Which NBA teams will have 2nd, 3rd best records?

February 28, 2011

Count on Celtics, Heat

K.C. Johnson

Chicago Tribune

Assuming the Spurs keep holding off Father Time to finish with the league's best record, the Celtics and Heat will finish second and third, respectively. Many are shocked at the Celtics dumping Kendrick Perkins. But while the move may hurt them in some playoff matchups, Jeff Green will help them win more regular-season games as he can back up two positions and lessen Paul Pierce's load.

The Heat simply have too much individual talent not to finish strong. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can win regular-season games single-handedly. Plus, the Bulls, as solid as they have been despite injuries, have a tough finishing schedule, which includes the entire season series against the Hawks — against whom they've always struggled — and road games at the Magic, Heat and Knicks.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Heat, Mavericks

Shandel Richardson

Sun Sentinel

With the Spurs running away with the league's best record, their closest competitors will be the Heat and the Mavericks.

This is not a knock against the Celtics, but they will likely put it on cruise control for the remainder of the season. It's a wise move with the Celtics' veteran trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen needing all the rest they can get before the playoffs.

Besides, the Celtics have already proved they can turn it on when needed. The Heat, meanwhile, have something to prove in earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Look for them to go full throttle during the last two months of the season. The same can be said about the Mavericks, who should be able to hold off the Lakers for the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.

sdrichardson@tribune.com

Bulls, Heat on top

Baxter Holmes

Los Angeles Times

Not the Lakers and Celtics, that's for sure.

The Celtics will put it in neutral and cruise into the playoffs, rested up with some head-shaking losses here and there.

The Lakers need to put it in overdrive, but they're still looking for the switch, you know, the one everyone on sports talk radio blabbers about here.

With Joakim Noah back alongside Carlos Boozer, and with league MVP favorite Derrick Rose running the show, the Bulls have the horses, fresh legs and talent to stride into the top three, passing the Mavericks and Celtics.

The Heat will be there too, and probably in the No. 2 spot. The Heat's Big Three has answered those early-season questions of chemistry by becoming a nightly steamroller.

Which will keep on rollin', rollin', rollin' until it meets Doc Rivers and the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals.

bholmes@tribune.com

Heat, Lakers strong

Zach McCann

Orlando Sentinel

The Spurs are far and away the NBA's best team this regular season. But behind them, the league is very, very muddled.

As the Heat keep searching for their identity, they're going to keep winning games during the final third of the season and lock up the East's top seed.

And the Lakers, who often treat the regular season less seriously than Kobe Bryant treats the All-Star Game, still will win enough games to cruise to the second seed in the Western Conference.

That's why those two teams will finish with the second- and third-best records in the NBA.

The Celtics and Bulls will be close behind, but the Celtics' old age — they'll surely rest their guys in the latter portion of the season — and the Bulls' youth will hold them back.

zmccann@tribune.com

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