Inside the NBA standings and schedule: Clippers take on Cavs in game of the week
The Cavs have a heavyweight schedule, Harden has a chance to shine, and the Wolves need to draw the line in this week's standings and schedule update
A look inside the NBA standings and schedule for the week of Monday, Nov. 28.
Inside the standings
The NBA schedule is having some bizarre impacts on the league standings in its first month. For starters, with fewer back-to-back games, we're seeing some of the best individual performances in league history. There's a legitimate chance of three players (Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James) finishing with an average of a triple-double. Maybe there's no connection to the extra rest, but guys definitely seem to be coasting less and giving more each night.
Meanwhile, we've seen a spate of home-and-home games between teams where two squads play one another on consecutive nights. These games are notoriously tough to sweep. You beat a team one night, they come back the next familiar with you and irritated at the loss. The Knicks and Heat both split in those situations this week. They're tough games to win.
The extra time isn't always being used for rest. The Clippers went to the Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, then got on a plane and the next night got trounced by Detroit. The Cavaliers attended last Saturday's big game between Michigan and Ohio State and then had to surge past the Sixers the next day.
Meanwhile, let's talk tiebreakers. Yes, in November.
Both of these things can be true at once.
1. There is a world of time left in the NBA season, just under five months, and there's no way of knowing how things will wind up.
2. These games count the same as games in March, and games being won and lost now can have huge impacts on various playoff seedings.
For example ...
Portland is having huge problems. The Blazers have slipped below .500 and lost to the Knicks. It's possible they miss the playoffs entirely. But if they wind up on the 7/8 bubble -- which is where most people should have had them in preseason -- they are already in tiebreaker trouble, and if they do get it together, they have some concerning early results for securing home court.
The Rockets clinched the tiebreaker advantage over Portland on Sunday with their win over the Blazers. The two teams only play three times and Houston has already picked up two wins. The same is true for the Clippers with Portland. So if for whatever reason the Blazers wind up in a two-way tie with either of those teams (or a three-way tie with both, provided they don't win the division), the Blazers lose out.
Denver is one of those teams on the outside trying to sneak in, and they're down 0-2 to the Blazers with two left to play. The Cavaliers will likely win the East's No. 1 seed by several games, but it should be noted they already lead the Raptors 2-0 in the season series.
As if the Timberwolves' slump out of the gate wasn't bad enough, they are a combined 2-4 vs. Denver, Memphis, the Lakers and New Orleans.
And if you're wondering how tiebreakers could possibly matter in a league where over half the teams make the postseason, and with 82 games in a season, remember this: The past two years, once in the Eastern Conference and once in the Western Conference, tiebreakers have determined seeds No. 3 through No. 6. That's the difference between home court and avoiding a No. 1 seed until the conference finals and having to go on the road for a 4-5 with a No. 1 seed matchup in the second round.
What to watch in the NBA schedule
Game of the Week
|Thursday, Dec. 1||8 p.m. ET||TNT/TNT app|
Huge game, even with the Clippers having hit a skid. This is the first top-tier matchup in the league since the opening night Spurs-Warriors debacle. The Clippers have a bunch of good wins on their résumé, including a win in San Antonio on a back-to-back night, but this is a chance to make their biggest statement of the year, and it gives them momentum heading into their Dec. 7 matchup with the Warriors at Staples. For the Cavaliers, a win cements them as the best overall team in the league. They've looked like a better team overall than the Warriors, but because they play in the Eastern Conference, they don't have a bunch of great wins. This would give them their best.
Big week for the Cavs. On top of the Clippers game, the Cavs face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo (Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET, League Pass) and the Bulls (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Cavs could (and should) sweep that stretch, but it's a lot of fun games. Cleveland's game against Chicago on Friday comes on a back-to-back night, which looks especially prime for a scheduled loss. It should be interesting to see how the Cavs respond.
How deep is this Hawks slump going to go? They face the Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back. Atlanta had a players-only meeting Saturday, then lost to the Lakers -- missing Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell -- by double digits. Later this week they face the Pistons, Raptors and Thunder. The Hawks looked like a contender for second best in the Eastern Conference the first two weeks, but the wheels are starting to come off.
The James Harden Show rolls on. Harden is averaging 28.8 points and 12.2 assists and is shooting 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range. The Rockets are the best League Pass team in the NBA. This week they face the tough defense of the Jazz, and then Thursday the prime-time matchup against Harden's old pal Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT). This is an opportunity for the Rockets to get on the national map, but it's going to take maybe their best effort of the season.
How deep of a hole can a Timberwolf climb out of? As mentioned above, the Wolves haven't just lost, they've lost to teams they needed to beat. The Timberwolves have had the eighth-easiest schedule, and yet enter the week at 5-11. They face the Jazz, the suddenly tough Knicks on a home-and-home and then the Hornets. A slip to 5-15 could be too deep a cavern for them to find their way out of, especially with a young team, and could prompt a panic trade.
Rumble, big man, rumble. Wednesday night features two awesome matchups as Joel Embiid and the Sixers host DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings (7 p.m. ET, League Pass) and Karl-Anthony Towns hosts Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks (8 p.m. ET, League Pass). Get your popcorn.
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