March 6, 2013 10:16 AM by Dick Pepperfield
Joakim Noah vs. PHI: 23 points (8-12 FG), 21 rebounds (8 offensive), 11 blocks, 3 steals, W
Steph Curry vs. NY: 54 points (11-13 3FG), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, L
LeBron James vs. SAC: 40 points, 8 rebounds, 16 assists (2 TO), W
Story Lines to Watch Going Into the Playoffs:
Tony Parker’s Injury: The NBA’s best record is going to be put to the test over the next 4 weeks. Arguably the 3rd man in the MVP race, Tony Parker has been great this year. Parker has been averaging 21 and 7 with a stupid good PER of 24. His productivity will be impossible to replace, as well as his playmaking, but the Spurs are no strangers to injuries and should still expect to play good ball. They might lose the top seed to the Thunder but if the Lakers sneak their way into the 8 seed that might not be the worst outcome.
MVP Race: LeBron is slowing pulling away from Kevin Durant with an unreal stretch of high efficiency scoring. It helps that the Heat are on a 14 game winning streak. They’ll run away with the East and when it’s all said and done it will be a much wider gap between the two than it’s been all season. Durant is the favorite to win top scorer (though Carmelo is keeping it close), and he’ll have one of the best non-MVP seasons in years.
West Playoff Race: What’s the difference between the 8 and 9 seed in the East you ask? 6.5 games. That’s the difference between the 1 and 4 seeds in the West. ALSO the difference between 5 and 8 seed. Meaning anyone who can tell you how the final standings will look is smarter than I am. Lakers are still looking good to eek into the playoffs, but their 1-8 record against the top-4 teams in the West doesn’t bode well for their chances to go much further. The Rockets are continuing to stash valuable assets but their immediate future is just as bright, boasting the league’s best offense. Nobody is playing especially inspiring basketball right now in the West, but I expect almost everything to stay the same with the exception of Utah falling out of the race and the Lakers somehow sneaking in.