January 18, 2009 by AlexV
At this point there are five title contenders in the NBA; in the west, the Los Angeles Lakers (31-8) and the San Antonio Spurs 26-13, and in the east, the Cleveland Cavaliers (31-7), Orlando Magic (33-8), and Boston Celtics (33-9).
Right now, I would put the Spurs over the Lakers. I know the records are five games different, but lately I’ve been seeing Kobe take a lot of shots in the fourth quarter in games against Orlando and San Antonio that just haven’t been going down. Pau Gasol is having a great season, but now the Spurs have four guys who can be counted on to hit big shots, and not in any particular order; Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and now Roger Mason Jr.
Furthermore, the Spurs show no signs of getting older, and they even seem like they are playing “younger” than last year.
In the east, the one team with the overall best consistency has been the Cavaliers. The Celtics seem like their big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen are getting older (More-so Garnett and Pierce), and their role players have not stepped up much in their recent strings of losses. I would have to say that right now Pierce and Garnett seem to be taking a step back, but I know they can turn that around. However, until that happens, I have to keep them under Orlando and Cleveland, even if they are the defending champs.
The Orlando Magic just seem like they play within themselves every game, and that has been just enough to pull out some big road wins this season. But with their ever-growing regularity of settling on huge three pointers down the stretch to win games may not be so hot come playoff time… “You live by the three, you die by the three.”
Finally, it is the Cleveland Cavaliers who are my top pick in the east. LeBron James seems to be coming into his own, as if what he had been doing already wasn’t enough. He is really hitting his peak now, and is relying on his teammates much longer in games than Kobe Bryant.
What’s even more is that they (Cleveland) aren’t even letting any of the non-contenders come close to beating them at home. If they can hold on to the number one seed come playoff time, and have homecourt advantage in the Finals, I will pick them to win it all.