NBA Sitrep – Cavs slumping, KD passes 20,000 plateau and the NBA hits London

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

The Cavs lost all three games last week in ugly fashion, while they have now lost seven of their last ten.

It was the first time in LeBron’s career that his team has lost by 25 or more points in back-to-back games as the Timberwolves (127-99) and Raptors (133-99) piled on the pain for Ty Lue and his men. Safe to say that LeBron wasn’t particularly happy with his team’s effort.

LeBron then missed a game-tying layup, and stepped out of bounds, as the Cavs fell to the Pacers 95-97.

The Cavs will look to halt their skid against the Warriors tomorrow in the Finals rematch.

Kevin Durant became just the second youngest player (behind LeBron) to break the 20,000-career points barrier.

With Curry out injured (ankle) and Thompson resting, Durant took just one half to tally the 25 points required to reach the milestone against the Clippers.

However, KD’s night was spoiled as the Clippers beat the Warriors for the first time since 2014 behind Lou Williams 50-point outburst.

The Bulls and Knicks played out an expected Double Overtime thriller at Madison Square Garden, with Lauri Markkanen dropping 33 points and Porzingis countering with 24 and a huge dunk to send the game into double OT.

The Bulls eventually walked away with a 122-119 win in the arguably the unlikeliest classic of the season so far.

The Celtics overcame a 22-point deficit to beat the 76ers in the eighth NBA game played in England.

Led by Kyrie Irving (20 points) & Jaylen Brown (21 points), the Celtics romped home to stun the 76ers 114-103 and notch their seventh straight win.

J.J Redick was the leading scorer for the 76ers, while Embiid shot just 6-17 from the field. Simmons major highlight was his hip and shoulder on Marcus Morris.

Sliders and Risers

standings

Photo credit: ESPN

Riser

The Lakers have won four games in a row. I repeat, four games in a row! They have now crept up to 12th in the West and the lid is officially off. According to most Lakers fans a late playoff push is still on the cards, Lonzo Ball is charging up the Rookie of the Year ladder and LeBron spent another weekend checking out schools in LA.

To bring reality back into the situation, three of the four wins did come against the Hawks, Kings and Mavericks.

Slider

The New York Knicks faint playoff hopes are fading away after losing their last three games and eight of their last ten. This week they lost to the Bulls in double OT, to Minnesota by 10 points and to New Orleans by 5.

Heat Check

Anthony Davis

vs. Detroit – 30 points, 10 boards, 1 block

vs. Portland – 36 points, 9 boards, 2 blocks

vs. Knicks – 48 points, 17 boards, 3 blocks

The numbers speak for themselves. Even while he missed the game vs Memphis with an ankle sprain, his three performances were incredible even by his lofty standards.

Honorable mention: Lou Williams – averaged 35 points over his four games last week. Read more about his case for an All-Star appearance here.

Highlights

There were a plethora of clutch shots and game winners across the league last week.

Richardson put the Heat on the high-side against the Jazz in one of their seven wins on the trot.

CJ Williams (Who?) sunk the game winning three against the Hawks. Pretty much sums up the entire season for Atlanta.

One week, two game winners for the resurging Heat who currently sit in the 4th seed in the East.

Please put Larry Nance in the dunk contest.

LeBron said no siree to Tyus Jones.

But Tyus Jones took no chances the second time around. It was just the second dunk of his career. Fair to say its probably his favourite.

The battle of the seven-foot freaks didn’t end well for Giannis.

Whoopsie Watch

Durant may have cracked the 20,000 career points mark last week, but these weren’t two of them.

Caris LeVert with the laser pass to the third row.

At this point, I no longer have the words to describe Lance Stephenson.

The rise of the super team

Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson. Kevin Durant. Draymond Green.

Together this collection of perennial all-stars, scoring champions and MVP’s have formed the leagues newest “super team”.

In fact, on paper this may be the greatest team the NBA has ever seen.

However, history tells us that these “super teams” often struggle to translate their talent from the paper to the hardwood.

While the Warriors story is yet to be written, many “super teams” have come and gone before them.

While some have claimed their spot in the annals of American sport, others have fallen short, relegated to the “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” teams of years past.

So before looking ahead to the Warriors potential, we must first look back at the “super teams” of yesteryear.

1984-1985 – Los Angeles Lakers

Commonly referred to as “Showtime”, the 80’s Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the most iconic super team in NBA history. Led by their 6-foot, 9-inch mercurial point guard, Magic Johnson, they dominated the league throughout the decade. Kareem Abdul Jabbar and James Worthy combined with Johnson to form an imposing big three, while the likes of Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis and Michael Cooper were invaluable contributors.

Perhaps their greatest season was in 1984-95, in which they ran riot during the regular season to finish with a 62-10 record. Spurred on by their back-to-back titles loses in 1983 and 1984, they went on to defeat the Boston Celtics in the Finals and cement their place in NBA history.

1996-1997 – Houston Rockets

After winning two NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, the Rockets added the former MVP Charles Barkley to their squad, hoping to atone for their loss in the 1996 NBA Finals. Combined with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler they formed a fearsome core, which saw immediate success. They started the season with a 21-2 record, yet fell away late in the season, finishing third in the West.

However, they were undone in the Western Conference Finals by the Utah Jazz, who knocked the Rockets out with a John Stockton game winning three. Drexler went on to retire a year later and Barkley would never obtain that elusive ring.

2003-2004 – Los Angeles Lakers

On paper this team looked unstoppable. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone. It was a squad the envy of the nation, yet turned out to be complete disaster. They finished the season with a 56-26 record, yet it was a year marred with off-field scandal, injury and intense scrutiny.

Despite all these hurdles, the Lakers made it to the NBA Finals, only to implode on the big stage. They were beaten in five games by the Pistons, with their only victory coming in an overtime thriller.

Payton and O’Neal were both traded that off-season, while Malone retired shortly after. However, Kobe Bryant remained and the seeds of a new super team were planted.

2007-2008 – Boston Celtics

The 2006-2007 season was a franchise low for the Celtics, with the once proud team reduced to an incoherent rabble. They finished with the league’s second-worst record, and featured an inglorious eighteen game losing streak.

Yet, in one off-season the team completely revamped itself from cellar dwellers to champions. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were introduced to the squad and formed an imposing line-up with Paul Pierce.

The Celtics were dominant throughout the season, finishing with a 66-16 record and were crowned 2008 NBA Champions after defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

boston2010-2014 – Miami Heat

They entered in a cloud of smoke and exited with four consecutive Finals appearances and two NBA Championships. From LeBron announcing his decision on live television, to their rock-star entrance and larger than life antics, the Miami “Big Three” were always destined for greatness.

However, the lethal combination of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh initially struggled for cohesion and consistency. They started the 2010-2011 season with a 9-8 record, before bringing it together to finish with the second seeding in the East. They progressed to the Finals, before being stunned by the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

Spurred by this defeat the Heat went on to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to South Beach in 2012 and 2013. While they didn’t fulfill LeBron’s promise of “not one, not two, not three” championships, they were and still are one of the greatest and most successful teams the league has ever seen.

2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers

With Kobe Bryant’s peak form on the decline and his swansong period approaching, the Lakers took one more home-run approach to another championship push. They signed all-stars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to join stalwarts Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to form a fearsome line-up.

On paper these were great additions. Nash would be the point guard that Kobe never had, while the three-time defensive player-of-the-year, Dwight Howard, would form an imposing frontcourt with Pau Gasol.

However, the season turned out to be less “Showtime” and more Soap Opera for the ailing Lakers. Dwight experienced teething issues throughout, Nash broke his leg and Kobe’s Achilles injury was the final straw in a tumultuous season.

Despite all their issues the team still made the playoffs before being swept in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs. Howard fled to the Houston Rockets, Gasol would eventually join the Chicago Bulls, while injuries forced Nash into an early retirement.

2016-2017 – Golden State Warriors

“I have decided that I am going to join the Golden State Warriors.” With one simple sentence, Kevin Durant turned the NBA on its head and ushered in the era of a new super team. While these superstars are yet to pen their legacy, the mix on paper is daunting to say the least.

The most intimidating factor surrounding the Warriors squad is that in contrast to previous super teams, Durant fits the 73 and 9-win team to perfection. The combination of Steph, Klay and Durant behind the arc is a planning nightmare for opposition coaches. They will spread the floor greater than any team in league history, leaving the lane wide open for the likes of Draymond and Igoudala.

Thankfully for the remaining 31 teams in the league, chemistry is an intangible that cannot be bought or created from thin air. It will take the Warriors time to fit Durant into their usual offensive and defensive sets. However, the Warriors have 82 games to find that elusive chemistry, and when they find it, strap yourself in for an offensive juggernaut.

Crashing the offensive glass and pounding the paint will be the staple to beating the Warriors. On paper it looks to be the only chink in their armour. However, identifying a weakness and exploiting it are two very different tasks.

The Warriors have a chance to leave a lasting impression on the NBA, to cement their place in basketball history. While many are furious at Durant’s decision, there is no denying that the Warriors will be must watch television and their destiny is truly in their own hands.