By Albert Luna
After a week off for spring break, we have a bit more clarity as we head down the stretch of the NBA season. The Spurs-Warriors II was exactly the kind of game that could return some intrigue to the season. With the Spurs winning the long-awaited rematch with the still-on-record to be the best team of all time Warriors, the West is still very much not a certain for the Warriors. Let’s get right to it, with three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.
Like: LaMarcus Aldridge showing up
The first game in which the Spurs lost by 30 points to the Warriors and were blown out of Oracle Arena, the Spurs’ new big man had arguably one of his worst games in his career, being limited to single digit points and rebounds. The backlash was so bad, the power forward immediately deleted all of his social media accounts afterwards, but mentioned it was unrelated. He might want to get those accounts back after Saturday to absorb some of the praise after carrying the Spurs to a win and making sure the Warriors stay winless in San Antonio since 1997. Aldridge finished the game with game-highs in points (26) and rebounds (14) to go along with the win.
Don’t Like: The Mavericks’ free fall
When Memphis lost Marc Gasol for the season to add onto their plethora of other injuries, with the (at the time) sixth-seeded Mavs looked prime to make a jump in the standings and set up a post season date with the manageable Clippers. However, in the last two weeks, Dallas has looked like anything but a team that even wants to make the playoffs. Setting a new record for consecutive home losses isn’t exactly the kind of headlines Dallas wants to be making at this point in the season. Even a nice comeback on Sunday versus the Blazers doesn’t make up for so many missed opportunities. The Mavs also seem to be wasting vintage performances from Dirk Nowitzki, who, at 37 years old, has been averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds a game during their skid.
Don’t Like: Anthony Davis’ situation
This is why people should not just jump at the money. As we see time and time again, a star player on a rookie contract immediately gets a max deal the first chance he can (such as AD23 did this past summer) without assurance he will be relevant in the league going forward. Anthony Davis and the Pelicans had a wasted year due to injury and now seem to be hitting the reset button. Unless something very drastic happens (such as trading for a complementary all-star caliber player), Davis could very well be on his way to wasting his prime years of his career on mediocre teams.
- Golden State Warriors—Since Week One, the Warriors have not been a real threat to move anywhere else on these power rankings, but with the Spurs just three games behind, another slip up might make things at the top interesting.
- San Antonio Spurs—The ever-selfless Tim Duncan is such an underrated teammate. He didn’t start and played just eight minutes on Saturday night but no one will talk about it because that is simply the culture of the Spurs.
- Oklahoma City Thunder—As long as Russell Westbrook can keep up these extraordinary triple-doubles going, the Thunder should have no problem finishing off this season with at least 60 wins.
- Cleveland Cavaliers—The Cavs were playing so well of late before that dropped dud on Saturday night in Miami in what was LeBron’s second time playing in South Beach since leaving the Heat. He has lost both times now.
- Toronto Raptors—As much as we talk about the home advantage that comes with the Spurs and the Warriors, the Raptors are quietly tied for third in the league with 28 home wins.
- Los Angeles Clippers—Any talk that the absence of Blake Griffin making the Clips better can be put to rest, especially after allowing opposing power forward Zach Randolph to get his first career triple double on Saturday night in an ugly loss.
- Atlanta Hawks—Out of nowhere! The Hawks suddenly wake up and find themselves in third place in the Eastern Conference. Who said anything about trade rumors last month?
- Miami Heat—The Heat’s win on Saturday versus the Cavs mean they will surely be a tough one come playoff time for any team. The question is now, who will that team be?
- Memphis Grizzlies—Anything the Grizz do at this point should be commended. They literally are playing anyone nowadays with all the injuries they are dealing with. Yet they are still fifth-seeded in the loaded West.
- Charlotte Hornets—How about the Hornets? Before an ugly loss on Saturday, they were the hottest team in the league and had won seven in a row. This while being without their highest-paid player MKG.
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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