What a great season this has been so far. If you haven’t been following the NBA closely this year, it is time to start tuning in to the action. Every other night Western Conference teams beat up on each other hoping to keep their spot in the most brutal conference in all of American professional sports. The Eastern Conference hasn’t disappointed either, featuring five good teams and four teams within two games of securing either the seventh or eighth seed entering the playoffs.
Each team has approximately 30 games left before the playoffs begin. This article will clue you in on which teams to watch as the season enters its final stretch.
The drop-everything-and-watch teams:
Golden State Warriors: This team has been the premiere team for NBA league pass junkies for a couple of years now, this year they have just jumped off of the map. Klay Thompson has already played what will be regarded as the best single game performance by an NBA player this season in his perfect third quarter against Sacramento in late January. Steph Curry is a human heat-check and the positionless Draymond Green has provided an entertaining mix of stifling defense, heart and a much improved shooting stroke.
Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks have supplanted the Spurs as the team to watch because of their systemic prowess. If you want to watch a player isolate and break down a defender, this isn’t the team for you. If you are interested in five players whirling in perfect cohesion, passing up good shots to get great shots, then hop on the Hawks wagon.
Every game counts:
Teams at the bottom half of either conference will see every game in the coming months as a must-win in order to secure a playoff berth.
The rest out west: race for the eighth seed. The Spurs sit semi-comfortably in the seventh seed, five and a half games above the Phoenix Suns. At 29-25 the Suns sit above the Oklahoma City Thunder by a single game in the win column. With stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant healthy, expect the Thunder to steal the spot from Phoenix.
The Suns are facing internal turmoil with point guard Goran Dragic demanding a trade with the intention of moving away from Arizona’s point guard logjam. Recent pickup Brandan Wright has yet to gel with his new team which continues to solidify its big man rotation.
Oklahoma City has its fair share of issues. Backup point guard Reggie Jackson has expressed interest in being traded though the team has the right to match any offer he receives in the offseason. The Thunder have once again failed to put together a decent supporting cast around its transcendent stars. With that said, both of these teams will be doing all out to ensure that they see the postseason. There are no meaningless games left for these two teams.
Must see players:
James Harden, Houston Rockets: It doesn’t seem like anyone has noticed that Dwight Howard has missed 21 games this year. The Rockets are tied with Portland for the third best record in the Western Conference due almost entirely to Harden’s leap as one of the top players in the league. Harden leads the league in points per game and chips in 6.8 assists and two steals a game.
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors: No one wants to win as much as Kyle Lowry. He counters every argument that professional athletes lose an edge once they get their first paycheck. He hustles in blowouts, dives for loose balls against all common sense. The Toronto alpha dog is one of the most exciting players in the league, attacking the rim or pulling up for a three pointer, he always seems to want to stick it to the other team.
Teams on the rise:
Most of the teams and players discussed to this point are already on the casual fan’s radar. Lets dive into lesser known gems.
It’s a good time to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan. The team has already doubled its win total from last year and is only three and a half games back from the third spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. While their talent level doesn’t match up with the cream of the Eastern Conference on paper, they have been playing well under Head Coach Jason Kidd. At the start of the year the Bucks appeared to be a developing team with too many players and not enough minutes to allocate to their development. Injuries to first round pick Jabari Parker, backup point guard Kendall Marshall and the Larry Sanders’ recent buyout now has the team in a next man up scenario.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s leap has been fun to watch; the long-limbed “Greek Freak” hounds opposing ball handlers while demonstrating his ability to pick up his dribble near the three point line and take a couple huge steps to the cup. Late season pickup Kenyon Martin has provided the toughness necessary for the team to believe they can beat anyone and everyone appears to know their roles on the team; they will be someone top teams will look to avoid in the first round of the postseason.
How to watch the games you want to watch:
Certain games are broadcast nationally and the Bulls are broadcast locally. For every other game, there are a ton of online streaming sites that will rip streams that you can watch on your laptop. I often look to the NBA streams subreddit for basketball streaming sites.
You’ll notice that if you get a stream from an English station most of the ads will be for betting establishments. Watching ads like these lends some kind of insight, however superficial, to Commissioner Adam Silver’s recent statement of support for the legalization of sports betting in the United States. More people betting means more people invested and watching the games.
Angry, sad, happy or neutral? Watch basketball. It is the epitome of grace, an explosive display of the human form striving towards a defined goal.