The Boston Celtics are one of the Lakers’ biggest threats and they are preparing for perhaps one more Finals run. The Celtics lost Game 7 of the 2010 Finals in Los Angeles, and ever since that day they have been focused on revenge. The Celtics currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference and they are playing some of their best basketball in years.
The main reason for the Celtics’ latest success is the All-Star caliber play of young point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo has a knack for finding his teammates for open baskets, and he is having a historic season with incredible assist numbers.
Although Boston is a very old team, its veteran leadership and experience will be a boon come playoff time. However, the loss of Kendrick Perkins will eventually lead to the demise of the Celtics. The Celtics’ chances of winning a championship greatly diminished after losing their starting center.
The Miami Heat had an unforgettable off-season, and their roster was completely changed over night. The Heat went from a mediocre Eastern Conference team to a legitimate title contender thanks to LeBron James’ “Decision.” Although James and Chris Bosh were lambasted by critics for their decision, James and Bosh had created a new dynasty in the NBA.
The Heat struggled early on in the season as the players were still trying to figure out their roles and positions in the system. However, as time moved on the Heat players became more accustomed to playing with a multitude of stars. This change in team chemistry was evident when the Heat dominated the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day.
The Heat is also a very underrated defensive team, and their defensive intensity exceeds that of the Lakers. Albeit the Heat’s “Big Three” has never played a playoff series, they are still capable of beating any team four times out-of-seven.
The Chicago Bulls have been the biggest surprise in the NBA this season, and point guard Derrick Rose is an MVP candidate. Rose has been carrying the Bulls on his shoulders for the entire season, and despite his placid demeanor, he is fierce on the court. The Bulls may not have many prolific scorers, but they play as a cohesive unit with great team chemistry.
Along with the signing of Carlos Boozer, the Bulls hired defensive minded coach Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau turned the Bulls turned into a defensive juggernaut, and a team that is able to shut down an opponent on any given night. Chicago is currently second in the NBA in terms of opponent field goal percentage (.431), trailing only the Miami Heat (.426). If the Bulls remain healthy and Derrick Rose continues his MVP-like play, the Bulls may slip into the NBA Finals.
The Orlando Magic faced-off with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals, and many people believed the team would be a threat for years to come. The seemingly innocuous Dwight Howards is an impeccable defender who has the ability to thwart opponents from penetrating to the basket.
However, the Magic have been a big disappointment this season and the team’s title chances are long gone. In seasons prior, the Magic was known for its deadly three-point shooting and high octane offense. Now, the Magic are lacking three-point shooters and opponents have figured out a way to defend Dwight Howard.
Although the Magic have Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas, the team is still not on the same level as the Celtics or Heat.
New York Knicks
“The Knicks Are Back.” Last summer Amar’e Stoudemire told New York that their beloved team had returned. After seasons of debacles and disappointing teams, the Knicks are in the playoff run for the first time in nearly a decade. For the first half of the season, the Knicks were fighting for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, and no one believed the Knicks could challenge any of the upper echelon teams.
Nevertheless, shortly after the All-Star break the Knicks traded for All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. The team now has three legitimate stars, and has become an Eastern Conference contender. Whenever a team has two prolific scorers such as Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, they will always be title hopeful.
Although this new Knicks team has only played one game, their potential has yet to be seen. The Lakers should be cautious of the Knicks, since they do not know how good the Knicks can be.