During the preseason, we had a pretty good idea that the top dogs would be Boston, LA, Orlando, Cleveland, and maybe Denver. As the season began, though, it appeared as if more teams were giving these championship contenders a rough time. The Celtics started out strong, but soon lost 3 out of 4, one of which came against the lonely Pacers. The Lakers had a very early season loss at home against Dallas, as well as being blown out in Denver. The Cavs were expected to probably beat the Celtics on opening night, and get their season off on a bang. Instead, they lost that game, then all in about a week lost to Toronto and Chicago. Orlando lost 3 games in just over a week in early November, and Denver had the same problem in early November losing 3 out of 4.
Everyone expected and still expects these teams to go on these types of stretches where they struggle to find a way to win. I just didn’t expect all 5 of these teams to do it at the same point- to begin the season. Therefore it made me start to wonder if maybe the rest of the teams in the league had just gotten better, and could now compete. Well, I can hope for that, but it is not the case. What instead is starting to break out, is similar to the end of the 2008 season. The Celtics and the Lakers are beginning to seperate themselves from the pack.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is still very early (with only 30% of regular season games played). Much more can still happen, but based on the way these two teams are playing right now, is there really anyone better? The Celtics are on an 11 game win streak in which they have won 8 of those on the road. Road victories include @Miami, @San Antoino, @Chicago, and @Charlotte (which doesn’t sound big but the Celtics are notorious for struggling there). The C’s are playing with championship swagger as at times they look undefendable. Extra effort from both Rajon Rondo, and Kendrick Perkins has lifted the starting 5. The return of Big Baby in a couple of weeks is sure to lift the Celtics bench, as it has had points where it struggled. Also, don’t forget that Marquis Daniels will be back in late January to help at the guard/forward position. The C’s stand at 20-4
The Lakers as well have been winning tons of games, and have won 13 of their last 14 with a road loss coming at the always tough to play Energy Solutions Arena in Utah. 10 of these 13 wins come at home, although they played some good opponents in Utah, Phoenix, and Miami. Since Pau Gasol has come back, the Lakers have been more like the team we expected them to be. The pickup of Ron Artest thus far in the season has proven to be basically an equalizer for the loss of Ariza, but you can’t look past him as he has proven to be able to play tough defense, and have the ability to score big baskets The Lakers stand at 20-4
Without question, in the past month the Celtics and Lakers have become the leaders in their conference. The Celtics have a 2 game lead in the loss column on the Magic/Hawks, and the Lakers have 3 games in the loss column to both Dallas and Denver. I know Orlando and Denver may have something to say about this, and infact they may- however, right now as this season is playing out, its shaping up to be another Boston vs. LA Finals. The Lakers have back their entire lineup and are showing what they can do as a full team. The Celtics are proving that they can win 11 straight despite the loss of 2 key bench players. Lets hope both teams remain healthy because there is nothing more exciting than the Lakers and Celtics battling it out for the championship.