NBA

NBA Heat Check: Kyrie, Westbrook and Curry light it up as Kawhi continues to struggle

By Sports Desk May 10, 2021

The NBA is nearing the end of its regular season.

Soon the fight for playoff positioning will give way to the drama of the play-in round and the subsequent seven-game series that will decide the destination of the title.

In other words, it is time for the league's elite to find their best.

While several of those stars are hitting form at exactly the right time, there are others enduring worrying declines ahead of the postseason.

Here we examine the performances of those excelling going into the playoffs, and those who need to turn it around in this week's edition of Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT

Kyrie Irving - Brooklyn Nets

Irving went into last week having failed to score 30 points in three straight appearances, but he was back to his best over the past seven days.

Having previously averaged 26.7 points for the season, Irving put up 38 points per game across three outings last week, with a 45-point display against the Dallas Mavericks sandwiched by a 38-point effort in defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks and a 31-point showing versus the Denver Nuggets.

Only the game with the Nuggets ended in victory, but the Nets will be encouraged by Irving's form with the playoffs approaching. He was excellent from beyond the arc, hitting 5.67 threes per game having entered the week averaging 2.63.

Irving converted 17 of his 32 three-point attempts last week, a percentage of 53.1 that ranks 10th among players to have attempted at least 20 last week.

Russell Westbrook - Washington Wizards

Westbrook made history on Saturday as he tied Oscar Robertson's record for triple-doubles with the 181st of his career against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

The way in which his athleticism has translated to success on the boards has been key to Westbrook's successful pursuit of Hall of Famer Robertson.

And his rebounding was nothing short of incredible over the past seven days. Having entered the week averaging 11.16 rebounds, Westbrook racked up 17.25 per game across his last three games, culminating with 19 in his record-equalling display in an overtime win over Indiana.

He'll hope for more success on the glass against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday to take him past Robertson.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

The best shooter in the game had another stunning week from beyond the arc as he continues to fuel the Warriors' push towards the playoffs.

Curry's 5.2 made threes per game was already the gold standard in the NBA this season but he was even more devastating from deep in four games last week.

Indeed, Curry averaged 8.25 threes per game, with that jump fuelled largely by him hitting 11 on Saturday as he scored 49 points in 29 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As long as he continues his excellent form, the Warriors should have a great chance of coming through the play-in round and making it to the postseason.

GOING COLD...

Andre Drummond - Los Angeles Lakers

It was a rough week for Lakers big Drummond, who endured the largest drop-off in the NBA in both points and rebounds per game.

Drummond entered last week putting up 15.89 points per game but saw his average over four games dip to 5.75.

He failed to score double-digit points in any of those outings and was similarly ineffective on the boards.

His rebounds per game dipped from 12.37 to 6.25, Drummond having started the week by failing to record a single rebound in a game for only the third time in his career in a win over the Nuggets.

Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks

It is pleasing for the Mavs that they can win without Doncic delivering his best every night, as they did not get it last week.

Doncic was far from terrible, as he topped 20 points in three of his four outings, but he saw his points per game average drop from 28.64 entering the week to 21.50 in those appearances.

The Mavs won each of those contests, with Doncic contributing double-doubles in two, though he had an underwhelming 15-point game to end the week against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, while he may be 'going cold' relative to his usual standard in scoring, Doncic is finding ways to help Dallas build momentum ahead of the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard - Los Angeles Clippers

Leonard has been bothered by injury issues in recent weeks, with his best form eluding the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

For the season, Leonard was averaging 25.51 points per game going into the last week, but could only manage to put up 19 over the course of three games in the past seven days.

And that average was inflated by a 29-point effort in the Clippers' loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Prior to that return to something like normal service, Leonard had failed to score 20 points in each of his last four games.

Even his effort against the Knicks came on an inefficient shooting performance where he went nine for 26, indicating Leonard is some way off the standard he will need for the Clippers to contend in the playoffs.

Related items

  • Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing Cagliari suffer Serie A relegation as Salernitana survive for first time despite Udinese thrashing

    Cagliari were relegated from Serie A after only managing a draw against Venezia as Salernitana retained their top-flight status despite being thrashed by Udinese.

    Salernitana looked in serious danger of going down when Davide Nicola took charge in February, sitting bottom of the table with three wins from 23 games.

    Nicola inspired a resurgence, though, with his side picking up 15 points in a run of seven league games to head into the final matchday two points clear of Cagliari.

    However, Udinese were rampant as Gerard Deulofeu, Ilija Nestorovski and Iyenoma Destiny Udogie put Nicola's side 3-0 down before half-time on Sunday.

    Udinese captain Roberto Pereyra added a fourth after the interval as the Friulians achieved their best Serie A points haul (47) since the 2012-13 season (66).

    That meant Cagliari would have stayed up with a win at already-relegated Venezia, but Alessandro Agostini's could only muster a draw as the Rossoblu were relegated to Serie B for the sixth time in their history.

    Cagliari's failure handed Salernitana their first-ever Serie A survival, having failed to do so on their other two attempts in 1947-48 and 1998-99.

    Salernitana also became the first team to stay up despite conceding at least 78 goals in a single top-flight campaign after Livorno (79 in 1929-30) and Lucchese (82 in 1947-48, 79 in 1949-50).

    Meanwhile, Cagliari join Venezia and Genoa in Serie B and the trio will aim to bounce straight back up next season.

  • Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display Outrageous rabona strike among five for Balotelli in historic final-day display

    Mario Balotelli finished the Turkish Super Lig season in stunning fashion with the first five-goal haul in Adana Demirspor's top-flight history.

    Ninth in the table heading into Sunday, Balotelli's ADS had little to play for against already-relegated Goztepe but put on a show.

    Vincenzo Montella's side ran out 7-0 winners, with Balotelli hitting five to finish the season on 18 league goals – behind only Kasimpasa's Umut Bozok (20).

    The Italy international's outstanding display represented a club first, while Alex in May 2011 had been the last Super Lig player to net five in a match, for Fenerbahce against Ankaragucu.

    This was Balotelli's first hat-trick since scoring three for Manchester City against Aston Villa in December 2010, making him the first foreign player to hit a treble for ADS.

    As if these achievements were not enough, Balotelli's fifth goal was an outrageous effort perhaps set to be considered for the FIFA Puskas Award.

    Seven step-overs tied Atakan Cankaya – who had earlier scored an own goal – in knots, finally working space seemingly for a left-footed shot before the striker executed a sublime right-footed rabona finish across the goalkeeper and into the bottom-right corner.

    "Five goals for me today," Balotelli posted on Instagram. "There was no better way to finish the championship! Thank you to everyone."

  • Barcelona 0-2 Villarreal: Xavi's side end season with dire defeat Barcelona 0-2 Villarreal: Xavi's side end season with dire defeat

    Barcelona's season ended with a whimper as Villarreal sealed a 2-0 LaLiga win at Camp Nou on Sunday.

    The Catalan club's spot in next season's Champions League was secured earlier in May, yet Xavi will be disappointed his side have ended the campaign with just a solitary point from their final two games.

    They went behind late in the first half through Alfonso Pedraza's strike, before Moi Gomez sealed maximum points for Unai Emery's men in the second half.  

    The result meant second-placed Barca ended the campaign a whopping 13 points behind champions Real Madrid, while Villarreal finished seventh.

    Adama Traore flashed over and Ferran Torres was denied by Geronimo Rulli inside a bright opening 10 minutes for the hosts.

    Barca looked the more likely to open the scoring inside the opening half hour, yet all they had to show for their dominance was a Sergio Busquets strike that flew narrowly over the crossbar.

    The inability to take advantage of their superiority was punished four minutes before the interval as Alfonso Pedraza latched onto Daniel Parejo's pass and steered past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

    Villarreal doubled their advantage in the 55th minute when Gomez lashed into the roof of net after cutting out Traore's dismal attempted clearance. 

    Frenkie de Jong had an effort ruled out for offside late on as Barca tried in vain to find their way back into the game. 

    What does it mean? Villarreal end dire run against insipid hosts

    Xavi has done well to steady the Barca ship after a chaotic start to the season, yet he will be disappointed with the way his players' intensity has dropped off in the final two games of the season.

    Victory for Villarreal, meanwhile, ended a run of 10 straight LaLiga defeats at Camp Nou, which was their worst run of successive away losses against a single opponent in the competition's history.

    Pass master Parejo

    Parejo's superb pass for Pedraza's goal saw him move level with Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain and Barca's Jordi Alba as LaLiga's top assister this season (10). It is the most he has ever achieved in his 14 seasons playing in the Spanish top flight.

    Torrid time for Traore

    Barca are not expected to take up the option of turning Traore's loan move from Wolves into a permanent one and it was not hard to see why on this evidence. The 26-year-old offered nothing in attack and was directly responsible for Villarreal's second goal – his last act before being hauled off for Ousmane Dembele.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.