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- Dwyane Wade has been in throw-back-the-clock mode in March. Though the Miami’s Heat’s bigger star left for Cleveland and his team is struggling just to make it into the playoffs, there is now even less doubt that Wade is one of the best players to ever lace ’em up. He recently ended a streak of seven straight games scoring 25 or more points. Even better, the Heat went 5-2 on those nights. A poor offensive showing for the whole team in its last game against the Thunder was a setback, but if the Heat do get into the postseason, they will have Wade and his bounce-back March play to thank.
- Overall, the “race” for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs is a mess. Just 4.5 games separate the 6th and 11th seeds, and none of these teams are stringing together many wins. The Heat and Celtics are leading the charge, both at 6-4 in their last 10 games, but the formerly scorching Pacers have now lost six straight games. And the Bucks, which sit in sixth place, have lost eight of their last 10 while Jason Kidd fiddles away watching the city burn. The Hawks and Cavaliers notwithstanding, the East has been a bit of a joke the whole year. But the “fight” for the playoffs in these final few weeks could take the comedy to a new level.
- LeBron James in an absurd human being.
- In a season full of injuries that has seen Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Paul George, and many more miss waaaay too much time, it is nice to see players get back on the court. The Bulls can’t replace Rose, but they now have Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson back. Though neither shot well against the Hornets last night, it was no coincidence that the Bulls — with these two key guys back — held Charlotte to 37 second-half points on the way to a win.
- Speaking of returns, Klay Thompson is back after missing a few games with a sprained ankle. The Warriors are so good that they nary missed a beat without him, and they showed the struggling Wizards just how much more potent they are when both Splash Brothers are on the floor. Thompson didn’t put a big impact on the score sheet, but the Roracle was loud and the Warriors smothered the limp Washington offense, holding them to just 8 points in the third quarter as they ran away with yet another game.
- Outside of Russell Westbrook, news on the Thunder front couldn’t be worse. Kevin Durant may be done for the year and Serge Ibaka is having surgery. There is no lesson here. Legs, knees, and feet are the worst.
- Doc Rivers is a top-tier coach, but his work as a general manager is suspect. The team’s bench has been letting down the Clippers all season, and this will likely prove their Achille’s heel come playoff time in a stacked Western Conference. Overall, the Clippers have the second-best net rating (5.8) in the league, per NBA.com, but when Chris Paul sits they are outscored by 6.9 points per 100 possessions. If the season ended today, they would face the Trailblazers. Portland’s injury problems might allow them to get through to the second round. But after that? I don’t think they have the horses. Since February 3, they have played eight games against teams slated to make the playoffs in the West. They are 2-6 in those outings.
- Never count out the Spurs. They have been a middling team — by Western Conference standards — all season, but this weekend they reasserted themselves with a blowout win over the Hawks in Atlanta. Kawhi Leonard nearly messed around and got a triple double (20 points, 10 boards, 7 assists plus 4 steals) while seven Spurs players scored in double figures. Perhaps most impressive of all, San Antonio held Atlanta to just 13 points in the first quarter, which I didn’t think was possible. The Popovich Army has now been ahead or tied at the end of regulation in their last 12 games. It’s almost playoff time. The Spurs are rising from the dead again. Be afraid.
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