The Heat and Hawks take a dip in the latest edition of the 9450 Power Rankings. The Lakers are riding their seven game win streak, moving up to the third spot. Meanwhile, the steady Celtics just keep winning despite a new cast of characters.
1. San Antonio Spurs (51-12) (1)
A 16 point thumping on their home floor at the hands of the defending champs has to be worrisome for the Spurs. Tim Duncan has scored a total of 12 points in three games versus the Lakers this season. If these two meet in the playoffs, San Antonio will be needing the Big Fundamental’s all around game to vastly improve. Tony Parker’s early return was a relief to his fantasy owners (me).
2. Boston Celtics (46-15) (3)
Winners of five straight and eight out of their last 10, the Celtics just keep Winning! despite the lack of a true center. Shaq’s return was postponed amid whispers that he needs to lose weight in order for his feet to make through the second season. Shocking. Nenad Krstic, starting for Shaq, went 7-8 from the field for 17 points last night against the Bucks. Jeff Green chipped in 11.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (43-15) (5)
Sunday marked LA’s 23rd road victory, tying last season’s total. The Lakers are riding a 7 game winning streak thanks to a defense that has held its last 4 opponents under 90 points. Matt Barnes’ return provides an energetic spark off the bench for a team hitting its stride at the right time.
4. Chicago Bulls (43-18) (4)
People will be talking about the late game failures of the Heat, but how about the clutch team defense by the Bulls on the Heat’s last possession? Four Bulls suffocated James, who was forced to throw up a wild left handed layup instead of passing to an open spectator…er teammate.
5. Dallas Mavericks (42-19) (2)
Despite the one-point loss to the Grizzlies, the Mavs have the best shooting big man in the game. In the closing seconds what’s better than having Dirk at the top of the key for a pick and pop with Jason Kidd? In other news, Mark Cuban is in talks to develop a TV show with Charlie Sheen for HDNet. Yikes.
6. Orlando Magic (40-23) (7)
Really thought the Magic had something after their thrilling come form behind victory over the Heat. But an 8 point loss to Chicago and Howard earning his 16th technical foul, which will result in a one game suspension ruins all of the momentum. Howard must find a way to control his anger, even though he does get beat up night in and night out down at the block. How about a teammate or two stepping up?
7. Oklahoma City (39-22) (8)
Kendrick Perkins has yet to play for the Thunder. Nate Robinson just had knee surgery and will be out 4-6 weeks. Sorry Mr. Presti, advantage Ainge.
8. Miami Heat (43-20) (6)
Here are the stats that you already know: 1-9 versus top 5 (Spurs, Celts, Mavs, Bulls, Lakers), 1-18 from the field by the Big 3 in the last 10 seconds of games decided by 3 points or less. Here’s one you may not know: According to Hoopdata, Chris Bosh is shooting 46.4% from 10-15 feet and 44% from 16-23 feet – both numbers are the highest among the Big 3. Pick and pop with Bosh at the top of the key, with Wade handling the rock …please!
9. Denver Nuggets (37-27) (13)
Saturday’s 100-94 loss to the lowly Clippers may prove to be the end of the honeymoon for the Nugget newcomers. The Nuggets are in the midst of playing seven of eight on the road, including a trip to Florida to face the Magic and Heat.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (35-29) (14)
Zach Randolph’s reverse Lebron gave the Grizz a huge win over the Mavericks last night. It’s early, but in March the Grizz have already beat the Spurs and Mavericks, with a clunker to the Hornets sandwiched in between. Randolph, although an All-star snub, is third in the leage in rebounding and shooting nearly 50% from the field.
11. New York Knicks (32-29) (10)
The Knicks have yet to win two straight games since the Melo deal. Mike D’Antoni has all but scrapped the seven seconds or less offense for a style better suited for their two stars. The results will take time, so say Melo and Amare. But will the Knicks gel in time to string together wins and improve their standing in the East? Imagine the Knicks get hot, the Heat faulter and the rest of the world get to witness an epic 4 versus 5 playoff matchup.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (35-27) (12)
LaMarcus Aldridge is not surprisingly the barometer for the Portland Trail Blazers. In wins, Aldridge averages 24.7 points a game. In losses, only 19.1 points a contest.
13. Philadelphia 76ers (32-30) (15)
Andre Iguodala has posted two straight triple doubles for a Sixers team 2 games over .500 for the first time all year. It’s Iggy’s third triple double of the season (all of them coming in the past three weeks).Credit coach of the month, Doug Collins for allowing Iggy’s game as a playmaker to blossom alongside key bench contributors Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young. This team will be a nuisance for any playoff opponent.
14. New Orleans Hornets (37-28) (11)
CP3 looks to be okay after a scary collision that had the four-time all-star being carried off the court on a stretcher. He is listed as out for tonight’s game against the Bulls. The Hornets have not reached 100 points in nearly a month and are now missing their leader for what may be an extended period of time.
15. Atlanta Hawks (37-26) (9)
The Hawks were down 14-0 to start the game against the Chicago Bulls, but clamped down and won a nail-biter 83-80, thanks to Al Horford’s 31 and 16. Two straight losses against the Knicks and Thunder have wiped away all the good feelings from the Bulls game. The next three are no easier for the Hawks who still have to play the Lakers, Bulls again and the Trail Blazers.
16. Houston Rockets (32-32) (18)
At the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT, Houston GM Daryl Morey described what he looks for in evaluating players. The first warning sign for point guard Marcus Banks was when he told Morey his goal in life was to become a fashion model.
17. Phoenix Suns (32-29) (16)
Channing Frye may be out a few weeks with a dislocated shoulder. Look for the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat to get an extended run for the Suns who are in a battle with the Rockets and Grizzlies for the 8th and final playoff spot in the west.
18. Utah Jazz (33-30) (17)
The Jazz have only 4 wins since February (4-14). Of those four wins, two have come against the last place Sacramento Kings. What’s worse, Paul Milsap may miss some time due to an ailing knee. Rookie Derrick Favors would get the start at power forward in Milsap’s place.
19. Golden State Warriors (26-32) (19)
Golden State owner Joe Lacob recently revealed he had discussion with other teams about a possbily trading Monta Ellis or Stephen Curry. It was also reported that Golden State was interested in acquiring Portland forward Gerlad Wallace, offering center Andris Biedrins, also to no avail. Lacob is on the verge of blowing up this current Warriors squad this offseason. The run and gun style, while fun, has produced little in years.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (26-36) (21)
Tyrus Thomas will be back at practice for the Bobcats on Tuesday and may suit up and even start ahead of Boris Diaw. Perhaps Thomas can give this Bobcats squad a shot of life because after their 69 point effort against the Trail Blazers without Stephen Jackson, left a lot to be desired for MJ’s squad. With Jackson out, Gerald Henderson, the newly dubbed starting SG will assume more of the scoring load.
21. Indiana Pacers (27-35) (20)
After three straight defeats to eastern conference opponents, the Pacers are just a game up on Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. According to a recent report, the Pacers will hold a players only meeting to get back on track.
22. New Jersey Nets (19-43) (24)
The Nets swept the Raptors in London. I hope the Londonites understand how little of a deal this is. Although, Hornets PF and potential free agent called the Nets situation “Interesting.” How uninteresting that quote was.
23. Los Angeles Clippers (23-40) (23)
With Eric Gordon out again with a wrist injury, look for sg Randy Foye to take over the scoring responsibilities. I also like Chris Kaman coming back from injury. The Clippers have talent all over their lineup, but just could not stay healthy to make a real run in the West.
24. Milwaukee Bucks (23-38) (22)
Brandon Jennings got his wish. He’s starting again, his minutes are up, his scoring is up and his shooting percentage is woeful. In his last five games, Jennings is shooting 37.5% from the field and 30.4% from the 3 point line. In that time, Jennings is only averaging 3 assists. Although the assists are not entirely his fault. The Bucks simply cannot score averaging only 90.1 points a game, good for last in the NBA.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-50) (26)
Baron Davis aka The Beard aka B. Diddy aka the New Ochocinco is trying to reclaim his love for the game of basketball. I guess all that money really soured him on the game.
26. Detroit Pistons (23-41) (30)
Welcome to the John Kuester doghouse Tracy McGrady! And to make matters worse, at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Jeff Van Gundy described TMac as the antithesis to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, calling TMac’s 1000 hour rule. Basically, TMac was called out for not putting in the time to be great despite having all of the God-given talents. Rough week for TMac.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-49) (25)
Kevin Love was allegedly being recruited by players and coaches during All-star weekend in LA. Can’t blame them. Tonight he has a chance to break Moses Malone’s record by netting his 51st straight double double. I would like to personally thank Mr. Love for making me look like a genius drafting him in the 4th round.
28. Washington Wizards (16-46) (29)
Still sitting on one road victory. This poorly constructed team needs a reboot and it may do it without Flip’s services.
29. Toronto Raptors (17-46) (27)
The Raptors were swept by the Nets in London over the weekend giving up 116 points and 137 points in the two losses. Andrea Bargnani can light it up but his refusal to play any sort of defense will always hinder this club.
30. Sacramento Kings (15-45) (28)
The Sacramento Kings are likely moving to Anaheim after a meeting between Sacramento mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson and the Maloof brothers yielded zero progress. Such a shame because when the Kings were good, Arco Arena was the loudest building in the NBA.