By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Mar 22 2010 9:23AM
All season long, we track how the Eastern and Western conferences do against each other. As seen below, the West has been dominant.
Ten of the 15 Western Conference teams (even the Clippers) have winning records against the East. That's two more than last season, when the East beat the West, 231-219.
Of course, after April 14, the two conferences will stop playing each other for almost two months. And when the two conference champs meet in the Finals in June, it won't matter what the Kings did against the Bulls or what the Rockets did against the Sixers.
When looking at the top four teams in each conference, it's easy to see that they're pretty even. The top four in the West (L.A., Denver, Dallas and Utah) are currently 14-13 against the top four in the East (Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and Atlanta).
On Saturday night, we saw a great example of how the East can hold its own. In the span of about 10 minutes, the Bucks finished off an impressive win in Denver and the Celtics held off the Mavs in Dallas.
Boston can even up the top four vs. top four series Monday night in Utah. Later in the week, the Nuggets visit the Celtics and Magic for two more big games. And come next Monday, the West will still have the overall lead in the season series. But the East may have the more important bragging rights.
• Last Week: Flukiest of losses ends the Mavericks' run
Hero Team of the Week: Boston (4-0) -- Have they turned the corner? The Celtics took care of business against the Pistons and Knicks at home, before picking up two strong wins in Texas. Their three-game trip ends Monday in Utah.
Zero Team of the Week: New Jersey (0-3) -- Not only did the Nets get blown out by the Hawks and struggling Raptors, but they also lost to the Sixers, who lost to the Knicks twice last week.
High jumps of the week: Indiana (+5), New York (+5), Boston (+3)
Free falls of the week: Oklahoma City (-4), L.A. Clippers (-3), Six teams (-2)
East vs. West: The West is 226-174 (.565) in inter-conference games and was 10-8 last 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 95.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.5 points scored per 100 possessions.
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 (1)||56-15||Pace: 93.2 (25), Off: 109.2 (3), Def: 100.8 (7)
Shaquille O'Neal is back in Cleveland and reportedly in good shape. The Cavs will get Zydrunas Ilgauskas back this week, and it's hard to imagine the new guy will cause much of a hiccup for a team that continues to cruise.
|2||Orlando (2)||49-21||Pace: 94.5 (19), Off: 108.3 (6), Def: 99.6 (2)
It was a weird week for the Magic, with a back-to-back sandwiched by five days off, but they took care of business and have won 10 of their last 11. After a 3-for-17 stretch, Rashard Lewis has made eight of his last 13 threes, including Thursday's dagger in Miami.
|3||L.A. Lakers (3)||52-18||Pace: 95.9 (10), Off: 106.4 (11), Def: 100.2 (4)
It wouldn't be March without questions about Andrew Bynum's health. He suffered a strained left Achilles' tendon Friday, but will travel on a tough five-game trip that begins Wednesday. Eight of the Lakers' final 12 games are against winning teams.
|4||Dallas (5)||46-23||Pace: 94.7 (18), Off: 106.8 (10), Def: 103.6 (12)
The Mavs are tied with Milwaukee for the best record (14-3) since the All-Star break, but they've been just the 12th best team statistically in that stretch. With Jason Terry returning from a broken orbital bone, they finally have their full post-trade rotation healthy.
|5||Denver (4)||47-23||Pace: 97.7 (5), Off: 109.3 (2), Def: 104.3 (15)
Leading the Mavs by just a half-game after Saturday's loss to Milwaukee, the Nuggets hit the road for a pivotal five-game trip that ends in Dallas, but also stops in Boston and Orlando. In all, nine of Denver's remaining 12 games are against playoff teams.
|6||Atlanta (8)||45-24||Pace: 92.9 (26), Off: 109.0 (4), Def: 104.2 (14)
The Hawks are 9-3 in their last 12 games, with the three losses coming by a total of eight points. After Chris Bosh beat them in the final seconds, they got overtime wins over the Bobcats and Spurs. They're 9-7 in games determined by five points or less.
|7||Utah (7)||45-25||Pace: 95.4 (14), Off: 107.8 (7), Def: 102.7 (10)
The Jazz have been able to get by with Andrei Kirilenko (strained calf) missing seven of the last 15 games, Mehmet Okur missing 2 1/2 of the last five, and Deron Williams playing with a myriad of injuries. Health is obviously their biggest concern.
|8||Phoenix (9)||44-26||Pace: 98.0 (4), Off: 112.0 (1), Def: 107.4 (24)
The Suns have played 12 of their last 15 games at the US Airways Center, and are about to play six of their next seven on the road. But they've won seven of their last nine road games and play only one team with a winning record on that seven-game stretch.
|9||Boston (12)||45-24||Pace: 93.9 (22), Off: 105.0 (13), Def: 99.6 (1)
The Celtics have won four straight for the second time this month, and Saturday's win in Dallas was their best since they beat the Lakers in mid-February. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have combined to shoot a scorching 61 percent in the four games.
|10||Oklahoma City (6)||42-26||Pace: 95.5 (13), Off: 104.6 (15), Def: 100.6 (6)
Just three of their final 14 games are against losing teams, so Sunday's game in Indiana was one the Thunder needed. Instead, it was their worst defensive performance of the season. They've got the Spurs, Rockets, Blazers and Lakers in town this week.
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|11||Milwaukee (11)||38-30||Pace: 94.7 (17), Off: 101.6 (22), Def: 100.5 (5)
The Bucks had a hiccup against the Clippers on Wednesday, but finished the week by beating the Nuggets on the second night of a road back-to-back with Andrew Bogut scoring just two points in 15 minutes. It was easily their most impressive win of the season.
|12||San Antonio (10)||41-27||Pace: 93.9 (23), Off: 107.4 (9), Def: 102.3 (9)
No team has a tougher upcoming week than the Spurs. It begins with the second night of a back-to-back in Oklahoma City. Then they come home for the Lakers and Cavs. After that, they travel to Boston. They're currently 7-18 against teams with at least 40 wins.
|13||Portland (13)||42-29||Pace: 90.2 (30), Off: 107.8 (8), Def: 103.8 (13)
LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller and Brandon Roy are all having bad shooting months and the Blazers managed just 163 total points against the Wizards and Suns. But they have been better defensively and on the boards than they've been since November.
|14||Memphis (16)||37-33||Pace: 95.9 (11), Off: 105.4 (12), Def: 107.0 (23)
Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said this week that he will match any offer for restricted free agent Rudy Gay this summer. That would allow the Grizzlies to build on the progress they've made. We'll see in July if Heisley puts his money where his mouth is.
|15||Houston (17)||36-32||Pace: 96.3 (7), Off: 104.4 (17), Def: 104.4 (16)
Aaron Brooks' game-winner knocked off the Nuggets on Monday. The Rockets have won five of their last six. So far, March has been their best month both offensively (108.4) and defensively (102.4), but it may be too little, too late.
|16||Miami (14)||36-34||Pace: 92.5 (28), Off: 103.6 (19), Def: 101.3 (8)
The Heat have failed to crack 80 points four times in their last 12 games, but they were able to pick a much-needed ugly win over the Bobcats on Saturday. They've been the league's third-best defensive team since the All-Star break.
|17||Charlotte (15)||35-34||Pace: 92.9 (27), Off: 100.7 (26), Def: 100.1 (3)
Road woes continue to haunt the Bobcats. After winning in Orlando last Sunday, they dropped three on the road this week. Their 10-26 road record is easily the worst among playoff contenders. And it's their defense (104.8 rating) that hurts them the most.
|18||Toronto (18)||34-34||Pace: 95.6 (12), Off: 108.3 (5), Def: 110.0 (30)
The Bulls are relatively healthy again, so the Raptors probably won't be able to back into that eighth playoff spot. Toronto leads Chicago by 2 1/2 games and will have to start rebounding again. The Raptors have given up 12 or more offensive boards in seven of their last eight games.
|19||Chicago (19)||32-37||Pace: 95.9 (9), Off: 100.1 (28), Def: 103.0 (11)
Luol Deng may be done for the year, but Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah returned to help the Bulls end their 10-game losing streak. They must make their move on the Raptors now, with seven of their next nine games at home, where they've lost five straight.
|20||New Orleans (20)||33-38||Pace: 95.0 (15), Off: 104.3 (18), Def: 106.6 (21)
If you like watching the best players in the league, New Orleans Arena is the place to be over the next eight days, when the Hornets host the Mavs, Cavs, Blazers and Lakers. At some point in that stretch, Chris Paul will likely make his return.
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|21||Indiana (26)||24-46||Pace: 99.7 (2), Off: 100.2 (27), Def: 104.7 (17)
The Pacers have assumed the role of spoiler. They beat the Bobcats on Tuesday and crushed the Thunder on Sunday. The Tuesday win was ugly, but Sunday was one of their best offensive games of the season, and it came against a top-six defense.
|22||New York (27)||25-45||Pace: 96.1 (8), Off: 104.5 (16), Def: 107.5 (25)
Starting the last five games in which the Knicks went 3-2, Toney Douglas averaged 20 points on 54 percent shooting. He shot 10-for-17 from 3-point range in two games over the weekend and scored 14 of his team's final 16 points in Friday's win over Philly.
|23||Philadelphia (21)||24-46||Pace: 94.0 (21), Off: 102.6 (21), Def: 106.5 (18)
Saturday's loss in Chicago was the first time Andre Iguodala did not attempt a 3-pointer all season. He needed the break, having made just one of his previous 26 attempts. Iguodala is having the worst shooting season of his career.
|24||Sacramento (23)||24-46||Pace: 96.9 (6), Off: 102.8 (20), Def: 106.9 (22)
Tyreke Evans was out with a concussion, but Beno Udrih dropped 20 points and a career-high 17 assists in Sunday's win over the Clippers. The Kings are 6-7 and playing better defensively (103.4 rating) since Udrih was re-inserted into the starting lineup.
|25||L.A. Clippers (22)||26-44||Pace: 94.9 (16), Off: 100.7 (25), Def: 106.5 (19)
The Clippers' win over the Bucks on Wednesday was about as unlikely as the Knicks' win over the Mavs four days earlier. It ended the Clips' eight-game losing streak, and they were the first team in 14 games to shoot better than 50 percent against Milwaukee.
|26||Detroit (24)||23-47||Pace: 91.2 (29), Off: 101.4 (23), Def: 107.9 (26)
Ben Gordon left his clutchness in Chicago. In clutch situations this season, Gordon is shooting 7-for-31 (23 percent), including 0-for-13 from 3-point range. The good news for the Pistons is that Rodney Stuckey returned to action Friday in Indiana.
|27||Washington (25)||21-47||Pace: 94.3 (20), Off: 101.2 (24), Def: 106.5 (20)
Averaging fewer than 87 points per game in March, the Wizards have lost 11 straight, including a game they led late in Portland on Friday. They're now 26 games under .500 and in 14th place, but they're still mathematically alive for the playoffs.
|28||Golden State (28)||19-50||Pace: 102.5 (1), Off: 104.9 (14), Def: 109.4 (29)
The Spurs hadn't scored 140 points in a game in almost 19 years, but they dropped 147 on the Warriors on Friday. The Suns, who scored 152 against the Timberwolves three days earlier, get their last shot at the Warriors' defense on Monday. Buckle up.
|29||Minnesota (29)||14-56||Pace: 98.6 (3), Off: 98.6 (29), Def: 108.7 (28)
In that game in Phoenix on Tuesday, the Timberwolves came just three points shy of their season high ... and lost by 38. They've dropped 12 straight, but hung around with the Lakers on Friday, even though they took 24 fewer free throws than the champs.
|30||New Jersey (30)||7-62||Pace: 93.8 (24), Off: 96.9 (30), Def: 108.3 (27)
If the Nets are going to get three more wins, they'd better get at least one this week, when the Pistons and Kings make their final visits to the Izod Center. In all, there are probably six winnable games left. But this team already has lost a lot of winnable games.
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