Another week off the NBA calendar and not much has changed. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics continue to increase the distance between themselves and the other 28 teams and appear on that collision course to the NBA Finals. The major challenge for each will be to remain healthy and that’s a challenge often not under their control as injuries can happen to any player at any time.
Boston appears more frail than the Lakers with stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett having had more than their fair share of ailments in recent seasons that have sidelined each for extended periods of time.
The Lakers most injury prone play is C Andrew Bynum who, when healthy, continues to develop into an elite player. If he can somehow overcome his proclivity towards injury he has an outstanding career still ahead of him.
The season is quickly approaching the one-third point and 8 teams have yet to lose their tenth game. The Lakers have the league’s best record, 22-4, and are already up by four and a half games over second place Phoenix. The Suns are the only team yet to lose at home, unbeaten in 10 games prior to taking the court this past Monday night against Cleveland. Denver is an impressive 12-1 on their home court while the Lakers and three teams from the East – Atlanta, Cleveland and Orlando – have lost only twice in front of their home fans.
Wishing you the best of the Holiday Season and the upcoming New Year, here’s a look at a trio of games to be played this weekend.
Cleveland at L. A. Lakers (Friday): This Christmas gift from the NBA features Shaquille O’Neal returning to the site of his greatest glories to take on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers with yet another team. Cleveland is led by LeBron James, heir apparent to Kobe as the NBA’s top player and Shaq is playing more and more of a supporting role to King James. The supporting cast clearly favors the hosts and given the presence of both Shaq and LeBron, the Lakers and Kobe in particular are likely to place a great emphasis on this contest, especially in front of a national audience. L. A. LAKERS.
Memphis at Dallas (Saturday): Memphis is a very much improved team and their 12-15 record is testament to that claim. Dallas is still among the league’s elite teams and clearly has more talent than the Grizzlies, even with star Dirk Nowitski suffering a lacerated elbow last week. Even without Nowitzki the Mavs are the more talented and deeper team. The freshness works to their advantage and we should get a fully focused effort from them against an improved but outmatched foe. DALLAS.
San Antonio at New York (Sunday): The Spurs are clearly the superior team even as Tim Duncan enters the latter stages of his Hall of Fame career. Duncan’s supporting cast is also aging yet the Spurs remain the epitome of a "professional" team, almost always bringing their "A" game. The Knicks have played surprisingly better basketball over the past few weeks in what is pretty much a throw away season prior to their expected spending spree next summer. They should be decent sized underdogs against the mighty Spurs and did defeat the Spurs on this court in their annual meeting last season. They catch the Spurs off a Saturday night game in Milwaukee. NEW YORK.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe