With the NBA All-Star weekend coming up, this seemed like a good time to share some thoughts now that we're a little past halfway through the season. I specifically want to talk about a couple of stories that I don't think are getting enough press.
Minnesota Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio
Minnesota is an astounding 1-12 in games decided by 4 points or less. There was some mention of this streak when it got to 0-11, but people seem to have forgotten about it once the Wolves won their first close game. I believe the biggest reason for the Wolves' poor performance in close games is Ricky Rubio's poor decision-making. He's their best ball handler, so the ball is almost always in his hands to start possessions late in the fourth quarter. But while he is a tremendously skilled passer, his game management skills leave a lot to be desired. He reminds me a lot of Jason Williams (aka White Chocolate).
Now, Rubio is young and decision making tends to improve with time. Many forget that there was a time when Tony Parker was frequently benched in fourth quarters. Even the aforementioned Jason Williams became a valuable piece of a championship team later in his career. But it's also looking less and less likely that Kevin Love will continue to wait for Rubio to develop. While management picked up Rubio's 2014-15 option, the fans have to be worried about a future Wolves team without Love and with Rubio on a max contract extension.
Can the San Antonio Spurs turn it on before the playoffs?
While the Spurs currently have the 2nd best record in the West and the 4th best record overall, one can't help but be worried about the fact that they haven't been able to beat a single top tier team. San Antonio has already lost to Houston three times, and their only win against the other top 6 teams in the league was a home win against a Clippers team without Chris Paul. It's often been said that a veteran team just needs to get hot in time for the playoffs, but only two games separate the 2nd and 5th seeds in the West right now. Given their performance against the other top teams, it wouldn't surprise me if the Spurs don't end up with home court for the playoffs, or get upset in the first round even if they do.
Team likely to make a run in the second half
I really like the Golden State Warriors to sneak into the upper half in the West and maybe even go deep into the playoffs. They currently have the 4th best point differential in the West, despite having played the most road games and the fewest games against the Eastern conference among the playoff teams in the West. They are also one of only 4 teams in the NBA to average over 100ppg on offense and under 100ppg on defense. Their ability to play lower scoring, defense oriented games make them a dangerous team in the playoffs when the pace is often slower. I think they are definitely a team to keep an eye on after the all star break.