Every week, the playoff picture is becoming a little more clear.
In the Eastern Conference, we can be pretty sure that the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers will be the No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds, respectively. We can also be pretty sure that the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics will play in the No. 4 vs No. 5 series, even if we don't know where that series will start.
After that, things aren't so certain. The Orlando Magic (winners of four straight games) and Charlotte Hornets (winners of three straight) have kept it a five-team race for the final three playoff spots.
In the West, we know the eight teams in the postseason. The Sacramento Kings haven't been eliminated, but are now six games in the loss column out of eighth place. But no seed in the West is nearly as locked up as the top three seeds in the East. Golden State and Denver both have 23 losses, Houston and Portland both have 27, and teams No. 5-8 all have 30 or 31.
With apologies to those Western Conference video coordinators, we may not know who's playing whom until the last night of the season.
Of course, things can change quickly. The top five teams in the Power Rankings, however, are the same as they were last week.
Note: For the 12 teams no longer in the playoff picture (the bottom five in the East and the bottom seven in the West), it's time to start recapping the season. This week's notes for those teams will be focused on their offense, and we'll dig into their defense next week.
- Last week: Statement wins propel Warriors to top
- This time last year: Celtics, Warriors dealing with poorly timed injuries -- Stephen Curry suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee that would keep him out through the first six games of the playoffs. Kyrie Irving, meanwhile, underwent a procedure to relieve irritation in his left knee. The Rockets hit the 60-win mark for the first time in franchise history, Dwight Howard recorded the first 30/30 game in more than seven years, and Marcus Morris hit a game-winning three against the Thunder.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Joe Ingles (UTA) was a plus-61 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: DeAndre Jordan (NYK) was a minus-74 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Charlotte (3-1) -- The Hornets kept their playoff hopes alive with miraculous, back-to-back wins in Boston and Toronto.
- Something Just Ain't Right: Boston (0-4) -- The playoffs are less than three weeks away and the Celtics still haven't figured things out.
East vs. West
- The West is 229-186 (.552) against the East in interconference games after going 16-13 last week. The Celtics (14-16 vs. the West) and Magic (12-18) are the only teams that are done playing the opposite conference.
Schedule strength through Week 23
- Toughest: 1. Phoenix, 2. New York, 3. Dallas
- Easiest: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Indiana
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Brooklyn (+2), Oklahoma City (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Phoenix (-3), Boston (-2)
Week 24 Team to Watch
- Orlando -- The Magic are just a game in the loss column behind the eighth place Heat, and just two games behind the seventh-place Pistons. They've won 10 of their last 11 games at home, but will play both of those teams on the road, visiting Miami on Tuesday and Detroit on Thursday. If they want to end the Eastern Conference's longest playoff drought (six years), those are the two biggest games of their season.
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 100.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.5 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. 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.
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