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Heat and Spurs maintain NBA supremacy

Two missed free throws and two failed defensive rebounds by the Spurs set the stage for Ray Allen to make one of the greatest shots in NBA history and led to the Miami’s second straight NBA title.

As the Spurs pick themselves up, the Western Conference reloads for another season.

Here’s how the West projects in 2013:

1. San Antonio Spurs: It’s time to stop making the same mistake. Counting the Spurs out because of age has proven foolish year after year. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are back. With a supporting cast of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, look for this team to be atop the standings at year’s end.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder: Playing without Russell Westbrook until early December will cost this team a couple extra losses. Oklahoma City will rely on three-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, and key role players Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson to carry the load while Westbrook recovers from knee surgery.

3. Los Angeles Clippers: There’s a title contender in L.A., and it’s not the Lakers. The addition of head coach Doc Rivers will improve the team immensely. Give him Chris Paul and Blake Griffen to work with, and you’re looking at a serious threat in the west.

4. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors made a surprising move for Andre Iguodala who will bring elite perimeter defense and versatility to one of the most lethal rosters in the league.

5. Houston Rockets: The Rockets will pair James Harden with Dwight Howard.That immediately puts this team on the map for the foreseeable future.

6. Memphis Grizzlies: Five months removed from a Western Conference Finals loss to San Antonio, the Grizzlies are looking to replicate their success. New head coach Dave Joerger will be armed with the best defense in the league, and a hungry roster full of young talent.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Injuries to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have kept this team out of the playoffs the last few years. If healthy, this team is talented enough to make serious noise come playoff time.

8. Portland Trailblazers:  The Blazers had a very productive off-season. Reigning rookie of the year Damian Lillard returns with LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson, and is poised to win a close race for the final playoff spot.

It’s hard to imagine the playoffs without Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Dirk Nowitzki but with this much depth in the west they could be starting the summer break unusually early.

All eyes are on Miami to see if they can win a third championship in a row. Their road to success hasn’t been an easy one, and this year certainly won’t be different.

The Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets present a significant challenge to the
reigning champs.

Here’s how the East looks in 2013:

1. Miami Heat: LeBron James is the best player on the planet. He can play virtually every position on the floor, making the entire team a threat. He is projected to have yet another MVP season, and a healthy D-Wade and Chris Bosh make the Heat the team to beat.

2. Indiana Pacers: The number one option for the Pacers is Paul George, who showed just how good he was in the Eastern Conference Finals. He has progressed significantly over the last three years, and appears to be ready for a breakout season.

3. Chicago Bulls: Superstar Derrick Rose is back with a strong supporting cast of Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. With Rose healthy again, Chicago is a contender.

4. Brooklyn Nets: After being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year, the Nets acquired veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in hopes of a deep playoff run this season.

5. New York Knicks: The Knicks added Metta World Peace and Andrea Bargnani as they try to keep pace with the East’s elite.

6. Detroit Pistons: Detroit was a major player in free agency this summer. With headline additions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, this team will be a major contender
this season.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers: First overall draft selection Anthony Bennett joins a roster hoping to make the playoffs for the first time since the departure of Lebron James. With the additions of Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark this team should be playing well into May.

8. Washington Wizards: As John Wall goes, so go the Wizards. When healthy, this young and talented roster is more than capable of snagging the final playoff spot. It would be Washington’s first playoff appearance since 2008.

The Boston Celtics have been a playoff fixture since 2006. With the loss of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the franchise will begin rebuilding under new head coach Brad Stevens.


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