By Albert Luna
The NBA has its first Monday off since October with the NCAA National Championship Game tonight. That’s too bad, they might have chosen the wrong game, since many are expecting it to be a highly uncompetitive contest.
Then again, that’s none of our business. NBA-wise, we had the Celtics march into Oracle Arena and defeat the previously undefeated-at-home Warriors with a thrilling victory. Let’s get right to it, with three things I like and don’t like, including power rankings.
Like: At least one home streak Is alive
Despite the Warriors getting their home streak ended, the the San Antonio Spurs’ reign still lives at 39 home game wins, and the Spurs have a chance to be the first team to go undefeated at home if they can win two more games. The closest team that has ever come close was the 1986 Boston Celtics who only dropped one game at Boston Garden. The only problem for the Spurs? The Warriors will be coming to visit one more time in San Antonio with a win being vital for their pace to have the most wins in a single season ever.
Don’t Like: The Raptors slipping
The Toronto Raptors have been in the rearview of the first-place Cavaliers for most of the season, coming within 1.5 games on numerous occasions. However, the city from the north has not been able to overtake the Cavs, who have all but clinched the top seed, which could be huge for what is looking to be a rematch in the finals. Keep in mind that the Raptors sport the best home record versus Eastern Conference teams with just three losses. However, three of those losses came at the hands of the Bulls, who could very well sneak into the eighth seed in the playoffs.
Like: Damian Lillard–all-NBA player
For some reason, Lillard was left off the all-star team this past year in favor of James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, and yes, Kobe Bryant. Since the break, Lillard has led his talent-depleted Blazer team to sixth in the Western Conference standings, and will likely make the playoffs. This is all after losing four of five starters last year including LaMarcus Aldridge. The point guard has been playing the best basketball of his career and has taken the West by storm. I fully expect him to be repaid for his all-star snub in the form of an all-NBA third team selection. Anything short would be a robbery.
- Golden State Warriors–69-8 and they must win four of their last five games to make history. The real kicker here is that they still have yet to lock up the #1 seed, courtesy of the Spurs.
- San Antonio Spurs–Will Gregg Popovich really rest his starters this week and let the Warriors roll their way to 73 wins? He seems like the only coach with the guts to do it.
- Cleveland Cavaliers–It says a lot about the East that the Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak is the most in the conference.
- Oklahoma City Thunder–A league-leading 21-point lead blown in the fourth quarter leaves OKC searching for their late game identity with the post season already at the end of next week.
- Toronto Raptors–An ugly home loss to the inconsistent Houston Rockets seems to have developed a pattern for Toronto. They don’t have elite consistency.
- Los Angeles Clippers–Blake Griffin is back… kinda? The former all-star power forward is going to have some serious rust to shake off as the Clippers have locked up home court in the playoffs.
- Boston Celtics–A crazy second half by Isaiah Thomas Friday night in Oakland presented one of the most memorable games in the year. This off season should have the Celtics in the market for a superstar, now more than ever.
- Atlanta Hawks–A loss to the Cavs on Friday could have been negated if Al Horford would get away from the free-throw line and attack the basket. It still was a great game, however.
- Charlotte Hornets–For some reason, last season just always seemed like a fluke. Charlotte is, and will be a playoff team for the second time in three years, a nice little trend when considering they set the single season losing percentage record in the 2011-2012 season.
- Miami Heat–Two really bad losses this weekend to the Lakers and a blowout in Portland can only be excused with the health issues of the Heat. After a while, however, there should be no excuse for their level of play.
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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