Massive Link Dump: The battle for the last three spots

That's what the battle for the last three spots will look like; a bunch of fumbling and bumbling. - Ezra Shaw

This is your link dump on a Friday morning on the five teams fighting for the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds in the Western Conference.

When I wake up in the afternoon morning, I crank up Twitter and scroll through the thousands of tweets by writers, bloggers and friends in hopes I find pieces on stuff I care about. Environmental science, foreign affairs, local news and sports, there's a link for it. But for those that don't have two hours to waste to start their day (everybody), here's your links from around the NBA on the playoff race.

The top five seeds are some combination of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, and Los Angeles Clippers so we won't have much on them until the time comes (future article?). This instead focuses on the five teams racing for spots six, seven and eighth in the Western Conference.

The teams are the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and our Golden State Warriors.

Golden State Warriors

Grading Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and rest of 2012 NBA rookies | The Point Forward - SI.com

Looking ahead: Playoff matchups at a glance - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN

NBA - Dwight Howard is one of six pivotal players down the stretch - ESPN

Since we've talked about him so much this season on Golden State of Mind, ESPN decided to throw him in one of their playoff preview pieces:

Bogut continues to shake off the rust from the myriad injury issues plaguing him the past year and a half, but, like Howard, he shows signs of improvement with every game. The offensive execution, particularly in the post, isn't quite there yet, but Bogut's presence on the offensive boards, combined with his ability to set solid screens for Golden State's shooters, has been a boon for the Warriors' offense.

For example, one of the key plays made versus the Lakers on Monday night was a high pick-and-roll with Stephen Curry. Picture this:

Golden State had shooters in the deep corners and David Lee on the baseline ("short corner" area), giving Curry and Bogut maximum space to operate. Bogut actually catches the pass at the free throw line, and his ability to put the ball on the floor allows him to get all the way to the rim for the easy lay-in, as the Lakers' help defense was unwilling to assist on the roll.

Defensively, he raises the collective IQ of the team and acts as a tremendous rim protector and rebounder, even though his reaction times are still not quite there. As he continues to get his legs under him and regain his touch around the rim, he'll improve the Warriors' execution in the half court on both ends of the floor.

Utah Jazz

Jazz’s Enes Kanter out indefinitely after dislocating shoulder | The Point Forward - SI.com

Dallas Mavericks

How the Dallas Mavericks got back into the playoff chase in the Western Conference - Grantland

Mavs, Lakers, Jazz all fighting for No. 8 seed in West - ESPN Dallas

Los Angeles Lakers

NBA rules referees missed Kobe Bryant foul on Ricky Rubio three | The Point Forward - SI.com

An Open Letter to Kobe Bryant About His Defense - The Triangle Blog - Grantland

Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash of Los Angeles Lakers nursing injuries - ESPN Los Angeles

Houston Rockets

Royce White rejoins Houston Rockets' D-League team

NBA - LeBron James, Blake Griffin among league's best transition players - ESPN

For those without Insider, the top players are as follows in no particular order:

Well, LeBron James >

LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin.

On Harden:

The Rockets guard doesn't wow with above-the-rim theatrics or otherworldly athletic ability but instead with efficiency and misdirection. About 25 percent of his points come on the break, the highest percent of any player in the top 25 in scoring. Harden takes the most direct route to the basket and won't change course unless absolutely necessary, often at the last moment. Harden will often slow down when he gets near the basket and utilize his Euro step, which has become one of the NBA's most confounding moves to stop. He's adept at doing it in both directions and thanks to his proficiency in finishing with either hand it's all but impossible for a defender to draw a charge.

How to stop him: Make him give it up. Because he makes such good decisions and is deceptively quick, it's tough to get proper defensive position. The best bet is to force him to give it up to a much less reliable finisher.

Might as well get the one on Curry:

You won't find Curry powering home breakaway jams, but he'll surely do just about everything else. His respectable, underrated bounce allows him to finish at the rim with regularity, usually offering up a high arching finger roll to avoid the block. He's got a beautiful array of dribble moves -- behind the back, change-of-direction, and hesitation -- that he can pull off at a variety of speeds. This makes Curry particularly effective on the all-out sprint as well as broken plays when the ball changes hands suddenly and spacing is chaotic.

Unlike the others on this list, Curry is a constant threat to shoot the 3 in transition. This ensures that the backpedaling defender must press up, leaving him vulnerable to a hesitation move that gets Curry to the rim. On a delayed break where he's off the ball he likes to spot up in the corner, where he's shooting 56 percent on corner 3s.

How to stop him: Crowd him. And be physical. Curry isn't bullying anybody in the open floor, and his smallish stature can make him susceptible to aggressive long-armed transition defenders. Most importantly keep track of him and don't let him spot up.

Miscellaneous but somewhat pertaining to the playoff race

Golden in Denver: How the Miraculous Nuggets Have Become One of the League's Best Teams - The Triangle Blog - Grantland

The Game of Thrones–to–NBA Playoffs Translator, Book 1: Westeros Conference - The Triangle Blog - Grantland

Tackle Basketball for the win - TrueHoop Blog - ESPN

Video: Phil Jackson explains his ’11 championship rings’ Twitter typo | The Point Forward - SI.com

How Not to Show a Dunk on TV - NYTimes.com

Caught Off-Guard | The Classical

Scouting Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs - NBA - Ian Thomsen - SI.com

There's a bunch of debate-starting pieces in here but I'll leave those to the comments.

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