Many questions will be answered when the NBA Playoffs tip off Saturday.Do the New York Knicks even have a shot?
Is a Miami Heat-Oklahoma City Thunder NBA Finals inevitable?
Do the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, and/or Boston Celtics have enough juice left to make one final run?
How quickly will the Orlando Magic wither away amid all the turmoil and without Dwight Howard?
A third place Western Conference finish may hide it, but it's been an odd year for the Lakers.
The offence under new head coach Mike Brown has struggled at times, with the most glaring statistic being that Kobe has taken it upon himself to take over games. His field goal attempts per game and usage rate numbers compare with LA's lean years shortly after Shaq left town and there was no one around to help Kobe.
It's surprising because Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are still on this team, yet Kobe's play shows he doesn't trust them all that much.
The first two rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs are a mere formality to get us ready for Bulls-Heat in the conference finals.
Derrick Rose's health is a big question, but Chicago already beat Miami sans Rose earlier this season. Yes, they lost the other time Rose was absent, but the point is Chicago won't go quietly into the night if Rose can't go at 100 per cent.
LA's other team was a trendy preseason NBA Finals pick, but the Clippers haven't exactly wowed anyone for most of this season.
As for the Grizzlies, they've slowly and quietly climbed up the Western Conference ladder this season after shocking everyone and almost making it all the way to the Western Conference Finals last year.
Now both the Clips and Grizz are clicking on all cylinders and look primed for deep playoff runs.
The winner will in all likelihood draw the Spurs in the second round and use their youth and depth to make it very hard for San Antonio to advance.
The Knicks have a shot, but it's not dependent on the Carmelo-Amar'e pairing everyone's concerned about
Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will be fine.
The key for the Knicks will be consistency on defence. Interim head coach Mike Woodson has been able to make this team think defence first and it's really payed off so far.
New York will face either Chicago or Miami in the first round. Both are juicy, star-filled matchups perfect for television, but as long as the Knicks don't get caught up in the hoopla and stick to what's worked they can pull off the upset.
San Antonio was supposed to age poorly on its way out of the Western Conference's elite.
But a funny thing happened along the way: the Spurs' new emphasis on speed has put Tony Parker at the forefront of their offence and Tim Duncan is much more of a complementary part (averaging less than 30 minutes per game).
The true test will come in the second or third round of the playoffs when Parker's fast break may go up against the likes of Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.
The Pacers are easily the most overlooked team in the entire league.
They rebound well, get to line often, and spread the ball around (eight regulars average 9 or more points per game), but don't really strike fear into anyone.
If they're clicking on all cylinders, Indiana could be a tough out for Miami in the second round.
For as great as the Thunder have been all year, they lead the NBA in turnovers.
Everyone expects them to go far in the playoffs this year, but turnover issues (-18 over five games) were part of the reason why the Dallas Mavericks quickly got rid of them in last year's Western Conference Finals.
Boston looked dead in the water before the All-Star break, but they've completely turned things around since then.
Avery Bradley has emerged as a solid two-guard in Ray Allen's absence. This bodes well for the playoffs as the Celtics were looking like a team with serious depth issues when the season began and injuries started to pile up.
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