OK, before we get into the updated standings, I have a few thoughts off top on the Denver Nuggets. I’ve written about their upcoming easy schedule and how imperative it is for them to take advantage if they’re going to finally be a real big boy playoff team again. Shockingly, they didn’t listen to me. I was embarrassed for them watching last night’s disastrous loss to the 20-win Mavericks. Sure it was on the road, but they had two days rest after a very impressive win in Cleveland. And again, it was the Mavericks, who are in free-fall both on and off the court. The vibe I got was that the Nugs thought just showing up would be enough to get an easy win before a home rematch with the Cavs tonight. It’s easy to get on the coach in these situations – don’t worry, I will – but this is the NBA. It starts and ends with the players, namely the stars. Nikola Jokic is one of my favorite players and a true inspiration to all flat-footed, doughy big men. But he stunk last night, and his disappearing act has happened way too often this season. Either he’s not ready to carry his own team or maybe he loses interest if things don’t go his way early. He’s young and has a lot of weight on his shoulders. Regardless, as the future of the team,, his on-court effort or lack thereof is entirely his responsibility. Now, when he’s off the court there’s not much he can do for his team, which brings us to coach Michael Malone. What the hell was he doing last night? He benched Jokic for the entire fourth quarter, even as the lineup he did roll out there clanked threes, missed free throws and played lazy defense. It reeked of a desperate motivational tactic, which there just honestly isn’t time for at this point. You’re not a mid-major college coach, Malone, nor are you Phil Jackson. Play your best player when every game is basically a must-win. I can’t believe I have to say that.
Anyway, there were other playoff hopefuls in action last night. Anthony Davis had me holding my breath after taking a hip check from DeAndre Jordan. He left the game, got x-rayed and came back to finish off a dominant 41 point, 13 rebound performance in another Pelicans win. I have no more words for the Brow at this point. The Clippers missed a golden opportunity to draw even with the Nuggets in the standings. The Rockets went into OKC and throttled the Thunder for their 16th straight win. They are now 33-1 with James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela in the lineup. I’m starting to think the Warriors should be worried. The Blazers kept rolling by dispatching the woeful Knicks and Steph Curry led the Dubs to an easy win over the Nets.
Now for a look at the standings prior to tonight’s action:
One more Nuggets note: as LeBron comes to town tonight seeking revenge, look how close they are to falling to 10th. Of course they’re only 3.5 back of the 3-seed as well. Such is life in this year’s West.
Tonight’s relevant games:
Rockets @ Bucks – Normally I’d say this looks like a schedule loss for Houston. Back-to-back road games against playoff teams is tough but the Rockets don’t lose anymore. Plus, the Bucks have been sliding. I’ve learned my lesson and will be picking Houston until they lose again. Rockets 118, Bucks 111.
Cavaliers @ Nuggets – Look for a re-engaged Nuggets team to take down Cleveland for the second time in a week. I know, it makes no sense. But this is 2018 – not much does. Nuggets 108, Cavs 101.
Jazz @ Pacers – A low-key great game tonight. I’ll admit I haven’t seen much of Indiana this year but they’re forcing me to take notice. Winners of three straight and seven of their last ten, the 4th-seeded (!) Pacers keep it rolling tonight. Pacers 96, Jazz 87.
Pelicans @ Kings – Congratulations to New Orleans on their impending 10-game winning streak. Pels 120, Kings 97.
Picks record since March 5: 4-4