5 NBA Teams That Will Start 2013 on Fire
With 2013 slowly approaching on the horizon, a number of NBA teams are hoping that the new year brings better fortune. The past two months haven't been kind to many around the league, and perhaps good luck is in store for them following the final strains of "Auld Lang Syne" on Jan. 1.
On the other side of the ledger, there are others who will be looking to build upon the success that they've had in the early part of the 2012-13 campaign. The schedule-makers have been exceedingly kind in many instances, and quite a few teams have no excuse if they can't get out of the blocks quickly in 2013.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
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Oklahoma City is rolling, and with a handful of winnable games on deck in early January—tilts against Philadelphia, Toronto, Washington and Minnesota are on the slate—the Thunder should be able to build on their 22-6 record.
While Kevin Durant and Co. will spend a lot of time on the road next month, Oklahoma City is a more than respectable 7-4 away from home this season. If they can keep that pace up over the next few weeks, the Thunder could possibly even overtake the Los Angeles Clippers for the league's best record.
4. Brooklyn Nets
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Typically, there's a "bounce" that comes after a team replaces its head coach. The Brooklyn Nets—who were 11-4 at one point this season—are in line for a boost now that P.J. Carlesimo is (temporarily) behind the bench, but the wins that the team racks up over the next couple of weeks may have to do with their schedule more than anything else.
Early January games against Washington, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Toronto are likely to improve the Nets' winning percentage, and the team's recent struggles may soon be forgotten. Brooklyn still has plenty of time to correct its issues before the playoffs roll around, and a few victories will go a long way toward silencing the critics.
3. Atlanta Hawks
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An Atlanta Hawks team that is set to play six of its first eight games in 2013 on the road wouldn't normally be projected to start January on fire. That said, most of those games away from Philips Arena are against squads with sub-.500 records, so look for the Hawks to take advantage of a not-so-brutal schedule.
It's important to note that Atlanta thrives on the road regardless of who its opponent is. The Hawks have already racked up seven road wins this season, a number which includes victories in both Oklahoma City and Memphis.
And as evidenced by its 17-9 record, it's clear that Atlanta doesn't need the comforts of the "Highlight Factory" in order to play exceptional basketball.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
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With the exception of a two-day, Texas two-step on Jan. 8-9, the Los Angeles Lakers don't play a game outside of the Staples Center for the first 19 days of the New Year.
More importantly, with a healthy Steve Nash back in the fold, it looks as if the Lake Show is finally evolving into the team that many prognosticators thought that they would be at the start of the season. LA's recent five-game winning streak is a positive omen for the future, and if the team is able to tighten things up defensively, it will be a serious contender in the Western Conference.
1. Denver Nuggets
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After a brutal early season schedule (17 of their first 23 games were on the road), the Denver Nuggets will benefit from plenty of home cooking once the calendar turns to 2013.
Fifteen of the Nuggets' first 18 games in the New Year will be played at the Pepsi Center, giving them ample opportunity to gain ground on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division. Denver is 9-1 at home so far this season, and there's little reason to believe that it can't build on that success going forward.
The home-court advantage that the Nuggets have due to the altitude in the Mile High City is real: Expect them to run quite a few teams out of the gym come January.