NBA Sitrep – Nightmare for Timberwolves, Warriors strike back against Thunder and is Kawhi’s season over?

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Down, but not out.

As Jimmy Butler lay writhing in pain with his hands clasped around his knee, the Timberwolves season hung delicately in the balance.

With the possibility of a season-ending ACL injury looming, the diagnosis of a torn right meniscus was surprisingly good news.

Butler will undergo surgery and is expected to be available to return in the next four to six weeks, which sees him in a race against time to suit up for the Timberwolves first playoff appearance in 13 seasons.

Butler has been the stoic captain for the Timberwolves all season, guiding the budding stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins along Minnesota’s return to relevance.

Butler is averaging 22.2 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.9 steals per game, but his impact on the Timberwolves is far greater than his impressive stat line.

The Timberwolves currently sit fourth in the West with a 37-26 record, only one game behind the Spurs on the losses ledger.

Mystery surrounds Spurs and Kawhi.

What is going on with Kawhi Leonard?

We have seen the Spurs superstar for all of nine games this season, with a strained quad tendon hampering him for the entire campaign.

After attempting to make a brief return through December and January, Kawhi was shut down indefinitely by the Spurs and last week Popovich conceded the worst.

https://twitter.com/SportsQuotient/status/966453002373599233

There have been un-Spurs-like rumours about tension between Kawhi and the organisation, possibly misdiagnosis about the injury and the underlying truth that Leonard has actually been medically cleared to play.

Whatever the case, it seems unlikely that the Kawhi will take the court for the Spurs again this season, which is a massive blow for the playoff aspirations of Popovich and his men.

Warriors revenge on OKC.

The Warriors were blown off the court by the Thunder in their first two meetings of the season.

They lost the first contest back in November by 17-points and the second clash went from bad to worse as they were handed a 20-point loss by Westbrook and co.

The pair squared off for the third time on Sunday and the result was decidedly different.

After leading by just seven points at half-time, the Warriors buried the Thunder in a third-quarter scoring avalanche and ran out victors by 32-points.

Kevin Durant dropped 28 points on his former squad, while Curry chimed in with 21 of his own.

Westbrook and Paul George combined for 5-29 shooting, while the Thunder shot just 33% from the floor and 26% from beyond the arc.

The Warriors found their electric ball-movement once again.

And when Nick Young is doing this, you officially can’t beat the Warriors.

Risers/Sliders

standings - week 7Photo credit: ESPN 

Riser

Houston, we do not have a problem! The Rocket are rolling, Harden is the front-runner for the MVP, Chris Paul is wearing rodeo outfits to games, and Houston has won 12 contests in a row and sit with the best record in the entire league. All is well in Texas.

Slider

The Miami Heat are barely clinging to their playoff spot after winning just 2 of their last ten contests. Over their last ten, the Heat have lost to the Cavs by 2, Sixers by ironically 6, Pistons by 4, Magic by 2, Rockets by 8, Raptors by 3, Sixers by 2 and Pelicans by 1 in overtime. They need a go-to clutch scorer down the stretch, because that kind of record in close games usually doesn’t belong to a playoff-bound franchise.

Heat Check

LaMarcus Aldridge

vs. Nuggets – 38 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists

vs. Cavaliers – 27 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block

After logging just 4 minutes and 0 points in the All-Star game last week, Aldridge was well and truly rested to begin the home-stretch of the regular season. He may not be the flashiest of players, but Aldridge deserves credit for the season he is piecing together. He has almost returned to his Portland form, averaging just under 23 points and 8 rebounds per game, becoming the staple of the Spurs offense with Kawhi on the bench.

Dejounte Murray certainly appreciates what Aldridge brings to the team.

Highlights

Bam Adebayo is making a habit of hurting rims feelings.

First Dame did this…

Then he reminded us what time it was.

Westbrook called game.

https://twitter.com/All_SportNews/status/966968508289515520

Steph called range.

https://twitter.com/JaeAzizi/status/966887503356547075

Whoopsie Watch

Has Blake lost his superpowers since leaving LA?

Kelly Oubre just went all school-yard petty on Rodney Hood

https://twitter.com/MusikFan4Life/status/966928210096046080

The Kelly Oubre appreciation show continues…

NBA Sitrep – Rockets swing-and-miss vs LA, knock over Warriors instead as Curry & LeBron lead All-Star teams

A weekly post wrapping up all the action from around the association over the last seven days.

Seven-game series anyone?

The best of the West squared off yesterday in their last regular season clash, in what loomed as a preview of the Western Conference Final.

The game didn’t disappoint as the Rockets showed the league that they can hang with the defending Champions.

Harden found his groove in his second game back from a hamstring injury, dropping 22 points on the Warriors and leaving Curry with Kyrie Irving flashbacks with this step-back dagger to ice the game.

Harden then played defense. No, not a typo. He blocked Curry’s last-gasp three ball attempt and the Rockets sunk the Warriors 116-108.

Chris Paul was up to his usual antics, connecting from downtown six times for his 33 points, 7 dimes, 11 rebounds and three steals.

Bring on a seven-game series between these two.

Only in LA

Welcome to Hollywood’s newest Soap Opera – NBA edition.

The script started innocently enough. The Clippers played a heart-felt video tribute to their former captain, Chris Paul, before he received a standing ovation from the Staples Centre crowd.

Then it got interesting.

What followed was must-watch reality television.

First, Blake tried to take Gordons head off.

Then Mike D’Antoni got a little grumpy after Blake ‘accidently’ knocked into him.

And Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverly were their usual annoying selves.

The end result of all this drama. Griffin and Ariza were ejected and the Clippers upset the Rockets 113-102.

Oh, and after the game Chris Paul led James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green down a secret passageway that joins the teams dressing rooms to confront Austin Rivers.

Clint Capela tried to storm the Clippers locker room from the front entrance, but he had the door slammed on him by a Clippers staff member.

Ariza and Green were both suspended for two games and the Rockets – Clippers rivalry was officially born.

Just another day in LA.

Best of the Best

Steph Curry and LeBron James have been named as the 2018 All-Star captains, finishing atop the vote in their respective conferences.

Curry led the West starting line-up consisting of Kevin Durant, James Harden, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

LeBron was joined by former teammate Kyrie Irving, as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar Derozen and first-timer Joel Embiid.

Curry and LeBron will now select their starting line-ups from the pool of both conferences in traditional school-yard style. They will also get to select from a number of All-Star reserves, which will be announced by the coaches in the coming days.

The quirkiest surprise of this year’s voting belongs to Manu Ginobili, who somehow managed to poll more votes than Harden and Westbrook in the fan-vote.

The ageless Spur didn’t fare so well in the media and player votes, rightly handing over his starting spot to MVP candidate James Harden.

Injury curse strikes again

The clock is ticking on Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs season as their superstar faces a race against time to be healthy for playoffs.

Leonard’s lingering quad injury has sidelined him for all but nine games this campaign, with a worrying pattern of injury riddled seasons threatening to mar his career.

The Spurs have managed to hold onto the fourth seed (30-18 record) without Leonard, but face little hope of contending without him come playoffs.

Sliders and Risers

standings - 2

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

After falling out of the playoff seeding in December, the Philadelphia 76ers have leapfrogged back into the seventh seed on the back of a host of impressive victories. ‘The Process’ is currently sitting on a three-game win streak, having won eight of their last ten contests. Since the New Year the 76ers have knocked over the Celtics, Bucks, Raptors, Pistons and Spurs. If they can hang onto a playoff seed they will feature in post-season action for the first time since 2012.

Slider

In correlation with the 76ers rise, the Detroit Pistons have slid down the standings and currently sit just outside of the playoff race. They have dropped eight of their last ten contests and are currently holding the second longest losing streak in the league (five games, bested only by the Kings with seven).  It has been a dramatic fall for the Pistons, who started the season with a 14-6 record and held a top four seed for much of November.

Heat Check

Damian Lillard

vs. Phoenix Suns – 31 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal

vs. Indiana Pacers – 26 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds

vs. Dallas Mavericks – 31 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, 7 three-pointers

It has been the Lillard show for Portland over the last week as their superstar has led them on a three-game win-streak that sees the Trailblazers sitting in the sixth seed in the West.

Highlights

Spencer Dinwiddie laid the nail into the Pistons coffin with this tough finish.

Wiggins you are cleared for takeoff. Jakob Poetel what are you doing?

Wade up top to LeBron. Just like the good old days.

https://twitter.com/_MarcusD2_/status/954832217716510721

LeBron returns the favour to his former Miami teammate. Behind-the-back and through-the-legs if you don’t mind.

Speaking of assists, is there anything the Greek Freak can’t do!

Whoopsie Watch

CP3 with an Oscar winning performance.

Rodney Hood vs Phone. Fairly predictable ending.

‘The Process’ in action.