NBA Week 7 in Review

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“We don’t believe you, you need more people!” Such a phrase comes to mind when the marquee matchups of the week (Cavs-Knicks / Warriors-Clippers) both quickly turned into massacres at the hands of the road teams (Cavs & Warriors). For those “lost season” enthusiasts, this further validates their POV. The Knicks were in the midst of a 4 game winning streak and the Clippers had just recently embarrassed the Cavs on their home floor. However, when it came to the class of each conference, it wasn’t even close. Unless a team makes some serious noise during the regular season, the conversation will remain the same. That this year is a two team race, with a trilogy expected in June.

Western Conference

Things have been looking extremely promising in H-Town and the Grind House. The Rockets are on a 7 game win streak, followed by the Grizzlies who are on a 6 game win streak. The teams sit 1 game apart in the 4th and 5th positions in the conference.

Eric Gordon has emerged as a legit second scorer to The Beard, upping his scoring average to 20.7 PPG during the win streak (17.3 PPG for the season). He looks as close to 100% as we’ve ever seen. He’s also remained consistently healthy thus far this season for the first time in as long as we can remember. Not only can he play next to Harden off the ball, but in his new 6th man role (since the return of Patrick Beverley) he provides the offensive spark needed off the bench. The offense can be run through him and he continues to make plays happen off the pick and roll that prove deadly to the opposition with his deep range.

If you ever wonder “how do you respond in the face of adversity?” take a look at the Memphis Grizzlies. Conley out, Parsons out, Gasol out (sparingly), Z-Bo out. They’ve had starters in and out of the rotation for the majority of the season and yet sit at a healthy 5th position, one game back of the 3rd spot behind the Clippers. Injuries and family losses have hit this squad heavy in this 2016-2017 campaign but the grind house mentality has not left the team at all. Their 3 point shooting percentage to this point is virtually identical to that of last year (which needs some improving), however the pounding the deliver in the paint remains consistent. This team has a strong identity and plays hard every night. What they lack in talent, they provide in effort. Can’t beat that!

To this point, the Western Conference is 74-66 against its East foes. Is it time to retire the old conversations about how horrible the East is? Well according to the conference head to head its not. However, when we take a look at the standings, we have a Portland team in 8th place that sits 2 games under .500. Next on that list are the 9th place Kings that are 6 games under. Looking at their opponents across the imaginary border, we see all 8 playoff teams at .500 or better. Even the 10th team (Milwaukee Bucks) sits at only 1 game under .500. Let’s just say the balance between the conferences is trending slightly towards equilibrium.

Eastern Conference

Despite the aforementioned blowout home loss to the Cavs, the Knicks have quietly won 9 of their last 12 games. They have risen to the 3rd spot in the East and are 3 games back of the offensively efficient Raptors. They’ve been doing something they haven’t been able to accomplish in recent years, and that’s beating the teams they’re supposed to beat. They have an attacking starting point guard in Derrick Rose who is a threat any time off the dribble, especially in the open court. He put up 25 points on 12-16 shooting in his first game back from a 2 game absence due to back spasms. When fully healthy, this team should be able to compete with anyone in the league. Let’s see how the third meeting with Cleveland goes on February 4th. Hopefully Rose can make his first appearance against LeBron and Co. that time.

Although the fiasco between Melo and Phil Jackson has clouded the acknowledgment of the Knicks gameplay, there has been nothing to cloud the “surprising” start for the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are shooting a league worst 30.8% from three-point land. However, this is offset by their tenacious rebounding. The Bulls are third in the league (309) in total offensive rebounds, and fifth (1,116) in total rebounds. They’ve bounced back from a 3 game slide by winning back to back home games against the Spurs and the Heat. Aside from the poor three-point shooting, the team seems to have the perfect balance of young talent (Butler/Valentine), veteran leadership (Wade/Rondo) along with grit and grind players (Gibson/Lopez). In addition to the Knicks, no team would be happy to see them in the first round of the playoffs.

Bring back the beasts of the east! There are 6 teams within 2 games of each other, and all 8 playoff positioned teams have a record of .500 or better. In an effort to create parity in the league, or at least tighter regular season competition, we will need continual concerted efforts from our Atlantic Coast ball clubs. So far we have seen unexpected performances and surprising production from teams we were unsure of heading into the season. This bodes well for the outlook of the season overall and there should be plenty of enjoyable games through March.

Matchups to Watch

-Grizzlies @ Cavs – 12/13

-T-Wolves @ Bulls – 12/13

-Thunder @ Blazers – 12/13

-Hornets @ Wizards – 12/14

-Cavs @ Grizzlies – 12/14

-Thunder @ Jazz – 12/14

-Celtics @ Spurs – 12/14

-Bulls @ Bucks – 12/15

-Knicks @ Warriors – 12/15

-Pistons @ Wizards – 12/16

-Hornets @ Celtics – 12/16

-Hawks @ Raptors – 12/16

-Bucks @ Bulls – 12/16

-Pelicans @ Rockets – 12/16

-Pacers @ Pistons – 12/17

-Hornets @ Hawks – 12/17

-Rockets @ T-Wolves – 12/17

-Blazers @ Warriors – 12/17

-Clippers @ Wizards – 12/18

-Jazz @ Grizzlies – 12/18

-Wizards @ Pacers – 12/19

-Pistons @ Bulls – 12/19

-Hawks @ Thunder – 12/19

Stay tuned for some holiday action as teams look to finish the year off strong!

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