NBA Power Rankings: Heat, Nuggets streaking – Celtics, Lakers falling
1. Miami Heat (55-14, previous No. 1) – As good as the Miami Heat are playing right now, they’re just the second-best basketball team in Florida. Hey, you’ve got to give Florida Gulf Coast University the credit they deserve.
2. Denver Nuggets (49-22, previous No. 3) – If it wasn’t for the Heat, the Nuggets would be the talk of the NBA. They went into Monday’s game against the Hornets winners of 15 in a row. Scary team that will haunt your dreams.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (52-19, previous No. 2) – Losses to Denver at home and Memphis on the road make you question the toughness of OKC in a potential matchup with either one in the second round.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (48-22, previous No. 5) – A big four-game road trip kicks off Tuesday in Dallas and includes two more Texas stops in San Antonio and Houston. Tough test for them.
5. San Antonio Spurs (53-17, previous No. 6) – The Spurs went 6-2 without their MVP Tony Parker, and it looks like he’s picking up where he left off. With Parker back, the Spurs – as always – must be feared.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (47-22 previous No. 4) – The news that center Marc Gasol is out indefinitely after an abdominal tear is an absolute killer for a Grizzlies team fighting for home court advantage.
7. Indiana Pacers (43-27, previous No. 7) – Losing to the Bulls without Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah? That could creep back into the minds of Indy players if they see Chicago in the postseason . . . with those two players.
8. Houston Rockets (39-31, previous No. 8) – In his last 10 games, James Harden has hit 34 3-pointers and 111 free throws. The guy literally scores from all over. Fear the beard.
9. Atlanta Hawks (39-31, previous No. 10) – Nobody’s talking about the Hawks, but they’re a very tough first-round opponent, especially if Josh Smith is set on proving he’s a max player.
10. Brooklyn Nets (41-29, previous No. 12) – In the middle of an eight-game road trip and they play in three of the toughest road venues coming up: Portland, Denver, and Utah. The Prokhorov embraces it.
11. Golden State Warriors (40-31, previous No. 13) – Former NBA player Dell Curry must be a proud dad. One of his sons, Stephen, is making a run at the postseason with Golden State, while the other, Seth, is making a run at the Final Four with Duke.
12. New York Knicks (42-26, previous No. 14) – Wins over the Jazz, Magic, and Raptors twice doesn’t make the Knicks “better” than they were last week. They are older, though – somehow.
13. Boston Celtics (36-33, previous No. 9) – Celtics president Danny Ainge says Kevin Garnett could be out for a couple weeks. Hey, as long as he’s back before the C’s lose to the Heat in the opening round.
14. Los Angeles Lakers (36-34, previous No. 11) – Coach Mike D’Antoni told his team that the idea of a championship is “laughable.” Well then, everybody all together now: “Hahahahahaha!”
15. Chicago Bulls (38-31, previous No. 15) – You never want to rush a player back from an injury, but Rose has been cleared to play. At what point do the Bulls say, “Derrick, you’re fine. And you’re starting tonight.”
16. Milwaukee Bucks (34-35, previous No. 16) – There’s never been a better time for the Bucks to make up ground on the Celtics and take the No. 7 spot. Somebody should tell them that.
17. Dallas Mavericks (34-36, previous No. 18) – Dallas has found life over its last 11 games, going 8-3, and now sits just two games behind the Lakers for the No. 8 seed. Nothing would make Mark Cuban happier.
18. Utah Jazz (34-36, previous No. 17) – It appears as though the Mavs and Jazz are at opposite ends of their play right now, and that’s terrible news for Utah.
19. Portland Trail Blazers (33-37, previous No. 19) – Of the final 12 games, nine are against teams currently slotted into a playoff spot. Doesn’t do much for the team’s outside playoff chances.
20. Philadelphia 76ers (27-42, previous -) – Bigger shock: Andrew Bynum missing the entire season due to knee injuries, or Punxsutawney Phil’s inaccurate “spring will come early” forecast?
Follow Jimmy Toscano on Twitter @Jimmy_Toscano