What a weekend of NBA basketball. As the playoffs get ready to start, here is the last regular-season edition of "Who's Hot, Who's Not."
Two contenders in the Western Conference are looking great, but another has some reasons for concern. One young team killed their chance at making it to the postseason, while another young team's recent surge has given them sole possession of the No. 8 seed in the West—for now, that is.
Oh, and don't forget about the NBA's ultimate "Who's Not Hot" team: the Charlotte Bobcats. They may have a permanent spot on this list.
Here we go. This is the list of who is playing hot and who is playing not so hot.
Following the loss to the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets forward Luis Scola had some words to say about his team's season (via CBS Sports):
"Failure is a horrible word, I don't like it and I don't consider it a failure," Scola said. "Our goal was to make the playoffs and we are hurt because we couldn't qualify. But a failure? No, I don't see it that way."
If this season wasn't a failure for the Rockets, then what would you call it?
The loss Sunday ensured that the Rockets will miss the playoffs for the third straight year. In this three-year playoff drought, the Rockets have finished at least .500 each season.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The Rockets lost seven of eight games since April 11, ruining what appeared to be one of the more inspiring stories of the season.
In the Western Conference, teams do not back into the playoffs.
The Rockets were a nice little story, but playing the part of playoff-bound team and actually being a playoff-bound team are two completely different things.
In the past week, the Thunder have lost to two Western Conference title contenders: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Not a great way to head into the playoffs.
The Thunder lost to the Clippers 92-77 on April 16. The Russell Westbrook/Kevin Durant super combo was held to 33 points.
Sunday night on national television, things got worse for the Thunder. Their third-best player, James Harden, got knocked out by a vicious elbow from Metta World Peace.
No, the elbow was not a basketball play and World Peace deserves to be suspended, but knocking Harden out of the game was a big reason why the Lakers came back and won. In a way, World Peace helped out his team. Harden was on fire, finishing with 14 points in only 13 minutes of gameplay.
The Thunder only had two scoring options down the stretch, Westbrook and Durant. Because Westbrook struggled—3-of-22 from the field—the Thunder lost.
How will this team win the NBA championship if Westbrook, Durant and Harden each have to score in order for them to have a chance?
Like the Heat, the Thunder are too athletic for some teams to handle, making them look like a superhuman team. But in the playoffs, when the pace of the game slows down, other players on the Thunder are going to have to step up. The "dribble, dribble, jack up a jumper" routine won't work; it's time to execute real plays.
And how come no one ever points the finger at head coach Scott Brooks?
Could the Magic be the team that finally loses to the Charlotte Bobcats, ending their 21-game losing streak?
It's a huge possibility. The two teams play on Wednesday.
The Magic have lost their last three games, dotting their recent "not hot" streak by receiving a beatdown from the Denver Nuggets.
With Dwight Howard out for the rest of the season, is there any way this team doesn't get swept in the first round? The Indiana Pacers must be drooling because they will likely play the Magic in the first round.
(Side note: If the Pacers and Magic do play in the first round, look for a lot of their games to be played on NBATV.)
In the past two games alone, the Bobcats have lost to the Sacramento Kings and the Washington Wizards by a combined 54 points.
Here are some stats to clarify just how bad the Bobcats are: In their current 21-game losing streak, the Bobcats have been outscored by a total of 340 points; their current winning percentage is a ghastly .109; the Bobcats are 4-28 at home and 3-29 on the road; and on ESPN.com, the Bobcats have been ranked last in the power rankings since the fifth week.
Basically, they're one of the worst NBA teams ever. The joke that the Bobcats would lose to the Kentucky Wildcats may not be too far-fetched.
But hey, the Bobcats can only go up from here. Right?
After destroying the Portland Trail Blazers 124-89 Monday night, the Spurs locked up the top playoff spot in the Western Conference once again.
It's the sixth time the Spurs have finished with the best record in the West in the Tim Duncan era.
The Spurs have won 19 of their last 21 games. They have experience, a great coach, a deep roster and now home-court advantage. Unlike last year when they had to play the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, this year their competition won't be nearly as tough.
They'll either play the Suns or the Jazz—two teams the Spurs should be able to sweep in a playoff series.
At the start of the season, who could have guessed that the Jazz, in the very tough Western Conference, would have a shot to make the playoffs?
After their win against the Magic in overtime Sunday night, the Jazz moved into sole possession of the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Now all they have to do is win and they are in.
The Jazz's last two games are against the Suns and the Trail Blazers. The game against the Suns Tuesday night is basically a playoff game for the two squads. The Jazz have lost both of their previous games against the Suns this season, so if they lose Tuesday night, they will be in a tough spot.
Give head coach Tyrone Corbin credit. He has done everything possible to put this team in a situation where they can be successful.
Everyone's favorite team to hate made a statement Sunday night: They're here, and they aren't just going to bow down to anyone.
The Lakers rallied from an 18-point deficit in the second half for a 114-106 victory over the Thunder. They outscored the Thunder 30-14 in the fourth quarter, and 17-9 in the second overtime.
Kobe Bryant made big shot after big shot, reminding the two young stars from Oklahoma City that he's still a force to be reckoned with.
The Lakers lost to the Spurs twice last week in convincing fashion, but they've still managed to hold off the surging Clippers for control of the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. All they have to do is beat the lowly Kings at Power Balance Pavilion Thursday night and the No. 3 seed is theirs.
What a season for the Lakers.
No Lamar Odom. No Phil Jackson. No quality point guard play for half of the season. Yet they will likely still finish the season as the third-best team in the West. Impressive.