This NBA season has been a tale of two almost entirely distinct conferences. Once again, the battle in the East looks like it will be a repeat faceoff of the perennial powerhouses, the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls.
Although the Magic, Pacers and 76ers have shown glimpses of hope for a playoff run, all three teams have exposed the kind of weaknesses that both the Heat and Bulls can fully exploit.
The West, however, is about as wide open and predictable as the next time Tiger Woods will win a golf tournament.
The emergence of Lob City has coincided with the addition of Chris Paul, one of the NBA’s best floor generals. The Oklahoma City Thunder remains the favorite in the West, as the Durant-Westbrook-Harden trio has spurred them to the best record in the conference, 27-7.
But OKC is quickly being challenged by the surging San Antonio Spurs. Veterans Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker are paving the way for their young up-and-comers like Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair, who have seamlessly found their rhythm in the Spurs squad.
Can you ever really count out Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, though?
As unorganized and sloppy as the Lakers have looked, they are still just one game behind the Clippers in their division. The team currently, and almost exclusively, functions around their big three—Bryant, Bynum and Gasol. But if they want to sustain a playoff run, then the second half of the season will have to be about spreading the ball around and getting a variety of players to contribute on both ends of the court.
Ultimately, it’s the suspense and thrill of watching which teams surge, surprise or stand still as the second half gets underway.
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