What’s trending this week in the NBA: Wild West showdowns, tank jobs and three-point records
A look at what’s trending this week in the NBA:
12 days, 7 spots, 5 teams
A wild playoff race leaves little room for error with seven teams separated by three games as they pursue the Western Conference’s final five playoff spots.
Every day can bring a significant shift, starting Sunday with four 33-loss teams squaring off in two games — Utah (43-33) at Minnesota (44-33) and Oklahoma City (44-33) at New Orleans (43-33).
San Antonio (44-32) is in the mix after recovering from a 3-11 tailspin that put the Spurs’ 20-year streak of playoff appearances in peril. Minnesota is treading water at 8-7 since a knee injury sidelined Jimmy Butler, who began contact drills last week. With Rudy Gobert back, a 21-2 stretch vaulted Utah into the jumble. Other than last week’s three-game slide, Anthony Davis has put New Orleans in the hunt despite DeMarcus Cousins’ absence.
That has made it difficult for the Clippers (41-35) or Denver (41-35) to catch any team, and the remaining schedule will not help. The Clippers and Nuggets face more .500-plus opponents (five each among their six remaining games) than any of the teams they are trying to jump but also have more home games (Clippers five, Nuggets four) than any of them.
The Clippers do not own a head-to-head tiebreaker but could tie the season series with New Orleans at home April 9 and have a better conference record for the second tiebreaker. Denver went 3-1 against Oklahoma City and 2-1 against New Orleans and currently holds the division record tiebreaker against Utah after their series split.
On the flip side, the race for the most draft lottery balls is becoming more clear with Phoenix posting the franchise’s worst non-inaugural season record for the third consecutive year.
The Suns have lost 29 of their last 31 games.
The Hawks have lost 11 of their last 12 games.
The Grizzlies have lost 24 of their last 27 games.
The NBA set the single-season record for three-pointers made for a sixth consecutive season, passing the mark Friday night to reach 23,821. On a pace that is more than 8% ahead of last season, the NBA probably will hit the 25,000 mark for made three-pointers by season’s end.
Most teams, maybe even two-thirds of them, will set franchise records for made three-pointers.
In addition to increased attempts, accuracy is improving too. The NBA probably will make more than 36% of its three-point shots this season for the first time since 2008-09, when teams attempted nearly 11 fewer three-pointers per game (29 vs. 18).
Sunday in San Antonio, Houston needs to make just five long-range shots to break the NBA team record for three-pointers made in a season that it set last year (1,181). The Rockets also have improved their three-point accuracy from 35.7% last season to 36.5% this season.
The NBA had 57 players make 100 or more three-pointers last season; there already are 95 this season with another dozen needing to make 10 or fewer to reach the milestone.
— New Orleans became the second team in NBA history to have four players post triple-doubles in a season on Tuesday, when Jrue Holiday joined Davis, Cousins and Rajon Rondo. The previous team was the 1973-74 Lakers with Elmore Smith, Connie Hawkins, Jerry West and Jim Price.
— Davis and Cleveland’s LeBron James each have 22 games of at least 40 points and 10 rebounds, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
— Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, 22, became the third-youngest player behind Rick Barry and Shaquille O’Neal to post a game of at least 50 points and 15 rebounds when he finished with 56 points and 15 rebounds on Wednesday against Atlanta.
— Philadelphia has a nine-game winning streak for the first time since the 2002-03 season. The 76ers have won seven games in a row by double digits. Golden State and Houston are the only other teams to have that long of a double-digit winning streak this season.
Oklahoma City at New Orleans
Sunday at 3 p.m. PDT. TV: NBATV.
The Pelicans already clinched the head-to-head series against the Thunder for any potential tiebreaker, but Oklahoma City (44-33) could take a two-win lead on New Orleans (43-33) with a road win here. The Thunder and the Pelicans enter today’s duel of UCLA point guards (Russell Westbrook vs. Holiday) on three-game slides with the last four Oklahoma City losses coming by a total of nine points. With a win Sunday, New Orleans has a chance to start a run because it plays the West’s worst teams, Phoenix and Memphis, next after two days off.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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