NBA News & Form for Week 8: Pacers on Cloud Nine, Sixers at Sevens

Domantas SabonisIf the NBA regular season were broken into three trimesters, the first one would be done already. How is your favorite team doing?

Even if you don’t have a favorite team, this is a great season to watch. We have an intense, five-team battle for the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed and a four-team competition for the No. 2 seed in the West. Even some of the league’s worst teams bring entertainment value with the amount of talent they have on their rosters.

Keeping in mind how teams have played much of the season, let’s highlight some big movers from the past seven days, Week 8 of the NBA.

NBA Week 8 Risers

Indiana Pacers (20-9, No. 5 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 3-0)

When one key guy is out or doesn’t play well, two or three teammates pick it up. That seems to be the focus for the Pacers this year, who are amazingly at a 20-9 record with All-Star guard Victor Oladipo not playing a single minute.

Indiana doesn’t often blow its opponents out of the water, but its balance is allowing it to consistently churn out getting performances. Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are having career years and are in the All-Star discussion, while the rest of the main rotation is having at least a good season by their standards.

Center Myles Turner is the only main disappointment this season, but even he is coming around on the offensive end. He is at 15.7 points per game on a 63 true-shooting percentage in his last three contests.

Portland Trail Blazers (13-16, No. 8 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 3-0)

The Blazers didn’t play a tough schedule this week, as their three opponents currently possess records of 11-17, 6-24 and 12-17, respectively. However, wins are wins in the NBA, and the Blazers have now leapfrogged the Sacramento Kings for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

Is Portland for real? It depends on what you mean by that. The squad has a very formidable top three in Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Hassan Whiteside. Lillard and McCollum both averaged more than 30 points this week and Whiteside put up 12 points, 18 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. The depth of the roster is very questionable, to say the least.

All that to say, the Blazers are a likely playoff team now that McCollum has bounced back from an early-season slump and now that their three stars are fitting in together.

Boston Celtics (19-7, No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 2-0)

Are you serious, Jaylen Brown? The Celtics’ fourth-year wing is finally blossoming into the star that he has hinted at being for the past few years. Brown is putting up 22.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game on a shooting slash of 54.2/40.4/81.8 in the month of December and doing a great job of making up for the production lost when Gordon Hayward injured his foot last month.

The Celtics earn their spot here for winning both of their games this week despite a long list of player injuries and their two losses to wrap up last week.

Aside from Brown, this team is thriving on having clear roles and good on-court chemistry. Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum (along with Brown) are the scorers and everyone else seems to be completely fine focusing on another area. Enes Kanter, in particular, is shoring up a big weakness from last year with his average of 13.3 rebounds in just 22.3 minutes per game in his last three contests.

NBA Week 8 Fallers

Philadelphia 76ers (20-10, No. 6 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-3)

Things change so quickly in the NBA. Last week, the 76ers found themselves as big risers on the heels of a five-game winning streak that saw them beat the Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics.

This week, Philly lost all three of its games. The worst loss was a 117-98 home loss against the Dallas Mavericks, who were without Luka Doncic. The Sixers have now dropped to 16th in offensive rating after a week full of offensive no-shows.

There are definitely some major fit issues with the Sixers’ offense that head coach Brett Brown must figure out. Point guard Ben Simmons is extremely tough to contain in transition, but he is an offensive liability in a half-court setting due to his inability and unwillingness to shoot outside the paint. The problem is that most of Philly’s roster, especially superstar center Joel Embiid, is full of bigger players who are best suited to taking their time on offense.

Detroit Pistons (11-18, No. 10 in the Eastern Conference, Past week record: 0-3)

I’m sorry, Pistons fans. I hate to say it, but your team might have the bleakest future of any team in the NBA. The squad is capped out and relying on lots of players who are theoretically in the prime years of their careers but the team is still 11-18.

The saddest thing for the Pistons is that Blake Griffin’s knee injuries have really sapped his effectiveness this year. Last season was arguably the best campaign of his career, but this year he is averaging major career lows in points (16.3), rebounds (4.4) and true-shooting percentage (49.9). He is due to be making an average of more than $36 million per year through the 2021-22 season.

The focus of the rest of the year should be exploring trade options and attempting to develop young pieces such as Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, Christian Wood and Svi Mykhailiuk.

Phoenix Suns (11-17, No. 11 in the Western Conference, Past week record: 0-3)

The Suns’ scalding start to the season is definitely in the rear view mirror now. Phoenix has lost five games in a row and 15 of its last 21 contests. Both the offense and defense have regressed to the mean and some unsustainable shooting from Devin Booker and Aron Baynes has evened out now.

The good news for the Suns is that they are still a young team and that stud 21-year-old center DeAndre Ayton has finished his 25-game suspension now. I’d still like to see Phoenix build a bit stronger of a future core around Booker and Ayton before this team takes the next step in the West.

For the rest of the season, though, expect Phoenix to have some good moments and some bad moments. The team has enough solid veterans and quality youth to avoid being one of the worst teams in the NBA.