Matt’s Minute

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As the All-Star players for the Western and Eastern Conferences have officially been announced, we have reached the halfway point of the NBA season.  It has been a very interesting season thus far, with many surprising teams contending alongside the usual heavyweights, while some of the perennial contenders have found themselves in the lower half of their conferences.

Although the Lakers have certainly been a massive disappointment, perhaps the most surprising team in the Western Conference so far has been the Golden State Warriors. Despite the fact that they have fallen back down to earth in the last few weeks, they are still 10 games over .500 and in fifth place in an extremely competitive Western Conference. Led by All-Star David Lee (who is getting some much-deserved recognition after his fall into obscurity upon leaving New York) and All-Star snub Stephen Curry, they have managed to maintain their position behind the Clippers, Thunder and Spurs, quite possibly the top three teams in the NBA.  I consider them a dark horse to advance in the playoffs, so long as they can avoid playing the three-headed monster of San Antonio, Los Angeles or Oklahoma City in the first round.

Another surprising team in the West has been Houston.

Although they are only one game over .500 and in eighth place, many predicted them to finish near the bottom of the conference at the beginning of the season.

A summary of the Western Conference would not be complete without mentioning the Lakers. It seems like years ago when Metta World Peace predicted a 73-9 season for the troubled Lakers, who seem to possess no team chemistry despite having a starting lineup chock-full of superstars.  As of now, I give the edge to the Thunder to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

The Eastern Conference has been much more predictable than the West in terms of surprising teams.  The Heat are far and away the best team in the conference, and I would be shocked if they did not cruise to a first seed in the playoffs.  After them, the level of talent drops precipitously.

The Knicks have been plagued by injuries and have significantly cooled off after their hot start. Chicago has definitely been the most surprising team in the East. Without former MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls have certainly proven that they are not simply a one-man team. Indiana, led by budding star Paul George, has also emerged as another mild surprise, treading water until Danny Granger returns from injury.  In my opinion, the Knicks are the biggest threat from the East to de-throne the Heat.  The Bulls have overachieved in the absence of Derrick Rose, and it is still to be determined whether he will be the same juggernaut after suffering such a significant injury.

The Knicks match up well with the Heat and have already beaten them twice this year. However, I think they will come up just short in defeating them, leaving the Heat to face the Thunder in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals.  Not a particularly creative choice, but the most likely outcome.