The Super Bowl is a week away, college football is behind us, Major League Baseball's spring training is still down the road a bit, the NHL has their annual goal-fest, otherwise known as an all start game today, so it's only fitting that I take my first look at the NBA. As most of my readers are aware, I don't tend to pay much attention to pro basketball, or even college hoops, for that matter, prior to the middle of February. But with the traditional powers Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and even Oklahoma city struggling, it's probably worth taking a look at the chances for some new faces to come to the forefront.
Atlanta in the East and Golden State in the West both got off to hot starts, and of late haven't shown any sign of slowing down. The Hawks are in the midst of a 15 game winning streak, which was preceded by runs of 5 and 9, both punctuated by just a single loss. The Warriors own the league's best record at 35 - 6, and they own victory streaks of 16 and 8. It's interesting that Golden State has also played the fewest games of any team in the league, which makes me wonder if they can hold up under a heavier schedule than the teams chasing them. But nonetheless, it's an impressive first half.
The really interesting aspect to the first half of this season is that currently, no team in the top four in either conference has been to an NBA Finals in the past 15 seasons. That's right. If the season ended today, no team with home court advantage in the playoffs would have played in a Finals since 2000. And even more compelling is that only four teams with Finals appearances during that time would even qualify for the post-season. Is it safe to assume that there could be a significant changing of the guard, or is this just a half-season anomaly? Of course, in the West, only four teams have played in the Finals during the period I'm referencing, and almost half of the appearances were by the Lakers, who are hopelessly out of contention. Besides the Heat in the East, the list is more extensive, with only Miami appearing in more than two Finals.
Can Dallas or San Antonio make a run in the West and create some noise come playoff time? Absolutely, especially considering the relative inexperience of the teams currently ahead of them. I like the way Houston can play, especially when James Harden gets on a roll. On the other side of the bracket, it's hard not to think that Lebron James can't get the Cavaliers playing better as the season progresses. After all, since falling below .500 during James' nine game rest, Cleveland is unbeaten since his return . And although the Bulls have struggled recently, they're still dangerous with a healthy Derrick Rose.
Well, that's my brief take on the NBA at this point. The run to the playoffs should be interesting, and the post-season itself might be among the most wide open it's been in recent memory.
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