1. Golden State Warriors (53-13, Previous: 1) – This team is cruising for the most part. You just have to hope those back-to-back games against the Knicks and Lakers didn’tput them to sleep for Wednesday’s game against the Hawks.
2. Atlanta Hawks (53-14, Previous: 2) – Two more games left on this six-game road trip for Atlanta, but it’s the two hardest ones: Golden State and Oklahoma City. Can they hang? You’d have to think so.
3. Houston Rockets (44-22, Previous: 4) – Dwight Howard practiced with the Rockets on Monday for the first time since he suffered a right knee injury on Jan 23. He’s still out for another 10-14 days according to ESPN.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (43-26, Previous: 6) – Ah, so close to a perfect four-game road trip, but Miami got the best of them. Still, that Kyrie Irving 57-point performance against the Spurs was crazy. Be afraid, NBA.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (47-20, Previous: 3) – Recovered from two bad losses to the Celtics and Wizards to beat the Bucks and Nuggets. The big games are at the end of the week in Dallas on Friday and home against Portland on Saturday.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (44-21, Previous: 5) – Since coming on as a starter after Wes Matthews’ season-ending Achilles injury, Arron Afflalo is averaging 13.4 points in 30.3 minutes per game. In six games with the Blazers prior, he was coming off the bench and averaging 8.7 points per game.
7. Dallas Mavericks (43-25, Previous: 8) – After being blown out at home by the Cavaliers, the Mavericks did their own blowing out of the Clippers before Monday’s four-point win over the Thunder. They needed those badly.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (42-25, Previous: 7) – Blake Griffin is back for the Clippers, and Rockets guard Corey Brewer welcomed him with a dunk in his face. Overall, though, the Clips must be ecstatic that he’s back.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (37-30, Previous: 9) – Tough news for the Thunder that Serge Ibaka will have surgery on his knee. It’s not known how long he’ll be out, but Russell Westbrook can only do so much here. OKC doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room.
10. San Antonio Spurs (41-24, Previous: 10) – They’re 7-1 over their last eight games, and would be 8-0 if not for letting Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers steal a game in the end. Winnable games this week before a tough turn next week.
11. Toronto Raptors (40-27, Previous: 11) – Just 3-10 over their last 13 games, the Raptors got a big triple-double performance out of Kyle Lowry in Monday night’s win over the Pacers. They need to get back on track before the playoffs.
12. Washington Wizards (39-28, Previous: 15) – Five wins in their last six games including wins per the Grizzlies and Trailblazers. Now they’ve gotta take it on a tough four-game west coast trip through Utah, L.A (Clippers), Sacramento, and Golden State.
13. New Orleans Pelicans (36-30, Previous: 13) – It’s nice that the Pelicans are making a run here down the stretch, but everybody knows they’ve got no shot at the Warriors in a 1 vs. 8 matchup, while the Thunder could put up a tough fight.
14. Chicago Bulls (40-28, Previous: 12) – The Bulls have dropped five of their last six games – and the one win came against the Sixers. You just can’t expect to beat good teams without your stud players. Gotta protect homecourt this week against the Pacers and Raptors.
15. Indiana Pacers (30-36, Previous: 16) – Nobody is saying the Pacers aren’t one of the hotter teams in the NBA lately, but they’ve dropped their last two games to the Celtics and Raptors and have two tough road games ahead in Chicago and Cleveland.
16. Phoenix Suns (35-33, Previous: 14) – The Suns have just won win over a current playoff team since January 31. They were a fun team to watch earlier this season, but things can change quickly.
17. Boston Celtics (30-36, Previous: 18) – These Celtics just keep on winning games. They’re now up to five straight and have officially pushed their way into the playoff picture. Rebuilding is fun!
18. Utah Jazz (30-36, Previous: 20) – The Celtics of the Western Conference. Like Boston, this team has put it all together lately, winning six in a row and nine of 11. They won’t make the playoffs, but they’ll make it tough on teams fighting for position.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (34-32, Previous: 17) – We’ve been watching the gap from the 6th seed to the 7th and 8th seeds slowly close for weeks now, and it’s got to be time to panic in Milwaukee, right?
20. Miami Heat (30-36, Previous: 19) – Dwyane Wade has scored at least 25 points in his last six games for the Heat. It’s obvious they need a ton out of him to go anywhere, but can he do it over a long enough stretch?
21. Charlotte Hornets (29-36, Previous: 22) – A half-game behind a three-way tie between the Pacers, Heat and Celtics for the final playoff spots, getting Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson back healthy at the same time is going to be huge for them.
22. Brooklyn Nets (27-38, Previous: 21) – The Nets’ playoff chances are still hanging by a thread, but we haven’t seen anything too inspiring lately to make us think they’ll go on a big run and pass three teams.
23. Denver Nuggets (26-42, Previous: 26) – It shouldn’t matter that the Nuggets went to two overtimes the game prior to Monday’s. There’s no excuse to have healthy scratches for rest on such a disappointing team.
24. Detroit Pistons (23-43, Previous: 23) – Ten straight losses for the Pistons, who have completely disappeared from the Eastern Conference playoff picture since the NBA trade deadline.
25. Orlando Magic (21-47, Previous: 24) – Four straight losses make them 2-8 over their last 10 games. I like ELfrid Payton, but he’s shooting just 24-percent from three-point range and a dismal 52.percent from the free throw line. Got to fix that shot.
26. Sacramento Kings (22-44, Previous: 25) – With each loss, you have to wonder how much patience DeMarcus Cousins has in SacTown . . . and if George Karl will do something drastic in the offseason. Exciting!
27. Los Angeles Lakers (17-49, Previous: 28) – Tough three-point loss to the Warrios Monday night, but let’s be honest – it’s for the best. The last thing the Lakers wanna do is win their way out of a top pick.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-52, Previous: 27) – Kevin Garnett may be a great influence on some of the young players over there in Minnesota, but not enough to get any wins. The T-Wolves are 1-9 over their last 10 games.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (15-52, Previous: 29) – Nerlens Noel is averaging 9.1 points and 7.8 rebounds in his rookie season with the 76ers. You can’t be upset with those numbers. Needs a little more offensive game, though.
30. New York Knicks (13-53, Previous: 30) – We are well past 50 losses and it’s full steam ahead for 60-plus! There is no stopping these Knicks now.