NBA Power Rankings: Clippers, Suns surge but Pacers, Thunder still at top
1. Indiana Pacers (34-9, Previous: 1) - The Pacers have allowed 100-plus points in their last three games, which is uncharacteristic of them. But the fact that it’s news says a lot about how strong they’ve been defensively all season.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (36-10, Previous: 2) - Make it 11 straight 30-point games for Kevin Durant, who will try to make it 12 in Miami Wednesday night. LeBron, do something about it!
3. Portland Trail Blazers (33-12, Previous: 3) - The Blazers’ starting lineup is a perfect 45-for-45 in games played/started this season. Seeing as how NBA superstars seem to be getting hurt every week, this is a remarkable feat.
4. Miami Heat (32-12, Previous: 4) - After missing four games with sore knees, Dwyane Wade returned in a win against the Spurs. Seeing as the playoffs are an obvious lock, getting him healthy is most important.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (32-15, Previous: 7) - The Clips finished 5-2 on their seven-game road trip. They’ve certainly gotten by without Chris Paul better than many expected, and currently have a good hold on the No. 4 seed (and home court in first round).
6. Houston Rockets (29-17, Previous: 5) - Dwight Howard won’t be starting in the All-Star Game since the NBA combined centers with forwards in the voting process. But he only cares about starting in the NBA Finals – that’s why he went to Houston.
7. San Antonio Spurs (33-11, Previous: 6) - Two more losses to the Thunder (at home) and Heat (in Miami). This team just doesn’t seem to have enough to beat the really good teams.
8. Golden State Warriors (27-18, Previous: 8) - After a tough loss to Minnesota on Friday, the Warriors put on their Sunday best and crushed the Blazers, 103-88. Thirty-eight points in that one for Stephen Curry, who will start at point guard for the Western Conference All-Stars.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (22-20, Previous: 9) - The Griz have won seven of their last eight games including back-to-back wins over the Rockets. They’ve certainly become a team that should scare people in the first round of the playoffs.
10. Atlanta Hawks (23-21, Previous: 10) - The Hawks are the latest victim of Kevin Durant’s jumper. Ain’t no shame in that. ATL should be happy it avoided a serious Jeff Teague injury. They should remain in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
11. Dallas Mavericks (26-20, Previous: 11) - Memphis is already ahead of the Mavs in our power rankings, and now they’re coming for them in the official standings, too. It’ll be a dog fight for the last couple playoff spots in the West.
12. Phoenix Suns (26-18, Previous: 15) - Loving this team more and more by the week. They dropped 124 points on the Pacers last week. If Eric Bledsoe returns and looks formidable down the stretch for the Suns, this could be another scary team to play against in late April/early May.
13. Denver Nuggets (22-21, Previous: 12) - If the Nuggets are going anywhere this season, it’ll be without Danilo Gallinari, who had a second ACL surgery last week after the first one last April was deemed “insufficient.” That’s a big loss.
14. Toronto Raptors (23-21, Previous: 13) - Great win for the Raptors over the Nets in Brooklyn Monday night. They stole it. Brooklyn looks to be their only competition for the division crown.
15. Brooklyn Nets (20-23, Previous: 14) - Nets fans better enjoy this little run right here, because we just took a look at the five-year forecast and it puts the polar vortex to shame.
16. Washington Wizards (21-22, Previous: 16) - With a chance to go over .500 against the Celtics and then again against the Jazz, the Wizards lost twice. It’s official: It’ll never happen. Their next five games are killer: @Warriors, @Clippers, vs. Thunder, vs. Blazers, vs. Spurs.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (22-22, Previous: 17) - Kevin Garnett made it clear on Sunday that the Timberwolves organization doesn’t even compare to the Celtics. Will Kevin Love be saying the same thing in a few years?
18. Chicago Bulls (22-22, Previous: 18) - Bulls coach Tom Thibodeu cited Patriots coach Bill Belichick in wondering if an increase of injuries has to do with the restrictions on players in offseason. Are they not physically ready for the season?
19. Detroit Pistons (17-27, Previous: 19) - The Pistons are fulfilling our early prediction of disappointing team of the season. There are lots of teams to choose from, so this is now a prestigious honor.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (19-27, Previous: 20) - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 5.8 points and 3.6 rebounds since he returned eight games ago. The Bobcats are 4-4 in those games. Not exactly a difference-maker.
21. New York Knicks (17-27, Previous: 23) - Carmelo Anthony says the only thing left motivating him is a championship. So if that’s the case, he probably shouldn’t re-sign with the Knicks next season.
22. New Orleans Pelicans (18-25, Previous: 21) - If the Pelicans lose enough games, they can move into the bottom five and keep their lottery pick (otherwise it goes to Philly). It won’t be easy since there are so many bad NBA teams, but that shouldn’t stop them from trying!
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-28, Previous: 22) - On Sunday, the Cavs scored 61 points in the first half against the Suns. They scored six points in the third quarter. Yup, they lost. That collapse sums up the feeling of their season.
24. Utah Jazz (16-29, Previous: 26) - The Jazz are officially out of the West basement, having passed the Sacramento Kings for that honor. They should pass the Lakers when L.A. loses to Indiana.
25. Boston Celtics (15-31, Previous: 24) - Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett’s return to Boston was something that will be remembered there forever. Now if only Celtics fans could forget the rest of this season already.
26. Sacramento Kings (15-29, Previous: 25) - Both Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins have missed the last three games with an illness going around the locker room called “tank-o-litus”. Just kidding, they’re actually hurt – but may be back soon.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (16-29, Previous: 27) – Kobe Bryant says he won’t recruit Melo to join Lakers. Can you really blame him?
28. Philadelphia 76ers (14-31, Previous: 28) - Spencer Hawes is 7-foot-1, 25-years-old, averages 13.9 points and 8.7 rebounds, and can hit 3-pointers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, but not many people are talking about him.
29. Orlando Magic (12-33, Previous: 29) - Do you believe in Magic? Because really, you shouldn’t.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (8-36, Previous: 30) - Australia’s Dante Exum just declared for the NBA Draft, so there’s that.