With the NBA season just over a month
old it is once again plainly evident that the title is the Lakers’ to lose.
Barring injuries that would sideline
either Shaquille O’Neal and/or Kobe Bryant for any significant length of time,
the Lakers are clearly the best team in the NBA by a wide margin and are even
stronger and deeper than last season.
Several times already this season
we’ve seen the Lakers simply go through the motions for a half or so and then
play outstanding basketball in spurts to take over games, often erasing early
double digit deficits.
It’s tough to imagine any team
capable of taking four of seven games from the Lakers come next spring. Despite
some strong starts by other teams in the league the Lakers, at 15-1, have three
fewer losses than any other team and have already opened up a three game lead
over Sacramento in the Pacific Division.
Detroit (11-5) and New Jersey (10-6)
remain the early season surprises a fifth of the way through the season. The
Pistons and Nets lead their divisions. Both have been able to win on the road
and that is a key sign for teams that might be able to go deep into the
Conversely, the rapid decline of both
Miami and Utah continue. Both teams are playing terribly at home. Utah has lost
6-of-10 home games, Miami 8-of-10.
Barring a dramatic turnaround, Miami
will miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
Utah last missed the playoffs following
the 1982-83 season, when many of this season’s players were still in diapers!
But all runs eventually end and perhaps age has finally taken its toll on Karl
Malone and John Stockton.
Here’s a look at three games this
Friday, Dec. 7
76ers at Spurs: Both teams were
eliminated by the Lakers in last season’s playoffs with the Sixers managing
the only win in nine games. Philadelphia has overcome an early season slump when
Allen Iverson was injured, but has not been sharp of late after winning seven
straight. San Antonio’s Tim Duncan is at the top of his game. The Spurs do not
have anyone who can match up with Iverson. It should be a tightly contested
defensive game. Take UNDER.
Saturday, Dec. 8
Nets at Bucks: Both teams have cooled
off late, especially Milwaukee. The Bucks lost all four games both straight up
and against the spread on their recent West Coast road trip. New Jersey had
dropped five of eight games since starting 7-1, but is clearly much improved.
The Nets are playing their third game in four nights as they begin a well spread
out four game road trip. Milwaukee has not played back-to-back nights in more
than a week and will be the fresher of the teams. Take MILWAUKEE.
Sunday, Dec. 9