NBA’s Northwest Division Has Numerous Storylines for the Second HalfBy Marc U.
As the All-Star Break comes to an end, the National Basketball Association’s Northwest Division Standings have not seen much change since the season began. Still in first place is Oklahoma City who is followed by Denver, Utah, Portland and Minnesota. One could make the argument that the break came at a very good time for the Thunder who are a very pedestrian 6-4 over their last ten games including two straight losses. One of those was to Miami who of course beat them in the NBA Finals last summer.
Despite 40 points from Kevin Durant, the Thunder lost to the Heat 110-100 and most would tell you the game really wasn’t that close. Be that as it may, the Thunder have reached that point in the season where many great teams often do. These are the dog-days of the NBA schedule where one day you’re playing in sunny warm Miami and the next, you’re waiting out a snow storm New York or Boston.
With perhaps only the exception being the 72-win Bulls, even the greatest teams go through the doldrums and I believe OKC is suffereing this fate right now. I expect them to get back on track quickly with a trip to Houston Monday followed by three-straight home games against Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans.
Can the Nuggets Make a Run for the Top Spot?
I think they’ll defintely make it interesting but I don’t believe they’ll be able to over-take the Thunder by the time the playoffs roll around. While the Nuggets have an excellent 22-3 home record, they struggle on the road where they are 11-18. If they have any designs on catching the Thunder then that record away from Denver must improve.
The one reason I think they could make it interesting beside injuries of course is that the Nuggets can score points in bunches much like Oklahoma City often does. Should the two division foes have a second round playoff match-up Denver will have no prblem keeping up. Of course the Thunder can play some defense more consistently than Denver, and they’ll need it in a seven-game series.
Blazers are Bumbling
Two weeks ago I really felt like Portland was going to be the team that would get that coveted eight and final playoff spot. They currently sit in ninth three games back of Houston but the Trail Blazers went just 3-7 over their last ten games and have lost their five in a row. One of those losses was to the Rockets.
Portland comes out of the the All-Star Break with three of four at home as they host Phoenix, Boston and Denver, but must travel to LA to play the Lakers who are right on their tails in the tenth spot. While it’s easier said than done, they must pick up the pace at both ends meaning they need to find more scoring and more defense to climb into the playoff race.
Around the Northwest… If the playoffs started today, Utah would face division foe Oklahoma City in a 7-2 match-up. I guarantee the Jazz would love to move up a spot or two to avoid that match-up… Kevin Durant continues to lead the league in scoring at 29.2 points per game… His teammate Russell Westbrook is fifth in the Association with 8.1 assists per game.
Games this week
Boston at Denver – Two fairly hot teams open the second half with a crucial one in Denver. Boston went 8-2 over their last ten but begins a long road trip. I like Denver and that brilliant home record.
Golden State at Utah – One of those teams Utah would like to catch is current 6th-seed Golden State. The Warriors lead the Jazz by a game. I like the Jazz at home to pull even in the Western Con