Mar 14, 2011, 2:54 PM EDT
It still feels like with the top six teams you could flip a coin week to week on who is playing the best at any given moment. This week the coin came up Spurs.
1. Spurs (54-12, Last Week #4). After a loss to the Lakers a week ago Sunday they put together three nice wins, now comes a more interesting showdowns with the Heat Monday and Mavericks Friday.
2. Bulls (47-18, LW #5). Their defense has them 9-1 in their last 10 games and a real threat to come out of the East. And as long as they win the Derrick Rose for MVP train will keep picking up steam.
3. Lakers (47-20, LW #1). They lost to the Heat with poor execution at the end of the game. They solved that problem against the Mavericks by making sure it wasn’t close late. Lakers still 9-1 in their last 10. Lakers/Magic — and Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard — will be interesting Monday night.
4. Mavericks (47-19, LW #3). They keep winning, the remain a contender, but then you watch the Lakers handle them with ease and you wonder if that is a playoff preview with this squad. Again.
5. Celtics (47-17, LW #2). The Celtics, with losses to the Clippers and Sixers last week, seem to be slumping toward the playoffs. They did that last year, too. More losses could be on the way — the banged up Celtics have five games in seven days starting Sunday night.
6. Heat (45-21, LW #8). They beat the Lakers and the hot Grizzlies in one week. They can beat good teams. They can prove it again this week with a lineup of Spurs, Thunder, Hawks and Nuggets.
7. Thunder (42-23, LW #7). No Jeff Green has meant more James Harden, and that’s a good thing as he is stepping up. He’s shooting 50.4 percent in the team’s last 10 games.
8. Magic (42-25, LW #6). They are your four seed in the East, almost certainly. The question is, do they want to match up with in the second round: the Celtics, Bulls or Heat?
9. Grizzlies (36-21, LW #9). Carmelo Anthony beating you at the buzzer, that happens. But the beat down from the Knicks was more concerning. The Griz can get revenge on the Knicks Thursday night.
10. Nuggets (39-27, LW #12). They are 7-2 since trading Carmelo Anthony and doing that against quality opponents. They are joining the Grizzlies as the team top squads would prefer to avoid in the first round.
11. Sixers (34-32, LW #11). You want to bump them up after beating the Heat, you want to drop them after they lose to the Bucks. So they stand pat, but they are still one of the better teams in the East since the All-Star break.
12. Blazers (37-29, LW #10). They start their road trip with wins over Miami and Orlando, then lose to the Bobcats and Heat. Brandon Roy is back, we’ll see if that steadies them.
13. Hornets (39-29, LW #13). Nice win over the Mavericks without Chris Paul. CP3 came back with big numbers against the Kings… but it was against the Kings. Please take with salt.
14. Knicks (34-31, LW #14). They beat a hot Mavs team and lose to the struggling Pacers. They remain wildly unpredictable.
15. Hawks (38-28, LW #15). Lately it is their offense that has gone into hibernation right as spring started.
16. Suns (33-21, LW #16). They remain just 1.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the West, but who are they going to catch? And the Suns need Nash back to have any shot, they are terrible without him.
17. Rockets (33-34, LW #17). Three games out of the last playoff spot in the West, but nobody above them is faltering. They are going to have to get very hot to have a shot.
18. Warriors (30-36, LW #20). The Warriors got wins last week with enough defense in the paint to slow Dwight Howard and Kevin Love. Did not expect that. The Warriors also had great passing from Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in that Magic win.
19. Jazz (34-33, LW #18). Sorry Al Jefferson, but you guys are not making the playoffs.
20. Clippers 26-41, LW #22). Don’t look now but they are actually playing well again, and not just because of Blake Griffin. And they are doing it without Eric Gordon.
21. Bobcats (28-38, LW #21). The next three teams are within 1.5 games of each other fir the final playoff spot in the East. We rank them in order we think they will finish. They have Stephen Jackson and D.J. Augustin so we give them the edge, but they face some tough road games (Rockets, Thunder, Spurs) this week.
22. Bucks (26-39, LW #23). Before getting just destroyed by the Celtics Sunday they were playing the best of the three. They have to make up 1.5 games on the other two but if Brandon Jennings can spark they offense they can climb into that last spot
23. Pacers (28-38, LW #19). They looked terrible all week then found their shot and energy in Madison Square Garden. The bad news — Boston and Chicago on the schedule this week.
24. Nets (21-43, LW #24). Kris Humphries is going to make some money as a free agent next summer (or whenever the lockout ends), he is ballin’.
25. Timberwolves (17-51, LW #26). Kevin Love may actually play a little better with the pressure of the streak now gone.
26. Pistons (23-44, LW #25). I think the rotations are set by random lottery. They need to complete the sale of this team so some needed shakeups can happen.
27. Raptors (18-48, LW #27). Having Reggie Evans back soaking up rebounds helps. Not enough to get a few wins in a row but it helps.
28. Kings (15-49, LW #28). Just 8 home games left in Sacramento.
29. Cavaliers (12-53, LW #29). No Baron Davis for part of this week, and without him they really lack any threatening scorer on the floor that can consistently create his own shot.
30. Wizards (16-48, LW #30). They still just have one road win this season and 11 road games left on the schedule. They also have just one win in their last 11 overall.