Dec 31, 2012, 1:51 PM EDT
We enter 2013 off a week where the two best teams in the East — Miami and New York — looked sloppy while the teams at the top of the Western Conference looked strong and took over the top spots in the weekly rankings.
1. Clippers (25-6, Last week ranked No. 1). The win streak is at 17 in a row and if you’re asking me when it will end my guess is Wednesday, the second night of a back-to-back when the Clippers have to face a good Golden State team. They have the Warriors twice plus the Lakers on deck.
2. Thunder (23-6, LW 2). The Christmas Day loss to Miami shows the Thunder where they need to get, but don’t read too much into a December game. Soft part of the schedule ahead with five straight very winnable games coming up for OKC.
3. Spurs (24-8, LW 5). I don’t think people realize just how well Tiago Splitter is playing right now, he seems to have figured out how to play next to Tim Duncan. So Gregg Popovich is trusting him. He’s very efficient, with a PER of 20.2.
4. Heat (20-8, LW 3). Sloppy lost weekend where they fell to Detroit (after leading by 17) and the Bucks. We’re going to see that this year from the defending champions, stretches where they take a mental vacation. It doesn’t mean much big picture.
5. Warriors (21-10, LW 7). They are 11-2 against the Eastern Conference with wins over Miami and Atlanta, but both the losses are to Orlando. Golden State is in rest mode with two games in nine days, but both against the streaking Clippers.
6. Knicks (21-9, LW 4). The next month is going to be a real test for New York — no Raymond Felton at the point and they soon will try to integrate Amare Stoudemire back into the rotation. They can come out of this stronger, but the best tests are not easy.
7. Hawks (19-9, LW 8). Winners of four in a row, including quality wins over the Bulls and Pacers in that stretch. Their offense is going well with Lou Williams starting, taking over the Joe Johnson role. (Think Hawks fans are enjoying watching the Nets fall apart?)
8. Grizzlies (19-8, LW 6). They are struggling of late because their offense is a mess — 29th in the NBA in the last 10 games (ranked in points by possession at NBA.com). Their defense is still strong but in their win over Denver Saturday they scored just 82 points.
9. Bulls (16-12, LW 9). Derrick Rose is back practicing with the team but not doing anything involving contact. Target for his return is still after the All-Star break. Who the Bulls did get back is Richard Hamilton and Rip is good for their defense.
11. Pacers (17-13, LW 11). Third worst offense in the NBA, second best defense. That is enough to win more games than you lose, but they need Danny Granger back and Roy Hibbert to come out of his funk.
12. Bucks (16-13, LW 12). Picked up a quality win over the Heat but then turned around a lost to the Pistons and Cavaliers. Another good defense, weak offense team but the Bucks are just more up and down than the Pacers.
13. Lakers (15-15, LW 16). Winners of six of their last seven, and the only loss in there was the second night of a back-to-back in Denver. Still, Dwight Howard’s play looks a step slow. Give Pau Gasol credit for trying to do what Mike D’Antoni wants and being more of a stretch four.
14. Rockets (16-14, LW 17). They lost a couple in a row at the end of the week but still look like a team starting to figure out who they are and how they can win games with this roster. James Harden should be an All-Star. Not so much with Jeremy Lin (although he has played better of late).
15. Nets (16-14, LW 13). The Nets are 2-0 under P.J. Carlesimo, although that really has a lot more to playing the Bobcats and Cavaliers than it does the coaching. Carlisimo wants the job and knows winning a lot of games is the only chance he has.
16. Timberwolves (14-13, LW 14). They have won six of their last 10 and I keep waiting for them to go on a little tear, but with six of their next eight on the road and no gimmies in the lot (don’t sell the Hornets at home short) I may be waiting a little longer. They have not found their groove.
17. Trail Blazers (15-14, LW 19). The Damian Lillard show is about to go out on the road the next week with stops in New York, Memphis and Minnesota — all tough wins. But if the Blazers are serious about the playoffs those are the kinds of wins they need to be picked up.
18. Jazz (15-17, LW 17). The home and home against the Clippers emphasized the home-road difference with this team — they could have won that at home with a couple breaks or a couple calls, but they couldn’t stay that close on the road. They are 9-4 in Salt Lake City, 6-13 outside it.
19. Celtics (14-16, LW 15). Doc Rivers made an interesting point — previous Celtics teams played good defense all the time and didn’t let a stretch of bad offense hurt the other end of the floor. This team falls apart on defense when it has a bad offensive stretch.
21. Raptors (11-20, LW 23). They are 7-3 in their last 10 games because they have exploded on offense — 5.4 points per 100 possessions better than their season average the last 10 games and 8.8 better over their last five. DeMar DeRozan has put up points but it’s been the bench with guys like Alan Anderson and lately Kyle Lowry that have been key.
22. Pistons (11-22, LW 25). Nice wins last week over the Heat and Bucks have them climbing up the rankings. You can credit Will Bynum with the Heat win as he was huge, but it was more of a team effort over the Bucks.
23. Magic (12-18, LW 21). They have lost five in a row since Glen Davis went down with a shoulder injury. That’s no coincidence, they miss what Big Baby did on both ends, but particularly on the defensive side.
24. Kings (11-19, LW 26). The owner Maloof brothers overruled their own front office and put DeMarcus Cousins back on the active roster. If you think those same owners will roll over and sign off to trade Cousins you will be sorely disappointed.
25. Mavericks (12-19, LW 24). Getting Dirk Nowitzki back was not the answer, they have lost five in a row. Coach Rick Carlisle is so frustrated he’s threatening to suspend players, but it’s not like he’s got a deep roster of good replacements.
26. Suns (11-20, LW 22). They are the losers of five in a row and the reason is they play no defense. They might outscore you now and again if someone gets hot, but they can’t stop anyone. They have the Thunder, Jazz and Grizzlies on the schedule this week.
27. Hornets (7-23, LW 28). They looked so much better, so much more creative when Eric Gordon got back on the floor — through all the injuries and free agency fanfare people forgot this guy can flat out play. He and Anthony Davis will form a very good pick-and-roll duo by next season.
28. Cavaliers (7-25, LW 27). They have certainly looked a lot better since Kyrie Irving’s return, but certainly not like a playoff team. Look for them to be sellers at the trade deadline with Anderson Varejao and C.J. Miles.
30. Bobcats (7-23, LW 30). The losing streak is up to 18 games with no clear end in sight. In case you’re curious I looked it up and the NBA’s longest losing streak ever is 26 (Cavaliers just two years ago, how could you forget?).
Jun 19, 2013, 4:35 AM EDT
You’ll have to excuses ESPN for not mentioning LeBron James achieving a triple-double during the Heat’s 103-100 win over the Spurs until Game 6 ended. LeBron grabbed his 10th rebound – capping a 32-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound, three-steal game – on Chris Bosh’s block of Tony Parker’s jumper with 31 seconds left, setting off a whirlwind…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:33 AM EDT
At shootaround on Tuesday before Game 6, Chris Bosh said that hot shooting Spur Danny Green wasn’t going to get clean looks at threes. Then, with the Spurs having one last shot in overtime to tie the game, Bosh made sure his words were good by blocking a Green desperation three to tie the game.…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:29 AM EDT
MIAMI — After suffering a brutal Game 6 loss that the Spurs had every reason to believe would turn out in their favor, one of the team’s key veterans wasn’t exactly optimistic that they’ll find a way to bounce back emotionally in time for Thursday’s Game 7. Manu Ginobili was the Game 5 hero for…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:24 AM EDT
For three quarters, as it has been for much of the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs execution was just too much for the Heat to handle — the Spurs shot 50 percent, they played smart defense, they moved the ball, Tim Duncan was playing like a man possessed with 30 points and 14 rebounds,…
Ray Allen giving Heat exactly what they expected this season, including his clutch 3-pointer in Game 6
Jun 19, 2013, 2:06 AM EDT
Ray Allen faced a potentially awkward moment before he even played his first game with the Miami Heat. Not only were the Heat facing his old team, the Boston Celtics, his new teammates were receiving their 2012 championship rings. Miami had won a hard-fought seven-game series over Allen’s Celtics on its way to the title,…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:53 AM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs were on the brink of winning a championship. With 28 seconds remaining in the fourth, they held a five-point lead, were on a 10-2 run over the last four minutes, and fans were heading for the exits while arena staffers lined the court to rope off the crowd in preparation for…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:27 AM EDT
Chris Bosh, the Heat’s center, was the Miami player who took the necessary step of declaring Danny Green was done getting open looks. When push came to shove, Bosh – the Heat’s center (!) – backed up his words, which really should have come from one of the perimeter players who kept leaving Green open.…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:55 PM EDT
Ray Allen is amazingly, incredibly clutch. This is exactly why the Heat wanted him from Boston. What a huge shot. If the Heat win this series, that will go down as one of the greatest shots in Finals history. Allen and LeBron James will get credit for making 3-pointers to send Game 6 to overtime,…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:43 PM EDT
Tony Parker, who made the defining play of the series, his twisting, shot-clock beating clincher in Game 1, is at it again. He stepped back to create space for a game-tying 3-pointer, got a steal on the other end and then drove into the paint for a short jumper to put San Antonio up by…
Jun 18, 2013, 11:29 PM EDT
The Spurs entered the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the NBA Finals with a 10-point lead, but the Heat are fighting back. Two shoes or one, they’re not quitting. I don’t know why the Spurs called timeout after Mike Miller made that 3-pointer without his shoe. I’d want to attack him on the other…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:27 PM EDT
That was a great game. And Game 7 sets up to be something special. For three quarters San Antonio’s execution was too much for Miami and the Spurs entered the fourth up 10 (75-65) and just 12 minutes away from a title. Tim Duncan had been a force, with countermoves spinning Chris Bosh around and…
Jun 18, 2013, 10:26 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs lead the Heat 50-44 at halftime of Game 6 of the Finals, and if Miami is to prevent a championship celebration tonight on its home floor, they must find an answer from what is developing into an all-time great performance from Tim Duncan. Duncan has been unstoppable thus far, and has…
Jun 18, 2013, 9:51 PM EDT
Mike Miller remained in the starting lineup, but that merely made him the guy in the way of Kawhi Leonard. This ferocious dunk gave Leonard eight early points after he made a three-point play and a 3-pointer.
Jun 18, 2013, 8:39 PM EDT
MIAMI — Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra hinted that a lineup change might be possible in advance of Game 6, but wasn’t going to reveal it until absolutely necessary. “I’ll turn in my card at 45 minutes,” he said. There was no lineup change to be found when the time came, however, as three-point specialist…
Jun 18, 2013, 6:44 PM EDT
Miami has gone very small against the Spurs — and it worked at first, the Heat won a game and forced the Spurs to adjust to them. However a consequence of that has been Chris Andersen has slid out of the rotation. The Birdman’s size was key against the large Pacers front line last series,…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:59 PM EDT
Kansas’ Ben McLemore was pretty much a top three pick on everybody’s board a month ago, but he may be sliding down some boards right now. In part that is because the smooth-shooting guard out of Kansas didn’t help his cause in some recent workouts, reports Chad Ford at ESPN.com (Insider). Multiple sources told me…
Jun 18, 2013, 5:40 PM EDT
I know, there’s some irony to Chris Bosh talking about physical play. But the thing is, he’s right — the Miami Heat have to come out with their best defensive effort they are not going on to a Game 7. They need to stick with shooters on the perimeter, make crisp rotations and stop cheating…
Jun 18, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT
No. The Spurs could lose Game 6 and then win Game 7 to win the title. Previously: Is Game 5 a must-win for the Spurs or Heat?
Jun 18, 2013, 3:24 PM EDT
Although the Celtics would be in a tough spot if they don’t trade with the Clippers, Los Angeles doesn’t face the same pressure. Acquiring Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and maybe Paul Pierce is one option of many. The Clippers will continue interviewing Lionel Hollins, Brian Shaw and Byron Scott, and if they choose the best…
Jun 18, 2013, 3:16 PM EDT
Monta Ellis has told the Milwaukee Bucks he is opting out of the $11 million he is owed next season become a free agent this summer. As noted at the time, it would be interesting to see what teams would go after a volume shooter — he scored 19.2 points a game but shot just…
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- Spurs execution fails them when it matters most. Can they get it back for Game 7? 5
- Heat force a Finals Game 7 with thrilling overtime win over Spurs 7
- NBA Finals Game 6: Heat comeback in fourth, win in overtime to force Game 7 96
- PBT Extra: Talking Duncan, LeBron legacies; plus Game 6 12
- NBA Finals Game 6: Heat comeback in fourth, win in overtime to force Game 7 (98)
- If Spurs win, it is LeBron’s legacy that will take biggest hit (83)
- Lakers unlikely to sign and trade Dwight Howard to the Clippers, Rockets, or anyone else (81)
- LeBron James: “I just have to play better” (78)
- Heat’s Big Three dominate Game 4 to even the Finals at two games apiece (74)
- Heat rally to beat Spurs in Game 6
- PBT: After blowing lead, can Spurs rebound in Game 7?
- PST: On-fire Altidore lifts USA over Honduras in WCQ
- CSN: Patriots' Hernandez questioned in murder investigation
- CSN: Celtics-Clippers KG, Rivers trade talks dead
- HBT: Mets' Wheeler goes six scoreless in MLB debut
- Lolo Jones' attempt at humor backfires
- Play Video: Bosh: 'We'll see who hits first'
- Play Video: PBT Extra: LeBron's legacy at stake, Duncan's safe
- Play Video: Clippers, Celtics discussions 'can't be wrong'
- Play Video: Elliot looks ahead to Game 6
- Play Video: The Hype: How much would you pay to punch someone?
- Play Video: If Heat lose, 'all hell will break loose'