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WESTERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW

The West Isn't Won but It's Clearly No. 1

October 28, 2002|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

Move over, little dogs, this is big dog country.

This is the conference with the Lakers, who are on a three-title winning streak ... and the Sacramento Kings, who finished ahead of them in the regular season and almost took them out in the Western Conference finals ... and are still moaning about Game 6 at Staples Center when the Lakers shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter.

That's not all the West has to offer, either.

If the Kings aren't far behind the Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs aren't far behind the Kings, needing only for things to fall into place quickly since they've turned over half their roster.

The Dallas Mavericks' 57 wins put them in a tie with the 1994-95 Seattle SuperSonics for the distinction of being the best fourth seed.

The Minnesota Timberwolves' 50 wins were only good enough for the fifth seeding, before they were (again) sent home in the first round, earning them scorn from their fans who are tired of hearing how tough the West is.

Of course, if you don't have a Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant tandem, or at least a Mike Bibby-Chris Webber or a Tim Duncan-David Robinson, the smart thing to do is ... leave?

Yes, indeed.

The Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies have volunteered to move to the East, if the NBA lets New Orleans go to the West. (The Hornet owners want to take advantage of rivalries with the Texas teams and are willing to give up their good thing in the East. Of course, the Hornet owners have messed up everything else they've touched, to date.)

In the meantime, it'll be dog-eat-dog over here, as usual, and they've got some large canines.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Last 10 Seasons

*--* Team that finished with best Western Conference record, and which team reached the NBA Finals (NBA champions in bold): Season Top Team Record NBA finalist Record 2001-02 Sacramento Kings 61-21 LAKERS 58-24 2000-01 San Antonio Spurs 58-24 LAKERS 56-26 1999-00 LAKERS 67-15 LAKERS 1998-99 San Antonio, Utah 37-13 San Antonio 1997-98 Utah Jazz 62-20 Utah Jazz 1996-97 Utah Jazz 64-18 Utah Jazz 1995-96 Seattle SuperSonics 64-18 Seattle SuperSonics 1994-95 San Antonio Spurs 62-20 Houston Rockets 47-35 1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics 63-19 Houston Rockets 58-24 1992-93 Phoenix Suns 62-20 Phoenix Suns

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