NBA Stock Report: Bobcats, Blazers Make Gains, Lakers, Cavs Hold Steady
by Hadarii Jones
The Charlotte Bobcats and Portland Trail Blazers took huge steps this past week in solidifying their playoff positioning, while the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers maintained their grip on their respective conferences.
Portland finished the week with two wins and one loss with one of those wins coming at the expense of the mighty Orlando Magic of the Eastern Conference, while star guard Brandon Roy watched in street clothes.
Injuries have become a serious concern for the Blazers with multiple players missing time and center Greg Oden being lost for the season, which makes the Blazers' resilience all the more impressive.
Portland currently sits at 25-16 and in the fifth position in the convoluted West, and only one-and-a-half games behind Denver in the Northwest division, one of the most competitive in the conference.
If the Blazers can hold steady as players return from injury, they are in a perfect position to cause some noise further down the line. Getting guard Rudy Fernandez back was a step in the right direction.
The Charlotte Bobcats might be the hottest team in the entire league right now as they finished the week 3-0, with all three wins coming against potential playoff contenders from the West.
The Bobcats own a seven game home winning streak, which is their best in their brief history, and they evened their overall record to 19-19 and currently reside in the seventh playoff spot in the East.
Charlotte's signature imprint during their run has been defense as the team has begun to buy into the teachings of coach Larry Brown, and the evidence can be found in back-to-back wins against San Antonio and Phoenix.
The Bobcats held the Spurs to 76 points and shut down star Tim Duncan while clearly holding the advantage in the athleticism department as Gerald Wallace recorded five blocks and four steals in the victory.
They were just as impressive in a rout of the Suns where they held the league's highest scoring team under 100 points while scoring 125 points of their own in a game they controlled throughout.
The addition of Stephen Jackson gives the Bobcats one of the more versatile tandems in the league along with Wallace, and Charlotte is beginning to gain confidence at just the right time.
The fact their scheme is built around a strong defense will help the Bobcats in the future, and they are quickly becoming the team no one wants to face in the postseason.
The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't do much to separate themselves from the other top teams in the Eastern Conference this past week, but they didn't lose any crucial momentum either as they finished the week 3-1.
The Cavaliers' only loss on their four-game road trip came to the Utah Jazz at the buzzer as rookie Sundiata Gaines hit a three from the wing, which was the first three point shot of his young career.
Cleveland owes its 31-11 record to strong defense and the sustained brilliance of forward LeBron James who continues his march to a probable second consecutive MVP award and a potential top seed in the East.
The schedule will begin to soften for the Cavaliers in the second half of the season, and they have a chance to create distance in the standings, especially with teams like the Magic and the Boston Celtics losing players to injuries.
Despite injuries to Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have been able to maintain the league's best record at 31-9 and recently celebrated the return of Gasol with a 40-point blowout win versus the Clippers.
The Lakers finished the week with a 3-1 record with their only loss coming to the San Antonio Spurs on the road while Bryant was hobbled by the pain of constant back spasms.
Los Angeles is faced with concerns about its defense and the chemistry between center Andrew Bynum and Gasol, who have at times struggled when paired together on the court.
These are issues the Lakers have time to resolve as their schedule tightens with more road games and much tougher competition in the second half of the season.
As they stand now, the Lakers will finish with the best record in the league through the midpoint of the NBA season regardless of what happens in their matchup with the Orlando Magic tonight.
A much anticipated re-match between the Lakers and Cavaliers will happen on Thursday night as the Lakers look to avenge the blowout loss they suffered to Cleveland on Christmas Day.
One other team of note is the Toronto Raptors who have vaulted into the sixth position in the East on the strength of above-average shooting, and the play of star forward Chris Bosh.
The Raptors have crept above .500 at 21-20 and are finally starting to play up to the expectations that were set for them before the season started.
How are the Blazers still winning? They have a giant hole at center and other injuries all over.
Bobcats have been exciting. Gerald Wallace has emerged as an allstar and Jackson is playing like he always does.
Didn't know the Cavs play the Lakers so soon, the Lakers are stuggling right now which kinda sucks because i wanted to the Cavs at their best versus the Lakers at their best. It still will be a good game.
The blazers keep winning with all their injury is simple. They team is built around Roy and Aldrige. They are key players and all the other players on the team are just role players, which they have a deep bench in. Batum, Outlaw, Rudy they all play the wing position which can be replace with Webster, Bayless and Steve Black. Then they still have a legit 7 footer in Aldrige who can also play center.