Author: Kurt Helin

Boston Celtics v Phoenix Suns

PBT Extra: Where does Steve Nash rank all-time among point guards?

22 Comments

Steve Nash is destined for the Hall of Fame.

That much is a certainty after his official retirement over the weekend. The next questions concern his legacy, and that’s what Jenna Corrado discuss in the latest PBT Extra.

Nash, along with Mike D’Antoni, helped alter the landscape of the NBA. That said, he doesn’t have a championship ring, and his MVP awards were controversial at the time. So what is the legacy of Steve Nash? Where does he rank on the all-time point guard list?

PBT’s weekly NBA Power Rankings: It’s Warriors, Cavs at the top, likely your Finals favorites

Utah Jazz v Golden State Warriors
8 Comments

Golden State remains the class of the NBA this regular season, but for some reason there are people who don’t buy into them as contenders. I guess you can’t win until you’ve already won. The Cavaliers have slid up to No. 2 as the Hawks stumble, and the Spurs start to look like their old selves.

 
source:  1. Warriors (56-13, Last Week No. 1). We’ve had an Andre Iguodala sighting, his scoring has gone up while Klay Thompson is out with his bad ankle. This team is deep with somewhat interchangeable parts, which helps them weather injuries. Good tests on the road at Portland and Memphis this week.

 
source:  2. Cavaliers (46-26 LW 3). In their last 15 games they have the best offense in the NBA, but the defense has surrendered 103 points per 100 possessions 20th in the NBA. That defense has been worse lately. Right now the offense is covering that up, but come the playoffs that defense is going to get them in trouble eventually.

 
source:  3. Spurs (44-25, LW 5). If you noticed one thing lately it’s that Tiago Splitter finally looks healthy, and with that the Spurs’ defense has been more physical and improved. The win over Atlanta Sunday showed just how well this team is playing when focused. The loss in New York shows what happens when they are not. Four games against West playoff teams this week, we’ll see if that keeps them focused.

 
source:  4. Hawks (53-17, LW 2). They have lost three straight to top teams in the West (Warriors, Thunder, Spurs). Part of that was Kyle Korver being out for the first two, he is crucial to their offensive spacing. Also the loss of role guys Thabo Sefolosha and Mike Scott, has dinged them. Still, those three teams shredded the Atlanta defense, a very troubling sign. Easier schedule this week should get them rolling again.

 
source:  5. Grizzlies (49-21, LW 6). Finally Tony Allen is starting and Jeff Green is coming off the bench. Green is just too inconsistent to be trusted nightly, even if his offense is called for some nights. Win over Portland Saturday doesn’t make Memphis a lock for the two seed, but they are pretty close now.

 
source:  6. Rockets (46-23, LW 7). It took a while but I have finally come around: If the vote were today I would put James Harden ahead of Stephen Curry on my MVP ballot. Just how much he matters to the Rockets every game — every possession — put him over the top. His is not an elegant game, but it’s effective. That said, the loss of Terrence Jones (partially collapsed lung) comes at a tough time with seven of next nine on the road.

 
source:  7. Clippers (46-25, LW 8). Coach Doc Rivers and the Clipper organization is promoting DeAndre Jordan for Defensive Player of the Year. He doesn’t deserve it, but that’s another discussion. Here is what Doc Rivers said about promoting players for awards: “It’s good to support players. I don’t know if I believe in it or not, if you want my real answer, but I think that’s what you should do. Because that’s what every other team does.”

 
source:  8. Thunder (40-30, LW 9). They have a 2.5 game cushion over the Suns for the eight seed (the Pelicans are three back). That is amazing considering Kevin Durant is done for the season and Serge Ibaka will be out until close to the playoffs (and Nick Collison is now injured). It’s all about Russell Westbrook and the offense, but that will be enough to get them into the postseason.

 
source:  9. Trail Blazers (44-24. LW 4). They have lost four in a row, all on the road but some of those were very winnable (Orlando, Miami) and Portland didn’t bring their best games. Their defense has been sloppy and now both LaMarcus Aldridge (re-injured hand) and Nicolas Batom could miss a little time with injuries.

 
source:  10. Mavericks (44-27, LW 10). This team remains up and down — they beat the Clippers and Thunder, then lose to the Grizzlies and Suns. Now there are reports Monta Ellis’ notorious up-and-down moods are impacting the team and it’s effort. If they land Memphis in the first round (the current matchup) and play like this they will be done quickly.

 
source:  11. Bulls (42-29, LW 14). The good news is Taj Gibson is back and Jimmy Butler is expected back Monday night. The team expects to have Derrick Rose back for the playoffs. Still, does all of that really strike fear into anyone? On paper Chicago is dangerous, but they have not played Tom Thibodeau level defense all season — they seem to have lost sight of their identity.

 
source:  12. Wizards (40-30, LW 16). They had won five in a row before running into the hot shooting Clippers last Friday. Then they were awful Sunday against Sacramento. Wizard’s coach Randy Whitman, what’s wrong? “We need to start games with solid defense. That’s the common theme: We need to defend. When we defend we’re pretty good.”

 
source:  13. Pelicans (37-33, LW 11). They had the chance to make up ground on the banged up Thunder this week and couldn’t because Anthony Davis was injured. This team is not close to the same without him (and minor injuries seem to follow him around). They are three games back of the Thunder now, they will need some help to make that ground up.

 
source:  14. Jazz (31-38, LW 13). They are 12-4 since the All-Star break with the best defense in the land, and they have a candidate for Most Improved Player in Rudy Gobert (although Jimmy Butler likely wins that one). Quin Snyder has done a fantastic job, the question becomes how the organization builds on this over the summer for next season.

 
<source:  15. Suns (38-33, LW 18). They have won four games in a row, they are playing improved defense, but remain 2.5 back of the Thunder and are unlikely to make that ground up and get into the postseason. If they are going to catch OKC they need to beat them Sunday in a showdown (which would give Phoenix the tiebreaker).

 
source:  16. Raptors (42-28, LW 19). If Toronto wants to advance past the first round of the playoffs for the second time in franchise history (last one was 2001) they need to hold of Chicago for the three seed. Which makes Wednesday’s showdown with Chicago huge. As does not having slip ups against teams like Detroit and the Lakers this week.

 
source:  17. Celtics (30-39, LW 15). They had moved into the eight seed in the East, then came the three-game losing streak. Two of those were understandable (Thunder and Spurs) but the loss to Detroit is a hard one. Also, Marcus Smart can’t afford to get suspended for punching guys in the groin or any other reason.

 
source:  18. Heat (32-36, LW 21). They had won three in a row before Sunday, mostly because Dwyane Wade has jumped in the hot tub time machine and had scored at least 28 in five straight games. They have seven of nine on the road and need to win away from home to hold on to that two-game cushion they have to make the postseason.

 
source:  19. Nets (29-39, LW 22). They have won three of four due to a resurgent Brook Lopez, and beat a couple teams ahead of them in the standings. That gets them within a game of the playoffs, with key games against Boston and Charlotte this week.

 
source:  20. Hornets (30-38, LW 20). They had lost five of six before getting healthy against the struggling Timberwolves Sunday. Their next five games are against potential playoff teams in the East and if they can keep winning they will hold on to the eight seed, but this will be a key stretch.

 
source:  21. Pacers (30-39, LW 12). Losers of five in a row, they have gone from seeming playoff lock to team on the outside looking in. Paul George may return this week and there will be pressure on him to change this, but it really will take them getting back to playing elite defense.

 
source:  22. Bucks (34-36, LW 17). They are 4-13 since the All-Star break and trading for Michael Carter-Williams, and suddenly they are just 3.5 games ahead of the nine-seed Celtics and missing the playoffs all together. The Bucks likely hold on to a spot because of a soft schedule, but they could use a win over Miami or Indiana this week.

 
source:  23. Nuggets (26-44, LW 23). Losers of three in a row, which should make management happy as they worked to cut off this team at the knees once Melvin Hunt got them winning. If Denver doesn’t pick up Hunt as their full time coach, another team should poach him.

 
source:  24. Pistons (26-44, LW 25). The up-and-down Pistons were up last week with wins over the Grizzlies, Bulls and Celtics. Then they lost to the Sixers. Reggie Jackson is looking more comfortable and is putting up numbers, but is he really blending with where Stan Van Gundy wants to evolve the team?

 
source:  25. Kings (24-45, LW 24). The DeMarcus Cousins/George Karl relationship seems to be a work in progress. The Kings are dangerous any given night — especially with Rudy Gay thriving in Karl’s system. But the defense does them in most nights.

 
source:  26. 76ers (17-53, LW 28). Nice loss by the Sixers to the Lakers Sunday, if they were trying to hurt the Lakers’ lottery odds so the Sixers get the pick (sixth or higher and it is Philly’s via trade). Also no, Nerlens Noel is not going to unseat Andrew Wiggins as the Rookie of the Year, but he could garner some votes farther down the ballot.

 
source:  27. Magic (22-50, LW 27). Elfrid Payton still has a long way to go with his shot, but he’s finding a groove in the NBA and had two straight triple-doubles last week. He’s going to get mentioned in the Rookie of the Year balloting as well (even if he can’t catch Wiggins at this point). He’s a piece they can have as part of their core going forward.

source:  28. Timberwolves (15-54, LW 26). Kevin Garnett has missed seven games in a row and with that their defensive numbers have plummeted. Minnesota has lost 11-of-13 and one of those wins was in overtime against the hapless Knicks.

 
source:  29. Knicks (14-56, LW 29). Their win over the Spurs last week was one of the shocking results of the NBA season. Can they pull that off again this week against Memphis or the Clippers? No, probably not.

 
source:  30. Lakers (17-50, LW 30). The Steve Nash signing just didn’t work out for the Lakers At the time it was a good gamble — he was relatively healthy and the Lakers thought they could contend with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard — but that third year was a question mark from the start and came back to bite them.

Jeremy Lin with no-look bounce pass to Wesley Johnson for slam (VIDEO)

Philadelphia 76ers v Los Angeles Lakers
5 Comments

Jeremy Lin was the reason the Lakers came from behind, took control in the fourth quarter and beat the Sixers Sunday night. He entered the game midway through the third quarter and from there on out had 21 points and five assists to take control of the game.

That includes making this sweet no-look bounce pass in transition to Wesley Johnson for the easy throw-down.

When he is playing like this Lin is still fun to watch.

Doc Rivers says Paul Pierce has a lot of years of effective basketball still in him

Brooklyn Nets v Washington Wizards
3 Comments

LOS ANGELES — It still feels a little strange to see Paul Pierce in a uniform that isn’t green and white. It was Brooklyn black last season, Washington red, white and blue this season, but it still makes you double-take every once in a while.

We’re going to be doing double takes for at least another season after this one. The 37-year-old forward has a player option for $5.5 million next season. Even if he doesn’t pick that up it will be to test the free agent market (he’s not likely to make more than that, he’d just be seeking the security of a longer deal).

Doc Rivers is good with that. He coached Pierce in Boston and said PP’s game is not going to get old.

“We were talking about him early, and Ralph (Lawler, Clipper broadcaster) was saying ‘He’s gone back to the youth fountain.’ No he hasn’t, he’s playing the same way he was 10 years ago,” Rivers said Friday night before his Clippers easily handled Pierce and the Wizards. “That’s why he’s so good. Paul’s never used his athleticism, that’s been his secret to me. He uses timing, and he outsmarts people. He uses his angles; he uses fundamentals.

“I said years ago Paul can play forever; he can play until he decides he doesn’t want to play because he’ll always be effective. I watched him in our gym this summer, playing with all these young guys in a pickup game, and he dominated the game. These guys are going a thousand miles an hour and here comes Paul. It’s just funny to watch. I’ve seen it up close, and obviously I’m watching it from afar now.”

For the Wizards, Pierce spaces the floor more with threes — he’s taking more shots from beyond the arc per 36 minutes than he ever has in his career, and he’s hitting 40 percent of them.

“He takes them when he’s ready to take them,” Rivers said of Pierce from deep. “It’s rare that you’re going to see someone rush him into doing anything. He’ll take a shot when he’s good and ready. That’s how you almost feel with him, and that’s what makes him so good.”

Pierce has seen his numbers dip a little the past couple seasons, 12.8 points per game this season, mostly because he’s taken on less of the offensive load and been more of a role player. In Washington it is John Wall with the ball in his hands most of the time, Pierce plays off him and picks his spots. He’s still effective most nights.

“He’ll have his occasional ‘old night’ — that’s what we used to call it in Boston. But he has more good ones than those,” Rivers said.

Not a lot of perimeter players can be effective at age 40. Pierce might be the exception. And we may get to see it.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Sunday: Sleep on the Spurs at your own risk

Tim Duncan
25 Comments

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while trying to figure out how to sign up for Mr. T’s home renovation show

1) San Antonio thrashes Atlanta, reminds everyone just how good they can be. Spurs East looked like a pale imitation of the original Sunday — the game of the day became a clinic in San Antonio basketball, with the Spurs opening the game on a 20-4 run and never looking back in a 114-95 victory. These are the moments the Spurs remind everybody just who seemingly unstoppable they can be. Early on it seemed they could not miss — at one point they hit 10 consecutive shots — but even when the shots stopped falling the Spurs controlled the game. The Spurs did that with a physical, long, aggressive defense. We can come up with excuses for the Hawks (teams are often flat on first game home after a road trip, adjusting to Kyle Korver’s return, just an off night) but they looked like a Neil Diamond cover band playing a summer concert in the park Sunday — fun in their own right but nothing like the real thing. Because the real thing has players such as Kawhi Leonard making plays like this.

2) While Atlanta stumbles, LeBron James and Cavaliers keep on rolling. We can pick apart the Cavaliers — in their last 15 games they have given up 103 points per 100 possessions, 20th in the NBA (and it’s gotten worse lately). But LeBron James and the Cavs’ offense cover up a world of mistakes right now. LeBron was in vintage, control-the-game-at-both-ends form, with 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and five steals. He got help from J.R. Smith Sunday — 23 points on 11 shots, the rare efficient game from Smith. When the Cavs are playing like this on offense, you can see them in the NBA Finals.

3) Russell Westbrook got the triple-double, but it was really the Enes Kanter show. Russell Westbrook is playing so well right now that he can rack up a triple-double, and the instinct is to say it wasn’t that great of one — he shot 5-of-16 and had six turnovers. Still, there was 12 points, 17 assists, and 10 rebounds. However, the real story in OKC was the return of Enes Kanter, who returned from one game off and dropped 27 points and 12 boards. The other thing of note, this was the best the OKC defense has looked in a while.

4) Pelicans’ playoff chances setting like the Suns. While the Thunder keep winning, the Pelicans keep on stumbling to the finish line — they fell to the Clippers 107-100 on the road. While that may be an expected result the Pelicans are now three games back of OKC for the final playoff spot in the West, a very difficult to overcome deficit to overcome with just a dozen games left. The loss dropped them half a game behind the Suns and into 10th in the West.

5) The Rooster is crowing again in Denver. Back a couple years ago when the Nuggets won 57 games for George Karl, Danilo Gallinari was their leading scorer. A knee injury and a botched surgery set him back, but under Melvin Hunt The Rooster seems to be back — Sunday he had a career high 40 points on 12-of-21 shooting, both knocking down threes (six) and getting to the free throw line (11 times). If Hunt stays on as coach Gallinari could be a real fantasy steal for your team next season.