Boston on the rise
Eastern Conference - After spending much of the last couple months outside of the top eight, the Boston Celtics closed the week in a play-off position. They defeated the Atlanta Hawks 89-81 last Saturday in a game that Rajon Rondo recorded a triple-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. That win brought their winning streak to two games for an overall record of 16-17.
Slipping out of the play-off (much to Boston's appreciation) are the Philadelphia 76ers who are on a three-game losing streak. There most recent loss was a 109-86 hammering from the San Antonio Spurs. They have slipped to a record of 15-20, a position they have managed to elude for some time.
The Brooklyn Nets endured a shaky spell recently but are back on the ascension thanks to a three-game winning streak. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams are playing close to their best and that showed in their 113-93 beating of the Sacramento Kings.
The Chicago Bulls hold a record of 18-13 which is good enough for fifth place in the conference. With talks of Derrick Rose nearing a return to training, their current run could be a great platform for him to lead his team with a strong run into the play-offs. The New York Knicks are also boasting a two-game winning streak, lifting their record to 23-10, putting them right up their with the Miami Heat who hold a 22-9 record overall.
Spending the earlier part of the season as the worst team in the conference, the Detroit Pistons are on a conference-best four-game winning streak. If this continues, they will consider themselves one of the teams that can create a surprise entry into this season's play-offs.
A win at last
Western Conference - Coming off what will forever be regarded as one of the most dominant periods of all time, it is a little more than ironic that this headline represents the Los Angeles Clippers.
After winning 17 consecutive games to close out the year, the Clippers found the going tough as they suffered double-digit defeats (against the Denver Nuggets and the Golden State Warriors) in their opening two games of 2013.
Coming up against the Los Angeles Lakers last Friday, NBA nation watched to see if the slump would continue, but the Clippers are undoubtedly the best team in the capital at the moment and they went about showing that.
Chris Paul dominated Steve Nash and made live very easy for Blake Griffin and company, motoring to a 107-102 win. In a rematch with the Warriors, the Clippers thrashed them by 26 points, 115-89.
The Houston Rockets have continued their winning form, extending their streak to four. Their record now stands at 20-14, and with the wins they continue their steady climb towards challenging the more discussed teams of the conference.
One such team is the Oklahoma City Thunder, James Harden's old stomping ground. They have a league best record of 26-7 helped by a two-game winning streak, easily dispatching the Toronto Raptors 104-92 on Sunday.
The familiar names of the Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns are all on the outside looking at the play-off contenders pull further and further away from them. The Lakers hold a record of 15-17, while the Mavs and Suns are at 13-21 and 12-22 respectively.
The first two mentioned teams have both registered NBA championship wins in the last five seasons while the Suns were an automatic play-off team during the booming years of Steve Nash but as the season progresses their short-term legacies continue to fade.