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L.A. Lakers-Cleveland Cavs': NBA's Top Title Contenders?

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 6: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers his teammates watch the final moments of a game from the bench against the Boston Celtics at the TD Banknorth Garden on March 6, 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics won 105-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Chris GrinsteadCorrespondent IApril 22, 2009

There is a wide playoff spread this year, ranging from the Detroit Pistons who actually made the playoffs with a losing record, to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went 66-16 and earned the top seed in the NBA playoffs.

There are only two main teams who are even considered title contenders this year, however.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

What do the Cavs bring to the playoffs that make them so special? LeBron James. That is the biggest key to the success of the Cavs. His offensive and, now defensive, prowess have earned him a spot among the league's elite in competing for an MVP trophy.

The Cavs have had LeBron since 2003 so how have they just now gotten this good? Well, the answer is this. Mike Brown, the new Coach of the Year award winner, emphasized stubborn defense. This Cavs team can hold you to sub-50 shooting percentages on any given night.

The high-octane offense of LeBron James is complimented very nicely by the guard duo of Mo Williams and Delonte West. Williams has been a double-digit scorer and West has been a three-point threat throughout the regular season.

The bench play has also been strong with veterans Joe Smith, Daniel Gibson, and Wally Szczerbiak all adding their own flare to the Cleveland onslaught.

How can they win a title? Keep playing like they are playing right now. In the first two games of their first-round series against the Detroit Pistons, The Cavaliers have won by double digits and played with intense energy to start the game with a quick lead.

The consistently solid bench play also needs to continue. They will need these few things, along with their newly found, defensive tenacity, in order to bring home an NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Same story, different city. Kobe Bryant is the playmaker for the Lakers with many complimentary role-players surrounding him. He has plenty of experience in the playoffs, after winning three NBA titles in his early years with Shaq.

The Lakers have gotten solid bench play from many different backups including Sasha Vujacic and Lamar Odom. Vujacic adds a deep threat to extend the defensive front, while Odom makes the defense pack in by making his inside presence felt.

The Lakers defense hasn't been spectacular, but it has been getting the job done.

The real strength of this team is their high-powered offense. Kobe Bryant accounts for most of the points for the Lakers, whether that be through assists or actual points. He is a playmaking threat that seems to have a knack for challenging himself when he is bored on the floor. When he gets slowed down, he has a great outlet in powerful big man, Pau Gasol.

What does this L.A. squad have to do to continue their NBA tradition? They will have to bring their desire for every game. Coach Phil Jackson has been attacking their "killer instinct" and I think he knows what will happen if they don't bring it in later rounds.

Kobe Bryant needs to continue to play his distinct style of game and they, ultimately, need to learn how to go full throttle, whether they are up by 30 or down by five.

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