evans easy pickings for Shane Battier and James.

    Johnson, however, makes the real difference here. Johnson was one of just five players in the NBA to average both 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game.

    James was not one of those players to achieve such a feat.

    While I usually do not stand by statistics, this time around, the numbers don't lie. Johnson is as versatile a defender as you'll find in the NBA and should do as much damage against LeBron as any player in the league.

    As long as he keeps his head on a swivel, his defensive presence should open doors for players such as Cousins and Thornton to run their offensive attack with far less pressure than expected.

San Antonio Spurs

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    Do we really need to question the legitimacy of the San Antonio Spurs? Regardless of what the on-paper rosters look like, the Spurs are consistently one of the best teams in the NBA.

    Where they fall short, however, is the collection of talent and athleticism that has begun to trump great coaching. Quite a shame that it's become a league of power over prowess.

    Nevertheless, the San Antonio Spurs are always a threat to pull out the W. Whether it's a postseason series or a regular season game, the most well-oiled machine in the league is nearly impossible to overcome.

    With Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan on the roster, you're all but guaranteed a fight. With young players such as Daniel Green and Kawhi Leonard coming into their own in the Spurs' system, the team becomes all the more deadly.

    With their consistent three-point shooting and three elite players, it's hard to say any team has a true advantage over the San Antonio Spurs. With one of the greatest coaches to ever roam a sideline, Gregg Popovich, we might as well pencil the Spurs in for a fourth-quarter showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Wouldn't this be an incredible NBA Finals matchup? Just the matchup of the draft-made Big Three against the free-agency bred trio would make for some great television.

    More importantly, of course, it will make for great basketball when the two teams meet November 29 in Miami and March 31 in San Antonio.

    With Tony Parker running the point, the San Antonio Spurs are a threat to defeat anyone in the NBA. Against the Heat, he'll have the ability to decide between attacking the undersized interior defense or dishing it out to a surplus of elite jump shooters.

    As history has shown, Parker will get into the lane, so don't doubt his ability to do so for a second. Nor should we doubt at least one of Ginobili, Green, Stephen Jackson or Leonard to come up with a big three.

    Throw in Tim Duncan's ability to do everything and you have a perfect storm. He should do more than counter Chris Bosh while Ginobili does the same with Dwyane Wade.

    Mark November 29 and March 31 on your calendar, folks. Those will be some beautiful displays of basketball!

Toronto Raptors

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    The Toronto Raptors have a nice offensive counter to the Los Angeles Lakers, with Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas at the 4 and 5. They also have solid defense at the position with Valanciunas and Amir Johnson and a strong rebounder in Ed Davis.

    While no team in the NBA can counter the tandem of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, the Toronto Raptors would come close enough if Valanciunas can pan out.

    What's most impressive about this matchup is that the Toronto Raptors actually match up well at every position.

    At the point, Steve Nash is countered by the tandem of Kyle Lowry and Jose Calderon. Lowry is as versatile as they come and trumps Nash in almost every category besides jump shooting and passing. Calderon, meanwhile, has been Top 5 in assists for two years running.

    On the perimeter, the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields and Terrence Ross should hold their own against Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace. After all, once you get past those two, what do the Lakers really have?

    Andrew Goudelock and Devin Ebanks pale in comparison per evaluation of recent history.

    As already touched upon, the frontcourt battle should be a fun one to watch. While the Toronto Raptors will look to Calderon and Terrence Ross to drop in shots from three, it's the interior battle that will decide this one.

    As long as the Raptors play their game, which includes Top 10 defense and 20 points a night from Bargnani, they stand more than a fighting chance.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    One of the quiet statistics of the 2012 NBA season was the Toronto Raptors' average of 94.0 points allowed per game. That number was good for ninth in the NBA and sat just 1.5 points higher than the vaunted Miami Heat.

    The issue was that the Raptors couldn't score. With two All-Star caliber facilitators and a recently acquired multitude of point producers, that should all change.

    Bargnani can counter former Raptors star Chris Bosh with his scoring. Valanciunas, meanwhile, already experienced the freight train known as LeBron James during the London Olympics and should have a good idea as to what he can expect in the NBA.

    On the perimeter, DeRozan should take another step in his development and see his athleticism take him to new heights. Expect James to have his hands full on the perimeter, while Ross surprises the veterans with his sharpshooting and defensive tenacity.

    If Lowry and Calderon can combine for 13 to 15 assists per night, as well as some three-pointers to pad the Raptors' scoring, this upset could occur.

    After all, smothering D and elite three-point shooting can do anything. Can't it, Miami?

Utah Jazz

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    If anyone can match up with the Los Angeles Lakers' star-studded frontcourt, it's the Utah Jazz.

    With a starting lineup consisting of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson at the 4 and 5, the Jazz are almost guaranteed of 35 points and 20 rebounds a night from their leaders. Throw in Derrick Favors' attack of the glass and approaching elite interior defense, and you have yourself a legitimate threat to take anyone down.

    And that's before we get to the potential development of Enes Kanter.

    The key for the Jazz against the Lakers will be far more than just countering their bigs, however, although that is an important piece of the puzzle. The true focus of the offense will run through Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward as they stretch the floor with their jump shooting.

    If the shots fall early, the frontcourt can roll for the remainder of the game. Balance is key here, and Mo Williams, a former All-Star, will be the X-Factor.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    The Utah Jazz's perimeter players are far too weak to make a difference against the Utah Jazz. Williams could put up 15 or so points, but Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward and Marvin Williams are far too inconsistent to rely upon.

    They also stand a weak chance at overcoming the defensive prowess of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Shane Battier. Time to push it inside and show no remorse in exposing the Miami Heat's greatest weakness.

    Paul Millsap is physical enough to score on Chris Bosh and savvy in the post, thus enabling scoring opportunities when matched against James. Al Jefferson, meanwhile, can score on any and every opponent in the NBA.

    The key here will be Derrick Favors and  Kanter, however, who will come off of the bench and take on the foul burden. With their physical play keeping Wade and James out of the paint, as well as the personal fouls they can spare with Millsap and Jefferson coming back in, they offer the Jazz's first advantage.

    The question is, can any shots fall from the perimeter?

Washington Wizards

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    How to Defeat the Los Angeles Lakers

    This one won't be easy.

    For the Washington Wizards to pull off an upset of either of these teams, they must be clicking on all cylinders. John Wall must put up 20 points and 10 assists, while Bradley Beal and Jordan Crawford must have the three-ball going.

    A familiar foe of the Los Angeles Lakers, Nene Hilario, must also be on his game, while Emeka Okafor cannot take a night off from his rebounding and shot blocking duties. As the top two picks of the 2004 NBA draft square off, Okafor must remind us why, at one point, he was the most highly-touted prospect around.

    And then the Wizards must add a little bit of magic to the mix. No pun intended, of course.

    The Washington Wizards bigs aren't going to put up more than 35 points collectively. As stellar as Kevin Seraphin was in the final month of the 2012 season, averaging 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds, there is no way around how dominant Dwight Howard can be.

    This leaves Wall needing to find his jump shot and Beal relying on what's taken him to the NBA. As long as the shots are falling, the Washington Wizards have the talent on the perimeter to defeat any team.

    At least once.


    How to Defeat the Miami Heat

    Once again, everything needs to click to pull this one out. Rather than relying upon their perimeter play, however, the Washington Wizards must now receive big points from a frontcourt with underachieving promise.

    Consider the pressure to be on Hilario as the team looks to a veteran to bang in the paint with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem.

    While Nene is no longer a threat to throw up 20 points on a consistent basis, he remains one of the most efficient scorers in the game. He'll hit 60 percent of his shots average roughly 15 points per game, but against the Miami Heat, he'll need closer to 25.

    With LeBron James capable of defending Wall and Dwyane Wade taking on Beal, going inside is the only option here. If Hilario doesn't score big, you better hope Okafor and Seraphin remember how to.