Apr 2, 2012, 4:46 PM EDT
There can’t be any question about the Thunder in the top spot after the last 8 days, but there are questions about the Heat and the Bulls in the East. And the Celtics and Spurs as spoilers.
1. Thunder (40-12, last week ranked number 2). They beat the Heat, Bulls and Lakers in the last 8 days. Any other questions? Big test again this week as they get a rematch with the Heat, but I think the questions about who is coming out of the West have been answered. Unless it is the…
2. Spurs (36-14, LW 3). Winners of seven in a row now and the question is “are they legit contenders?” I still think they struggle in the playoffs if they have to face one of the big scoring front lines (the Grizzlies and Lakers) but you can be sure the Thunder would like to avoid them.
3. Bulls (42-12, LW 1). Despite the ugly loss to the Thunder there can’t be any complaints about how this team has performed without Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton. Miami isn’t putting any pressure on them to rush Rose back, but you still want him to return about six games or so before the playoffs to shake off all the rust and get in some game-speed action.
4. Heat (37-13, LW 4). Ugh. They are 1-7 on the road against playoff teams since the All-Star break. Is it because they are bored right now in the dog days of the season, or are they fundamentally flawed? They get a chance to redeem themselves against the Thunder this week, at home where they play well, and they also have the Grizzlies and Celtics coming up at home, too.
5. Lakers (33-20, LW 5). Getting thumped by the Thunder last week shows the gap between them and the Thunder right now, but even in their wins last week the Lakers look tired. The Lakers starters have been okay but the bench is a mess and will get tested more with Bynum out. Heading into the playoffs Mike Brown needs to get his key guys some rest. Key contest against the Clippers Wednesday.
6. Clippers (31-21 LW 10). Five straight wins has quieted the Vinny Del Negro talk — and they have looked good, especially Chris Paul of late. But all of the wins came at home. If they want to win the Pacific Division they need to beat the Lakers Wednesday, they also could use to beat Dallas Monday on the road. Good tests to see if this team is really a contender.
7. Celtics (30-22, LW 14). Impressive win against the Heat Sunday, but also had quality wins last week against Houston and Minnesota. They are going to win the Atlantic Division, which means avoiding the Heat or Bulls out of gate.
8. Mavericks (30-23, LW 8). They have had one of the toughest schedules in the league since the break — a lot of good teams and having to face them on little rest. Dirk Nowitzki has found his groove again, scoring more than 20 points consistently now.
9. Magic (32-20, LW 6). They looked pretty bad without Dwight Howard (out with back spasms) and they will continue to until he returns (day-to-day). They are built around him at both ends of the floor.
10. Grizzlies (28-22, LW 11). Right now it shapes up to be a Lakers vs. Grizzlies first round matchup — which would be epic. And the rest of the West is rooting for that because nobody wants to take on either of these front lines in the first round, let them battle it out amongst themselves.
11. Hawks (31-23, LW 7). Losses to Chicago and Philadelphia last week have you questioning this squad once the playoffs start. Pretty soft schedule from here on out is the good news for them.
12. Pacers (31-21, LW 9). They beat the Heat and lost to the Nets last week. So yes, they tend to be a bit up and down.
14. 76ers (29-23, LW 12). Does anyone really think they are going to catch up to Boston for the Atlantic Division crown? No, nott since they finish this season mostly on the road. Which means they are going to draw Miami or Chicago in the first round.
15. Nuggets (28-24, LW 16). They handed the Bulls and Magic a loss last week and have gone from a team looking like they were sliding out of the playoffs to a team clutching one of the final spots. If they make the playoffs with this roster and all these injuries George Karl deserves a raise.
16. Rockets (28-25, LW 19). Houston plays Phoenix and Utah one more time each, both at home. Win those and they likely make it in. Goran Dragic hits the free agent market this summer and a lot of teams will be lined up to snatch him away.
17. Jazz (27-26, LW 13). Three tough losses last week, that could come back to haunt them. They need some quality wins, like Wednesday at Portland.
18. Suns (25-26 LW 15). No Grant Hill for a while (even though he is trying to get back) and now they head out on the road for seven of their last eight. That said, lots of games left against Denver, Houston and Utah — Phoenix’s fate is in it’s own hands.
19. Bucks (24-28, LW 18). Despite the loss in New York last week this team still has a shot at the playoffs, 2.5 games back of the Knicks. But they need to clean up on an upcoming home stand, and they need to find a way to get Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis clicking at the same time. (Good luck with that.)
20. Timberwolves (25-29, LW 20). Kevin Love is not your MVP but his effort to keep the Wolves in the playoff hunt deserves your admiration.
21. Blazers (24-28, LW 21). They started out just terribly after the All-Star Break but have turned it around some of late thanks to… J.J. Hickson? In part. He’s shooting 65 percent since coming to Portland.
22. Pistons (19-33, LW 25). They are the best of the NBA’s bad teams. That and $4 gets you a latte at Starbucks.
23. Nets (19-35, LW 26). Three wins in a row and Deron Williams is playing well. Portland fans would like to thank you for not tanking.
24. Kings (18-34, LW 23). No team has improved more statistically from before the All-Star break to after it, in part thanks to the entertaining three guard combo of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans.
25. Warriors (20-31, LW 22). They are doing a good job of tanking without actually looking like they are tanking — they hang close in games then just find a way to lose.
26. Raptors (18-35, LW 27). Don’t tell anyone, but the Raptors are playing fairly well on offense since Andrea Bargnani is playing well.
27. Cavaliers (17-33, LW 24). There is going to be either and 8.8 percent or 6.3 percent chance that the Cavaliers win the NBA lottery again (maybe even higher, if they keep tanking like they have been going 1-10 of late). Anthony Davis next to Kyrie Irving could be a lot of fun to watch.
28. Hornets (13-40, LW 28). When are they going to announce the sale of this team as official, anyway? I’m not asking for me, Mark Cuban wants to know.
29. Wizards (12-40, LW 29). If Nene were healthy they’d be a lot better… which is actually bad for draft reasons. So it’s all going to plan.
30. Bobcats (7-43, LW 30). Some radio talk show host in your town will start to make a case about how the Bobcats should take Thomas Robinson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or somebody else ahead of Anthony Davis. That person is full of crap. The Bobcats just hope they get stuck with that choice.
Jun 19, 2013, 9:29 PM EDT
Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It doesn’t get any better than this. Kay Adams and I take a look forward to Thursday night’s game with a quick look back at Game 6 (no, Chris Bosh should not have been called for a foul on that last shot) then we start talking about how tired…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT
Say whatever you will about how the Grizzlies dumped Lionel Hollins – and there’s a lot to say, most of it not favorable to the team’s management – but they’re conducting this coaching search the right way. They didn’t rush to hire the favored but unproven assistant, Dave Joerger. Instead, they interviewed safer choices like…
Jun 19, 2013, 7:41 PM EDT
Jerry Sloan is back with the Utah Jazz, and the world just seems a little more orderly. The Jazz have brought back Sloan as a “senior basketball advisor” the team announced on Wednesday. What does that mean? Some player evaluations (both before the draft at workouts and at places like Summer League), a little scouting,…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:57 PM EDT
One day after as dramatic an NBA Finals game as you will ever see — and one day before a Game 7 to decide the NBA crown — the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were back on the practice court and talking to the media. The Miami players, as you might expect, seemed confident…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:20 PM EDT
Update (6:40 p.m.): Chris Paul is the catalyst for trade talks resuming. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Clippers management believed Boston would eventually come back to them out of a belief that the Celtics-Rivers relationship would be difficult to repair, but league sources told Y! Sports that Paul’s desire to play for Rivers – and…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT
At one point Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger was considered a strong front-runner to replace Lionel Hollins, but Memphis has interviewed former head coaches like George Karl and Alvin Gentry. Apparently, those other interviews weren’t just for show before hiring Joerger, because the Grizzlies are on round two of interviews. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:…
Jun 19, 2013, 5:33 PM EDT
The Mavericks have made no secret about wanting to prevent the No. 13 pick from cutting into their cap room, whether that means trading the pick or drafting and stashing a player. The idea of wasting a lottery pick, either by dumping it in an uneven trade or using it on a lesser prospect just…
Jun 19, 2013, 5:09 PM EDT
Nerlens Noel would be a worthy No. 1 pick in many drafts if it weren’t for his ACL tear. His athleticism and defensive skills draw rave reviews from both traditional scouts and number crunchers. There’s safety in a consensus positive opinion, and Noel provides that on the court. But his ACL tear and the possibility…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:31 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs held a five-point lead with a little more than 28 seconds remaining in Game 6, before the Heat mounted a furious comeback to send it into overtime and ultimately force a seventh game. As things looked particularly dire, with San Antonio on a 10-2 run and seemingly on their way to…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:21 PM EDT
The will he?/won’t he? saga about returning to coach his Atlantic Division team has ended. No new information on Doc Rivers, but Dwane Casey will be back with the Raptors. Raptors press release: Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri announced Wednesday that Head Coach Dwane Casey will return for the 2013-14…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:42 PM EDT
Dwyane Wade has been clearly grounded through much of the playoffs. While he has had some monster games — including Games 4 and 5 of the Finals — his right knee has held him back at times. Now you can add his left knee to the list of issues. Wade and Manu Ginobili banged knees…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:21 PM EDT
As a series moves deeper ratings go up — and Game 6 lived up to that, with a huge jump in viewership for ABC. An estimated 16.8 million people — a 14.7 rating — tuned in to watch Game 6, ESPN announced. The previous high this series had been 11.4 million viewers for a game…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT
MIAMI — Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was the recipient of some rare criticism following his team’s collapse in the final moments of regulation in Game 6, and it surrounded his decision to bench Tim Duncan during some key defensive possessions. The end result, twice with under 30 seconds to play, was the Heat getting…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:18 PM EDT
MIAMI — For all intents and purposes, the game was over. Except that it wasn’t. The Heat trailed Game 6 of the Finals by five with under 30 seconds to play, and fans in Miami began streaming for the exits. Arena staffers in yellow shirts lined the baselines and the court across from the team…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:53 PM EDT
Now that the drama of Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett headed the Clippers trade talk has subsided, it’s time for everyone in Boston to act like adults and end this soap opera. To that end, Rivers and Celtics GM Danny Ainge are expected to sit down face-to-face Wednesday and talk, Ainge told the Boston Herald.…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:07 PM EDT
PBT’s own Brett Pollakoff tweeted this out when the Heat were down 5 with: 28 seconds left and the Heat had called a timeout. “Fans in Miami heading for the exits.” Thousands of them. Not anywhere near a majority, but enough to reinforce the stereotype. Plenty (again, far from all) fans in Miami fit the…
Jun 19, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT
Gregg Popovich is the best coach in basketball right now. One of the best of all time. He has four rings and built a culture in San Antonio that has them in NBA Finals 14 years apart and with consistent 50+ win seasons in between. But he is not perfect. He made a couple decisions…
Jun 19, 2013, 10:31 AM EDT
That was an epic Game 6. There was great play from both sides, huge shots by Ray Allen and Tony Parker and LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard and… I could go on and on. The players knew it was a great game, too. These are some highlights from the postgame press conferences where they talk…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT
With the Heat season on the brink LeBron James needed to change things up… He ditched the headband. Not exactly ditched, but late in the game LeBron’s headband was knocked off — and then he went off. LeBron played a key stretch of the fourth quarter then all of overtime without it. Couper Moorehead of…
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