Despite the recent surge to the top, the season still has enough games to change the playoff picture. Chicago has been nothing short of excellent and are now the favorites in the east, but for how long?
As it stands now, Chicago is the hottest and playing the best basketball, followed by Miami and Boston. The Heat have won three straight after losing five in a row and have beaten some good teams, most recently the Spurs by 30.
Boston has been struggling. Deron Williams and the fresh New Jersey Nets took out Boston two nights ago, sending the Celts to their third loss in four games.
Each team has had high points and low points, but the Bulls have managed to play, and play well throughout all of their struggles. Chicago has played without Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for large portions of the season.
Tuesday's win over Washington had both players out. Boozer with a bad ankle and Noah with an illness.
Boston seems to have hit a mini-wall. The health of the "Big Three" has been solid all season, but their interior play has been suspect. Giving away Kendrick Perkins hurt that much-needed size, but newly acquired forward Jeff Green has done his part.
Miami, with all of its media attention, has played about as well as one could expect with all the bright lights on them.
Of all the main issues, Chicago seems to have kept pushing the hardest and getting the most results. Only the Celtics can say they have any similar secondary scoring as Chicago, as well as team defense.
Miami has three scorers; if one has an off night, there is a good chance that they lose.
Experience is clearly Boston's strength. They've won a championship with a good chunk of the players on their roster and win important games. Miami and Chicago have work to do in those departments.
It is safe to say that Dwyane Wade is the only player on either team with a proven track record in the playoffs.
Which team has enough to prevail in the playoffs? Miami has legit scorers, Boston has wins in the playoffs and Chicago has been hitting on all cylinders for most of the season.
In reality, star players win with a little help from their friends.
Boston had great secondary players when they won in 2008. The secondary players in Boston have a lot to offer. Nenad Krstic, Jeff Green, Glen Davis and Troy Murphy can all contribute at any time. Add that to Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and the east teams will never doubt them.
Miami has LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh. Unless their bench decides to show up for more than a few games deep in the playoffs, the Heat will lose to teams that simply have a better bench.
Mike Miller, James Jones and Mario Chalmers have played roles in individual games this season, but not enough to relieve pressure off of Miami's big guns.
Chicago needs to stay healthy. The Bulls have played well without their starting big men, but when it comes down to crunch time, Boozer and Noah are sorely needed. Derrick Rose has played like the league's MVP, and Luol Deng has been huge in clutch situations.
The second unit in Chicago may be one of—if not the best—in the NBA.
If Chicago keeps the general upward trend in play, then it is tough to say anyone else has a chance in the East. With roughly 15 games left in the season for each team, the top seed is still a possibility for either of the top three.
Remember, there is a very good chance whoever of the three teams is the top seed will get away without seeing the other two until the conference finals.
An incentive? Yes. Necessary? We will see.
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