I thought this year would finally be the year the Spurs were no longer invincible.
They had come off that nightmare-inducing Finals. Duncan was 37, the age at which Hakeem, Shaq, and currently Garnett entered a stage of interminable decline. Ginobilli had looked terrible throughout the entire playoffs, and the West looked to be tougher than ever with the rise of Golden State and the Rockets. How would the Spurs manage? Not well, as I predicted that they would struggle to grab the 4th seed.
Well, today the San Antonio Spurs are the 3rd best team in the Western Conference with a 22-6 record. Shows what I know.
All That Power – The Rockets maintained the 8th spot in Marc Stein’s Power Rankings this week. The committee of one writes:
James Harden remains hobbled and Omer Asik is still a Rocket, so all is not well. But it’s not exactly dire, either, when Houston sports the league’s seventh-best nightly point differential (+4.3) and when Dwight Howard is putting up 21 and 14 in December compared to 17 and 12 previously.
John Schuhmann at NBA.com also has Houston stagnating in 8th place:
Patrick Beverley – out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand suffered Saturday in Detroit – is Houston’s latest injury victim. Dwight Howard is the only Rocket to have played in every game, so it was nice that he was able to dominate the Pistons’ frontline to the tune of 35 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks. It would be nicer if Houston had a healthy James Harden for this week’s run through the Southwest Division.
Hollinger’s stats-based rankings aren’t so kind, putting Houston in 11th place as of Tuesday morning. [read more…]
Losses are never a good thing, but I’ll honestly say, if you gave me the choice between a) a win and a down performance from Dwight and b) a loss and another huge performance like last night, in a game where we were already missing our starting backcourt, I’d take ‘b’ every time. I say this because I’m still in that cautious phase where I’m expecting those monster games from last week to be proven a fluke and every additional night like last night pushes that chance further away from reality. The prospect of Howard rounding into form (and becoming a dangerous post scorer) is so significant to this franchise’s future that I don’t want to jump the gun on a proclamation.
Last night bore out the same results as before. Dwight did his damage in single coverage but when the Mavs brought doubles after he made his move, he struggled. A few times, Dwight pump faked the pass, throwing off the help defense, but this was before he began his dribble. His problem still remains the double after he’s begun his move. And I don’t know how that can be fixed aside from getting him set closer to the hoop – any big man trying to dribble through that many arms in today’s modern NBA is going to have trouble.
Michael Pina posed an interesting question last night, over email: is Dwight a top 5 player again? At first, I was uncomfortable committing. But when pressed, who’s really better? Lebron and Durant, naturally. Chris Paul, possibly, though it’s not as if his team has fared better than Howard’s, despite better health. Harden – no. Paul George has been terrific, but also has been the beneficiary of a tremendous team scheme. Pina says that over the next three years, the only players he’d rather have than Howard are Lebron, Durant, and Anthony Davis. I’m leaning towards agreement.