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NBA Power Rankings: Knicks Careen Toward Earth, As Eastern Swamp Remains Muddled

The New York Knicks ended a six-game losing streak on Monday, but the damage is done. The Knicks sit just two games above .500, looking a lot more like an also-ran in a shallow conference than a team one player away from contention. The remainder of the East continues to seize between promising and awful, meanwhile, as the Clippers and Warriors try their best to play with consistency.

16. New York Knicks (23-21, Prev: #13) -- I fear things will get worse for the Knicks before they'll get better. A back-to-back against the Heat (Thursday on TNT) and the Hawks (in Atlanta) could knock New York back to .500. That's still incredibly safe in the East playoff picture, but still unfortunate.

17. Philadelphia 76ers (19-25, Prev: #18) -- Not content to let the Wizards have all the fun, the Sixers have been surprisingly two-faced this season, 14-7 at home and 5-18 on the road. Road offense seems to be the killer; Philadelphia is shooting 46.7 percent at home and 44.4 percent on the road.

18. Milwaukee Bucks (16-26, Prev: #21) -- I, like many in Wisconsin, keep waiting for the Bucks to make their grand run on the No. 7 seed. It hasn't happened. Maybe it will coincide with Brandon Jennings' return (this week, hurrah!), or perhaps the Green Bay Packers' mojo will spread like a wonderful contagion.

19. Indiana Pacers (16-25, Prev: #17) -- An 0-3 week results in five straight losses and a 2-8 January record. I would be more concerned if Larry Bird wasn't considering a massive trade and/or retirement.

20. Los Angeles Clippers (17-26, Prev: #19) -- At what about do Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon execute a hostile takeover of the franchise from Donald Sterling? Who is going to defend ol' Donald T.? The cops? Lawyers? Baron Davis? Nope. No one. Get it done!

21. Phoenix Suns (20-23, Prev: #20) -- You can only live fat on the bottom of the Eastern Conference for so long before the bottom of the Eastern Conference bites back. Wins over the Wizards and Cavaliers begat losses to the Pistons and 76ers. The Suns have $55 million in salary locked up next season.

22. Golden State Warriors (19-25, Prev: #22) -- Golden State completed a five-game homestand with four wins. However, those wins came against the Clippers, Nets, Pacers and Kings. One game into a new eight-game homestand, and things don't look so promising. A Monday loss to the Spurs leads into games against, among others, the Hornets, Jazz, Bulls and Nuggets.

23. Charlotte Bobcats (17-25, Prev: #23) -- Charles Oakley has Kwame Brown rebounding the ball. This is not a drill. To the nuclear bunkers, now.

24. Detroit Pistons (17-28, Prev: #24) -- An awful double-digit loss at the Nets notwithstanding, the Pistons are playing decent defensive basketball, and Tracy McGrady is doing enough as Detroit's point guard to keep the team in most games. It's too bad one of the team's best offensive players, Rip Hamilton, has been grounded by coach John Kuester. With the Carmelo Anthony deal dead, Hamilton isn't going anywhere. Now seems like a good time to kiss and make up, right?

25. Toronto Raptors (13-32, Prev: #25) -- The Raptors had an 0-4 week, and have now lost eight straight. Toronto is competitive almost exactly half the time. I blame high Canadian taxes. Socialists takin' half of the Raptors' spirit, nahmean?

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (10-34, Prev: #26) -- The Wolves have lost four straight; the team's last win came at home to the Wizards, which should hardly count. Minnesota is 2-9 in January against a fairly difficult schedule; the worst news this week came out of Barcelona, which is at the very least a nice change of pace.

 

27. New Jersey Nets (13-32, Prev: #29) -- The Nets! Are! On Fire! New Jersey's won three of four since Mikhail Prokhorov gave the Carmelo Anthony trade talks a big yargh, and in the shallow East, the playoffs are actually possible (if not plausible).

 

28. Sacramento Kings (10-32, Prev: #28) -- The Kings, purveyors of entertaining but horrific basketball, finally got over the hump over the Blazers after overtime losses to those same Blazers and the Warriors. Sacramento has 16 losses in which the team has a lead or is tied in the fourth quarter.

29. Washington Wizards (13-30, Prev: #27) -- This week's home win over the Celtics and road losses to the Bucks and beatable Knicks is par for the course for the Wizards, who are now 13-9 at home and 0-21 on the road. This thing has taken on a life of its own.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-36, Prev: #30) -- "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." -- Mama Ziller, 1991.