National Basketball Month

I am imposing a new reason for people to acknowledge the month of March. It’s full-on basketball season now. March Madness, the road to the NBA playoffs. The games are intense. Full-pressed.


Pitt lost.
Notre Dame lost.
Syracuse lost.
Duke almost lost.

What the hell? The favorites are getting trounced. Especially Notre Dame, having gotten smacked around by tenth-ranked Florida State. Fourteen points!? Really?

Anyway, the bracket is into the Sweet 16 now. Here are the games:

1 Ohio State Buckeyes
4 Kentucky Wildcats

11 Marquette Golden Eagles
2   North Carolina Tar Heels

1 Duke Blue Devils
5 Arizona Wildcats

3 Connecticut Huskies
2 San Diego State Aztecs

1   Kansas Jayhawks
12 Richmond Spiders

11 Virginia Commonwealth Rams
10 Florida State Seminoles

8 Butler Bulldogs
4 Wisconsin Badgers

3 Brigham Young Cougars
2 Florida Gators

I like Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Connecticut, Kansas, Virginia Commonwealth, Butler, and Brigham Young.


If they started today.

Eastern Conference

1. Boston Celtics         49-19
2. Chicago Bulls          49-19
3. Miami Heat             48-22
4. Orlando Magic        44-26
5. Atlanta Hawks        40-30
6. Philadelphia 76ers   36-34
7. New York Knicks  35-34
8. Indiana Pacers        30-40  <—— really?

Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs           56-13
2. Los Angeles Lakers         50-20
3. Dallas Mavericks             49-21
4. Oklahoma City Thunder   45-24
5. Denver Nuggets               41-29
6. Portland Trail Blazers       40-30
7. New Orleans Hornets      40-31
8. Memphis Grizzlies            38-32

Look at the Western Conference, specifically the Southwest Division. If the playoffs started today, four of the five teams would be in the playoffs: San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans, and Memphis. At a combined 183-97 record, nonetheless. The other four teams, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Denver, and Portland have a combined record of 186-103. The Southwest Division is strong this year, and for good reason.

This could be the last time Tim Duncan makes a significant playoff run. He’s pushing 40 and slowing down. This year he averages 13.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, and 1.9 bpg, lower than his career averages of 20.6, 11.2, and 2.3. I think this year has been more about Duncan’s supporting cast. Manu Ginobili is having a career year (17.8 ppg), as is Tony Parker, and the additions of Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson have elevated the Spurs to being the best team in the NBA. As Duncan was to The Admiral, DeJuan Blair is the heir-apparent to the Spurs’ lineage of talented big men (9 points, 7 rebounds, in 20 minutes per game).

The Mavericks are looking to extending their consecutive playoff appearances to 11, but more late-season woes are afflicting them. The Mavs have the tendency to slow down in March, with their 2011 monthly record being 6-5, as compared to:

October/November – 13-4
December –               11-3
January –                     8-8
February –                 11-1

January was a dismal month, but March/April could fare worse. Of the 12 games remaining, 5 are at home (Mavs are  25-11 at the AAC) against Minnesota, Denver, LA Clippers, Phoenix, and New Orleans. 7 road games (Mavs are 24-10 traveling), of which 6 are consecutive and pit them against Utah, Phoenix, Portland, and Golden State, and a two-night residency at the Staples Center at the end of March. The Mavs are 13-2 against these teams this year. It’s a decnt, but potentially bumpy road ahead, since the end of the season is the best for upsets.

The New Orleans Hornets and the Memphis Grizzlies round out the final two seeds and are just about the same type of team. I expect these two to make early exits, but if there was indeed an upset here, it would have to be Hornets upending the Lakers. I don’t know exactly how that would happen, but I kind of have this suspicion that the Spurs could go all the way this year.


About Robert L. Franklin

Ah, the About Me section - social networking's excuse for you sounding like an elitist prick. Hmm... what to say? What to say?
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