Which games defined the first half of the NBA season for the five teams in the Pacific Division? The answer for one team is resoundingly clear, but find out what the other four answers are below:
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Monday, January 18 at Cleveland — W, 132-98
No game sent more shockwaves through the NBA in the first half of the season. It’s not even a particularly close call. Unless the San Antonio Spurs (or perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder) win the Western Conference, it’s also the game we’ll be talking about in early June, before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Thursday, November 19 vs. Golden State — L, 124-117
The Clippers haven’t had a “bad” season, but they’re not in Golden State’s league. A 53-win season with a second-round playoff exit wouldn’t be “bad,” either… but it’s not where the Clippers want to go, and it’s not why they’re paying any coach or player.
The Clippers’ status as “not in Golden State’s class” was established not by a Nov. 4 loss in Oakland, but by a loss in the Staples Center roughly two weeks later. The Clippers led for much of the night but couldn’t close the sale against the champs. We’ll have to wait for the playoffs to see the Clippers face another defining test, as they try to make the West Finals for the first time in franchise history.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Tuesday, December 1 at Philadelphia — L, 103-91
When you give a winless team its first victory of the season… in December… what else is there to say?
PHOENIX SUNS: Wednesday, December 23 vs. Denver — L, 104-96
It’s true that three days after this loss, the Suns then fell at home to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, the seeds for that loss (and the firing of Jeff Hornacek, and the complete collapse witnessed this season in the Valley of the Sun) were planted before Christmas against Denver. Markieff Morris threw in the towel — not metaphorically, but literally. He underlined how much Phoenix had become the “Suns of Anarchy.”
SACRAMENTO KINGS — Monday, January 25 vs. Charlotte — L, 129-128 (2OT)
The Kings were riding a five-game winning streak. They were about to face a series of highly beatable opponents. The playoffs were a very realistic possibility.
Boogie Cousins scored 56 points against the Hornets.
The Kings lost on a three-pointer from Charlotte (following a missed traveling call — an egregious one).