NBA Power Rankings: Are the Spurs frauds? Could the Mavericks surprise?
1. San Antonio Spurs (62-19, Previous 1) – Fitting that the Spurs close out the regular season as our No. 1. They’ll finish with the best record in the NBA, but they’ll continue to be known as the New England Patriots of basketball if they can’t bring the title back to San Antonio this June. Like the Pats, the Spurs owned the early 2000s in terms of championships, but since that time they have been exceedingly average in the postseason.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (58-23, Previous 2) – Here’s hoping OKC and the Clippers meet at some point this spring. Their matchup last week was outstanding as the Clips made a late rally but a late dunk by Russell Westbrook and a 3-pointer by Kevin Durant allowed the Thunder to escape Staples Center with a 107-101 victory.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (56-24, Previous: 3) – In April, the Clippers have lost to the Mavericks and Thunder but have beaten the Suns, Lakers and Kings. What will this mean when the playoffs open later this week? Absolutely nothing. With the Warriors reeling, LA could very well see the Mavs or Grizzlies in the first round.
4. Portland Trail Blazers (53-28, Previous: 7) - It seems as though the Blazers are back on track after a sluggish March. They have won four in a row – the longest win streak in the league right now – and already know that they’ll face Houston in the first round. The Rockets will have home court advantage, however.
5. Houston Rockets (54-27, Previous: 5) – The Rockets did not mess around Monday night with a chance to secure home court advantage for their upcoming series against Portland. They beat the Spurs, 104-98, and not only locked up a home date this weekend but sent a message to the West by having swept the season series against San Antonio.
6. Miami Heat (54-27, Previous: 4) – Miami had been focusing on one game for weeks, last Friday’s matchup against the Pacers. LeBron was dominant, scoring 36 points, and the Heat beat Indiana, 98-86. The Pacers will get the top seed in the East, but it’s clear as to which team is in the driver’s seat.
7. Indiana Pacers (55-26, Previous: 6) – The Pacers received way too much press way too soon, it seems, and Frank Vogel now looks more like the overwhelmed video coordinator he used to be than any sort of coach of the year candidate. Indiana has gone 9-13 in their last 24 games and who’s to say that the 37-44 Atlanta Hawks won’t give them a run for their money in the first round?
8. Golden State Warriors (50-31, Previous: 8) – It’s been a rough month if you’re a fan of Warriors. The famed wrestler, Ultimate Warrior, passed away. Golden State center Andrew Bogut fractured a rib and could miss the entire postseason. That means a lot more Jermaine O’Neal in the postseason for head coach Mark Jackson.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (49-32, Previous: 13) – The Grizzlies are in the playoffs and did so the old fashioned way by earning it with a 97-91 road victory over the Suns Monday. Fifteen lead changes took place in the fourth quarter of the intense game in Phoenix but Zach Randolph and Mike Conley came up huge in the clutch for Memphis.
10. Dallas Mavericks (49-32, Previous: 12) – Remember 2007, when the Mavs were the big dogs being upset by the nippy Warriors? There’s the distinct chance that Dallas could be the ones knocking off the big guns in the West this spring. If Monta Ellis stays hot, this team can beat anyone on any night.
11. Toronto Raptors (48-33, Previous: 11) – There is only one Canadian team in this year’s NHL playoffs, so sports fans up North are shifting their attention to the hardwood. Seriously. The Raptors have the most expensive average playoff ticket in the NBA this postseason, at $370, according to Forbes. That’s ahead of the big market Clippers and Nets.
12. Chicago Bulls (48-33, Previous: 10) – The Bulls and Suns were the feel-good stories of the NBA regular season. In the end, Phoenix didn’t make the postseason. In the end, Chicago will likely run out of gas. When you’re relying on the likes of D.J. Augustin, Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy, chickens eventually come home to roost.
13. Brooklyn Nets (44-36, Previous: 14) – It’s no secret that Brooklyn is surging as they have the second best record in the East since the All-Star break. But the Nets certainly work for their wins. Nearly all of their victories are nail-biters and for them to stay in playoff games against elite teams, will Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett be able to hold up when they see their minutes increase?
14. Washington Wizards (43-38, Previous: 15) – We just saw how important guard play was in basketball tournaments as UConn rode Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright to a title. Does this translate to the pros? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better backcourt in this year’s postseason than John Wall and Bradley Beal.
15. Charlotte Bobcats (42-39, Previous: 16) – Charlotte is 8-2 over its last 10 games. Al Jefferson has been a solid presence inside and like John Wall on the Wizards, Kemba Walker has looked special at times this season. It probably won’t be enough to make it to the semi-finals of the East playoffs, but those in the Queen City can dream.
16. Phoenix Suns (47-34, Previous: 9) – The fun is over in Phoenix and now the Suns are J.A.L.T. (Just Another Lottery Team). Yes, if they played in the East they would likely be getting ready to host a Game 1 playoff game. But that’s not how the NBA works as of 2014. Will Adam Silver blow up the ancient format? There’s been some buzz about it.
17. Atlanta Hawks (37-44, Previous: 20) – Atlanta is under .500 but they could – really, seriously, NOT KIDDING – give the Pacers a series in the first round. They beat the Pacers 107-88 just 10 days ago in Indiana and the Pacers weren’t exactly in coast mode at the time.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (40-41, Previous: 18) – Kevin Love this, Kevin Love that. Let’s focus on the positives. We now live in a world where Corey Brewer authored a 50-point game in the NBA.
19. Denver Nuggets (36-44, Previous: 19) – You think Phil Jackson would take Brian Shaw off of Denver’s hands?
20. New York Knicks (35-45, Previous: 17) – You think Phil Jackson would take Brian Shaw off of Denver’s hands?
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter @BurkeMetroBOS