Despite one of the oldest rosters in the league, the San Antonio Spurs jumped out to a 25-3 start to the 2010-2011 record and haven't looked back.
Despite the success that San Antonio has enjoyed this season, many experts don't foresee the Spurs making it past the second or third round of the postseason. Between the postseason dominance that the Lakers have shown over the last few seasons,and the consistent play and depth of the Dallas Mavericks, the San Antonio Spurs will have a tough time making a deep postseason run whether they have homecourt advantage or not.
Also in the thick of things out West are the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have a combination of young superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, to go along with the rock-solid defense up front, with newly-acquired center Kendrick Perkins.
Here is a look at the Western Conference standings to date.
Team Games Back
San Antonio 54-13 --
Dallas 48-20 6.5
Lakers 48-20 6.5
Oklahoma City 44-23 10
With just 14 games left in the regular season, Dallas and Los Angeles are currently tied and well out of first place, but are each hoping to claim the second seed in order to guarantee homecourt advantage in the second round.
Dallas and Los Angeles have very similar schedules down the stretch, with Dallas playing nine of their last 14 games against teams with records of .500 or better, compared to ten of 14 for the Lakers. However, whereas Dallas has just seven games left at home, the Lakers have the luxury of playing nine of their last 14 games at home, including a game against Dallas at Staples Center that could have enormous playoff implications.
Thus, Los Angeles has the slight advantage in claiming the No. 2 seed, especially with the way the Lakers have played since the All-Star break, a stretch in which the they have won ten out of 11 games, including impressive road wins at Portland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Atlanta and Dallas.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City, which is now 3.5 games back of Dallas and Los Angeles with just 13 games left, appears destined to play San Antonio in the second round, without homecourt advantage.
Here is a look at the Eastern Conference standings.
Chicago 49-18 --
Boston 48-18 0.5
Miami 46-22 3.5
Chicago has won eight straight games to temporarily take a half game lead in the East over Boston. The Bulls only play six of their last 15 games against teams that appear head to the postseason, including a key game against Boston at home.
Chicago has the clear-cut advantage here, especially if Boston reduces the minutes of their veteran starters down the stretch.
Meanwhile, Miami, similar to Oklahoma City in the West, will need a near-perfect run down the stretch to have any shot of improving their seeding. The Heat play at home against Boston in mid-April, a game that has a very slight chance of making a difference in seedings.
If you take away San Antonio from the equation, there is a very tight race for homecourt advantage in the NBA Finals, in particular involving Chicago, Boston, Dallas and the Lakers.
Boston 48-18 0.5
Dallas 48-20 1.5
Los Angeles 48-20 1.5
Miami 46-22 3.5
Oklahoma City 44-23 5.0
Excluding the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago has the easiest road to the best record in the NBA, followed by Boston, especially when you take schedules into account.
This is followed by the Lakers, who have a more favorable schedule than Dallas, then Miami and finally Oklahoma City.
From now up until the end of the season, these six teams will not only be competing against the other top teams from their respective conference, but against all of the top teams in the NBA.
In each of the last four NBA Finals, the team with homecourt advantage has won the title, so the last four weeks of the regular season could be crucial towards crowning the next NBA champion.