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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 5/4

Basketball Insiders looks at some of the articles from the past week in case you missed them the first time around.

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The West Gets Wilder

By Bill Ingram

The Eastern Conference playoffs are going about as expected. The Miami HEAT are manhandling the Charlotte Bobcats, the Indiana Pacers’ struggles have continued and the middle brackets have been very competitive. In the Western Conference, however, things have been hot, heavy and strongly contested across the board. Overtime is almost expected when two West teams take the court, and most games have been decided either by an extra period or by key plays down the stretch. Saturday’s games were no different, as late-game heroics were the order of the day.

The biggest shot of the day came from none other than Vince Carter, who is little more than a footnote in Dallas these days. He brings it every night, but the stars of the team are Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, meaning Carter does most of his work without much fanfare. But that certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday, as he drained a three-pointer as time expired to give the Mavericks a 109-108 win and a 2-1 series lead over the visiting San Antonio Spurs.

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How Far Can Wizards Advance?

By Alex Kennedy

Entering the first round of the NBA playoffs, the Washington Wizards were one of the biggest underdogs in the field. After winning just 44 games in the regular season and struggling with inconsistency throughout the year, the Wizards weren’t expected to defeat the Chicago Bulls in a seven-game series.

Now, four games into the first-round matchup, the Wizards lead the Bulls, 3-1. Washington has looked incredible early in the postseason, receiving huge contributions from a number of players.

The Wizards rely heavily on youngsters John Wall and Bradley Beal, but their backcourt duo is surrounded by experienced veterans such as Nene, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Drew Gooden and Martell Webster among others. This balanced attack makes Washington very difficult to stop and has helped them overcome adversity throughout this series.

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Studs and Duds From Week 2 of the Playoffs

By Moke Hamilton

As the hunt for the Larry O’Brien Trophy continues, the Indiana Pacers vs. San Antonio Spurs Finals that looked to be probable back in December is officially in trouble. Each of those respective teams enter Week 3 of their drive toward the 2014 NBA Finals trailing in their respective playoff series, while the story in both Houston and Brooklyn is one of missed opportunity and frustrating futility. The Oklahoma City Thunder have their hands full with the Memphis Grizzlies, while the Chicago Bulls must attempt to climb out of a hole that has proven to be too deep for the majority of teams in NBA History.

But alas, there can only be 10 of whom are called out for their performances (or lack thereof) through these playoffs.

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Is The End For Donald Sterling Near?

By Steve Kyler

There are times in sports, especially as a sports writer and reporter where the stories we have to chase are not worth the effort. At Basketball Insiders we have made a pledge to stick to the news that affects the game. We do not chase DUI’s or altercations with girlfriends, we gladly concede the garbage to others. Not that covering those things are not important to some, but they simply are not what we care about. We care about basketball. We care about the things that materially affect basketball and how the game will be played. Over our years covering basketball we have taken some heat for not pouncing on a fringe story, but that’s simply not who we are as a group. We will gladly hand that off to those that are far better at digging in the garbage than we are.

So when news broke of a tape involving Clippers owner Donald Sterling spewing racially incentive comments that are downright demeaning and degrading, our initial response was that there wasn’t anything new here, mainly because of Sterling’s long track record of this sort of behavior. This wasn’t news so much as proof of what we’ve known for years. Water is wet, news at eleven.

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Western Conference All-Underrated Team

By Jesse Blancarte

Players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the stars of the NBA are covered in depth and their accomplishments are micro-analyzed. This unfortunately leaves many other players under appreciated and unrecognized. Here are a few players in the Western Conference that have had a great season, but haven’t received the recognition they deserve. These players have been chosen for their overall impact, the amount of credit they receive relative to their team’s overall success and their value against the size of their contracts.

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Owners, Players Applaud Silver

By Yannis Koutroupis

The collective NBA world held their breath today while awaiting Commissioner Adam Silver’s press conference and his announcement over what the punishment would be for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s damning tapes in which his racist views were exposed more vividly than ever. There was concern that Silver didn’t have the power to levy the kind of punishment everyone was calling for, that he would simply slap him on the wrist with an indefinite suspension and a fine that would barely make him blink. But, within seconds of his press conference beginning, Silver made it clear that nobody was more furious than he was over the matter.

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An Open Letter To Donald Sterling

By Jabari Davis

Dear Donald Tokowitz (legally changed to Sterling):

Today’s judgment from NBA commissioner Adam Silver must have come as quite a surprise to you, just as it did to many of us. A $2.5 million fine may go relatively unnoticed by a billionaire such as yourself, but Silver’s decision to also impose a lifetime ban from the NBA would almost certainly grab the attention of even the most self-absorbed and detached individual imaginable.

While we can only praise and commend newly-appointed Commissioner Silver for possessing the courage to do what some of his predecessors and contemporaries failed to do in the past, it is not without consideration of how you might actually feel about the situation. Aside from any understandable bewilderment you may have surrounding how and why your “girlfriend” would allegedly turn the audio tapes over to a media outlet, it must have been equally as confusing to have the league finally react to one of the reprehensible acts you’ve managed to make a thing of commonplace throughout the years.

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Pivotal Crossroad For Chicago Bulls

By Lang Greene

The Chicago Bulls entered this year’s playoffs as heavy favorites in their first round matchup versus the emerging Washington Wizards, but were unexpectedly dismantled in just five games.   All things considered, despite the playoff flameout, the Bulls had a very solid season. Chicago managed  to flirt with 50 wins even though former MVP Derrick Rose spent the majority of the campaign in designer suits and former All-Star forward Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland earlier in the season. Center Joakim Noah took home Defensive Player of the Year honors and others stepped up around him.

On the surface it would appear the team’s future is filled with promise. However, the summer of 2014 will be a pivotal time for the organization if it wants to be mentioned among the league’s elite and contend for a title in the years to come.

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Examining the NBA’s Formerly Secret Constitution

By Nate Duncan

The Donald Sterling fiasco has shined an unexpectedly severe spotlight on a document most had never heard of until a few days ago.  The NBA Constitution and By-Laws were secret league documents that suddenly captured the nation’s fascination since they governed the potential punishment of Sterling.  These documents were kept so close to the vest that not even the players’ association appeared to know their full contents, as one of Kevin Johnson’s talking points on Sunday afternoon was a need to understand the full extent of the punishment the league could levy.

But as part of dealing with the Sterling situation and perhaps as part of a new era of transparency under Adam Silver, the league unexpectedly decided to release the entire Constitution and By-Laws on Tuesday.  This was Christmas in April for CBA nerds for all the information it provided completely unrelated to the Sterling situation.  Over the past 24 hours I conducted a quick review of the Constitution, and found a number of interesting provisions.

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What’s Wrong With Kevin Durant?

By Susan Bible

An unexpected event is perilously close to making its way into the NBA history books in the very near future. If indeed Kevin Durant is named the league’s Most Valuable Player for the 2013-14 NBA season as projected, his Oklahoma City Thunder may have already been eliminated from the playoffs.

This has occurred only one other time since the league adopted its current playoff format 30 years ago. Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks was named the league’s 2006-07 MVP on May 15, 2007; Dallas was eliminated in the first round by the Golden State Warriors (4-2) on May 3rd.

The Thunder are in a wild first-round battle with the Memphis Grizzlies, with four of the five contests going into overtime. The Grizzlies have come away with three wins and may end the Thunder’s season in the next meeting.

To say this is surprising is an understatement of considerable proportions. The Thunder were projected to at least make it to the Western Conference Finals, and maybe even best the Miami HEAT to capture the NBA title this season. All the pieces were in place with a healthy roster, tons of playoff experience, veteran leadership and a superstar in Durant at the helm.

So what’s happening?

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Proved You Wrong: Wizards Postseason Success Not a Fluke

By Jessica Camerato

A 23-year-old leader who had never been to the playoffs, a second-year standout who wasn’t old enough to drive the last time the team made it out of the first round, a 12th-year big man who suffered a sprained MCL this season and a point guard two years shy of 40.

Their stars were too young and inexperienced, their veterans were too old. At least that’s how they looked on paper.

The Washington Wizards erased all judgments of age and experience with their attention-grabbing 4-1 first round upset over the Chicago Bulls. Aside from the Miami HEAT’s sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats, they were only the team in the NBA to wrap up their series in five games.

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Eastern Conference All-Underrated Team

By John Zitzler

The Eastern Conference may have been down this year, but there was still a nice crop of players outside of the usual suspects that had impressive seasons. These All-Underrated players were chosen based off their team’s overall success, their total contribution to that success and their personal performance throughout the regular season. While some of the players listed may be known commodities around the league, they still may not be receiving all the credit they deserve when measured against the impact they had for their teams.

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Kevin Durant Delivers in Game 6

By Tommy Beer

This is how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “reliable:” able to be trusted to do or provide what is needed; able to be relied on. Giving the same result on successive trials…

Kevin Durant has started 447 games (out a possible 453) for the Oklahoma City Thunder over the past five years, and has averaged over 29 points per game in those contests – the highest scoring average in the entire league over this stretch. Earlier this season, From January 5-April 6, Durant went on a historical scoring binge. He surpassed Michael Jordan’s modern day record by scoring 25 or more points in 41 consecutive games. The multi-dimensional Durant also stuffed the stat sheet only a daily basis. In fact, Durant joined Jordan, Wilt Chamberlin and Elgin Baylor as just the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 32 points, 7 rebounds, and five assists per game over the course of a full season. Durant also remained incredibly efficient. He joined Jordan as the only player since 1985 to average 32 points per game while also shooting above 50 percent from the floor.

And his remarkably consistent success certainly isn’t limited to the regular season. Over the Thunder’s last 50 playoff games, Durant is averaging 29.2 points, 8.2 assists, and four rebounds. He’s scored in double-figures in every postseason game he’s ever played in.

In many ways, Durant is the NBA epitome of “reliable,” which is why it was laughable to see the headline “Mr. Unreliable” plastered above a picture of Durant on the cover of The Oklahoman Thursday morning.

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The Biggest Playoff Upsets in NBA History

By Joel Brigham

If the Atlanta Hawks and/or Dallas Mavericks win their series this weekend, they’ll be among a small handful of eight-seeds to topple one-seeds in the history of the NBA playoffs.

If Atlanta complete the series win over the once-mighty Pacers, for example, it will have to be considered one of the best playoff upsets ever considering Atlanta entered the postseason with only 38 regular seasons wins—the only team to make the final 16 not to have at least a .500 record.

San Antonio, meanwhile, is only a few years removed from losing a playoff series as a one-seed, and since it’s only happened four times before this season, they’d be the only team to ever get upset by an eight-seed twice.

Whatever happens, both eight-seeds have put up strong fights, and if they do beat the Pacers and Spurs, they’ll join this list of the great upsets in league history:

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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