This has been a crazy week of NBA action as we saw the Miami Heat crumble and the Los Angeles Lakers thrive. Here are my NBA power rankings for this week:
1. San Antonio Spurs—Despite their blowout loss to the Lakers on Sunday which ended their franchise-record 22 game home win streak, the Spurs are still the class of the NBA. The Spurs should bounce back this week with games at home against the Pistons and Kings and a game in Houston. Should be a 3-0 week for the Spurs.
2. Boston Celtics—The Celtics still haven’t lost a game since their questionable trade of Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to the Thunder for Gerald Green and Nenad Kristic and Boston has won 8 of their last 10 while extending their #1 seed in the East lead to 3 over the Chicago Bulls. Boston has a rather easy week with games at home against the Bucks and Clippers and a tough road game in Philadelphia a place where they won earlier in the year via a Kevin Garnett last second shot.
3. Chicago Bulls—A very successful five game road trip for the Chicago Bulls and it could have easily been perfect had they not blown that 19 point lead to the Hawks. One of the questions going into this road trip (by me especially) was could the Bulls beat elite teams on the road and they answered their critics by going 2-1 in a stretch of games that included games in Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami and this could have easily been a 3-0 stretch. The Bulls have 4 games this week including 3 at home. We could easily be looking at another successful week for the Bulls who have the 3rd easiest schedule in the NBA the rest of the way.
4. Dallas Mavericks—The Mavericks have been fantastic recently until they blew a large lead to the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday which ended on a Zach Randolph buzzer beater. The Mavericks have still been very good of late and Dirk Nowitzki really needs some MVP love despite missing time due to injury earlier in the season. I don’t see them making it to the NBA Finals this season but a Western Conference Finals appearance is definitely not out of the question. Really see them losing in the 2nd round to either the Lakers or Spurs though.
5. Los Angeles Lakers—Who would have thought the Lakers would be under the radar at some point of this NBA season? The Lakers have quietly won all 7 of their games since the All Star Break and that loss in Cleveland was a real wake-up call because they haven’t lost since. The Lakers capped off their fantastic week with their best win of the season a 99-83 blowout win in San Antonio. The Lakers next four games are going to be a tough challenge though as they have games in Atlanta, Miami, and Dallas before a home game against the Orlando Magic. This next week will show truly how good this Lakers team really is.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder—After dropping three in a row against good teams last week (San Antonio, Orlando, LA Lakers), the Thunder bounced back by having a perfect 3-0 record this week against the Hawks, Pacers, and Suns.
7. Orlando Magic—After a huge comeback win against the Miami Heat on Thursday, the Magic followed it up with a clunker against the Chicago Bulls. What was once an elite team in the NBA has turned into just a good team this year especially after the trade that brought Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas to Orlando and shipped Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter, and Rashard Lewis out. I’m a big fan of organizations that take risks but I think Orlando has taken too many risks in hope they can keep Dwight Howard down the road. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dwight does leave when his contract expires because Orlando is turning into quite a mess. Howard is putting up the best numbers of his career this year but his teammates just aren’t stepping up and it’s costing the Magic wins.
8. Miami Heat—Was going to put Miami ahead of Orlando but quite frankly, they don’t deserve it. The Heat are 1-12 against the elite teams in the NBA this season and have been ridiculously bad in close games this season going 2-8 in games decided by 3 points or less. The Heat have feasted on bad competition this year going 28-2 against teams with below .500 records while going just 15-18 against teams over .500. The Heat are also 0-6 against teams that have Tom Thibodeau’s defensive scheme (Boston and Chicago) which is going to be a killer in the playoffs because if this team wants to make the finals, they’re going to have to go through one of those two teams if not both. The Heat have 6 tough games ahead of them against Portland, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. We could see this team slide even further.
9. Atlanta Hawks—The Hawks had a huge comeback win against the Bulls on Wednesday in a game that saw them trailing by as much as 19. But the Hawks came back on Sunday and lost to an inconsistent New York Knicks team at home. The Hawks themselves have been very inconsistent this season as they started off the year very nicely but now see themselves sitting in the #5 spot in the East and not having home court advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs.
10. Memphis Grizzlies—Even with their best player Rudy Gay sidelined with an injury, the Grizzlies have still managed to continue playing some of the best basketball in the NBA. The Grizzlies came back and beat probably the hottest team in the NBA the Dallas Mavericks on a buzzer beater by Zach Randolph.
11. Denver Nuggets—Everyone is talking about how the Knicks and Carmelo are doing while forgetting that the Nuggets are 4-2 since shipping Carmelo to New York. They did lose to the lowly Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday but other than that, they’ve been very solid and shooting guard Arron Affalo has been a huge reason why.
12. Portland Trail Blazers—The Trail Blazers have been hot since getting Brandon Roy back. They haven’t exactly beaten the best competition but they’re getting the job done.
13. New York Knicks—The Knicks have been so inconsistent since landing Carmelo Anthony. They’ve alternated wins and losses ever since getting Carmelo including two losses to Cleveland while beating Miami and Atlanta in their buildings. One of the things the Knicks have done well recently is play defense. The Knicks will never be a great defensive team under Mike D’Antoni but they’ve shown signs of good defense littered around games of horrible defense. They held the Hawks to 79 points on Sunday and the Heat to 86 points last Sunday.
14. Philadelphia 76ers—At one point this season, the 76ers were 3-13 and I was questioning if Doug Collins was smart to take that job. But the Sixers have really turned things around and have bought into Doug Collins who has emphasized defense. Since their 3-13 start, the Sixers have gone 29-17 and have climbed to the 7th seed in the East and could easily climb over the inconsistent Knicks if they continue to play well.
15. New Orleans Hornets—The Hornets have really struggled over the past few weeks and now Chris Paul had to be taken off on a stretcher. Luckily for the Hornets, it doesn’t appear to be serious but Paul will miss the game against the Bulls. The Hornets started the season 8-0 and were 11-1 at one point. Now the Hornets are going to be in a battle to avoid missing the playoffs especially if Chris Paul misses a long period of time.
16. Phoenix Suns—The Suns just finished off a successful roadtrip winning a few dramatic games but they just lost Channing Frye for a period of time because of a separated shoulder an injury that could see him missing 4-6 weeks.
17. Houston Rockets—One of the hotter teams in the NBA since the trade deadline and a big reason why is Kyle Lowry who has been fantastic recently and benefitted from the Rockets trading Aaron Brooks to the Suns for Goran Dragic. Now Lowry knows this is his team to run and he’s been great. If the Rockets stay hot, they could easily slip into the 7 or 8 seed and they’ve given the Lakers a few good games recently.
18. Utah Jazz—The Jazz are basically in rebuilding mode now after their trade of Deron Williams. They were bad just before the trade and now they’ve sunk to new lows losing 8 of their last 10.
19. Indiana Pacers—Somehow own the 8 seed in the East still despite their recent struggles. The Pacers were playing good after Jim O’Brien was fired but have regressed again since.
20. Golden State Warriors—You’re not going to win many games when you don’t play any defense and the Warriors are currently the 2nd worst defensive team in the NBA behind Minnesota. Monta Ellis has been a beast this season but that’s not enough.
21. Charlotte Bobcats—Even at 26-36, the Bobcats find themselves one game out of the 8 seed in the East but I think they made a poor deal in my mind sending their heart and soul Gerald Wallace to Portland. DJ Augustin has been a pleasant surprise for the Bobcats this season.
22. Milwaukee Bucks—Gave Boston a good run Sunday Night without Andrew Bogut but the Bucks are still a mess. Should come to no surprise to Bulls fans that a Scott Skiles-led team would fall apart after a few seasons. The Bucks made a ton of questionable moves this offseason that were meant to help them win-now and some people had them finishing ahead of the Bulls during the preseason. Now it looks like the Bucks are screwed in the short-term and long-term.
23. Los Angeles Clippers—Hated Vinny Del Negro when he was in Chicago and Tom Thibodeau is showing you how worthless of a coach this guy is. Blake Griffin is kind of fun to watch though.
24. New Jersey Nets—The Nets just rattled off two wins in London against the Toronto Raptors (one in triple overtime) and Deron Williams, while not shooting the ball so well with New Jersey, has recorded a double double in every game he’s played in with the Nets. Deron is proving what a great point guard he is racking up a ton of assists with not the best talent around him. The big question is, how long will Nets fans be spoiled by Deron Williams?
25. Detroit Pistons—Ever since their protest of John Kuester, the Pistons have been playing pretty good basketball. One of the best stories from this team this season has been rookie Greg Monroe who has really developed into a nice young player. The Pistons are still far off from doing any damage though which all their bad contracts.
26. Sacramento Kings—They’re a bigger story off the court than on the court right now as reports indicate that the Kings are almost a near lock to be heading to Anaheim. DeMarcus Cousins is developing into a beast and Marcus Thornton who is in just his 2nd NBA season has been a great pick-up for them as they acquired him from the Hornets for Carl Landry.
27. Toronto Raptors—Talk about a disaster in London. Lost two games to the New Jersey Nets including one in triple overtime. Bargnani is a disaster. He’s a solid scorer but any center that grabs just under six rebounds a game is worthless.
28. Washington Wizards—John Wall has been excellent this year but the rest of the team is a mess. Flip Saunders needs to go this offseason because he’s as clueless as ever.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves—Mine as well call them the Minnesota Kevin Loves because that’s all to see there right now. Love has been fantastic while his teammates have been worthless. I’d like to see Anthony Randolph get some burn to see what he could do. Randolph has always been a highly regarded young player but just hasn’t gotten the minutes due to injury or ineffective play.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers—Still the worst team in the NBA but you have to give credit to the Cavs who are fighting hard in every game and even beat the Knicks twice including one at Madison Square Garden.