NBA: Five Storylines to Watch During the Stretch Run

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Jan 29, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat center Chris Bosh (left) shooting guard Dwyane Wade (center) and small forward LeBron James (right) react after a timeout after the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The All-Star break is (mercifully) over. Now, we can focus on the stretch run, that final sprint to the playoffs where teams clench onto their hopes of sneaking into the playoffs, while the elite teams jockey for that important home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Eastern Conference continues to look like a two-team race, with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers vying for position, but the Western Conference is wide open. The lack of balance is shocking, as the No. 3 team in the Eastern Conference (the Toronto Raptors as 28-24) would be the No. 9 seed in the West, in a virtual tie with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Of course, the MVP debate is going to heat up fast, with Kevin Durant and LeBron James flexing their muscles. Could there be a dark horse candidate? Let’s take a look at five storylines to watch during during the stretch run.

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Tags: Indiana Pacers Memphis Grizzlies Miami Heat Milwaukee Bucks NBA New York Knicks Oklahoma City Thunder Orlando Magic Philadelphia 76ers Popular