Edition 10 Playoff predictions for the first round, will the Blazers upset the Warriors? Don’t count on it

It’s that time of year again and the NBA play-offs are just a day away. All teams will feel they have a chance of making the finals in June. I’ll be looking at all the match-ups in the East and Western conferences, can we expect another Cavs Warriors clash? Or can another team make the finals?

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors (1) Vs Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Barring a miracle from the Blazers, this should be smooth sailing for Curry and co. Durant is back from his injury and the Warriors will look to sweep this Blazers side who barely scraped the playoffs, due to Westbrooks heroics against the Nuggets. Perhaps if Portland’s backcourt Lillard and CJ can catch fire at home they can sneak one win vs the Warriors but I expect Golden state to take care of the Blazers.

Warriors in 5.

San Antonio Spurs (2) vs Memphis Grizzlies (7)

I expect a sweep here, The Grizzlies are a good team, possessing the likes of potential All-NBA centre Marc Gasol and guard Mike Conley as their stars, but led by Kawhi Leonard The Spurs should take care of business. These teams played each other in last year’s play-offs and the Spurs swept them, and I expect the same again. In this series we have two of the best defensive teams in the league, so it won’t be one of the most glamorous games in the first round, I am however looking forward to the tussle between the Gasol Brothers.

Spurs in 4.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/spurs/article/Gameday-central-Spurs-vs-Grizzlies-11024005.php

Marc and Pau Gasol- MySanAntonio

Houston Rockets (3) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

MVP vs MVP, it’s the way most people would label this series. I personally can’t wait to see an “underdog” Russell Westbrook explode against the Houston Rockets. The rockets are the favourites for this fixture and it shouldn’t just be ear-marked as Harden vs Westbrook. The rockets won the series 3-1 and Hardens role players are generally better than Westbrooks team mates. I’d have to give this series to the Rockets, with a view to ‘how far can Russell carry this team in the playoffs’ I can see Westbrook averaging monster stats in this game, something like 40ppg but I’m just not sure he will be able to sustain that for every game, and with the Rockets shooting ability I think they will win.

Rockets in 7.

Los Angeles Clippers (4) vs Utah Jazz (5)

The most intriguing first round match up see’s the Clippers boast home court advantage against Utah. This is a must win for the Clippers side, even perhaps for the Clippers organisation. If they fail to win here they could potentially split the team up. After their constant failures in the playoffs, this off-season could potentially be the time to split up, CP3, Blake Griffin and DeAndre. Having said that I do believe the Clippers will go through, the experience they have in their arsenal, behind Chris Pauls leadership, Blakes athleticism and having home court, the Clippers should go through. The Jazz have a good but all be it inexperienced side, Hayward and Gobert can provide big problems for the Clippers but I think they’ll go through.

Clippers in 6.

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtic (1) vs Chicago Bulls (8)

This isn’t your stereotypical 1 vs 8 seed matchup. Boston to their credit done magnificently well to get the 1 seed in the East, although for the most part it was due to the abysmal Cavs. However, the last time the Celtics were the first seed in 07/08 they did go on to win the title. The Bulls made the play-offs on the final day of the regular season, getting in at the expense the Heat. I do think the Celtics will go through but all the pressure is on them, the Bulls have had a circus year, will they? won’t they make the play-offs? And Yet behind Jimmy Butler who is an All-NBA talent, behind Dwyane Wade’s experience, the Bulls do have a chance of winning a few games. If the bulls are to have a chance they must double team Isiah Thomas, the Celtics best player. I do think behind the tutelage of Brad Stevens; I do see the Celtics going through.

Celtics in 6

Cleveland Cavaliers (2) vs Indiana Pacers (7)

Over the last 25 games of the season the Cavs went 11-14, which is an awful record. A record that seen them finish in the second seed, to everyones suprise. Lebron James vs Paul George is always entertaining. But will Lance blow in Lebron’s ear again? I feel that the Cavs will enable play-off mode again and turn it on while quashing all their doubters. The Cavaliers come into the game with a 4-game loss streak while the Pacers come into it having won their last 5 and Lance Stephenson’s arrival has given the Pacers a spark. Ultimately I do think the Cavs will dominate the Pacers, the individual battle between the King and PG13 will be intriguing, but at the end of the day Lebron has a better team around him and that will show.

Cavs in 5.

http://sports.yahoo.com/m/f6624d74-72e2-384e-96b4-12f5b56f5a96/ss_14-hilarious-lance-stephenson.html

Lance Stephenson blowing in Lebrons ear- Yahoo Sports

Toronto Raptors (3) vs Milwaukee bucks (6)  

The Toronto Raptors had their best ever play-off performance last year reaching the conference finals, only losing to the Cavaliers. This year they don’t have the demon on their backs of never winning a play-off series, so they come into it more relaxed. The Bucks come into it on the back of a great season led behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has led his team in points, assist, rebounds, blocks and steals. I do think the Raptors are a better overall side though with the ‘North’ being better in both offense and defence, I do expect them to go out there and take care of business. Giannis may be able to steal a game or two for the Bucks, but nothing else.

Raptors in 6.

Washington Wizards (4) vs Atlanta Hawks (5)

I expect a very tough series here, a series where both teams will have to grit and grind to get the win. When it comes to the 4th vs 5th seed, home court can be crucial because of how close the teams re in terms of ability. I have been impressed by Millsap and Howard, but I want to see how Dennis Schroder will be as the number one guard for Atlanta. The Wizards front court is on another level though and I do think John Wall will dominate this series, with the help of Beal. I do think because of how much experience the Hawks have they will be able to get 2 games, but with Washington having home court I can see them racing out of the blocks.

Wizards in 6.

Edition 9 Who wins MVP? Westbrook or Harden?

As the regular season comes to an end, the excitement about the playoffs begins, but one question remains. Who deserves MVP? This season has been one for the ages, and there have been many candidates for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

Russel Westbrook has set the basketball world alight with his dominating performances which have seen him become only the second player ever, to average a triple-double throughout a season. James Harden has had an incredible season, leading to Houston Rockets to third in the heavily stacked Western Conference. Kawhi has had a career year, and could join the likes of Dikembe Mutombo and Dwight Howard as the only players to win three Defensive Player of the year awards. Finally, the everlasting Lebron James, will be in the MVP conversation for as long as he plays, because he’s Lebron.

But who deserves the award? It has to be a two-horse race between Westbrook and Harden, both have similar stats and both have been the MVP for their respective teams.

There is a very big case for Harden to win the MVP award. If it wasn’t for Him many believe we would have had our second unanimous MVP. He is running the second-best offense in the league, compared to Russell who is leading the 16th best offense and although Harden doesn’t have the glamour of a ‘triple-double’ next to his name, his stats are similar to Westbrooks, averaging 29.1ppg 8.1 rpg, and 11.2 assists per game. Harden has been more efficient than Westbrook, Russell takes more than five shots per game more than Harden, too many shots to justify a gap of just 2.8 points per game, while Harden gets his team mates involved more often. His team is third in the West only behind the heavily talented Warriors and Spurs, compared to the Thunder who sit in 6th. Harden also leads the leagues in double-doubles, and has more 40-10 games than anyone in the NBA. The head to head record with the Thunder is in Hardens favour too as they boast 3-1 record over Oklahoma.

http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/russell-westbrook-triple-double-james-harden-nba-mvp-race/nxd1yrs00ukr1uhqor3bymd6z

James Harden- SportingNews

Enter Mr Triple-double, Westbrook has been outstanding this season, and has been more integral for his team than Harden has for the Rockets I feel. Westbrook for me has had more ‘MVP moments’ or ‘MVP plays’ if such a thing had a category. His game winner against the Denver Nuggets was nothing short of spectacular, all this while he got his third 50-point triple double, more than anyone else in history. There is an argument that Russ gets more game winners, or more of these magical moments because his team is worse and the onus is on him to do all the work, for example Harden doesn’t have to shoot a game winner because his team would have already won the game, so he isn’t in the positions that Russ’ is in.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2017/04/09/russell-westbrook-record-42nd-triple-double-oscar-robertson/100261858/

Russel Westbrook- USA today

Kobe said that this could be the first year we see ‘Co-MVPs’ and when you look at that it may not be the worst idea in the word because these two superstars are so hard to separate, but for me it has to be Russell Westbrook, to play with the anger the ferocity the intensity he does night after night is what an MVP does. Getting his team into the 6th seed in the playoffs, without KD and an average roster, it’s what an MVP does. For me it doesn’t come down to wins, obviously it has something to do with it, but you shouldn’t give it to someone purely due to the fact they’re surrounded by better players, Russ deserves it, end of story!

 

 

 

Edition 8 A Statement win for Butler and Co? Another damaging defeat for Lebron

Can this win kick-start the Bulls playoff chances?

The Chicago Bulls’ 99-93 win over Cleveland could have huge ramifications for both teams.  The Bulls have had a very indifferent season this year, they boast a 4-0 record over the Cavaliers, but also have some embarrassing loses, coupled with some confusing front office decisions and another Rondo saga, you’d of thought another humiliating play-off-less season was approaching.

However the Bulls have hope, in the shape of Jimmy Butler. The guard/ small forward has been an inspirational figure for the Bulls this season, and he has always come good when the Bulls have needed him most. It’s weird to think that if you ponder back to the off-season before this season had started, that it was a toss-up between Butler and Rose, you must have thought they were mad to even consider these two, Butler in his prime, crazy! Crazy still is that they’re considering to swap him again this season, when he is their MVP, he is invaluable to them.

http://www.sportsmedia101.com/philadelphia76ers/2017/03/31/best-of-nba-bulls-top-cavs-while-james-moves-to-7th-on-nba-scoring-list/

Jimmy vs Lebron- Sports Media 101

The performance against the Cavs was impressive and one that had to happen, it could turn to be a catalyst for their season. The Bulls erased a double-digit deficit, and scored 37 in the third quarter. Led by Mirotic’s 28 and Butlers 25 and the Bulls now have a platform to build on. Dwyane Wade’s injury hurt the Bull’s play-off chances, and they will miss his experience down the stretch and his leadership, yet if Butler can continue to perform, then they are definitely in with a chance of making the play-offs.

What does this mean for Cleveland though? Going into the game with a record of 0-3, you felt they had to win, just to restore some confidence if nothing else, instead what they got was another loss, one that can only dampen the mood of a wounded giant. Lebron was quoted after the loss saying;

“We’re just in a bad spot”

But is it more than that? The Cavs have lost 5 of their last 7 games, and you have to say complacency could be a factor in their recent fall from grace. Losses against the Wizards and Spurs must have hurt the Cavs and will have given them a reality check. I feel however that the Cavs believe they are better than they actually are, and deserve the top spot in the East, without playing well and earning it.

Hats off to Lebron for overtaking Shaq to 7th all-time in the scoring list, but he will need to play better as will his team mates, if they are going regain their “rightful” place at the top of the East, they have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in.

Other News in the NBA;

Did we just see the greatest triple-double in NBA history? After getting the first ever ‘perfect’ triple-double, he went on to record 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 dimes, in the game vs the Magic the Thunder erased a 21 point deficit, their largest comeback in their history, but it was Westbrooks 3 point fading jumper that secured overtime with 7 second left, a play that has put him as the favorite for the MVP title.

http://newsok.com/article/5543639

Russel Westbrook and fans- NewsOK

Fianlly

Since Klay Thompson signed his infamous ‘toaster’ the Warriors are a perfect 9-0 and their recent victory over the Spurs was a real statement. Iguodala has really stepped up in the absence of Durant and the Warriors recent run of form has reminded us that they’re the team to beat this season, with or without KD.

Edition 7 Best back court in the NBA? Is it in Washington? Have we just seen one of the best performances in NBA history?

Best back court in the league, a case for Beal and Wall?

If you go through the eras in the NBA, something that has never been lacking has been outstanding Guards. In the 70’s we had the triple double monster, Oscar Robertson, alongside the man on the NBA logo Jerry West.  During the hustle and bustle of the 80’s we had, one of the best guards ever Magic Johnson, and Detroit’s Isiah Thomas. In the 90’s we had the best player to play the game at his peak, Michael Jordan, alongside him we had ‘The Glove’ Gary Payton, and dime distributers, John Stockton and Jason Kidd. The Naughty’s was no different either, Kobe showed his class winning 5 championships, Dwayne Wade got Miami its first championship, and how could I forget Alan Iverson, the guy who made Philadelphia relevant again.

Now we come to the period we’re living in now, and it’s good to see we’re still all blessed to watch some of the greatest guards play the game. We have our very own Oscar Robertson in Russel Westbrook, James Harden has been unbelievable this season, while we may be watching the greatest back court ever with the Splash Brothers. A back court that has gone under the raider in the last couple of seasons has been the Wizards’, John Wall and Bradley Beal have been magnificent for the Wizards this season and sit in the third sport in the East, 3 games back of the first seed.

The first pick of the 2010 draft, Wall has always been one of the best guards in the East, but when it came to the All-Star game he was often overlooked. This season Wall is averaging a double-double of 22.9ppg and 10.8 apg. Although these stats may not be as glamorous as some of the other guards in the league, it’s a testament to Wall, that he still plays hard defense, something other guards, IE Harden haven’t done. Third in steals behind Draymond green and Chris Paul, 45 blocks this season and is level with potential Defensive player of the year Kawhi Leonard. Wall is a complete player and when you watch his highlight real, you’ll often find yourself watching his chase-down blocks with a huge deal of satisfaction.

http://www.pixelstalk.net/john-wall-wallpapers-hd/free-john-wall-wallpaper/

John wall- Pixelstalk.com

Wall’s team mate and shooting guard for the Wizards, Beal has come on leaps and bounds recently, this season he has 23.1ppg and for his career he has 17.5 which indicates he had a tough start adjusting to the intensity of the NBA. At the start of the season the Wizards boasted a 4-6 winning record, and you wouldn’t have been mistaken for thinking that Washington were heading for another season of mediocrity, and may have struggled to make the playoffs.

Fast forward to the race for the first seed, since January the Wizards have been one of the best performing teams in the east, and their back court has been behind most of their success, the brotherhood and camaraderie between the two guards has shone. A game vs the Cavaliers on February 5th was one for the ages. It was a game the Wizards wanted more than the Cavs, to prove to themselves and everyone that they could beat the Lebron. They would have done it too if it wasn’t for the Kings miracle 3 with 00.3 remaining they would have done it too.

Last night’s game only adds to what I’ve said, heading to Cleveland, Wall got 37 points and 11 assists in a huge 127-115 win, some of his defense play against the King was impressive as well.

If the Wizards play the way they have been playing, behind an MVP-hopeful Wall, then perhaps this team can leapfrog both Cleveland and Boston and take the 1 seed.

 Rest of the week.

Have we seen one of the best performances in NBA history? Devin Bookers 70-point game in a loss to the Celtics was the most points scored by a 20-year-old, and the most since Kobe’s 81 vs Toronto in 2006. Boston Guard Isiah Thomas was perhaps a little sour towards the young guard, saying

“we’re worried about the playoffs, they’re worried about the lottery” and while his comments have obvious truth to them, you can’t deny it was bitter, and I for one don’t see the point in it, it was an incredible performance, and one that should get appraisal from all.

http://www.newsjs.com/ph/booker-scores-70-in-loss;-james-powers-cavs-in-rebound-win/dFqW67BSMqkMSBMp9XvsE-ezbbKzM/

Devin Booker-NewsJS

Finally, Eternal Status for Shaq after the unveiling of his statue outside the Staples Centre, Laker Legends were out in full force. Kareem and Kobe spoke on the Hall of Famers behalf, the latter saying he was the most “dominant player he’d ever seen”.

Edition 6 What has the post season got in store for The Clippers, and a couple of throwbacks for a couple of greats. 

What can we expect from the unexpected, unsurprising, unfancied and uninspiring Clippers this Post-Season?
If recent history tells us anything, The Clippers will implode in the play-offs, again this season. It’s a shame that the we have never been able to see the trio of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in the conference finals, let alone the NBA finals, but I digress.  

The record they have in the playoffs since 2011 borders on embarrassing. Reaching the conference semi- finals is an impressive feat for any team, and the Clippers have managed that on 3 occasions since 2011, yet have never reached a conference final. The almighty of ‘bottle job’ performances from LA came against Houston in the 2014/15 season. The clippers raced into a 3-1 lead in the Series, and in typical Clipper fashion they crumbled eventually losing 4-3. Even in game six with a chance to kill the Rockets off at the Staples Centre, leading 92-79, they conceded 40 points, 40! In the final quarter to lose their best ever chance of ever making a play-off final. People talk about the Warriors losing a 3-1 lead in the final, but this was just as bad. 

So the question arises again, will they deploy the usual tactic of failing spectacularly in the playoffs? If this season is to go by, the answer, to put it simply is, yes! Currently sitting in 5th in the western conference, 0.5 games ahead of OKC, the Clippers will face very tough opposition regardless of where they finish. If they finish with the 5th seed they lose home court advantage in a series with the Jazz, a team with potential to do real damage this off-season. Currently sitting with a 0.614 win percentage the Jazz boast players such as All-Star forward Gordon Hayward and centre Rudy Gobert, and I don’t have to tell you there is bad blood there already. There is no doubt this would be a closely fought series, with the potential to go to 7 games.

Whether the Thunder finish ahead of the Clippers remains to be seen, but if they did Chris Paul and Co would then go up against the Rockets, a transformed team this season, led by MVP candidate James Harden, and you’d be tight lipped to find anyone who’d back the Clippers against this Rockets side. There is no hiding the fact that all the teams currently above the Los Angeles Clippers in the rankings are better than they are, period! So it wouldn’t even be a surprise to see The Clippers go out in the first round anymore, which is sad for a team that has so much talent.

What would be shame however, was if that the Trio of Paul, Griffin and Jordan didn’t have one last real shot of winning a championship. When Paul is healthy he is with out doubt the best two way guard in the league. Although age is catching up with him he still has great skill. His handles, his Clutch plays and his defence are a thing to behold. When it comes to Griffin, he posses raw talent, unrivalled athleticism and strength, his dunking skills are a marvel to watch. But recent times have seen Blake fall from grace if only very slightly, the whole incident with him punching a Clippers employee was ugly, it injured him for 4 weeks after that and since then you feel that he hasn’t been the same Blake we knew before that. DeAndre Jordan is still averaging a double-double and his lobs with Chris Paul will still be beautiful to watch, yet with the Clippers you feel he is very much the third man, in terms of star power, even if he was the only All-Star that represented the Clippers this year.  
It’s a terrible Cliché to use, but time is running out for this team. Paul is not getting younger and he is the heart and soul of this team, if the Clippers want to win a championship before this team eventually splits, it has to be soon.  

Other news too, a couple of throwbacks.

On this day 22 years ago, the greatest to play the game, announced a press release after a 17 month retirement, it read.

“I’m back”  

If that does not personify his greatness, I don’t know what does. Only his Airness could get away with that.  

Another throwback, this time for Kobe. 10 years ago this week Kobe Bryant recorded one of the finest ‘weeks’ in NBA history, one which only highlighted his incredible scoring prowess. Kobe got 65 points Vs trail Blazers, he then proceeded to score 50 vs The Timberwolves, 60 vs the Grizzlies followed and he finished his week of by scoring 50 against New Orleans. 4 straight games with over 50 points. Astounding.  

Edition 5 Consistency proving difficult for The Cavaliers and The 76ers should not feel to disheartened by their season, exciting times are ahead.

Consistency is the Key if the Cavs are to remain on top of the East. 

Since Lebron ‘came home’ to Cleveland after 4 extremely successful seasons in Miami. The Cavaliers have undoubtedly been the best team in the Eastern conference. Cleveland have been to two finals since LeBron’s return, losing one and becoming the first team to pull back a 3-1 deficit in the finals. However, this season hasn’t been plain sailing for The Cavaliers, as they sit a-top of the standings by only 2.5 games.

Consistency has proven a difficult formula for the Cavaliers to follow this season, as shown by their recent form, from the 25th of February they have lost 6 of their last 10 including back to back defeats to the Heat. Lebron and Kyrie have still been putting up excellent numbers, this season the King has just achieved a new record, reaching his first season with ten triple-doubles, while Kyrie is averaging a career best 25.2 points per game. Lebron James is a juggernaut in today’s NBA, but what could prove detrimental to the Cavs is the amount of minutes Lebron is playing, second in the league to only Kyle Lowry, Lebron always says he is okay to play but the intensity he plays at and his will to win surely have to take a toll on his body, just look at Dwayne Wade.

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/VdAz4MulMV8/maxresdefault.jpg

Lebron and Kyrie- Hiphot.sports

The addition of the play maker, Deron Williams has added to an already talented roster, but the Cavaliers have regressed in recent times and it feels like they are already in playoff mode.

In truth the Cavs can afford to rest easy, because I think as most fans of the NBA will tell you is that the Cavs will get to a third straight NBA final, with relative ease. Other teams such as the Boston Celtics have had a remarkable season led by the David to LeBron’s Goliath Isiah Thomas, but there is a feeling that when the Cavs turn it on in that, they can torch any team. The dominance and style the Cavs showed in their win against the Detroit Pistons last night was classic Lebron, after a tough loss on the road to Houston the game before, The Cavs needed a statement win. What they got was something more, they led 74-28 at the half, with Lebron getting a FG% of 50.00 and Kyrie Irving getting a remarkable 64.3FG%, the game finished 128-96 to the Cavs.

It is a shame that the Cavaliers had to waive Andrew Bogut after his bogus leg injury, but this roster led by Lebron surely has enough talent to stay at the top of the Eastern Conference, and even if they lose the top seed, The Cavaliers are a different animal in the playoffs and will again fancy their chances to make the NBA finals.

Video credit- NBA conference.

76ers should look to next season 

Being down 24-43 in the standings would disappoint most fans, but for the Philadelphia 76ers, they should not look at this season with bitter discontent. The emergence of Joel Embiid otherwise known as “The Process” has been a revelation and is having a season, established players of the league would be proud of. With the addition of Dario Saric, who is likely to win ROTY (Due to the lack of games Embiid has played) the 76ers have reason to be excited. Saric numbers are not as glamorous as Embiids but he has really stepped up since the latter’s season ending injury.

saric-dario-green-draymond

saric-dario-green-draymond- CSNbayarea

On the surface, Philadelphia’s 106-104 loss to the Warriors last night looks bad after boasting a 12-point lead going into the fourth quarter, the warriors eventually turned the game around with birthday boy Stephen Curry scoring 29 points on his 29th birthday. Yet the 76ers can look at this season with their heads held high, the potential they possess should not be underestimated.

The trio of Saric, ‘The Process’ and Ben Simmons who is still to make his league debut, could if they stay healthy reach the playoffs next season. Potential is Potential, until it is proven but 76ers fans you have reason to be optimistic.

Edition 4 The Curious case of the Miami Heat and what has happened to the ‘undisputed’ Kings of the West, The Warriors?

Heat are catching fire.

Rewind back to the 15th of November, the heat had just lost a home game to the Atlanta Hawks 90-93 and had a 6-12 record. They seemed destined to miss the play-offs and looked like they were having an identity crisis.

They have now won 12 of their last 13 games and are just 0.5 games back of the Bulls who hold the 8th seed. Coach Erik Spoelstra has transformed his side once again into a team that can reach the post-season. With two future All-Stars in Hassan Whiteside and a reborn Dion Waiters the heat poses two players who can go out and win a game on their own. Dion has averaged 17.3 points and 5 assists throughout his last 10 game, but it has been his clutch shooting that has really caught the eye. In an 108-101 Dragic got 22 points and 10 dimes, Waiters got 24 points and sunk a dagger with 2 minutes left he nailed a three while being heavily guarded by Batum, he then with 45 second to go made another three pointer to make it 105-98, the heat then held out to win the game. What was particularly impressive was the way Dion had the confidence to take these shots on while still being heavily guarded, he then looked at the Miami crowd as if to say “this is my house”.

http://media.syracuse.com/sports_multiblog/photo/dion-waiters-b8cfa650ba383ed1.jpg

Dion Waiters Vs the Cavs- Syracuse

The game before that was against the elite in the East, the Cavaliers. Even with Lebron and Kyrie getting over 30 points, the Heat still managed to pull out the win. It’s a testament to how well the team has done since the turn of the year not just Dion’s return from injury.

Since beating the Rockets on the 17th of January they are an NBA best 20-4. Spoelstra has transformed this team and his achievements shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to picking coach of the year. The team is very different to the Lebron and wade days but with a group of young guys including Tyler Johnson, Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters and veteran guard Goran Dragic they are now a legitimate force in the East, a team who with the form they are showing can look higher than 8th.

Why have the Warriors Struggled so badly since Durant’s Injury?

It is no secret that people thought the Warriors would struggle without KD, since his injury, but we didn’t expect the Warriors to drop off this much. Since the loss to Washington they are at 0.500% in the 4 games they have played. Picking up victory’s against Atlanta and a tightly fought win over the Knicks; a game played with no music or sounds in the first half much to Draymond Greens dismay. The games they have lost against The Bulls and Celtics, the side have not shot the ball well and have looked like a shadow of the team they are when Durant’s healthy. What is annoying to see is why this team has suddenly regressed so much since KD’s injury, this team won 73-9 last season with Green and the Splash brothers proving to be more than enough for most teams.

https://i1.wp.com/lasueur.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Warriors-Splash-Brothers.jpg?fit=2172%2C1265&ssl=1

Struggling Splash Brothers- La Sueur

The stats make for bad viewing without Durant, when he plays the Warriors average 118.1 points and without him 101.0 points per game, a huge points differential. The field goal% goes down by 6% the 3-point% goes down significantly too.

The Warriors best be careful, because the San Antonio Spurs led by Kawhi leonard are only 2 games back of Golden State, the clash in Texas on Saturday has suddenly become a huge game. What will be interesting to see is whether or not the Warriors truly care about getting the one seed in the West, if they finish second it is more than likely they will face the Oklahoma City Thunder a team they have fared well against this season. The fate of the West however, for me comes down to Durant’s injury, if he is back and firing in time for the play offs, no question about it the Warriors reach the finals, if not however it will be very interesting to see how the Warriors go.

RECORD RECORDS RECORDS!

Russell Westbrook and James Harden, two MVP candidates have both set very different records. Russ set a new career best for points in a game, scoring 58 in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Hardens record however is very different, the Rockets guard set an unwanted record of turnovers in a season. Harden now had 376 turnovers beating his previous record of  374, the humorous thing is if you don’t want Harden to win MVP is he still has 17 games left of the regular season to play.

http://cdn-s3.si.com/s3fs-public/styles/marquee_large_2x/public/videos/2157889318001_5351530461001_5351507495001-vs.jpg?itok=jtTs1qHP

Russel Westbrook- Sports Illustrated

 

Edition 3 Legendary status for Dirk, but can his team make the playoffs?

Was he gonna reach 30,000 any other way than with the fade-away Jay?

Maverick’s legend Dirk Nowizki finally joined the elite group of players to record 30,000 career points in the NBA. He now joins legends of the game including Kareem, The Mailman Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, The Greatest of all time Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, it is an achievement so good, that the King, Lebron James who is also close to 30,000 shared a video of himself congratulating the big German.

A 13 time All-star, a future first ballot Hall-of-Famer, an NBA Champion and finals MVP in 2011, MVP of the league in 2007, his accomplishments go on and on, and a signature fade away jumper which many players in today’s game try to recreate. Whether he retires at the end of this season or next, Dirk has carved out one hell of a career in the NBA, and is without a doubt the best European to Grace the NBA scene.

http://www.sportscanyon.com/basketball/dirk-nowitzki-becomes-sixth-player-in-nba-history-to-reach-30000-career-points/

Dirk Nowitzki- Sports Canyon

But can his team the Dallas Mavericks reach the playoffs this season? The race for the 8th seed in the NBA’s western conference is heating up and it now seems to be a three horse race between the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail-Blazers and the aforementioned Dallas Mavericks. 

Looking at these three teams objectively with all the variables, it is such a close call to say who will get that 8th seed. The Mavericks, from out of nowhere always seem make the post season, they have this habit of bringing it out of the bag, for the past three seasons, they have finished 6th, 7th and 8th, and this season could see them sneak it again. Yes they are relying on unproven guys such as Seth Curry who is having a career year and the newly acquired Nerlens Noels from Philly, but their record since the All-Star break is 5-2 and they have beaten Playoff rivals, the Grizzlies and Thunder. If this team can continue to gel and stay healthy, they have a great chance of reaching the playoffs.

http://phatdunk.com/news/damian-lillard

Blazers- PhatDunk

The Blazers can rely on the best back court of the three teams, with Lillard and CJ averaging 49.3 ppg and 9.4 assists per game this season they do have the worst defense out of the three teams, but they do have the easiest schedule. The Nuggets, who are two games ahead of both teams are in the best position perhaps, but at this point in the season anything can happen. The young core in the Nuggets side including the likes of Nikola Jokic and Emmanuel Mudiay have mixed and matched well with the more experienced stars of the Nuggets side with Danillo Gallinari having another good season. What could potentially be huge is the Mavericks game vs the Nuggets on the second last game of the season, it could have huge ramifications on both side’s chances of reaching the post-season and seeing who the warriors sweep in the first round.

If I were to choose right now? I’d go with The Mavs, it’s their habit of always reaching the playoffs. Rick Carlisle always seems to be able to pull it out of the bag.

Edition 2 How Important is Derozan down the stretch, and can The Claw win the MVP award?

Can the Raptors and DeRozan step up with Kyle Lowry on the side lines?

Kyle Lowry’s wrist injury that could keep him out of action up until the play-offs, could have a massive bearing on where the Raptors end up finishing in the east this season. The self-proclaimed side from “The North” currently sit 4th in the Eastern standings and are six games back of the Cavaliers.

Bring fourth DeMar DeRozan. The Shooting guard has been in tremendous form since Lowry’s injury, and if his games since the All-star break are anything to go by, he can be counted on to fire his team to second in the East. On three back to back games against the Celtics, Blazers and Knicks, DeRozan averaged 37.6, yet it was in the final seconds against the Knicks where DeRozan came to the front, being down 90-91 DeRozan buried a jumper with 1.9 remaining to seal a win for the Raptors 92-91. Another astounding performance came four days later, a game against second seed chasers the Washington Wizards, on the road DeRozan delivered again, notching up a double-double with 32 point and 13 rebounds, a play towards the end of the game in which DeRozan nailed a three with 20 seconds to go showed how clutch he can be, Toronto closed the game out to win 114-106 win. What is in favour of the Raptors is their schedule. They don’t play a team with a top ten defence until they meet the Cavaliers at the end of the season, and by that time Lebron will surely be in rest mode for the playoffs.

http://contents.spin.ph/image/2016/11/05/demar-derozan-ap-110516.jpg

DeMar DeRozan-Spin.

If DeRozan can continue his MVP like form while Kyle Lowry is on the side-lines, surely the Raptors will be able to keep the fourth seed and maybe even challenge for the second.

Can Kawhi win the MVP award?

While triple-double machine Russel Westbrook has been stealing all the headlines this season for his monstrous performances for the Thunder. Kawhi Leonard has been extraordinary this season and he cannot be ignored in the race for the MVP award.

Westbrook has been an enigma this season. He has had stupidly good stats, on top of his incredible triple double record which has seen him get 30 with seven weeks of the season to go, he has extended his 40-point game streak to four games joining the likes of Kobe, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. We cannot forget about the likes of James Harden or Lebron too, Harden has had an incredible year leading the rockets to third in the West, a team you feel can now be a genuine threat to the Warriors and Spurs in the west. What else can be said about Lebron? His team are first in the east and his stats are impressive as per usual, but I feel that Lebron again is saving himself for the playoffs, where he will erupt with his new band of brothers including the likes of Deron Williams, and Kyle Korver.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6I4PiWWQAAtpnI.jpg

Kawhi Leonard- Bleacher Report

Now we come to Kawhi, his numbers aren’t as glamorous as say Westbrook or Harden. But you could say that he plays for the Spurs, a team that shares the ball and spaces the floor, a team that doesn’t require a superstar to be good, Having just clinched their 20th playoff berth in a row. Still out of all these candidates, The Claws team are doing the best, you may add Durant into the MVP conversation but with his injury surely he’ll miss out. His team rank in 11th for offense but it’s in defence where the Spurs make their money being second to only the Utah Jazz. The stat line doesn’t point to Leonard winning MVP but its efficiency his calmness, it’s the Spurs DNA engrained on him that make him a winner, the game winning shot against the Pacers where Paul George was marking him can only enhance his reputation.

It is unlikely that Leonard wins the MVP award, but we cannot understate how good this two-way player is.

Congratulations to the League

To finish , I’d just like to comment about what an amazing season this has in terms of triple-doubles, with Ricky Rubio’s triple double against the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA has a new record for triple doubles in a season with 79, although Russ has 30 of them it is still an unbelievable achievement for the league.

Edition 1 Warriors worry over KD and can the Brow and DeMarcus get the pelicans into the Playoffs?

Warriors worry over form without KD and who will step up in his absence?

Kevin Durant’s MCL sprain in the loss to the Wizards is sure to be a huge loss for Golden State. But the Warriors are perhaps the only side in the league that can afford to deal with the loss of a genuine superstar and an All-NBA talent like Durant. It will however be interesting to see who will step up in his absence. The weapons arsenal the Warriors possess is still hugely impressive and we should not forget that this is a team that has gone to the last two finals who still have three All stars and a two time MVP to rely on. It may come with some regret that while we lose one of the greatest players in the league to injury for at least 4 weeks, we can see a reborn Stephen Curry. The reigning MVP Curry you feel has changed his game the most in the Warriors side to accommodate Durant in the side, and now the latter is out for a while, we can see the fun sharp shooting Curry we got use to over the last 3 years, make a return.

https://i2.wp.com/www.mercurynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/warriors-durant-injured-bas1.jpg?w=620&crop=0%2C0px%2C100%2C9999px

Kevin Durant Injured- The Mercury News

Yet since KD’s injury the Warriors are 0-2 Losing to a John Wall inspired Wizards 112-108 and to the Chicago Bulls 94-87, a game they seemed to be comfortable in for long periods. We shouldn’t read too much into these results yet, but I feel as a fan of the Warriors that now all the teams will be licking their lips at facing the Warriors now. The signing of Matt Barnes makes sense as cover for Durant, but he is in no way a guy who can do what KD does, he isn’t a guy who can average over 25 points per game. The Splash brothers have been bitterly disappointing from behind the arc since the All Star Break, in the three games since then they combined for 11 of 64, 17.2%! Which is unheard of for the so called ‘best back court in the league’. They need to rediscover their magic touch if the Warriors are to keep their number one seed in the West ahead of the Spurs. Here’s hoping that the whole team even Zaza can rediscover the form that made them such a marvel to watch.

Can Damarcus and the Brow get it right in time for the playoffs?

When the New Orleans Pelicans traded for DaMarcus Cousins, a trade that sent Cousins and forward Omri Casspi to New Orleans, the Kings getting back Bubby Hield, Tyreke Evans, guard Langston Galloway and a 2017 first and second round pick in return. You’d a thought that the Pelicans came out supremely well from this Trade getting a three time All-Star and not losing too much in terms of star quality, you could even say not losing an established star. Pairing the 6th best scorer in the league, Cousins who averages 27.6 with AD who is fourth on the list averaging 28.2 was a stroke of genius, maybe the new Duncan-Robinson duo.

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DaMarcus Cousins- Yahoo Sports

However, things haven’t got off to the best start. The three games the two giants have played together, yes they have averaged great numbers but they have lost all three games they have played together, the Pelicans only win since the All-Star break coming against the Pistons when Cousins was suspended. I for one believe and hope that these two talents will find a way to play well and build a play-off worthy team, it’s just whether or not they can do it this season with the supporting cast they have, they are already six games behind the 8th seed, I think at this point in the season its maybe two games too far for them to make but if they are to have any chance they need the mercurial DaMarcus Cousins to get hold of his temperament and let his play do the talking.