Apr 16, 2012, 2:31 PM EDT
In our penultimate power rankings, the Bulls grab the top spot. They have been the best team in the league in the regular season, but there remain questions about them in the playoffs.
1. Bulls (45-14, last week ranked number 1). Huge win over the Heat last week — a little for the standings but a lot for their psyche. They benched the rusty Derrick Rose in OT and beat a Heat team that really wanted it. Nice boost of confidence for the Bulls, but they meet the Heat again Thursday and that story could be different. And by the time these teams meet in the Eastern Conference finals they will be different again.
2. Thunder (44-16, LW 4). This was the season we expected the Thunder to take strides forward to be contenders and at times they look like that. Then there are other times they look like they still have a lot of lessons to learn (see their loss to the Clippers). We will find out come the playoffs.
3. Spurs (42-16, LW 1). They remain one game back of the Thunder for the top seed in the West, but while the Thunder need that spot the Spurs couldn’t care less. With a back-to-back-to-back this week (Lakers are middle game Tuesday) expect some Spurs stars to sit.
4. Heat (41-17, LW 2). The Heat’s big three knocked down shots in a win over the Knicks. That’s nice. They need to get some of the role players knocking down outside looks or the lane is going to clog up for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the playoffs, and that will spell trouble.
5. Celtics (35-25, LW 5). Big game Friday in Atlanta, winning could determine home court in the first round. In a big game, how much more do you trust the Celtics more than the Hawks? Exactly.
6. Pacers (38-22, LW 9). We keep talking about how everyone wants to avoid the 7/8 seeds in the East because they don’t want the Heat or Bulls in the first round. But anyone who thinks the Pacers are a pushover at the 3 seed is mistaken — this is a good team who was won 8 of their last 9. Frank Vogel needs some coach of the year votes.
7. Lakers (39-22, LW 7). These wins with Kobe Bryant sitting (they are 4-1) could benefit the Lakers come the playoffs — they are being forced to use their size and skill advantage up front to win, not rely on hero ball. If they integrate Kobe into this they are a better team, if they revert to their old selves they will be out in the second round.
8. Clippers (37-23 LW 8). Blake Griffin told me last week the Clippers run of great play has been based on them playing better defense, which they then convert to some easy transition points that gets them going. Yes, that and Chris Paul killing it in the fourth.
9. Grizzlies (35-25, LW 6). They may have lost to the Spurs this week, but they remain the team nobody wants to face in the first round — the Clippers and Lakers are fighting to win the Pacific and avoid them. Really soft schedule the rest of the way for Memphis.
10. Hawks (35-24, LW 10). They laid an egg Sunday and lost to Toronto, now they need to beat the Celtics Friday to have a shot at home court in the first round against those same Celtics.
11. Mavericks (34-26, LW 12). They have played well the last week… do you want Nowitzki and the defending champs in first round. They may be beatable but they will not be an easy out.
12. Knicks (31-29, LW 11). They got their key win over the Bucks in Milwaukee — they are not going to fall out of the playoffs now. The question is, can they make up three games on a Magic team in free fall? If so, they get the red hot Pacers instead of the more athletic and deeper Heat in the first round.
13. Nuggets (33-27, LW 16). They won the first game of a home-and-home against Houston, which was key to them holding a playoff spot. Win the second game of that set and they will get a lovely gift basket from the Suns.
14. Rockets (32-28, LW 13). Monday night game against Denver is huge — win and they have the tiebreaker over Denver, lose and they are in a real dogfight with Phoenix the final week.
15. 76ers (31-28, LW 18). Where they land in the playoffs could well be set up by the back-to-back-to-back they have that starts Monday in Orlando. Win that game and they can dream of the six seed.
16. Suns (31-29, LW 15). Scrappy team that will just not go away… kind of like that point guard of theirs. One game back of the Rockets (with five to play) but the Suns have the tiebreaker.
17. Jazz (31-30, LW 17). Soft schedule to finish out the season — four of five at home — but they are going to need some help to make up the two games and catch the Rockets now.
18. Magic (34-25, LW 14). This is the team everyone wants to play in the first round now. Even if Dwight Howard comes back (and I don’t expect it) he and the Magic will not be 100 percent. They have six games left and are going to lose a lot of them but will not fall out of the playoffs.
19. Bucks (29-31, LW 19). They had their chance, at home with the lead against the Knicks, and they missed their final five shots while J.R. Smith knocked down his. They have to make up 2.5 games in less than two weeks, it’s not likely.
20. Blazers (28-32, LW 20). Wes Mathews has played well with more minutes. So, there’s that for a bright side.
21. Pistons (22-37, LW 22). They had a real chance to beat the Bulls Sunday, which could have dramatically lowered their lottery odds. Tough to be a fan of these teams where you know losing might be best long term but you can’t just root for it.
22. Raptors (22-39, LW 24). They beat Boston and Atlanta over the weekend. Dwane Casey is not going to get any Coach of the Year votes, but he’s done a fantastic job considering the roster and injuries.
23. Timberwolves (25-36, LW 21). They are falling apart at the end of the season, with all their best players sidelined with injuries. So, another spring has come to Minnesota.
24. Nets (22-39, LW 25). Of course Gerald Wallace is out injured, he’s a Net now.
25. Hornets (18-42, LW 27). Finally, good stable ownership that will not move the team. And the best news is Dell Demps and Monty Williams will get to keep their jobs. Oh, and they have a three game winning streak now.
26. Warriors (22-37, LW 23). With David Lee shut down for the season they are in full tank mode — if they get to one of the seven worst records in the game they get to keep their pick this draft. (They are 9th worst right now.)
27. Kings (20-41, LW 26). The fans of Sacramento deserve better than this. Better than this team, better than this ownership, better than their team moving.
28. Cavaliers (20-38, LW 28). They got blown out by a Magic team about to start pulling guys out of the stands to fill out the roster. Well done.
29. Wizards (14-46, LW 29). Kevin Seraphin needs to be part of the future. Whatever that future is.
30. Bobcats (7-51, LW 30). They have lost 16 in a row and that may not describe how bad they are. The Bobcats still need one more win this season to avoid the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
Mar 15, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT
How Detroit’s Andre Drummond staggered and went down after this hit, and how he stayed down for several minutes (all the way through the ensuing commercial break not part of the above video), is a little frightening. The medical staff brought out a stretcher but he got up under his own power and was helped…
Mar 15, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Joakim Noah receives a $500K bonus if he’s named to the All-NBA first team. Does he have a shot?
Mar 15, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT
Carmelo Anthony seems initially pleased with the hiring of Phil Jackson. Mike Woodson, on the other hand, didn’t sound quite as optimistic — for obvious reasons.
Mar 15, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
The Thunder are just a game back of the Spurs for the league’s best record, an achievement that would guarantee home court advantage throughout the playoffs. But they’ll willingly be hurting that effort by resting Russell Westbrook as a precautionary measure in certain back-to-back sets.
Mar 15, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
We’ve known for a very long time that the Lakers wouldn’t be making the playoffs this season. After Friday night’s loss, it became official.
Mar 15, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
The mere presence of Phil Jackson in the Knicks front office will have an immediate impact in terms of big-name free agents looking at New York as a possible destination.
Mar 15, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
After playing out consecutive 10-day contracts, the Nets have signed Jason Collins for the remainder of the season.
Mar 15, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Kenneth Faried showed why the Nuggets would have been crazy to trade him at the deadline, as he helped send the Heat to their fifth loss in six games.
Mar 15, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Ultimately Thomas Wolfe will be proven right, you can’t go home again. Not even Phil Jackson. It’s easy to sit back and list the reasons Jackson’s return to the team that drafted him, taking over basketball operations of the New York Knicks, will not work: James Dolan; Jackson has never had any front office experience before;…
Mar 15, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Evan Turner wasn’t initially that fond of the Sixers new GM, but he may have changed his mind on his way out of town.
Mar 15, 2014, 12:46 AM EDT
I wouldn’t say Utah’s Enes Kanter dunks on the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan because that implied Jordan got in his way. Jordan went for the block but kind of tried to swipe it as Kanter went by. Didn’t work, big dunk for the Jazz. The Clippers went on to win the game 96-97, their 10th consecutive…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT
Tony Wroten of the Sixers became the latest player to experience a shoe malfunction.
Mar 14, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
Pau Gasol believes that Kobe had every right to demand the Lakers put together a team capable of winning immediately.
Mar 14, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT
Paul Pierce continues to play up his hatred of the Knicks.
Jermaine O’Neal explains his reasoning for confronting Blake Griffin outside locker room following loss to Clippers
Mar 14, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT
Blake Griffin apparently did something on the court that, at least in Jermaine O’Neal’s eyes, crossed the line.
Mar 14, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
After a disaster of a season in New York, Knicks owner James Dolan has made his bold move to save face. Now we will see if it actually turns the franchise around. The Knicks have announced they will “hold a press conference on Tuesday, March 18 to make a major announcement.” That would be the…
Mar 14, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
For the big Thursday night game where the Bulls showed up ready to play and the Rockets just showed up, TNT mic’d up Carlos Boozer for the game. And he talked. And talked. And yelled “and one” at the top of his lungs. And talked. Tomike Shengelia doesn’t want to listen and Boozer keeps talking.…
Mar 14, 2014, 3:55 PM EDT
By the time Phil Jackson signs with the Knicks it feels like Ted Mosby will have met the mother of his children. Finally. Pretty much every source in the universe says a deal is close, that includes Ramona Shelburne and Chris Broussard of ESPN. Todd Musburger, Jackson’s Chicago-based agent, is in Los Angeles to finalize…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT
Mike Woodson knows what is coming. It is expected that some time in the next 72 hours Phil Jackson will put pen to paper and become the president of basketball operations for the Knicks. When the season ends he’s going to clean house (CAA is not going to enjoy the experience), bringing in his people…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
Jimmy Fallon has been looking into buying a truck, this is the one he needs. Tim Duncan teamed up with Gunn Chevrolet in the San Antonio area to customize a 2014 Silverado for a giveaway. If you didn’t know, Duncan is a bit of a car nut and owns Blackjack Speed Shop, a customizing shop…
- Report: LeBron ‘will look at’ Knicks in free agency now that Phil Jackson is in place 40
- Nets announce signing of Jason Collins for remainder of the season 11
- Phil Jackson to Knicks could work. It probably won’t, but it could. 29
- Pau Gasol says Kobe was right to rip Lakers front office 41
- It’s confirmed: Phil Jackson returns to Knicks to head up front office, revive franchise 33