LeBron James Helps Heat Retake First Place – Weekly NBA Roundup [VIDEO]
Last year's NBA Finals opponents, Miami and Dallas, each began to rise to the top of their respective conferences this week. By Sunday, most teams will be a third of the way through the compressed 66-game schedule.
Here's what else is happening in the NBA:
Team on the Rise: Miami Heat
Fueled by a monster week from LeBron James and the return of Dwyane Wade from injury, Miami (16-5) has won five games in a row. The Heat reclaimed the top spot in the Southeast Division by defeating the Cavaliers, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets at home, while topping the Pistons on the road. James was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, averaging 29 points, 7.5 rebounds, six assists and one steal per game prior to the team's 109-95 win over New Orleans on Monday night. He finished two assists shy of a triple-double Monday.
Team on the Decline: Sacramento Kings
Sacramento (6-14) has lost four games in a row as they head into Tuesday night's contest at Golden State. Though the Kings replaced head coach Paul Westphal with Keith Smart earlier this season, the team has yet to play consistent interior defense. Sacramento gave up 92 points inside the paint in a 122-93 loss to Denver on Thursday. Center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Chuck Hayes must improve their play on the defensive end if the team wants to stay out of the Western Conference basement.
Play of the Week: Blake Griffin, L.A. Clippers
The Clippers beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 112-100, on Monday night in a battle of two Western Conference division leaders. No moment of the game was more memorable than Blake Griffin's one-handed dunk over Kendrick Perkins. Watch the video below to see it in real-time and slow-motion.
Player on the Rise: Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets
Acquired from the Knicks as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal last February, Danilo Gallinari is averaging a team-high 17.9 points per game for Denver (14-6). The 6'10" forward with terrific shooting range helped fuel the Nuggets to eight wins in their last 10 games, including a 5-0 road trip and a home win over the Miami Heat.
Player on the Decline: Shannon Brown, Phoenix Suns
After back-to-back seven-point scoring performances in losses to Portland and Toronto, Shannon Brown did not play at all as Phoenix (7-12) beat Memphis, 86-84, on Saturday. With Jared Dudley firmly in place as the Suns starter at shooting guard, Brown will now battle veteran Michael Redd for minutes as head coach Alvin Gentry tries to optimize his lineup.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Mike D'Antoni, New York Knicks
Currently on a three-game losing streak, the New York Knicks (7-13) have been awful thus far this season. Head coach Mike D'Antoni is in the final year of his contract. His disappointing team has not yet had a true point guard to help get the ball to Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. Injured guard Baron Davis will try to fill that role if, as expected, he makes his Knicks debut sometime this week. D'Antoni's future may depend on the success of Davis and the patience of management.
This Week’s Bizarre Stat: Gerald Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers
Portland's Gerald Wallace averages 16.8 points per game at home, but the Trail Blazers forward tallies just 8.0 points per contest on the road.