-Heat v Spurs Finals Rematch
-Knicks v Lakers in the Battle of Defenseless Teams
-Nets v Celtics in Paul Pierce's return to Beantown
In the first match up of the day we saw the Miami Heat absolutely dismantle the San Antonio Spurs. Granted the Spurs are missing key rotation guys in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, they have always adopted the 'next guy up' motto and been able to play through injuries. Not today. Even with a gimpy Dwayne Wade, the Heat controlled the pace of the game, pulling away in the second half by a massive 20 point margin. Miami was able to contain Tim Duncan and bottle up Tony Parker, virtually eliminating their offensive arsenal down the stretch. The Heat have now won three in a row to extend their record to 32-12.
For all of the talk about the Indiana Pacers being an 'elite' team, the Heat are 3 games behind them and biting at their heels. It was this time last year that they began on their epic 27 game winning streak, so do not be surprised if the Heat run off 10 straight victories heading into February.
In the battle of New York versus Los Angeles, both teams seem to be heading nowhere, fast. If the Knicks want to have any chance in the playoffs they need to start playing TEAM DEFENSE, a concept they have yet to adapt. Melo is a scoring machine with the wrong parts surrounding him. They are not a championship contender. It appears more and more evident everyday that Melo will be leaving town at season's end. Jalen Rose made very interesting comments about him heading to Chicago to play alongside D Rose, Noah, Butler, and company, and it does not sound like a bad idea at all. He could go run with CP3 or Kobe Bean in LA. He will have to go find a running mate if he is ever serious about winning a championship. He can not do it himself and he most certainly can not do it with his cast of characters in New York. Sorry Knicks fans, you're headed for a shitty decade of basketball.
The only other team that might be worse off than the Knicks is the Lakers. Its a Mike D'Antoni offense that specializes in a non-defense, featuring Pau Gasol at center. This team is doomed until they can get some better pieces to play alongside Kobe Bryant. (Hello Melo.) It also appears that Pau's time in purple and gold is nearing its end. It will allow the Lakers the room it needs to offer a guy like Melo a max contract. It will at the very least give a luxury tax team some wiggle room in free agency. Oh yea and the Knicks played the Lakers today.
(Side note-Roundball pre-cogs foresee a Gasol brothers back court in Memphis next season.)
Finally, in a battle of the boring up in Boston, Paul Pierce returned home for the first time to a much deceived ovation by the Boston crowd. Among the leaders in almost every statistical category during his time with the C's, Piece has struggled this season in Brooklyn. His struggles continued tonight DURING THE MOST BORING GAME EVER. SERIOUSLY. Hard to watch hoops eclipsing the 80 point mark. Woo hoo. Boston is already looking towards their offseason, but Brooklyn is finally starting to get their shit together. They are 10-9 against teams over .500 which should fare them well in the playoffs. They will be an interesting team to watch down the stretch in a wide open eastern conference. If they keep playing well they will be one of the few teams that nobody will want to face in the first round.
As we head into the all-star break, keep an eye on these teams. Their play will kep set the bar for both the trade deadline as well as the playoff seedings. With a big off-season ahead, expect a big trade deadline flurry of deals to help position these teams for both the playoff and lottery race.