Monday , Dec , 22 , 2008 Oly Sandor

Who can challenge Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers in playoffs?

Right now, the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers are the class of the NBA. The green-and-white has an eighteen game winning streak and 26-2 record. Sticking with the Eastern Conference, the franchise formerly known as Jordan-over-Ehlo sits at an equally impressive 23-4. And Hollywood, after back-to-back losses, has dropped to a ‘disappointing’ 21-5 mark …


Who can challenge Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers in playoffs?Each week HoopsVibe drops a basketball related list for fans to weigh-in on. We call it ‘Listed’ …

There are three. Then there is everybody else.

Right now, the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers are the class of the NBA.

The green-and-white has an eighteen game winning streak and 26-2 record. Sticking with the Eastern Conference, the franchise formerly known as Jordan-over-Ehlo sits at an equally impressive 23-4. And Hollywood, after back-to-back losses, has dropped to a ‘disappointing’ 21-5 mark.

Here is the question: can any team challenge Boston, Cleveland, and Los Angeles in a seven game playoff series?

In this edition of ‘Listed’, HoopsVibe The Blog lists five, best-of-the rest teams, who, under the right circumstances, could push the Celtics, Cavaliers, and Lakers in the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs respectively. As always, read the post, form an opinion, and get at us with thoughts.

Atlanta …

Some things never change. For example, Atlanta still plays before a deathly, quiet crowd. And the Josh Childress fiasco showed ownership/management is as dysfunctional as ever.

At least, the NBA’s version of Siberia has changed on court. After years of losing, the Hawks are good. Real good. Joe Johnson is a legit superstar, capable of scoring and defending. Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Marvin Williams form a young, ultra-athletic frontcourt. New comers Mo Evans and Flip Murray have strengthened a once shaky bench.

A rejuvenated Mike Bibby is the key. Remember, the veteran point guard was the go-to-guy for some terrifically entertaining Sacramento sides. And his stroke off pick-and-rolls and back cuts can’t be stopped.

Last year Atlanta pushed Boston to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs. Not short on confidence, this emerging group likes their chances in a rematch against the Celtics.

New Orleans …

After an up-and-down November, the Hornets have their buzz back and boast an imposing 16-7 record. Best of all, they overcame early season adversity playing through injuries to starters Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler.

Two additions make New Orleans scary. Of course, there is the big-ticket free agent in James Posey. ‘Pose’ is a prime-time player, the second coming of Robert Horry. Don’t sleep on the recent acquisition of Antonio Daniels, either. The veteran has a championship from his run in San Antonio and valuable post-season experience with Seattle and Washington.

Oh yeah, there is also some guy called Chris Paul and his partner in crime on the low block David West.

Orlando …

Dwight Howard can physically dominate a playoff round. Orlando can’t beat a top team like Boston or Cleveland, but it’s a good idea to avoid a seven-footer who, when hot, can easily average 35 points and 20 rebounds in a series.

San Antonio …

No team wants ‘The Big Three’ come playoff time. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker have shown they are still dangerous by jumping out to a 16-10 record.

San  Antonio’s secret: airtight defence. Gregg Popovich’s crew gets stops, which means they can win road playoff games and steal home court advantage. The Spurs, if they upgrade their complementary pieces, can absolutely contend in the formidable Western Conference.

Utah …

The Jazz, at 17-12, is having another solid season. In a short series, they compete against most NBA teams.

Utah’s greatest strength is discipline. Their half court sets are a thing of beauty; players use screens perfectly, cut into open space, and share the ball unselfishly. On defense, they compete and bang each night.

Don’t forget they have a top coach, deep bench, and two Olympians in Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer.

Can any team challenge Boston, Cleveland, and Los Angeles come playoff time? Let us know in the comment box below and come back to HoopsVibe the blog for more NBA tidbits. Photo courtesy of j visser.