The Week That Was covers the previous Monday-Sunday in the NBA.
Team of the Week: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are beginning to roll, and that's bad news for the rest of the NBA. Golden State is in the midst of a six-game winning streak after completing a 3-0 week. And they aren’t just winning, they are destroying teams. They beat the Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers by an average of 20.6 points over the course of the week. Those are three teams that are currently in the playoff picture and the Warriors dispatched them with ease. An east coast swing and a matchup with streaking Boston looms for Thursday.
Others receiving consideration: Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets
Another 4-0 week for the Celtics, who have pushed their improbable win streak to 12. Boston is winning in different ways, be it coasting to wins, coming from behind or battling from tip to buzzer. The one constant has been the league’s best defense.
Maybe it is because of the Celtics being on a longer streak, but the Detroit Pistons continue to fly a little under the radar. They had a 3-0 week as part of an overall five-game win streak. They beat two playoff contenders in Indiana and Miami, sandwiched around a victory over Atlanta. Tobias Harris averaged 21.3 points per game for the week, supporting the healthy Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick and roll combo.
The Celtics and Warriors are streaking, but the Rockets somewhat quietly sit atop the Western Conference, while in the middle of a six-game run of their own. Houston went 3-0 last week, winning by an average of 14 points, in victories over Cleveland, Memphis and Indiana. Even without Chris Paul, Houston is dominating behind James Harden’s second straight MVP-caliber season.
Player of the Week: James Harden
Another week and another dominating run from Harden. He averaged 33 points, while playing nearly 38 minutes per game over a 3-0 week. He also grabbed 6.7 rebounds and handed out 12 assists per game, while averaging a league-best +17 in plus/minus for the week. To top it off, Harden had 2.3 steals per game and recorded another triple-double.
Others receiving consideration: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis
Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have fallen off a bit, but due to no fault of his own. He scored 33.7 points per game, while grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking 2.7 shots a night. Assuming Milwaukee can right the ship, Antetokounmpo will remain firmly in the mix for MVP.
Porzingis missed a game in Orlando due to a sore ankle, but dominated the two games he did play, which resulted in two New York victories. He averaged 31 points per game on over 58 percent shooting from the field. The Knicks are one of the NBA’s biggest surprises at 7-5 and Porzingis in the biggest reason why.
Line of the Week: Nikola Jokic vs. Brooklyn Nets
With the Nuggets struggling a bit, Jokic took matters into his own hands and dominated in a victory over the Nets. He hit 16-of-25 shots on his way to 41 points. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and picked up five assists. He finished the night +25 prior to fouling out, demonstrating just how much he controlled the contest.
Others receiving consideration: James Harden vs Cleveland Cavaliers, Paul George vs Los Angeles Clippers
Harden can almost be penciled in this section each week. He went head-to-head with LeBron James and his team came out on top behind Harden’s triple-double of 35/11/13. He also had five steals and a block as the Rockets took down the defending Eastern Conference champs.
The Thunder have been struggling to come together and to figure out which of their three stars should carry them. Against the Clippers, Paul George took over. He scored 42 points on 13-of-22 from the field and 12-of-15 at the free throw line. He also pulled down nine rebounds and handed out seven assists in a much needed win.
Win of the Week: Boston Celtics home win over Charlotte Hornets
Already down Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, the Celtics lost Kyrie Irving in the game’s opening minutes. The 10 game winning streak seemed in jeopardy, but Boston trusted their defense in the second half and kept the good times rolling with a come from behind win over the Hornets. Boston held Charlotte to just 11 fourth quarter points on 4-20 shooting and extended their win streak to 11 games.
Others receiving consideration: Philadelphia 76ers win at Utah Jazz
Philadelphia extended what was then a winning streak to five games, as they won in Utah for the first time in 12 years. And they won this one without Joel Embiid, who was sitting out to rest as part of a scheduled rest and recovery plan developed by the Sixers Sports Science staff.
News of the Week: Eric Bledsoe was finally traded as the Bucks dealt Greg Monroe and protected first and second round picks to the Phoenix Suns. For more detailed thoughts, including grades for both sides, check out this breakdown.
Transactions of Note: Beyond the big Bledsoe trade, there were two other significant transactions. The first was the Pelicans waiving Josh Smith. Smith was signed to a league minimum deal using the hardship exemption the Pelicans were awarded by the NBA. New Orleans was granted this roster exemption to increase their squad to 18 players, due to having five players out for an extended period. Unfortunately, Smith struggled and didn’t prove the depth the Pels were looking for. He was cut free and cleared waivers and is now an unrestricted free agent. Don’t feel too bad for him though, as he’s still due over $5 million annually from the Detroit Pistons for the next three years.
A second player was placed on waivers as the Knicks cut ties with Mindaugas Kuzminskas. With Joakim Noah’s suspension coming to an end, New York’s temporary extra roster spot was also going away. Most speculated that the Knicks would waive Ramon Sessions, as they have Jarrett Jack, Frank Ntilikina and Ron Baker as capable point guard options. But Jeff Hornacek indicated that concerns with Jack’s injury history led New York to keep Sessions. Kuzminskas is a good candidate to be claimed, as multiple teams could claim his just over $3 million salary, using cap space or available trade/disabled player exceptions. He would add some shooting and toughness to the forward group of several teams. Any team that claims Kuzminskas would also have the ability to make him a restricted free agent at the end of the season.