By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Apr 12 2010 12:55PM
The final three days of the season are here, and thus ends another season of NBA.com's Power Rankings.
Seven different teams held the top spot this season. Can you name them all? Answer below.
The Cleveland Cavaliers didn't take the top spot until Jan. 11, but they were No. 1 for 10 of the 24 weeks, including two four-week spans. They will finish the season with the best record in the league for the second straight season, but unlike last year, they won't finish the season on top of the Power Rankings.
This isn't about Sunday's game in Cleveland. LeBron James' absence is duly noted. But simply, the Orlando Magic have been playing better than any other team over the last couple of months.
As has been noted previously, the Magic lead the league in point differential per 100 possessions, having passed the Cavs in that metric about a month ago. But at this point, it's not even close. The Magic are +9.1 points per 100 possessions, a point and a half better than the Cavs, who are +7.6, and four full points better than the Lakers, who rank fourth at +5.1.
Further, the Magic have steadily climbed the offensive efficiency rankings, to the point where they now rank as the second best offensive team in the league, behind only the Suns. And they've got back their No. 1 defensive ranking, which the Bobcats held briefly, as well.
Will the Magic beat the Cavs again and possibly win their first ever championship? Time will tell. Cleveland has had to deal with a lot more injuries and league-imposed absences than Orlando has, especially since the All-Star break. And whoever comes out of the wide-open West will be battle-tested. But if Stan Van Gundy is dripping with champagne come mid-June, don't be too surprised.
• Last Week: Lakers looking nothing like champs
Hero Team of the Week: Houston (3-1) - The Rockets won in Memphis and then beat two playoff teams (the Bobcats and Jazz) at home, virtually ensuring themselves of a winning record this season.
Zero Team of the Week: Toronto (0-4) - Playing without Chris Bosh for all but two minutes this week, the Raps laid down and may have sealed their lottery fate.
High jumps of the week: Dallas (+2), Golden State (+2), Houston (+2)
Free falls of the week: L.A. Clippers (-2), Oklahoma City (-2), Toronto (-2)
East vs. West: The West is 246-203 (0.548) in inter-conference games, but the East was 3-1 this week. There is one East-West game left: Detroit at Minnesota on Wednesday.
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 95.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.8 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.
The seven teams that held the top spot this season (number of weeks in parentheses): Cleveland (10), L.A. Lakers (5), Orlando (3), Atlanta (2), Boston (2), Phoenix (1) and Utah (1).
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|1||Orlando (2)||57-23||Pace: 94.1 (19), Off: 109.2 (2), Def: 100.1 (1)
The Magic's win on Sunday gave them a one-game edge on the Lakers for home-court advantage in a potential Finals rematch, but beating the Cavs without LeBron James didn't mean much otherwise. Barring a miracle, Orlando will face Charlotte.
|2||Cleveland (1)||61-20||Pace: 93.5 (25), Off: 109.1 (3), Def: 101.5 (8)
Taking care of business early has allowed the Cavs to give LeBron James a nice four-game rest before the playoffs begin. And the first round will be a nice four-game warmup to get Shaquille O'Neal back into game shape before things start to get interesting.
|3||Phoenix (3)||52-28||Pace: 97.9 (4), Off: 112.6 (1), Def: 107.2 (23)
No West team needs home-court advantage more than the Suns, who are just 2-9 on the road against the other seven playoff teams. Overall, they're 8.3 points per 100 possessions better at home. So this week's games against the Nuggets and Jazz are both huge.
|4||Utah (4)||52-28||Pace: 95.9 (10), Off: 108.1 (7), Def: 103.1 (11)
With Tuesday's 140-139 overtime win as exhibit A, the Jazz have been better offensively than defensively with Andrei Kirilenko out for most of the last month. Wesley Matthews is averaging 11.7 points on 51 percent shooting as a starter over the last 27 games.
|5||San Antonio (5)||49-31||Pace: 93.8 (23), Off: 107.1 (9), Def: 102.0 (9)
The Spurs had two bad defensive games this week, but they shut down the Nuggets in Denver on Saturday and are the only West team in the top 10 both offensively and defensively. Don't sleep on the four-time champs come Saturday, even if they're playing L.A.
|6||L.A. Lakers (7)||56-24||Pace: 95.3 (14), Off: 106.0 (11), Def: 100.9 (5)
The "everyone wants to avoid the Lakers" talk is difficult to understand, considering how mediocre the champs have looked since the All-Star break. The best chance to knock off L.A. might come in the first round, before they've got their rhythm back.
|7||Atlanta (6)||51-29||Pace: 92.5 (27), Off: 108.9 (4), Def: 104.2 (15)
The Hawks had a shot at their first winning record on the road in 11 years, but lost in Charlotte and Detroit this week. Their trend of getting worse defensively every month this season has continued in April, when they're allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions.
|8||Dallas (10)||53-27||Pace: 94.7 (17), Off: 107.0 (10), Def: 103.4 (12)
In holding the Grizzlies and Blazers to a combined 161 points, the Mavs had perhaps their best pair of defensive games this season. And they had them without their best defensive player, Shawn Marion, who has been out with a strained oblique muscle.
|9||Portland (9)||49-31||Pace: 90.1 (30), Off: 107.9 (8), Def: 103.7 (13)
Sunday's win in L.A. was big and Monday's game against the Thunder is critical, but playoff positioning takes a back seat to the health of Brandon Roy, who bruised his knee on Sunday. Roy is expected to sit out Monday, which may put the Blazers in eighth.
|10||Oklahoma City (8)||49-31||Pace: 95.6 (11), Off: 105.5 (12), Def: 101.4 (7)
More important than where they land in the standings may be that the Thunder just aren't playing their best basketball. Though they shut down the high-octane Suns on Friday, their defense hasn't been strong of late, with a 106.7 rating over the last month.
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|11||Denver (11)||52-28||Pace: 97.3 (5), Off: 108.7 (5), Def: 104.5 (16)
Saturday's loss to the Spurs was mostly disappointing, but Kenyon Martin looked pretty good in his first game back. He grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds in just 23 minutes. Chauncey Billups is shooting just 33 percent over the last 13 games.
|12||Boston (13)||50-30||Pace: 94.0 (22), Off: 105.4 (13), Def: 100.7 (4)
They've had some strong offensive games, but April has been the Celtics' worst defensive month of the Kevin Garnett era. They're allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions in their six April games, which is worse than they were without Garnett a year ago.
|13||Miami (12)||45-35||Pace: 92.1 (28), Off: 104.5 (18), Def: 100.9 (6)
Nothing's decided yet, but falling into sixth place may be not be a bad thing for the Heat. They're 3-1 against the Hawks and 0-3 against the Celtics this season. And if they're looking past the first round, they're 2-2 against the Magic and 0-3 against the Cavs.
|14||Milwaukee (14)||45-35||Pace: 94.1 (18), Off: 101.7 (23), Def: 100.6 (3)
The Bucks' Bogut-less defense looked just fine against bad offensive teams like the Bulls, Nets and Sixers, but Saturday's loss to the Celtics was the team's worst defensive game in almost two months. Somehow, they're holding on to the fifth spot in the East.
|15||Charlotte (15)||43-37||Pace: 92.7 (26), Off: 101.5 (24), Def: 100.2 (2)
D.J. Augustin's game-winner in New Orleans gave the Bobcats their first ever winning season and first ever playoff berth. Who would have thought when Tyson Chandler was traded for Emeka Okafor that Chandler would be the one making the playoffs?
|16||Houston (18)||41-39||Pace: 96.5 (7), Off: 104.3 (19), Def: 105.2 (17)
The Rockets put a scare in the Suns and almost picked up win No. 42 in Phoenix on Sunday. They should get it this week, when they finish the season against the Kings and Hornets. Did anyone outside of Houston think this team would win more than they lost?
|17||Chicago (16)||39-41||Pace: 95.6 (12), Off: 100.7 (28), Def: 102.7 (10)
Sunday's win in Toronto was huge, but the Bulls still have work to do to earn that eighth spot. They have to play the Celtics and Bobcats this week, while the Raptors get the Pistons and Knicks. And with all the teams involved, nothing is a given.
|18||Memphis (19)||40-40||Pace: 96.0 (9), Off: 104.9 (15), Def: 107.3 (24)
After an inexplicable loss to the Sixers at home, the Grizzlies would need to win in Denver or Oklahoma City to avoid a losing record. No matter what, they made serious progress this season, something they haven't been able to say for the last six years.
|19||Toronto (17)||38-42||Pace: 95.5 (13), Off: 108.2 (6), Def: 110.2 (30)
The Raptors are still alive, but the dejected look on Jarrett Jack's face at the end of Sunday's loss to the Bulls said it all. Could they have won if they had Chris Bosh? Maybe, but this season was lost long before Bosh broke his face on Tuesday.
|20||Indiana (20)||32-48||Pace: 99.3 (2), Off: 101.4 (25), Def: 104.2 (14)
The Pacers have won 10 of their last 12 games, which is admirable, but is there a team in the league with a worse outlook for the next few seasons? After a string of 16 playoff appearances in 17 years, the Indiana is going to its fourth straight lottery.
|TEAM (LAST WEEK)||REC.||BREAKDOWN|
|21||New Orleans (21)||36-45||Pace: 94.8 (16), Off: 104.8 (17), Def: 107.2 (22)
It was somewhat of a lost year for the Hornets. If you have a top-10 player and don't make the playoffs, it's a bad season. But in their two rookie guards, New Orleans did discover more offensive firepower than we thought they had when the season started.
|22||Golden State (24)||25-55||Pace: 102.7 (1), Off: 105.4 (14), Def: 109.4 (29)
Don Nelson got his record, but one of the more interesting developments in Oakland has been Monta Ellis' ability to shut down some of the league's best scorers at times this season. He held Kevin Durant to 5-for-19 in the second half on Sunday.
|23||New York (22)||28-52||Pace: 96.1 (8), Off: 104.8 (16), Def: 108.8 (27)
With their three losses this week, the Knicks are officially worse than they were last year. It's always darkest before the dawn, but just how bright will the morning sun be? There's still another 2 1/2 months before we find out.
|24||Philadelphia (23)||27-53||Pace: 94.0 (21), Off: 103.0 (20), Def: 107.1 (21)
The Sixers have too much talent to lose 50 games for the first time in 12 years. The whole was definitely less than the sum of the parts. As a result, they'll likely have a new coach (again) come October. But they also need a roster tweak or two.
|25||Washington (26)||25-55||Pace: 94.0 (20), Off: 101.3 (26), Def: 106.6 (18)
In starting all 30 games since the All-Star break, Andray Blatche has averaged 22.1 points and 8.3 rebounds. If there's one thing that the Wizards can take out of this disastrous season, it's the discovery that Blatche, owed just $7.8 million over the next two years, can handle a larger role.
|26||Sacramento (27)||25-55||Pace: 96.5 (6), Off: 102.3 (21), Def: 107.0 (19)
A question for anyone who thinks Tyreke Evans is not the Rookie of the Year: What exactly did Evans do to lose the award he basically had locked up in January? His numbers since Feb. 1 (19.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 46 percent shooting) are better than they were prior (20.5, 4.6, 5.0, 46 percent).
|27||L.A. Clippers (25)||28-52||Pace: 95.0 (15), Off: 100.7 (27), Def: 107.1 (20)
The Clippers have a lot to do before they make their yearly trip to Secaucus. They need a general manager and a coach. And they need to convince the former that he can work for Donald Sterling and the latter that he can work with Baron Davis.
|28||Detroit (29)||26-54||Pace: 91.0 (29), Off: 102.2 (22), Def: 108.7 (26)
If there's a team that can challenge the Pacers for the worst outlook, it's their former Central Division rivals. The Pistons' top three scorers have each shot a mediocre 41 percent this season. At least they have the promising rookie season of Jonas Jerebko.
|29||New Jersey (28)||12-68||Pace: 93.7 (24), Off: 98.2 (30), Def: 108.2 (25)
The Nets avoided history, but the best aspect of the last month has been the improvement of Terrence Williams, who's averaging 14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists since March 1. He got his first triple-double against the Bulls on Saturday.
|30||Minnesota (30)||15-65||Pace: 98.4 (3), Off: 98.8 (29), Def: 109.0 (28)
David Kahn and Kurt Rambis believe that Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, the Wolves' two best players, can't play big minutes together because of their defensive limitations. Does that mean that a double-double machine like Love can be had for the right price?
|Bradley Scores 30, Celtics Drop Hornets|
Avery Bradley had 30 points and eight rebounds, as the Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-104 on Monday night.
|Dish From Ish|
Ish Smith lobs a pass way up high and Nerlens Noel goes up to get it for the alley-oop pass.
|Clarkson Wins It|
Jordan Clarkson takes the feed and hits the game-winner with .7 seconds left in overtime.
|Celtics vs. Hornets|
Avery Bradley scores 30 points and grabs eight rebounds as the Celtics beat the Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena.
|Wiggins Does It Again|
Andrew Wiggins drives baseline and tomahawks a vicious one-handed slam.