Jan 31, 2011, 2:29 PM EDT
Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, where we’re thinking that the finals could be Spurs and Celtics because no teams are executing anywhere near their level right now in crunch time.
1. Spurs (40-7). They are now 7.5 games ahead of the second place Lakers in the Western Conference (and 4 ahead of Boston for the best record overall). They will be the West’s top seed. Here is the real question: Can they beat the Lakers in a seven-game series? They certainly can beat the Lakers team that played Sunday.
2. Celtics (36-11). Boston looked pretty disinterested in Portland and Phoenix last week, but when they took the court against the Lakers Sunday they were ready. That win was about the team that executed better in the final six minutes, and it was all Boston.
3. Heat (33-14). They actually had everyone healthy for a game this weekend, the first time for that in a while. Some interesting rematches for them this week against the Magic and Clippers.
4. Bulls (33-14). Kurt Thomas is playing much better than I thought possible. He’s averaging 8 points and 8 rebounds a game, shooting 63 percent, over the last 10 Bulls games. Chicago is 8-2 in that stretch.
5. Magic (31-17). They are just 1-4 against teams over .500 in January. Is this team still figuring everything out with the new pieces of Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson, or are they just not good enough to be contenders?
6. Lakers (33-15). The schedule is about to get really tough for the Lakers — lots of road games and they have 23 games left against teams over .500 and only 11 against teams under that mark. Either their execution is going to come together against those better teams or they are going to slip. And if they slip at all against these Spurs they are not getting back to the finals.
7. Mavericks (31-15). Before the season Mark Cuban raved about the depth of the Mavericks. Last week they got wins thanks to big offensive games from Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. Cuban was right.
8. Hornets (31-18). Chris Paul is clutch, but the Hornets lost a couple of heartbreakers last week.
9. Thunder (30-17). Their recent run has been all about Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who have averaged 58 points a game combined over the last 10. The rest of the team is scoring 56.8 per game in that same stretch.
10. Hawks (30-18). If Josh Smith wanted to make an All-Star push, his play against the Bucks was not how to go about it. He tried to take over that game late and tanked. Good news is Joe Johnson has found his groove.
11. Nuggets (28-19). They have found balance — in their last 10 games seven players have averaged double digits in scoring. They are 7-3 in the last 10.
12. Jazz (28-20). It just feels like the wheels are starting to come off. Deron Williams has missed two games with a wrist injury and they need him back fast if they are going to turn this thing around.
13. Blazers (25-22). At least the two guys who had MRI’s last week didn’t suffer major injuries. Really, when was the last time the Blazers had a couple good MRI results in a row?
14. Knicks (25-22). The win over Miami was a statement win, as much as you can really have one of those in January. More and more they look like a playoff lock — and if they don’t pick up Donnie Walsh’s contract they deserve what befalls them.
15. Grizzlies (24-24). No O.J. Mayo for 10 games is not as huge a loss as he was only giving them 9.2 points a game on 40.5 percent shooting in the last 8 he played.
16. Sixers (21-26). There is just no way this team trades Andre Iguodala as they fight for a playoff berth. The rumors will circulate but the Sixers are currently the seven seed and just one game up on the nine seed Bucks. They are not going to throw in the towel unless the offer is just too good to ignore.
17. Suns (22-24). Don’t look now but they are 7-3 in their last 10. So why did they slide down in the rankings? Because they lost to the Sixers and the Knicks snapped their losing streak and jumped them. It happens.
18. Bobcats (20-26). D.J. Augustin is like a new player under Paul Silas, and it changes who the Bobcats are in a good way.
19. Bucks (20-26). They have a three-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 101.7 to 93.7 in that stretch.
21. Rockets (22-27). They are four games out of the final playoff spot in the West. The only way they are making that ground up is if Carmelo Anthony falls to them.
22. Warriors (20-27). We’d like to think Golden State turned a defensive corner against the Jazz Sunday, but that really was a lot more about how bad Utah is right now on offense.
23. Pistons (17-31). Free Rip Hamilton! (We’re just going to keep writing that every week here until it happens.)
24. Kings (12-33). Wins over the Lakers and the Hornets in the same week — and the Kings looked good doing it. They are playing their best ball of the season.
25. Pacers (17-27). Look for them to have a little bump in performance under interim coach Frank Vogel — mid-season coaching changes often do that.
27. Nets (14-34). Two wins this week moved them past last season’s win total (12) before the All-Star Game.
27. Wizards (13-33). Still no road wins (and they almost got one by knocking off the Thunder of all teams). John Wall is shooting 38.2 percent in his last 10. Maybe he should eat something other than Doritos.
29. Raptors (13-35). The losing streak is up to 11, and that sad excuse for a zone defense is not the answer.
30. Cavaliers (8-39). No team has ever gone from the best record in the league to the worst in one season. That’s about to change. Sadly with 20 losses in a row now, teams are getting up for the Cavs because they fear being the team that loses to them and ends the streak.
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