But these final six weeks of the season will lead to a madness of their own, the NBA's bracket of 16.
The prevailing notion is that the playoffs are a fresh start, when halfcourt, post-oriented, defensively driven teams claim the stage.
But don't kid yourself, amid the talk of mid-majors and bracket busters, of Sweet Sixteens and Elite Eights, groundwork is being laid for when the music starts after the Big Dance, when the NBA reclaims the focus in late April and May and well into June.
These are the back stories that could emerge front and center when the glare turns back from Krzyzewski to Nowitzki, from Wall to Wallace, from Aldrich to Aldridge.
Lakers lethargy: Cause for concern, or simply meandering through a three-game swing to Miami, Charlotte and Orlando?
No, Phil Jackson's team did not look like it had it all figured out in the consecutive losses to the Heat, Bobcats and Magic, especially in the non-competitive effort on the second night of a back-to-back in Charlotte.
With Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant a bit under the weather, and with Ron Artest's new coif indicating he is back over the top, perhaps this is just a team searching for a reason to fight.
Yes, Cleveland is gaining, but that also was the case last season, when the Cavaliers didn't stay around long enough to take advantage of homecourt in a potential NBA Finals.
So, for now, what to make of the Lakers? Is this the crack that opens the door to Dallas or Denver?
Nah. Phil Jackson is notorious for knowing exactly when to squeeze a bit harder, raise the ante.
The statement games are the ones such as the victory over Denver before embarking on that three-game trip, as well as remaining games against the Spurs, Nuggets and Jazz.
The 0-3 slide back east? Only the loss to the Magic matters, and that was a credible enough fight.
Cavaliers conundrum: It took weeks for the Cavaliers to integrate Shaquille O'Neal into the offense at the start of the season. This time, when Shaq returns in the midst of the postseason from his thumb surgery, the learning curve will have to be expedited.
Considering how the Cavaliers adjusted on the fly with the return of Mo Williams and Delonte West, perhaps that won't be much of an issue.
But if there isn't a matchup with Dwight Howard or Kendrick Perkins before the Eastern Conference finals, how much of a rush will there be to work Shaq back into the mix?
Unless the recovery process is expedited, this will be only the second time Shaq has missed playoff time, beyond two games in the second round in 2005 with the Heat against Washington. In fact, Zydrunas Ilgauskas will be back from his 30-day no-return period before Shaq returns.
In just these past few games, Cleveland has shown it is fine without O'Neal. It well could find itself debating the merits of slowing the pace once Shaq returns.
Remember, this isn't about keeping Shaq happy. It's about keeping LeBron. Period.
Celtics shooters: The defense remains stout. The Celtics will stop you.
But it's on the other end of the court, away from the basket, where the Celtics continue to search for one more answer.
While Ray Allen has fallen off somewhat with his 3-point shooting, defenses still do not dare leave him open beyond the arc. The attention he attracts is undeniable.
But when Allen is out, that is where the questions begin. Eddie House had been the designated spacer, but he was shipped to New York for Nate Robinson, to get something resembling a truer backup point guard.
Robinson certainly doesn't draw the defense to the arc, and neither does starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who barely attracts any attention beyond the paint.
The thought was Rasheed Wallace would balance the floor with his 3-point game, but most in Boston cringe when he lines up out there.
So, instead, it will be interesting to see how these closing weeks play out with Michael Finley.
While Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge have offered no guarantees, there will be a need for the longball, in a House-type role.
Tryouts, therefore, effectively start immediately.
Spurs spent?: Last year there was no Manu and therefore no chance for the Spurs, in their five-game first-round ouster at the hands of the Mavericks.
Now it looks like any playoff run with have to start without Tony Parker, in the wake of the point guard's hand injury.
But this is a team that is far removed from the top of its game, with its desperate offseason pickup of Richard Jefferson forcing it to learn what the Nets and Bucks already knew, that he is far removed from his best days.
While Tim Duncan remains elite and Manu Ginobili remains elusive, the supporting cast isn't close to where it once stood.
There are no Bruce Bowens for the lockdown, no Robert Horrys for the 3-pointers, not even a Fabricio Oberto in the house.
Perhaps George Hill steps up or Jefferson finds his former form. But it is just as likely that Parker's injury opens eyes to the reality that it's just about over.
For the Spurs, these final six weeks truly resemble a proving ground.
Mavericks mass: A funny thing happened to the Mavericks after trading for Caron Butler — the throw-in began throwing his weight around.
He was mowing them down before his latest neck woes. While Erick Dampier might have provided something that passed for bulk in recent years, Haywood's length could allow the Mavericks to compete with the height of the Lakers.
For years, Eastern Conference coaches have been touting Haywood as an underappreciated talent, someone lost in Eddie Jordan's Princeton precepts on offense and indifference on defense.
But Rick Carlisle, having spent his fair share of time in the East, knows exactly what he has and how to utilize it.
With the toughness of Butler and the inside presence of Haywood, suddenly having a power forward who lives on the perimeter and seems to loathe the lane hardly is an issue.
This is a better Mavericks team than the one that advanced to the 2006 NBA Finals, one that finally has a legitimate answer in the middle. One that also has a football stadium at its disposal to cram in 108,000 for an NBA Finals game.
PBT: San Antonio found what worked and it’s on the Grizzlies to raise their level enough in Game 2 in San Antonio on Tuesday to get a split in the series.
PBT: San Antonio executed its game plan well in Game 1, shutting down Grizzlies star Zach Randolph.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Grizzlies ready for 'running' Spurs
DPS: Lionel Hollins tells us how he plans to play against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
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