Archive for the ‘Oklahoma City Thunder’ Category

Jazz Lakers

After a heartbreaking loss to cross-town-rival L.A. Clippers, the Lakers are once again on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.

That coveted eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff seedings is now held by the Utah Jazz, after they beat the Golden State Warriors on the road.

The Jazz hold a current half-game lead over the Lakers, which, because the Jazz own the tiebreaker between the two, is actually a 1 1/2 game lead. In other words, the Jazz’s proverbial destiny is in their own hands. Win out, and they’re in.

But, how likely is it that the Jazz win out? Not likely. However, the Lakers schedule is no treat either.

Jazz remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs Oklahoma City

4/12 – vs Minnesota

4/15 – at Minnesota

4/17 – at Memphis

Lakers remaining schedule:

4/9 – vs New Orleans

4/10 – at Portland

4/12 – vs Golden State

4/14 – vs San Antonio

4/17 – vs Houston

Mathematically, the Lakers need to win two more of their remaining games than the Jazz do. (i.e. if the Jazz win three of their four, the Lakers must win all five remaining games)

Looking at the Jazz’s remaining games against the Lakers’ remaining games, it seems highly unlikely that the Lakers get that spot back.

I would bet the Jazz end up winning three of their four games, with the lone loss coming against the Thunder at home.

This puts the Lakers in a terrible spot. Winning all five games is going to be nearly impossible. Nearly.

The two games I can see as the Lakers’ biggest issues are San Antonio and Houston.

The good news for LA is that both of those games are at home and both of those games are the last games of the season, which means both the Spurs and Rockets may be resting starters by then, as both of them have clinched their playoff spots.

The bad news, is that the Lakers aren’t exactly the most popular team in the NBA and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that every team remaining on the Lakers’ schedule would love to play the “spoiler” role.

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The Miami Heat have played the best basketball since the All-Star break in the Eastern Conference, in which many have penciled-in the Heat as champs.

The Western Conference, however, seems to be less top-heavy. The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are certainly two favorites to win the West’s Finals spot, but an upset somehow seems eminent this season.

If the Heat’s post-All-Star-break play is indicative of their postseason chances, the Denver Nuggets seem to me the current favorite in the West.

Their playoff road ahead may not be as friendly as the one the Heat are sure to see, with the potential of series’ against both the Thunder and the Spurs, but the Nuggets have proven capable of excellent road play of late.

Before the All-Star break, the Nuggets’ road record was an unimpressive 11-18. Since the break, the road record has improved to 18-21, or 7-3 since Feb. 19th, including wins at Oklahoma City, Chicago, and recently Utah.

They beat the Thunder on their home court as well, which is no surprise, considering the Nuggets own the league’s best home record at 33-3 (the Heat with only 32-4). Clearly, the Nuggets are the team no one wants to face right now.

What makes them so formidable, ironically, stems back to around the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011. Piece by piece, the Nuggets have rebuilt the entire franchise. It’s no longer Melo, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, and Chauncey Billups, with the team living or dying on Anthony’s 25-30 shots, but now a completely balanced team playing as a unit all season long.

Whatever happens, George Karl deserves the “Coach of the Year” award for the production he is getting from this squad. Four of five starters have started 70+ of 75 total games, (Ty Lawson starting 68).

Six players are currently averaging double-digit points per game. The team is so evenly balanced that the top 10 of 15 players on the roster are within 5 points as far as player efficiency rating.

The highest PER (Player Efficiency Rating) belongs to, should-be, “6th Man of the Year” Javale McGee at 20.9.

Their point guard play is excellent. There is not another player in the league faster with the basketball than Lawson. That kid can fly. He also has the fortunate option of assisting McGee, veterans Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, or rising star Kenneth Faried.

Faried is no joke. He can jump out of the gym and goes 100% every game. With a bit of work in the off-season on his shooting and post game offense, Faried looks to be a force for the Nuggets for a few years yet.

Even a run into the late rounds of the Western Conference playoffs would prove a glimpse of future successes and possibly Denver’s first Championship team.

Don’t count them out.

There seems to be two top dogs remaining in the NBA playoffs. The San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.

English: Wizards v/s Heat 03/30/11

English: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spurs have been on a tear lately, going 20-0 in their last 20 games. These 20 victories include series sweeps over the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers as well as convincing victories in Games 1 & 2 of their Western Conference series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Miami Heat have also completed Game 1 & 2 of their conference finals series with the Boston Celtics.

Both Eastern and Western Conference Finals series head back to the lower-seeded teams’ home courts for Games 3 and 4 in Boston and Oklahoma City, respectively.

Ah, all of a sudden, the task doesn’t seem so easy for the favorite Spurs and Heat.

The Thunder fans are real hyped fans. What would you expect from a state whose entire population is currently stir crazy waiting for college football to start? Seriously, what else is there? (See also Jazz fans).

Both the Spurs and Heat have had to overcome being behind late in a game and overcoming deficit to earn the win. Alternately, they have each cruised for a dominant victory.

Spectacular as each team is, the Heat and Spurs both have chinks in the armor that have been exposed at one point or another in these playoffs.

For the Heat, interior play has been absolutely key. With the injury suffered by Chris Bosh early in the second round against the Indiana Pacers, the Heat’s defense against the low post and rebounding has been a cause for concern. The Pacers were able to take advantage of the deficiency in Games 2 and 3 of that series and earned W’s against the favored Heat. Of course, Dwyane Wade‘s struggles to score were no small factor either.

LeBron James has produced consistently the entire postseason, averaging 29.6 points/9.2 rebounds/5.8 assists per game. Dwyane Wade more than any other Heat player determines the outcome of the game. When he plays well, he compliments LeBron’s contributions and victory is imminent. When Wade plays poorly, LeBron finds himself in the same scenario as rookie Michael Jordan, scoring 63 points against the Celtics in 2 OT in a losing effort.

The Spurs are the epitome of “team basketball.” Their crisp passing and intelligent play has been frustrating the last 20 teams San Antonio has faced.

Tony Parker, who is averaging 20.5 points/3.8 rebounds/7.1 assists per game in the Spurs’ “sweep-fest” is clearly the most valuable Spur at this point. He and Tim Duncan are the strongest contributors on the team with great production out of Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and others. It appears the only thing that can stop the Spurs is either father time as the games move forward, or the offense missing jumpers and letting the opposition go on the fast break.

The Thunder and Celtics both have their backs to the wall and will look to defend their home courts in order to steal one on the road. You can bet if the Spurs or Heat can get just one win on the road over the next two games, it’ll be a Spurs/Heat finals.