NBA Previews W/C 12/03 : The fight at the top of the west rages on
- BT Sport
With every game that passes, the playoff picture becomes a little clearer and free agency is in the bad of many minds. LeBron James made a pitstop through L.A. last weekend to face both the Clippers and the Lakers and he was on the losing end of both fixtures. Will he be heading to Los Angeles this summer? The Lakers are believed to be on his shortlist with the Rockets and Spurs, but the three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP could just as easily stay in his hometown of Cleveland. Speaking of Cleveland, the Cavaliers now find themselves off the pace in the east and will have to settle for a third of fourth seed, will that influence the King's thinking? As for the west, another huge week for Houston and Golden State lies ahead.
Monday - Spurs @ Rockets
The battle for the top seed in the west rumbles on, but it has taken an interesting turn. Houston have won 16 of their last 17 games, but they fell to the Toronto Raptors - the leaders in the east - on Friday night. The Golden State Warriors have lost their last two games as well and it seems they've missed their opportunity to usurp Houston. The Rockets still have one of the best perimeter shooting sides in the league with a gritty inside - these off-nights from beyond the key can happen. But, with James Harden and Chris Paul, they'll bounce back.
San Antonio were a safe third seed just a month or so ago, but with LaMarcus Aldridge injured and, more importantly, Kawhi Leonard absent, the Spurs have gone 2-8 in their last 10 and are now lingering in seventh, only 0.5 games ahead of the three teams below them. It's ultra tight around those last two playoff spots and unless their key players can suit up again soon, they are in danger of missing out for the first time since 1997 and the first time Gregg Popovich misses out as a San Antonio coach in his entire 21 years at the helm. Rockets win.
Tuesday - Cavaliers @ Suns
Neither the Clippers or the Lakers are the most polished units you will see right now, but both managed wins over the imperial LeBron James and co. at the weekend and this western roadtrip has not been nice to the Cavs. But, remember, this is a Cleveland side that does not have Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson right now, but they will when the playoffs roll around. Factor in the job Larry Nance Jr is doing and how Geroge Hill and Rodney Hood have adapted, the Cavs will be fine in the long run.
Speaking of the long run, that's exactly when the Phoenix Suns are hoping to come good. With Devin Booker, they have one of the deadliest, young scorers in the league today and with Elfrid Payton and Josh Jackson, they have plenty of young talent. Unfortunately, they are still finding their feet and have lost their last five games. Cavs win.
Wednesday - Lakers @ Warriors
The Lakers have been one of the form sides since the All-Star break and have only lost three games in the process. That's nearly a months worth of action with only three defeats and the Purple and Gold have hit 30 wins for the season after their win over the Cavs on Sunday. That's something the franchise has not managed in four seasons and with Julis Randle in supreme form, they show no signs of letting up.
For Golden State, no Stephen Curry has hurt them in a very visible way. Last time out against the Timberwolves, they simply had no answer for the almighty Karl-Anthony Towns and the Trail Blazers dispatched them in a battle of the guards. However, Kevin Durant is still playing amazing and he could be enough.
Thursday - Mavericks @ Raptors
Dallas owner Mark Cuban got in plenty of trouble for implying that his side were actively tanking this season, but facts are facts. The Mavericks have been a playoff team for the last decade but only have 21 wins this season and are 3-7 in their last 10. Harrison Barnes is trying to lead the team while Dirk Nowitzki obviously enters his twilight, but Dennis Smith Jr has been a rare bright spot for a franchise that is several pieces away.
Toronto are one of the best teams to watch in the NBA right now. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have that telepathic understanding on the court and DeRozan, in particular, has been a lights out shooter this year. They are on an eight-game winning streak right now - the longest in the league - and are a full 3.5 games ahead of Boston in the eastern standings. Could they finally get a deep playoff run? Raptors win.
Friday - Pacers @ Wizards
Indiana have been one of the welcome surprises this season with Victor Oladipo finally showing what kind of player he can be. Things didn't work out for him in Oklahoma playing second fiddle to Russell Westbrook, but a prominent role for the Pacers has brought out the best in him. Myles Turner is also one of the best young centers in the league and if they can build around them two, they could be a playoff team for years.
The Pacers are currently third, but the Washington Wizards in fifth are only one game behind them and this could be that all-important game. Bradley Beal and John Wall will fancy their chances against the Indiana backcourt, but can Marcin Gortat hang with the ultra-athletic Turner? This game will likely be won and lost on the perimeter and the Wizards are the favorites.
- The Toronto Raptors have won their last eight games in a row, which is the best form in the NBA
- The Memphis Grizzlies have lost a staggering 17 games on the bounce. The next worst is the New York Knicks with seven
- James Harden leads the league for scoring with 31.1 points a night
- Russell Westbrook is the top assister with 10.1 dimes a night, with John Wall and then LeBron James behind him
- Andre Drummond leads the league in rebounds with 15.8 a game
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