NBA Power Rankings: Can The Celtics Or Anyone Else Catch The Spurs?

The East remains extraordinarily top-heavy ... and completely mediocre beyond the top six. Can anyone of the East's power catch the Spurs, though?

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NBA Power Rankings: Can The Celtics Catch The Spurs, Or (Gulp) Hold Off The Heat And Bulls?

The San Antonio Spurs continue to impress their will upon the league, but the loathed Rodeo Trip is upon us. The Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls continue to jockey for position at the top of the East, while the Orlando Magic and L.A. Lakers try to find themselves. Can the Hornets hold off the Mavericks for much longer? Dig into this week's SBNation.com NBA Power Rankings.

1. San Antonio Spurs (40-7, Previous: #1) -- The Spurs picked up comfortable wins against the Jazz and Rockets setting up the start of the Rodeo Trip on Tuesday. Thursday's showdown with the Lakers in L.A. is the centerpiece. If the Lakers perform against the Spurs at home as they did against fellow elites Miami and Boston, San Antonio shouldn't have to worry much.

2. Miami Heat (34-14, Prev: #2) -- The Heat regained a decent margin of victory advantage on the Spurs after Monday's blow-out win over the Cavs, but San Antonio has played a tougher schedule. Is there any chance a healthy Miami team could make a run at home court throughout? They need to catch the 2.5-games better Celtics first. But if the Spurs, Lord forbid, suffer some injuries, it could happen.

3. Boston Celtics (36-11, Prev: #3) -- The Celtics earned a requisite blow-out over the Cavs before bookending a bad, bad loss to the Suns with wins over the Blazers and Lakers. A win in Sacramento Tuesday will make for a successful jaunt out West, but there's a tough schedule (Dallas, Orlando) waiting in Boston.

4. Chicago Bulls (33-14, Prev: #5) -- The Bulls swept the Magic and Pacers, and now sets off for a five-game road spell. There's no tough test until Feb. 12 at New Orleans; visits to Portland and Utah could provide pitfalls, however. Joakim Noah's cast has been removed, but he still looks to be a couple weeks away. Can Kurt Thomas keep the dream alive?

5. Los Angeles Lakers (33-15 , Prev: #4) -- Losing to the Celtics is no shame. Getting smacked by the Kings in L.A. deserves punishment. The Lakers' defense remains a problem, and despite what Omri Casspi and Paul Pierce hung on Ron Artest, it looks like a backcourt problem.

6. Orlando Magic (31-18, Prev: #7) -- There's no shame in losing at Chicago -- the Bulls may not lose at home the rest of the season, not with that defense. But a defeat to the Grizzlies with Mike Conley doing most of the damage isn't as easily excused. What's up with Orlando's defense?

7. New Orleans Hornets (31-18, Prev: #6) -- The Hornets' 10-game win streak came to about the most jolting loss you could imagine, with a six-point loss against an unrested Kings squad. DeMarcus Cousins ate Emeka Okafor alive (seriously, I saw it, it was gross!), and you wonder if other Western big men think they can do the same.

8. Dallas Mavericks (32-15, Prev: #9) -- The Mavericks had a 4-0 week, and while the offense nor defense is completely back, things are looking better. Things would be looking even better if Rodrigue Beaubois could get back on the court. He's a potential game-changer, but he needs some immersion in the rotation before crunch time in March.

9. Denver Nuggets (28-20, Prev: #8) -- Denver began its cupcake Eastern road trip with three wins, but suffered embarrassing defeat at Philadelphia and New Jersey. This probably should have been a 4-1 road trip all along, but the quick start had hopes of a 5-0 run high. So much for that.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (30-17, Prev: #10) -- OKC's humbling week should remind us all how young and fragile the Thunder core is. Too-close-for-comfort wins over the Wolves and Wizards gave way to a thrilling loss to the excellent Heat. That said, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are averaging 58 points per game in their last 10.

11. Atlanta Hawks (30-18, Prev: #11) -- Atlanta's offense has become a start-and-stop affair, as Jamal Crawford has replaced Joe Johnson as the team's designated bricklayer. Crawford is shooting just 38 percent in his last 10 games.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (25-24, Prev: #13) -- Here come the stormin' Memphis Grizzlies! Three straight wins have Memphis over .500 for the first time since early November, and within a game of Portland for the final Western playoff spot.

13. Houston Rockets (22-27, Prev: #14) -- Quite possibly the best five-game-under-.500 team in history, the Rockets continue to lose a good share of the close ones. Houston is 4-10 in games decided by five or fewer points. Studies suggest those games are toss-ups; logic, then, suggests that the Rockets are playing against a loaded coin.

14. New York Knicks (25-22, Prev: #16) -- New York's Thursday win over the Heat was huge, but perhaps Sunday's revival of Timofey Mozgov meant more for the team's quaint hopes in a first-round playoff series against Miami, Boston or Chicago. The Pistons may be light up front, but that only partially discounts Mozgov's terror.

15. Portland Trail Blazers (25-22, Prev: #15) -- No one was more in need of rest than the Blazers, who played just one game in the past week. That now comes home to roost with four games in five nights beginning on Tuesday. Luckily, the final game of the span is at Cleveland. (Whew.)

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NBA Power Rankings: Blake Griffin Keeps Clippers Interesting, If Not Particularly Good

The Utah Jazz stopped their freefall, but continue to struggle to regain their pose as one of the West's best teams. (In other words, they don't belong in that conversation, or within a country mile of it.) Further down the West standings, Blake Griffin continues to make the L.A. Clippers an incredibly fun team to watch. Sadly, they still just aren't that good, especially with Eric Gordon out.

Meanwhile, the East's swamp continue to gurgle and boil, with Indiana taking the occasion to shake things up. What stirring will the trade deadline bring? Stay tuned. In the meantime, we present the bottom half of the NBA.

16. Utah Jazz (29-20, Prev: #12) -- Utah probably locked up a playoff spot long ago; Deron Williams is too talented to let a team with this large a lead slip all the way out. That said, the January slide sent Utah from "dangerous team" to "bleh" quickly. It's unclear whether any foe ought to be afraid of drawing the Jazz in the first round. Will the Utah front office try to shore things up at the deadline?

17. Phoenix Suns (22-24, Prev: #21) -- Consecutive wins over the Celtics and Hornets rates as this week's second most impressive Feat of Strength. But dag, Alvin Gentry, we didn't cheer when Josh Childress came home so we could watch him pick gnats off of Garrett Siler's head! Free Chills!

18. Philadelphia 76ers (21-26, Prev: #17) -- Philly went 8-6 in January to make modest improvement in the win-loss column and keep hold of the No. 7 spot. Color me surprised a team starring Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala is only No. 18 in turnover creation. This same squad was No. 9 last season.

19. Milwaukee Bucks (19-27, Prev: #18) -- The Bucks couldn't have been happy about the Pacers' coaching change; Milwaukee had an advantage on Indiana, and a spark for the Central rivals can only heat up the race for No. 8. Three straight wins helped the Bucks make up ground, but a rough loss to the Clippers will hurt.

20. Indiana Pacers (18-27, Prev: #19) -- Before you write off Frank Vogel, remember the great Tony DiLeo, who took over for an ousted Mo Cheeks in Philly in Dec. 2008 and rode the Sixers to a solid finish and a decent little six-game playoff series against the Magic. A new voice can work.

21. Los Angeles Clippers (19-28, Prev: #20) -- The Clippers have one more game at home (Bulls) before setting out on the road for the month. At least All-Star Weekend -- which Blake Griffin will figure heavily in -- is in L.A.; the Clippers' star will be able to spend a few nights in his own bed. (Bed of nails, that is. Too tough for Memory Foam, son.)

22. Golden State Warriors (20-27, Prev: #22) -- The Warriors were fixin' to threaten .500 before a four-game losing streak ended that noise for the rest of the season. The focus now shifts entirely to Monta Ellis, who -- two-point outing against Utah aside -- will fight for an All-Star bid. The hefty weight of the Bay Area Media Machine is behind him, but John Hollinger's right: no dice, Monta.

23. Charlotte Bobcats (20-27, Prev: #23) -- The 'Cats went 9-7 in January; as with the Sixers, this is modest improvement, but improvement nonetheless. Charlotte's offense, though, desperately needs some shooting help. Stephen Jackson shooting less would be a good first step.

24. Detroit Pistons (17-31, Prev: #24) -- The Pistons' siege on a playoff spot was always myth, especially with Rip Hamilton providing nothing. The question that remains is whether John Kuester can save his own job, or whether the team will can him and elevate Brian Hill in a babysitter role.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-36, Prev: #26) -- The Wolves have been putting forth impressive effort with little to show in the win column. Michael Beasley has tailed off, though, and Jonny Flynn looks more like an undrafted rookie than a No. 6 pick.

26. Sacramento Kings (12-33, Prev: #28) -- A back-to-back at the Lakers and at home against the Hornets? Win and win, y'all. DeMarcus Cousins went nuts against the Western powers, and Tyreke Evans finally looks like the reigning Rookie of the Year.

27. Toronto Raptors (13-36, Prev: #25) -- The Raptors went 2-15 in January. Jay Triano still has a job. The Raptors still have the same roster (Peja Stojakovic and Alexis Ajinca aside). Bryan Colangelo might actually get an extension.

28. New Jersey Nets (15-34, Prev: #27) -- More anecdotal proof for the consideration that crowds aren't what cause home court advantage: The Nets are 12-11 at the sparsely attended Prudential Center, and 3-23 on the road.

29. Washington Wizards (13-34, Prev: #29) -- It's time to start thinking about whether the Wizards might luck out and win a second straight No. 1 overall pick. It's just as well, since Washginton needs everything but ... well, a point guard!

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-40, Prev: #30) -- Cleveland polished off a winless January, which means the team managed to actually get worse after a 1-14 December. Impressive.

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