NBA Power Rankings: Clippers, Rockets, Heat, Spurs take control
There was a changing of the guard in this week's NBA Power Rankings as the Clippers, Rockets, Heat and Spurs bumped the Pacers and Thunder.
1. Los Angeles Clippers (45-20, Previous: 3) - The Suns' P.J. Tucker swung at Blake Griffin Monday night and it's symbolic of what the Clips are going to get from here on out. Teams are going to go down swinging against what now could be the best team in the NBA.
2. Houston Rockets (44-19, Previous: 5) - We said to not be surprised if the Rockets beat the Heat, Pacers, and Blazers last week. They did. It gets even harder on the road now in Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Miami. Again, don't be surprised.
3. Miami Heat (44-17, Previous: 4) - A win over the Wizards doesn't do much for anybody after three losses to the Rockets, Spurs, and Bulls. Since his 61-point outburst, LeBron James has been held under 20 points in two of the last four games. The law of averages, folks.
4. San Antonio Spurs (46-16 Previous: 6) - Year after year the Spurs laugh in the face of the doubters and play some of the best team basketball in the NBA. As of Tuesday, they lead one of the strongest Western Conferences in years.
5. Indiana Pacers (46-17, Previous: 1) - Yikes. The Pacers are playing their worst basketball of the season, losing four in a row (three by double-digits). The league's best defense has also given up over 100 points in their last three games.
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (46-17, Previous: 2) - Gerald Green drops 41 on them last Thursday and Jodie Meeks drops 42 on them on Sunday (both losses). Without Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha teams are taking advantage on offense.
7. Portland Trailblazers (42-21, Previous: 7) - Up 13 points on the Rockets with 7:31 to play in the game, the Blazers let Houston go on a 12-1 run. They'd later lose in overtime. That's the kind of loss they'll be kicking themselves over.
8. Golden State Warriors (40-24, Previous: 9) - Stephen Curry has a strained right quad, and although it won't keep him out of games, it will limit him a bit. This is something to monitor because if it gets worse there will be problems in Golden State.
9. Dallas Mavericks (38-26, Previous: 11) - Perhaps we didn't have enough faith in Dallas to hang on to a playoff spot. Wins over the Blazers and Pacers have pumped life back into them.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (36-26, Previous: 12) - It's been a hard-fought battle this season for the Griz, but that's their M.O. Now, they're a legit playoff contender with a handful of winnable games coming up (Pelicans, Raptors, 76ers, Jazz).
11. Phoenix Suns (36-27, Previous: 8) - Uh oh. The Suns are slipping ... right out of the playoff picture. They're currently on the outside looking in as the Grizzlies have passed them over the last two games.
12. Chicago Bulls (35-28, Previous: 13) - Joakim Noah is a beast - and no, that's not a shot at his looks. Noah has one thing on his mind: championship. And no matter how unlikely that may seem to others, it's not slowing him and his teammates down.
13. Toronto Raptors (35-27, Previous: 10) - Toronto has held on to the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the East all season, but with Chicago, Washington, and Brooklyn playing better, that's by no means a certainty.
14. Washington Wizards (33-30, Previous: 14) - The Wizards are 8-2 over their last 10 games - the best record over that stretch in the entire Eastern Conference. Don't forget, they're winning without Nene right now too.
15. Brooklyn Nets (32-30, Previous: 15) - Brooklyn is 6-1 since getting their butts kicked by the Trail Blazers. This is a team that kinda, sorta, finally is worth taking seriously as the playoff picture clears up.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (30-34, Previous: 17) - The Nets are pulling away from the No. 7 seed and leaving the Bobcats to either play the Heat or Pacers in the first round. Some reward that is.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (31-31, Previous: 16) - The offseason has become far more important and interesting for the Timberwolves than this lost regular season. Just tell us what's happening with Kevin Love already.
18. New Orleans Pelicans (26-37, Previous: 22) - Three straight wins for the Pelicans. Check out Anthony Davis' line in each win: 28 and 15, 29 and 14, 32 and 17. Not too shabby.
19. Denver Nuggets (27-36, Previous: 18) - They're 3-13 over their last 16 games, which is the worst in the Western Conference in that span.
20. Atlanta Hawks (27-35, Previous: 19) - Dead man walking, everybody! Dead man walking! Now if only the Pistons or Knicks could actually knock them out of contention.
21. Detroit Pistons (24-39, Previous: 20) - Disappointment after disappointment for this team. They just lost to the freakin' Celtics! Are they really not going to catch the Hawks or Bobcats for a playoff spot?
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-40, Previous: 21) - Anthony Bennett will be sidelined three weeks with a knee injury. It is expected to be his most productive three weeks of the season.
23. New York Knicks (25-40, Previous: 25) - Phil Jackson is going to gain control of the front office by the end of the week. He mustn't have looked at this Knicks roster and what's in store for their salary cap the next couple of years.
24. Utah Jazz (22-42, Previous: 23) - If it wasn't for those pesky 76ers, they'd have a nice seven-game losing streak. They should certainly lose the next five (all Western Conference playoff teams).
25. Sacramento Kings (22-41, Previous: 24) - Kings head coach Mike Malone called his team "selfish" and said they have "the disease of 'me/'" That would be 'me' as in themselves, not Malone. Malone's disease is probably "the disease of being the head coach of the Kings."
26. Boston Celtics (22-41, Previous: 27) - Rajon Rondo's 18 assists and zero turnovers on Sunday was certainly special. Especially when you consider two ball boys and the mascot were the others that suited up for the Celtics that night.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (22-4, Previous: 26) - Joel Embiid recently Tweeted that he wants to live in L.A. "so bad." Well, "so bad" definitely sums up L.A. - and hey, maybe it's a match come draft day.
28. Orlando Magic (19-46, Previous: 28) - The third worst record in the NBA is theirs to lose.
29. Milwaukee Bucks (13-50, Previous: 29) - The Bucks were trailing the Magic by 18 points before something went terribly wrong and Brandon Knight carried them to victory. Why?!
30. Philadelphia 76ers (15-48, Previous: 30) - 17 straight losses. If there really are basketball Gods, this team will not get the No. 1 pick.