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“You guys are in store for a lot of other championships,” Michael Jordan said, referring to the Chicago Bulls’ current team. With the Boston Celtics struggling, the Bulls could end up with the No. 1 seed in the East. Photo by Jeff Lakers eyeing No. 2 seed, Bulls leading the East, and the Clippers “waiting until next year.”By Michael Brown, Sentinel Sports Writer Lakers Can Solidify West No. 2 Seed During HomestandFollowing a successful 3-1 road trip, including a win at Dallas, the Lakers are in prime position to grab the Western Conference’s No. 2 seed, and pad their lead during the current seven-game homestand.Winning Saturday night at Dallas was important because it brought the Lakers within a half game of the Mavericks. The win was all the more impressive due to Kobe Bryant’s severe sprained ankle, which forced him to the sidelines before he returned in the fourth quarter, and the Lakers’ resilient play by the supporting cast which nursed the lead on the way to their ninth win in 10 games.After Monday’s game against Orlando, the Lakers’ remaining 14 games are all against Western Conference opponents. If the Lakers can avoid any hiccups in games in which they will be favored, the March 31 game against Dallas at the Staples Center could determine the West’s second spot.The difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 seed is noteworthy. The second seed will likely face the New Orleans Hornets while the third seed will butt heads with Portland.The Lakers recently won at Portland, but that was an exception. I don’t think Portland could beat the Lakers in a playoff series, but with the addition of Gerald Wallace and the play of LaMarcus Aldridge, they won’t be a cake walk.Provided that Bryant fully heals from his ankle sprain and Andrew Bynum continues to stay healthy and play at an all-star level in the middle, the Lakers should wrap-up the season with 58 or 59 wins.That win total won’t be enough to catch the Spurs, but the Lakers showed last week that they’re able to travel to San Antonio and come away with a win.With 11 of the Lakers’ final 14 games at home, and the Mavericks playing nine of their final 16 on the road--L.A. is in prime position to win the West’s second seed. Don’t Look Now, But Here Come the BullsWhile the Bulls celebrated their ‘91 team that won the first of six championships over eight years, former great Michael Jordan addressed the crowd and said, “You guys are in store for a lot of other championships,” referring to the Chicago’s current team.The high praise was a bit awkward considering Jordan owns the Charlotte Bobcats, who are also in the Eastern Conference and compete with the Bulls, but nonetheless, his prediction may come to fruition sooner rather than later.Led by potential MVP Derrick Rose, the Bulls, winners of six straight and nine of their last 10 (as of March 14), are 47-18 and right there with Boston (47-17) as a co-favorite to nab the East’s No .1 seed.Chicago’s hot streak hasn’t been interrupted despite forward Carlos Boozer missing the last two games with an ankle injury. Boozer missed Monday’s practice with an ankle injury, but once he returns, he’ll be instrumental in Chicago’s final push toward the playoffs.Boozer along with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and the veteran Kurt Thomas, have combined to form a formidable frontline. Small forward Loul Deng has blossomed on the wing. Deng scores 18 points per game and helps out on the boards, chipping in with six per night.Most of the critics and pundits assumed it would come down to Miami and Boston in the East. Some even thought the Orlando Magic were more championship-ready than the Bulls.But that’s not the case.I didn’t think the Bulls were ready to make a run at the Finals this season. I thought Rose needed another season of seasoning along with time played on the floor with Boozer and Noah, who form the team’s core.But as is often the case, team chemistry is overrated. Ultimately, talent wins out. The Bulls are second in the NBA in rebounding and second in defense (91.3 points per game allowed) and can match the Celtics man for man.Boston’s only advantage would be in the experience department. They’re battle tested in the postseason while the current Bulls haven’t advanced past the first round.This version of the Bulls will probably have to experience pain before pleasure like their championship predecessors who took their lumps against Detroit’s Bad Boys before running off consecutive titles.My money’s on Rose and his cohorts giving Boston all they can handle in seven games if they meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.Clippers Play Well Down The Stretch
Not that it really matters, with the team’s playoff hopes having been long dashed well before the All-Star break, but last week’s win at Boston and the play of the young players is a source of optimism.Yes, the eternal Clippers battle cry of “wait until next season” is alive and well.They won an exciting game Saturday night at Washington against the lowly Wizards, 122-101. In the grand scheme of things both teams are headed back to the lottery--but point guard Eric Bledsoe’s play was exceptional.With Eric Gordon out due to injury, Bledsoe outplayed last year’s No. 1 pick John Wall, finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 22 minutes.Blake Griffin scored all 26 of his points in the first half, but that wasn’t a problem. Center DeAndre Jordan picked up the slack with 10 points and 17 rebounds and Mo Williams contributed 22 points.Winners of five of their last six, the Clippers are actually resembling a team that could do some damage next year. They won 29 games last season and 35 wins isn’t out of the question this year.After trading away their lottery pick in the Baron Davis-Mo Williams trade, for once, losing down the stretch wouldn’t be a good thing for the Clippers. The effective play of a healthy Chris Kaman may give the Clippers a bargaining chip next off-season to acquire a much needed veteran small forward.Who knows maybe for once, “wait until next year” will actually prove fruitful.
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