Los Angeles Clippers Clinch First Playoff Spot Since 2006 — Weekly NBA Roundup [VIDEO]
Teams are fighting it out to make the NBA playoff field, as the season is down to its final 10 days. Here’s what’s happening in the NBA this week:
Team on the Rise: Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers (38-23) clinched the franchise’s first playoff berth in six years by beating the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder, 92-77, on Monday night. The victory was the Clippers’ eighth in 10 games and kept them within 1.5 games of the crosstown rival Lakers in the Pacific Division race. It seems as though the preseason acquisition of point guard Chris Paul and the continued emergence of superstar forward Blake Griffin has helped the Clippers franchise move past its failed past, for this year at least. Los Angeles will need bench players like Kenyon Martin and Nick Young to step up if it intends to go deep into the playoffs.
Team on the Decline: Orlando Magic
After clinching a playoff spot Sunday night, Orlando (36-25) beat Philadelphia, 113-100, on Monday. However, the loss of centers Dwight Howard (herniated disc) and Glen Davis (sprained knee) to injury within the past week has to make Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy concerned about his team’s chances in the playoffs. Already without forward Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture), Orlando could be severely limited in a first-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat if at least one of the injured big men don’t return. Guards Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick are picking up their scoring pace, but they can’t help with interior defense.
Play of the Week: Kevin Durant to Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the NBA’s best players. They show plenty of sizzle with their substance on this transition play against Sacramento on Friday night.
Player on the Rise: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
After plodding through a middling first half of the season, Boston (36-25) has secured a playoff spot and is headed toward the Atlantic Division title. Some of the thanks can go to the improved play of center Kevin Garnett, who averaged 20.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in four games for the Celtics last week. Garnett had three double-doubles, including a 21-point, 12-rebound game against New Jersey on Saturday. The veteran center must be at his best if Boston wants to realize its NBA title hopes.
Player on the Decline: Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns
After putting together a productive season at age 39, Grant Hill has missed all but two of the Suns’ games since March 25, as he recovered from a knee injury. Phoenix (32-29) is currently tied with Houston for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Suns need Hill to provide minutes down the stretch to help close out games. If Hill’s knee can’t withstand back-to-back games, it’s hard to imagine this once-great player being a factor even if the Suns do make the postseason.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Paul Silas, Charlotte Bobcats
New Orleans beat Charlotte, 75-67, on Monday to hand the Bobcats their 17th straight loss, which clinched the NBA’s worst record for Paul Silas’ team. Charlotte (7-53) needs one more win to avoid setting the all-time NBA record for lowest winning percentage in a season, currently held by the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers of 1972-73. Even if Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is destined for the Charlotte roster next year via the NBA lottery, Silas may not be back to coach if he can’t guide his team to at least one more win in 2012.
Bizarre Stat of the Week: New Orleans Hornets
During an 88-75 win over playoff-bound Memphis on Sunday, New Orleans (19-42) scored just 33 points in the first half, but rallied for 55 in the second for one of their most impressive victories of the season.