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NBA outlook for season’s second half

This weekend marks the half-way point of basketball’s regular season with the NBA All-Star weekend.
The league’s superstars will come together for slam dunks, skills challenges, 3-point contests and an East vs. West showdown.
Many teams are on the way to the playoff road, but there are teams that sit at the top of the food chain in both the Eastern and Western conferences waiting to crush their championship dreams.
Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics
Continuing their brilliant play from last season, the defending champion Celtics have an impressive record of 43-11.
Boston’s big three – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen – are responsible for the team’s success. 
Pierce leads the team in scoring with nearly 20 points per game with help from Allen and Garnett, who average close to 18 and 17 ppg respectively.
But it’s not the stats that make this team great.
The unselfishness of the players and their hard work on defense makes this team very difficult to defeat.
The Celtics also have a lot of weapons in their arsenal including second-year point guard Rajon Rondo, who has really stepped up his game and shown he can be a leader on the court.
This is a team that executes very well at the end of games and just plain out knows how to win.
After all, they have 36 years of NBA experience in just the big three players alone. 
Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers have the second- best record in the league with 40 wins and 11 losses.
Cleveland is very difficult to beat at home, winning every home game but one so far this season. 
All-Star Lebron James, the leading scorer and the ninth leading assist man in the league, leads the Cavs.
James is backed with experienced center, Zydrunus Ilgauskaus, and energetic third-year player, Anderson Varejao.
The organization made key acquisitions in signing Mo Williams and Wally Szczerbiak to help mold the Cavaliers into a championship-caliber team.
Western Conference
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers made it all the way to the NBA championship last year, but eventually fell to Boston in Game 6.
Kobe Bryant is the third-leading scorer in the NBA, averaging close to 28 ppg, and is the anchor of this Lakers team. 
Bryant is surrounded with solid players.
Center Pau Gasol, who came over from the Memphis Grizzlies last year, is averaging nearly a double-double this season with 18 points and nine rebounds per game, along with veteran point guard Derek Fisher and swing man Lamar Odom.
One key factor the Lakers have this year is rising star Andrew Bynum, who is coming back from injury.
He’s averaging 14 ppg to pair up with nine rpg.
Bynum really gives the Lakers that inside presence on the defensive end of the court and compliments Gasol in the front court.
The Lakers have already had key wins against the top teams in the league, including Boston, Cleveland and San Antonio.
San Antonio Spurs 
The Spurs are a veteran team who know how to win championships.
They’ve won in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.
In all four of those championships, power forward Tim Duncan and shooting guard Bruce Bowen have been major contributors.
In recent years, the franchise added Tony Parker, who is now one of the best point guards in the league, and Manu Ginobili, who disrupts defenses with his unique playing style.
Like all of the top-ranked teams, they are defensive minded and have many threats to score, whether it’s Duncan in the post or Parker slashing his way to the bucket.
In addition, the Spurs have very good bench players in Michael Finely and Kurt Thomas. 
This team is a force to be reckoned with in the West.
It wouldn’t be much of a surprise to me if these four teams made it to the conference finals.
Now it’s only a matter of time to see who comes out on top.
All I have to do is sit back and watch.
Jeff De Chavez is a junior journalism major from Elk Grove Village. He is the Scout sports reporter.
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