Chicago Bulls and 5 Teams Getting Hot As We Near the NBA Playoffs

Shane DePutronCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2011

Chicago Bulls and 5 Teams Getting Hot As We Near the NBA Playoffs

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    CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 24: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls puts up a shot between Dwyane Wade #3 and Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat at the United Center on February 24, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Heat 93-89. NOTE TO USER: User
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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.

Chicago Bulls

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    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 12: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls puts up a shot against the Utah Jazz at the United Center on March 12, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Jazz 118-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    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.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    DALLAS, TX - MARCH 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers react after a 96-91 win against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on March 12, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 21:  Teammates Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma Thunder celebrate after a basket as D.J. Augustin #14 of the Charlotte Bobcats walks away during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on December 21, 2010 i
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    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.

Denver Nuggets

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    DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 28:  (L-R) Wilson Chandler #21, Raymond Felton #20 (hidden), J.R. Smith #5, Arron Afflalo #6 and Chris Andersen #11 of the Denver Nuggets huddle up against the Atlanta Hawks during NBA action at the Pepsi Center on February 28, 2011
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    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.

Houston Rockets

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Kevin Martin #12 of the Houston Rockets dribbles past Acie Law #2 of the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on December 20, 2010 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloadi
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    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.