NBA Matchup: Memphis Grizzlies at Chicago Bulls

Memphis Grizzlies at Chicago Bulls Fri. March 25, 2011 8 p.m. EST

With the NBA playoffs just around the corner, the Chicago Bulls have cemented themselves as the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics were given a lot of attention as the best team in the league earlier in the season, but once they made the deal to send Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder they have really struggled as of late seem to of loss that edge that they’ve had all year long.

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With that being said, the Chicago Bulls have taken advantage of this opportunity to move up in Eastern Conference and snatch the number one seed away from Boston Celtics. There are still a few games left in the NBA regular season and anything can happen from here on out as the Chicago Bulls could lose their grip on the number one seed in the East, but with the way their playing right now I really don’t see that happening as All-Star point guard Derrick Rose is almost certainly going to win the NBA MVP award and continue to lead his team to victory.

On Friday night, the Chicago Bulls will be hosting the Memphis Grizzlies in what could be a very competitive game between one of the elite squads in the league and a team looking to make the playoffs in the final stretch of the NBA regular season.

Coming into this match up with the Grizzlies, the Bulls have won two straight and nine of their last 10 games as they are arguably the hottest team in the league just behind two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. With that being said, Chicago see

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ms to be firing on all cylinders right now at they are shooting the clinch the top spot in the Eastern Conference and hold off a very resilient Boston Celtics team.

Along with the fact that they are playing some very good basketball right now, the Chicago Bulls of also benefited from the Boston Celtics really start to struggle as Kevin Garnett and company have only won five of their last 10 games and a longer look like a dominant team they were just no more than month ago.

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So coming into this matchup both of these teams will have agendas as the Chicago Bulls will look to stay hot and get one step closer to clinching the number one seed in the Eastern Conference while the Memphis Grizzlies will be attempting to keep their playoff hopes alive and stay in the eighth spot in the Western Conference. One thing watch in this game will be the matchups in the backcourt as Derrick Rose and Mike Conley Jr. will be going head-to-head.

Even though the Memphis Grizzlies have been a team on the rise as of late, I believe the Chicago Bulls should get yet another win stretched their winning streak to three in a row. If the Chicago Bulls can stay hot from here on out, they will be extremely tough to be in the Eastern Conference playoffs a real thorn in the side for teams like Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics

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Can the Los Angeles Lakers pull off the three-peat?

Over the last few years Los Angeles Lakers have been without a doubt the best team in the NBA. No matter who doubts this team year in and year out or what kind of struggles they may face throughout the NBA regular season, Kobe Bryant and company just seem to elevate their game at the right time every single year and make a charge in the playoffs in order to contend for yet another NBA title.

This season Phil Jackson and his squad came into the year with a target on their back once again as they had won two consecutive NBA titles and were favored to have a legitimate shot at winning their third in a row. This is obviously nothing new for Phil Jackson as he has won two three-peats with the Chicago Bulls back in the Michael Jordan era and one three-peat with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Shaq/Kobe era in th

Photo of Los Angeles Lakers Andrew Bynum.
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e City of Angels.

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With that being said, there is no head coach in the league today that is more prepared or experience when competing for an NBA title and a three-peat for that matter. There is no question that there has been plenty of bumps in the road this season as the Lakers have had their fair share of struggles. Not only have they been banged up with injuries as they normally are throughout the regular season as Andrew Bynum missed considerable time and the beginning of the year once again, but they’ve also hit some serious slumps during the year and at one point or thought to not have what it takes to compete for an NBA title.

Fortunately, as they seem to do every single season, the Lakers have hit that proverbial switch in which they just turned it onto another level entirely with the kind of championship swagger that had over the last couple years on the way to beating the Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

With three straight appearances in the NBA finals, the Los Angeles Lakers are no strangers to playoff time and knowing how to compete in order to beat the best of the best consistently. This year they might have their work cut out for them once again in the playoffs as they will have to almost certainly contend with the likes of one or more of the best teams in the Western Conference.

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Even though last season was no cakewalk for the Lakers as they do have to face a very good Oklahoma City Thunder squad and the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals, this time around it will be even tougher in perhaps their toughest challenge of the last three

Phil Jackson (center), coach, Los Angeles Lakers
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years.

With the San Antonio Spurs playing out of their minds this season and teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Ma

vericks playing at an extremely high level, the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers will have their work cut out for them from start to finish the minute the playoffs begin.

Personally, I still believe that no team in the Western Conference can beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a seven-game series, but they will be truly tested this time around as they can’t afford any injuries and must play their best basketball every single game from here on out.

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Can the Grizzlies upset the Spurs in the playoffs?

The NBA regular season is hitting the final stretch as they are coming to the end of March in starting one of the key months of the season in April. Usually around this time, the playoff seeding in both conferences are pretty much set as most of us get a good idea of what teams will be facing off in the first round.

As right now, the Eastern Conference has the best idea of what seems playoff bound as there are four teams within the conference that aborted plans playoff spots. With the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic clinched in their spots already, but only four spots left in the East and things could get interesting has teams will be battling it out for a chance to play the elite in this conference.

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The Western Conference on the other hand is looking much different right now has only one team in the conference has been held to clinch a playoff spot. With the San Antonio Spurs continuing their remarkable season with just 13 losses so far in over 70 games, Tim Duncan and company have been the first team in the West to post their tickets the playoffs.

Even though the seeding in the Western Conference can go up and down from here on out, the consensus at this point in time is the Spurs will walk up the number one seed and face off against the eighth seed in the West when it is all said and done.

As it always is, the eighth seed in both conferences usually tend to stay open until the final week of the NBA regular season. In the West there seems to be a tight race between the Memphis Grizzlies (37-31), Utah Jazz (36-33), Houston Rockets (35-34) and maybe even the Phoenix Suns (33-33).

Obviously, but the records shown above, the Memphis Grizzlies look to have the best chance of locking up that eighth spot and facing the San Antonio Spurs in the first round playoffs. This could be good news and it could be bad news for the Grizzlies as they have played exceptionally well recently, but will definitely have their work cut out for them against a very good Spurs squad.

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In my opinion, even though they probably won’t be thought to do much damage chance arguably the best team in league, the Grizzlies have a chance to pull off the upset as a matter pretty well with the Spurs.

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It is a bit of a stretch at this point in time to say that the Memphis Grizzlies could give the San Antonio Spurs a run for their money in the first round playoffs, but I wouldn’t count them out as it seems prudent to be extremely resilient when pushed up against a wall.

This matchup could easily change come playoff time, but with the way both teams are playing right now, I would anticipate this being the first round matchup between the first and eighth seed in the Western Conference.

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NBA Power Rankings: Lakers reign supreme once again

#1- Los Angeles Lakers (48-20)

Any time a team in any professional sport wins a championship a target is painted directly on their back the following season as every single team in there league will be giving them all they can handle each and every night. The Los Angeles Lakers have not only had to endure that treatment last season, but they have done it again this and so far they have come out on top as they are arguably once again the best team in the league.

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Lakers vs. Nets - Jan. 14, 2011

#2- Chicago Bulls (47-18)

Throughout this entire NBA regular season people have doubted the Chicago Bulls chance of competing with the best of the best and being able to make a run at an NBA title. As of yesterday, those doubts have vanished as the Chicago Bulls are officially owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.

Even though this team still has to prove themselves come playoff time, they have play extremely well at this point and have a lot of people talking about a Bulls-Lakers NBA Finals at season’s end.

#3- San Antonio Spurs (54-13)

All season long the San Antonio Spurs have been the best team in the league statistically and record wise. Even though they will almost certainly head into the playoffs as the number one overall seed in the Western Conference and the league’s best record, they have really shown some flaws as of late with two big losses to the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers and the revamped Heat.

If any team can turn it around and get back to playing dominant basketball on both ends of the floor it is the Spurs, but they will need to step it up from here on out if they expect to contend with the Lakers come playoff time.

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#4- Dallas Mavericks (47-19)

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Like most of the teams on this list, the Dallas Mavericks fell victim to the defending champs recently as Kobe Bryant and company came into Dallas and just dominated the Mavs from start to finish. Not only did this loss ultimately result in the Mavs dropping to the third seed in the West, but it may have also damaged their confidence if they should meet the Lakers during the playoffs.

#5- Boston Celtics (47-18)

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Boston Celtics were considered to be arguably the best team in the league as they were dominant on both ends of the floor, especially defensively. Ever since they made the trade sending arguably their best defender in Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder, this team has really struggled to get back to form and as a result have been knocked out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference and are in danger of falling out of the top five on this list.

#6-10- Miami Heat (46-21), Oklahoma City Thunder (43-23), Denver Nuggets (40-27), Orlando Magic (42-26) and Portland Trail Blazers (37-29)

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NBA Matchup: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks

San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Fri. March 18, 2011 8:30 p.m. EST

The NBA regular season is really starting to wind down now as most teams around the league have no more than 15 games last before they are either headed home or into the playoffs. Two teams in the Western Conference that could be serious force to be reckoned with come playoff time are the San Antonio Spurs (54-13) and the Dallas Mavericks (48-20).

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Even though the San Antonio Spurs seem to have a tight grip on the number one seed in the Western Conference right now the Dallas Mavericks have just fallen out of the second spot in the West after the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers just went on a tear recently, these two teams will probably be looking to kill each other when they go head to head this Friday night in Dallas, Texas.

There will be basically nothing on the line for either one of these teams coming into this matchup, but with the potential of these two teams possibly meeting in the playoffs they will want to feel each other out and get a sense of what the matchups should be if they are to meet in the Western Conference playoffs.

There is a slight chance that the Dallas Mavericks could get back into the second spot in the Western Conference if they can get back to their winning ways over the next few weeks. The Los Angeles Lakers may be arguably the hottest team in the league right now as they have gotten it championship swagger back after struggling a bit at about the midway point of the NBA regular season, but since the two teams have identical records right now and will play each other one more time before the playoffs, positioning in the West isn’t exactly set in stone right now.

With that being said, and the fact that this game will be played on their home floor in Dallas, the Mavericks could come out with some playoff intensity in this game as they never like losing at home or losing to the rival San Antonio Spurs.

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As for the San Antonio Spurs, they will be looking to get back on track as they have struggled as of late after losing two big games to Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat on their home floor in San Antonio. These two losses to NBA title contenders will have almost certainly been wakeup calls for head coach Gregg Popovich. With that being said, the Spurs might also come out with a playoff intensity in this game which could make things very interesting moving forward as this might be an all-out battle from start to finish.

As of right now, I believe the San Antonio Spurs are the better all around team, but with their playoff seeding basically being fairly solid at this point they might not take the game as seriously as the Dallas Mavericks. If the Spurs start to lose early on, I would anticipate Popovich letting his foot off the accelerator and letting his reserves get some time while resting his starters.

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NBA Matchup: Los Angeles Lakers @ Dallas Mavericks

Before Thursday night’s loss to the Miami Heat in South Beach, the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers were arguably the hottest team in the league with eight straight wins. After beating the league leading San Antonio Spurs in convincing fashion last Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers showed the entire league that they are ready to make the final push for the playoffs and yet another NBA title.

Unfortunately, even though they are still considered to be arguably the best team in the league right now after their impressive run as of late, they did suffer a loss to the Miami Heat and may have jeopardized their chances of competing with the Dallas Mavericks for the second seed in the Western Conference.

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With the Dallas Mavericks dominating the New York Knicks on Thursday (127-109) and the Los Angeles Lakers losing to the Miami Heat (94-88), the Mavs are now a game and half ahead of the Lakers in the West. Even though Thursday’s games did give the Mavs the edge moving forward, these two Western Conference heavyweights will be going head-to-head on Saturday night in Dallas.

A win for the Lakers on Saturday night would be a big step in the right direction moving forward as they would be just a half game back of the Mavs in the West. With 15 regular season games left before the playoffs, the Lakers will have a great opportunity to take over the second seed.

In my opinion, the Lakers could go 10-5 in the next 15 games as they play teams like the Utah Jazz (twice), Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and the New Orleans Hornets. Along with these relatively easy wins, the Los Angeles Lakers will also face these playoff bound teams in the final stretch of the season: Dallas Mavericks (twice), Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers (twice), Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.

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So things are looking up for the Lakers as they could head into the playoffs full steam ahead, but they will first have to get past the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. Not only could the Lakers meet the Mavs in the playoffs at some point, but they will need to get this win in Dallas this weekend in order to get back on track and prove that the loss to the Heat has only motivated them more moving forward.

This game will be another tough one for the Lakeshow as they will be facing a Dallas Mavericks squad that is coming off a huge win over Carmelo Anthony and the revamped New York Knicks 127-109. Even though the Los Angeles Lakers pose some pretty big matchup problems in the paint for the Dallas Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki and company will give the defending champs a run for their money on Saturday night as they have won eight of their last ten games.

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Is Kevin Love the best power forward in the NBA today?

Coming into this NBA regular season, all anyone was paying attention to was the recent big-name free agents signed around the league like LeBron James (Miami Heat), Amare Stoudemire (New York Knicks) and Carlos Boozer (Chicago Bulls), but the real story this year has been the emergence of some of the most talented young players in the league like Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) and Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves).

Over the past few years, the Clippers, Bulls and Timberwolves have been perennial bottom feeders in the NBA with little or no hope for the future. Fortunately, all three of these struggling NBA franchises were able to get their hands on some promising young players that had the potential to turn the teams around.

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Even though the Chicago Bulls are the only team of the three that will make the playoffs at season’s end, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Minnesota Timberwolves might not be that far off from being playoff bound in the next few years. There is no doubt that Blake Griffin is the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award this season and has stolen some of the spotlight away from the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers in Los Angeles, but it has been the Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love that has really started to make headlines as of late.

With forwards like Tim Duncan, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley before him, Kevin Love has had his work cut out for him in terms of being compared with the best of the best at the power forward position in the NBA. Last season Love was a solid contributor for the T’Wolves and thought to be the next big thing in Minnesota, but no one knew just how good this kid from UCLA would turn out to be.

This season Kevin Love has put up some monster numbers and made history with unbelievable performances. With 20.9 points, 15.8 rebounds (league leader) and shooting 47% from the floor, Love has been arguably the best power forward in the NBA this season and recently cemented himself in the record books by passing NBA great Moses Malone for most double-doubles in a row in a single season.

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With his 51st straight double-double (23 points, 17 rebounds) against the Dallas Mavericks on Mon. March 7, 2011, Kevi

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n Love passed Moses Malone and has made a case as one of the best players in this league. The Minnesota Timberwolves may still be a few years away from being playoff bound in the Western Conference, that is if Kevin Love sticks around or takes the high road like Kevin Garnett did, but Love has definitely made an impression and is quickly becoming a rising star in the NBA.

In my opinion, there is no other forward in the league that comes close to Kevin Love right now in terms of putting up the numbers every single night, but whether or not he is willing to stick around if this franchise can’t surround him with talented players remains to be seen.

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Miami Heat continue to struggle with fourth straight loss

The one team that made the biggest splash in the NBA free agent market over the summer was without a doubt the Miami Heat. With the addition of superstars LeBron James and Chris Bosh alongside the recently re-signed face of the franchise in Dwyane Wade, this squad looked more like an All-Star team than an NBA roster, but even though they were able to land the three most sought after free agents in the summer, they have had their fair share of struggles this season.

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As any athlete and head coach knows, creating team chemistry is not something that comes easy or something that can be attained after just a few games of playing together. Team chemistry takes time and patience, but with all this added attention in South Beach, the demand and pressure to become a winner right now may have started to take its toll on the Miami Heat.

Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat
Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat

Earlier in the season, a lot of people around the league started to question this team as the Miami Heat had gotten out to a very disappointing record of 9-8. With the three superstars really starting to struggle in South Beach, the consensus was that it was going to take some time before the Heat could actually contend with the best of the best in the Eastern Conference.

Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case as the Miami Heat quickly got back on track and rose all the way up to the second seed in the East behind the Boston Celtics. Even though they had been able to jump back up the rankings in the East, they have had problems against some of the best of the best in the league all season long.

On Sunday afternoon, the Miami Heat played host to the Chicago Bulls in a game that was thought to be a rout in favor of LeBron James and company. With three straight losses to the New York Knicks (91-86), Orlando Magic (99-96) and the San Antonio Spurs (125-95), the Miami Heat continued to show how flawed their game plan is moving forward. The loss to the Spurs was the most devastating to the Heat as they were just dominated from start to finish by arguably the best team in the league.

Even though the Chicago Bulls have showed that they are a serious force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this season as Derrick Rose has become the NBA MVP favorite, the Miami Heat were thought to make easy work for the resurgent Bulls team, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

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The game was tight for the majority of the contest and the Heat did seem to have the game in hands at times, but the Bulls turned out to be just too much for them to handle down the stretch. Derrick Rose led the way for the Bulls once again with a game-high 27 points, LeBron James finished with a team-high 26 points, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Heat to victory and snap their losing streak as Chicago went on to win 87-86.

With this win the Chicago Bulls have taken over the second seed in the Eastern Conference as the Miami Heat fall to third in the conference and have some serious issues moving forward.

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NBA Power Rankings: Lakers reclaim top spot with dominant victory over Spurs

#1 Los Angeles Lakers (45-19)

The two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers may have been struggling heading into the All-Star break, but the loss to arguably the worst team in the league in the Cleveland Cavaliers may have been just what the doctor ordered for this team as they have been the hottest team in the NBA since that loss.

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With seven straight wins and a dominant performance over arguably the best team in the league in the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers are making a case for the fact that they might be NBA Finals bound for the fourth straight year.

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#2 Chicago Bulls (43-18)

Even though the Chicago Bulls were targeting hometown boy free agent Dwyane Wade this last summer, not being able to sign the superstar may have been a blessing in disguise as point guard Derrick Rose has quickly become the favorite for NBA MVP this season and has led this team to second place in the Eastern Conference after a big win over the Miami Heat.

Whether or not the Bulls can maintain this kind of momentum remains to be seen, but as of right now they seem to be playing as well as any team in the league with a solid shot at clinching a high seed in the East heading into the playoffs.

#3 San Antonio Spurs (51-12)

Throughout the majority of this NBA regular season, the San Antonio Spurs have been the team to beat as they have been able to stay relatively healthy and consistently win basketball games. Ever since the All-Star break though, the Spurs have lost two big games to the Memphis Grizzlies and the arch rival Los Angeles Lakers.

Even though these losses haven’t really affected their chances of clinching the top seed in the West, they have shown that this team can be vulnerable and as a result they have fallen to third from first on this list.

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#4 Dallas Mavericks (45-17)

The Dallas Mavericks are staying strong in the Western Conference once again as they have been able to hold on to the second seed in the West for quite some time now and got a big boost off the bench with the addition of Corey Brewer, but they might be in danger of losing their grip on the second seed if they can’t hold of the Los Angeles Lakers.

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With just a handful of games left in the NBA regular season, the Mavs will be looking to win as many as possible before playoff time as the defending champs begin to breathe down their necks.

#5 Boston Celtics (46-15)

With all that has happen in the NBA over the past few weeks like the resurgence of the Lakers, struggles of the Heat and the Carmelo Anthony trade, the Boston Celtics have been able to fly relatively under the radar, but they may have their work cut out for them in the final stretch of the season trying to hold off the Chicago Bulls for the top spot in the East.

#6-10 Orlando Magic (40-23), Oklahoma City Thunder (39-22), Memphis Grizzlies (35-29), Miami Heat (43-20), Denver Nuggets (37-27)

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NBA Power Rankings: Lakers rise, Heat fall

1- San Antonio Spurs (49-11)

The San Antonio Spurs continue to play consistently well as the sit atop the NBA power rankings once again. Not only have Tim Duncan and company been able to keep their loss total to just 11, which is pretty impressive to say the least, but they are considered to be the team to beat in the Western Conference from here on out.

The Spurs did suffer a slight setback recently with former All-Star point guard Tony Parker going down with a calf injury, but if San Antonio can continue to play at this level with George Hill at the point over the next month or so, they will almost certainly clinch the number one seed in the West.

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2- Dallas Mavericks (44-16)

The Dallas Mavericks have played an excellent brand on basketball as of late and are just five games behind the league leading San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference, but unless Greg Popovich’s squad starts to struggle without Tony Parker, the Mavs will probably stick at the number two spot.

Mark Cuban made another key addition recently by picking up the recently bought Corey Brewer. This could prove to be a key in the final stretch of the season as Brewer provides an extra scoring punch off the bench.

3- Chicago Bulls (41-17)

There more people doubt this team, the more success they seem to have. Along with All-Star point guard Derrick Rose quickly turning into a legitimate superstar in this league and leading the way in the NBA MVP race, the Chicago Bulls have become arguably one of the best teams in the league.

Whether or not D-Rose and company can compete with the likes of the Celtics, Heat and Magic during the playoffs remains to be seen, but with wins over the Spurs, Lakers and the Heat earlier in the season, the Bulls could be dangerous to say the least.

4- Boston Celtics (43-15)

Not quite sure why the Boston Celtics are this far down this list of the NBA’s best, but I’d bet they will almost certainly rise higher and higher as we get closer and closer to playoff time. The Celtics did make a bold and questionable move by trading away arguably their best defensive big man in center Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder, but they should be able to continue to hold their own as long as they can stay healthy.

Things will get very interesting heading towards the playoffs as we see how well the Celtics can adjust to life without Perkins.

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5- Los Angeles Lakers (43-19)

The two-time defending NBA champions have had their fair share of struggles this season, but they have been able to get back to form recently with five straight wins, three of which over playoff bound teams. This veteran team might still be headed for disappointment come playoff time, but right now they look about as good as it gets in the Western Conference.

6-10: Miami Heat (43-17), Orlando Magic (39-22), Oklahoma City Thunder (36-22), Memphis Grizzlies (34-28), Denver Nuggets (35-26)

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