As the NBA season winds down, the playoff races are tightening up. Teams at the top are scrambling for seeding while teams in the middle fight for their playoff lives (and teams at the bottom lay down for more ping pong balls in the lottery).

Here's this past week's NBA recap.

[tps_title]Spurs Continue To Show They're the Best in the West[/tps_title]

tony parker march 2014

The consistently under-the-radar San Antonio Spurs have recently been doing something that demands attention. They are currently on a 13-game winning streak, the longest such streak in the NBA this season.

The streak, coupled with Oklahoma City’s 8-4 mark over the same stretch, has pushed San Antonio’s lead atop the Western Conference to a full six games.

The Spurs have faced five playoff-contending teams during the streak but have dispatched them and all, including the defending champion Heat.

Gregg Popovich has been able to get his big three of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan the rest they need for the playoffs. This is more true this season than in the past, mostly because of the stellar bench play the Spurs have gotten from the likes of Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli and Boris Diaw.

A good show of the depth of the Spurs roster is that they have ten players averaging north of 19 minutes a game over the last month. No other team in the Western Conference playoff race can say that.

With the health of the team getting better for the most part (I’m looking at you Ginobili), the Spurs might just be peaking as a team. Whether they can extend this peak into the playoffs and earn a fifth championship for the franchise remains to be seen.

[tps_title]A Mixed Up Week for the Thunder[/tps_title]

kevin durant march 2014

The Oklahoma City Thunder are a mixed bag as of late. On the one hand, their MVP-contending forward is reaching new heights. On the other, their All-Star point guard is still not healthy and they have gone 8-6 since the all-star break.

Let’s see the glass as half full first. Kevin Durant is the frontrunner for MVP and is currently on a streak not seen since the days of Michael Jordan.

Durant is currently in the midst of a 34-game streak where he has scored 25 points or more. His streak is the longest of its kind since Jordan did it in 40 straight games during the 1986-87 season.

Additionally, Durant just dropped 51 in Toronto as the Thunder topped the Raptors in three overtimes. The Thunder have a record of 24-10 in the games where Durant has been streaking.

For the glass half empty view, let’s examine the health of Russell Westbrook. Westbrook left the game against the Raptors on Friday after injuring his knee while colliding with the human pinball that is Kyle Lowry.

Westbrook underwent an MRI on the knee, the very same one that has endured three surgeries in the last year, but the results were negative. Westbrook will continue to sit out one game in a set of back-to-backs and will see his minutes limited.

Similar to their record during Durant’s streak, the Thunder have a record of 23-9 when Westbrook sits out. This may cause some to say that the Thunder don’t really need Westbrook, but that is straight up crazy.

Durant and the rest of the Thunder know that their chance at a championship lie in the health of Russell Westbrook. One needs only to look at the Thunder’s struggles in the playoffs last year, specifically against the Memphis Grizzlies, as proof of that.

[tps_title]Loss to Cavs May Hurt the Knicks[/tps_title]

On Sunday, the New York Knicks saw their eight-game winning streak snapped in a home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The loss was not devastating on it’s own.

Sure, continuing the streak would have been nice, but it's the fact that it came at the hands of the Cavs and before a five-game Western Conference road trip.

The Cavs now sit one-and-a-half games behind the Knicks in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the East. The Knicks blew a perfectly good opportunity to cut their deficit to the Atlanta Hawks, who also lost on Sunday night. As it stands, the Knicks remain three games out of the final spot.

The Knicks head to the west coast for a set of five games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz.

With only two games against playoff-caliber competition, the schedule does not look that bad on this road trip. However, once they return to the east coast the Knicks then close out the season against 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 seeds in their conference.

They surely have work to do if they hope to be able to play the top seed in the East in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe entering the lottery would — oh wait, they don’t have any picks this year.

Let’s just stop here before we further enrage the Knicks fans.

[tps_title]Nets In Contention For East's No. 3 Seed[/tps_title]

paul pierce nets march 2014

The Nets have gone streaking as well. Brooklyn has a record of 12-3 in the last 15 games and has climbed the Eastern Conference standings. It is no coincidence that this run has corresponded to an uptick in the Nets scoring.

The Nets have scored more than 100 points 34 times this season, with 11 of those instances have been since the All-Star break.

Part of the increased scoring can be attributed to Marcus Thornton, who has provided an offensive spark since coming over from the Kings. Miles Plumlee, Shawn Livingston and even Joe Johnson have all seen a three-point uptick in their points-per-game average over the last two weeks as well.

Things finally seem to be clicking for the much maligned franchise, and at a good time too. The Nets are a mere one-and-a-half games behind Toronto for the third seed in the East. Unfortunately, the Nets only have one game remaining against a team with a better record than theirs in the East, and that team is the Miami Heat.

And speaking of the Heat...

[tps_title]Miami Heat's Struggles Continue[/tps_title]

lebron james chris bosh heat march 2014

LeBron James is fed up and he isn’t the only one. After the Heat’s loss to Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans, both James and teammate Chris Bosh sounded off about their teammates collective lack of desire on the court.

We suck,” Bosh said. “We need to turn it around. There’s no passion. There’s nothing.”

James added, “It’s too many excuses. Everything is an excuse. We do something wrong, it’s an excuse. We don’t get a stop, it’s an excuse. We turn the ball over, it’s an excuse,” James said. “What we’re doing right now ain’t good enough.”

To put these quotes in context, the Heat had just suffered their seventh loss in the last 11 games and been dominated by one of the dominant young big men in the game in Anthony Davis. The Heat were also without Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden for the game, a condition this team should be quite accustomed to by now.

Desperation seems to be setting in for Miami.

Said coach Erik Spoelstra: "Yes, our locker room is angry. We're not accustomed to this type of play, these type of standards, particularly on the defensive end, and if we want to change, we have to look inward."

Miami has work to do in order to get back on track. They still have two games remaining against the Pacers and the No. 1 seed in the East is still up for grabs.


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