Still Much to be Determined
There are three days left in the season, and except for one series, we don't have a clue as to who's playing who in the first round of the playoffs.
The Hawks and Heat are locked in (or LOCKED IN!!! as @iamdiddy would twitter) to the fourth and fifth spots in the East, respectively. Atlanta will host Miami for Games 1 and 2 of their first round series beginning Saturday or Sunday.
The Cavs, Celtics and Magic are No. 1, 2 and 3 for sure, but they don't know who they'll be matched up with. While the Sixers' slump has made things much more interesting, Monday's matchup between the Bulls and Pistons should clear things up a little.
In the West, all we know is that the Lakers are No. 1. After that, it's a big mess. In fact, if things go a certain way, we could have four teams tied at 54-28 and three more tied at 49-33. That would sure be interesting, wouldn't it?
Maybe instead of having them play their last two games, we should just gather the Nuggets, Spurs, Rockets and Blazers together for one giant game of Knockout. The winner's team would get the two seed, second place would get the third seed, and so on. Then do the same with New Orleans, Dallas and Utah for sixth, seventh and eighth.
Otherwise, we'll just have to watch a lot of games over the next three nights. On second thought, that sounds like fun. Lets make the most out of our last three days with League Pass.
• Last Week: Is 'Mo' on Your Side?
• This Time Last Year: Final Rankings Are No Surprise: The Celtics Are the Best -- The Lakers passed the Hornets for the top seed in the West, Manu Ginobili was injured, the Jazz were looking strong down the stretch, the Magic lost to a couple of bad teams, and the Cavs and Wizards were fighting for playoff position.
Hero Team of the Week: Portland (4-0)
Zero Team of the Week: Philadelphia (0-4)
High jumps of the week: Five Teams (+2)
Free falls of the week: Orlando (-5), Utah (-4), Philadelphia (-3)
East vs. West: With one more East-West game to play, the East leads 231-218 (.514) in inter-conference games, but the West was 3-2 this week.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) Off: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) The league averages through Sunday are 90.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.9 points scored per 100 possessions.
As always, the stats don't determine the rankings, but they help evaluate each team and provide a picture of where they stand on both sides of the ball.
NBA.com's Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you've got an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail. You can also follow him on twitter.
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|1||Cleveland (3)||65-15||Pace: 87.5 (25),
Off: 113.8 (4), Def:
The Cavs let there be no doubt who the best team in the Eastern Conference is on Sunday, hitting the Celtics early and often. They still need another win to get home-court advantage throughout the postseason, and at 39-1 at the Q, "advantage" is the right word.
|2||L.A. Lakers (1)||64-17||Pace: 93.0 (6),
Off: 114.2 (3), Def:
Andrew Bynum hasn't looked too bad in his three games back, shooting 56 percent and averaging 15.7 points and 6.0 boards. Tuesday's game against the Jazz at Staples should be a playoff preview, but by that point, if Cleveland wins in Indiana on Monday, the Lakers might not have anything to play for.
|3||Boston (4)||60-20||Pace: 89.0 (19),
Off: 112.0 (6), Def:
Give the Celtics a lot of credit for earning the two seed with a 10-1 stretch without Kevin Garnett. But the only fight they showed on Sunday in Cleveland was Ray Allen's elbow to Anderson Varejao's groin. KG could play Wednesday against the Wizards.
|4||Houston (6)||52-28||Pace: 89.1 (18),
Off: 110.1 (15),
The Rockets have won four straight, but more important were the tests on Yao Ming's foot. He missed Friday's win at Golden State with soreness, but it's nothing worse than that and he's expected to play Monday against the Hornets.
|5||Denver (5)||53-27||Pace: 93.2 (5),
Off: 111.9 (7), Def:
Even though they went 13-1 before Thursday's loss to the Lakers, the Nuggets still probably need to win both of their remaining games to get the two seed. They've got the Kings on Monday, but travel to Portland on Wednesday for a potentially huge game.
|6||Portland (8)||52-28||Pace: 85.6 (30),
Off: 115.0 (2), Def:
Is postseason experience more important than momentum and (possibly) home-court advantage? The Blazers will be the test study, especially if they face the Spurs in the first round. They've won eight of their last nine.
|7||Orlando (2)||58-22||Pace: 90.9 (12),
Off: 111.2 (9), Def:
All of a sudden, with injuries to Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic are looking pretty vulnerable. And losses to the Knicks (at home) and Nets, with their normally strong defense on hiatus, are inexcusable when you still had a shot at the two seed.
|8||San Antonio (7)||52-28||Pace: 86.8 (27),
Off: 110.5 (13),
Wednesday's collapse at home against Portland wasn't exactly encouraging, but after Friday's win over the Jazz and Sunday's Duncan-less, last-second escape in Sacramento, the Spurs are tied with the Blazers and Rockets for third in the West.
|9||New Orleans (11)||49-31||Pace: 86.5 (28),
Off: 110.8 (12),
On some days (like Sunday), Chris Paul and David West are enough for the Hornets. On some days, they aren't. Visits to Houston and San Antonio this week are more likely to fall in the latter category, but Tyson Chandler might be back for one or both games.
|10||Dallas (10)||48-32||Pace: 90.2 (16),
Off: 112.3 (5), Def:
Despite their loss in New Orleans on Sunday, the Mavs look like they're going to avoid the Lakers. Of course, they got swept by Denver this season, so that wouldn't be a favorable matchup either. Wednesday's game against Houston could be big for both teams.
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|11||Atlanta (12)||46-34||Pace: 88.4 (24),
Off: 111.2 (11),
Marvin Williams returned to action for Friday's win over the Pacers, but played just 12 minutes. Getting him back in shape is about the only thing that matters for the Hawks in these last two games, including a visit from their first-round opponent on Tuesday.
|12||Chicago (14)||40-40||Pace: 92.0 (9),
Off: 109.8 (17),
Monday's game in Detroit is huge, and it's a real test of where the Bulls are. They've won four straight, including what could turn out to be a huge win over the Sixers on Thursday, but it's been more than two months since they've beat a decent team on the road.
|13||Utah (9)||47-33||Pace: 91.7 (10),
Off: 111.6 (8), Def:
What has become of the Jazz? With Saturday's loss at home to the Warriors, they've dropped six of their last seven. They've got a terrible defensive rating of 120.8 in that stretch and now need a miracle to avoid a series with the Lakers.
|14||Phoenix (13)||44-36||Pace: 94.4 (4),
Off: 115.3 (1), Def:
It's going to be a very interesting summer for the Suns, and the summer starts on Thursday. They got to play spoiler with Wednesday's win in New Orleans, but that was their last game that mattered for the Suns or their opponents..
|15||Miami (16)||42-38||Pace: 88.8 (21),
Off: 109.5 (19),
The Heat are pretty banged up, so they owe some thanks to the Raptors for helping them clinch the five seed on Sunday. Dwyane Wade and his 55 points against the Knicks also deserves some credit. Now, Miami can rest all week and get ready for the Hawks.
|16||Detroit (17)||39-41||Pace: 85.6 (29),
Off: 109.0 (20),
Can we really say the Pistons are playing well?" They're 7-11 over their last 18 and the wins have been over teams with a combined winning percentage of 0.371. Still, the team that looked like it might fall out of the playoffs entirely has a real shot at getting the sixth seed and a matchup with Orlando, who they swept this year.
|17||Indiana (18)||35-45||Pace: 94.9 (3),
Off: 109.6 (18),
Give Jim O'Brien and the Pacers a lot of credit for playing pretty well down the stretch despite their lottery-bound fate. They've won seven of their last 10, with Danny Granger averaging 29.0 points on 52 percent shooting during that stretch.
|18||Philadelphia (15)||40-40||Pace: 89.0 (20),
Off: 109.0 (21),
Thaddeus Young's absence has sapped the Sixers of their strength. Just over a week ago, they had a real shot at the four seed. Now, after five straight losses, they're in danger of falling all the way down to eighth. The good news is that Detroit and Chicago are playing each other and Boston has nothing to play for on Tuesday.
|19||Charlotte (19)||35-45||Pace: 87.2 (26),
Off: 106.4 (27),
Though last Sunday's loss in Detroit was the real back-breaker, the Bobcats were still mathematically alive until Friday's loss at Oklahoma City. Charlotte has built a foundation for next year, but when you can't beat the Thunder to save your season...
|20||New Jersey (20)||33-47||Pace: 88.6 (23),
Off: 110.3 (14),
Devin Harris will likely win the Most Improved Player award, but if you were to only count the defensive end of the floor, he'd be on the opposite end of the list. For the Nets, a new commitment to defense must be made for them to move forward next season.
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|21||Golden State (22)||29-51||Pace: 97.0 (1),
Off: 111.2 (10),
Saturday's win in Utah, where C.J. Watson went off for a career-high 38 points, was like the shocking, last-minute plot twist of the Warriors' soap opera-like season. With only seven guys, four of which were undrafted, including one named "Rob Kurz", they went in and beat one of the best home teams in the league.
|22||Toronto (21)||31-49||Pace: 90.6 (14),
Off: 108.5 (22),
After that six-game winning streak, the Raptors lost four straight. But they played spoiler on Sunday, handing the Sixers their fifth straight loss. They get another chance to break some hearts in Chicago on Wednesday.
|23||Milwaukee (24)||33-47||Pace: 91.3 (11),
Off: 108.1 (23),
This is the third straight season where we look forward and say that with health, the Bucks will be much better next year. And this time we mean it! You can't underestimate what a commitment do defense will do for a team.
|24||Memphis (23)||23-57||Pace: 88.6 (22),
Off: 104.9 (28),
The Grizzlies have a lot of young talent on their roster, but Lionel Hollins' job over the next year is to get them playing together in order to make the most of it. They're finishing the season relatively strong, playing decent defense on occasion.
|25||New York (25)||31-50||Pace: 95.2 (2),
Off: 109.9 (16),
The cap space may come next summer, but Donnie Walsh needs to find a way to get more talent on this team as soon as possible. The Knicks' roster doesn't have one guy who could be the second or third best player on a very good team, and that won't go unnoticed by free agents a year from now.
|26||Minnesota (27)||24-56||Pace: 90.5 (15),
Off: 107.5 (24),
The Timberwolves have won three straight games away from the Target Center and are the only team in the league that will finish the season with more road wins than home wins. So they got that goin' for them, which is nice.
|27||Oklahoma City (26)||22-58||Pace: 92.2 (8),
Off: 104.3 (29),
As terrific a talent as Kevin Durant is, this was still the second-worst offense in the league. Scott Brooks needs to get in the lab and figure out how to get more out of Durant's supporting cast offensively, while still getting them to improve on the defensive end.
|28||Washington (28)||19-61||Pace: 89.5 (17),
Off: 107.0 (26),
If they're healthy (and granted, that's a big if with these guys) and have Flip Saunders on the bench, the Wizards could be next year's version of the Heat. The Eastern Conference has improved a lot since they last were an upper-echelon squad, but these guys should win a lot more games next season.
|29||L.A. Clippers (29)||19-61||Pace: 90.7 (13),
Off: 104.1 (30),
Sure, health was an issue. But the Clippers just can't go on like this. Won't somebody please think of the children! Something has to be done.
|30||Sacramento (30)||16-64||Pace: 92.9 (7),
Off: 107.1 (25),
Did the Kings get robbed on Sunday? Michael Finley's game-winner clearly left his hands with zero on the shot clock. That clinched the NBA's worst record and a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick for Sacramento.