By Andy Roth
New York, NY (Sports Network) -
The Knicks have a knack for losing lately and the Jazz are out of tune. Here
are those stories and more in my latest take on the NBA:
NEW YORK KNICKS
I warned Knicks fans not to get too giddy after their team got off to a 15-9
start because it was accomplished with the help of a very soft schedule. Since
the competition has gotten a lot tougher, the losses have come with more
frequency. They've dropped six in a row and have gone 7-12 during a stretch in
which they have played 13 of the 19 games against teams with winning records.
While they've feasted off a lot of bad teams this season, they also have had
some losses to some of the worst ones in the league, including the Cleveland
Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves. As a matter of fact,
the Cavs' only win in their last 27 games came against New York.
The Knicks' inability to defend and rebound will keep them in the middle of the
pack in the NBA. They are giving up 106.3 ppg, ranking them 27th, and their
rebound differential (-3.9 per game) is the third-worst in the league. Their
problems off the boards have been accentuated during their six-game losing
streak as they've been out rebounded by a whopping 9.5 per game. In their most
recent loss Saturday in Oklahoma City, the Thunder had a 57-40 advantage on the
glass, including 22 offensive rebounds.
Utah is playing its worst basketball of the season, having dropped the first
four games of its five-game road trip, and generally looking awful doing it. A
team has to play really poorly to lose consecutive games to the Washington
Wizards and New Jersey Nets, but the Jazz did just that to start the trip. That
wasn't enough of a wake-up call as they were blown out by 24 points by the
Boston Celtics and lost by 11 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The good news is that the trip ends Tuesday, but the bad news is they'll have
to try to end the streak against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Magic are on a major roll since the big roster shakeup in mid-December.
They are not just beating teams, but are beating up and dominating them. After
losing the first two games following the two trades, the Magic have racked up a
13-3 record, with an average margin of victory of 14.3 points. Even in the
three losses they played extremely competitive games, losing by three in
overtime at New Orleans, by one at the Oklahoma City Thunder and by three in
Orlando's offensive struggles are a distant memory since the trades, and center
Dwight Howard may have been the biggest beneficiary. Over the last 16 games,
Howard is averaging 22.7 points, but the stat that really stands out is a
phenomenal 62-percent shooting from the field.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
San Antonio's eight-game winning streak ended Saturday in New Orleans as the
Spurs lost to the Hornets on a back-to-back situation (they beat the Knicks on
Friday), but they still own the league's best record at 37-7. A player who
doesn't get much notice, but has certainly been a factor in the Spurs' success
is second-year power forward DeJuan Blair.
He's getting better as the season progresses and has had a major impact on some
recent wins by putting up three double-doubles. Blair had 18 points and 13
rebounds against both the Dallas Mavericks and Knicks, and had 22 points and 11
rebounds versus the Toronto Raptors.
For a player with so much bulk (6-foot-7, 270 pounds), he has incredibly quick
feet and hands, and has a knack for finishing around the basket. "I love
playing pick-and-roll with him," teammate Tony Parker said. "He's running to
the basket and his timing is so great."
A lot of teams were scared off by Blair in the 2009 draft because he didn't
have an ACL in either knee. The Spurs were able to grab the former University
of Pittsburgh star with the seventh pick of the second round and have to feel
very fortunate that he fell into their lap.
The Cavs have lost 16 straight games and their best shot to break the streak
and possibly get their lone win this month will be Monday night at New Jersey.
The Nets are one of only six teams in the league with a losing home record
If the Cavs fail to win this game, we could very easily see the streak reach 21
by the end of the month, as they have to play Boston, Orlando and the Miami
Heat on the road and have a home game against the Denver Nuggets.
Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and
was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered
many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA
Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.