When the 2017-18 Orange Roundball League season tipped-off, I had three teams in mind that could potentially dribble-drive their way to the top of the NBA’s Western Conference by season’s final breath. Those teams were the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. Currently, they just happen to occupy the No. 1 through No. 3 spots in the West’s playoff race. And in the exact same order, I’ve listed them above. I may not have surprised many of you with these picks, but these are the big boys out West. Here’s why.
The Rockets added perennial All-Star Chris Paul to their backcourt, joining forces with James “The Bearded Wonder” Harden. Some thought it wouldn’t work because Harden and Paul both like to have the orange in their palms as much as humanly possible. But the experiment has worked wonderfully well thus far. With CP3 out of the lineup due to a hampering knee injury, Houston didn’t seem to miss a beat with Mr. Harden handling the load. In fact, Harden leads the Association in scoring as Christmas approaches, averaging 31.6 points per game. C’mon folks, it has got to be the beard. . . How else can anyone explain his crossover dribbling, bucket making superpowers? Dude is straight dropping fools to the floor with his nasty handles.
Now, add Mr. Paul back to the NASA’s lineup. It’s poetry in motion personified on the offense end of the floor. The Rockets (22-4) have the best record in basketball. They’ve won 11-straight contests, and Paul is 12-0 when he’s in Houston’s lineup. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, Harden, and CP3 together is Halloween scary.
Houston will be without the services of their forward Luc Mbah a Moute for approximately two to three weeks, suffering a right shoulder injury against the Charlotte Hornets in a “W” on Wednesday night. Fortunately, an MRI revealed no notable damage to that right shoulder. Mbah a Moute has been a defensive fixture for the Rockets this season. Will Houston have a problem with his expertise on the bench for the next few weeks? With how effective the Rockets’ offense has been, that isn’t likely.
Sitting at No. 2 in the West, the mighty Warriors (22-6) have emerged victorious in seven-straight games. The Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) have both averaged 20-plus points per game. Steph leads the team with 26.3 ppg, and Klay is making nets wet around the league with 20.7 ppg of his own. Did I forget Kevin Durant? My apologies. KD happens to be averaging a ho-hum 25.7 points per contest. Yes, all three studs that make up this superstar trio are producing more than 20 per night. Is this fair to the rest of the league? Certainly not, but you can’t blame Golden State for putting these three gents together. I think you get the idea with these juggernaut Warriors. . . They’re good!
Welcome back, Kawhi “Enormous Paws” Leonard. San Antonio (19-9) had been without the uber-talented forward the entire season. Mr. Leonard had been nursing a nagging right quadriceps injury until his much-anticipated debut on Tuesday evening. Although head coach Gregg Popovich is limiting his minutes to allow for a smooth return to game action, Kawhi made the most of his against the Dallas Mavericks in a loss. In just 16 minutes on the floor, Leonard scored 13 points, added six window cleaning rebounds and had one block for good measure. He isn’t back to game shape just yet, but it won’t take long for this young pup. He’ll be skying and rattling rims in no time. Obviously, despite Kawhi’s absence early in the season, the Spurs haven’t missed a beat. With Coach Pop still at the helm, you can never count out the Spurs. Of course, it helps when you have a power forward like LaMarcus Aldridge at your disposal. All Aldridge has done is put up these numbers – 22.7 ppg, 8.3 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game. Does that do anything for you? Well, it should. And LaMarcus has two other mates averaging double-figures in scoring. Pau Gasol is chipping in 10.9 per night, and the addition of Rudy Gay has given San Antonio another 12.8 to rely on when the fellas lace them up.
One last shout out to the Spurs. How about 40-year-old veteran Manu Ginobili turning back the hands of time? Manu single-handedly pulled out the seat from the Boston Celtics’ table last Friday night with a clutch, dagger three-ball from the land of plenty with just five ticks left in regulation. It’s safe to say that AT&T Center was abuzz after Ginobili’s triple. Let’s look and listen-in as Spurs’ fans blow the roof off the joint in the River City.
I’ll bring back my power rankings shortly, but I’m all Rockets, Warriors, and Spurs today. And that’s exactly how they sit atop the West at this very moment.
That’s the swing out West for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Until next time, turn on your television and watch as much orange roundball action as you can.