5. Los Angeles Lakers (7): Don’t get too excited fellow Lakers fans. A four-game winning-streak was enough to to bump the Lakers back into the top five (especially with Dallas’ recent struggles); and wins over New Orleans and New York was nice to see, but if the Lakers want to regain their position as the NBA’s alpha dogs, they are going to need something in the neighborhood of eight, nine or ten consecutive victories. Unfortunately for the purple and gold, losing Matt Barnes for the next eight weeks is going to make that goal much more challenging.
4. Orlando Magic (6): The new-look Magic have won nine in a row and don’t appear ready to let up any time soon. With three of their next four games against New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Boston on the road, their streak will be challenged; regardless, Hedo Turkoglu has seemingly risen from his grave and is posting modest numbers 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 12 games with the Magic, including a triple-double during Orlando’s 20-point win over Golden State. Even with no real backup to Dwight Howard, this team is going to be battling Boston, Orlando, Chicago and Miami for a berth in the finals.
3. Boston Celtics (2): This team continues to be hit with injuries, but it hasn’t caused them to deviate off course whatsoever. Garnett’s out, but Rondo is back in action dishing out his freakish assist numbers for the Celtics, who average a league-best 24.6 dimes per game. Age just does not seem to play a factor for the C’s, as Ray Allen (35) and Paul Pierce (33) look as young as ever, helping the Celtics maintain the second best record in the league while Rondo and Garnett have been sidelined with injuries.
2. San Antonio Spurs (1): After blowing out Oklahoma City last Saturday, the Spurs proceded to drop two consecutive to Boston and New York, then was barely able to knock of Indiana and Minnesota. Nevertheless, this team doesn’t have much to worry about other than the possibility of an injury. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson are carrying this team through the season while Timmy D rests up for the playoffs to show the rest of the world that the Lakers aren’t the only team capable of representing the West in the NBA Finals.
1. Miami Heat (3): It’s almost enough to make me want to gouge my eyes out, but there’s no denying the fact that the Miami Heat are playing the best basketball in the NBA right now. Everyone knew that it was coming too; LeBron, Wade and Bosh were bound to click sooner or later and reel off a ton of wins in a row. They have won 21 of their last 22, and their all-star trio is accounting for 67.4 percent of their points. They may not have anyone reliable past their big three, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the Heat, who have only lost once since starting off 9-8.