All great things come to an end, but greater things usually tend to follow.
Although the '09-'10 NBA regular season is quickly coming to a halt, the NBA Playoffs are only weeks away from kicking off.
With teams like the Los Angeles Lakers anticipating another repeat, the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James determined to snatch their first championship trophy, and the Orlando Magic seeking vengeance for the championship loss last season, Brandon Ribak breaks down the top teams that have the best shot at winning the title this season.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (55-22)
Let's be honest, the Lakers didn't particularly play up to their supreme standards during the month of March, losing more games (six) than during the entire first two months of the NBA season.
With Bynum sidelined for the past eight games, and the team playing extremely up and down, the Lakers roster will depend highly on veterans Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant to regain confidence and prepare for the postseason.
Throwing the month of March out the window, Los Angeles has been undeniably the strongest team in the West. And with arguably the best all-around player in the NBA in Kobe Bryant, it would be no surprise if the defending champions make a repeat.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (61-17)
Last postseason it was apparent that the Cavaliers relied way too heavily on LeBron James down the stretch.
But with newly acquired Antawn Jamison, who can stretch the floor at the 4, shoot the three ball, and pound the boards, and the offseason acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal, who has a much better chance of limiting Dwight Howard's production in the paint, the Cavaliers are the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference.
With yet again the best record in the league, the Cavaliers will have a major task ahead of themselves if the Boston Celtics remain the four seed in the East.
Hypothetically speaking, if the season were to end right now Cleveland would have to face Boston in the second round of the playoffs (if they beat the Hawks) and the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals (if they make it there).
Regardless of the scenario it really seems like LeBron James and the Cavaliers are fully prepared to take on whoever stands in their way.
3. Orlando Magic (54-23)
Once again, Orlando seems to have "magically" slipped into the background heading into the final games of the season.
With most of the spotlight on Cleveland's success and the Laker's sudden decline, the Magic have posted a rather impressive 15-3 record during their last 18 games, with wins against Los Angeles, Dallas, San Antonio, and Denver.
Needless to say, Orlando is the only team in the NBA that has a win against every team in the league.
With the most dominate center in the game today, three other All-Stars, and an extremely productive bench, the Magic have everything that it takes to not only make it back to the NBA Finals, but win it all as well.
4. Boston Celtics (48-29)
While the Celtics have played nothing close to their '07-'08 season, they still have three hall-of-famers on their roster in addition to a Top Five point guard in Rajon Rondo and arguably the best 7'0" defender in Kendrick Perkins.
Even though KG, Pierce, and Allen are not having stellar seasons the three know exactly what it takes to win games, especially in the playoffs.
With a healthy roster the Celtics have an excellent chance to make a splash in the playoffs and get a chance at another title.
Let's not forget, they took the Magic to seven games without Kevin Garnett, and they won the championship just two seasons ago.
5. Dallas Mavericks (50-27)
If the Mavericks want to win a championship then now is probably the time. They're composed of an extremely balanced roster offensively and defensively.
With the Denver Nuggets quickly falling off the map, the Mavericks will get their chance to shine, especially with the season additions of 7'0" Brendan Haywood and forward Caron Butler.
The Mavericks ultimate fate will come down to whether or not they can defeat the Lakers if they do indeed make it to the Western Conference Finals.
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