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The Pulse of the NBA


By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor


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    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 JAZZ

    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.

    ORLANDO MAGIC

    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 Boston.

    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.

    CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

    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 (9-11).

    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.


    Copyright 2010


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