James Harden, Perry Jones, Kevin Durant

Extra Pass: Western Conference playoff field ought to be really good, but just how good?


The Oklahoma City Thunder sent a message to the Houston Rockets. The Golden State Warriors overwhelmed the Dallas Mavericks. The Memphis Grizzlies made up ground on the Portland Trail Blazers. The San Antonio Spurs smacked down the Chicago Bulls. The Minnesota Timberwolves took care of business against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tuesday night was eventful for Western Conference playoff contenders.

Though the slate wasn’t the most thrilling, it at least offered glimpses of what’s to come – a historically loaded Western Conference playoffs.

Here are the current standings of the 10 Western Conference teams with realistic playoff chances.

1. San Antonio Spurs (47-16)

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-17)

3. Los Angeles Clippers (45-20)

4. Houston Rockets (44-20)

5. Portland Trail Blazers (42-22)

6. Golden State Warriors (41-24)

7. Memphis Grizzlies (37-26)

8. Dallas Mavericks (38-27)

9. Phoenix Suns (36-27)

10. Minnesota Timberwolves (32-31)

If those top eight teams keep winning at the same rate, they’d each hold a better wining percentage (red) than their corresponding seed’s all-time average (gold) since the NBA adopted a 16-team playoff in 1984.


Heck, the ninth-place Suns are on pace to finish better than a typical No. 6 seed, and the 10th-place Timberwolves are on pace to best a typical eighth seed.

This is a really tough playoff field to crack.

The top eight in the West have combined to win 66.4 percent of their game. If that holds, it will be the second-best mark ever:


If you’re curious, here’s that 1997 Eastern Conference field:

1. Chicago Bulls (69-13)

2. Miami Heat (61-21)

3. New York Knicks (57-25)

4. Atlanta Hawks (56-26)

5. Detroit Pistons (54-28)

6. Charlotte Hornets (54-28)

7. Orlando Magic (45-37)

8. Washington Bullets (44-38)

Now, we already know the West playoff field (red) is on pace to be better than average (gold) at each seed. But how does it compare to the best teams to hold each seed under this system (black)?


Here are the best teams at each seed:

1. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10)

2. 2008-09 Boston Celtics (62-20)

3. 1997-98 Los Angeles Lakers (61-21)

4. 2005-06 Dallas Mavericks (60-22)

5. 2012-13 Memphis Grizzlies and 1997-98 San Antonio Spurs (56-26)

6. 2007-08 Phoenix Suns (55-27)

7. 2007-08 Dallas Mavericks (51-31)

8. 2009-10 Oklahoma City Thunder and 2007-08 Denver Nuggets (50-32)

OK, so no 2014 team is on pace to set a record for its seed. Even the ninth-place Suns fall short of the winning percentage of the 2007-08 Warriors, who missed the playoffs with a 48-34 record.

But in aggregate, this year’s group yields an incredible result:

The 2014 Western Conference teams are on pace to come closer to that hypothetical field of the best seeds of all time than an average field!

Stephen Curry abuses Sun’s Price with behind-the-back, pull-up three (VIDEO)

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That is just cruel.

An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.

Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.

Philadelphia has dropped record 27 in a row dating back to last season

Brett Brown

We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.

But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.

With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.

That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.

The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.

But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.

If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.

The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.



Byron Scott, is it time to bench Kobe Bryant? “That’s not an option.”

Kobe Bryant, D'Angelo Russell, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant‘s shooting woes this season have been well documented. Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up. Kobe is shooting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three, all while jacking up more threes than ever before. He was 1-of-14 shooting against Cleveland, and that’s as many shots as rookies D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle got combined.

If Kobe keeps shooting like this while dominating the ball, is it time to bench Kobe? Coach Byron Scott laughed at the idea, as reported by Baxter Holmes at ESPN.

“I would never, never, never do that,” Scott said after practice at the Lakers’ facility. “That’s not an option whatsoever. No, that’s not an option.”

It’s not an option because this is the guy the fans have paid to see, at home and on the road (the Lakers have still sold out every road game this season, the only team to have done so). Kobe is the draw, he’s going to play.

That doesn’t mean Scott is handling all this well, Kobe has no repercussions for his actions.

Byron Scott is an enabler with Kobe. In his mind Kobe has earned the right to play poorly because of his career, which is just hard to watch.

The real issue I have with Scott enabling Kobe is the double standard — minutes for Russell and the other young players get jerked around when they make mistakes. Scott sounds and acts like a guy with a couple rookies on a veteran team where the objective is to win as many games as possible.

This can’t be emphasized enough: the primary goal for the Lakers this season is to develop Russell, Randle, and Jordan Clarkson (and Larry Nance Jr., who has impressed). But Russell has sat a lot of fourth quarters, and when Scott is asked if playing in those blowout minutes might help develop the young point guard faster, he says, “Nah.” Scott has benched Clarkson at points and called him out in the media.

Reduction of minutes can be a valuable teaching tool with young players — if the conditions of them getting those minutes are precisely laid out. Clear rules with rewards and consequences. That is not the case in Los Angeles, where Russell has said Scott has not spoken to him much about what he’s doing wrong and why he’s spending the ends of games benched. That’s not coaching a guy up; that’s not player development. There need to be clear guidelines and structures for young players to follow.

The only guideline in LA seems to be “Kobe has carte blanche.”

Boston police now probing fight involving 76ers center Okafor

Jahlil Okafor

BOSTON (AP) — Boston police say a man has come forward saying he’s the victim in a fight involving Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor that was recorded and posted online.

Authorities say a man filed a police report Friday saying the fight outside a nightclub left him with stitches over his eye.

Police say the alleged victim reported the fight began after some of his female friends refused the advances of two men, including one believed to be Okafor. The man told police Okafor punched him and knocked him to the ground.

Okafor says he’s embarrassed about the scuffle and is dealing with the team and league on possible discipline.

The confrontation happened early Thursday morning after the 76ers fell to 0-16 on the season. The Sixers rookie said he was being heckled.

Previously, the police had said they were not investigating the incident.