The Los Angeles Lakers began the regular season with Kobe Bryant demanding a trade and ended it with the best record in the Western Conference and top seed in the playoffs that start Friday.
The Lakers’ resurgence was steady all season but went into overdrive when they traded for (stole?) center Pau Gasol from Memphis; they have gone 22-8 since the trade. Speaking of resurgence, the Boston Celtics finished with the best record in the East and best record in the league. The NBA is drooling over a Lakers-Celtics finals that would harken back to the great series of the 1980s.
Despite Boston and Detroit having the league’s best records (it helped they played in the mediocre East), the top teams are in the West. Golden State won 48 games and missed the playoffs. In the East, 48 wins would get them a No. 4 seed. Sacramento won 38 games and finished 11th (the top eight make the playoffs); that would have been good enough for a playoff spot in the East.
Next to the NFL, the NBA playoffs are my favorite time of the sports year; nothing beats a terrific seven-game series. In the East, I’ll go with Boston by default, while in the West I’ll take the Lakers. Don’t count out defending champion San Antonio, but the Spurs have a tough Round 1 draw with Phoenix; the Suns won three of four games between the teams this season. –Jim Buzinski