Due to my ambitious effort to not watch any Knicks games for Lent, I won’t be mentioning the Amasian or the Knicks in any way. But it’s all good because there’s plenty of other teams that are keeping the NBA exciting.
The Thunder are having the best week ever right now. They overwhelmed the older, lethargic Celtics with 72 pts. in the 1st half! Against Denver last Sunday, Durant put up 51 (with 8 rebs and 4 steals), Westbrook put up 40, and Serge Ibaka put a crazy triple-double with 11 blocks. If you missed those 2 games, you missed an optimal opportunity to see what makes this team so special. I spoke about James Harden’s role back during the start of the season and how important his production is to the Thunders success. Although he’s not the type that’ll consistently give you the numbers of a starter, his numbers have increased year to year. He comes off the bench as pretty much money from anywhere on the court. Out in the West, youth, athleticism, and a great hometown crowd is on the Thunder’s side to cruise to the Western Conference Finals. Maybe even the Finals…
As much as vitriol as Carlos Boozer gets from Bulls fans and Duke haters, he’s not looking his absolute worst. He’s hovering around 53% shooting, which is his career average. Defensively, he’s dropped off from being a zealous PF on the boards only averaging 8 rebounds. D-Rose is hampered by recent injury, but thus far he’s improving on both sides of the ball. The United Center crew is #1 in their division (by a landslide) and #2 in the East overall. With the front court of Deng, Boozer, and Noah, the Bulls are #2 in rebounds per game and have allowed only 7 teams to score 100+ points against them. As a unit defensively they’re playing as they should given the roster. The flip side about them is when they’re offensively hot, they’re really good. And when they’re offensively cold, they’re really bad. Their bench still doesn’t have the consistency it should and that’s how they’ve loss a few games that might’ve been winnable (ie: the team I discuss in the next paragraph). Having a defensive specialist like Tom Thibodeau as head coach has helped them offset those type of nights. If they have to meet the Heat again in the Eastern Conference finals, I like the Bulls’ chances this time around.
As a #allnyeverything fan, it pains me to type this, but those kats over in Philly are quietly balling the hell out this year! Like the Thunder in the west, the 6ers have escape any major injuries and it’s to their advantage. The argument to their success is they haven’t beat any of the elite teams, although they did win over the Bulls and Lakers this month. Their defense (much like the Bulls) doesn’t give away too many 100+ point games either. It’s imperative to note that the 6ers also have 6 players averaging in double digits. Not too many teams can claim that. Andre Iguodala is heavily underrated that it’s kind of annoying. Because the 6ers don’t really have a marquee all star player, their progress is being sadly overlooked.
On 2 different spectrums are the San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers, but I like them for the same reason. The Pacers are #3 in the East with a 10-4 home record, part in thanks to the highly effectiveness of team play. Their 5 starters are all averaging more than 10 ppg and big man Roy Hibbert is a solid 13 and 9 guy, shooting 51%. They don’t have turn the ball over alot and are on the boards tirelessly. What they lack in depth, they make up for in athletic starters. They’ve beaten Boston, Chicago, and the Lakers. So don’t sleep on these guys.
The Spurs are the Spurs. Despite Ginobili’s prone to injury, they are on target for an expected round 2 appearance. But it’s their stars that have me concerned about if they can get past a team like the Thunder or Blazers. Tim Duncan and DeJuan Blair make up 1 of the weakest front courts in the league. And with age, Duncan’s offensive ability is starting to wane as well. The 1 thing that distinguishes the Spurs from say the Lakers or the Clippers is that they have a well-rounded bench of role players. Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, and Kawhi Leonard are giving Coach Pop a good balance of respectful output when they’re on the floor. I’d like to see Richard Jefferson be more aggressive on defense though. I think his contribution will be a big deal come May.
There’s alot of good to say about the Heat. Their defense has improved, Bosh knows his role as being a great role player. They’re a clear favorite for a 2nd Eastern Conference finals appearance. So basically, if they don’t win the ring this year, then that whole summer 2010 was all hype.
Overall, those are the only teams that really keep me excited about the 2nd half of the season. I’m interested to see where these teams will rank at the end of the regular season.