The NBA is barreling toward the playoffs with less than 10 days left in the regular season. The two teams at the top of each conference are set in their playoff seeding, but the rest of the teams are still fighting it out to determine whether they will have home court advantage in the first round.
The Golden State Warriors are one of the four top-seeded teams to have secured their position heading into the playoffs. But the Warriors went 2–2 against competition they should have beat this past week, due mainly to late-season injuries and ejections. While the defending champions are still the favorite to win it all, their recent play has left some doubt about their chances of repeating.
In the East, the surprise team has continued to be the Indiana Pacers. The Paul George trade left many believing the Pacers would miss the playoffs altogether, but the team has somehow managed to defy the odds. Indiana is currently fifth in the East, but its recent 3–0 stretch over the last week could vault the Pacers as high as third by the end of the season.
It hasn’t been a great week for former Longhorn Kevin Durant and the Warriors. Injuries to All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as well as reserves Patrick McCaw and David West, have hampered the Warriors’ ability to have any semblance of a consistent rotation. Durant has also struggled with injuries, missing the six games prior to last Thursday’s loss against the Milwaukee Bucks with a fractured rib.
But Durant’s problems don’t end with injuries. The nine-time All-Star was ejected from the game against the Bucks after just 14 minutes of play, marking his fifth ejection of the season. Durant leads the NBA in ejections, and he’s third in technicals.
Still, Durant has averaged 28 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in the two full games this past week. The Warriors won those games by an average of 13 points. The Houston Rockets have locked up the No. 1 seed in the West, so the remaining games could see the Warriors continue to rest their best players. The Warriors will play against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.
Turner hasn’t been pivotal in the Pacers’ recent winning streak, averaging just 12.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists in the three-game stretch of victories over the past week. Turner has, however, helped the Pacers with his inside-out presence by hitting threes and averaging 1.7 blocks.
Two of the Pacers’ three wins this past week came against playoff teams, namely the Warriors. The Pacers sit only a half-game behind the No. 4-seeded Philadelphia 76ers and one game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers will play the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night.