Most NBA teams have only about 20 games left in the regular season. For fans of the league, it’s definitely going to be an entertaining final six weeks.
Outside of the No. 1 seeds in each conference (the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers) seeding battles are tight for each of the playoff spots.
This week, we are focusing on the results from the past eight nights of NBA action. Which squads have been pleasantly surprising? Which ones have been disappointing? Let’s focus on three teams from each category.
Teams On A High In NBA Week 19
Memphis Grizzlies (32-32, No. 8 in Western Conference, Past week record: 4-1)
Last week, the Grizzlies made the “fallers” list on the heels of a five-game losing streak. The absences of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke in the frontcourt appeared to be really hurting the team.
All Memphis did to respond to that skid was win four of its next five contests, including a 17-point victory over the Los Angeles Lakers and three other victories by an average of 31.7 points. Memphis allowed an average of 95.4 points per game in its five games this week.
The Grizzlies are showing that their team is more than just Ja Morant and its two young, injured forwards. The team is actually quite deep, with guys like Jonas Valanciunas, Tyus Jones, Kyle Anderson, Gorgui Dieng, De’Anthony Melton and Josh Jackson all contributing positively right now.
Right now, Grizzlies fans couldn’t be much happier with how things are turning out this season. If the role players continue playing well once Jackson and Clarke return, Memphis might be a tougher out in Round 1 of the playoffs than people expect.
Golden State Warriors (15-49, No. 15 in Western Conference, Past week record: 3-2)
Welcome back, Stephen Curry! Curry played for the first time in more than four months on Thursday, scoring 23 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing seven assists in just 27 minutes. The Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors, but the game was very tightly contested.
Overall, though, Golden State has three wins in its last five games. The team is getting important contributions from relatively unknown guys like Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damion Lee and Mychal Mulder. Three players generally perceived as draft busts, Andrew Wiggins, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, are also showing that their games may have extra dimensions, as well.
While this is essentially a lost season for the Warriors, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson should be getting excited about what their teammates can do to support them next season.
LA Clippers (43-19, No. 2 in Western Conference, Past week record: 3-0)
The Clippers’ winning streak has reached six games and five of those are against teams .500 or better. All but one of those victories was by at least 10 points, and the one that wasn’t was due to a 39-point eruption from Philadelphia 76ers guard Shake Milton.
Probably the most notable win in the stretch was a dominant road victory over the Houston Rockets. The Rockets’ super-small-ball approach over the past five weeks has mostly worked, but Los Angeles proved that it has a center (Ivica Zubac) that can exploit smaller lineups. The Clippers also have a versatile roster that can play a great brand of small ball itself when the situation calls for it.
Personally, I’m feeling better about picking the Clippers as my NBA Finals winner prior to this season. A big matinee showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday will definitely be one to watch as both teams look to earn a statement win.
NBA Week 19 Teams In A Dip
Houston Rockets (39-23, No. 5 in Western Conference, Past week record: 1-3)
Well, it is back to the fallers list for the Rockets after a week on the risers list. Houston’s small-ball experiment has worked in many different games, but the last three games, all losses, have shown that it is nowhere near a perfect approach.
Houston got pounded on the boards by a margin of 65-34 in a loss against the lowly New York Knicks, couldn’t hit any of its outside shots against the Los Angeles Clippers and then coughed up the ball 20 times against the Charlotte Hornets.
The Rockets have a very good half-court defense due to their versatility and it is nice to have two elite scoring guards in James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Will the team’s poor rebounding and lack of a consistent inside scorer outside of Westbrook be a deal-breaker for it in the postseason?
Boston Celtics (42-20, No. 3 in Eastern Conference, Past week record: 1-3)
To be honest, the Celtics’ four losses in their last seven games aren’t that surprising. Boston’s top four scorers (Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward) have all been in and out of the lineup and you can’t fault the team for struggling to find chemistry with a constantly changing rotation.
Of course, none of that matters to Celtics glue guy Marcus Smart, who criticized the team’s effort in its latest loss against the Utah Jazz. He did have a point.
What worries me most about the Celtics is that they might not have enough time to find synergy as a team before the playoffs. Another issue is the team’s lack of a reliable inside scoring threat. The team can’t afford to have any major injuries come playoff time if it plans to make a run for the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee Bucks (53-10, No. 1 in Eastern Conference, Past week record: 2-2)
The Bucks are currently on a stretch of two losses in three games. For most teams, that’s not a huge concern, but for Milwaukee, it’s the first time that has happened since October. The Bucks have been so consistent this season that any minor slip-ups become very pronounced.
Milwaukee’s problems this week definitely came on the offensive end. The Bucks mustered an average of just 98 points per game in losses to the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, as the team couldn’t hit hardly any of its threes and also had trouble getting to the free-throw line consistently. We still need to see this Bucks team show in the playoffs that this squad is different from the one that collapsed in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
The concern moving forward for Milwaukee is the condition of MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s left knee. The Greek Freak landed awkwardly on a drive in the Lakers loss, and he is scheduled to get a precautionary MRI on the knee.