The Wizards and Warriors took care of business as expected, the eighth-seeded Bulls got a Game 1 win in Boston, and James Harden and the Rockets sent a message with their 31-point win over the Thunder. Russell Westbrook may end up with an MVP award for the way his individual performances dominated the storyline of the 2016-17 regular season. But by doing everything himself all year long, he's left his teammates unprepared for the postseason. Westbrook finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in Game 1 against the Rockets. A closer look reveals his 6-of-23 shooting and nine turnovers in a game lost by 31 points. Part of the argument Dee Gordon Womens Jersey against Westbrook winning the MVP was that he didn't make those around him better, and that was proven to be the case on Sunday -- when the Rockets were able to keep Westbrook in check, his teammates had no idea of what they should do next. I have never, ever believed in the concept of an aspiring MVP needing an "MVP moment" on his résumé, which seems to be important to some pundits. But how could you not be swept up in what Russell Westbrook pulled off Sunday afternoon in Denver? It was the third incredibly late comeback from a double-digit deficit that he's engineered in the past two weeks and was capped with the buzzer-beater of Russ' life to clinch his record-setting 42nd triple-double of the season and knock the poor the Nuggets out of the playoffs. What some deem to be stat chasing, as well as the Thunder's apparent teamwide devotion to help Westbrook set all these records, will undoubtedly turn off some voters. Yet the fact remains that Oklahoma City, in its first season post-Kevin Durant, is 33-9 when he triple-doubles, compared to its 13-25 struggles when he falls short. The approach is working. Eric Gordon has secured my Sixth Man Award vote. Mike D'Antoni (spoiler alert!) has an excellent chance to land atop my coach of the year ballot that will be unveiled Tuesday. And James Harden, of course, is still right there with Russell Westbrook in an MVP brain twister that I'm taking until Thursday to settle on this scorecard. Throw Kawhi Leonard back in there if you wish, as mentioned in the Spurs comment, but this sentiment hasn't changed. There's really no wrong answer here. All three have strong cases, and all three have holes in their résumés to seize upon if you feel the need. Our head hurts trying to work through all the permutations. The Rockets clearly feel that the attention Westbrook is getting for his triple-double exploits is unfairly affecting Harden's campaign -- judging by the recent missives from the team's own Twitter feed and several tweets from GM Daryl Morey -- but it's also true that Harden might have had this thing wrapped if the Rockets maintained their 31-10 pace from the first half. Like it or not, Houston is only a 23-16 team in the season's second half, which we suspect has slowed some of Harden's MVP momentum as Westbrook has surged ... just as Cleveland's 23-21 record since Jan. 8 derailed LeBron James' MVP http://www.officialmarlinstore.com/Jeff_Locke_Jersey
bid. A wild six-month ride indeed comes to a close this week with the Golden State Supervillains, as the Warriors jokingly like to call themselves, locked in as the No. 1 team in our weekly NBA Power Rankings, just as many of us did expect. Here's what we know: Golden State will enter the postseason as hot as any team we've ever seen. The record for the longest winning streak to close out the regular-season schedule, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a 15-gamer by the Rochester Royals in 1949-50. Winning their final two home dates, against Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers, would take these Warriors to a record 16 in a row. The Blazers hung with the Warriors for three quarters, before Draymond Green's incredible defensive performance helped swing the game in Golden State's favor. And the most critical run for the Warriors came when both Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were sitting on the bench. Kevin Durant is obviously back in a nice groove already. Stephen Curry is scheduled to return to the lineup from a one-game absence (left knee bruise) for Monday night's home date with the Jazz. And the Warriors, in Durant's return engagement Saturday night against the depleted Pelicans, just made it 50 games this season with at least 30 assists, which is only two shy of the league's single-season record as established by the 1984-85 Lakers. It's all looking rather ominous for the rest of the league when you thumb through all the available tea leaves, but here's something to keep an eye on as we move into the postseason and its more hostile crowds. The Warriors shoot nearly 42 percent from the 3-point line at home, compared to just 35.5 percent from deep on the road, which accounts for the second-largest such disparity for any team in the regular season behind Washington's drop-off (40.6 percent from 3 at home and 34.2 percent on the road). Golden State started the fourth quarter with a lineup featuring a reclamation project in JaVale McGee and a reserve in Ian Clark, who was 10th on the team in http://www.officialpiratesproshop.com/F ... lli_Jersey
minutes per game in the regular season. While neither played more than 12 minutes, each contributed enough to where the stars could comfortably rest. McGee finished with six points, five rebounds and two blocked shots in just 10 minutes of action, while Clark finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting in his 12 minutes on the floor. The stars can play heavy minutes during the postseason because of the extra days off and the far less taxing travel schedule. If the loaded Warriors can get these kinds of contributions from guys at the end of their bench, they're going to be tougher to beat than imagined. The Bulls came away with the win in this one, and it's unclear how Thomas will deal with his emotions as the series wears on. But by playing, Thomas was an inspiration to his teammates, and showed an incredible amount of individual strength. The 22-year-old sister of Isaiah Thomas was killed in a car accident Saturday morning, and though the Celtics star point guard was clearly hurting after the tragedy, he decided to play in Boston's opener against the Bulls. Not even our old friend Bill Simmons, wearing his trustiest pair of Celtics goggles, could have gazed into the future and dreamed up the sort of script that has presented itself to the men in green. Thanks to the back-to-back humblings that the Cavs just absorbed from Atlanta -- even after the Celtics' own failure to deal with Cleveland at home last week when the reigning champs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back -- Boston is still favored by our friends at FiveThirtyEight to snag the East's top seed: 57 percent to Cleveland's 43 percent odds. Something tells us there will be no apologies from the Celtics, Simmons or anyone else associated with the club that this will be just the fourth season under the league's current playoff format -- which was introduced for the 1983-84 campaign -- that the best team in the Least, er, East will win fewer than 55 games. (Detroit previously did it twice with 50 wins in 2002-03 and 53 wins in 2006-07; the then-New Jersey Nets won the East in 2001-02 at 52-30.) As for Isaiah Thomas: Looks like IT (29.2 PPG) will fall short of Larry Bird's best-scoring season as a Celtic (29.9 PPG in 1987-88), but he has easily supplanted http://www.officialpiratesproshop.com/A ... hen_Jersey
Michael Adams (26.5 PPG in 1990-91) as the most prolific single-season scorer listed at shorter than 6 feet. Thomas didn't just go through the motions. Once he was out there, he looked every bit like the All-Star player we've gotten used to seeing. Thomas scored 13 first-quarter points, on the way to 33 for the game on 10-of-18 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and six assists.