Dec 17, 2012, 2:35 PM EDT
What we see in December is not always a great predictor of what we see in the playoffs, but the Clippers look very good lately. Better than their more talked about roommate in Los Angeles.
1. Thunder (19-4, Last week ranked No. 1). They are the winners of 10 in a row. I still think they lost some playmaking they will miss with the James Harden trade, but that is balanced out with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant coming back this season better players than they were. Durant is shooting 54 percent during the Thunder winning streak. Looking forward to the Christmas Day rematch with Miami.
2. Clippers (17-6, LW 4). Winners of nine in a row and playing as well as anyone in the land right now — over their last 10 games the Clippers have the second best defense and seventh best offense in the NBA. Also, Lamar Odom is playing well as he rounds into shape. Soft schedule this week (Pistons, Hornets, Kings, Suns).
3. Knicks (18-5, LW 3). Winners of four in a row (including against the Nets, who they see again this week) and they have the best offense in the land. But the Knicks defense isn’t what it was last season — 17th in league overall (in points per possession allowed) and they have struggled with the pick and roll as well as guys in isolation. Need to clean that up as the season wears on. Stoudemire may return to practice this week.
4. Heat (15-6, LW 6). They are 11-2 at home (with a home heavy early schedule) and three of their next four are at home, ending with a Christmas Day finals rematch with the Thunder. Then they head out on the road where they are a .500 team.
5. Spurs (19-6, LW 2). While their defense has been good this season, they have struggled to contain speedy point guards in the pick and roll (doesn’t everyone?) and their rotations to shooters have been a step slow (shot up shooters hitting 43.7 percent overall 39.8 percent from three, that is bottom 10 in the league for San Antonio). You expect the Spurs will clean that up.
6. Warriors (16-8, LW 8). They went 6-1 on a seven game road trip beating the Heat and Hawks — they have made their “look at me” statement. And don’t forget, this is a team that gets Andrew Bogut back and if he is near his old self that gives them a very good defensive center to add to the mix.
7. Grizzlies (15-6, LW 5). They are returning to earth as their offense slipped recently — in their last five games they are shooting 40 percent as a team. Not sure John Hollinger can help that — there are serious questions about his lateral quickness — but he is still a fantastic front office hire.
8. Hawks (14-7, LW 7). They lost to the Heat and Warriors last week, following their pattern of struggling against better teams. Thunder, Sixers and Bulls on the schedule this week to provide some tests.
9. Bulls (13-9, LW 11). Quality wins last week over the Knicks, Nets and 76ers (only loss was to the Clippers). They have four straight road wins. Tom Thibodeau has this team playing hard, defending, but at some point he does need to worry about Luol Deng and Joakim Noah each playing more than 40 minutes a game (they are 1-2 in the league in minutes per game).
10. Celtics (12-11, LW 9). Avery Bradley returned to practice Monday, which is good news. However, he is not going to help their offense, which has really been the weak link in recent weeks and the end of the court they need to get going. Start by cutting down the turnovers.
11. Bucks (12-10, LW 12). They had an ugly loss to the Clippers, but that happens when your starting backcourt shoots 7-of-27. That remains the key in Milwaukee — when just one of Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis gets going they can win games, but if both are off they flounder.
12. Nets (13-10, LW 13). They are 1-1 with the Knicks now, with another game ahead this week. In the PBT podcast speaking with New York local and Nets legend Kenny Anderson he said that he thinks New York is now and for a long time will be a Knicks town where the Nets can carve out a niche.
13. Nuggets (13-12, LW 17). They were 3-1 last week and I’d like to think they are starting to play good defense, get out and run and they are going to find their groove. One reason to be bullish on their future — they have played 14 road games and 7 at home.
14. Timberwolves (12-9, LW 18). Three straight wins and when they got Ricky Rubio back they looked like a different team Saturday. I’d say this is where they start to go on a winning streak but this week’s schedule includes the Heat, Thunder and Knicks.
15. Jazz (13-12, LW 14). They beat the Spurs but lost to the Grizzlies last week, which isn’t bad. The ugly loss to the Suns, that is bad. They remain a bottom 10 defensive team in the league so inconsistency is what you get.
16. Lakers (11-14, LW 16). The Lakers have two wins in a row on the road, which this season actually passes for something they should celebrate. What they really should celebrate is the return of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, both of which could come this week.
17. Pacers (13-11, LW 19). They have a three game winning streak as Paul George seems to be finding his footing as the offensive leader of this team. If he can keep playing like this when Danny Granger returns we may have something.
18. 76ers (12-12, LW 10). Three losses last week to the Bulls, Pacers and Lakers, but the bigger loss was Jrue Holiday to a foot injury — without him and Andrew Bynum they are lost on offense. Immediate concern is 10 of their next 11 are on the road.
19. Rockets (11-11, LW 20). They have lost seven straight on the road as they head into Madison Square Garden Monday night. One thing that became clear after Jeremy Lin’s 38-point outburst against the Spurs with James Harden out — Lin still can’t find his place in the offense working off the ball a little when Harden is in the game.
20. Trail Blazers (11-12, LW 21). They continue to get nights of individual brilliance from guys — Nicolas Batum with the 5×5 on Sunday, some huge nights from Damian Lillard as he tries to lock up Rookie of the Year in December. Sometimes that translates to wins. Sometimes not.
21. Mavericks (11-13, LW 15). They have lost three straight games and a peak at the schedule suggests that may continue — they play the Spurs twice, Heat, Grizzlies, Thunder and Nuggets to close out 2012. Thanks for that, schedule makers.
23. Suns (9-15, LW 26). They beat the Jazz and Grizzlies last week — they are not going to just roll over after a seven-game losing streak. Phoenix is 7-5 at home and four of their next five are there.
24. Pistons (7-19, LW 23). They have a four-game losing streak. What can I say Piston fans but try to find hope in the flashes of good play from Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. There is the start of a better future there.
25. Raptors (6-19, LW 27). Raptors fans are angry and Bryan Colangelo seems to be the target. Which makes sense, do you see a plan with how they are building? That said, a couple come-from behind wins at home last week should pump the fans up a little.
26. Kings (7-15, LW 24). They got tested on the road last week and went 0-3. And they were all pretty ugly, blowout losses. Throw in the DeMarcus Cousins suspension and they are lucky to be this high in the rankings.
27. Cavaliers (5-20, LW 29). Everything changes with Kyrie Irving back in the lineup — his performances don’t always mean wins but it means the Cavs will be competitive most nights. Which is a change from when he was out.
28. Hornets (5-17, LW 28). Getting Anthony Davis back isn’t the answer, they have lost six in a row. What’s troublesome is their usually porous defense was better the last couple games and they still lost because the offense collapsed.
29. Wizards (3-18, LW 30). Passing up James Harden? Really? John Wall can start “ramping up” his workouts, but in the mean time they keep finding a way to win a game a week, which is better than the…
30. Bobcats (7-16, LW 25). They have lost 11 games in a row and now head out on a West Coast road trip that includes the Lakers, Nuggets and red-hot Warriors. Not good at all. Their defense is just dreadful.
Jun 20, 2013, 2:45 AM EDT
I’m not sure how good the Lakers will be with Dwight Howard next season — Lakers fans and players point to the 28-12 stretch and say they can sustain that, I’m not sold — but I know this: Without Howard the Lakers will be a mess next season. Kobe Bryant realizes that too and said…
Jun 20, 2013, 2:21 AM EDT
Not only is the Clippers/Celtics trade back from the dead (don’t say I didn’t warn you) it looks like it could come together Thursday. If Clippers owner Donald Sterling signs off on it this deal could come together Thursday reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. After superstar Chris Paul injected his influence to accelerate talks,…
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…
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