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Power Rankings

Parity prevails in April

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Apr 16 2012 11:26AM

The Bulls are 4-3 in April, while the Heat are 5-4. Even the Celtics, as hot as they've been, have lost three games this month. In the West, the Thunder are 5-4 in April, while the Spurs and Lakers each have two losses in the last 10 days.

The team with the best record in April, Indiana at 8-1, has just the eighth-best point differential. And the team with the best point differential, Atlanta (at plus-12 points per 100 possessions) just lost to the Raptors.

What does it all mean? It means that we have no idea what's going to happen on any given night or when the playoffs begin in just 12 days.

And that's been the theme this season, hasn't it?

• Last week: Old squads rise to the top

Hero Team of the Week: L.A. Lakers (4-0) - Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers beat three playoff teams and also beat the plucky Hornets.
Zero Team of the Week: Golden State (0-4) - The Warriors' week began with a 39-point loss in Denver and didn't get much better after that.

Plus-minus Stud: Kyle Korver (CHI) was a plus-57 in three games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: Byron Mullens (CHA) was a minus-79 in five games last week.

High jumps of the week: CHI, DAL, DEN, PHI, TOR (+3)
Free falls of the week: Houston (-3), Minnesota (-3), MEM, MIA, MIL, SAS (-2)

East vs. West: The West is 147-108 (.576) against the East in inter-conference games this season, and was 1-0 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 is averaging 93.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 101.8 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 contact him via twitter.

1 Chicago (46-14)
Pace: 91.9 (24), Off: 104.8 (6), Def: 96.0 (3)
The Bulls' week included three overtimes, three games given away with missed free throws and two wins over playoff teams with Derrick Rose scoring a total of two points. It's not clear what the takeaway was from all that. But they still have the best record in the league, with one more meeting with the Heat on Thursday.
Previous: 4

2 Oklahoma City (44-16)
Pace: 95.7 (6), Off: 107.4 (1), Def: 99.6 (9)
If they face the Clippers in the conference semifinals, the Thunder will have to stop Chris Paul, who has 57 points on 64 percent shooting in L.A.'s two wins over OKC. Of course, if the Thunder don't stop CP3 in their fourth meeting on Monday in L.A., they might send themselves to the opposite side of the bracket.
Previous: 3

3 San Antonio (42-16)
Pace: 94.6 (9), Off: 107.0 (2), Def: 100.9 (12)
Did the Spurs punt away the No. 1 seed in the West by leaving their big three at home on Monday, or by getting crushed on the glass by Andrew Bynum and the Kobe-less Lakers two nights later? They have a road back-to-back-to-back this week, so expect more rest for their stars as they settle into the No. 2 spot.
Previous: 1

4 Miami (42-17)
Pace: 93.9 (14), Off: 105.6 (4), Def: 97.6 (5)
It was important for the Heat to get a road win against a playoff team on Sunday. But it would sure be nice if someone other than the big three could knock down shots consistently. Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller have shot a combined 37 percent since the All-Star break.
Previous: 2

5 Boston (36-25)
Pace: 92.7 (21), Off: 98.6 (25), Def: 95.2 (1)
Remember when the April schedule was supposed to knock the Celtics out of the playoffs? Me neither. Now, they have a real shot at home-court advantage in the first round, with Friday's game in Atlanta being critical. Also critical: the status Paul Pierce's left big toe, which he jammed Saturday in New Jersey.
Previous: 5

6 Indiana (38-22)
Pace: 93.2 (19), Off: 103.0 (12), Def: 100.1 (10)
Is any team hotter than the Pacers? They have the league's best record (8-1) in April and the seventh-best offense since the All-Star break. Danny Granger has led the charge offensively, averaging 22.5 points on 51 percent shooting over the last 11 games. He's still shooting a career-low 42 percent for the season.
Previous: 7

7 L.A. Lakers (39-22)
Pace: 92.8 (20), Off: 103.6 (8), Def: 101.0 (13)
The Lakers are so much better without Kobe Bryant. OK, not really. They're 4-1 without their star and scoring an efficient 109 points per 100 possessions in the five games, but their defense has been pretty bad in three of the five. Overall, the Lakers have been outscored by 17 points with Bryant off the floor this season.
Previous: 8

8 Memphis (35-25)
Pace: 93.7 (15), Off: 100.5 (20), Def: 99.3 (8)
The Grizz are two games behind the Clippers for fourth place and L.A. holds the tiebreaker, but Memphis has the easiest remaining schedule in the league. Their only road games are against two teams with combined losing streaks of 25 games, and the only winning team they have left is the Dwight-less Magic.
Previous: 6

9 L.A. Clippers (37-23)
Pace: 91.8 (26), Off: 104.9 (5), Def: 102.8 (18)
The Clippers' defense hasn't exactly been consistent, but it's been better over the last 13 games, allowing less than a point per possession. But they won in Oklahoma City on Wednesday with offense and Chris Paul's 'ol fake pass right, Eurostep left, lean right, shoot left move. Gets 'em every time.
Previous: 9

10 Atlanta (35-25)
Pace: 92.3 (23), Off: 101.3 (17), Def: 98.5 (6)
The Hawks have done a good job of beating the teams they're supposed to all season. So Sunday's stinker against the depleted Raptors is cause for concern, especially since it gave the Celtics an edge in a 4-5 matchup. Of course, after they lost Al Horford, some of us thought this was a lottery team.
Previous: 10

11 New York (31-29)
Pace: 96.1 (4), Off: 100.3 (21), Def: 97.6 (4)
After Sunday's loss to the Heat, we have to ask: Do the Knicks need Amar'e Stoudemire back? Carmelo Anthony can't beat the Bulls or Heat by himself, but New York has been pretty awful with Stoudemire on the court this season. Better to let him recover and start fresh in October.
Previous: 11

12 Dallas (34-27)
Pace: 93.7 (16), Off: 100.7 (19), Def: 99.2 (7)
The Mavs' offense got a lift from Jason Kidd's return last week, scoring 111 points per 100 possessions in their four games (Kidd played in three of them). Delonte West shot 28-for-51, but was a minus-13 in 51 minutes with Kidd. Kidd and Vince Carter have been a much more effective pair (plus-133) this year.
Previous: 15

13 Phoenix (31-29)
Pace: 94.8 (8), Off: 103.4 (9), Def: 103.2 (20)
The Suns will need to beat some good teams and get some help from others, but they definitely have life left, trailing Houston by just a game and holding the (conference record) tiebreaker. Thanks to some improvement from Sebastian Telfair, the Suns aren't getting killed when Steve Nash steps off the floor lately.
Previous: 12

14 Denver (33-27)
Pace: 96.7 (2), Off: 105.7 (3), Def: 103.4 (21)
The Nuggets dropped the ball against the Kobe-less Lakers but put themselves in the driver's seat with Sunday's win over the Rockets, one of their best defensive games of the season. They just need to follow it up in Houston on Monday and, more importantly, a successful trip to Phoenix on Saturday.
Previous: 17

15 Orlando (35-25)
Pace: 91.3 (29), Off: 102.2 (15), Def: 100.9 (11)
With Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis all out, you have to wonder if the Magic can win another game this season. Actually, you don't, because they play the Bobcats next Wednesday. But a 1-5 finish is a distinct possibility, and a loss to Philly on Monday would put the Sixers just two games back for sixth.
Previous: 14

16 Houston (32-28)
Pace: 94.4 (11), Off: 102.8 (14), Def: 101.8 (14)
The Rockets picked an awful time for a three-game losing streak, especially considering the teams they were playing. Now, they have to hold on for dear life, with only on real gimme of a game (vs. Golden State) left. They have two remaining against the Hornets, but New Orleans isn't laying down for anybody.
Previous: 13

17 Philadelphia (31-28)
Pace: 91.9 (25), Off: 101.2 (18), Def: 95.6 (2)
Do you see the glass as half-full or half-empty? Do the Sixers have a shot at catching the Magic for sixth, or are they more likely to miss the playoffs altogether? We'll find out in the next few days, as they play a back-to-back-to-back in three different cities. Monday's visit to Orlando is the big one.
Previous: 20

18 Milwaukee (29-31)
Pace: 96.1 (3), Off: 102.8 (13), Def: 102.8 (17)
The Bucks had eighth place in their hands on Wednesday and missed their final five shots against the Knicks. Against the Pacers three nights later, they missed five straight shots down the stretch again. Overall, they're a much different team this year, but late-game futility is reminiscent of the '10-11 Bucks.
Previous: 16

19 Utah (31-30)
Pace: 93.9 (13), Off: 103.3 (10), Def: 104.1 (23)
The Jazz have one thing going for them as they sit two games behind Houston and a game behind Phoenix. Four of their five remaining games are at home and the fifth is against the reeling Blazers. But allowing the Hornets to shoot 55 percent on Friday may very well have been the final nail in the coffin.
Previous: 18

20 Portland (28-33)
Pace: 93.6 (18), Off: 103.2 (11), Def: 102.6 (16)
Wesley Matthews has taken advantage of LaMarcus Aldridge's absence, hoisting 47 shots and averaging 22 points in the last three games. Jamal Crawford was actually more efficient, scoring 52 points on 35 shots in the first two games, before sitting out Sunday's loss to the Kings.
Previous: 19

21 Toronto (22-39)
Pace: 91.6 (27), Off: 99.1 (24), Def: 102.0 (15)
With weekend wins over the Celtics and Hawks (without Andrea Bargnani or Jose Calderon), the Raptors have beaten seven different playoff teams since the All-Star break. DeMar DeRozan still isn't shooting well, but he's averaged 21.6 points and 8.6 free-throw attempts in those seven wins.
Previous: 24

22 Detroit (22-38)
Pace: 91.5 (28), Off: 97.6 (28), Def: 104.8 (24)
The Pistons have lost five of their last six games, a stretch that would look much better if Rodney Stuckey made more than two of his final four free throws against the Bulls on Sunday. They're one of four teams with 22 wins, so there's still much to be determined if you care about lottery odds (and I know you do).
Previous: 21

23 New Jersey (22-39)
Pace: 92.6 (22), Off: 100.2 (22), Def: 106.7 (29)
He's been around for only a month, but it can already be said that the Nets just aren't the same without Gerald Wallace, who has missed the last three games with a strained hamstring. Of course, we couldn't have really considered Wallace a member of the 2011-12 Nets until he suffered some kind of injury.
Previous: 23

24 New Orleans (18-42)
Pace: 90.6 (30), Off: 98.6 (26), Def: 102.9 (19)
Not only do the Hornets have a new owner, but they have their second three-game winning streak of the season (sure to hit four on Monday in Charlotte), the league's 12th best offense in April and increased Lottery odds thanks to the Timberwolves' losing streak. Jason Smith has led the offensive resurgence.
Previous: 26

25 Minnesota (25-36)
Pace: 95.9 (5), Off: 102.1 (16), Def: 103.5 (22)
This may be the stat of the year: The Wolves have now lost 25 straight games in the month of April, a streak that started in 2009. Their best chance at ending the streak before it hits 30 comes Sunday against the Warriors, who have lost eight of their last nine on the road. The one win? April 4 in Minnesota.
Previous: 22

26 Golden State (22-37)
Pace: 94.6 (10), Off: 103.8 (7), Def: 106.1 (27)
Klay Thompson digs the long ball. The rookie has attempted at least five threes in 18 of the 21 games since the Monta Ellis trade. That's not really a bad thing, because he's shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc in that time, 43 percent (ninth in the league) for the season, and 19-for-33 over the last six games.
Previous: 25

27 Cleveland (20-39)
Pace: 94.0 (12), Off: 98.5 (27), Def: 105.2 (25)
Could Luke Harangody play six straight nights? He played in Game 1 of the D-League playoffs on Friday, led the Cavs to a win on Saturday, and then played in Game 2 of Charge-Armor series on Sunday. That series ends Monday, and Harangody could then play for the Cavs Tuesday and Wednesday.
Previous: 28

28 Sacramento (20-41)
Pace: 97.3 (1), Off: 100.2 (23), Def: 106.6 (28)
Less than two months after it looked like the Kings would be getting a brand new arena and staying in Sacramento for good, their situation looks worse than ever. They're apparently still staying in Sacramento, but in the same old arena with a ticked-off fan base? Stay tuned, because more drama lies ahead.
Previous: 27

29 Washington (14-46)
Pace: 95.0 (7), Off: 97.4 (29), Def: 105.3 (26)
The most encouraging aspect of the Wizards' season has been the play of their young bigs. With Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin on the floor together for 323 minutes, the Wiz have allowed just 98 points per 100 possessions and outscored their opponents by 34. But Booker has missed the last nine games.
Previous: 29

30 Charlotte (7-52)
Pace: 93.6 (17), Off: 93.3 (30), Def: 108.1 (30)
This team stinks.
Previous: 30

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