2013 NBA Update

As we move into the second half of the NBA season, some unexpected teams are surging to the top of the ranks. Of course, nobody is surprised by the Miami Heat’s position at the top of the Eastern conference, but the wrong team from Los Angeles seems to be at the top, the Clippers. Many expected the Lakers to be the dominate team in the Western Conference, but they are not even in the picture right now. Here’s a quick look at where we stand as of right now:

Eastern Conference

1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. Boston Celtics

Biggest Surprises in the East

Probably the biggest surprise is the rivalry matchup sitting in the 2 and 3 seeds currently. Both Indiana and New York were expected to be in the playoff hunt, but not sitting right behind Miami with a legitimate chance to win the East. The Atlanta Hawks can also be thrown into this surprise group, as they are right behind the Pacers and not far behind the east leading Heat.

It’s going to be an exciting run to finish the season and snagging Indiana Pacers tickets for one of the final games, as they renew their historic rivalry with the Knicks, can lead to an exciting and memorable experience. All eight teams have winning records and the top four teams all have a real chance to win the conference.

Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Houston Rockets
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Portland Trailblazers

Biggest Surprises in the West

The biggest surprise found in the western conference has to do with the team not in the playoff picture, as of right now. The 15-20 Los Angeles Lakers were picked to possibly win more games than any other NBA team in history, at the beginning of the season, but they currently sit 10 games back from the 8th and final playoff seed. Another huge surprise lurking even further back than the Lakers is the Dallas Mavericks.

Both of these teams have recently experienced quite a bit of success, but neither is even close to the playoff hunt right now. Without a long winning streak in the second half of the season, we may see the Lakers miss the playoffs for only the 6th time in franchise history and the first time since 2004-2005. We will most likely also see the playoffs played without Dallas for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons.

Predictions

With the two biggest surprises coming from the west, predicting the NBA finals teams isn’t all that easy. At the beginning of the year, many experts picked Miami and Los Angeles Lakers to make the finals. However, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the picture now and it’s very likely a team, such as the Indiana Pacers or the New York Knicks could build enough momentum to overtake Miami in the playoffs.

The west is all up for grabs and the most likely team to go to the finals is the San Antonio Spurs, simply because they know how to get there. Another team to look out for is the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they are young and capable of making a playoff run.

Whichever teams end up in the playoffs and the finals, this season has created quite a bit of excitement. The top teams in both conferences are only a few games apart from each other and nobody is running away with the conference titles. It will be exciting to watch and fun to see how it all shakes out.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Derrick Rose’s 44 points lead Bulls to 99-82 win

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (R) shoots over Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague in the first half of their Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball game in Atlanta, Georgia May 6, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

No other Chicago starter scored in double digits, but it doesn’t really matter when your point guard drops 44 points on 16-for-27 shooting like Derrick Rose did in Game 3. Joakim Noah had the Rodman-esque line of two points, 15 rebounds and five blocks, while Carlos Boozer and his turf toe scored six points (on 3-of-6 shooting) in just 22 minutes. Taj Gibson picked up Boozer’s slack, posting 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

Bulls bounce back, take Game 2

Derrick Rose (1) of the Chicago Bulls shoots against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half of Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference second round playoff basketball game in Chicago, May 4, 2011. The Bulls won the game 86-73. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Derrick Rose accepted the MVP award in a pregame ceremony and played like a MVP to help the Bulls win Game 2. He didn’t play great, mind you — 25 points on 10-of-27 shooting, 10 assists, six rebounds and eight assists — but he played like the Bulls’ most valuable player. Chicago needs him to score, so he scores. Right now, the Bulls aren’t getting the kind of production they need from Carlos Boozer, who should be an 18/10-type of guy, but is shooting 40% from the field and averaging under 11 points per game in the playoffs.

Joakim Noah was outstanding (19 points, 14 rebounds and three steals), but the Bulls aren’t going to get that kind of scoring production out of him on a nightly basis. Luol Deng (14 points, 12 rebounds) was his steady self, but he’s not good enough offensively to be the Bulls #2 option on that end of the floor.

Based on what I’ve seen of the Bulls this postseason, I don’t see them getting by the Heat in a potential matchup next round. Without solid production from Boozer, they are too dependent on Rose to score and he can’t pour in 30 points every night.

Derrick Rose named 2010-2011 MVP

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose smiles as he walks off the floor during a timeout in the third quarter of game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center on April 26, 2011 in Chicago. The Bulls won 116-89, winning the series 4-1. UPI/Brian Kersey

Per NBA.com…

Rose totaled 1,182 points including 113 first-place votes, from a panel of 120 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada as well as an NBA MVP fan vote.

Rounding out the top five in voting are Orlando’s Dwight Howard (643 points, three first place), Miami’s LeBron James (522, four first-place votes), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (428, one first-place vote) and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (190).

As I discussed back in early March, I agree with the selection of Rose since he led his team to the league’s best record after losing his team’s second and third best players for big chunks of the season.

I am a little surprised that Dirk Nowitzki didn’t crack the Top 5 in voting, though Kevin Durant is surely a rising star. It’s interesting that Dwight Howard beat out LeBron James and that Dwyane Wade didn’t make the Top 5 at all.

Granger: Noah “pulled a cowardly move.”

Danny Granger had some choice words for Joakim Noah after the Pacers were eliminated in Game 5, per ESPN.

“He pulled a cowardly move,” Granger said. “He cheap-shotted a couple of my teammates, and one gets thrown out …

“The refs never catch what he did … it’s cowardly. And I’m going to say something about it. I wanted to say something about it all the way to the game was over. I just don’t think the game should be played that way. You can play hard and fight and battle, but when you start cheap-shotting people it gets out of hand.”

For his part, Noah didn’t escalate the situation any further:

“I played dirty? OK. I’m just trying to win basketball games, man,” Noah said. “It’s the name of the game.

“I’m just out there trying to do what I gotta do. Like I said, I give a lot of credit to their team. They play hard as hell. They were competitive. I don’t have anything bad to say about them. Everybody saw what happened out there. Now you want to call me a dirty player? I don’t think I’ve ever been a dirty player. It is what it is. It’s OK.”

Josh McRoberts didn’t seem to take issue with Noah’s play.

“I’m not mad about it,” McRoberts said. “He got a good hit on me. They caught me trying to hit him back.

“It’s part of the game. I’m not going to say it’s dirty. That’s Game 5 of a playoff series. You can’t say it’s dirty, it’s part of basketball.”

Here’s the play in question. You’ll see at the 0:25 mark that Noah was standing still underneath the basket with his elbow raised and McRoberts initiated the contact. Noah does nothing wrong.

Noah is not a popular player outside of Chicago, but I like his game. He plays with great energy and has a terrific feel for the game, especially for a big man. He is the heart and soul of this Bulls team.

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