Power Rankings: Good news: Don't worry about Lakers or Heat

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

The NBA co-favorites both lost to the Clippers in the same week.

What has the regular season become ... the NFL playoffs?

Alas, this isn't the NFL playoffs. And more important, it isn't the NBA playoffs, either.

It's the NBA regular season, where the more you read into any week's results, the more you start imagining things.

Such as the Lakers and Heat are in some sort of trouble. Hogwash.

They may not sit atop the CBSSports.com NBA Power Rankings in mid-January, but the Kobe Bryant- and LeBron James-led powerhouses remain far and away the two most likely candidates to square off in the Finals four months from now.

Here's a progress report on each:

Lakers: Four losses over a 13-day span that bridged December and January had Bryant labeling the Lakers "moody" and Phil Jackson complaining about the schedule. Playing the Heat and Spurs back-to-back can do that to you.

But then the Lakers got exactly what they needed -- a New Year's present from the schedule-maker. There's nothing like seeing the Pistons, Cavaliers, Warriors and Nets over an 11-day stretch.

Bryant and Pau Gasol are healthy, Lamar Odom is playing like an All-Star and Jackson is still on the bench counting his rings. Yeah, they lost to the Clippers, but if that game was a preview of a first-round playoff matchup, don't expect more of the same from the Clippers.

Heat: Miami's having problems, too, but they aren't at all like what's ailing the Lakers. Injuries are killing the Heat -- and in the end, probably killing the chances of their challengers.

You see, while the Lakers know they're good enough to win another championship with the cast on hand, the Heat must now realize it is not.

That being the case, Miami is much more likely than Los Angeles to add a difference-making piece before anything really matters.

The depth-shy Heat pretty much can't acquire this guy via trade, so look for it to go the buyout/waiver wire route to get the guy it needs. Think about it: If you were a veteran point guard on a lottery-bound team, what destination would be No. 1 on your wish list?

Exactly: Miami.

While we're in a glass-is-way-more-than-half-full mode, here's something nice I can say about each team in this week's Power Rankings.


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