The Dallas Mavericks have the best record in the league but get no respect for it. The Kings, by common consensus, are the best team in the league, but they keep losing to teams like Miami and Toronto.
San Antonio and Portland have put together impressive winning streaks recently, especially the Spurs, with their eight-game road winning streak. Those streaks, however, have only served to make people wonder whether or not both of these teams have peaked too early.
The Lakers have surged into the seventh spot in the West on the back of a four-game winning streak, and on Kobe’s scoring streak.
They targeted the sixth spot in the West in January and are now only two and a half games back of Utah for that spot. They are finally playing like the three-time defending champions.
Yet people are wondering how much Kobe and Shaq will have left come playoff time, especially with Shaq hurting.
As far as the East goes, almost all the leading teams seem to exhibit Jekyl and Hyde characteristics.
Indiana had the best record in the Eastern Conference, and the second best record in the league. Then they lost four games straight, and still stayed tied for first in the Eastern Conference.
How did they do it? Well, Detroit, who moved into the one spot, has lost three straight.
What about the New Jersey Nets? The Nets have lost back-to-back games themselves, putting them a half game behind both the Pistons and the Pacers.
Just before the All-Star break, Philadelphia couldn’t buy a win. Since the All-Star break they are 6-0.
Given all this, I still hold that the road to the NBA championship goes through the Lakers first. I think the Kings have the best shot at beating them, but I’m not going to predict it until it happens.
As for the Eastern Conference, I want to pick the Nets to repeat as champions and make it to another NBA Finals, but I can’t rule out the Pacers (they still have Reggie Miller), or even the Pistons, who don’t get half as much credit as they deserve.
Bottom line, its anybody’s guess what will happen come playoff time.
In fact, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen between now and the end of the regular season.