We all know who the best teams in the league have been this season. Oklahoma City, Chicago, San Antonio, Miami - obviously the favorites to win it all. But there will always be teams that we didn't necessarily expect to go deep into the playoffs. Teams that click at the right time. That come to play when it counts. Teams whose defense gets more fierce and whose shooting percentages go up. Teams who don't care what their rank is or that the season was shorter than normal. Teams who are well coached and well manned and just want to win.
So who might those teams be this year? Sh*t if I know. But I think these four teams could surprise us.
The New York Knicks
What an up and down year for the Knicks it has been. First Carmelo Anthony was out and it was during this time that the 15-minutes of Linsanity was in fact, pretty insane. They had their longest win streak of the season with Anthony out; and their longest losing streak after he returned. Then D'Antoni left, deciding he wasn't the man for the job and suddenly they had a new head coach in Mike Woodsen. Not to long after, Stoudemire, the teams second leading scorer and rebounder, was sidelined with a back injury. He's due back in uniform Friday in Cleveland.
But the Knicks are a good team on paper. They have Amare, Carmelo, Tyson and Baron. And Mike Woodsen is a good coach. If they're healthy, which they should be except for Lin, and play like a team, they have the talent to rile up the East.
The Boston Celtics
No one has really has had a ton of great things to say about the Celtics this year. They haven't been the talk of the town or the popular subject of playoff conversation.
But if you look at their team a little closer, you realize they're probably quite content being a sleeper pick. They'd rather be out of the limelight this year and not have the pressure to perform like the favorites do. But they've been there before. They have veteran leadership in the Big Three (Pierce, Allen and Garnett) and have recently gotten a huge spark at a crucial time in Avery Bradley. Oh yeah, they also have that guy Rajon Rondo running the point, and he's averaging over 12 points and 11 assists a game. What do I think of the Celtics in the playoff this year? That they will under promise and over deliver.
The Memphis Grizzlies
We all remember last season when the No. 8-seeded Grizzlies knocked off No. 1 San Antonio in the first round, winning the series 4 games to 2. It was only the fourth time in NBA history that an 8 seed defeated a 1. And who's to say they can't do it again?
Memphis has a talented, gritty team that's full of heart and a desire to win. They currently sit as the 5th seed overall in the Western Conference, having played about half of this season without Zach Randolph, who many argue is their best player. Gasol compliments Randolph extremely well down low and Rudy Gay has been playing out of his mind this year. They also have Tony Allen, one of the league's best defenders and guys like O.J. Mayo and Gilbert Arenas coming off the bench.
The reality is, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Memphis made this list. They are not a team to be taken lightly this postseason.
The Dallas Mavericks
Certainly this is probably the biggest stretch on the list. They aren't exactly playing with the same team that they won with last year. They've actually been criticized all year for not playing like "defending champions."
And they haven't. There's no question. But here's what they do have: Dirk, Kidd, Terry, Marion, Haywood. And with the recent departure of Lamar Odom, they've given more time to backup power forward, Brandan Wright, whose giving them valuable minutes off the bench; way more valuable than Odom ever gave this year. In the games they've won since Odom essentially got fired, Wright has averaged over 12 points and 7 rebounds per game. His elevated play couldn't come at a better time either; with only a few games remaining in the regular season.
What final, intangible benefit do the Mavs also have going for them?
The experience of having been there before.
Look to see these four teams making a statement this postseason.
Questions or comments? Get at me Hoopsvibers!
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