Picking this week’s NBA risers and fallers made for some tough decisions. Overall, Week 7 didn’t produce too many surprises. The Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers were predictably dominant and the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans were bad once again.
The rest of the league was somewhat balanced. Even so, we’ll talk about a few teams that surprised and a few that disappointed this week.
NBA Week 7 Teams On The Up
Los Angeles Clippers (20-8, No. 2 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 4-1)
The Clippers ruined a potentially undefeated record this week with a disappointing three-point loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. However, considering Kawhi Leonard sat out and that they played five games in the week, all on the road, with two back-to-backs, you have to cut them some slack.
Los Angeles put together a couple of really impressive victories during the week, including road wins over the Indiana Pacers by 11 points and by the Toronto Raptors by 20 points.
Leonard had struggled with his shooting efficiency in recent weeks but he averaged 33 points on great percentages this week. In the victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, he and fellow superstar Paul George combined for 88 points.
Now that both stars seem to be finding some consistency, I remain very optimistic in the Clippers’ NBA Finals aspirations.
Philadelphia 76ers (20-7, No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 4-0)
None of the Sixers’ wins this week were resounding blowouts, but they did get wins against fellow league powerhouses Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets. Those victories allowed Philly to move up into possession of the NBA’s third-best and the East’s second-best record.
Who’s responsible? The Sixers’ team defense is really finding its potential. Tobias Harris has been the player the team needs him to be to justify his $35 million price tag. Harris has cracked 20 points in seven of his past eight games and is playing unexpectedly solid defense.
Let’s hope big man Al Horford’s knee injury isn’t going to affect him too much. I want to see what this team can do if it has all of its regulars healthy and gaining chemistry for long stretches of time.
Chicago Bulls (10-18, No. 11 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 2-3)
This Bulls’ season has been somewhat disappointing overall. On the surface, this week wasn’t that great either, as the team moved from 8-15 to 10-18. That may not seem like a big deal, but the team showed some heart in a packed five-game week at various points.
Aside from a complete stinker on Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets in which the Bulls put up just 73 points, the team was actually quite solid. The squad went into Miami and just barely lost to a very good Heat team in overtime. The very next night, they lost by one point against a top Toronto Raptors team. In the Bulls’ two wins, they dominated the Atlanta Hawks by 34 points and beat the NBA title-contending Los Angeles Clippers on the second night of a back-to-back.
Maybe the Bulls are best suited to another season of losing and a high draft pick, maybe they’re not. Regardless, they showed some competitiveness that is an encouraging sign for the long run.
NBA Week 7 Squads Going Down
Minnesota Timberwolves (10-15, No. 10 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 0-4)
The Timberwolves’ season has turned from a smashing success to a somewhat disappointing one in the past two weeks, with the Wolves losing seven consecutive games. Two of their Wolves’ fatal flaws are their lack of a formidable defensive presence outside of Robert Covington and poor outside shooting from perimeter players.
Minnesota players whose primary position is point guard, shooting guard or small forward are shooting a combined 139-of-492 from three-point range this season (28.2 percent).
Also, in this seven-game losing streak, the Wolves’ solid defense from the beginning of the season has completely collapsed. Opponents have compiled a true-shooting percentage of 62.7 against them in that stretch.
With the slide, though, Minnesota is still very much in contention for a Western Conference playoff berth due to the conference’s lack of depth after six teams. The squad will need to figure out some of its issues, though.
Washington Wizards (7-17, No. 12 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-3)
The Wizards hinted at the possibility of a playoff season with a respectable 6-10 start in which it lost several coin-flip games. Since then, they have lost seven out of eight games and four contests in a row.
Washington’s league-worst defense continues to be consistently wretched. Opponents have scored at least 112 points against them in 18 straight games. The team has to pray for scorching hot outside shooting to claw out wins.
Recently, Wizards star Bradley Beal has shown the effects of being a potentially overworked No. 1 option. Beal has shot 32.6 percent from the field and 28.2 percent from three-point range with 4.8 turnovers per game in his last five contests.
Dallas Mavericks (17-8, No. 3 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 1-2)
The Mavericks didn’t have a terrible week on paper, as they only had one real stinker in losing to the Sacramento Kings at home. Their other loss was in overtime at home against the Miami Heat with Luka Doncic getting injured just two minutes into the game.
It’s Doncic’s prognosis that has me convinced the Mavericks should be in this spot. He was diagnosed with a moderate ankle sprain, which may not keep him out much. However, he could be affected on the floor for a while after he returns.
This Mavericks squad is so dependent on Doncic that I don’t see them winning too many games without him. With four consecutive games against the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors this week, I feel even more confident saying that.