Tag: Kevin Martin

Kyle Korver, Mike Muscala, Al Horford

PBT’s Weekly NBA Power Rankings: No. 1 vs. No. 2 this week… and No. 3.


There are some real tests for the top-ranked Hawks this week against the No. 2 Grizzlies and the No. 3 Warriors. Down on the bottom of the scale, while the Timberwolves remain there the return of Ricky Rubio this week should hang that soon.

source:  1. Hawks (40-8, Last Week No. 1). There’s a lot of buzz around Friday night’s Hawks showdown with the Warriors, a potential Finals matchup of the two best teams from the first half of the season. But the entire week is tough for Atlanta — New Orleans and Washington Monday then Wednesday, then Memphis looms on Sunday. If Hawks winning streak reaches 20 on Monday, only fifth NBA team to do that.

source:  2. Grizzlies (35-12, LW 4). They are 10-2 in their last dozen games, which is not so coincidentally when Zach Randolph returned and started putting up his usual double-doubles nightly. I’ve got a feeling this is the team that snaps the Hawks winning streak, Memphis has been playing great defense during their streak.

source:  3. Warriors (37-8, LW 2). They lost to the Bulls and Jazz last week, but that’s just a blip. Still, David Lee at the five for stretches and more Leandro Barbosa are not my favorite things to see. Did we mention the big showdown with Atlanta on Friday night?I kno

source:  4. Clippers (33-15, LW 5). They had their six game win streak snapped in New Orleans, then responded on Saturday with maybe best game of season vs. Spurs. They Clippers have done it all with offense, scoring 113.9 points per 100 possessions in last eight games, best in NBA in that stretch. Defense 17th in league in that same time frame.

source:  5. Spurs (30-18, LW 3). An ugly home loss to the Clippers was another sign that the bench play of the Spurs is not what it was during their run last season, with Boris Diaw not looking the same and Manu Ginobili in a slump. That would be an issue if it continues into the playoffs.

source:  6. Rockets (33-15, LW 6). The Rockets are 6.7 points per 100 possessions better when Dwight Howard is on the court and now they will be without him for weeks with a knee injury. They are currently the five seed in the West (although they would have home court over four seed Portland) but this is the kind of thing that could see them slide down the seedings and make the playoffs that much tougher.

source:  7. Cavaliers (29-20 LW 11). They have won 10 games in a row, thanks in part to Kyrie Irving just going off when LeBron James was out. Still, they watched Andrew Wiggins drop 33 on them last week and you have to think the GMs of this team — LeBron and David Griffin — have to have a knot in their stomach about the long-term impact of the Kevin Love trade.

source:  8. Mavericks (32-17, LW 7). Rajon Rondo is out for at least a week with a orbital bone fracture in his face. When he is on the court the Dallas defense improves by 5.5 points per 100 possessions, the problem is the offense dips by 6.7 per 100. They need Rondo to find an offensive groove with this team by the playoffs.

source:  9. Suns (28-21, LW 10). A lot of people predicted the Suns would set during a tough run of eight games they are in the midst of, however they are 3-3 so far and are almost through the tough patch (only Memphis and Portland remain). They have a two game lead on the Pelicans and a four game lead over Oklahoma City for the final playoff spot and will be tough to catch.

source:  10. Trail Blazers (32-16. Last Week No. 8). Damian Lillard did get screwed out of not being an All-Star, but he didn’t unleash that anger on the Hawks last weekend. Will he in a tough stretch of games this week that include the Suns, Mavericks and Rockets?

source:  11. Raptors (33-15, LW 13). Is it possible to win six games in a row and not look great doing it? The Raptors have their wins but didn’t blow our doors off beating the Wizards or Nets. In their last 10 games the Raptors have the fifth best offense in the NBA but still the 21st ranked defense. That end of the court is still an issue.

source:  12. Bulls (30-19, LW 9). They are bucking for the title of most inconsistent team in the NBA — they beat the Warriors then turn around and fall to the Lakers. Even within games their play is erratic. I keep saying in radio interviews on paper the Bulls are the best team in the East but if they can’t put the pieces together it’s moot (and Tom Thibodeau may take the fall for that).

source:  13 Wizards (31-17, LW 12). Another team that, like the Bulls, looks good on paper and tantalizes you with stretches of impressive play, followed by just some terrible losses. They have a good measuring stick game Wednesday vs. Atlanta, but the question is can they sustain it after that?

source:  14. Pelicans (25-22, LW 14). Coach Monty Williams’ seat is getting warm in New Orleans and it’s largely due to the fact a team with Anthony Davis and Omer Asik on the back line is still 23rd in the NBA in defense. That end of the court is why the Pelicans are so up and down. (This offseason, the Big Easy would be an interesting landing spot for Tom Thibodeau if he’s out in Chicago.)

source:  15. Thunder (23-24, LW 15). Fans may not have hit the panic button yet in OKC but they sure have at least figured out where it is. The one good thing in OKC favor is a heavy home schedule the rest of the way but four games is going to be a lot to make up on a Phoenix team that will not roll over, the Thunder need to string together a healthy winning streak fast.

source:  16. Bucks (25-22, LW 18). They picked up a quality win over Portland last week and we’re going to get to see a lot of Giannis Antetokounmpo All-Star weekend — things continue to look up for the Bucks. Clipper fans are likely watching this Jared Dudley play and say “where was this guy when we had him?”

source:  17. Hornets (20-27, LW 16). It’s impressive that the Hornets have gone 4-1 without Kemba Walker so far, giving hope that they can hold on to the eight seed in the East until the star point guard returns. The Bobcats offense has taken the expected dive without walker but they are defending well again and that can keep them in the playoffs.

source:  18. Heat (21-26, LW 17). In his last five games Heat fan favorite Hassan Whiteside has averaged 15.2 points shooting 61.8 percent plus pulling down 12.8 rebounds. More than the numbers, when he is on the court the Heat are just more active and energetic on defense with deflections and blocked shots. .

source:  19. Jazz (17-30, LW 20). They beat the Warriors on Friday with maybe their best game of the season, showing both the potential and development of this team. Can they replicate that in a tough stretch this eek against Portland, Memphis and Phoenix?

source:  20. Pistons (18-30, LW 19). . Pistons fans got to boo Josh Smith and watch him struggle and his Rockets lose. That was cathartic. But then this same Pistons team got manhandled by the Sixers last week, so everything is not right yet. Just less bad.

source:  21. Nets (18-28, LW 21). They have dropped four in a row and 12 of their last 14 games, they have slid out of the playoffs, and the talk is now should they buy out Kevin Garnett and let him play for a contender. The front office is more focused on moving players like Brook Lopez or Joe Johnson to clean up the books before a sale of the team than than they are Garnett’s future.

source:  22. Nuggets (19-29, LW 22). JaVale McGee is back on the court and that ups the entertainment value of the league right away. This is another team where the most interesting story the next few weeks will be if Wilson Chandler gets traded, not anything they do on the court.

source:  23. Celtics (16-30, LW 23). If I were going to bet on one team to make another deal before the trade deadline, Boston would be at the top of the list. They keep playing Tayshaun Prince minutes and that has to be to showcase him, not because they want to make a run at the eight see, right?

source:  24. Pacers (17-32, LW 22). The Pacers are just four games out of the playoffs, so in theory they could make a run at it, but they just lack the offense to get it done.

source:  25. Kings (17-29, LW 25). DeMarcus Cousins deserved to be an All-Star and was a great selection to fill in for Kobe Bryant on the roster. He’s the first Kings All-Star in more than a decade, when Peja Stojakovic and Brad Miller were on the squad together in 2004.

source:  26. Knicks (10-38, LW 27). The Knicks are playing better of late because their defense has been less bad (I don’t know that I’d say good) and Carmelo Anthony is doing things like putting up 31 points on the Lakers. What happens after the All-Star Game when ‘Melo shuts it down? That could get ugly.

source:  27. Magic (15-35, LW 26). No coach is on a hotter seat than Jacque Vaughn, who in his first year looked like he could get this team to play defense but has not any more. If they make a coaching change in season, it may come after they get back this week from a road trip that finishes against the Thunder and Spurs.

source:  28. 76ers (10-38, LW 29). If you’re into moral victories, the Sixers had one against the Hawks last week. Michael Carter-Williams had another triple double and, while I’m not sold he’s a star, should be a solid rotation guard in the league for a while.

source:  29. Lakers (13-34, LW 28). No Kobe Bryant or Nick Young and they played hard and found a way to beat the Bulls last week to end their losing streak. Still, the most interesting thing about this team the rest of the way is how Jordan Clarkson develops.

source:  30. Timberwolves (8-39, LW 30). Don’t expect them to stay on the bottom long, not with Ricky Rubio close to returning to the lineup (possibly Monday), along with Kevin Martin and Nicola Pekovic. Those three take Minnesota out of the pushover category and will get them a few wins, along with Andrew Wiggins’ improved play.

Report: Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio set to return Monday vs. Dallas

Minnesota Timberwolves v Orlando Magic

You may well not remember this, but Minnesota started the season 2-2, with those losses being close ones to the Bulls and Grizzlies, and looked like a team showing promise. Then Ricky Rubio went down with an ankle injury Nov. 7 in Orlando (when he stepped on a defender’s foot), and he has been out ever since. It was the first of a string of injuries that hit the already not deep Timberwolves.

Minnesota has gone 6-36 since Rubio went down.

So it is big news for the Timberwolves that Rubio is healthy and will make his return to the lineup on Monday vs. Dallas, something first reported by Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.

Paired with the return of Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin to the lineup in recent weeks, this should make the Timberwolves less of a pushover.

This should mean less of rookie Zach LaVine as a point guard and playmaker, which is a very good thing as he is not good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pumped he’s in the All-Star Dunk Contest, he’s great at that, but his basketball decision making skills and shooting need a lot of work. He was asked to do things he was just not capable of in the absence of Rubio.

Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: Is this rock bottom for Oklahoma City?

Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook

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 buying a case of beer where the box helps repel mosquitos

Have the Thunder reached rock bottom? Things are not right in Oklahoma City. The Knicks beat the Thunder Wednesday because the Knicks played harder and with more urgency. The Knicks beat the Thunder because they executed better — OKC had just 10 assists as a team in this game. If you’re OKC trying to fight back into the playoffs that just can’t happen. If your reaction is to say, “Kevin Durant was out and the Knicks have been playing better lately” you don’t grasp the urgency the Thunder need if they want to make the eight seed (which may be as high as they climb now). Russell Westbrook had the urgency and put up 40 points, but the rest of the Thunder players seemed to take a night off.

Understand where the Thunder are. Oklahoma City is a .500 team (23-23) that, after Phoenix’s win Wednesday, is now 3.5 games out of the playoffs (and on their way to Memphis on Saturday, so OKC could well be below .500 again). The Thunder will need to go 25-11 the rest of the way to get to 48 wins, which is going to be the bare minimum to get a West playoff seed. That number is doable — when Durant and Westbrook both play they are 14-7 this season, continue at that pace the rest of the way and the Thunder have 47 wins — but it means OKC needs to start winning now. If not, they will miss the playoffs. That is a real possibility now. And if that happens this game will not be rock bottom

Kyrie Irving has a video game mode. How else do you explain the double nickel — 55 points — he dropped on Portland Wednesday. He knocked down 11 three pointers including the game winner right in the face of Nicolas Batum. But it wasn’t just one end of the court, he was often guarding Damian Lillard and Irving held Blazers star guard to 4-of-19 shooting. The Cavaliers have an eight game winning streak and got this last one without LeBron James over a quality team. That is huge.

The Sixers, Knicks and Timberwolves win on the same day? Isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse? This is the ultimate sign it was just one of those nights — the NBA’s three worst teams all won on the same day. And deserved to. The Knicks simply executed better and played harder than OKC — the Knicks looked pretty good . Carmelo Anthony put up 31 points, while Tim Hardaway Jr. had 11 in the fourth. The Sixers raced out to a 24-4 lead over the reeling Pistons and never looked back. Even the lowly Timberwolves looked better once they got Kevin Martin back, he dropped 21 in his return and they topped a Celtics team that had played fairly well of late. It was just that kind of night.

Josh Smith can lead the Rockets. Adding to the above note about this just being a Twilight Zone night in the NBA — Josh Smith it 4-of-5 threes and had a couple big blocks late as Houston came from behind to beat Dallas. That’s a quality win without Dwight Howard in the lineup, and Smith was high scorer for Houston with 18. This is also one Dallas is going to kick themselves for — they were down three points with 16 seconds left when a foul drawn by Tyson Chandler was ruled a Flagrant 1 — Dallas got two free throws and the ball out of bounds. But Chandler missed both free throws then Dallas turned the ball over on the inbounds pass. Ballgame.

Maybe the Hawks cannot lose. Okay, they will lose someday (likely next week when the schedule gets tougher) but that day is not today. The Hawks won their 17th in a row taking down  struggling Brooklyn 113-102. We’d say Paul Millsap was making his case to be included on the All-Star Team but those votes are already in from the coaches — still his 28 points on nine shot attempts is ridiculous. Next up is Portland, which is a good test, but the Hawks have passed every test so far.