Tweet of the Night: Wesley Matthews excited to see Portland getting back to winning ways

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Wesley MatthewsThe Portland Trail Blazers have been struggling quite a bit since the calendar flipped to March. Prior to Friday’s contest against the Washington Wizards, the Blazers had won just four of their previous 10 games.

It doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world to go 4-6, but that’s the kind of inconsistent performance that can drop you quickly when you’re trying to keep up with some of the powerhouses of the Western Conference. After going through a tough stretch in which they lost four straight games on the road against other playoff-bound teams in the West, they have found themselves 1 1/2 games behind the Houston Rockets for the fourth seed and are now fighting to keep the Golden State Warriors – who are just 1 1/2 games back – from overtaking the fifth seed.

The Third Banana Awards, Team by Team

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thirdbananaI noticed recently that  ESPN’s Bill Simmons had been using the term “Third Banana” when referring to the third-best player on a team. A simple concept, but it did get me thinking. Who are the best “third bananas” in the NBA?

I decided to put together a list ranking every team’s third-best player, and then I’d put that player into an overall league ranking, from 1-30.

Ultimately I was hoping to stumble upon a correlation between how high a teams Third Banana ranked, and what their overall record was.

Lillard, Aldridge and Blazers defiantly winning with their brand of basketball

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AldridgeLillardSH1Portland is a unique, interesting and unconventional city to say the least. That unique and unconventional nature extends to their basketball team, where the Portland Trail Blazers are winning games at a high rate doing things their own way.

While the league is trending toward discouraging players from long two-point shots, Portland embraces it. Portland plays their starters more than anyone else, hit more threes than anyone else and lead the league in free throw shooting. Is their defense lacking? Sure, but the surprising Blazers have the fifth best record in the league at the 50-game point in the season. And they’re not here to apologize for the way they play.

Gambling on the Western Conference: A Free-For-All

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The Western Conference is absolutely nothing like the Eastern Conference when it comes to championship odds.

We have what I call a two-horse race in the East versus what I am going to call the six-plus team race in the West.

In the 15 previous seasons, only four teams (the Lakers, seven times; the Spurs, five times, the Mavericks, two times; the Thunder, once)  have won the Western Conference, which is a similar concept to what the Eastern Conference has gone through recently, as I outlined in this column laying out the loooong odds on anyone not from Miami or Indiana winning the East.

SH Blog: Celtics are favorites to land Asik, Paul George says his ceiling is higher than Reggie Miller’s

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omer asikOmer Asik has wanted out of Houston the moment Dwight Howard joined the team, and it appears he will soon get his wish.

Much of the news from Wednesday was about all the trade discussions involving the coveted center, and the Boston Celtics are the front runners to acquire his services. As usual, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports was on top of the latest updates:

The Boston Celtics have gained traction in trade talks to acquire Houston Rockets center Omer Asik, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The talks have centered on a package including forward Brandon Bass, guard Courtney Lee and a first-round pick, sources said. The Celtics and Rockets are still haggling over which future first-round pick goes to Houston in Asik deal, sources said.

Rockets center Dwight Howard and Bass played together on Orlando’s frontline, but sources insist Howard was never enamored with the partnership. Boston has been making the case Bass is much improved from his time in Orlando, and most agree he’s an upgrade over Rockets power forward Terrence Jones.

The Rockets have a self-imposed Thursday deadline to reach agreement on a trade for Asik.

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