The Good- Portland Trail Blazers
It seems unlikely that the West would have a three seed that looks more dangerous than
LeBron James and the Cavaliers, who just knocked off the East’s one seed Raptors with the
return of Kevin Love and a career night for the King. Yet here we are. The Portland Trail
Blazers are solidly in the Western Conference three seed, and they gave the Rockets a run for
their money in last night’s loss, their first in the last fourteen games. This wasn’t a team that
was played their best game against an overpowering one-seed, either. The Trail Blazers
missed easy shots, especially from deep and still hung with the Rockets for the entire game.
Damian Lillard scored twenty, despite going 0-7 from behind the arc. Lillard averages nearly
40% from deep, so if he had anything resembling a normal night, the Blazers would be on a
fourteen game winning streak going into their tilt with the Celtics tomorrow night. As the three
seed, they look likely to advance beyond the first round this year, and can pose a threat to any
team in the Western Conference if they’re hitting on all cylinders.
The Bad- San Antonio Spurs
They may have won five straight including a win over the extremely banged-up Warriors (more
on that in a minute), but these Spurs are in full on panic mode trying to squeak into the playoffs without perennial All-Star Kawhi Leonard, who remains out, despite being medically cleared to play. Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Spurs had a players-only meeting led by veterans Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli in an attempt to pressure Leonard to get back on the court. Reports are that the meeting was both tense and non-productive. I’m not sure if Leonard’s trying to create leverage going into the offseason as he lobbies for a super-max contract, but if that’s his game, he’s in a dangerous spot with the Spurs, who are unlikely to go to deep into their pockets for a player who doesn’t share their team-first mentality. At any rate, the Spurs, drama or no, need Leonard to make any noise whatsoever in the tough Western Conference. They’re 6-4 over their last ten games and sit only three games out of the dreaded nine spot. The Jazz are coming up on them quickly, having won nine of ten. If the Spurs slip even one spot to the seven seed, they’ll likely need to play Golden State in the first round, and with or without a banged up Kawhi Leonard, that’s likely an early exit.
The Beat-Up- Golden State Warriors
If you had asked any basketball fan what scenario would be worst case for these Warriors before the season began, this is pretty much it. Four out of four All-Stars nursing injuries and limping toward the two seed. While Steph Curry is eligible to return tomorrow from his ankle injury, if I’m Coach Steve Kerr, I’m holding him back. With ten games left to play, catching the Rockets isn’t mathematically impossible, but they’re four games back. It simply isn’t likely. The same can be said for those streaking Trail Blazers. Holding a nine game lead over them for the two seed, the Warriors are pretty much locked in where they are. Give the big four just enough minutes to knock off the rust and not a moment more. If they can’t get well over the final ten games, these playoffs could be shockingly short for the team that everyone thought had a Golden Ticket to the Finals again this year.
The Ugly- Dallas Mavericks
In this no-hold- barred piece for Sports Illustrated, Melissa Weishaupt confronted the Dallas
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former president Terdema Ussery for the toxic and dangerous culture of the organization. She published the piece, in her own name, in part to
confront Ussery’s denial of “anonymous accusations”. While Ussery is no longer with the
Mavericks, Weishaupt points out that the organization has done little-to- nothing to make Dallas a comfortable and equitable place for women to work. Difficult to reach counseling lines and a culture that promotes fear of HR reprisal towards whistleblowers all falls under the purview of owner Mark Cuban, whose statements in the wake of the accusations against Ussery struck Weishaupt as hollow. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we’re seeing more and more of these sort of long overdue confrontations with male dominated businesses. Good work Melissa, we here at sportsarefromvenus.com have your back. Openly and consistently confronting these types of abusers and bringing the stories to light are the best way to move in the right direction.
Image source: USA Today