San Antonio Spurs only team in the West to clinch playoff berth

San Antonio Spurs (54-13, clinched playoff berth)

Throughout the entire NBA regular season the San Antonio Spurs have been the best team in the league as they have just dominated the competition and have become the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spots with a remarkable record of 54-13. The main goal for the San Antonio Spurs moving forward will be getting the best of the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs, but in the meantime they will try and hold on to the top seed in the West.

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Even though the Spurs are favored to win every single time they step foot on the basketball floor, they have struggled as of late with two big losses to the Lakers and the Miami Heat in San Antonio. Obviously, with just 13 losses all season long there is no reason to panic just yet, but hopefully they aren’t losing that flair for winning heading into the postseason.

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One of the biggest concerns for this team moving forward will be the health of their key players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. As long as the Spurs big three can hold up through the rest of the NBA regular season and into the playoffs, I believe this team has a legitimate shot to go the distance and make it back to the NBA Finals.

Obviously, with teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks and of course the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs will have a have a tough road ahead of them in the playoffs has any one of these three teams could potentially knock them out and crush their hopes for yet another NBA title in the Tim Duncan era.

There is no question at this point in time that the San Antonio Spurs are going to clinch the number one seed in the Western Conference. The defending champion Lakers made been hot on their trail and after beating them in San Antonio are confident that they can take the Spurs in a seven-game series, but catching up to this team seems out of the question with only a handful of games left in the NBA regular season.

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Unfortunately, even though it was inevitable, the San Antonio Spurs have become the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff spot. With a record of 54-13 that is no real surprise, but at least it is a bit of a weight off the shoulders as they can now concentrate on staying healthy and clinching that top spot in the West.

If the playoffs were to start today, the San Antonio Spurs would be going head-to-head against the Memphis Grizzlies. Even though many people believe that the Grizzlies are nothing but a perennial bottom feeder in the Western Conference, they have flown relatively under the radar this season and could be dangerous for the Spurs if they do end up being matchup in the first round.

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Four teams in the Eastern Division clinch playoff spots

The NBA regular season is in its final stretch and playoff spots in both conferences are starting to get clenched. Even though the San Antonio Spurs are the only team in the Western Conference to clinch playoff spot as of right now, the Eastern conference is completely different as three teams have already locked up their spots punched their tickets to the playoffs.


Chicago Bulls (48-18, Clinched Central Division)

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Coming into this NBA regular season, the Chicago Bulls had made a pretty big upgrade in the paint by signing free agent forward Carlos boozer. Even though they were able to add a former All-Star to their roster, they still have a predicting home at the shooting guard position and it was uncertain whether or not they failed to compete with the best of the best in the Eastern conference.

Despite a lot of people doubting this team all year long, Derrick Rose and company have surpassed their expectations of to this point and look like they could be the best team in the Eastern conference moving forward. Recently, they were able to pass up the Boston Celtics in the Eastern conference standings for the top spot, but Boston was able to retake that.

Even though Boston is back on top, I believe Chicago might deal knock them out once more as they are playing as good as any team in the league right now.

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Boston Celtics (47-18)

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Ever since the Boston Celtics made the deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder in which they traded away arguably their best defender in the paint and Kendrick Perkins, this championship caliber team just hasn’t been the same as they have seemed to have lost that flare and heart but they been known for the past couple years.

There’s no question that the Boston Celtics are as resilient as any team in the NBA with their veteran leadership and talented players at multiple positions, but whether or not they can hold up against some of the best teams in the East or compete with the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals remains to be seen.

Miami Heat (46-21)

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No team in the NBA this season has been followed more vigorously than the Miami Heat. It’s no surprise that the Heat have gotten the attention and following they have with fans and NBA analysts as they did make the boldest move the league has seen in a long time by signing three of the best free agents last summer.

Obviously, with the added attention in South Beach the Heat were bound to struggle at least once or twice throughout the NBA regular season, but now the NBA playoffs are right around the corner and whether or not this team can compete with the best of the best in the Eastern conference in a seven-game series will be seen.

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Orlando Magic (43-26)

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As arguably the worst team on this list of playoff bound teams in the Eastern conference, the Orlando Magic could be in for a big reality check in the first round of the playoffs as they might not be able to contend with the best of the best in the East.

If the playoffs good start today they would be going head-to-head against the division rival Atlanta Hawks and that would be bad news for the Orlando Magic as they might not feel the compete inside and outside of the paint the talented young team like Atlanta.

All-Star center Dwight Howard might be getting a lot of talk recently about being an MVP candidate, but his plan alone is not revealed to lead his team against the best in the league during the playoffs.

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Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time this season

Coming into Thursday night’s South Beach showdown with the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat had lost five straight games all to playoff bound teams like the New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers and the Chicago Bulls.

Obviously, whenever a team like the Miami Heat starts losing games to teams like these with the playoffs just around the corner, this can be a major reason for concern. There is no doubt that the Heat have arguably one of the most talented starting lineups in the NBA today, but that doesn’t mean they will instantly be competing for an NBA title or will even be able to compete with the best of the best in the league.

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Antoine Walker playing with the Miami Heat

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Fortunately, despite their recent struggles, the Miami Heat were able to get back on track in a big way this past Thursday night against the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Even though the Lakers were arguably the hottest team in the league coming into this matchup as they had recently destroyed the league leading San Antonio Spurs in the process of winning eight straight games, Kobe Bryant and company had their work cut out for them against a desperate Heat squad.

With five straight losses coming into this South Beach showdown with the defending champs, the Heat were in desperate need of a win and that is just what they got as they outplayed the Lakers in every which way. This was a close contest from start to finish as the Lakers and the Heat battled back and forth both sharing the lead at one point or another.

At times the Lakers seemed to have the game in hand with Kobe Bryant starting to get hot and Andrew Bynum getting going in the paint, but came close to the end in the fourth quarter, the Heat capitalized on big mistakes by the Lakers. It could be argued that the refs missed some pretty big calls that could have changed the game for Phil Jackson’s squad, but in the end the Miami Heat were just the better all around team on Thursday night at American Airlines Arena.

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Dwyane Wade led the way in the scoring column for the Miami Heat with a team-high 20 points. LeBron James stole the show for Miami though as he finished with 19 points, nine assists and eight boards. As for the Lakers, Kobe Bryant led the way as usually with a game-high 24 points, but I believe it was Andrew Bynum that had the best performance for the defending champs as he finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Unfortunately, even though Kobe and Bynum had impressive performances, it wasn’t enough to put the Lakers over the top to get their ninth win in a row. With this win, the Miami Heat snapped their 5-game losing streak and were finally able to get back on track, but whether or not they can maintain this kind of momentum remains to be seen.

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NBA Matchup: New York Knicks @ Dallas Mavericks

New York Knicks at Dallas Mavericks Thurs. March 10, 2011 9:30 p.m. EST

The NBA regular season is in the final stretch now and every game from here on out is huge for every playoff bound team in the league. With that being said, the New York Knicks and the Dallas Mavericks will be playing for playoff position on Thursday night as they try to clinch the highest seed possible in the Eastern and Western conferences.

Ever since the blockbuster trade between the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks went down before the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 24, Melo and company have played well in the Big Apple with some fairly big wins against playoff bound teams like the Miami Heat, but they will definitely have their work cut out for them on Thursday night when they head to Dallas to take on the second seeded Mavs.

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The New York Knicks have been red hot as of late as they have won seven of their last ten games and two straight coming into this matchup. With Carmelo Anthony getting more and more comfortable with this team, the Knicks

Keith Van Horn, Dallas Mavericks

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could be very dangerous coming down the stretch as we get closer and closer to playoff time.

As of right now, the New York Knicks are the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, but they will have an opportunity to move up in the final stretch of the NBA regular season with the Atlanta Hawks (fifth seed, lost three straight), Orlando Magic (fourth seed, lost two straight) and the Miami Heat (third seed, lost five straight) all struggling right now.

With Melo and company still be three games behind the Hawks for the fifth seed, they will need to continue to capitalize on Atlanta recent slump by winning as many basketball games as possible from here on out.

The Dallas Mavericks on the other hand could be in desperation mode sooner rather than later. Dirk Nowitzki and company may have won nine of their last ten games, but the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the hottest team in the league right now and are just one game behind the second seeded Dallas Mavericks.

With the Lakers hot on their trail, the Mavs will need to stay hot with some big wins over the next few weeks. The one thing that the Mavs will be thinking about during this matchup with the revamped Knicks will be their matchup with the defending champs on Saturday, but if they can’t get the best of New York on Thursday, they will be in danger of dropping to third in the Western Conference with the loss to the Lakers this weekend.

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With that being said, this game against the New York Knicks will be huge in terms of keeping their high seed in the Western Conference. The one thing that will be a big concern for the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday will be matching up with Carmelo Anthony on the perimeter and containing Amare Stoudemire in the paint.

The one advantage I see for the Dallas Mavericks coming into this game is that they are a much deeper basketball team. With their depth they might be able to just wear down the Knicks and pull out the win.

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Are the Boston Celtics in trouble without Shaq?

There is no question at this point in the NBA regular season that the Boston Celtics are arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference and maybe even in the entire league, but with about 20 games left before the NBA playoffs and the Chicago Bulls hot on their trail, Doc Rivers’ squad could be in danger of losing the top seed in the East.

One of the things that have made the Boston Celtics such a dominant team over the past few years has been their ability to play lockdown defense. Any team in this league that can play defense like the Celtics have been able to do consistently will have a legitimate shot to win an NBA title, but Boston’s defense has suffered a major blow recently with the blockbuster trade sending Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder and their injury problems with their big men.

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Doc Rivers

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Coming into this NBA regular season, the Boston Celtics were thought to have one of the best frontcourts in the league. With Kendrick Perkins still recovering from knee surgery, the Celtics went out and landed to big-name free agent centers in four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal and former All-Star Jermaine O’Neal.

Even though both of the O’Neals are without a doubt on the downside of their careers in the NBA and possibly on the verge of retirement in the next few years, they were thought to be perfect additions to a team that was in desperate need of size to compete with the likes of the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. With Shaq and Jermaine backing up Perkins, this team was going to be as tough to beat on the block as any in the league, but injuries and the recent trade of Perkins have really changed things for the Celtics.

Throughout his entire career in the NBA, Jermaine O’Neal has been injury prone and unable to stay healthy for the long haul. O’Neal may be a talented big man in this league with the ability to be a game changer at times, but he is by no means a dependable player.

Shaquille O’Neal on the other hand has been very dependable over the years and a solid contributor, even when regulated to a bench role with the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, the three-time NBA Finals MVP may have finally reached a plateau as he can no longer stay healthy for an extended part of time.

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As of right now, Shaq is suffering from an Achilles’ heel injury that will keep him out of the Boston Celtics lineup until he is 100% healthy. At this point in time, the Celtics are saying that Shaq is about 85% and still has a ways to go before he can get back on the floor.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Boston Celtics as they will almost certainly need everyone healthy to finish out the final stretch of the NBA regular season and make a run in the playoffs. Without Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal and Shaq, the Celtics could really struggle on defense and against bigger teams in the league moving forward.

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Lakers dominate Spurs on their home floor to win seven straight

Heading into the All-Star break a few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Lakers had hit a bit of rough patch as they had lost three games in a row before hosting the All-Star game in Los Angeles. Not only had they lost to the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats in consecutive games on the road, but it was the loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers that was the icing on the cake.

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With these three straight losses hanging over their heads and the fact that everyone was starting to question this team’s chances of competing for a three-peat, the Lakers had hit a low point in

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Fortunately, despite seemingly being down and out heading into the All-Star break, Kobe Bryant and company were able to turn it on to start the second half of the season as they were red hot with six straight wins before going to San Antonio to take on the Spurs for the third time this season. Even though the Lakers were the underdogs on Sunday night, they definitely didn’t play like it as they dominated their rivals from start to finish.

With only Tony Parker scoring in double-figures for the Spurs starters, San Antonio just couldn’t get anything going offensively and really struggled to defend the Lakers as they were firing on all cylinders all night long. Kobe Bryant finished with a game-high 26 points, but it was without a doubt a team effort for the defending champs as they were able to get out to leads as much as 32 points against arguably the best team in the league.

Ultimately, the Lakers went on to win 99-83, but the challenges don’t stop in San Antonio as they have their work cut out for them over the next week with games against the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks.

Even though there are still about 18 regular season games left before the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers have a legitimate shot of getting as high as the second seed in the Western Conference. With the San Antonio Spurs still being six and half games ahead of the defending champs, the number one overall seed in the West is high unlikely for the Lakers, but they can definitely challenge the Dallas Mavericks for the second spot.

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The Christmas Day rematch against the Miami Heat this Thursday night will be a big game for both teams as the Lakers will look to stay hot and LeBron James and company will try to break out of their funk. Even though the Heat may be in

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somewhat of a desperation mode right now, I believe the Lakers should come out on top in this one as long as they can continue to play well against the Hawks this Tuesday.

The most important game this week for the two-time defending NBA champions will be against the second seeded Dallas Mavericks. If they can play as well as they did against the Spurs, the Mavs shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Lakers, but they will definitely need to come out with the win in order to make another big statement in the Western Conference.

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NBA Buyouts: Mike Bibby lands with the Miami Heat

Troy Murphy and Sasha Pavlovic, Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics may have made one of the most unexpected moves before the NBA trade deadline on February 24, but even though they traded away arguably one of their best defenders in center Kendrick Perkins they tried to make up for it by signing to veterans off the waiver wire.

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The first player the Celtics signed was sharp shooting forward Troy Murphy. Even though Murphy hasn’t p

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layed a lot over the last couple years, he still could have some worth off the bench for the Celtics who usually embrace veterans of his caliber. In terms of playing time it’s uncertain how many minutes Murphy will get on the floor, but I’m sure the Celtics get him out there enough to make an impact.

Another player the Celtics went after was veteran small forward Sasha Pavlovic. This is another player that hasn’t played much over the past couple of seasons due to the fact that his only had 10-day contracts, but he may have a bigger impact than Troy Murphy for Boston as he can be a solid six man.

Corey Brewer, Dallas Mavericks

It’s no secret that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban loves to make deals when he can. With almost limitless funds, Cuban doesn’t mind signing players when he has the opportunity and this season has been no different as he hasn’t been shy about making moves for signing players for short-term.

The one player he went after this time was the recently bought out Corey Brewer. This pickup may have been one of the biggest after the trade deadline has Brewer can have a big impact for the Dallas Mavericks in the final stretch of the NBA regular season. With almost 10 points per game and a defensive mindset, the shooting guard will almost certainly get plenty of playing time as the Mavs make the final push to the playoffs.

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Mike Bibby, Miami Heat

Mike Bibby

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Arguably the biggest move made after the NBA trade deadline was made by the one team that made the biggest moves during the NBA off-season. Much like the Dallas Mavericks, the Miami Heat are not shy about throwing money around and bringing veteran players.

Obviously, this team is pretty set at the forward position, but they have had some trouble in the backcourt as they haven’t been able to find point guard they can run the show.

Fortunately, they haven’t looked down as veteran point guard Mike Bibby was bought out by the Washington Wizards just after being traded by the Atlanta Hawks. This is a pretty big gift to say the least as Bibby is still playing at a pretty high level averaging about nine points per game and draining from 3-point range.

Whether or not this Bibby turns out to be the x-factor for the Heat remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, a great team just got better!

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NBA Matchup: Chicago Bulls @ Orlando Magic

Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic Fri. March 4, 2011 7 p.m. EST

The Chicago Bulls came into this NBA regular season with high hopes of turning around their storied franchise after adding former All-Star forward Carlos Boozer into the mix. With Boozers and Joakim Noah in the paint and Derrick Rose in the backcourt, this Bulls team was thought to be good, but not great, at least not for awhile.

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Fortunately for Chicago, the Bulls have exceeded expectations up to this point in the NBA regular season and have legitimate shot of overtaking the Miami Heat for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Along with the team being completely rejuvenated and a potential NBA title contender, All-Star point guard Derrick Rose has quickly become the frontrunner for NBA M

Joakim Noah

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VP.

With D-Rose leading the way, this team has great potential to do big things this season, but in the meantime they will be concentrating on getting past the Orlando Magic and another NBA MVP candidate in center Dwight Howard.

Although many people have already written off the Orlando Magic as they seem to have gotten worse rather than better after the blockbuster trade around mid-season, D-Howard and company are coming off an impressive win over the Miami Heat on Thursday night. Not only were they able to pull off the slight upset over LeBron James and company, but they were able to overcome a 24-point deficit in order to get the win at home in Orlando.

This was impressive to say the least as it was 2nd-largest comeback in franchise history. This win may have been just what the Orlando Magic needed to get back on track and become a force to be reckoned with once again in the Eastern Conference.

At this point in time, I believe no one in the East will catch up to the Boston Celtics for the number one seed, but the Magic do have a chance to continue to make waves in the conference with a win over Derrick Rose and company on Friday night. If they can continue to stay hot and get wins over the high seeds in the East, the Magic will be able to gain ground.

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Despite this being a home game for the Orlando Magic, the Chicago Bulls are the better all around team coming into this matchup in my opinion. Derrick Rose will be serious matchup problem for the Magic in the backcourt and Dwight Howard might have some trouble against Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah in the paint.

This should be a hard fought battle from start to finish, but in the end I see the Chicago Bulls getting another win and making a final push for the second seed in the Eastern Conference ahead of the Miami Heat.

As of right now, the Orlando Magic are the favorites with a -2.5 point spread. The Chicago Bulls should get the win, so taking the Bulls at +2.5 is the best bet in my opinion.

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Could Mike Bibby be headed to the Miami Heat?

The Miami Heat made a huge splash in the NBA free-agent market this past summer signing three superstars all at the same time. Not only did Heat GM Pat Riley get his hands on arguably one of the best players in the league today in LeBron James, but he was also able to re-sign Dwyane Wade and get his hands on All-Star forward Chris Bosh.

If this was an amazing feat to say the least is no team in recent memory has been able to land free of legitimate superstars at the same time. The Boston Celtics with the one team that were able to get three big names on the roster a couple of years ago in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but that was pale in comparison to what the Miami Heat were able to accomplish.

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Obviously, the Boston Celtics have an NBA title that the one back in 2009 to show for their efforts, but some people believe the Miami Heat could be in for multiple championships over the next 10 years as a result of what they have done.

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Ironically enough, Miami Heat haven’t stopped looking for big names to add to their roster as they might sign one more this season in the form of point guard Mike Bibby. Recently Mike Bibby was playing for the Atlanta Hawks and do a pretty good job of it, but he ended up being traded to the Washington Wizards before the NBA trade deadline and now has reportedly been bought out by the team.

In the beginning, this looked like it could be the beginning of the end for Mike Bibby’s career in the NBA as landing with the Washington Wizards is about as bad as it gets these days. Fortunately, the team was willing to buy him out and one of the few teams interested in his services is the Miami Heat.

With Bibby in the backcourt, the Heat might get considerably better as they will add that veteran point guard that they have been looking for. Whether or not the Heat do sign Bibby remains to be seen, but they are definitely the frontrunner for the veteran point guard.

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Along with the Miami Heat, Mike Bibby might have a few other suitors that will be looking to add him to their roster. Most of the teams are just looking for the right veteran player to help them either make a push for the playoffs or be the final piece to the championship puzzle.

The Boston Celtics might also be in the running for Bibby’s services as they are in dire need of a veteran point guard as well after trading Nate Robinson to the Oklahoma City Thunder recently. Bibby probably won’t get as much playing time with the Celtics as he would the Heat considering that Rajon Rondo might be their best all around player, but the chances of a championship this season are pretty high to say the least if he ends up in Boston.

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NBA Matchup: New York Knicks @ Orlando Magic

New York Knicks at Orlando Magic Tues. March 1, 2011 7 p.m. EST

There is no question that after the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 24 the Eastern Conference became considerably better than the Western Conference from top to bottom. Not only was the East already extremely tough with the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat leading the way, but they got even tougher after the Denver Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.

With this trade, the Nuggets will be a bottom feeder in the West once again and the Knicks will be a serious force to be reckoned with in the East. Some people may argue that New York gave up way too much to get Carmelo Anthony, but the fact that veteran point guard Chauncey “Mr. Big Shot” Billups was included might have made this trade a steal for the Knicks.

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So from here on out the New York Knicks might be without Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallanari, but so far there doesn’t seem to be affecting them all that much as Melo is quickly adapting to his new surroundings and Billups is hitting the big shots once again. The New York Knicks may have lost to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers in their second game after the Carmelo Anthony trade, but they got a big win when they were able to beat the Miami Heat on their home floor this past Sunday.

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The one thing that was most memorable about the win over the Miami Heat recently was the fact that the New York Knicks actually showed some promise on the defensive end of the basketball floor. With Melo seemingly motivated and Amare Stoudemire excited about the potential of this team, the Knicks could be starting to finally turn things around as they look more and more like a very dangerous team in the Eastern Conference.

Even though the win over the Miami Heat was huge and showed to many people that the trade could end up being the one thing that turns around the New York Knicks franchise, Carmelo Anthony and company will have their work cut out for them once again as they go up against another elite team in the Eastern Conference in the Orlando Magic.

Despite Dwight Howard and company not being the team that many people thought they would be after their big blockbuster trade earlier in the season, they are still a force to be reckoned with and could at any moment flip the switch to get into playoff mode.

Whether or not the Orlando Magic have that ability to flip the switch like the Boston Celtics or the two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers remains to be seen, but with how much talent is on the team they could be dangerous at any moment.

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Coming into this game, the New York Knicks will be the underdogs once again with a -7 point spread in favor of the home team in the Orlando Magic. Even though I believe the Magic will be tough to beat on Tuesday night in Orlando, the Knicks are starting to get hot with their new additions and will be looking to make a statement that the win over the Miami Heat was no fluke.

This should be a tight game from start to finish, but in the end it will come down to defense in which team is willing to step up on the defensive end of the floor.

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