The NBA's Best Used to Reside Out West, but is the East the New Beast?
For the most part, the 2000's belonged to the teams in the NBA's Western Conference. It was never a question of who would win in the NBA Finals, but rather who would come out of the West, because nobody really thought that the Eastern Conference representative had much of a chance to win a title.
Sure, the Detroit Pistons were good for a while. The Chicago Bulls had already ended their own run when ownership thought that they were bigger than the players. How did that work out for the two Jerry's?
I bet that most people forget that teams such as the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets all reached the NBA Finals within the last ten years.
But that was then. The Boston Celtics began the turnaround in the East, and although the Los Angeles Lakers are the two time defending champions, I truly feel as if there are actually stronger teams in the Eastern Conference.
I know that may sound foolish. But overall, I would fear more teams in the East than I would in the West. It has been since the early - mid 1990's that I have said that with a straight face.
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Take last night for example. The Boston Celtics defeated the San Antonio Spurs. Yes, they were at home and won by just two points, but they did so without Kevin Garnett. They have also been without Kendrick Perkins for the entire season. Yet, they still beat the team with the best record in the league. The Celtics are second.
But it doesn't all begin and end with the Celtics. The Miami Heat are finally starting to come together, and while they may still lack quality wins (everyone wants to discount their Christmas Day win over the Lakers, because, well, everyone is beating the Lakers by a lot right now), they are certainly coming together like everyone expected. They will be a very difficult out come playoff time.
The Dallas Mavericks are still a very tough team, even with Dirk Nowitzki sidelined, but do they really scare anyone once the playoffs advance into the second round? The Lakers will undoubtedly turn things around, as they can turn it on at any time. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz could make a playoff push and would not surprise many people, but do you really fear the New Orleans Hornets, Denver Nuggets or Portland Trailblazers?
Granted, there are still eight teams above .500 in the West, compared to just six in the East. While the West may still be deeper, teams such as the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks could now give any of the teams out West a run for their money. The Bulls hold victories over the Thunder, Mavericks and Lakers. The Magic and Knicks also handed the Spurs a pair of losses. The east is officially back.
That has not been said for quite some time now. Basically since the days of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
The league has come a long way since then. Some can still argue that the west is the best. But the east is also a beast once again.
Pro Basketball Fans Miami Heat Correspondent
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