With the 2011 NBA playoffs just under a month away, teams like the Chicago Bulls have been stepping up their level of play in an attempt to get hot heading into the postseason.
Given how streaky many of the NBA's top teams have been this season, it appears as though momentum will look to be more important to playoff success than usual.
Consequently, each of the following five slides will feature a team that has gotten hot of late and will look to carry its high level of play on through the postseason.
First it was Carlos Boozer.
Then it was Joakim Noah.
However, now that the Chicago Bulls are healthy and looking to be adequately adjusted to playing with one another, they have begun to dominate.
Behind MVP candidate Derrick Rose, Chicago is currently 48-18 and tied with the Boston Celtics atop the Eastern Conference.
Moreover, the Bulls are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak and have won 10 of their last 11.
This 11-game stretch hasn't just been against pushovers, as Chicago notched home victories against the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Hornets, as well as away wins versus the Heat and Orlando Magic.
By showing that they can consistently knock off some of the league's better teams, the Chicago Bulls are definitely looking like a dangerous team and championship contender as the season winds down.
Like the Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers have also won 10 of their past 11 games.
However, unlike the Bulls, seven of these 11 games were on the road—a fact that makes their hot streak all the more impressive.
Moreover, many of these have been hotly contested matchups, as the Lakers have earned wins over seven teams that are currently in the playoff picture in the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks twice.
When one considers that Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and company are the two-time defending NBA champions, then it seems very entirely possible that they could parlay their current run into a third straight title.
As mentioned in the previous slide, the Oklahoma City Thunder recently lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, that loss has been the only one in the team's last nine games.
Besides going 8-1 over their last nine, during which they defeated four playoff teams, the Thunder are currently on a five-game winning streak.
Moreover, the team will likely benefit even more from newly acquired center Kendrick Perkins' recent return from injury.
So far, OKC has won both games with Perkins in the lineup, blowing out the Washington Wizards and soundly defeating the Heat in Miami.
With a healthy Perkins playing alongside the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it looks like the Thunder will have a great chance to carry their momentum into the playoffs and improve upon last year's first-round exit.
Despite trading away their two most notable players in Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, the Denver Nuggets do not seem to have missed a beat.
Since the transaction, the team has gone 9-2, defeating the likes of the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, New Orleans Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks twice.
Additionally, the team is on a four-game winning streak, during which it is defeating opponents by an average of 18.75 points per game.
It has achieved much of this without Danilo Gallinari, who has missed the last eight games with a sprained toe.
Consequently, when he returns, the Nuggets should be able to play even better than they already are, making them one of the most dangerous NBA teams entering the playoffs.
Unlike all of the other teams on this list, the Houston Rockets are currently outside of the top eight in their conference and therefore are out of the playoff picture.
With a record of 35-34, which is only good for 10th place in the Western Conference, the Rockets made this list solely due to the strong push that they have made in fighting for a spot in the postseason.
As it sits now, Houston has won nine of its last 12 games, including three victories over playoff teams.
As a result, the team is now only 2.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West and looking to continue moving on up.
Should Houston be able to overtake some combination of the Utah Jazz (ninth), Memphis Grizzlies (eighth), Portland Trail Blazers (seventh) and New Orleans Hornets (sixth), then their high level of play could possibly lead them to shock the NBA world by propelling them through an upset of one of the top-seeded teams in the West.