With all the attention deservedly paid to football since last fall, it may come as a surprise that the NBA season is within a week or so of reaching the mid point of the regular season.
San Antonio continues to fashion the best record in the league, 31-6, winning better than 80 percent of its games to build a 4½ game lead over Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers atop the Western Conference.
Currently the top eight teams in the West each have winning records. Such is not the case in the East where only six teams are playing winning basketball and there is a full six-game gap between the team currently seeded sixth, New York (21-15), and the team seeded seventh, Indiana (14-20).
Miami has all but caught Boston for the top spot in the East. The Celtics have slumped a bit recently, having gone just 6-4 in their last 10 games starting this week. Meanwhile Miami has won nine in a row to improve to 30-9, mere percentage points behind Boston’s 28-9 record.
But the Heat are not the only team beginning the week on a nine-game win streak as instate rival Orlando has accomplished the same feat. It has not taken long at all for the recent trades engineered by the Magic to show tangible results on the court.
Reality has set in for the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans to the surprise of absolutely nobody. They have the lowest win percentage in the league (.216), losing their last 10 games starting this week.
But the Cavs are far from the only futile team in the league. Their 3-17 road record appears very attractive to the Washington Wizards, who remain the only team yet to win away from home, dropping their first 18 road contests this season.
Here’s a look at three games this weekend.
Mavericks at Spurs (Fri): Dallas clearly misses the injured Dirk Nowitzki, having gone just 2-5 in his absence. In a certain sense this may not be a bad thing as it should compel owner Mark Cuban to address this lack of depth as next month’s trade deadline approaches, if Dallas is to legitimately contend in the tough Western Conference.
The Spurs continue to play consistently well although they did lose back-to-back games for the first time just over a week ago in Boston and New York. These teams have split their previous two meetings with the road team winning each game. Nowitzki’s return is still uncertain.
Too be fair, Dallas has played a fairly tough schedule in his absence so the losses may be as much attributable to the quality of foes faced as to the loss of their star. The value in this game will be with Dallas, which should be generously priced underdogs. MAVERICKS.
Heat at Bulls (Sat): Another team dealing with a key injury is Chicago as Joakim Noah has missed nearly a month of action and is expected out for perhaps another six weeks. The Bulls have continued to play well, however, winning eight of their last 11. These teams are meeting for the first time this season.
Miami’s Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have meshed nicely in recent weeks. The Heat begin the week off a pair of overtime road wins and enter this game after playing in Denver on Thursday night. Chicago played in Indiana on Friday and could be a small underdog against the league’s hottest team. Miami starts the week winners in 21 of the last 22 games.
Chicago has enough talent to make things tough for the Heat and has been well coached. The Bulls adjusted to the absence of Noah, have an emerging elite player of their own in Derrick Rose and a solid, continually improving supporting cast. BULLS.
Lakers at Clippers (Sun): Just two games are on Sunday’s NBA schedule with this intra-city contest providing an interesting challenge for the Lakers based upon the Clippers’ recent play. One of the NBA’s perennial doormats has played well of late, winning seven of 10 entering the week.
Blake Griffin continues to perform at a high level worthy of his being the top overall pick in 2009, only to miss all of last season due to injury. He is providing much needed leadership and the team is responding well. The Lakers have been inconsistent for much of the season although they seem to have emerged from a funk in which they lost four of six by winning four straight through Sunday.
In their earlier meeting in early December, the Lakers edged the Clippers by a single point at a time when the Clippers were not playing well. The Lakers were favored by eight in that contest and may be in the same price range here. The Clippers should be the more motivated team. There’s plenty of room for the Lakers to win but for the Clippers to be competitive. CLIPPERS.
last week season PCT
1-2 14-14-1 50.0