Yesterday I profiled the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks in my piece on the National Basketball Association. I spoke of the Knicks’ hot streak and the seemingly hotter one of Carmelo Anthony. In regards to the Spurs, my question was whether or not they could hang on to the top seed in the Western Conference heading into a huge game with Oklahoma City last evening.
In my closing segment, I revealed that I liked the Spurs to steal a win in OKC last night behind strong play from Tony Parker. For that to have happened of course, Parker would have actually had to play! The all-star guard did not play in the Spurs 100-88 loss to the Thunder last night and didn’t say much about why he didn’t play other than “I’ve got a lot of stuff going on.”
Parker is absolutely right about that as he just cannot seem to get healthy and with his struggles, the injury to Manu Ginobili and the Thunder within a half-game now, there is serious trouble in Alamo-town.
Oklahoma City is now even with San Antonio in the loss column but holds a tie-breaker with the Spurs by having the better record against the Western Conference. Four weeks ago, I really thought this Spurs team was going to make that final push to the NBA Finals and perhaps ride off into the sunset with a fifth and final title for Tim Duncan but now I have serious doubts.
The loss of Ginobili can be overcome for the most part, but if Tony Parker is not healthier than he is now this team has no chance to get past the Thunder and could easily struggle against Memphis, Denver or the Clippers as well. Head Coach Gregg Popovich has done his best to keep the veterans healthy and fresh all season but perhaps it has all been for naught.
For the Thunder, the win marks another notch in a redemption tour bedpost that started back when they were blitzed by the Heat in five games in the NBA Finals last summer. The team is certainly different with James Harden now in Houston, but the addition of veteran Derek Fisher has been paying dividends as it did last night with Fisher hitting for 17 points including five three-pointers.
Don’t dismiss that contribution going forward because obviously we know what Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can do in terms of scoring but when you have guy, in this case Fisher, who knock down threes somewhat consistently, that opens the floor for Durant and Westbrook even more. Ultimately what you then have is a nightmare scenario for defenses in trying to stop that while keeping Serge Ibaka and company off the glass in the rebounding department.
Perhaps more than anything else, the NBA is league of hot versus cold and with the Spurs having lost three of four now and the Thunder riding a two-game winning streak and having gone 7-3 over their last ten, look out. Things can change rapidly in the Association as I found out over the last 24 hours but they can just as quickly change right back.
Games Tonight in the NBA
Cleveland at Boston – The good news? The Celtics are in the playoffs. The bad news? They need to keep winning to stay out of the 8th seed and a date with the Heat in the first round. Take Boston at home tonight.
Memphis at LA Lakers – LA has a half-game lead on Utah for the final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. Memphis has won four straight and is one of the better road teams in the NBA. The playoffs have started if you’re a Laker and against better judgment I’ll take them at home.