The New York Knicks' nightmare string is over, but things aren't exactly rosy in the Big Apple, as the 'Bockers have slipped deep into the muck, and it'll take more than one overtime win to climb out. The bottom of the East bracket gained a bit more clarity as the Milwaukee Bucks appear to have dropped out, but the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Bobcats still fight.
16. Atlanta Hawks (42-32, Prev: 17) -- The Hawks continue to Hawk it up, beating the dregs (Cleveland, New Jersey) and losing to the good (Chicago, Philadelphia). Five of Atlanta's final eight games are against plus-.500 teams. Philadelphia won't catch them for No. 5, but their records won't be too far apart.
17. New York Knicks (36-38, Prev: 15) -- Mike D'Antoni's experiments with the center position do well to point out exactly why so many were skeptical of Amar'e Stoudemire last summer. If you have to rely on Shawne Williams to guard Dwight Howard so that Amar'e doesn't get in foul trouble, you have a problem with Amar'e. There may not be a more "one-way" player than him in the league. (Old buddy Steve Nash and new buddy Carmelo Anthony are contenders.)
18. Milwaukee Bucks (29-44, Prev: 19) -- Les Bucks est mort, I'm afraid. A completely disappointing and rather understandable season is just about finished after Monday's loss to the Bobcats, and it's too bad, because Milwaukee is better than the other East No. 8 contenders. That defense!
19. Utah Jazz (36-39, Prev: 18) -- When the Jazz traded Deron Williams for Derrick Favors (and others), everyone immediately assumed one or both of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap would be jettisoned to clear the path for Favors. The Jazz couldn't lose either big man. Result? Favors is averaging 18 minutes a game in the team's last 10 games (through Sunday's action), plus he has a DNP-CD. Is that enough court time?
20. Indiana Pacers (33-42, Prev: 20) -- The Pacers lost by double-digits to the Kings and Pistons over the weekend. Why are getting a playoff bid? Abolish the conferences!
21. Golden State Warriors (32-42, Prev: 22) -- Monta Ellis played 48 minutes against the Wizards on Sunday, and I don't know why. Warriors. Wizards. Late March. No playoff hopes. 48 minutes? I don't get it.
22. Los Angeles Clippers (29-45, Prev: 21) -- Unfortunately, the addition of Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose's obvious personal improvement over the summer cloud just how awful Vinny Del Negro was in comparison to Tom Thibodeau. Ronnie Brewer and Kurt Thomas were good defensive additions, but V.D.N. had Tyrus Thomas. A huge part of Chicago's success is the massive defensive upgrade Thibodeau brought over Del Negro.
23. Charlotte Bobcats (31-42, Prev: 23) -- The Bobcats have failed to hit the 90-point mark in nine of 13 March games. They scored 114 against the Knicks on Saturday. Don't spend 'em all in one place, boys!
24. Detroit Pistons (26-47, Prev: 24) -- Rodney Stuckey remains one of the more fascinating post-lockout free agency test cases. Under the current system, he'll be a restricted free agent, meaning Detroit can match an offer. But will the Pistons, so bad these two post-Billups seasons, spend vital cap space for the status quo?
25. Sacramento Kings (20-52, Prev: 25) -- A brilliant 4-1 road trip bleeds into the sobering realization that Sacramento may have just 10 games left as an NBA city (five at home).
26. Toronto Raptors (20-53, Prev: 26) -- The new conventional whisperdom is that Mike D'Antoni will be canned by the Knicks and join Bryan Colangelo in Toronto. I'm still trying to ascertain why Colangelo will be allowed to remain in Toronto, and why anyone thinks the careers of DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis should be committed to Jose Calderon and an uptempo offense. Do they still think Steve Nash wants to play in Canada before he retires?
27. New Jersey Nets (23-49, Prev: 27) -- Deron Williams has been resting his wrist ... buuuuut he'll likely play Wednesday. When the Nets meet the Knicks. On ESPN. That is what New Jersey's season has come to: conspiratorial humiliation of the Knicks.
28. Washington Wizards (18-55, Prev: 28) -- This season has to be testing franchise owner Ted Leonsis' patience. Most teams would can Flip Saunders after two seasons like this. Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld seem more patient than most teams. But it's hard to consider the captain of such a wayward ship safe.