By Albert Luna
The rematch of Thunder-Warriors was not even the biggest game of the weekend for the NBA. Somehow on a Sunday matinee match, the Lakers, with their 12 wins, took down the Warriors, who went into the match with 55 victories, for the biggest regular season upset in NBA history ( by win percentage). We also saw this week the bottom three teams in the Western conference playoff picture simply refusing to win a ball game against beatable opponents (looking at you, Mavericks, Jazz, and Rockets). Let’s get right to it, here are three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.
Like: The Spurs are creeping up
Don’t look now, but after that dud of a performance—the Warriors against the Lakers on Sunday—the Spurs are a mere two games back in the loss column for the number-one seed, their closet margin since the season began. Although they have nine losses to Golden State’s still historic six losses, it is worth noting that the Spurs and Warriors still play each other three more times this season, with two of the three taking place in San Antonio, where the Spurs are still undefeated, being just the third team in history to start a season 30-0 at home, the other two, (Bulls, Magic) both went on to the NBA Finals. The only problem, the Warriors are sitting at 26-0 at home, as well.
Don’t Like: Kobe is starting to break down
Kobe Bryant has missed three of his past five games, and in the two games he has been able to play in, he has played just a total of 37 minutes in those contests, which was his season average just seven years ago in minutes per game. 37 minutes in 10 days for a “sore shoulder” certainly doesn’t sound good for Bryant. Luckily for him, he has the majority of the next five weeks of his final season at home, as he’s made it a point to say that he wanted to play in most road games this year since it would be his last time playing in that city. His 37-year-old body simply doesn’t seem to be up to the task to carry the legend to play in the remaining games left in his career. Here’s hoping that he can.
Don’t Like: No one wants to make the playoffs?
The Western conference has been a mess after the top four teams (Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers). Taking out the Grizzlies, who have done a great job of keeping things in tact after losing Marc Gasol for the season, the four teams fighting for three playoff spots have been mediocre to say the least. The Mavs, Blazers (who fizzled this week after being the hottest team in the league), Rockets, and Jazz are all not taking advantages of opportunities. A perfect example of this is the Mavs blowing a four-point lead with less than 14 seconds left and somehow not being able to inbound a ball, as they dropped an ugly loss to the Nuggets on Sunday afternoon.
- Golden State Warriors—A seven-game winning streak has been snapped and the Warriors will need to go 18-3 in their final 21 games to break the Bulls’ record for best team of all time. However, they have one of the harder schedules in the league in that span.
- San Antonio Spurs—As mentioned, the Spurs are inching closer to the Warriors in the standings, and the same is true for them in these power rankings. The next few weeks should be interesting.
- Cleveland Cavaliers—Winners of seven of their last 10 games, the Cavs had a good week’s worth of games, yet seem to be having some chemistry issues in the locker room still.
- Toronto Raptors—An ugly loss on Sunday that saw them blow a big lead to the lowly Rockets left a sour taste in the Raptors’ mouths after some quality wins against Western conference teams this week.
- Oklahoma City Thunder—A win versus the Bucks on Sunday stopped the bleeding for the Thunder, who went into the contest with the third-worst record since the all-star break, and blew a big lead on Wednesday night versus the Clippers.
- Los Angeles Clippers—A big win versus the Thunder might as well be meaningless if the Clippers are going to turn around and lose to the Hawks at home. Consistency will be a major point of emphasis.
- Miami Heat—Winners of five straight, the Heat are the hottest team in the East right now. One has to imagine just how scary this team would look with a healthy Chris Bosh, who seems to be getting further and further from returning to play this season.
- Boston Celtics—The Celtics might just be benefiting from an easy schedule or simply just catching teams on the wrong night, but they seem to look like a legit top-four team in the East. Credit to Brad Stevens.
- Memphis Grizzles—As mentioned, I have no idea how Memphis is staying so sharp after the loss of their best play for the season, but it doesn’t hurt to have Mike Conley on your team, who has come alive after a bad start to the season.
- Atlanta Hawks—The Hawks are quietly now at 35 wins on the year and might be able to make a push at a least a 50 win season for the second year in a row if they can handle opponents down the stretch.
Be sure to check next week, same time, and same place, for the next installment of the NBA Column.
Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu
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