First the Eastern Conference:
Believe in the Hawks yet? After the 19 game winning streak was snapped by the New Orleans Hornets, I for one thought the Hawks would start to stumble, especially with the Golden State Warriors coming in to town. I was wrong. The Hawks proved with the deepest bench that they are indeed the best team in the NBA right now. A team that lacks a star player, hence why the NBA named the starting five the Players of the Month, a title never given to an entire lineup. So Atlanta beat the Warriors at home...but how will it do on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies? The Hawks have reached out to Ray Allen about joining them as well. Kyle Korver and Ray Allen on the same team? That's a 3-point shooting contest every night.
There was a renewed sense of confidence after the Toronto Raptors beat the Washington Wizards, but that confidence quickly turned into panic as they dropped back to back games at home against the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. At one point they fell behind 20 against the L.A. Clippers. But then the Raptors rebounded and got the victory and have found their winning ways. What Toronto is about to go through will be an important stretch for their season, as the Clippers were just the first team above .500 with seven more teams remaining. So are the Raptors for real? They play the Warriors on the 27th, so come back by March.
Through the first two months of the season, the Washington Wizards looked invincible. They went 22-8 in the first 30 games but fell 9-12 since that span. Last night's victory over the Nets was much needed, snapping a five game losing streak. The injury bug has bitten the back court with Bradley Beal having to sit out with an injured toe. Will that affect him down the line? Playing the Orlando Magic next should be a breeze but playing Toronto and the Cleveland Cavaliers will be crucial to their place in the standings. Oh and the most entertaining part of last night's blow out? Mason Plumlee vs Beer.
After a three game losing streak, the Bulls were about to lose their 4th in a row last night to the New Orleans Pelicans. Then Anthony Davis got injured and everything blew wide open for Chicago. Behind Derrick Rose's 20 points and Pau Gasol's 20 points and 15 rebounds, the Bulls won handily 107-72. Chicago finishes out February with an easy schedule playing only 2 teams (Cleveland, Phoenix) as the only teams that are in the playoff scenario. If the Bulls can't take advantage of the soft schedule, then down the standings they go.
The Cavs may actually be relieved now that their 12-game winning streak was snapped by the Indiana Pacers because there is no more pressure to win all these games in a row. Back to the pressure of the regular season though. With the Lakers coming to town today without Kobe, you might as well declare it a win right now. The bigger picture for Cleveland is how they play in these final 30 games. The team is 3.5 games behind Toronto for the #2 seed. Very well attainable. Kevin Love also seems to be coming around. Hawks vs Cavs in the ECF? That would be entertaining. Something else that's always entertaining is the LeBron chase down block.
The Bucks are the young pesky team you can't seem to get rid of no matter how hard you try to shoo away. Their five game winning streak came to an end at Houston as you would expect, but the Bucks bounced back last night against the Celtics. Two challenges that face Milwaukee down the road will be Chicago and Atlanta.
The three game win streak for Charlotte came to and end against Philadelphia but you can't not notice how they managed to beat Washington twice. Micheal Jordan's squad faces an Indiana team that is riding off the momentum of beating Cleveland and after them, Charlotte faces Oklahoma, Chicago, and Dallas. Speaking of Micheal Jordan, RIP Dean Smith.
The Miami Heat's best news recently has been signing Tyler Johnson for the remainder of the season. Who? Exactly. Can the Heat get back on track in train wreck of a season? It's possible but the more losses pile up, the more unlikely it seems. Chris Bosh recently said he just wants to get into "The Dance." I wrote a story about that dance. You can read it HERE.
Time to look at the Western Conference:
The only negative thing that has happened to Stephen "Chicken" Curry is that he was beat by a 10 year old. I'm serious, watch this -> http://youtu.be/2bfZAjERHlI
Sure the Warriors lost on the road against the Hawks but it takes nothing away from there season so far. Klay Thompson had a 37-point 3rd quarter and Curry followed the performance with his own 51 points against the Mavericks. Will the Warriors be the 72-win Chicago team? No, but damn they are fun to watch one win at a time.
Winning 8 straight to finally be beaten by the....Timberwolves?! Atlanta coming into town next. Can the grind-it-out handle the high octane Hawks? The Grizz go into the All-Star Break riding high and 3.5 games behind the Warriors for the top seed of the conference. Was it necessary for Tony Allen to admit that James Harden is the only player he hasn't figured out yet though?
You hear that Harden? Tony Allen says you're a tough match up. The MVP season for Harden continues (27.0 points. 6.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds a game) especially now that Dwight Howard will be out for a month. Harden is also taking part of the 3-Point Shooting contest against the likes of the Splash Brothers and Kyle Korver. More people want to see this contest than the actual dunk contest right? The Blazers are coming into town today and whatever you Rockets do, don't give it to Damian Lillard in the final possession when you're up a basket.
Well it certainly looks like Damian Lillard will now be an NBA All-Star Game thanks to Blake Griffin's injury. As for on the floor, what an epic collapse by the Blazers against Dallas!! Up 16 with with 11:47 left in the game to losing by 1 in the end. Can the Blazers bounce back in Houston?
I go from what happened to the Blazers to... wow what a comeback by the Mavericks all in the span of 3 sentences. This has been a team known for comebacks (37-2 run comeback against my Miami Heat) and last night was no different. Rajon Rondo is still looking to avoid surgery as Dallas hopes time away from the court will heal his face. So while this injury is unfortunate, the All Star break is a welcome sign. The Mavs are also looking to sign some big men behind Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler and the latest rumors have the Mavs chasing both Jermaine O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire if he is bought out by the New York Knicks. Talk about a stacked roster!
The Clippers are struggling to the point where you just don't know if they'll make the playoffs in the end, even though they are sitting 6th in the West. Only a half game up on the Spurs and only 7.5 games up on the Thunder who are 7.5 games up on the Thunder, it will take an epic collapse in LA for that fall to happen. But look at what's happening so far: A 3 game losing streak and Blake Griffin needing elbow surgery that will keep him out past the All-Star Break. Oh and the remaining schedule for February? Dallas. Houston, San Antonio, Memphis, Houston, and Memphis. Epic collapse coming?
The Spurs dismantled Miami and Gregg Poppovich is 1 win away from 1000 career wins. This was a guy that was about to get fired back in 2000. Having gone 8-2 in the past 10 games, San Antonio is still within distance of catching up to the #4 seed.
Phoenix, New Orleans, & Oklahoma City:
The Phoenix Suns were able to snap a 3 game losing streak by beating Utah and may not have to worry about New Orleans catching up. Anthony Davis went down with a shoulder injury. Huge blow to the Pelicans. With Davis being out, will we see Dirk or Monta Ellis in the All-Star game? As for the Thunder, they may have to face a reality of not making the playoffs until a streak happens. Kevin Durant though is challenging everyone to play him one on one if they want his spot at the game. Damian Lillard vs KD? Dirk vs KD? Wait...Mark Cuban vs KD??
That's all for this week. Stay fly everyone.