West - Los Angeles Lakers
It's tough to really know what to do with the Lakers 'resurgence', but Kobe, Dwight, and Nash are producing enough offensively these days to cover up the team's other deficiencies. At this point, I do believe the Jazz will be the odd team out. That backcourt is hanging by a thread- every successive game they get decent production out of Jamaal Tinsley and Randy Foye is a gift from the heavens.
East - Milwaukee Bucks
Toronto and Philly are no competition, so this was going to come down to the Bucks and Celtics fighting over the Seventh Seed. Boston is absolutely living on borrowed time without Rondo, but Lee, Pierce and Terry are combining to cover at least some of that lost production for the time being. The teams are pretty much a wash, but the Bucks have a tougher schedule and the Redick acquisition, as we mentioned, creates as many questions as it answers.
Potential Party Crashers
West - Memphis Grizzles
I suppose the Grizzles don't really qualify as a surprise, but I, like most, see the Spurs and Thunder as the overwhelming favorites to meet again in the conference finals, so any interruption to that would be noteworthy. The Grizzles have won seven straight- Austin Daye, Ed Davis, and Quincy Pondexter are all giving great minutes that the Griz weren't getting at the start of the season. Defensively, now that Gay has been swapped out for Prince, there is no weak spot in their starting five, and they can look scary good at times. If the Spurs were to go cold from the outside in a potential 1-4 matchup, they might just get their tickets punched
East - Chicago Bulls.
NBA FINALS - HEAT OVER SPURS IN 5
The Spurs were up 2-0 and heading back to OKC, presumably to finish off the upstart Thunder. San Antonio wouldn't win another game and didn't even come that close. What happened?
In short, Ginobili and to a lesser extent Parker's production dropped off precipitously, due in large part to the swarming perimeter defense of James Harden. What will happen this year when it's up to Kevin Martin to give the Thunder quality defensive minutes? I believe this is why Presti went out to get Ronnie Brewer but I predict that it won't be enough.With Splitter having taken a step forward and Leonard garnering a little more attention on the offensive end, I feel confident picking San Antonio to finish the job this year.
The Heat are better this year than last year- Allen is a star-level win producer, as is Wade, and were it not for a slight down tick in offensive rebounds and steals (hustling?) Lebron would be having one of the best seasons anyone has ever had. The Spurs lack the athletes to give the Heat much trouble if LBJ and company play the way they are capable.