Some may refer to these as the dog days of the NBA season as January comes to an end and the All-Star break approaches. However, it was a busy weekend in the NBA and there was a lot to be taken away from it.
The Thunder and Heat need to step up
Yes, Eddie House hit the game-winning three pointer in Oklahoma City against a worn out Thunder team to seal the Heat’s 108-103 win (he only had five points for the game including that three pointer).
OKC’s previous two games against the terrible Wizards and Timberwolves had both gone into overtime. However, they still came out with two wins.
On Sunday, they looked tired and it showed in their defense. Miami shot 52 percent from the floor and they gave up five threes just to the Heat’s bench. House had one of those threes on a play where Russell Westbrook didn’t even notice him in the corner.
Oklahoma still needs that defensive piece outside of Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Nick Collison has energy but isn’t going to cut it in when it matters most. Daequan Cook fouled out and was on the floor way too long (31 minutes). James Harden had five fouls, which just so happens to be the same amount of points he scored.
Durant chose to run his mouth about Chris Bosh’s toughness after the game but it was the Thunder defense that looked flimsy. It’s good that he opened his mouth but this team is 21st in the league in points allowed with 102 a game. They only held three teams to under 100 points in the month of January (The Hornets 91, the Mavericks 99 and the Knicks 98).
However, the Heat were far from perfect. We are still looking at a team driven by a few players that need to create their own scoring opportunities that often leave the rest of the team out. Both Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers didn’t seem like either were included in any sort of offensive game plan.
It’s simple: they aren’t passing enough.
The Heat are 27th in league with 19 assists per game and it’s not just LeBron James coming to town. His Cavs were second in the league last season in assists with nearly 27 a game.
The team decided to start Chalmers over Carlos Arroyo. Great. Chalmers is averaging a HUMONGOUS two assists per game. In addition, Dwayne Wade is not a pass-first point guard and he has a terrible knack for turning the ball over (he had nine on Sunday).
In addition, the Heat would look a lot better if Udonis Haslem was around to help lock down the NBA’s superstars. Here are just a few players that scored well against the Heat in January.
Kevin Durant- 33
DeMar DeRozan– 30
Derrick Rose– 34
J.R. Smith– 28
Dorell Wright– 30
Tough luck that Haslem is out but they still have over three weeks before the trade deadline.
It’s hard to judge this team for many reasons. They have built a new system around two marquee players. It has had its road bumps and there are several wins that essentially only three guys on the team have won for them. With only three players to play against, a seven-game playoff plan may be pretty easy to develop especially if your name is Doc Rivers…
LA doesn’t mean business
The Celtics didn’t just go to Los Angeles and beat the Lakers 109-96. They went on the road, sealed their twelfth win in January and showed the defending champs whose league it is. It would have meant something if LA had actually showed up.
Alright, Kobe Bryant scored 41 but none of the other starters showed up.
Andrew Bynum might as well have had on camouflage since he was essentially invisible. We can just go ahead and refer to him as the Cotton Curtain since he wasn’t even able to slow down Glen Davis who managed to take over in the fourth and dropped 13 points in 23 minutes in the game. Bynum’s five personal fouls almost matched his amount of rebounds at six. Sad.
This team has nothing to rely on outside of Kobe and that shouldn’t be news to any NBA fans. The Black Mamba shows this too. On several key plays, he drove the lane just to find a double or triple team. His passes turned into missed shots and his frustration turned into bad decisions in the fourth quarter. Even he seemed to have given up when Rivers handed Nate Robinson the keys to the offense.
They miss Matt Barnes who has been out since early January with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. He has a defensive bite that they need with a worn out Artest.
Everyone knew it would happen: Lamar Odom and Gasol would get worn out. Bynum isn’t the player they thought he would be and it’s time to realize that. Steve Blake was essentially a worthless pickup. The Lakers are another team that are underperforming and for multiple reasons; however, it isn’t too late to make some moves that could help land them another title.
Don’t look back Dallas
January was a very forgettable month for the Mavericks. They lost six straight during the middle of the month with Dirk Nowitzki out with an ankle sprain. Caron Butler’s knee injury hasn’t helped out either.
They are 23rd in the league in scoring with only 97 a game and their 102-91 win over the Hawks shouldn’t get fans too excited. Atlanta has been streaky all season and they have lost to both the Bucks and Nets twice this season.
Dallas misses its scoring. Butler was bringing in 15 points a night and only Jason Terry seems to be filling in the void in scoring. The team decided not to resign Sasha Pavlovic and Shawn Marion will have to step into the starting role.
In addition, Nowitzki needs to get back to form. He has only been scoring an average of 19 a night since returning from injury. He has only scored over 20 points twice since returning (32 against Detroit and 23 against the Nets).
The Mavs need more scoring but it doesn’t seem like they really want it.
Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, J.J. Barea, Brian Cardinal and Butler are all approaching expiring contracts. Mark Cuban’s mouth has remained essentially shut aside from stating that Roddy Beaubois is untradeable.
Why? Who knows…
Robby B hasn’t played a game all season due to a bad ankle that he broke again somewhere in there. He was supposed to come back in November. It’s February and we still have yet to hear when he will return.
It really doesn’t look like the Mavs will make the necessary move to really compete come playoff time. What they are doing right now will not get them very far.
There are several lessons to take from this past weekend. Moves need to be made and game plans need to be changed. It’s simple to write about and criticize their problems but these teams need to take action in order for anything to change. The answers are in their hands but only they can do something about it.