Florida and California.
Destination getaways filled with sandy beaches, beautiful people and subpar basketball.
Yes, Los Angeles is 12 games over .500 and it appears Miami has finally come together to be the super squad it promised it would be.
This season, however, the standard for excellence has been set high by such teams as the Spurs and Mavs (who, combined, have as many losses as the Lakers) and the 21-10 Thunder; it has become abundantly clear that the best basketball isn’t being played on the sunny coasts anymore.
The bar has been set, instead, by the Southwest teams.
Take into consideration that the Lakers’ most significant win this season was against the Carlos Boozer-less Bulls in November and the 21-9 record they currently boast is less than impressive.
The 98-91 win over Chicago stands as the Lakers’ sole victory over a team with a record greater than .500.
Now take a look at the Heat’s best win, arguably the over-hyped Christmas victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles, and the suddenly motivated Miami squad isn’t looking as ferocious.
Meanwhile, the Spurs have jumped out to an almost unthinkable league leading 26-4 record, have already had win streaks of 12 and 10 games (broken up by Dallas and Orlando, respectively) and don’t appear to be willing to let go of the stranglehold they’ve locked on the rest of the league.
Overlook one misstep in a road loss at the Clippers and the Spurs have had a nearly flawless season thus far; San Antonio’s one other loss was in the second game of the season versus New Orleans, a viable playoff contender that started the season 11-1.
Dallas stands one game behind Gregg Popovich’s crew in the loss column and certainly has no losses to be ashamed of (Memphis, Denver, New Orleans, Chicago and Milwaukee). The Memphis loss came, like San Antonio, in the second game of the season and the Bucks, even at 12-16, are a playoff team.
With the exception of one Clippers loss, Oklahoma City has spread out its other nine losses between teams that would be in the playoffs or on the bubble if the season ended today.
The losses only tell half the story, however.
In a three game stretch in mid-November, the Spurs popped off quality wins over the Thunder, Bulls and Jazz (combined record of 61-29).
The Mavericks were the team that went on the road and ended the Spurs’ 12-game win streak, handing San Antonio just its second loss of the season at the end of November. This game, of course, came after winning in Oklahoma City and before beating Miami by double-digits.
Oh, and it was in the middle of Dallas’ own 12-game win streak.
Perhaps even more convincing came last week, after back-to-back road wins at Miami and Orlando for Rick Carlisle’s team.
Even the Thunder had a statement win in Boston without the help of Kevin Durant or Jeff Green, one of the Celtics mere five losses on the season.
To be fair, the Spurs and Thunder both have yet to play the Lakers and Heat.
However, San Antonio will be able to cement its elite status this week with games against Los Angeles, Dallas and Oklahoma City.
The Mavs play the Thunder today, fly to Toronto for a Tuesday game and then return home for the high-profile matchup with the Spurs.
The Thunder, obviously, can start to generate some more momentum and get the league talking with wins over San Antonio and Dallas.
The Southwest may not be fancy and may not be getting the most hype.
But it sure does have the best teams.
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