The Pulse of the NBA - Week 7

By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor

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    New York, NY (Sports Network) - We have streaks (good and bad), championship contenders and pretenders, plus a whole lot more in my latest take on the NBA.


    All seems to be well in South Beach with the Heat riding an eight-game winning streak, but I'm not ready to say all of their ills have been cured. Only two of the victories came against teams with winning records, as they beat the Jazz in Utah and the Hawks without the injured Joe Johnson. The current combined records of the rest of the teams they put W's up on is a mere 42-95 (.300 winning percentage). On the upside, the Heat's defense and rebounding improved significantly during this stretch, allowing just 84.7 ppg and outrebounding their opponents by 10.2 boards per game.


    The Celts are clearly the beasts of the East and head-and-shoulders above the rest of the competition in the conference. Boston has won 10 straight and is tied with the Mavericks for the second best record in the league at 19-4. They've accomplished all this despite playing without their starting center, Kendrick Perkins, who's still rehabbing from major knee surgery. His replacement, Shaquille O'Neal, has been a perfect fit for Boston. Shaq has given the Celtics a physical presence inside, and his ability to pass the ball has enhanced an already very smooth offense. If the Celtics can stay healthy through the playoffs, I think it'll be a cake walk to their second straight appearance in the NBA finals.


    Two years removed from a loss in the NBA Finals, the Magic are now the ultimate championship pretenders. There simply isn't enough talent around Dwight Howard and Orlando is forced to play a style that doesn't win titles. Nobody on this team creates easy shots for teammates, and a majority of them are hoisted from the perimeter. The Magic are next-to-last in the NBA in assists per game (18.3) and third in three-point attempts (24 per game). That's certainly not a championship formula.


    Big Apple basketball fans are in their glory as the Knicks have put together the team's first eight-game winning streak in 16 years, while winning 13 of their last 14. New York's latest win on Sunday against the Nuggets was also one of the few this season against a quality team. Amare Stoudemire, who is very much in the early MVP discussion, set a franchise record with his eighth straight 30-point game, putting up 24 in the second half, including 10 in the final quarter. Stoudemire and point guard Raymond Felton have proved to be a dynamic combination. Felton has been outstanding during this 14-game run, averaging 20.3 points and 9.4 assists per game. As great as Stoudemire has been, and as much as Felton has raised his game, I would be remiss not to give some props for a second straight week to rookie Landry Fields. This kid is a winner and just simply knows how to play the game. How he lasted until the 39th pick in the draft is mind boggling.


    The Mavs currently have the league's longest winning streak at 12 games. The "D" in Dallas stands for defense this season, which has been the driving force behind its 19-4 mark. After giving up 99.3 points per game last season, ranking them 15th in the league, the Mavs are now allowing only 92.6, which is fifth best in the NBA.


    Things are looking uneasy in "The Big Easy", as it looks like it's free-fall time in New Orleans. The Hornets have dropped eight of their last 11, and putting the ball in the basket continues to be a major problem. It was no more evident in their loss on Sunday to the Sixers when they scored just 23 points in the first half, while shooting a laughable 14 percent from the floor. The offensive ineptitude included a span of 8:14 without a field goal. The Hornets have now failed to reach the 100-point mark in 12 straight games. I have to wonder when we'll start hearing whispers again of Chris Paul wanting out of New Orleans.


    While a number of teams have put together significant winning streaks this season, one club is in a league of its own when it comes to losing. The Clippers not only have the worst record at 5-20, but have the distinction of being the only team not to win a road game (0-10).

    It looks like the 2010 NBA draft could turn out to be one of the worst in recent memory. The only lottery selection that is playing reasonably well is the top overall pick, John Wall. The second best player at this point appears to be the previously mentioned Landry Fields. I think the word "bust" will be associated with a majority of the lottery picks, most notably Greg Monroe and Gordon Hayward.

    A source told on Sunday that impending free agent Carmelo Anthony told the Denver Nuggets he will not sign the nearly $65 million dollar, three- year contract extension he has been offered unless he's traded to the Knicks. The Nuggets would be wise to get at least Landry Fields and/or Wilson Chandler in a deal and stay away from Danilo Gallinari and Anthony Randolph.

    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.

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