As we approach the 1/8th mark of the season, we’re beginning to see some lingering trends. Some teams are almost completely out of it, some are showing why they’re conference contenders, and the rest are waddling on that fine line near .500, still seeking to solidify their identity. All in all, we’re seeing some fantastic basketball. To this point, we still have 5 players averaging 30+ ppg and are must watch on a nightly basis. Let’s take a look at the conferences.
The Clippers are quickly and emphatically making a statement that they are here to compete this season, and they’re taking no prisoners. Finishing the week at a perfect 4-0 clip, with two 30 point victories speaks to their dominance. Unfortunately, we’ve seen similar stories in the past, and whatever we see from this version of the team during the regular season won’t matter until playoff time. Nevertheless, fans should breathe optimism into their existence as things (although really early) look good for now. Their athleticism and versatility should be enough to take out San Antonio should they see them in the playoffs. Their dislike for GSW in addition to their size should bode well for Clipper nation as well. Blake and DeAndre would need to dominate the boards (as they should) and abuse whoever is guarding them in the low post.
The other notable 4-0 week goes to the Warriors. Things seem to be looking in the right direction as they’re hitting their offensive stride and scoring in bunches like we’re accustomed to seeing. I would be a bit weary, as all those wins were against what seems to be non-playoff teams (Pels, Mavs, Nuggets, Suns) and they have surrendered 106, 101 and 120 in 3 of those wins. Needless to say their defensive efficiency has taken a hit thus far this season.
The two major surprises come from the Jazz and the Lakers. Gordon Hayward made an earlier than anticipated return to the lineup for Utah and has been lights out, catapulting them to 5th in the West. Those young pesky and talented Lakers have shown flashes of brilliance! Coach Luke has them playing freely and moving the ball, while keeping their confidence up. If they can hover around .500 for majority of the season, the playoffs might be right within reach come March/April.
Aside from their sole loss of the season to the Hawks, the Cavs still remain the beasts of the east. It appears LeBron will be on triple-double watch for the majority of the season and defer to Kyrie and Love to shoulder the scoring load. They will need just a touch more scoring from those two as J.R. may see limited action in the games to come with a sore ankle (which isn’t too serious). As the season progresses, it’ll be interesting to monitor how the Cavs consistently run their offense, as opposed to just focusing on the wins and losses. The HOW will determine their playoff efficiency and give insight as to what will happen against the various matchups they will see in each round.
The Hawks and Hornets are the standout surprises from the east. No one expected the Hawks to click this early, and quite frankly, with the pieces the Hornets lost in the offseason, another playoff berth was questionable at best. Dwight and Co. seem to have embraced their identity early this season. Their players complement each other and no one tries to do too much. The Hornets on the other hand have been the Kemba Walker show and SHEESH, there’s so much excitement! Keep an eye on these teams as we monitor how much noise they can create throughout the season.
Underwhelming teams that have been unpleasantly surprising reside in Indiana and the nation’s capital. The Pacers have yet to string together a couple wins and resemble a serious contender, while the Wizards haven’t remotely resembled a playoff team. Frustration is reportedly stemming from the Indiana locker room so I would expect some huge performances sooner rather than later. As for the Wizards, when Otto Porter is putting up more numbers than your expensive Bradley Beal…you have a problem!
Matchups to Watch
-Raptors @ Cavs – 11/15
-Bulls @ Blazers – 11/15
-Cavs @ Pacers – 11/16
-Pistons @ Knicks – 11/16
-Bucks @ Hawks – 11/16
-Rockets @ Thunder – 11/16
-Warriors @ Raptors – 11/16
-Grizzlies @ Clippers – 11/16
-Blazers @ Rockets – 11/17
-Bulls @ Jazz – 11/17
-Hawks @ Hornets – 11/18
-Pistons @ Cavs – 11/18
-Jazz @ Rockets – 11/19
-Bulls @ Clippers – 11/19
-Hawks @ Knicks – 11/20
-Pacers @ Thunder – 11/20
-Bulls @ Lakers – 11/20
LOL! They give you hope. They let you down. What can I say, right? The home route of the Nets was expected, so not much to talk about there. Follow that up with two L’s to Boston and Toronto. Once Melo got ejected in the Boston game, that was pretty much all she wrote, as the level of competition dramatically decreased. We got the level of competition we expect to always see against Toronto and the close score all game reflected it. Late game breakdowns lead to easy baskets, and Toronto salted the win away at the free throw line.
We see defensive effort from the Knicks in spurts, but nothing consistently enough for us to give them the nod as a solid defensive team (yet). The personnel are there, but the cohesion is lacking. Until we put forth the physical effort on that end of the floor, we can forget about getting the chemistry on offense down pact, as it will mean nothing.
The player rotation experiment hasn’t quite gone according to plan. You can tell that coach Hornacek is still trying to find out which lineups work best on offense and defense. He needs to continue to stagger the minutes of the starters with those of the bench. Whenever the entire bench is emptied, go ahead and book an immediate 6-0 or 8-0 run for the opposition. Offensively pay close attention to how he inserts Hernangomez in the lineup, and defensively how he rotates KP to the 5 spot and plays either Justin Holiday or Lance Thomas with the rest of the starters. With games against Dallas, Detroit, Washington and ATL this week, let’s see if we can make it back to or past .500! #Knickstape
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