The Pistons have three important things in their favor as they head into the postseason: They play tough, hard-nosed defense, they have a strong bench, and they can win games on the road. On defense, Ben Wallace leads the league in rebounds and blocks and is the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year. The Pistons' bench features solid veterans, such as Corliss "Big Nasty" Williamson (13.7 points per game) and Jon Barry (8.9), and the team won an East-leading 23 games on the road this season.
Unless Shaq's foot falls off, the Lakers will be unstoppable again this year. Once Phil Jackson has his team's undivided attention (and the chance to rigorously prepare for one opponent), L.A. doesn't let much get in its way. The Lakers proved last year that their regular-season finish -- and home-court disadvantage -- don't mean much once the postseason starts, so the Glance isn't counting them out this year, either.
NBA Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
Finals MVP: Shaquille O'Neal
Shaq is without question the most dominant player in the league. If the Lakers win the title as we're predicting, the big man will again be the reason.
The Hornets may not get to the Eastern Conference finals (we're predicting they lose to the Pistons in the semifinals), but their mere presence in the playoffs is a testament to head coach Paul Silas and his players. Despite all the talk of relocation and the effect it could have on the players, coaches and their families, the Hornets have managed to play good basketball and have a shot at making some noise in the postseason.
With their 30-10 start this season, the T'wolves looked to be on their way to joining the Western elite and earning a high seed, which would have made it a lot easier for them to win their first playoff series in six tries. Unfortunately for the Minnesota faithful, KG and Co. couldn't keep up that pace and are currently in fifth place in the West, matched up with the Mavs in the first round. That monkey's gotta be feeling awfully heavy right about now.
Down to the wire
Three teams are still battling for the final two playoff spots in the East. Toronto, which has won 11 of 12 games since losing Vince Carter to season-ending knee surgery, stands alone in seventh place. One game behind the Raptors, the Bucks and Pacers are tied for the eighth spot. Milwaukee holds the tiebreaker over both Toronto and Indiana.
Holding down the fort
Allen Iverson hasn't played since he broke his left hand on March 22, but the Sixers have made sure he'll play again this year. With its 95-89 victory over Orlando on Sunday, Philly clinched a playoff berth and is still in the hunt for fourth place in the East, which carries home-court advantage in the first round.
The Kings will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but the rest of the West is still jockeying for position. The Lakers are 3 1/2 games behind the Kings, while the Spurs and Mavs are tied at four games back. L.A. holds the tiebreaker over San Antonio and Dallas.
SWISH: Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs' 56 victories broke the franchise record of 55, set in 1986-87. Dallas is also the only team to take two games from the Kings at Arco Arena this season. Should the Mavs stay in fourth place in the West, they would potentially meet up with the Kings in the second round.
BRICK: Scottie Pippen
The Blazers pulled out a huge double-overtime win against the Lakers on Sunday, but Pippen had little to do with it. Angry over a defensive three-seconds call in the second quarter, the veteran forward threw the ball into the stands and earned an ejection. Irate Portland fans threw Bill Walton dolls (given away in honor of the 1977 NBA champion Trail Blazers) on the court in protest.
SWISH: Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett has eclipsed his own Minnesota single-season record for rebounds (956). Garnett has 974 and counting.
BRICK: Latrell Sprewell
The Knicks suspended Sprewell for one game after he missed the team's morning shootaround in Miami on Sunday. "The bottom line is that, regardless of where I was, I never called, and that's the issue," Sprewell said. "I overslept, and there's no excuse for not calling."
SWISH: Ray Allen
Allen set a franchise record with 10 3-pointers in Milwaukee's win against Charlotte on Sunday. The All-Star guard's career-high 47 points helped the Bucks hold onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
Sacramento Kings vs. L.A. Lakers, Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. ET The Kings have the league's best record locked up, so they're not likely to go all out, unless they want to play spoiler. The Lakers could still be battling for position -- and future home-court advantage -- with the Spurs and Mavs.
ABC might want to pay attention to the responses to last week's question -- "Will you miss the NBA on NBC theme?" If CNNSI.com users are any indication, the network has a tough act to follow. A sampling of the responses follows:
That theme song is synonymous with basketball, and it's a travesty we will have to part with it. I listen to it before I go on big dates to get hyped. It will be sorely missed.
-- Andrew Noble, Wenatchee, Wash.
It's so good, I have it on my cellular phone.
-- Hoi Wu, San Francisco
I will definitely miss the theme song, so much so that after reading this article I immediately downloaded it so I will forever be able to listen to the theme song I grew up with. -- Jay Diddy, Newark, Del.
Here are five words I thought I'd never ever hear: We'll miss you, John Tesh.
-- J. Batten, Durham, N.C.
Of course. What is a Sunday on a full stomach, being lazy, watching the game without "den den dena den den den den tara tara ta ta ta ta ta ta den den"? -- Carlos Aguiar, Newark, N.J.
DUDE! Don't get rid of that glorious song! It's the only musical connection that the NBA has, and John Tesh is da BOMB! -- Eric Cho, Atlanta
I think I've had just about enough of "DUH-duh-DA-di-dum-DUM-de-dum; DA-da-da-da; DUM-di-de, dum-di-de, DA-da-da" etc. -- Mark Schachter, Ottawa, Ont.
I won't miss the theme or the NBA on NBC -- way too cheesy. Tabloid reporting and chintzy marketing geared toward kids and numbskulls. -- Larry, Portland, Ore.
Jennifer Cooper covers the NBA for CNNSI.com. "Week at a Glance" appears each Monday during the season.