Championship or bust. The best teams in the West have risen to the top and it’s just a matter of whether or not we’ll get to see the Rockets-Warriors Western Conference finals that we’re all expecting. Both teams have come off of the break hot, with Houston on a fourteen-game win streak and the Warriors 4-0 since the break.
Flipping the Switch?
Plenty of folks have wondered if the Warriors would really be able to flip the switch and get into playoff form after a modest start to the season. After that thirty-two-point demolition of a motivated Thunder team and an average margin of victory last week of fifteen points, they certainly look the part. I’ve noted that despite having more losses than has become normal over the past few years, Golden State still looks like a top team, leading the Association in a broad range of statistics. What hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that injuries to key players have kept this unit from playing together consistently all season. Coach Steve Kerr knows that now is the time to pull it all together, and I think we’ll see an even more dominant Warriors squad down the stretch.
Side note: The Warriors didn’t waste a trip to Washington DC because of they were disinvited by the President. Since they weren’t visiting the White House, the team took the opportunity to take a group of school children to the National Museum of African American History and Culture instead. It’s a fitting celebration for these socially-minded Warriors. Kudos, gents.
Houston is on historic pace, looking to shoot more three-pointers than any team in NBA history. They’re riding a fourteen game winning streak and aren’t likely to fade down the stretch. All that is well and good, but seriously, good god, did you see what James Harden did to poor Wes Johnson before draining yet another trey to go up 31-7 early in Wednesday’s game? If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend checking it out right now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. In the words of the Lakers new point guard Isaiah Thomas when he saw the footage, “I’m just glad I’m not that guy.” It wasn’t so much the move, or the fact that Johnson ended up on his seat in a suddenly completely still and silent arena. It was that Harden (and the rest of the arena) then waited for Johnson’s teammate to come across and help before calmly checking his toes and burying the thing. How much must it suck to be better than ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the athletes on this planet, only to have a guy like James Harden come along and make you look like a confused toddler in front of the whole world. Ouch.
Speaking of ouch, the Spurs took a double dose down in New Orleans, not only dropping the game to a Boogie Cousins-less Pelicans squad, but losing All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge in the process. This Spurs team is already in a tough spot without Kawhi Leonard, the loss of Aldridge for any extended time could be disastrous. Luckily for Coach Pop and his crew, the ankle injury doesn’t seem to be too serious and he’s very likely to be back soon.
Looking lower in the bracket, guess who’s flirting with relevance? The woeful Lakers sit six games back of the eight seed, but here’s something interesting. They’ve won their last three games and seven of their last ten. Even more intriguing, when Lonzo Ball isn’t too busy losing games of H-O-R-S-E to Lil’ Bow Wow (insert your very own “Like Mike” joke here), he’s actually hitting shots, despite his, ahem, less than elegant form. While his minutes have been limited, Lonzo hasn’t missed much since the All-Star break. He went three for three from deep in the win against Atlanta, and he’s hit six of his last nine. If he can keep up that momentum and build his confidence, maybe, just maybe, Ball can challenge Bow Wow to a rematch. Just kidding. Seriously bro, don’t risk it. Just stick to playing for the Lakers and maybe you guys can squeak into that eighth seed.
Image source: NBA
Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.