Our weekly look at the Rest of The West.
There isn’t so much to report on this week, do the general lull in games around Christmas time, but there were still some notable goings on over the past 8 days.
The Rockets are the hottest team in the league right now, as they’ve won 5 in a row, and look to be cementing themselves as one of the lower seeds in the west. Their offense has been extraordinary as of late, as they put 120 points in consecutive games against the Grizzlies and Bulls, two of the toughest defenses in the league. The primary reason for their success ahs been James Harden, who has been just about unstoppable. His ability to get to the line is right up there with Kobe’s, and he seems to have no problem putting up 25 a night. At this point, he has an outside shot at the MVP, and the Thunder have to be wondering if they’d have been better off keeping Harden and trading Russell Westbrook.
I doubt it’s crossing their mind too much, however, as they are still one of the league’s best teams. They did have a rough week, though, losing to the Timberwolves on Thursday, in a game in which J.J. Barea reminded us why he was so scary in the 2011 playoffs, and on Christmas Day against the Heat, in which a fine performance Kevin Durant went for naught due to Lebron James playing at his absolute best. Still, this team is far too dangerous to be brought down by a few rough games. I expect them to bounce back without too much trouble.
The Lakers finally got Steve Nash back, and he’s wasted no time getting his usual form back. In a Christmas day win against theKnicks, Nash looked as dangerous as ever, putting up 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 11 assists. There had been some concern about how Nash would fit into the starting lineup, but when a two-time MVP is replacing Chris Duhon, he’s always going to look good.
Still, LA still has to deal with the serious problem of their defense, which continues to struggle. Their five-game winning streak was snapped last night by the Nuggets who put 126 points on them en route to an easy victory. The Lakers defense is a serious problem and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Kobe and Dwight Howard have both made several all-defensive teams in their careers, but neither one has been playing at their normal ability this season. Adding noted defensive liability Nash to the equation won’t help either. This team can put up points with anyone, but they give up far too many. Considering that the very majority of NBA champions have elite defenses, this does bode well them in June.
You know, assuming they actually make the playoffs.
(I know they’re going to make the playoffs, but I’m going to keep bringing this up until they reach the top 8.
On the lower side of things, the Hornets finally won a game, edging out the Magic 97-94 last night. I probably feel worse for this team than anyone else in the league. Their season basically ended before it started, due to injuries to Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. When Gordon returns, they might be one of the scarier teams in the league. Unfortunately, it’ll be too late for them to do anything. I would look out for them in 2013-14 , though. If Gordon stays healthy, and stops asking to be traded to the Suns (neither is even close to being a guarantee), they could make some real noise.
The Kings benched DeMarcis Cousins, who is dangerously close to being more trouble than he’s worth. He has all the talent in the world, but he can’t make his teammates better, and he keep himself out of trouble. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Kings traded him soon. He could be dangerous if put in a situation where he was on an already good team. I do think the Kings will wait a bit before pulling the trigger on a Cousins trade, though. If only because his trade value is at an all-time low right now.
Well, there’s a few teams we didn’t get to, but I’m pretty sure none of them did anything especially noteworthy this week, so that’s where we’ll end this one. See you in a week for the first Western Connections of 2013!