This is a post normally reserved for the site HeadlineMiami.com, but I thought I’d share some of my Sports writing with my blogging peeps.
This week in the NBA was one to remember. We saw the continued dominance of the Miami Heat stretching their winning streak to a league-season-high 18 games—including LeBron James hitting his first game-winner in a Heat uniform. We saw Deron Williams set a new NBA record with nine first-half three-pointers. We saw the travelling circus from Los Angeles finally sneak into the playoff picture out West. And we saw not one, but two incredible alley-oops from Lob City—first a between the legs flip from Jamal Crawford for a Blake Griffin power windmill that would’ve been the play of the year—until…a Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan extravaganza that left the carnage of Brandon Knight sprawled in its wake.
This week also saw the slide of the Atlanta Hawks from the Headline Miami Power Rankings top ten. With five losses in their last six games, and the only win coming against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers, the Hawks are no longer list worthy. The team is lucky they aren’t sliding from the Eastern Conference playoff picture entirely, as the field of eight is basically set and only seeding yet to be determined. Barring only a miraculous run from the likes of Toronto, the Hawks are in the playoffs. But if they don’t stop their slide, they’ll face the Miami Heat in the first round, a team they haven’t beaten all season long.
This week we’ll go from top to bottom.
1. Miami Heat (47-14) 18 straight wins
The Heat burned up another batch of opponents this week, in a variety of styles. After a tussle with Minnesota continued the streak, Miami submitted lackluster performances against sub-.500 opponents from Orlando and Philadelphia. LeBron James hit his first game-winner as a member of the Heat, with a lay-up in the final seconds against the Magic to win 97-96. Miami then adjusted its sights to the only team they had yet to beat this season, the Indiana Pacers. The Heat dominated the game against the Pacers, and proved yet again they can win playing multiple styles. Miami’s docket shows a home game against the fading Atlanta Hawks, before hitting the road for match-ups in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Toronto. The Heat might very well bring a 22-game winning streak into a big match-up next week in Boston.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-16) Five straight wins
Kevin Durant and the Thunder treated their rowdy home crowd to a few entertaining games this week. A pair of playoff-atmosphere games resulted in the dismantling of the Los Angeles Lakers, then the outlasting of the Boston Celtics. OKC sandwiched an easy win in Charlotte and a dramatic win in New York between those two home match-ups. This week, the Thunder enter a huge! game in San Antonio. OKC trails the Spurs by just one game in the Western Conference standings, and despite the game being held in the shadow of the Alamo, San Antonio enters without one of its top guns as Tony Parker remains sidelined. Oklahoma City then returns home for contests against the Utah Jazz, who have slid out of the West playoff picture, and the hapless Orlando Magic. OKC could end the week as the top team out West.
3. San Antonio Spurs (48-15) Winners of seven of 10
Despite losing Tony Parker, the Spurs had more than enough to annihilate the Chicago Bulls this week. Unfortunately, the Portland Trailblazers came to town after that with likely Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard in tow. Lillard made the Spurs really miss Parker, as the rookie poured in 35 points and dished nine assists. Newly-acquired Blazer Eric Maynor also torched the Spurs PGs for 20 off the bench. It’ll be interesting to see how San Antonio deals with the mercurial Russell Westbrook, in their marquee matchup with the Thunder this week. The Spurs are also set to play in Minnesota, then home against Dallas and Cleveland this week. Only time will tell if Pop and co can fend off the Thunder and the hard-charging Memphis Grizzlies.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (42-19) Winners of 12 of 13
The Griz move up one spot on our Headline Miami rankings with yet another stellar week. Had Memphis not visited Miami last week, the blue bears might be in the midst of a franchise-record run. As it is, with wins against New Orleans, Cleveland, and Portland this week, Memphis continued their accent up the Conference standings. The Grizzlies stand just one game behind the Clippers for the #3 seed, four games behind Oklahoma City for the #2 seed, and five games behind San Antonio for the #1 seed. If they can survive the difficult road trip, don’t be surprised if Memphis can secure a higher seed. The Griz travel to Lob City this week for a big-time matchup against the Clippers. The challenging road trip will also take them to Portland, Denver and Utah.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (45-20) Winners of seven of ten; Assaulters of the Rim
If for no other reason than the pure joy of watching DeAndre Jordan savage Brandon Knight in super-slow-mo, this team would be in the top five this week. But they also graced the basketball gods with another offering, a under-the-legs alley-oop finished with a power windmill. While some might say Lob City is all flash and no substance, the Clippers have kept pace in a tight Western Conference. Dominant efforts this week against Detroit (which still has flags at half-mast for the passing of Brandon Knight) and Milwaukee split a tough loss in Denver. A huge matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies awaits the dunkin’ Clips, then another marquee opponent arrives in the New York Knicks. This week will go a long way in telling if this team has what it takes to remain in the conversation out West.
6. Indiana Pacers (39-24) Winners of seven of ten
Indiana entered a showcase game against the Miami Heat confident in their ability to control the flow and pace of the contest. As it turns out, the Heat did all the controlling and when it was all said and done, the Pacers dropped two spots on the Headline Miami list. The Pacers have lost three of their last four against current playoff teams, and this week will go a long way to deciding if they could secure home court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. At present, they are 1.5 games behind the New York Knicks, and this week presents a pair of winnable home games against Minnesota and the Los Angeles Lakers before travelling to lowly Philadelphia.
7. Denver Nuggets (42-22) Winners of eight straight
Denver cruised through the week well under the NBA radar. Dominant wins against Minnesota, Sacramento and Atlanta were impressive, but perhaps the most impressive was a 107-92 dismantling of the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s noteworthy that all these contests came in the Mile High city, where the Nuggets sport the league’s second-best home record at 28-3. Unfortunately for Denver, they may have capped out their playoff position at the #5 seed, which means the sub.500 road squad that they are (14-19) will have to win a road playoff tilt to advance. At the moment, Denver sits 1.5 games behind #4 seed Memphis, but the only hotter Western team besides the Nuggets are the Grizzlies. Denver travels to woeful Phoenix, before returning to the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center for games against the New York Knicks and a big game against the aforementioned Memphis Grizzlies.
8. New York Knicks (38-22) Winners of six of ten
Bad news resounded in New York this week, as the team learned they will be without former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire for as many as six weeks due to a left knee injury. The Knicks picked up mice wins this week against Utah, and in Detroit and Cleveland, but they dropped a heart-breaking at home to Oklahoma City. New York hopes to secure that #2 seed in the East with a good stretch run, but the team faces a daunting West-coast road swing through several playoff-bound clubs. Games in Golden State, Denver, and Portland and in Los Angeles against the Clippers will test the mettle of this Eastern Conference contender.
9. Brooklyn Nets (37-26) Winners of six of ten, and three straight overall
New-comers to the Headline Miami power rankings, the Brooklyn Nets were the East’s forgotten club. Deron Williams thrust the Nets back into the national conversation with a record-breaking shooting display. Williams buried nine first-half threes against the Washington Wizards this week, setting a new NBA record. The week also saw the Nets trounce the Charlotte Bobcats and dominate the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks on the road. Brooklyn might see their winning streak swell to six this week, with games in Philadelphia, then home tilts against New Orleans and Atlanta. Don’t be surprised if the Nets overtake the Knicks should the Big Apple Big Brothers stumble out West, as the Nets are just 2.5 games behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead.
10. Los Angeles Lakers (33-31) Winners of eight of ten, and three straight overall
Don’t look now, but things are getting a little brighter out in Hollywood. Despite a tough loss to start the week in Oklahoma City, the Lakers ran off three straight wins this week, including a stunning comeback in New Orleans where the Black Mamba and co ended the game on a 20-0 run. A hard fought win against the always pesky Raptors, and the downing of the suddenly struggling Bulls wrapped up the week. LA looks to improve its playoff positioning this week on the road, as the Lakers travel to Orlando, Atlanta and Indiana before coming home to face Sacramento. LA sits one game behind Houston and two games behind Golden State, so it’s not inconceivable the once sputtering Showtime could ascend as high as the #6 seed, perhaps setting up a juicy LA v LA playoff matchup.
Off the List? Atlanta. The Hawks have lost five of six, and probably should’ve pushed the reset button and dealt Josh Smith. The Hawks won’t plummet out of the playoffs, but they find themselves squarely in the #8 seed.
Best of the Rest? Boston (34-28), Houston (34-30) and Milwaukee (32-29) are all knocking on the Headline Miami Power Rankings Top Ten door with their play of late.
Check out HeadlineMiami.com for more coverage of the Miami Heat and the NBA!
Don’t Miss these Highlights: