1) After Houston’s win over the Lakers on Sunday I can’t help but think that although talent wise Houston isn’t the best team in the league, collectively they are playing the best basketball in the league.
Their victory over Los Angeles illustrated this point to perfection. With their leader, Tracy McGrady, struggling all day the rest of the Rockets picked up the slack with Rafer Alston playing out of his mind and Shane Battier playing hard-nosed defense on Kobe.
Now the team no one thought had a chance when Yao went down suddenly sits atop the Western Conference and while they won’t be the favorites come playoff time, with the way they play as a team, the Rockets are the most dangerous team in the West.
2) The West’s former top seed, the Lakers, may have a serious problem on their hands with the injury to Pau Gasol. If his ankle sprain keeps him out for more than a few games the Lakers could see their spot in the tight West drop significantly.
At the least Gasol’s ankle will keep him out of the next two games but with Pau saying that this sprain felt similar to the one he suffered in training camp that cost him two weeks there is more than a little cause for concern in Lakerland. In a race as tight as the West every game counts and without Gasol the question becomes can the Lakers keep up?
3) Don’t look now but Dallas and Phoenix are both on a roll with the Mavs winning their past five and the Suns their past four. Both came under fire for their recent trades and for now it looks like things are starting to work themselves out. Dallas is now nine and five since acquiring Jason Kidd and the Suns are seven and six with Shaq manning the middle.
A look at the schedules ahead show that Phoenix’s record should only improve with pseudo gimme games against Portland and Seattle before a tough one against the Rockets. Dallas, on the other hand, has a much tougher go this week with home games against the Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs. While I’m still not sure whether either team’s trade will pay off in the form of a championship this year these win streaks should build confidence for both teams going into the playoffs.
4)With all due respect to Phoenix Suns’ color analyst Eddie Johnson but I have to disagree with his recent assertion that home court in the playoffs, specifically in the West doesn’t matter that much. His reasoning that all of the teams can win on the road seems to make sense. And he’s right, of the top eight teams in the West only Utah and Dallas play below .500 on the road.
But the problem with Johnson’s theory is this. With the teams so closely matched there is a good chance that at least one series will go the full seven. Now you tell me, would you rather play that game seven at home or would you rather try and win it in let’s say San Antonio, L.A., or perhaps Dallas? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I don’t care how good you are on the road, it’s always better to be playing at home; especially when do or die games are concerned.
David Stern insistence on upping the age limit to 20 is not something I can get behind. Until the commish can produce hard evidence that the extra 2 years will make a difference then I will continue to say this is a bad idea. If someone is ready to play at 18 then why can’t they play? And do not play that “maturity” card here. If an 18-year old can join the military and go off to war then there is no way you can tell me that the same 18-year old cannot do something as simple as play the game of basketball.
BECAUSE WE’RE BETTER THEN YOU (MVP RANKINGS)
1) Tracy McGrady—The second longest winning streak in NBA history doesn’t just happen, especially when the player most consider the best on your team goes down. It takes someone stepping up and becoming the leader. T-Mac has done that and as long as the streak continues he’ll continue to get my support for MVP.
2) LeBron James—I don’t think I need to justify this but let me give it a try. He. Is. LeBron—Fricking—James.
2a) Kobe Bryant—Last week he was above LeBron, this week not. Bad losses to the Hornets and the Rockets will do that to you.
3) Insert name here—Me being the crowd pleaser I am I will let you, the reader; insert your pick for the 3 spot here. Honestly let’s be real, unless your pick’s team go undefeated the rest of the way they stand a chance.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Pau Gasol’s injury will have the most impact on the MVP race from here on out. If he’s out for a few weeks and the Lakers struggle to win with Kobe then King James get the trophy. But if Gasol is out for a few weeks and Kobe can carry the team and keep them towards the top of the standings then the award is his.
THERE’S NO I IN TEAM BUT THERE IS IN MY POWER RANKINGS
Houston Rockets—Last week I said that 18 in a row was good enough for the No. 3 spot on my list. This week? 22 in a row is more than worthy of my top spot. How long they stay here is up for debate with a tough schedule ahead.
Boston Celtics—Holding steady at No. 2 although it seems to me that they’ve somehow gone under the radar with all the talk about the West and the Rockets. That seems crazy to me when you consider that they are the only team with 50 or more wins in the league.
L.A. Lakers—Last week’s No. 1 is this week’s No. 3 after losses to the Hornets and Rockets and also the loss of Gasol. I was going to take them off my top three completely but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since No. 24 is still on the floor.
The “Sorry Honey Not Tonight” Games of Week
Boston at Houston
Detroit at Cleavland
Boston at Dallas
Houston at Golden State
Boston at New Orleans
San Antonio at Dallas
I hope nobody is having their honeymoon this week because with a lineup of games like we have this week divorce may be a small price to pay to catch all the action.
Enjoy this week’s action and tune back next Monday for the next At The Buzzer.