NBA Playoffs 2011: The 5 Hottest Teams Heading into the Postseason

Shane DePutronCorrespondent IApril 7, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011: The 5 Hottest Teams Heading into the Postseason

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    With the 2011 NBA Playoffs just over a week away, it's time for teams to start getting it together and gaining some momentum for a postseason run.

    However, that's much easier said than done, as many teams have worn down as the regular season concludes.

    Nevertheless, a few squads have managed to raise their level of play down the stretch.

    And the following five teams have done exactly that, as they are the five hottest teams heading into the 2011 NBA playoffs.

Chicago Bulls

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    Without a doubt, the Chicago Bulls have been one of the NBA's hottest teams down the stretch.

    Since March 4, the Bulls have won 16 of their 18 games, defeating some of the league's top teams, including the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets, the Atlanta Hawks twice and the Memphis Grizzlies.

    And by doing so, Chicago has taken firm control of first place in the Eastern Conference.

    Moreover, behind MVP favorite Derrick Rose, the team was able able to accomplish this 16-2 run without being fully healthy, as Carlos Boozer missed five games and Joakim Noah sat out four.

    So with a 16-2 record down the stretch, wins over solid squads, a top seed in the playoffs and a now-healthy lineup, the Bulls have done all of the right things heading into the postseason.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Although they have cooled down a bit of late, dropping two of their last four games, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been been one of the NBA's better teams of late.

    In fact, they have won 13 of their last 16 games, defeating the likes of the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.

    Consequently, it seems evident that the team is finally coming together after completing their trade for center Kendrick Perkins.

    And with a tough big like Perkins supporting their two young stars—Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook—the streaking Thunder will look to make some noise as they enter the playoffs.

Miami Heat

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    Despite struggling through numerous losing streaks this season, the Miami Heat have really gotten it together towards the end of the year.

    Since March 10, the Heat have won 11 of 14 games, illustrating that their trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is finally beginning to become fully acclimated with playing together.

    What's more, the team has done a lot to shed its reputation for struggling against the best teams, as their recent stretch included victories over playoff squads like the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.

    So now that their big three are playing well together and they are knocking off the league's best, the Miami Heat will certainly be looking to make a run in the postseason, seeking to once again prove their doubters wrong.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Given that the Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, one might find it odd that they would appear on this list.

    However, since the All-Star break the team has still gone 17-4, while defeating the likes of the Atlanta Hawks twice, the Portland Trail Blazers twice, the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, the Dallas Mavericks twice, Orlando Magic and the New Orleans Hornets.

    So when one considers this hot streak, coupled with the Lakers' recent postseason successes over the past few years—three NBA Finals appearances and two NBA Championships—then it looks like L.A. will be able to overcome their recent road bump and once again become the team to beat in the Western Conference.

Denver Nuggets

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    Despite the common perception that the Denver Nuggets would enter a rebuilding phase after trading away Carmelo Anthony, they have actually done quite the opposite.

    As a matter of fact, the Nuggets have won 16 of their 21 games since making the blockbuster deal, beating teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, the Atlanta Hawks twice, New Orleans Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks.

    Moreover, they have gone 8-1 over their past nine games, and Denver is boasting the NBA's second-most efficient offense.

    So with their deep and high-scoring roster now firing on all cylinders as they head into the playoffs, the Nuggets could very well out-shoot their opponents on their way to a surprising postseason run.