March Madness is a special time of year. You bond with your family, friends, and co-workers over the words: “bracket”, “pool”, and “Cinderella.” The common woman, who knows nothing about basketball, even gets into the action. It’s getting warmer out, it’s St. Patty’s Day, and soon you’ll be skipping work to take in all the games. It’s really an amazing time of year. But this March we’re blessed with more than just the NCAA tournament. The NBA has decided to join in on the March Madness.
I suffered through dozens of painful NBA games for the past several years. It was a stale product: low scoring, lack of teamwork, individualistic, and the Celtics were horrible. But now, I actually flip from Seinfeld re-runs to watch random NBA games on TNT. Part of my enthusiasm is due to the Celtics success, but the other part is because the NBA is fun again. There are eight teams in the Western conference and they’re all decided by five games. If the season ended today, these would be the following match-ups:
Houston vs. Golden State
Los Angeles vs. Dallas
New Orleans vs. San Antonio
Utah vs. Phoenix
Their records are so close that each day the match-ups are going to change. (Just ask the Spurs who went from 1st place to 6th place in one day.)
Let’s take a quick look at the Western conference and see how they’ve brought joy to the basketball fan once again.
As of March 17th, these are the standings:
Houston Rockets: 1st place, 46-20, 97.1 points/game
They have won 22 games in a row. That’s 22! (I was hoping it would end at 21 so I could use the Headline: “21 Jump Street.”) I watched them play against the Lakers yesterday, and they were so entertaining. They reminded me of a college team: diving for balls, making 5-6 passes per possession, bumping each other while celebrating. In crunch time, they had these five players on the court:
Rafer “I was good as Skip to my Lou on the And1 tour 8 years ago!” Alston
Bobby "I was good when I was on the Kings 10 years ago!" Jackson
Shane “My name and personality are too bland to have a nickname” Battier
Luis “Who the hell is this guy?” Scola
Tracy “I bet you thought I was washed up” McGrady
If you’re not intimidated yet, on the bench, they still have:
Dikembe “I’m 72 and can still wave my finger” Mutombo
As I watched the game, I thought: “How can you NOT root for this team?” But then, at the end of the game, I figured it out. Rafer turned into an And1 punk, started showboating, and almost got into a fight. And then Mutombo kept signaling “22” in an arrogant sort of way. That kind of pissed me off. So I think the streak’s gonna stop at 22. Celtics 102 Rockets 96
(Headline: “Rockets Red Glare Pierced at 22”)
Los Angeles Lakers: 2nd place, 45-21, 107.9 points/game
Kobe is still extraordinary to watch. And whoever does his PR is amazing! When’s the last time you heard a Kobe “rape” joke? With the addition of Pau Gasol and with the return of Andrew Bynum, they are a force. You know ABC is licking their chops for a Celtics-Lakers championship.
New Orleans Hornets: 3rd place, 44-21, 100.2 points/game
Has anyone seen Chris Paul play? He’s the only the point guard in the league averaging over 20+ points and 10+ assists per game. He’s turned this team into a contender, and could even garner an MVP award.
Utah Jazz: 4th place, 44-24, 106.4 points/game
Deron Williams is another sick point guard averaging: 19.3 points/game and 10.3 assists/game. Throw in Boozer and Ivan Drago (aka Kirilenko) and they might crush you.
Phoenix Suns: 5th place, 44-22, 110 points/game
I still stand by the Shaq trade (see “I’ll trade you Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal.”) The Suns are finally getting back to their old selves winning four in a row. By playoff time, they’ll have two styles to choose from: run n’ gun and the half-court set. Steve Nash is still the most exciting player to watch in the NBA, and without hyperbole, this team scores a million points per game.
San Antonio Spurs: 6th place, 44-24, 95.5 points/game
Boring! They don’t even average 100 points per contest. But they could play run n’ gun if they wanted to. Parker, Ginobili and Duncan are incredibly underrated and are the most cohesive threesome since Tera Patrick, Jenna Jameson, and Brianna Banks. When I watch both of these trios perform, I often wonder out loud: “how’d they do that?”
Dallas Mavericks: 7th place, 44-23, 100.4 points/game
Wouldn’t it be fun if you could watch Jason Kidd, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, and Jerry Stackhouse play on the same team? Oh, wait, you can. And despite that line-up, they’re in 7th place right now.
Golden State Warriors: 8th place, 41-24, 111 points/game
Last year, the Golden State Warriors made a statement in the playoffs. They looked like Loyola Maymount circa 1988 with Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble. Points, points, points. They’re still around trying to prove last year wasn’t a fluke. Let’s hope not!
Denver Nuggets: 9th place, 40-26, 108.9 points/game
They scored a measly 168 points last night. You read that right: 168, the 4th most in regulation history. Of course, they also hold the most points scored in an overtime game defeating the Pistons 186-184 in 1983. (see this link to learn more:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=neel/051213 ) Despite this, they’re still a game and a half out of the playoffs. Crazy!
There are nine teams in the western conference with 40+ wins compared to three teams in the East. The NBA has finally joined the NCAA for March Madness. Entertaining and unpredictable. Nobody knows what’s gonna happen.
And speaking of the field of 65…we’re just three days away. I’m gonna try to list my picks soon so I can prove how smart/stupid I am. Good luck!