By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Apr 8, 2013 11:48 AM
There are only nine days and 77 games remaining in the 2012-13 regular season. And in one conference, we have a pretty clear picture of how teams will match up in the first round of the playoffs.
The Eastern Conference standings have never been more clear. All eight playoff teams have clinched, and there's at least two games in either the win or loss column separating each seed. The only team playing particularly well right now is the New York Knicks, and they can't go any higher than they already are.
So feel free to start looking forward to Knicks-Celtics or Nets-Bulls in the first round. Both could be real dog fights, worthy of your attention.
The West isn't nearly as clear. We know who the top five teams are, but no seed is even close to being set and almost every game means something from here on out.
Last week: With Heat streak done, focus back on the Lakers
This time last year: Old squads rise to the top - The Spurs had won 11 straight, Derrick Rose returned from a 12-game absence, Carmelo Anthony beat the Bulls with threes at the end of regulation and overtime, and Dwight Howard put his arm around Stan Van Gundy shortly after the coach had told reporters that Howard wanted him fired.
Hero Team of the Week: New York (4-0) -- The Heat were shorthanded, but the Knicks won four games against playoff teams, including visits to Miami and Oklahoma City.
Zero Team of the Week: Portland (0-3) -- Two straight weeks here for the Blazers, who are heading into the abyss.
High jumps of the week: Golden State (+5), Utah (+4), Minnesota (+3)
Free falls of the week: Dallas (-4), San Antonio (-4), ATL, BOS, IND, SAC (-2)
East vs. West: The West is 260-187 (.582) against the East in interconference games this season, and was 7-3 last week.
Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. New Orleans, 2. Houston, 3. Minnesota
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Miami, 2. Indiana, 3. Atlanta
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) - Click here
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
The league is averaging 94.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.1 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 have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via twitter.
|1|| Miami (60-16) |
Pace: 92.8 (24), OffRtg: 110.5 (1), DefRtg: 100.6 (8), NetRtg: +10.0 (2)
As if the Heat weren't good enough, they now have Mike Miller shooting (and jumping) well. Miller has drained 16 of his 27 threes over the last four games and, better yet, had this put-back throwdown against the Knicks on Tuesday. They're obviously in cruise control at this point, but the Heat do have four interesting games (including a playoff preview) this week, no matter who suits up.
This week: vs. MIL, @ WAS, vs. BOS, vs. CHI
|Last week: 1|
|2|| Denver (53-24) |
Pace: 97.5 (2), OffRtg: 107.7 (4), DefRtg: 102.2 (11), NetRtg: +5.5 (6)
If any team can absorb an injury to its second-leading scorer, it's the Nuggets. But the loss of Danilo Gallinari does compromise their ability to play small, when they're at their best defensively. They're 11-1 against fellow playoff teams since the All-Star break, with the lone loss coming against the Spurs, who they could meet in the conference semifinals. So put Wednesday's rematch on your to-watch list.
This week: vs. SAS, @ DAL, vs. POR
|Last week: 4|
|3|| Oklahoma City (56-21) |
Pace: 95.9 (9), OffRtg: 110.3 (2), DefRtg: 99.5 (4), NetRtg: +10.8 (1)
It was a big week for the Thunder, and two out of three ain't bad. Their defense was terrific against the Spurs and Pacers, but got scorched by the streaking Knicks on Sunday. That was just their sixth home loss, but fourth against the East. So they still have the tiebreaker (conference record) against San Antonio, but now need some help (and some road wins) to earn the tie and the West's No. 1 seed.
This week: @ UTA, @ GSW, @ POR
|Last week: 3|
|4|| New York (50-26) |
Pace: 92.0 (26), OffRtg: 108.6 (3), DefRtg: 103.3 (16), NetRtg: +5.3 (7)
The Knicks' offense is scorching, scoring 118 points per 100 possessions, during their 12-game winning streak, which was certainly validated by Sunday's win in Oklahoma City. J.R. Smith has been nearly as unstoppable as Carmelo Anthony, shooting well and getting to the line, with a free throw rate (.457 FTA/FGA) during the streak that is more than twice what it was (.209) over his first 64 games.
This week: vs. WAS, @ CHI, @ CLE, vs. IND
|Last week: 6|
|5|| Memphis (52-25) |
Pace: 91.3 (28), OffRtg: 101.7 (18), DefRtg: 97.8 (2), NetRtg: +3.9 (8)
So Mike Conley is clearly the Grizzlies' go-to guy now, having taken 12 of their 19 shots in clutch time last week. He came up short against the Lakers, but hit two huge shots against the Spurs and then got another game-winner in Sacramento. Overall, Conley has shot 56 percent from the field and 12-for-18 from 3-point range as the Grizz have won five of their last six games to stay ahead of the Clippers.
This week: vs. CHA, @ HOU, vs. LAC
|Last week: 7|
|6|| San Antonio (57-20) |
Pace: 96.1 (7), OffRtg: 106.7 (7), DefRtg: 98.9 (3), NetRtg: +7.7 (3)
We don't know how healthy the Spurs will be when the playoffs begin, but we do know they won't have the momentum they had last season, when they won 21 of their final 23 games. They've lost three of their last five and heard it from Gregg Popovich after barely beating the similarly shorthanded Hawks on Saturday. But momentum is overrated. The '05 Spurs won a title after going 9-8 down the stretch.
This week: @ DEN, vs. SAC, @ LAL
|Last week: 2|
|7|| Indiana (48-29) |
Pace: 92.8 (25), OffRtg: 101.6 (19), DefRtg: 96.1 (1), NetRtg: +5.5 (5)
The Pacers got an impressive road win over the Clippers on Monday, but may have lost their shot at the 2 seed with a two-day, two-game losing streak over the weekend. More concerning is that they've allowed 111 points per 100 possessions over their last four, their worst defensive four-game stretch of the season. So they have to get their act together before they visit the Knicks on Sunday.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. BKN, @ NYK
|Last week: 5|
|8|| L.A. Clippers (51-26) |
Pace: 93.6 (18), OffRtg: 107.5 (5), DefRtg: 101.1 (9), NetRtg: +6.4 (4)
Sunday's win over their housemates earned the Clippers a season sweep and the first division title in franchise history. It was a great day that would have been even better if the Grizzlies didn't hang on for a two-point win in Sacramento. The Clips can help themselves with a win in Memphis on Saturday, but they've lost five of their last six on the road, while the Grizz have won 12 straight at home.
This week: vs. MIN, @ NOH, @ MEM
|Last week: 8|
|9|| Houston (43-34) |
Pace: 98.6 (1), OffRtg: 107.2 (6), DefRtg: 103.8 (19), NetRtg: +3.3 (9)
The Rockets will likely see Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Denver in the first round, so it's going to be a very tough matchup no matter what. After Saturday's thrashing, Houston is 0-4 against the Nuggets, who are one team that loves playing at the Rockets' pace. The good news is that Jeremy Lin is playing well, shooting 51 percent and averaging 19.8 points and 9.3 assists in four games last week.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. MEM, vs. SAC
|Last week: 9|
|10|| Brooklyn (44-32) |
Pace: 91.0 (29), OffRtg: 104.7 (9), DefRtg: 103.7 (18), NetRtg: +1.0 (12)
Last week was very representative of the Nets' season. After wins over the Cavs and Bobcats, they're 30-6 and plus-9.8 points per 100 possessions against teams heading to the Lottery. After after Thursday's last-minute loss to the shorthanded Bulls, they're 14-26 (having lost eight of their last nine) and minus-7.2 points per 100 possessions against teams currently in playoff position.
This week: vs. PHI, @ BOS, @ IND, @ TOR
|Last week: 10|
|11|| Golden State (44-33) |
Pace: 96.5 (5), OffRtg: 104.2 (10), DefRtg: 102.6 (13), NetRtg: +1.6 (11)
Mark Jackson is basically playing just seven guys these days, leaning heavily on Stephen Curry and David Lee. Curry has missed just four games this season and ranks ninth in total minutes, an amazing fact given last season's ankle issues. Lee continues to lead the league in double-doubles and averaged 22.0 points and 14.3 boards in three games last week. The Dubs still need another win to clinch.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. OKC, @ LAL
|Last week: 16|
|12|| Chicago (42-34) |
Pace: 91.9 (27), OffRtg: 100.0 (25), DefRtg: 100.1 (7), NetRtg: -0.1 (15)
One day, you can do nothing but praise the Bulls for coming back from 16 points down in Brooklyn without five rotation guys. Another day, you can do nothing but shake your head at them for coming up empty in Detroit. But that (and the whole Derrick Rose thing) has been the story of the Bulls' season. They got Joakim Noah back on Sunday, but added Luol Deng (sore hip) to the list of wounded.
This week: vs. TOR, vs. NYK, @ TOR, @ MIA
|Last week: 12|
|13|| Utah (41-37) |
Pace: 93.6 (20), OffRtg: 104.0 (11), DefRtg: 104.5 (21), NetRtg: -0.5 (16)
Sunday was a pretty good time for the Jazz to get just their second road win (and their first since Dec. 18) over a team currently in playoff position. And the last eight games (of which the Jazz have won seven) has been a pretty good time for Derrick Favors to play his best basketball of the season, averaging 12.0 points and 9.8 rebounds and coming up with a huge block in the final minute at Golden State.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. MIN
|Last week: 17|
|14|| L.A. Lakers (40-37) |
Pace: 96.9 (4), OffRtg: 105.4 (8), DefRtg: 103.7 (17), NetRtg: +1.7 (10)
The idea of the Lakers missing the playoffs has never been more real. After getting beat one more time by the Clips, they desperately need help from the Thunder, Wolves (x 2) and Grizzlies. And even if the Jazz go 2-2 in their final four games, L.A. needs to win four of their last five to get in. As bad as Portland has played over the last two weeks, they might just be motivated to play spoiler on Wednesday.
This week: vs. NOH, @ POR, vs. GSW, vs. SAS
|Last week: 13|
|15|| Dallas (38-39) |
Pace: 96.4 (6), OffRtg: 103.5 (12), DefRtg: 104.1 (20), NetRtg: -0.6 (17)
The Mavs' playoff chances were called dead a long time ago in this space, and they've come close to proving me wrong. But after Tuesday' debacle in L.A. and Thursday's heartbreaker in Denver, they need a miracle. Their veteran backcourt may have run out of gas. Mike James missed 10 of his last 12 threes and Vince Carter has shot better than 40 percent in just one of his last 10 games.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. DEN, @ NOH
|Last week: 11|
|16|| Boston (40-37) |
Pace: 94.0 (17), OffRtg: 100.8 (22), DefRtg: 100.0 (5), NetRtg: +0.8 (14)
Both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce played in Sunday's win over the Wizards, so the Celtics are as healthy as they're going to be this season. They also have a new starting lineup, with Pierce in the backcourt and Jeff Green at the three. That lineup has played just 23 minutes together over seven games thus far and would make for some interesting matchups in a potential first round series against New York.
This week: vs. BKN, @ MIA, @ ORL
|Last week: 14|
|17|| Atlanta (42-36) |
Pace: 94.5 (13), OffRtg: 102.6 (16), DefRtg: 101.7 (10), NetRtg: +0.9 (13)
Is Devin Harris the key to the Hawks having a chance in the first round? They're 33-22 in games he's played, 22-9 in games he's started, and, amazingly, 16-2 in games he's played at least 28 minutes. The Hawks have been much better, both offensively and defensively, with Harris on the floor and have dropped three straight without him. Dealing with a sore foot, he could be back Wednesday.
This week: @ PHI, vs. MIL
|Last week: 15|
|18|| Washington (29-48) |
Pace: 94.3 (15), OffRtg: 97.7 (30), DefRtg: 100.0 (6), NetRtg: -2.3 (19)
Tuesday's victory over the Bulls and Saturday's over the Pacers gave the Wizards 15 wins (13 since John Wall came back) over 12 different playoff teams. They couldn't make it 16 (over 13) in Boston on Sunday, but have more opportunities ahead of them. Wall had 27 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and three blocks against Chicago, and then scored 37 points against the league's best defense.
This week: @ NYK, vs. MIA, vs. PHI
|Last week: 18|
|19|| Milwaukee (37-39) |
Pace: 97.2 (3), OffRtg: 101.3 (20), DefRtg: 102.3 (12), NetRtg: -1.1 (18)
The Bucks have cliched their playoff berth, but will have a hard time catching the seventh-place Celtics with games against the Heat, Nuggets and Thunder still left. While his teammates in the backcourt take turns with their ugly shooting nights, Larry Sanders has been pretty consistent, averaging 13.4 points, 11.4 boards and 1.93 blocks over the last 15 games. And it's been 17 days since his last ejection.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ ATL, @ CHA
|Last week: 19|
|20|| Minnesota (29-47) |
Pace: 95.1 (12), OffRtg: 100.2 (24), DefRtg: 102.9 (14), NetRtg: -2.7 (21)
In Rick Adelman's first career win, his starting backcourt of Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler had a double-double and a triple-double respectively. In Adelman's 1,000th win, his starting backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour shot a combined 2-for-19. Fortunately, J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic (who averaged 25.0 points and 8.5 boards in four games last week) picked up the slack against the Pistons.
This week: @ GSW, @ LAC, @ UTA, vs. PHX
|Last week: 23|
|21|| Philadelphia (31-45) |
Pace: 93.1 (21), OffRtg: 99.5 (26), DefRtg: 103.0 (15), NetRtg: -3.5 (22)
If Justin Holiday was signed to help his younger brother get his shot back, it didn't work. Jrue Holiday shot a brutal 5-for-38 in the first two games after Justin was signed and is now shooting just 35 percent since March 3. The All-Star has been carrying a much heavier load this season, and it seems like it has taken its toll late in the season. But hey, Dorell Wright gave us this highlight in Miami.
This week: @ BKN, vs. ATL, @ WAS, vs. CLE
|Last week: 20|
|22|| Portland (33-44) |
Pace: 93.6 (19), OffRtg: 103.1 (13), DefRtg: 106.6 (26), NetRtg: -3.5 (23)
If there's any good news for the Lakers right now, it's that we can confirm last week's notion that the Blazers, who play L.A. on Wednesday (and are done with the Jazz) have let go of the rope. Will Barton, who had 22 points, 13 boards, six assists and three steals in Sunday's loss to Dallas, may still be engaged, but it will take more than the rookie to avoid a season-ending, 13-game losing streak.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. OKC, @ DEN
|Last week: 21|
|23|| Toronto (29-48) |
Pace: 93.0 (22), OffRtg: 102.4 (17), DefRtg: 105.0 (22), NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
The Raptors are playing their final six games against playoff teams, a stretch that got off to an ugly start (Rudy Gay shot 1-for-10 and the Raps trailed by as many as 32 points) in Milwaukee on Saturday. They're now 0-9 against playoff teams since beating the Knicks on Feb. 22, having been outscored by 18.5 points per 100 possessions in the nine games. Spoilers they are not.
This week: @ CHI, vs. CHI, vs. BKN
|Last week: 25|
|24|| Sacramento (27-50) |
Pace: 96.1 (8), OffRtg: 102.9 (14), DefRtg: 108.4 (29), NetRtg: -5.5 (26)
If this is the Kings' last season in Sacramento, they're not exactly going out with a bang, having lost five straight at Sleep Train Arena. They still have a chance at a winning home record if they can beat the Hornets (Wednesday) and Clippers (next Wednesday). After averaging 23.0 points on 54 percent shooting over his previous three games, Tyreke Evans shot 1-for-7 against Memphis on Sunday.
This week: vs. NOH, @ SAS, @ HOU
|Last week: 22|
|25|| New Orleans (27-50) |
Pace: 90.7 (30), OffRtg: 102.8 (15), DefRtg: 107.3 (28), NetRtg: -4.5 (24)
The Eric Gordon saga took another bad turn on Friday in Utah when Gordon got into it with Monty Williams and was benched for the final 21 minutes. Williams was ticked after Gordon made two straight defensive mistakes, failing to get back after committing a turnover and completely losing his man on the weak side. Only the Sixers have regressed more defensively from last season than the Hornets.
This week: @ LAL, @ SAC, vs. LAC, vs. DAL
|Last week: 24|
|26|| Cleveland (24-52) |
Pace: 95.1 (11), OffRtg: 100.8 (21), DefRtg: 106.8 (27), NetRtg: -6.0 (27)
To go along with several strange results this week, the Cavs' 10-game losing streak came to an end on Friday in Boston, where the Celtics had won 13 of their last 15. Now, Cleveland has won two straight, thanks in part to Tristan Thompson, who followed up his 29 points and 17 rebounds against the Cs with 15 points and 16 boards (double-double No. 28) against the Magic on Sunday.
This week: @ IND, vs. DET, vs. NYK, @ PHI
|Last week: 26|
|27|| Detroit (26-52) |
Pace: 92.9 (23), OffRtg: 100.5 (23), DefRtg: 105.9 (24), NetRtg: -5.4 (25)
Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have averaged over 18 minutes per game together since Drummond's return, after averaging less than seven minutes together prior to the rookie's injury. But Detroit has been pretty terrible defensively with the pair on the floor over these last six games. With the Pistons and Cavs tied with 52 losses, there will be Lottery combinations on the line on Wednesday.
This week: @ CLE, vs. CHA
|Last week: 28|
|28|| Phoenix (23-54) |
Pace: 95.6 (10), OffRtg: 98.1 (29), DefRtg: 105.8 (23), NetRtg: -7.7 (29)
Offense had been the Suns' bigger problem under Lindsey Hunter, but they flipped the script by shooting 61.1 percent against the Warriors on Friday, the highest any team has shot in a loss since February of 2005. They've dropped nine straight after Sunday's loss to the Hornets (who hadn't won on the road since before the All-Star break), which may have been their last decent chance at a win.
This week: @ HOU, @ DAL, @ MIN
|Last week: 27|
|29|| Charlotte (18-59) |
Pace: 94.1 (16), OffRtg: 98.1 (28), DefRtg: 109.2 (30), NetRtg: -11.1 (30)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor have mostly been off the rookie radar this season, but the Bobcats - the worst defensive team overall - have allowed less than a point per possession in 566 minutes with the two on the floor. MKG is past his early-March struggles and averaging 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds in his last seven games. Hopefully, he puts a lot of work in on that jumper over the summer.
This week: @ MEM, @ DET, vs. MIL
|Last week: 29|
|30|| Orlando (19-59) |
Pace: 94.4 (14), OffRtg: 99.1 (27), DefRtg: 106.5 (25), NetRtg: -7.4 (28)
The Magic have held four of their last five opponents under a point per possession, which is pretty amazing. They haven't won any of those games, but why be picky? Offense (92.5 points scored per 100 possessions in that stretch) is obviously the problem and Tobias Harris might want to stay inside the arc. He has five double-doubles in his last six games, but has missed 17 of his last 18 3-point attempts.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. BOS
|Last week: 30|
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