NBA Preseason 2012: Teams Whose Fast Starts Must Carry into Regular Season

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NBA Preseason 2012: Teams Whose Fast Starts Must Carry into Regular Season
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Most NBA teams use the preseason to round out their rosters and get in shape for when the real games begin.

The Los Angeles Lakers' preseason record is meaningless, as is the record of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. As long as the top-tier teams stay healthy, they could not care less whether they win or lose at this point.

But for those teams who aren't entirely sure about what they have, the preseason is a chance to build momentum and give the players some confidence. Winning games isn't something that every team is familiar with, so despite the victories not counting in their record, they still provide hope and optimism.

Although the preseason typically fails to provide any indication of what the regular season standings will look like, here are three teams who must carry their solid play into the games that matter.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are one of those teams that you know you should beat, but they never seem to make it easy.

As usual, they have great outside shooters mixed with a strong frontcourt, led by former All-Star center Andrew Bogut.

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They've posted wins against the Lakers, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, as well as a victory over Maccabi Haefi, an Israeli club.

They open up the season against the Phoenix Suns, followed by the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers. This is a great opportunity to grab four or five wins right off the bat as they look to improve upon their fourth-place finish in the Pacific Division last season.

We know this team can score with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the perimeter to go along with David Lee and Bogut on the inside. But what will they get from rookie Harrison Barnes? And can bench players like Richard Jefferson and Jarrett Jack contribute enough to give the starters a break? 

Making the playoffs may be a long shot, but a fast start in the first couple weeks will at least make the dream a realistic one.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers were part of the blockbuster offseason move that sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers. While Hollywood was celebrating its new superstar, fans in Philly rejoiced over the addition of Andrew Bynum, an extremely talented center with unparalleled offensive moves for a big man.

The team nabbed the eight seed last season after posting a 35-31 record, but hopes are higher than that entering the 2012-2013 campaign.

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The 76ers have preseason victories over the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. Their regular season will commence with the Denver Nuggets coming to town, followed by back-to-back games against the Knicks and a road contest against New Orleans.

This is another team with exciting young talent, and it'll be interesting to see if Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner can continue to develop their unlimited potential. Spencer Hawes also returns as another skilled weapon in a loaded frontcourt, and Jason Richardson adds depth on the perimeter.

The team boasts a strong bench with forward Thaddeus Young and guard Nick Young. But if this team wants more than to simply reach the postseason, everything has to come together.

The preseason has given it confidence, but it matters very little if it can't get off to a good start in the regular season.

Toronto Raptors

You're probably asking, "Why the Raptors?" And it's a valid question, as the Raptors have been anything but competitive over the past several years. While this year could be more of the same, a solid start to the preseason should have fans excited to see what this team can do.

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The squad is a young one that could potentially start two rookies in Terrance Ross and Jonas Valanciunas. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Andrea Bargnani will likely round out the starting five.

It's not exactly a lineup that strikes fear into the hearts of its opponents, but it's a young group with loads of talent.

The team is off to a 5-1 start this preseason, but the regular season begins on an uphill slope. Three of the Raptors' first five games are on the road against the Thunder, Mavericks, and Nets.

Toronto also finds itself in the same division as the 76ers, Celtics, Knicks, and Nets. Anything other than fifth place will probably be considered a success for Raptors fans.

But if the team has any shot of staying in the playoff race beyond the first couple months, it'll be vital for it continue their solid play of the preseason.

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