Remember before the season there were some pundits saying the Eastern Conference was finally catching up with the West in terms of depth of talent?
Um, not so much.
So far this young season, the West is 44-17 against the East (numbers updated from Jeff Caplan’s story at NBA.com). Or, look at it this way — on Monday afternoon there are 13 teams in the West that are .500 or better, in the East there are six. The East has an entire division — the Atlantic — that is under .500. Once again this season it is very possible the 8 seed in the East will be a below .500 team.
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While the elite of the East — Miami and Indiana — are certainly on the NBA’s top tier, the depth is not the same. Not even close.
A few more notes via Caplan:
* The West’s top three teams — Spurs (5-0), Trail Blazers (6-0) and Thunder (3-0) — are a combined 14-0 against the East (The Warriors, Nuggets and Lakers are a combined 6-0)
* The West’s bottom seven teams are 14-11 against the East and that includes Utah’s 0-4 mark.
* The Mavericks are 5-1 against the East and 9-5 overall
* The Timberwolves are 5-2 against the East and 8-7 overall.
* The 76ers are 6-9 overall and 1-4 against the West
* The Pistons are 4-8 overall and 1-5 against the West
We could go on and on here, but you get the point.
It makes it hard on teams like Memphis and Golden State, who lost key players (Andre Iguodala and Marc Gasol) indefinitely to injury. Those are likely still playoff teams, but in a packed West if those injuries cost them 4 or 5 wins they could quickly fall from a top 4 seed in the playoffs to the 7 seed, and suddenly the path through the postseason is much more difficult. Meanwhile out East the Bulls without Derrick Rose can realistically still be a top 4 seed.
Dwyane Wade is secure in his legacy. He’s an all-time great, and an extra missed 3-pointer during his farewell tour won’t change anything. (It doesn’t hurt that his resumé already includes subpar 3-point shooting.)
So, when many players would hold the ball, Wade heaved in a halfcourt shot to end the third quarter of the Heat’s 110-105 win over the Spurs on Wednesday. It wasn’t the biggest shot of Wade’s season, but it still mattered plenty.
Miami’s lead when San Antonio began intentionally fouling late? Three.
The Grizzlies blew a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter and a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds of overtime. James Harden scored 57 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter and all 10 of the Rockets points in overtime.
But Jonas Valanciunas saved Memphis from total collapse. He drew a foul on his putback and hit the game-winning free-throw with 0.1 seconds left to give the Grizzlies a 126-125 win Wednesday.
Jimmer Fredette remains a fascination because he scored a ton at BYU eight years ago and… other reasons.
He has been lighting it up in China, and his season there just ended. Now, the former No. 10 pick could return to the NBA after three years away.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Phoenix still needs another point guard, and the 6-foot-2 Fredette looks like one. But he hasn’t shown the playmaking to play point guard regularly. He’s better, and sometimes even effective, off the ball.
Fredette could have stuck in the NBA with a different attitude. His long-distance shooting was an asset.
But he’s also now 30 years old. A new approach likely won’t be enough. His shortcomings, particularly defensively, will be even more pronounced as his athleticism has declined.
The Suns are bad and will remain bad, with or without Fredette. But their younger players have shown signs of progress lately. Fredette’s high-usage style could interfere with their development.
It’s hard to see the upside here other than a brief uptick in attention.
Marcus Smart recently bemoaned the lack of physicality in the NBA.
After Joel Embiid dropped his shoulder into him on a screen, Smart brought some to tonight’s Celtics-76ers game.
Smart shoved Embiid in the back, sending the center to the floor. A cheap shot? Yes. Embiid wasn’t looking. But Smart would surely argue Embiid started it. I also doubt Smart intended to push Embiid from behind. Smart just wanted to get at Embiid as quickly as possible, and Embiid happened to be facing the other way when Smart arrived.
Smart got a flagrant 2 and the accompanying ejection. Embiid received a technical foul.