Thunder Rolls to Best Record – Weekly NBA Roundup [VIDEO]
Chicago and Oklahoma City have established themselves as the class of their respective conferences thus far in the still-young NBA season. By the end of this week, most teams will have played a quarter of the 66-game schedule. Here's what happening in the NBA:
Team on the Rise: Oklahoma City Thunder
After beating Boston 97-88 on Monday night for its seventh straight win, Oklahoma City (12-2) has the best record in the NBA. Guard Russell Westbrook has been especially dangerous during the streak, scoring 20 or more points in five of the seven games. MVP candidate Kevin Durant is third in the NBA in scoring at 25.9 points per game. The Thunder already has wins over top contenders Boston, New York, San Antonio and Dallas this season.
Team on the Decline: Boston Celtics
Following a 97-88 defeat to Oklahoma City on Monday, Boston (4-8) has lost five in a row. The Celtics veteran team may be struggling with the demands of the league's compressed schedule, but four of the five defeats came at home. Coach Doc Rivers is rotating Jermaine O’Neal and Brandon Bass at center, but he needs some depth on his bench to keep the legs of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen fresh. The five-game losing streak is the first the "Big 3" have suffered since they joined the Celtics.
Highlight of the Week: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
L.A. Clippers' guard Chris Paul passes to a cutting Blake Griffin, who allows his pure athleticism to do the rest during Saturday's 102-94 win over the Lakers.
Player on the Rise: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Proving that he is still capable of being the best player in the NBA, Kobe Bryant scored 40 or more points in four consecutive games last week, including a season-high 48 against Phoenix on Jan. 10. Bryant tallied another 14 points in the Lakers' 73-70 win over Dallas on Monday night. The Lakers (10-5) have now won six of their last seven games and are tied with the Clippers for first place in the Pacific.
Player on the Decline: Lamar Odom, Dallas Mavericks
The key figure in a much-celebrated trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Mavericks in the off-season, Lamar Odom has yet to produce in Dallas. Odom has scored in double figures in only two games this season, and he is averaging just 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Both totals are down sharply from the 14.4 points and 8.7 boards he averaged in 2010-11. The Mavericks need Odom to be the consistent scoring and rebounding threat that he has been throughout his NBA career.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns
Phoenix has lost four games in a row as injuries have hobbled Suns' guard Steve Nash and forward Grant Hill, both of whom have missed time. Coach Alvin Gentry hasn't been able to get enough consistent production out of anyone in his lineup. He'll need to quickly find something that works; the Suns will visit Chicago, New York, Boston and Dallas before returning home.
Bizarre Stat of the Week: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard set an NBA record with 39 free throw attempts during his 45-point, 23-rebound game against Golden State on Thursday. The old record of 34 attempts was held by Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors, who did so against St. Louis on Feb. 22, 1962. Howard made just 21 of his 39 attempts on Thursday.