Philadelphia 76ers Beat New Jersey Nets to Clinch NBA Playoff Spot — Weekly NBA Roundup [VIDEO]
Just three days remain in the NBA’s 2011-12 regular season. Here’s what’s happening in the NBA this week:
After the Philadelphia 76ers beat the New Jersey Nets, 105-87, on Monday, the Eastern Conference playoff spots were all filled. Coach Doug Collins’ 76ers (34-30) are likely headed to a first-round playoff series against the Chicago Bulls. Meanwhile, the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns are battling for the last available slot in the West on Tuesday.
Team on the Rise: Utah Jazz
Winners of three games in a row and six of 10, Utah (34-30) currently occupies the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Jazz will have the opportunity to clinch the spot on Tuesday night when they host Phoenix (33-31), which sits just one game back of them. Leading the way for the Jazz has been center Al Jefferson, who recorded three double-doubles last week, including averages of 20.0 points and 15.3 rebounds per game. Utah will need Jefferson and point guard Devin Harris both to play well to help knock out the Suns and Steve Nash on Tuesday night.
Team on the Decline: Houston Rockets
A 97-88 loss to Miami on Sunday meant that Houston (33-32) would miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Rockets have lost seven of 10 games, including a six-game losing streak, but the team started slipping when injuries knocked out starting guards Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry in early March. Lowry had returned recently, but his level of play was not as good as it was prior to his month-long absence due to a bacterial infection. If the guard tandem of Martin and Lowry returns to Houston next season, the Rockets could be a playoff lock.
Play of the Week: Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Veteran San Antonio Spurs’ playmaker Manu Ginobili has fantastic court vision and basketball intelligence, as he demonstrates here via a pass to Matt Bonner in a 121-97 win over the Lakers on Friday night. San Antonio (48-16) locked up the best record in the Western Conference with a 124-89 win over Portland on Monday.
Player on the Rise: Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
After what has been an up-and-down year for his New York Knicks (34-30), star forward Carmelo Anthony has raised his game as the team readies for the playoffs. In 11 April contests, Anthony has averaged 31.0 points per game, while recording three double-doubles and one triple-double. Perhaps more impressively, Anthony has improved his defense to make Knicks’ opponents work extra hard to score. The big question in New York is whether this Knicks team has enough talent to get by a possible first round match-up with Miami.
Player on the Decline: Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers
The player formerly known as Ron Artest did not help his team’s post-season chances by drilling Oklahoma City’s James Harden in the head with an elbow on Sunday. While the Lakers won 114-106 in double overtime, Los Angeles (41-24) may lose World Peace for part of the playoffs when NBA commissioner David Stern hands down a subsequent suspension for the flagrant and violent act. While his scoring production has increased recently, World Peace’s mental errors have made him a slight liability for a Lakers’ team that will need all hands on deck against San Antonio, Oklahoma City or Memphis later in the playoffs.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Avery Johnson, New Jersey Nets
After Monday’s 105-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Nets (22-43) have played their last game in New Jersey. After a 35-year run in the Garden State, the team will move to Brooklyn for the start of next season. The Nets may still try to attract Dwight Howard in a trade, but current roster players Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez, Gerald Green and MarShon Brooks give coach Avery Johnson solid building blocks and a deep roster. Once training camps start next fall, Johnson and the team will be under pressure to show some improvement on this year’s woeful record, while competing with the crosstown Knicks for fans.
Bizarre Stat of the Week: Charlotte Bobcats
With their 101-73 loss to the Washington Wizards on Monday, the Charlotte Bobcats (7-57) suffered their 21st consecutive loss. If Charlotte loses its final two games — at Orlando on Wednesday and at home Thursday against New York — the Bobcats will finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history.