The NBA's Best And Worst
Team record is often a quality metric for determining how good teams are. In fact, it's usually the best metric. However, sometimes teams catch fire in a way that makes them far more dangerous than teams with a better record. Although the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder each boast a better record than the Spurs, the Spurs are playing extraordinary basketball at a level that exceeds that of either team.
The Association's Best
Miami boasts the league’s second-longest active winning streak and is playing inspired basketball. The Heat have won their last six games (including five road affairs) and 17 of their last 20. South Beach sure is a nice place to work for a living, but Miami has also performed extremely well away from its home, where it has won 70.6 percent of its games. No road team has done better this season although the Bulls and Thunder have also won at least two-thirds of their road outings.
The team’s quick, athletic defense has been instrumental to its early success. The Heat have forced the third-most turnovers in the league, and with strong, fast finishers like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, a forced turnover often translates into two easy points.
At times, the Heat rely too much on their three best players, but the team has maintained a good balanced much of the season. When Wade has been unable to play, the Heat have won eight of nine games. The Heat also won their only game without James. The reserves have been contributing a great deal, especially over the last six victories. It’s true that Miami’s margin of victory was 17.67 over that stretch, and substitutes play more in one-sided games. With that said, it’s still impressive to consider that Miami’s bench has scored nearly 33 points per game over its last six games. By contrast, in Miami’s seven losses, reserves averaged fewer than 17 points per game.
Most Dangerous Out West
Whether or not the Spurs truly discovered how to win consistently without Ginobili, the team’s schedule cleared up just enough to benefit the aging Spurs. During the mediocre 9-7 stretch, the Spurs played 16 games in 26 days. On the other hand, the team has won its last 10 over a period of 20 days. That’s 4.3 games per week versus 3.5. For an older team like the Spurs, the extra rest has made a huge difference.
In his fourth game since returning from injury, Ginobili strained his left oblique, so the Spurs may have to play more games without their talented southpaw.
The Raptors have lost four games in a row and five of their last six games (all home) despite some amazing point guard play from Jose Calderon. Over the last six games, the Spanish guard has averaged 18.5 points, 10.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and only 1.5 turnovers. It hasn’t mattered. It’s obvious that the team sorely misses its leading scorer Andrea Bargnani, who has missed 19 games this season. The Raptors have won 3 of 19 games without him. With him, the team won nearly half of its 13 games.
The Wizards have lost eight of their last 11 games and seven of those eight losses came by 10 points or more. Defense has been a glaring deficiency for the Wizards, who have allowed 102 points or more in 9 of 10 February games. Offensive inconsistency is also plaguing the team. Shooting guard Nick Young is an extremely streak shooter, and the same can be said for fellow guard John Wall. Wall’s turnover rate has also been quite high. The 6-foot-4 second-year player has turned the ball over more than four times per game.
Last And Yes, Least
Many analysts and fans, alike, are wondering if the Bobcats can only win on their owners’ birthday. The team dropped 16 straight games before finally winning on majority owner Michael Jordan’s 49th birthday on Feb. 17. Of course, it did help that the Bobcats were playing the struggling Raptors. In the win, Bismack Biyombo recorded 13 rebounds and seven blocks, and point guard D.J. Augustin logged 11 points and 10 assists in his second game back from a right toe injury.
The team has been decimated with injuries. Augustin had missed the Raptors’ previous 11 games, which all resulted in losses. Charlotte also played without talented starter Gerald Henderson for the latter half of the 16-game losing streak. Henderson is still recovering from a strained hamstring.
Augustin’s absence forced the Bobcats to place added pressure on rookie point guard Kemba Walker. Walker is a promising player, but clearly not ready to be the primary scorer on an NBA team. Walker’s numbers over the 16-game losing streak are telling. He shot just 80 of 227 from the field (35.2 percent) and was forced to play more than 37 minutes per game, far too many minutes for most rookies to handle.