Facing stiff competition from New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, it was Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder who emerged as the Eastbay NBA Player of the Week. The reason? Sheer quality of wins. Both the Knicks and Thunder went 4-0 on the week, but the Thunder rolled off three very impressive wins against Western Conference contenders and potential playoff foes. Durant played a key role in OKC’s big week, averaging 30 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Durant scored at a high level in each of the team’s four games, but nothing gets as big as sniping the defending champion Los Angles Lakers in their gym. Poised to get the Lakers back on the winning track, Kobe Bryant poured in 31 points, but Durant matched with 31 of his own. The efficiency of Durant’s night is what really bothered the Lakers. He connected on 11 of his 15 shots from the field and knocked down all eight of his free throws to rack up the 31 en route to a 120-106 win. With the victory, Oklahoma City is still within striking distance of landing the third seed out west.
Surprisingly, this is the first time Durant has walked away with Eastbay Player of the Week honors this season, while teammate Russell Westbrook has gotten the nod on three occasions.
Prior to the NBA All-Star Break, the Los Angeles Lakers suffered a three-game losing streak, capped off by an embarrassing loss at the hands of the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers. At that point, it was set in stone; Kobe Bryant was washed up and the Lakers were not ready to try for a three-peat. Fast-forward six weeks later, and the story is quite different. The Lakers are 15-1 since the All-Star Break, blasting through opponents by an average of 10 points per game. To nobody’s surprise, it’s Kobe leading the surge, and any reports of him being over-the-hill were a little premature.
In games played last week, Kobe was indeed the “Black Mamba.” He averaged 36.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists in three outings. After posting the big Kobe-like numbers that we’ve come to expect and continuing to win, making Mr. Bryant the Eastbay NBA Player of the Week was a virtual no-brainer.
While Kobe was great in all of last week’s games, it was the triple-overtime thriller against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesdays that stood out. Just missing a triple-double, Kobe racked up 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists on the night, helping lift the Lakers to a big win against their old rivals from the desert.
Check out some highlights from Kobe’s big game against Phoenix below:
When thinking of candidates for NBA Player of the Week, Kyle Lowry’s name doesn’t immediately come to mind, but the Houston Rockets point guard has made the most of the opportunity given to him due to Aaron Brooks’ departure. Seemingly out of the playoff discussion in recent weeks, the Rockets are now making a push to climb into contention, and Lowry’s play has been the main reason for their ascension. He led Houston to 4-0 in games played last week, tying them with the Lakers for the league’s current longest streak. So, as unlikely as it may seem, Kyle Lowry is this week’s NBA Player of the Week.
Lowry’s numbers were impressive across the board last week. He averaged 19.3 points, while also contributing 7.5 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game. His best performance came Sunday against the Utah Jazz, when he recorded 28 point, 11 rebound and 10 assist triple-double in a 110-108 victory. He has posted double-figure scoring totals in 12-straight games, which marks a career high.
With Lowry coming up big, can the Rockets overtake Memphis for the eighth seed in the West?
Reports of the Miami Heat’s demise were greatly exaggerated. After starting off the month with a five-game losing streak, the Heat were able to get rolling again in last week’s games. The Heat went 2-1 on the week (the loss being the last of their losing streak), including a big statement win over the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. What makes the Heat unique is that you never know who’s going to be the guy that carries most of the load. Last week, it was Dwyane Wade, who averaged 28.7 points, 6.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game to help Miami turn their season around and grab Eastbay’s NBA Player of the Week nod.
While he was certainly a big contributor in Los Angeles, he was absolutely brilliant when the Heat hosted the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday. Surely pleasing his fantasy basketball owners, Wade scored 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting, while adding nine assists, five rebounds, three steals and five blocks in a 118-85 Heat win. Wade missed the game that Miami dropped to Memphis earlier in the season. You get the feeling the Grizzlies were left wishing he didn’t play in the second one, either.
With Miami’s latest win streak, do you think they have a realistic shot at an NBA Championship?
Kevin Durant is without a doubt “the man” in Oklahoma City, but the improved play of point guard Russell Westbrook makes the Thunder a legit threat out West. What started last summer at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey has continued throughout the 2010-2011 NBA season, where Westbrook is posting the best numbers of his young career. While teams like Orlando, New Orleans and New Jersey are looking for a second star to keep their franchise players happy, Oklahoma City already has their complimentary All-Star under contract.
In games on last week’s schedule, Westbrook wasn’t only Oklahoma City’s best player, he was the league’s best. Averaging 27 points, 10 assists and three steals in three outings, he led the Thunder to a 3-0 week, helping the team stay in the top half of the Western Conference standings and in position to host an opening round playoff series. Quietly, Westbrook is taking home Eastbay’s Player of the Week honors for the third time this season.
Westbrook’s best performance of the week came against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. With Kevin Durant struggling from the field and the game going into overtime, it was Russell who put the Thunder on his back. He scored 32 points, dished out 11 assists and recorded two steals to help the Thunder prevail 122-118.
With the improved play of Westbrook and the acquisition of Kendrick Perkins, are the Thunder a threat to unseat the Lakers in the playoffs?