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Western Conference: A mid season look

by Ashwin

The 2012-13 NBA season is 2 months and almost 450 games old. Most of the pre-season predictions are bang on correct while, like always, others have been as wrong as the Mayans (bless them). The Western conference has been like the EPL and the Eastern Conference more like the SPL. In fact, the gap in the East is so huge that we might actually be looking at the 8 play-off spots being fixed before the New Year is even upon us.

Out West, the lines are much more blurred. The young guns of the Oklahoma City Thunder have hardly missed a beat from last season and have moved on to a 23-6 start. They have more than come to terms with the James Harden-Kevin Martin trade. Granted, K-Mart is no penetrating, creating and scaring defenses Harden, but Coach Brooks has made adjustments to the times of Durant and Westbrook to ease the transition and the result is the league’s No. 1 offense. They even had 2 blowout victories over the Rockets to keep bragging rights at those casual meetings b/w Harden and his OKC friends.

PREDICTION for Conference position: #1

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets

Like Scott Brooks said, there are only 3 sure things in life – Death, taxes and Pop winning 50 games a season. Like a well-oiled machine, Greg Poppovich has made sure the Spurs play as well as they can, limiting the minutes of All Stars Duncan, Parker and Ginobli along with veteran Danny Green. He took it a bit far when he left all 4 in San Antonio and left for Miami with his second unit to play what turned out to be a close loss. Commissioner Stern was not in the least bit impressed and slapped the Spurs with  a $250,000 fine. But Pop couldn’t care less and the Spurs have quietly moved on to the 3rd best record in the league (23-8) on the back of a young Timmy legs. The future HOFer has been playing like the MVP level Duncan of the old. They have looked a bit raggedy on defense but that is hardly a problem a good ‘ol Pop speech can’t sort out.

PREDICTION for conference position: #2

Move over Lakers, there’s a new numero uno tenant in Staples Center. The Clippers, YES, THE CLIPPERS, are the number 1 team, as I type, with a 24-6 start (half a game ahead of OKC) which is on the back of a 16 game winning streak. Yes, 16 successive victories for CP3 and the boys. They may have had a little lady luck with the schedule but take nothing away from them. They are the only team in the NBA ranked in the top 10 in both offense and defense. The creative genius of floor general Chris Paul and the explosiveness of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan has brought back the golden days of the Showtime Lakers. But the most important cog in their wheel has been possessing the deepest bench in the league. Coach Vinny del Negro (already a candidate for Coach of the Year) has utilised the second unit of the Clippers as well as is possible. Jamal Crawford (sure shot 6th man of the Year) along with Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes and Eric Bledsoe have ensured that Paul and Griffin are not burnt out while playing major minutes to ensure a Clippers victory. When the coach has enough confidence in the bench to make sure that the starters don’t play a single second of the 4th quarter, you know what you are dealing with.

PREDICTION for conference position: #3

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets

But how can we ever forget La La land? The Lakers pulled off a mini miracle when they managed to bring Superman part 2 and Nash together. Coach Mike Brown started the season with the Princeton offense and BAM, 5 games and a 1-4 record later, was fired. Yes, the Lakers were under a new coach with the season a mere five games old. Mike D’Antoni was selected ahead of Phil ‘Zen Master’ Jackson to ensure the Lakers get Kobe another ring. The results were not pretty. Kobe scored, the defense sucked, Kobe scored, the offense sucked, Kobe scored, Pau and Nash sat out with injuries, Kobe became the youngest to score 30000 points in NBA history and the Lakers were in sub .500 territory. After Nash returned and the defense FINALLY showed up, the Lakers reeled off 5 successive wins and are now 15-15. As long as Nash stays healthy and runs the offense, the Lakers should be able to make the play-offs but how far they go remains to be seen.

PREDICTION for conference position: #7

As of NOW, the other play-off teams, in no particular order, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets.

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