Orlando beat Los Angeles twice. Boston beat Orlando. Cleveland and Boston beat each other. Los Angeles beat Boston and Cleveland. So who's the best? Well, Los Angeles beat and didn't lose to two of the three competitors. None of the others can say the same. Yeah, but Orlando and Cleveland haven't even played each other yet. Oh, but Orlando did beat Los Angeles twice. So I guess they have to be considered the best. No wait. Boston beat Orlando, so the Celtics must have the edge. Oh that's right though, Boston lost to both Los Angeles and Cleveland; so it's between them two. And since Los Angeles beat them last night, I guess that makes L.A. the best, right? Noooo, Orlando beat them twice. As you can see, it's pretty obvious this argument is going round in circles. Head to head matchups isn't going to decide who the best team is. But what will? It'd be a waste of time to look at the standings, which merely show the four teams separated by no more than a game. So the answers have to be elsewhere. Right now the verdict is merely open for opinion. Here's what I'm thinking at this point in time.
4. Boston Celtics - The Big Trio for Boston seems tiredsome as of late. Then again, who could blame them? On paper their schedule can look weak at times, but in reality, it's never weak. When a team wears the title of defending champs, they become the target of everyone in the league. Each team feels a little more incentive to win when the champs come to town. Or at least that's the mindset Boston has played with this year. From Day 1, Doc Rivers told his team that every game would be a Game 7 for them. Well, Boston won 27 of their first 29 series then. Pretty impressive, huh? But after a while, playing like it's your last game, day in and day out, has to take a toll on you. Especially for Pierce, 31, Garnett, 32, and Allen, 33, years of age. The Celtics grinded out victories for two months, and I think, in the process, wore themselves out. Boston is begininng to find its swagger back, however, I think it is only a matter of time before the young guns' extra step outplays the Celtics' experience.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers may be the best team in the NBA. However, as of right now, I cannot say that for sure. Lebron's Olympic experience is paying tremendous dividends for he and the Cavs. His defense has been better than anyone in the league, and he's the clear-favorite for MVP right now. However, injuries have maligned the Cavs and set them back a bit. If the Cavs can get and stay healthy, they're a serious threat for the title. If I could give any advice to any team in the East, it'd be to not let this team earn the #1 seed for the playoffs. At 20-0 thus far in the Quicken Loans Arena, it's safe to say the Cavs are itching for that home-court advantage.
2. Orlando Magic - I know, I know. How can the Magic be #2 if they beat the Lakers twice this year? Well, I watched the Lakers-Magic game closely the other night, and I noticed one oddity that stood out: Kobe Bryant's performance down the stretch. I don't know if it's the piece of tape over his eye or if he just had a bad game, but he wasn't the true Kobe. It's hardly arguable to say Kobe isn't the most clutch player in the NBA, because let's face it, he is. Against the Magic the other night, he wasn't. That doesn't happen often. And in a seven game series, that's not going to happen four times. The Magic are a phenomenal team. They're shooting lights out this year. Hedo Turkoglu has been "on like donkey kong" and Jameer Nelson is shooting the ball as if he took 1,000 shots a day this summer. Cause he did. Then there's Dwight Howard. What more needs to be said? It seems like he averages 20/20 a game. This team is good. Dangerously good. And their coach makes sure they stay that way every game. Cause that's his job. If the shots are dropping from 3 in the playoffs, the Magic could find themselves crowned NBA champions in June.
1. Los Angeles Lakers - Their second lineup could start and do better than a lot of teams in the NBA right now. They were runner-up last year without Bynum and with a soft Gasol. Now they've got Bynum, Gasol is playing hard, and they don't even need to start Lamar Odom. Trevor Ariza has been electric off the bench. Derek Fisher's shot has been silk. And oh yeah, they've got Kobe Bryant. Like I said before, if Kobe plays like Kobe, the Magic don't beat the Lakers. They know they let a championship slip away last year, and they're making sure it doesn't happen again. I questioned whether the Cavs could beat them in a seven game series, and then the Lakers beat them 105-88. The team is stacked and they don't even have Walton and Farmar, because of injuries. If the Lakers can stay healthy and keep up the intensity, I don't expect to see them anywhere but the podium in June.
Image taken from Yahoo! Sports