The NBA regular season is barreling towards its conclusion with most teams having fewer than 20 games remaining.
Still, the playoff picture has yet to take shape as teams continue to fight for seeding. The Houston Rockets, who started the season with a lack of interest, now find themselves in the third-seed after winning six consecutive games. The Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs are winners of three and four consecutive games, respectively, as they try to hold onto the last two spots in the Western Conference playoff battle.
Meanwhile, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves with a higher percentage chance at the number one pick in the draft than they do at making the playoffs. Let’s look at how some former Longhorns have been playing around the association.
Former Longhorn and current superstar Kevin Durant has helped his team hold onto the No. 1 spot headed into the final stretch of the long NBA season.
The Warriors lead the Nuggets by 1 games and should have a schedule easy enough to maintain home court advantage throughout the Western Conference in the playoffs. Both the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks have better records than the Warriors, so either of these teams would likely have home court advantage in the Finals should either of them make it that far.
It should be no surprise that the Warriors are the most likely team to make — and win — the NBA Finals for the third straight year. All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins is working his way back into shape and seems to get more acclimated to the team with each game.
Durant has done his part to ensure the Warriors don’t miss a beat. He is averaging 26.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on 45.7 percent from the field since the All-Star break. The numbers haven’t been as good as Durant’s numbers prior to the break but fans have seen Durant take some time to get back into a rhythm after any sort of break.
Although the Warriors lost to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday evening, there is a good opportunity for the Warriors to pull away from the second-place Denver Nuggets with a game against them on Friday night.
Despite losing All-Star guard Victor Oladipo to injury, the Indiana Pacers are winners of 10 out of their last 15 games.
Because of that fantastic streak, the Pacers find themselves in the third seed, ahead of teams like the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers also hold a +5.0 point differential this season, tied for the fourth best.
A key player for the Pacers has been Texas alum Cory Joseph. Joseph isn’t averaging the best numbers this season — only 7.3 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.6 rebounds on 44.4 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from deep and 65.7 percent from the line. Joseph has only started three of the 65 games he’s played in this year.
But what Joseph has provided is a reliable point guard off the bench for head coach Nate McMillan. Joseph has played an average of 25.6 minutes off the bench, not much less than starting point guard Darren Collison’s 28.3 minutes per game. McMillan’s dual point guard rotation has paid off so far, but it remains to be seen if it will hold up throughout the regular season and into the playoffs. Joseph and the Pacers play the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday evening.