The East has been given the credibility of a non-AQ college football conference. Sure they may have that one BCS buster (Miami & Indiana = Boise, Utah, NIU, TCU), but the rest of the conference? Fluff!
Well for all the chatter coming from the sports world about the terrible East (us included), this week saw some strange looking box scores. Like when the MAC took out half the Big Ten two years ago. Strange, until you consider that the “talent gap” isn’t that wide, all these ridiculously athletic and talented men get paid relatively similar sums of money and are drafted in a “spread the wealth” model. The league talent is fairly well dispersed, and anyone can actually beat anyone. There is still some parity.
Revenge of the East
When the Cavs beat the Clippers on the road 88-82 behind Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Andrew Bynum–it shouldn’t be the shocker that is it. The West isn’t the SEC (and the SEC is overrated).
Pacers over Spurs on the road? Just a good team beating another good team.
By my count the East is 7-8 against the West in the past seven days. That includes atrocious teams like Toronto and Philly getting whipped, and “terrible eastern conference teams” teams like Boston and Cleveland pulling out surprising wins. The Pacers help that by going 2-1, but as a whole conference the East showed up. The Pacers were not alone in beating Western playoff contenders (of which there are 12). The Cavs (twice), Heat, Celtics, and Hawks all showed up teams that could be in the Western conference playoffs–the Spurs, Clippers (twice), Timberwovlves, and Nuggets (twice).
It’s the revenge of the East people.
The Pistons, though not a part of that revenge, have won 4 straight to rise to .500. That’s good for 5th in the East and 11th in the West (ok, so there’s still some disparity there). The teams they beat this week include Miami and Chicago. It could be called Andre Drummond’s coming out party, or the Pistons talent winning them some games. But it’s happening. A little stat nerd to back it up:
Brandon Jennings has played well in his new home–33 points against the Bulls–and Josh Smith’s well documented terrible shooting has been covered up by great rebounding. If a Josh Smith miss=an Andre Drummond tip slam; then keep missing Josh! I think Joe Dumars may be a crazy genius for signing bad shooters to go with his dominant rebounders. (Did he actually consider that? Is he really that desperate? Could it work?)
Washington is also making a push out East, 7-3 in their last 10. John Wall has decided to be an all-star, averaging 20-10, with nearly 3 steals a game of late (Caveat: only two wins over Western teams–Lakers and T-Wolves–and a disheartening OT loss to the terrible terrible Bucks in those last 10).
Golden State, who seems to be a great basketball team, is falling a bit. They’re like a muscle car bought at auction without a peek under the hood. Do they have the motor? The manifold shows all the right parts installed. Takeover shooters, athletic wings, decent bigs, a passable bench. But what happens when you start the ignition? Well, the Warriors have surged a bit to finish 4-6 in their last 10, with all 6 losses to playoff contenders in the West. 4 of 6 are to teams ahead of them in the standings. Tough competition, but losing to a Porsche is still losing.
The Pacers and Thunder have gone 9-1 in their last ten, both losing to Portland (who lost to the Mavs at the buzzer Saturday). So they are now the two hottest teams in the league (Although Portland is still sizzling). Wouldn’t it be great if they played each other? Oh, wait, they do! Tonight (Sunday). Great match-up. The two hottest players in the league (Lemarcus is close) will face off position to position–Paul George of 30/5/5 the past 7 days and Kevin Durant of 30/9/2 this past week. A fans dream would be them guarding each other for 40 minutes. Of course, the Thunder and Pacers will likely switch Stephenson and Sefolosha/Ibaka on and off and often help with their bigs on drives. That’s why I like the Pacers on the road. Hibbert can swallow up Durant’s drives, and West has the size to contain the dump offs to Perkins (playing terrible this year) and Ibaka.
It’s like Portland keeps trying to get noticed as the best/hottest team with the best/hottest players (beating OKC and Indy–hello people!), but for some reason we just can’t commit to them. They’re the new guy. The new guy always turns out to be a traitor in every action movie (like SWAT). I think I’ve been brainwashed by 90’s action movies to think Portland will turn on me. (What if they do!? That may snap the very fabric of my psyche.)
Speaking of Mavs/Trailblazers: What a great game! Portland hits two threes in 30 seconds to come back from down 6, then Ellis smokes them at the buzzer? If Portland is overlooked, the Mavs are the guy who twisted his ankle that everyone but the commander wants to leave behind. You just know everyone’s going to die because you all helped this guy who tripped over a jungle root, but hey, that’s the code. No one wants to include the Mavs in the “contender” discussion. Mark Cuban has tripped the Mavs over some jungle roots, and everyone’s just waiting for them to lose / for Dirk to finally scream in anger and punch Mark.
Anyways, Monta has definitely found his redemption, and Dirk was feeling it in the 4th quarter. Who thought the Mavs could overcomes a 32 point night from Lillard, two down low double doubles (Lemarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez) and a triple nickel that scored 22 from glue man Nicolas Batum? They did it, hats off to the “We’re committing to be good enough to make the playoffs and have no idea how we will ever win another championship with the German Larry Bird” 2014 Mavs.
Baller of the Week:
Kevin George and Paul Durant.
Both these guys are playing otherworldly. Both these guys lost to the Blazers. Both these guys barely edged out Lemarcus Aldridge, by virtue of the Mavs win (sorry Lemarcus, that’s the rub). 30/5/5 and 30/9/2 are two MVP-esque week averages. Whoever wins tonight can get the tiebreaker and be declared our Baller of the Week (someone should text them…).
Stinks for these guys that Lebron, Durant, and Paul George are all SF’s. They could all make the NBA 1st team this year–heck they could all win MVP this year–but there’s got to be two losers. And 1 of the three will be on an All NBA 3rd team. It’s like watching a Pirates movie with two first mate worthy characters. Someone’s not making it past the 20 minute mark. Great actors, but there’s only enough lines for 1.
All NBA 1st Team:
PG: Damian Lillard
I know the dude’s only at 23/5 for his last five games. But he led the West’s #1 team past OKC and Indiana; and is comfortably in the 40-50-90 club (I know that’s backwards, but it’s still impressive).
SG: Monta Ellis
Mavs are 3-0 for the week, Monta isn’t dominating the stat sheet, but he getting it done in key moments.
SF: Carmelo Anthony
Some love for the Knicks this week! Going 2-1 is cause for a celebration in New York, including a blow out of the rival Brooklyn Prokhorovs. Mr. 20/10/5 (for the week) is doing more than just score. His last three games virtually match Lebron James stat for stat. Never thought I’d write that.
PF: Lemarcus Aldridge
A dominant week that has generated some MVP chatter for Lemarcus. 26/12/3 during a 5 games in 7 days stretch. This includes a monster 38-13-5-2(steals) line against OKC. OKC has the best PF defender in the game! (Serge Ibaka, 1st team All NBA defense 2012-2013.)
C: Andre Drummond
A ridiculous 18-18 line with 2 blocks and 2.5 steals as a week average. Dominant. If he could manage to shoot above .476 in his free throws, this could have been a 30-25 average (more minutes, more points). He is shooting 63% from the field however, which basically just means he can make dunks. It’s like the guy who is great at asking girls out, but extremely awkward on dates. Drummond can the basic stuff done, but when the pressures there, when it’s all on the line, he does the wrong thing. “Let’s just be friends.” Clunk!
PG: John Wall–Loss to Milwaukee aside, they are playing like the 3rd team in the East (win against Atlanta this week too). How long will it take their record to catch up?
SG: James Harden–Recent losses to Phoenix (?) and Utah (??) aside, the stats are there for 2nd team at a pencil thin position.
SF: Luol Deng–yeah they’re losing, but 25-8-8 is a fantastic stat line. 37 points agains the Pellies.
PF: Dirk Nowitzki–A 3-0 week? 25-5-4-2(blocks) average in three games? Very nice.
C: Dwight Howard–three straight game of 15+/15+? That’s why Jim Parsons begged Dwight to come to Houston.
PG. Steph Curry –Three games averaging to 28-10? Some nice steals, assists, and rebounding numbers thrown in? Helping the Warriors stay afloat in the unforgiving seas of the Western Conference.
SG: Ryan Anderson–Scored 30+ in road wins over Chicago and New York. Baller.
SF: Two way tie for Baller of the Week makes this spot moot.
PF: Tim Duncan–the oldest player to ever have a 20-20 game, in a win over the Hawks that included a game winning jumper.
C: Roy Hibbert: His impact goes beyond his double double +3 blocks average. Altered shots, drives cut short, and defenders hedging everyone into the Hibbert funnel anchors the Pacers D.
DPOY (See Roy Hibbert)
But Roy wants to say something to America. Have at it Roy: