By Albert Luna
NBA Week 14
After a scheduled month-long break, we are back for the second semester of NMSU and national sports. That also means our weekly NBA column. Now if you were counting, we are now coming upon week 14 of the season, which has already been one of the more memorable seasons in years past. As always, I’ll list three things I like and don’t like and include power rankings of the top 10 teams heading into this week of games.
Like: The long-awaited Spurs—Warriors I
We are more than halfway through the season and we have yet to see the two best teams in the league face off even once, despite being in the same conference. The Cavs and Warriors on Christmas day was supposed to be a meeting of the top teams in the league. However, with the Warriors and Spurs losing only a combined 10 games going into Monday night’s matchup, it is literally, from a combined record standpoint at this point in the season, the best regular season matchup in the past 30 years. This looks to be one of the best measuring sticks of the regular season and also carries the heaviest implications for the playoffs.
Don’t Like: The Cavs’ coaching shuffle
David Blatt was never the right coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers—that is just a simple fact. The now former head coach of the Cavs was 30-11 at the time of his firing but simply couldn’t get up to coach the big games, evident by that embarrassing loss at the hands of the Warriors last week. However, the thing that boggles my mind is, why go out and lock up top assistant Tyron Lue to a three-year deal worth $10 million when he has no experience coaching? Why not simply name him an intern for the remainder of the season and base your decision on whether to keep him off of this year’s success? It simply wasn’t good management. Keep in mind, the Cavs are now paying three head coaches (Mike Brown, Blatt, and Lue) and two of them are not even with the team.
Like: Toronto Raptors
It is no coincidence the Raptors want to be well represented at the first ever all-star game in Toronto next month. With Kyle Lowry already locked up as a starter, the team is now just 2.5 games back of being top in the Eastern Conference. With the Cavs in flux now, the Raptors have a legitimate chance to leapfrog them in the standings this week and secure their own coaching staff to coach the Eastern all-stars, which would be a first for the Raptors. Also, star shooting guard Demar DeRozan should get the nod as an all-star reserve, which will be announced later this week. The Raptors seem to be on the upswing at the best time for the franchise and the city.
- Golden State Warriors—The Warriors are still on track to have the best season of all time. They rightfully deserve the top spot here, yet the Spurs are only two games behind them in the standings, making Monday’s game all the more interesting.
- San Antonio Spurs—Kawhi Leonard is clearly number two in the league in terms of MVP nods right now, with his offensive potential finally now caught up with his long-standing defensive prowess. The next step: perform in big moments.
- Oklahoma City Thunder—The Thunder have actually been fairly quiet lately despite going 8-2 in their last 10 games. However, ugly losses, such as on Sunday night versus the Nets, are all the more reason they are not in the top tier in the league, which may now only be a two-member club.
- Toronto Raptors—The Raptors are the hottest team in the East. They’re winning all these games despite the absence of Demarre Carrol, but some superb play from the two backcourt players have pushed the Toronto franchise into elite company seemingly out of nowhere.
- Cleveland Cavaliers—The Cavs’ loss Saturday to the Bulls left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths after the coaching debut of Tyron Lue didn’t go as well as anticipated. The Cavs have some legitimate concerns they are going to have to address, starting with Kevin Love.
- Los Angeles Clippers—The Clippers have slowly crept up to the fourth best team in the West after a shaky start to the season. Chris Paul, meanwhile, is trying to make a push to have his all-star game streak extended with his play of late.
- Chicago Bulls—Sometimes the Bulls look as though they can make a run at the finals, other times they nearly lose to the 76ers. One big difference from years past is they are allowing 102 opponent points per game, a far uptick from the previous coaching regime.
- Atlanta Hawks—The Hawks need to have an all-star on the team this year. If they don’t, they run the risk of being the first franchise since the ‘90s Bulls to have no all-stars just one year after having multiple.
- Memphis Grizzlies—Going 7-3 of late has really helped things in Memphis, where it appears they may be starting to figure things out finally. I firmly expect them to be in the market for three-point shooters at the trade deadline, though.
- Houston Rockets—Inconsistency just might be a thing most Rockets fans might have to learn to live with this season, but when they’re playing good, they really look good. And when they’re bad—well, let’s save that for another top 10.
Be sure to check back next week, same time, for the latest installment of the NBA column.
Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu
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