As we ease in to All-Star Weekend, we also get a chance to exhale and take a look at where the midseason dust has settled in relation to league standings. There are some glaring stories of failure in Cleveland of course, but the lack of shine in Lakerland is probably the second most talked about topic.
There has been the story of the courageous Chicago Bulls, who just seem to keep winning despite multiple injuries. Derrick Rose has marked his name on the NBA map and Carlos Boozer is quickly becoming one of the NBA's best "second bananas."
People are getting excited about the New York Knicks again. While personally I think they will be first round cannon fodder, it is nice to have them back in the conversation.
The Miami Heat are developing before our eyes and seemingly everyone's favorite villain LeBron James is quietly carving himself out another MVP-caliber season.
The San Antonio Spurs are sitting on top of the pile with an amazing 46-10 record and look incredibly dangerous every night. Manu Ginobili is assuming the role of Team MVP and players like DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal and George Hill are all improving out of sight.
But let's face facts here: the Celtics and the Lakers will again face off in the NBA Finals come June. It has to be the sure bet to end all sure bets, and here's why.
The playoffs are so ridiculously different from the regular season, and on so many levels. Obviously the intensity rises, the defense gets tougher, the crowds get louder and every single play is the most important of the season. Who understands this better than the rest? The Celtics and Lakers.
What will be the 2011 NBA Finals matchup?
Actions speak louder than words and team chemistry speaks louder than talent. While the Bulls, Magic, Heat and Mavericks all have talent, they haven't been to war together (note: OKC gets a pass here, but that series against the Lakers last season wasn't as close as everyone wishes it was).
What happens to a team like Miami if they go down 0-2 at home? What happens to the Mavericks when they have to play consistent defense? What happens to Chicago when opposing teams blanket D-Rose?
If you were to run a survey on NBA teams and included categories such as best coach, best clutch performer, best scorer, best defense, best teamwork displayed, best playoff savvy and best one-two punch, which two teams would feature the highest scores?
The Celtics and the Lakers.
I cannot see Miami, Orlando or Chicago beating Boston in a seven-game series. I also cannot see Dallas, Oklahoma City or Portland doing the same to the Lakers.
It may just boil down to the Lakers' ability (or lack thereof) to win in San Antonio. If this plays out the way I think it will, we will be staring at Boston vs. Miami in the East and Los Angeles vs. San Antonio in the West.
Once the Lakers take the first two games in San Antonio, come back to this bookmarked article and give Coach Nostradamus his props, for you will be about to see the Celtics and Lakers throw down again for the third time in four years.
Thanks for reading.