Posts about NBA

Heat and Blazers take 2-0 leads while the Mavs even their series up

4-24

We’re starting to see several series take some real shape while others are still up for grabs. Out east the Heat took a 2-0 series lead over the Bobcats but it wasn’t easy for Miami as a hobbled Charlotte team fought until the last minute, forcing the Heat to earn the victory. It’s surprising to see Miami having to fight this much against a less-than-stellar Bobcats team. The series was over after the first game but who knew the back-to-back champions would be fighting this much in the first round of the playoffs? Remember how easily they took care of the Bucks in the first round last year? Two different teams, of course. Miami has played more games than anyone when combining the past three years and fatigue is definitely a factor. As the competition heightens, the Heat will need more from not just LeBron but the supporting cast. It would be crazy to think that they won’t be in the conference finals but their condition is still though to determine. No Josh McRoberts poster dunk but we did get him throwing a pretty nasty elbow at LeBron towards the end of the game. I’m surprised McRoberts didn’t get tossed immediately but it’s kind of nice some of that old-school 80s basketball defense being played. The only question that remains about this series is if Miami can sweep or if the Bobcats have it in them to send the series back to Miami for a 5th game. I’d bet on sweep but nothing would surprise me.

Speaking of surprises, how about my Mavericks getting a big lead and actually seeing through it all the way to the end of the game? Dallas capitalized on the Spurs’ errors and dominated the second half, winning by a large margin and tying up the series at 1 each as the action heads to back to the Mavs home court. The first half was actually much like game 1. Dallas had a slow start, recovered to take the lead and the Spurs closed out strong to keep the pressure up. But this time around, the Mavs extended their lead (as much as 23 at one point) and were able to finish with a strong 4th quarter. Dirk Nowitzki, who usually leads the team in scoring, hasn’t found his groove in this series yet but the supporting cast has been picking it up. The combination of Monta Ellis and Shawn Marion has been lethal with some nice contributions off the bench. How will he series develops as it heads to Dallas? My biggest questions: can the Spurs stop turning the ball over? Which Spurs player will step their game up to take back the home court advantage? Will Dallas be able to start strong for the first time in this series? Can Dirk find his rhythm and lead the Mavs scoring barrage? And most importantly, will Moe spot me some floor seats to either of the games in Dallas? Those are the biggest questions heading forward in the Texas showdown series.

Elsewhere in Texas, LaMarcus Aldridge has turned into the Rockets worst nightmare. Does the line “Houston, we have a problem” ever get old when any professional team in Houston is dealing with adversity? Aldridge was spectacular once again last night, breaking the 40-point mark again as he led the Trail Blazers to a strong 2-0 series lead. Everyone knew Portland was a scary team to deal with in the playoffs and #12 on the Blazers was the biggest reason. Houston has no answer for him. Then again, it’s pretty damn hard to defend a big man when he’s hanging out so far from the basket and shooting 18 of 28 from the field. Makes sense why people have such a hard time guarding Dirk. No different for Aldridge, who took the NBA headlines last night and this morning. But take a quick peek at the box score and you’ll see that Damian Lillard had one of the quietest near triple-doubles (18 pts, 8 reb, 11 ast) of the playoffs. That 1-2 punch of Lillard and Aldridge looks like it’s going to plenty of damage this postseason. So what’s going on with Houston? Defense is definitely an issue and it starts with James Harden who, at times, appears like he doesn’t know what the word “defense” means. If Houston has any hopes of making this a series, they need to step it up on the defensive end.

It’s going to be a shame when there aren’t enough teams left to have a triple-header every night. I’m a big fan of the overlapping games on a nightly basis. I can switch to another game during the commercial breaks and keep the live basketball going. The Pacers head to Atlanta to try and take back home court advantage. How will the crowd in Atlanta be? Normally it’s pretty mediocre but it might be different this around knowing the Hawks have a real shot in this series. The Thunder will be trying to do the same as they visit Memphis for a two-game stretch. Remember, Memphis won 14 straight games at home to end the season. Can the Thunder match the tough Grizzlies and their “grindhouse” crowd on the road? If Durant has another gear in him, this would be a good time to see it. I don’t need to emphasize the potential that Clippers at Warriors has tonight. Can the Warriors bounce back from a blowout loss? How will the Clippers handle that ridiculous crowd? Excellent night of playoff basketball.

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Indiana and Toronto even up their respective series while the Wizards take control

4-23

The eastern conference wasn’t going to produce the type of basketball that would have NBA fans glued to their screens, but in all honesty, it’s been just as entertaining and drama-filled as the western conference. Aside from the inevitable quick series that will likely happen between the Heat and Bobcats, the east has taken some turns that make for really enjoyable basketball. But I still would take most of the western conference teams over any non-Miami team in the east. The level of basketball isn’t as high but it’s certainly been great to watch. It begins with Indiana who have shaken out of their miserable stretch, if only for just one night as they head down to Atlanta for games 3 and 4 with the series knotted at 1 game for each team. Paul George was the hero for Indiana (27 pts, 10 reb, 6 ast, 4 stl) as, surprising as it seems, the Pacers were in desperation mode last night against the Hawks. It was the second game of the first round and the top seed in the conference was in desperation mode? Well, that’s just the kind of year it’s been in the east. Despite Indiana’s win, they didn’t impress me until the 3rd quarter. The Hawks led for most of the first half and up until the end of the 3rd, it looked gloomy for the Pacers. Hey Indiana, just because you had a strong finish to the 3rd quarter against the 8th seed in the conference (a sub-.500 team) doesn’t mean you should start celebrating like you just clinched the series.

Let’s head up to Canada, where the Raptors were trying to even the series against a Nets team that was all of a sudden oozing with confidence. This time around the Nets weren’t able to capitalize as the Raptors were led by a strong DeMar DeRozan 4th quarter and their raucous crowd. At this rate, Toronto might be in the upper echelon of NBA crowds. Oh yeah, this time Drake stepped it up with his sideline antics and they seemed to be crucial as a part of the Raptors’ success. Aside from DeRozan, the Raptor that impressed me most was probably Jonas Valanciunas (or as Sir Charles likes to call him) as he dominated the paints, notching 14 points and 15 rebounds on the box score. But while Valanciunas hit the glass the most, the Raptors did a nice job as a team on the boards and kept the chances for the Nets limited. Paul Pierce wasn’t able to do his thing in his 4th quarter as much as he wanted to but things should improve for the Nets as they head a bit more east to Brooklyn. I like this series so far and can only hope that my prediction of a 7th game is right.

Without a doubt, the most surprising series of the conference (and probably the entire playoffs) is the surprising Washington Wizards and their 2-0 series lead over the Bulls right now. Let’s not forget that both of the Wizards victories came in Chicago and the country’s capital is waiting for them to return. Washington took a big 2-0 series lead after a tough overtime victory last night and has officially put the Bulls on the ropes. It’s not a position that I ever pictured the Bulls would be in. Did anyone? One Bill Simmons (a personal hero) did just so. What’s working so well for the Wizards? John Wall continues to be John Wall in most cases but it’s a couple of x-factors that have made the difference for Washington. Enter: Bradley Beal and Nene. Beal took over for most of the game but more specifically in the 4th as he led the way to force overtime. Nene, usually coming out of the gates like Hulk, didn’t impose his will until OT but did it very effectively. What’s going on with the Bulls? The most glaring problem that they have is that Chicago has no go-to offensive weapon. It’s been a problem all season for the Bulls but they’ve relied on their superior defense to push them through. As much as it’s the logical route to take, I can’t cross the Bulls off just yet. They always seems to do their best and prove people wrong when they’re on the brink of failure.

Another three headed monster tonight. To start things off, I fully expect the Heat to take control of their series against the Bobcats but maybe we’ll see another Josh McRoberts poster. On down to the great state of Texas where the Spurs also try to take control of their own series. Did the Mavericks miss their best opportunity to steal a game from San Antonio? Elsewhere in Texas, the Blazers are in Houston to take on the Rockets in what should be another crazy game. Can the Rockets even up the series before heading to Portland? Should be another great night of basketball.

Do I even need to explain this video and why it should be viewed?

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Grizzlies win in OT while the Clippers dominate, both even up their series

4-22

We have ourselves a couple of series in the western conference! Both the Grizzlies and Clippers bounced back in impressive fashion to force at least a game 5 in the first round of the playoffs. We’ll start in Oklahoma City where the Grizzlies were in town, trying to extend the series at least another game and that’s what they did. Kevin Durant had the highlight of the night but Memphis won the war, battling from start to finish and grinding out a big win in overtime on the road. As the series shifts east to Memphis, the Grizzlies have the momentum and the home court advantage. Zach Randolph led the way (25 pts, 6 reb) in scoring and in his will when it came to post play. After Marc Gasol fouled out and the Thunder hit a couple of miracle shots (Kendrick Perkins scored to send it into OT of all people), Z-Bo put the team on his back in overtime. Mike & Mike (Conley and Miller) both made big plays and the rest was history. But it wasn’t easy as Durant and Russell Westbrook (combining for 55 pts) hit big shot after big shot. Sure, Westbrook’s shot selection in some crunch time moments was questionable, but he was one of the major reasons that the Thunder were even in that position to begin with. We’ve all grown accustom to adjusting to that part of his game because the rest is so grand. I expect the Thunder to bounce back nicely but it’s going to be a battle as the series heads east to Memphis for games 3 and 4. The Grizzlies supporters will be in full force no doubt but OKC has the talent and style of play that can quiet any crowd down. Should be a nice series heading forward.

When the first game of the series between the Clippers and Warriors ended, I thought people were too quick to jump on the Warriors side. Things fell in favor for Golden State last game and I felt that the Clippers would respond in kind. Did I expect them to play their basketball of the season? Of course not. Last night’s game was over before halftime. The Clippers bounced back from their game 1 loss in dominating fashion, blowing out the Warriors as the series heads to northern California. The Clippers did whatever they wanted from start to finish, led by the dominant play of Blake Griffin as the Warriors had zero answers for him. In fact, they haven’t been able to defend him in either game but in the first game, foul trouble was what stopped him. Not the case last night. Griffin and hell, even Hedo Turkoglu played effective basketball last night. I only needed to watch the first quarter to figure out who was going to win the game. Los Angeles pressured and pressed the entire game, essentially shutting down anyone not named Stephen Curry on offense. If Golden State wants to keep their home court advantage, they can’t have Klay Thompson, Jermaine O’Neal and Andre Iguodala scoring a combined 15 points. The only thing that’s surprised me about this series is that there haven’t been more “fights” so far. But that could all change once we see these two teams battle in front of that raucous Warriors’ crowd.

Three game slate tonight. Indiana tries to bounce back from their horrendous game 1 performance and save whatever dignity they have left against the Hawks. Meanwhile, in Toronto, the Raptors try to even the series but in all honesty, I have no idea who’s going to win that game tonight. And finally, the Wizards will once again try to surprise the Bulls and the league on the road again. Should be a good night of basketball!

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The NBA playoffs open with some familiar and not-so-familiar results

4-21

The first round of the NBA playoffs isn’t always the most pleasant. Lots of sports enthusiasts think that the round should be a best-of-5 because the first round, especially the more lopsided match ups that seem to be over after the 1st or 2nd games. That might hold true for Miami, who absorbed the Bobcats’ best efforts in the first half and spent the second half controlling the game. The Heat might have to fight just a little more against a Bobcats team that’s playing exactly how we expected: with nothing to lose. Maybe Charlotte wins their first home game but it’s going to be a quick series in favor of the heat. But surprisingly enough, it was the Thunder who looked most impressive in their opening game, controlling the game from start to finish in their victory over the Grizzlies. Only in the 3rd quarter did the Grizzlies threaten by playing better basketball but it was a battle won during a war lost. It shouldn’t be an extremely tough series for OKC but I expected a little more from Memphis, especially considering their recent past against the Thunder in the postseason. Then there were the Spurs, who spent the entire 4th quarter catching up to the Mavericks, even though Dallas started terribly, to take the early lead in the series. It’s pretty much indicative of how the Mavs have played the entire season. Great offense throughout the game, except when it matters most. And when it mattered most, the Spurs played the superior basketball and that’s why they’re the top seed in the conference. Each one of those three teams took care of business at held their ground at the home court, even if it meant that they went through a little more drama than expected. That just means that we’re going to get a better series than we expected.

Things weren’t so favorable for other top seeds this weekend. The story of the weekend was, without a doubt, five of the lower seeds winning on the road and stealing home court advantage. We’ll go from least surprising to most surprising. Brooklyn kicked off the festivities on Saturday afternoon by winning in Toronto, overcoming the likes of Kyle Lowry’s great game (22pts, 7 reb, 8 ast), a shot clock malfunction and Drake’s sideline antics. This result was the least surprising because it’s a toss-up series that will likely go the distance. As will the Rockets-Blazers and last night indicated that it will not only last longer than expected, but it will also be a much more entertaining ride than expected. Things got pretty heated at the end of the 4th and throughout the overtime period. Imagine how those scuffles are going to be in front of the Portland crowd? A quick shout out to LaMarcus Aldridge, who had the performance of the weekend (46 pts, 18 reb) leading the Blazers to a big game 1 victory. Watching their game end last night made me feel like this could be a 7-game classic and one of the best first round series we’re ever going to see. How about those Washington Wizards? Their surprising win over the Bulls in Chicago was probably the most “team-like” win of the upsets. Nene was great, Andre Miller did hid old-man thing, John Wall was more or less John Wall and they closed out the game nicely. What impressed me the most was Washington’s defense, matching wits with Chicago’s all the way.

We’re heading out west to start off with the most surprising of the result this weekend. The Warriors got a massive victory in LA against the Clippers, grinding out a win during a chaotic game. It’s just a shame that the referees have taken some of the headlines from these two teams. The NBA had acknowledged that the officials made a mistake but let’s not take anything from Golden State. The Warriors have the talent to hang with any team in the league but until this last game, it was uncertain whether they could do so or not. Klay Thompson led the way for the Warriors in the box score but like the Wizards, it was a team effort. The Clippers were hobbled by foul trouble that kept Paul and Griffin on the bench but I expect them to bounce back and even the series next time. Now, on to the headline for the weekend. Just when the Pacers thought they had hit rock bottom, here come the Atlanta Hawks and shock them in the opening game of the series. So much for my prediction of a quick sweep in favor of Indiana. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap (combined for 53 points) led the way for Atlanta as the Hawks won their first playoff road game in three years. Am I the only one who is slightly rooting for the Hawks now? Now it’s time for the Pacers to respond. Can Hibbert stop playing like he doesn’t care? Will Paul George return to his form from last year’s postseason? Indiana is and should be better than this but right now, the possibilities of them completely imploding grow as the games go on.

Because it’s so rare to see a Bobcats player “posterize” a Miami Heat player. Also, because Josh McRoberts looks like Jesus.

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What to watch for in the first round of the NBA playoffs

4-18

It’s that wonderful time of the year. The weather is getting warmer, the nights are getting longer and the April showers are on their way out. Spring is in full bloom and there’s no better indicator of great spring weather than the NBA playoffs. Basketball fans are finally starting the apex of the season. Contrary to most playoffs in American professional sports, the journey to the next Larry O’Brien trophy is a marathon, not a sprint. Yes, the individual games will feel like a sprint but the Finals don’t officially begin until June 5th. And looking at it now, it seems like an eternity until we have a new king of the basketball universe. There’s lots of basketball to be played and it all starts tomorrow (12:30 ET) with the Nets in Toronto.

Fitting actually. The Nets-Raptors series is really the only first round match up that is a complete toss-up. It’s almost certain that this is going to be a 6 or maybe even 7-game series because neither team seems to have a distinct advantage. If gambling were legal (ahem) and I were to bet on one team making this a quick series, it would be Toronto. The Raptors have been the more consistent team and aren’t dealing with as many injuries. Of course, the Nets have the advantage on paper but can their expensive roster actually make some noise in the eastern conference this postseason? Some think so but it’s not because the Nets have a glaring advantage over any other team, it’s because the eastern conference has been such a disaster this season. It’s been so bad that I don’t see any other series in the first round, aside from the one I just mentioned, going more than 5 games. The Pacers are playing some really bad basketball but would you trust the Hawks, a sub-.500 team, to win more than one playoff game? Same goes for the Bobcats, who have never won a playoff game (ouch) and have not beaten the Heat since LeBron joined them (double ouch) three seasons ago. One would think that the Bulls-Wizard (4 v 5) match up would be the most evenly matched but then you look at the way they played at their peaks this season. John Wall could make a leap for Washington but c’mon, look at the defensive and coaching advantage that Chicago has. Do I need to go any further? Let’s just go ahead and head out west.

Now THIS is the side of the bracket that will produce some of the best basketball that we’re going to see. This isn’t the boldest of predictions but i’ll make it either way: there will be no sweeps in the western conference playoffs this season. Even my Mavericks, who are the most likely to get swept out of all the teams, have enough talent and coaching to win at least one game this postseason. They’re in a Texas-sized battle with San Antonio but it’s a lop-sided one. I’m a big Dallas-homer (duh) but there’s nothing that indicates this won’t be a quick series. The Spurs swept the regular season series and it’s going to take a massive effort from Dirk and co to make this a long series. I don’t see it but i’m hoping that the Mavs fight until the very end and give their I-35 rival a nice fight to kick things off. Moving on up the freeway, we’re in OKC where the Grizzlies are in town for a nice battle. The Thunder have had their problems with Memphis, starting from the glorious 2011 7-game series. Last year the Grizzlies gave a depleted Thunder team an early exit but this is a different team and certainly a different Kevin Durant. Memphis will play their usual “grit” style and make things tough for the Durant but I don’t see any sort of upset here. Look for Durant to continue his MVP-level play and lead his team to a nice first round series win in 6 games.

Let’s head out west to Los Angeles and talk about a playoff series that doesn’t include the Lakers. The Clippers against the Warriors is definitely the first round series that i’m looking forward to the most. Besides anything the Mavs are involved with, of course. As we know, these two teams don’t like each other and would like nothing more than to give their opponent an early exit. But enough about that because all I care is what happens on the court. The Clippers are and have the been the superior team all season but don’t sleep on the Warriors. Golden State plays some of the most exciting basketball in the league and what do you know, so do the Clippers. Blake Griffin or Stephen Curry could both be the best player on the court and have monster games. Splash brothers heat-check anyone? Lob city anyone? Clippers will probably win this in 6 games but i’m hoping this series goes the distance. Back to Texas as the Blazers are in Houston to start their postseason journey. Neither the Rockets nor the Blazers play great defense so expect lots of points. I’m actually curious to watch James Harden and Damian Lillard go head-to-head to see who can play the worst back-court defense in a playoff series. Portland might get the early jump but I expect Houston to take the series in 6 or 7 games and move on.

To recap, I like sweeps for Miami and Indiana, five-game victories for the Spurs and Bulls, six-game victories for the Clippers and Thunder, and seven-game battles for the Raptors and Rockets.

Who doesn’t love shots from half court and beyond?

 

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The final day of the NBA regular season is here

DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul

What will be remembered most about this season? Depends on what your personal tastes are when it comes to professional basketball. If you prefer off-the-court issues, then look no further than franchises like the Knicks and Lakers. I know one can also include the Pacers and Nets in the discussion but because their team will be participating in the postseason, i’d like to omit them. Chicago was a prime candidate to be a “behind the scenes” disaster after Derrick Rose’s injury and the trade of Luol Deng but like coach Thibodeau and team leader Joakim Noah, the Bulls fought the entire year to put together an impressive season. It’s that kind of play that makes fans love professional sports. Ignoring everything that surrounds them and proving themselves on the court. Who else portrays that more than the Bulls? Well, i’d like the nominate the Spurs. As a Mavs fan, I despise them but completely respect them. The irony is that most of the media spends more time talking about how no one talks about the Spurs rather than actually talking about the Spurs. San Antonio bounced back from a heart-breaking Finals to put together yet another impressive regular season. One that included the quietest 19-game winning streak in the history of the league. Which team surprised the most in the west? Portland was not supposed to be this good and with their unconventional roster, neither were the Mavericks. But that honor clearly goes to the Suns. Thought to be in the race for the #1 pick in the draft, the Suns put together a team that almost won 50 games and almost made the playoffs in the ridiculously difficult western conference. Let’s also give it up to the Raptors, who never seem to jump off the page simply because they are a basketball team in Toronto. The 3rd seed in the east during a season where they were supposed to be a lower seed to the likes of Chicago, Brooklyn or New York, only to get bounced in the first round. Now, with Drake’s consent of course, could the Raptors make some noise in these eastern conference playoffs? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Those were some of the team headlines but what story line was the leader throughout the season? No, not Phil Jackson joining the Knicks or anything having to do wit the Lakers. Let’s sick to franchises that are going to matter after tonight’s final day of the regular season. The season-long battle between LeBron James and Kevin Durant for the season’s best player and winner of the 2013-14 MVP trophy. I’ll be first to admit that I was in the camp of “as long as LeBron is in his prime, the award goes to him” before the season started. But as great as LeBron has been all season, there’s no doubt that Kevin Durant deserves the trophy for most valuable player in the league this season. The list goes on for, #35 of the Thunder, when discussing whether he deserves it or not. The incredible shooting goes without saying because once again, Durant will be the league’s champion for scoring. As we all know, that’s the not the trophy he cares about the most at this point in his career. After all he already has three of those. Now it’s time for “KD” to move up to the next echelon of players in history. That means an MVP trophy and if this season continues in the same direction, it means finally getting that first NBA championship. How does LeBron feel about all of this Durant talk? James seems to think Durant is also deserving of the trophy. Does watching Durant get the personal hardware light a first under LeBron during the postseason? It’s surprising that a player with a 27.1-6.4-6.9 stat line needs any help for when “the real season” begins. If this season has shown us anything is that KD and LeBron have brought out the best in each other for the entire season and we can only go up from here because now, the stakes are even bigger.

As usual on the final day of the season, every team in the NBA is in action. There are too many scenarios to list here, but I found a nice link on NBA.com that summarizes them nice and neat. I will be hoping for a Mavericks victory as they try to secure the 7th seed and win 50 games. I’ll be predicting the first round of the eastern conference tomorrow and the west on Friday before things get going on Saturday.

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Last night’s excellent games and what’s in store for the final weekend in the NBA

4-11

It’s pretty crazy to think that we’re less than a week from the final day in the NBA season. Lots of teams were eliminated from the postseason long ago and various teams have secured their spot, but there’s still a lot to figure out. That’s what makes the final week so interesting. The Spurs haven’t clinched the top seed in the conference (lose tie breakers to OKC) but last night’s strong victory over the Mavericks was an important step in that direction with only a few regular season games on their schedule. Chances are San Antonio will be the top seed by the end of the season but it won’t be a cake walk as they face two teams (Suns and Rockets) who are trying to clinch and/or keep their momentum going before they get the terrible Lakers in their final game. My Mavericks, on the other hand, are still trying to clinch their spot as they fight with the Suns and Grizzlies for the final two spots in the conference. And what do you know, those are the Mavs’ two remaining opponents this season. It’s such a shame that one of those three teams won’t be participating in the playoffs because all three teams are deserving. The Warriors had a chance to pretty much secure their spot in the playoffs last night but fell short to the Nuggets in a thriller. I’d like to give a bit shout out to Timofey Mozgov (23 pts, 29 reb; pic above), who had the performance of his career so far as he led Denver to victory. Understandably, most people are still going crazy over Andre Iguodala’s mind-blowing crossover. Quincy Miller seems to be taking his embarrassment pretty well but I would advise him to stay off social media for a good while.

What else in the NBA will get social media going this weekend? Well, tons of action once again tonight. 26 teams in action but i’m looking at three specific games. Hey Moe, can your Knicks snag that last playoff spot in the eastern conference from the Hawks? Tonight will be a good test for a Knicks team that is desperate to salvage whatever they can from a disappointing season. While the Hawks go into Brooklyn tonight, the Knicks are in Toronto, against the a Raptors team that is currently in 3rd place. Should be a nice test for New York to prove that they belong. The Pacers are in Miami tonight, only 1/2 a game separating them, to square off for the top spot in the conference. People around the league are doubting this game will live up to the expectations, primarily because neither team has been jumping off the page lately. But maybe it’s for that very same season that both teams will play more free and with a little less pressure. The best game will feature the Suns in San Antonio tonight. Will the Spurs clinch? Can Phoenix continue to surprise? There’s no doubt that i’ll be watching this game very closely. Saturday’s action isn’t too crazy overall but it does feature the Suns in Dallas. This will be the biggest game of the season for both teams as it will strongly influence whether or not they make the playoffs and what seed they’re going to be. If you have NBA TV, tune into that game. Sunday’s ABC showcase features a nice battle between Indiana and OKC, two teams that could very well meet in the Finals. Lots of action and lots left to decide as we head into the final season.

If, for whatever reason, you haven’t seen Iguodala’s crossover, here it is. I almost enjoyed the Warriors’ bench reaction more than the move itself.

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Thunder and Mavs get big wins; key NBA games for tonight

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Oklahoma City Thunder

For the past three weeks or so, anytime two teams in the top 9 of the western conference square-off, it’s much watch television for all basketball fans. That’s just the kind of season we’re having in the west. I know the eastern conference looks like it will be bit more competitive (especially as of late) this postseason but the west will be a bloodbath every single round. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, as usual, but at least we got a little preview of what we could see in a couple of week during last night’s games. Both the Thunder and Mavericks got big wins over the Spurs and Clippers (respectively), two of the best teams in the conference as of late. What does that tell us? Well, for one, no team is invincible in the conference. At least for one night. I still wouldn’t bet against the Spurs but at least we can see that they won’t completely roll over every other team. Especially the Thunder, because after last night’s win over their I-35 rival, they have swept the season series 4-0. Are the Thunder just a match-up nightmare for San Antonio? A little bit but don’t forget that the Spurs were playing their 5th game in just over a week’s time. It was still an impressive by OKC, who used their superior length and speed to counter the Spurs’ ball-movement. Conference finals preview?

Once again, not getting ahead of myself. Especially if the Clippers or Mavs, who squared off last night, have anything to say about not being included in the conference finals discussion. Now, my Mavericks are a bit of a long-shot to make it that far into the playoffs but they would at the very least give any opponent in the west a well-fought series. But that’s the western conference in general and that’s why it’s so great. The Clippers have been playing excellent basketball for over a month now, led by Blake Griffin, who posted his first triple-double of the season. Dallas was able to survive Griffin’s performance but it wasn’t easy, as the Mavericks continue to fight with the Warriors, Grizzlies and Suns for those final three spots in the conference. The Mavs, with their barrage of shooters, have one of the best offenses in the league but it’s going to have to be their defense that makes sure they have a position in the postseason. Right now it’s spotty but if they can fix their late-game mistakes, Dallas can do some real damage. The Clippers on the other hand are pretty much locked into the #3 seed, barring anything crazy happening in the final stretch of the season. Right now they’re set to face the Warriors, and man oh man, would that be a juicy first-round match up. At lot left to happen before we get to that point so let’s see what games will affect both conferences as we begin the final week and a half of the season.

Lots and lots of games tonight. In fact, the only teams that aren’t in action tonight are the Spurs and Clippers. But don’t worry because we’re still going to get some great games tonight, some of which have big implications. As stated previously, any game involving two western conference playoffs contenders is a great watch. Especially 6 through 9 because at any time, those teams can switch in a variety of ways. The biggest games among the western teams tonight are the Thunder in Houston and the Suns in Portland, both games should be great. The east isn’t as intense but there’s still a lot to learn from various teams and some shuffling that will happen among the non-Pacer and non-Heat teams. The Raptors are fighting to stay in the 3rd position and what do you know, they’re going up against Indiana tonight. The Pacers need to get back into the form and getting a win over the team one spot beneath them is the right direction. You can also tune into Boston-Philly for tanking reasons. But let’s focus on the Wizards, in New York tonight to take on Moe’s Knicks, who are all of a sudden in the 8th spot in the eastern conference. Washington is trying to move up a spot in the standings while New York is trying to fight off the Hawks and Cavaliers for the final spot in the postseason. Should be a good game and a good Friday of basketball to get the weekend started.

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