It’s impossible not to take notice of what the Lakers and the Bulls have accomplished since the All-Star break. LA’s run of 15 victories to 1 defeat is astonishing. In fact it’s historic as LA became just the fifth team since the invention of the All-Star game to go at least 15-1 after the break. Four of those teams (Detroit Pistons 89-90, Chicago Bulls 90-91 and the Lakers again back in 99-00) went on to win the NBA title. The inspired play of Andrew Bynum is one of the big reasons the Lakers have returned to championship form. The Lake show have also been scoring like the old show time Lakers and locking down opponents as SI’s Zach Lowe pointed out in his Point Forward column. The Lakers are scoring 109.3 per 100 possessions and only allowing 99 points per 100 possessions. That means their offense is in sync as only the Denver Nuggets have a better points per game average in that span than the Lakers and on defense only the Bulls and Celtics are being more economical. The Spurs recent three game skid has opened the door for LA to possibly snatch the number one seed from the Spurs which a month of two ago was unfathomable.
The Bulls also have been on scorching the league of late with their hot play. Despite their lost to Philly last night, they are still 8-2 over their last 10 games. The lost snapped the Bulls’ home win streak at 14 and “dropped” them to 32-5 at the United Center. The Derrick Rose MVP chatter couldn’t get any louder as he has put up career numbers averaging 25 points and 8 assist a game. Rose may ultimately receive the hardware (Even though I’m more partial to Dwight Howard) but his team’s results in the playoffs may concern him more. I like the Bulls and I think they will be the top seed in the Eastern conference but I don’t think they are ready to leap frog the Celtics in the playoffs. The Celtics have lost 7 of 12 and have looked lost on offense since the injury Rajon Rondo suffered on. Home court advantage may mean a lot to the Bulls but let’s not forget the Celtics made it all the way to the finals as a fourth seed last year. The Celtics are the type of team that can make a run rather they have home court or not, it just doesn’t really matter to with those guys.
Now to the rankings:
1. Los Angeles Lakers (53-20) – The Lakers are in position to claim the number one seed in the west with San Antonio’s recent slide, not that it matters to them. 'It doesn't matter to us whether we catch them or not,' Kobe Bryant said. 'We try to win every game. If we catch them, so be it. If we don't, so be it. Bryant words are those of a former champion. The Lakers know if they play their game, then it’s going to be tough for any opponent to wrangle away the championship from the Lakers.
2. Chicago Bulls (53-20) – The Bulls’ Derrick Rose may get all the attention but it’s really their defense that keeps the train going on the Bulls train. The Bulls defensive stats: ranked first in opponents’ field-goal shooting (42.8 percent), opponents’ three-point shooting (32.7 percent) and second in points allowed (91.1 a game) and rebounds per game (44.4) and fifth in blocks per game (5.72). As the saying goes: Offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. Let’s see if the Bulls can make that quote work for them this year.
3. Miami Heat (51-22) The Heat’s roller coaster season continues with yet more ups and downs. They are definitely on a high at the moment and they made history last week. For the second time in NBA history, the other coming 50 years ago, three teammates all posted at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a regulation game. James had 33 points and 10 rebounds, Bosh added 31 points and 12 rebounds, and Wade finished with 30 points and 11 boards as the Miami Heat beat the Houston. That is what everyone expected from this team since Bosh, Wade, and Lebron had their little introductory pep rally this summer. The Heat have a soft as bread schedule for the rest of the season and actually have a shot at catching the Bulls for top seed and home court advantage in the playoffs.
4. San Antonio Spurs (57-16) – So let’s get this right with all their injuries. When you have Tony Parker out (left knee contusion), Timmy Duncan out (ankle sprain), and Manu Ginobili out (left quad contusion) what do you get? Two losses to the Trail Blazers in three days and your once insurmountable lead in the West dwindled down to 3 ½ games over the Lakers. Can the Spurs hold it together and pull through in the playoffs?
5. Dallas Mavericks (51-21) - I noticed an amazing stat about Peja Stojakovicand the Mavs. When he scores at least 15 in a game the Mavs are 15-0. I say make sure at all cost you get him those 15 points. The depth of this team knows no bounds as they go at least 10 to 11 deep in their regular rotation. That’s not even including the pending comeback of Caron Butler who insists he will be back by the playoffs. We will get to know everything we to know about the Mavs when they face the Lakers this Thursday. The two teams have split the season series and the victor of this game will own the tie breaker should the two teams tie in the standings. In other words it’s a big game and both teams should bring the best out of each other.