In sports the defending champions are usually the ones to beat.
But in the NBA this year the Boston Celtics seem to be an afterthought.
Instead the talk of the league is the dominance of the Los Angeles Lakers and their expected march to an NBA title.
With the playoffs beginning this weekend and the last regular season games tomorrow night all focus is on the clubs that could take down LA.
In the West one of the first teams to take on LA is Dallas. Nowitzki and company could make it interesting if they stretch the defense with good shooting. But more than likely Kobe, Odom and company can slice up the Mavericks defense for easy buckets.
From there Denver could be a factor as they finally have a reputable defense and the kind of leader in Chauncey Billups that can take them to the conference finals. San Antonio has the veteran grit and toughness from Duncan, Ginobli and Parker to make a SA-LA rematch from last year’s conference final intriguing.
Houston has balance as a good offensive and defensive team. However they have no answer for Kobe and there are still questions about Yao being able to dominant inside. Portland has the youth and height to give the Lakers fits but their lack of playoff experience plus Odom’s fragility will hamper them.
New Orleans boasts a dynamic player in Paul who can frustrate defenses a la Kobe. But LA has many options on offense while the Hornets lean heavily on West. Utah has a good duo in Williams and Boozer but their lack of toughness on defense and on the boards are issues.
Probably the key to LA’s title hopes lies in the East. Lebron and Cleveland plus Garnett and Boston can stack up to LA while Howard and the Magic can wreak havoc on both ends.