The NBA West continues its dominance
2/15/2018, 1:34 p.m.
It’s NBA All-Star time, a most festive occasion. Teams are slightly past the midseason mark, 41 of their 82 regular season games, making this break a welcomed one.
With a quick analysis, it’s apparent that the Western Conference continues to be the most competitive of the two NBA conferences. It’s top heavy with talent in seeds one through eight. Even the ninth and 10th seeds, the L.A. Clippers and the Utah Jazz, are competitive enough to be seventh and eighth seeds, positions currently held down by the Portland Trailblazers and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Utah has been on an amazing 10-game win streak going into the break, which begins today (Thursday). Along with L.A., they’ll push for eighth, or even seventh, the last two qualifying playoff positions.
The Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA champions, reign at the top of the conference. Barring a major injury to a member of their starting five, a complete lack of focus or a complete meltdown by their power forward Draymond Green, most likely because of the kind of officiating that took place recently during their game with the Oklahoma Thunder, the Warriors are in line to compete for the Western Conference Finals again this season.
Green was fined a questionable sum of $50,000 by the league last week for his perceived unhappiness with the game’s officiating. A non-call by the referees regarding his bloodied mouth and a foul called on Golden State because of Russell Westbrook (OKC) clearly tripping himself to the floor while driving to the basket are just two of the puzzling player-referee issues that precipitated Green’s displeasure.
Green is leading the league in technical fouls with 14. Teammate Kevin Durant has 11. League rules regarding accumulation of technical fouls requires an attorney’s explanation, but the bottom line is 16 technical fouls during the regular season results in a one-game suspension.
The Houston Rockets, now with Chris Paul and James Harden in their backcourt, have become twice as difficult to contend with.
While in Brooklyn last week playing the Nets, the duo combined for 61 points. The team has won nine of their last 10 games before the close of the break, and they’re at a very close two seed behind the Warriors’ one seed. Potentially, it could be a Rocket-Warriors conference final, and in seven games.
The San Antonio Spurs, without Kawhi Leonard, sidelined because of an injured quad tendon, are in third place. They’re always dangerous, always a threat. They’re followed by the Minnesota Timberwolves at four, OKC at five and the Denver Nuggets at six.
The Timberwolves have transformed themselves from a 13th place team at the end of last season to one of the conference’s best. The Pelicans were also transitioning from their 10th place finish last season to the higher seed, but their progress has stumbled since DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins injured his Achilles tendon at the end of January in a game against the Rockets with less than 10 seconds remaining on the game clock, ending Cousins’ season. He’d been traded to New Orleans from the Sacramento Kings during last season’s all-star break, joining Anthony Davis. The team added guard Rajon Rondo during the offseason.
The remaining five Western Conference seeds, 11 through 15, are filled out with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento, the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers have the greatest chance of the five bottom teams contending for the eighth playoff position, but it’s a long shot.