MIAMI - MARCH 14: Forward Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs complains to the referee against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on March 14, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

NBA Power Rankings: Heat Chase Bulls, Celtics; Spurs Maintain Dominance

  • Live
2 Total Updates since March 22, 2011
  • Updates 2
  • All Updates 2

NBA Power Rankings: Heat Chase Bulls, Celtics; Spurs Maintain Dominance

The San Antonio Spurs remain in the driver's seat of Planet Earth; sources say Gregg Popovich actually picked Barack Obama's sterling bracket for him. In the meantime, the Miami Heat kinda survived its brutal 11-game stretch, and is rewarded with an easy run leading up to the final week of the season. Can they catch the Bulls or Celtics?

1. San Antonio Spurs (57-13, Previous: 1) -- If Tim Duncan's injury lingers into the postseason, all bets are off. And hasn't that always been the fear with these Spurs, that the impeccable health was too much to ask for? In the interesting of a rollicking NBA playoffs, let's hope Duncan follows Tony Parker's comeback model.

2. Miami Heat (48-22, Prev: 3) -- Miami could very well win its next nine games by an average of 15 points. Philadelphia and Houston are the only decent teams on the docket before the Heat meet Boston on April 10. Consider this a predictive ranking.

3. Chicago Bulls (50-19, Prev: 2) -- Chicago's defense is literally second to none, but that offense leaves much to be desired. The Bulls are No. 13 on offense, and while the 2007-08 Celtics proved you can win like that -- league-best defense, almost average offense -- it's not optimal. But at least the Bulls do have an identity.

4. Los Angeles Lakers (50-20, Prev: 5) -- The tight loss to the Heat remains the Lakers' only hiccup since All-Star Weekend, with impressive wins over the Spurs, Mavericks, Thunder and Magic in that span. Quietly, and thanks in part to Miami's huge win over the Spurs, L.A. now has a better margin of victory than S.A., too.

5. Boston Celtics (50-19, Prev: 4) -- That famous Celtics cinched-in-the-fourth defense is still here, in case you were wondering. The Knicks found out all about it on Monday, as Boston held New York to 17 in the fourth, and just four over the final seven minutes. Will the C's ramp up before the playoffs, or be content with a No. 2 seed and a second-round match with LeBron James?

6. Orlando Magic (45-26, Prev: 7) -- Dwight Howard is averaging more than 16 rebounds a game over the Magic's last 10 games. His 14.3 rebounds per game would be a career high if he keeps it up. Reminder: this kid's only 25.

7. Dallas Mavericks (49-21, Prev: 6) -- The Mavericks have quietly lost five of nine, and now face having to make up two games on the Lakers and face a potential second-round meeting in L.A. Luckily for Dallas, the Mavericks are 24-10 on the road vs. 25-11 at home.

8. Denver Nuggets (42-29, Prev: 8) -- Another crushing victory keeps the Nuggets flying high. As it turns out, George Karl wasn't crazy when he claimed his post-trade team could challenge for home court advantage. They won't make it, but they very well could be favored in a prospective first-round match-up with the Thunder.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-24, Prev: 9) -- Lest we overrate Kendrick Perkins' impact a little, Toronto did a solid job scoring on OKC on Sunday, and the Thunder's West foes certainly have big men who can step out like Andrea Bargnani did. A bigger concern is that the Thunder don't seem dialed in quite yet. When's the razor focus Kevin Durant has become famous for going to return?

10. Houston Rockets (37-34, Prev: 12) -- The Rockets are tired, but given how well they've been playing, a one-game week might not be the respite the team wants. Kyle Lowry, in particular, has been incredible since the Rockets traded Aaron Brooks. In his last 10 games, Lowry is averaging 20 points, eight assists and five rebounds per game.

11. New Orleans Hornets (40-31, Prev: 10) -- Perhaps no team in the bottom-half of the West's playoff bracket will rely more on match-ups than the Hornets; New Orleans is so focused on defensive intensity and Chris Paul's otherworldly creation ability that against a team like the Mavericks, it'd be hard not to get excited for the opportunity for fireworks.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (39-32, Prev: 11) -- The Grizzlies seem to be the only team the Knicks can beat these days, but Memphis has done a good job against everyone else. That could change, though; the Grizzlies' next three games are against the Celtics, Heat and Spurs. Gulp.

13. Portland Trail Blazers (40-30, Prev: 14) -- The Blazers were crooked on Sunday, and despite the NBA's No. 11 offense, shooting is not a strength of this team; Portland ranks just No. 22 in effective field goal percentage. That the Blazers can score so efficienctly -- thank offensive rebounds and a paucity of turnovers -- is a good sign when the playoffs arrive.

14. Philadelphia 76ers (36-34, Prev: 13) -- Louis Williams has perked up in March, and Philadelphia needs a strident gunner like him given the team's inherent offensive struggles.

15. New York Knicks (35-35, Prev: 15) --  My concerns with the .500 Knicks have been documented in this space all season. But let me say this: you want your favorite team facing the Knicks in the first round? I didn't think so. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire can score on anyone, and while they are very obviously struggling to figure it out, they can each turn a game on a dime.

Continue

NBA Power Rankings: Suns, Jazz Fighting For Playoff Lives

The Phoenix Suns have Steve Nash back, and playoff hopes are alive. The same cannot be said for Utah Jazz, who find their dreams fading. The Bucks, Pacers and Bobcats continue to quarrel over the right to get smacked in the first round; that's a quarrel worth having, certainly.

16. Phoenix Suns (35-33, Prev: 17) -- The Suns' season could very well come down to a single game, and there are plenty of losses Phoenix will surely kick themselves about. Either way, the next step for this franchise and what role Steve Nash plays in it remains the most important question. You can't survive off of terminal playoff runs forever.

17. Atlanta Hawks (40-30, Prev: 16) -- The worst good team ever, the Hawks continue to twiddle their thumbs and wait for the Magic in the first round of the East playoffs. Oh, for the days when the Hawks were an upstart squad of fun crashing the Celtics' coronation.

18. Utah Jazz (36-35, Prev: 19) -- The Jazz are almost assuredly out of the playoffs in the West, and Devin Harris' injury won't help. But no team will have a more interesting -- and possible active -- offseason than Utah, with two lottery picks and at least one veteran frontcourt player to shuffle off.

19. Milwaukee Bucks (28-41, Prev: 18) -- Milwaukee swept the New York teams over the weekend, and have a great shot of slipping into the No. 8 slippers. But would any of the East's powers be afraid? Andrew Bogut is the only Buck who can truly intimidate, and his offense is still suffering.

 

20. Indiana Pacers (31-40, Prev: 20) -- One step forward, one step back for the Pacers. The schedule remains rather light, so that should either help the Pacers look more respectable as a No. 8 seed, or it should provide final embarrassment to a team that has done nothing to show it can make an elite team sweat in the first round.

 

21. Los Angeles Clippers (27-44, Prev: 22) -- I'm not saying Blake Griffin has crashed into the rookie wall with great force, but 43 percent shooting over the last 10 games and far less frequent double-doubles might be an indication the long season is wearing on the presumptive Rookie of the Year.

22. Golden State Warriors (30-41, Prev: 21) -- Keith Smart's job is increasingly in doubt, as the post-Nellie Warriors still refuse to defend. A greater concern is how David Lee does or does not make a difference; I'd like to see more time next to Ekpe Udoh before making a determination.

 

23. Charlotte Bobcats (28-41, Prev: 23) -- The Bobcats clearly gave up once Gerald Wallace was traded. Do you blame them? Had the Bobcats not made that trade, there's a case to be made that they'd be pulling away in the race for No. 8

24. Detroit Pistons (25-45, Prev: 24) -- The Pistons have two games against the Pacers and one each against the Bobcats and Bucks. Spoilers for mediocre teams trying to grab a No. 8 seed isn't quite what the Pistons had in mind at season's start, though.

 

25. Sacramento Kings (17-52, Prev: 27) -- Silver lining of the Kings' awful run over the past month: no one doubts how important Tyreke Evans is any longer. DeMarcus Cousins' turnover numbers have been ghastly -- he has 47 over the last 10 games. Forty-seven.

26. Toronto Raptors (20-50, Prev: 28) -- The Raptors clearly are not tanking. They just stink.

 

27. New Jersey Nets (22-47, Prev: 26) -- With Deron Williams, the Nets were a team causing suffering fans to hypnotically dream of a ragin' run to the playoffs. With Deron Williams on the shelf, the Nets are ... well, the Nets we came to know and despise before the trade.

28. Washington Wizards (17-51, Prev: 29) -- Don't get too excited about Jordan Crawford's play of late. Sure, he's scoring quite a bit (14 per game over the last 10). But his shooting has been rather awful. His True Shooting percentage as a Wizard: .466.

 

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-54, Prev: 25) -- The Wolves lost by 32 to the Kings on Sunday. The Kings lost by 40 to the Bulls on Monday. Does that mean the Bulls would beat the Wolves by 72? (On a more serious note, the Wolves might be done for the season. Just one of the team's final 11 opponents -- the Nets -- has a losing record.)

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-56, Prev: 30) -- J.J. Hickson has come around, though the expectations have been so devastated by the Cavs' devastatingly bad season that I'm not sure whether this is a mirage.

Continue
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.