NBA Power Rankings: Celtics stumble, Heat and Jazz jump up - Metro US

NBA Power Rankings: Celtics stumble, Heat and Jazz jump up

Jae Crowder, right, is the glue that holds this Celtics team together.
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1. Golden State Warriors (60-6) Last week: 1 – Hot take: Steph Curry is so good that he’s actually bad for the game of basketball and needs to retire. Kids aren’t learning the right way to play the game. I’m kidding. More Steph!

2. San Antonio Spurs (56-10) Last week: 2 – How about this little home gauntlet for San Antonio: Thunder, Clippers, Blazers, and Warriors. They already beat the Thunder last Saturday – but it’s this Saturday’s game against the Warriors they want.

3. Toronto Raptors (44-21) Last week: 3 – Not even Drake’s double-team on a Bulls inbounds pass to force a turnover could stop the Raptors from losing at home. Regardless, Toronto had two big wins previously over the Hawks and Heat.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (47-19) Last week: 4 – They went 3-1 on their west coast trip, which ain’t bad at all – especially when it includes a 24-point win over the Clippers. But LeBron James won’t be happy as it concluded with a loss to the Jazz without Gordon Hayward.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-22) Last week: 5 – Hot and cold week for the Thunder, who began and ended it with wins over the Clippers and Blazers. They dropped a bad one to the T-Wolves and lost the next day in San Antonio. But that Clippers win was big.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (42-23) Last week: 7 – Steve Ballmer wants to meet with Kanye West to discuss re-designing the team’s mascot. Way to have your priorities in order, Steve! Not that Doc Rivers is complaining – he needs Ballmer to stay distracted.

7. Atlanta Hawks (38-29) Last week: 8 – Defense tells the story for the Hawks these days. They went 3-1 last week, allowing 84 points to the Jazz, 83 to the Grizzlies, and 75 to the Pacers in all three wins. Hard to lose that way.

8. Miami Heat (39-28) Last week: 11 – Baby steps for Chris Bosh, as he retuned to the Heat bench this week – though not in uniform. His veteran presence from a coaching standpoint will have to do for now, but nobody has ruled a return this season out.

9. Boston Celtics (39-27) Last week: 6 – Just when the Celtics were playing their best basketball and gearing up for the final stretch, arguably their most important player in Jae Crowder goes down with a high ankle sprain. It’s going to be tough sledding until he returns.

10. Portland Trailblazers (35-33) Last week: 9 – Their four-game road trip got off to an awful start in Oklahoma City, where they lost 128-94. It only gets harder in San Antonio on Thursday, where no visiting team has won this season. Can Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum change that? Doubtful, but hey.

11. Indiana Pacers (35-31) Last week: 10 – A five-game homestand begins Tuesday night against the Celtics and gets gradually harder through Saturday with games against the Toronto Raptors and Oklahoma City Thunder. Big tests for the Pacers, who are coming off an embarrassing loss in Atlanta.

12. Charlotte Hornets (37-29) Last week: 13 – Dallas ended Charlotte’s seven-game winning streak, as the Hornets have been playing like one of the hottest teams in the NBA. Still, you get the sense that no team is really scared of them. Perhaps that plays into their favor.

13. Utah Jazz (32-35) Last week: 16 – Look out for the Jazz! Three straight wins and they are not to be messed with right now as they make a run towards the playoffs. One against the Suns Thursday before an important five-game road trip.

14. Houston Rockets (34-33) Last week: 19 – It’s probably time to give the Rockets some respect. After underachieving the entire season, they’ve won four of their last five and find themselves knocking on the door of the No. 6 seed. Michael Beasley was a nice addition.

15. Memphis Grizzlies (39-28) Last week: 12 – There’s not much the Grizzlies can do right now faced with the number of injuries they have. No Marc Gasol, no Zach Randolph, no Mike Conley, no Lance Stephenson, no Vince Carter. They’re playing three players on 10-day contracts for crying out loud.

16. Detroit Pistons (34-33) Last week: 15 – Stan Van Gundy doesn’t strike anybody as a happy guy, but that especially had to be the case after a 124-81 loss to the Wizards on Monday. Poor showing from a team fighting to make the playoffs.

17. Dallas Mavericks (34-33) Last week: 14 – No team needed a win more than the Dallas Mavericks, and they finally got it Monday over the Bobcats, snapping a five-game losing streak. They now find themselves hanging on to that 8th seed out West.

18. Chicago Bulls (33-32) Last week: 18 – The Bulls still have a fighter’s chance, and while beggars can’t be choosers, they’d undoubtedly be fine with a first round matchup against the Raptors. They went 4-0 against them in the regular season.

19. Washington Wizards (31-35) Last week: 17 – They still have a puncher’s chance at making the playoffs if the Bulls continue to slide and the Pistons can’t get it together. But they’re running out of time – no more big losing streaks.

20. Denver Nuggets (28-39) Last week: 21 – The Nuggets won’t make the playoffs this season, but it’s good to see them playing much better these days. There’s a young foundation there with Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, and Jusuf Nurkic.

21. Milwaukee Bucks (29-38) Last week: 23 – Believe it or not, the Bucks have the longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference right now… a whopping three games. #SpinZone

22. Orlando Magic (28-37) Last week: 20 – The Magic have been without Nikola Vucevic for the last four games due to a groin injury, and it sounds like he’s not quite back to full health yet. They’re 1-3 without him in that stretch.

23. Sacramento Kings (25-40) Last week: 22 – More drama in Sacramento as DeMarcus Cousins says George Karl was behind his one-game suspension. That relationship was doomed from the start. Now the question is whether or not the Kings will trade Cousins this offseason.

24. New Orleans Pelicans (24-42) Last week: 24 – Four straight losses for the Pelicans, if anybody cares. Nobody? Nobody at all? OK then.

25. New York Knicks (28-40) Last week: 25 – Does anybody know what the heck is going on in Phil Jackson’s mind these days? Does Jackson himself even know? What a disastah.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-46) Last Week: 26 – We’ll focus on the positives, which means ignoring the loss to the Suns and highlighting the win over the Thunder. Ricky Rubio with the game-winning three. He said he’s been working on his shot. There’s some proof.

27. Phoenix Suns (18-49) Last week: 28 – You have to love seeing that two bottom feeder teams like the Suns and T-Wolves are battling to the final seconds of their game… Unless you’re fans of those teams and just looking for a top pick in the draft. The Suns won. Oops.

28. Brooklyn Nets (18-48) Last week: 27 – We’re at the point of the season where there’s really nothing else to say about the Brooklyn Nets. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, right?

29. Los Angeles Lakers (14-53) Last week: 29 – Two winnable games this week for the Lakers against the Kings and Suns. Do it for Kobe! That motto hasn’t worked much this year.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (9-57) Last week: 30 – The 76ers need to win just ONE more game to hit double digits. You can do it, guys!

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