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NBA Power Rankings: Western teams jockey for position behind Heat.

Mar 18, 2013, 3:26 PM EDT

Kings Heat Basketball AP

It’s Miami and then everyone else right now — but notice the next six teams in our weekly power rankings are from the West. That’s because the play of the second tier teams in the East has fallen off (Indiana, New York, Brooklyn)

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1. Heat (51-14, last week ranked No. 1). What kind of concerns can we come up with? They are peaking too early? They will need to sacrifice the streak to get guys rest before the playoffs? Do those things really concern you at all?

 
source:  2. Spurs (51-16, LW 3). Tony Parker or no Tony Parker (and he may be back sooner than projected) they thumped the Thunder on Monday. I’ve moved from the camp that thought the Spurs were a regular season team that would bounce early in the playoffs again to seeing their defense and thinking they are legit contenders.

 
source:  3. Thunder (50-17, LW 2). At what point are the Thunder really going to miss James Harden? Well, did you see them lose to the Spurs Monday and their bench get outplayed? Overall the Thunder are better this year than last, but that punch off the bench is going to matter deep in the playoffs.

 
source:  4. Nuggets (45-22, LW 4). Winners of 11 in a row, including beating the Grizzlies last week. This is a team that has sold the future to its fans for a few years, they need to deliver on that now at least some and get to the second round of the playoffs. They face the Thunder this week, we’ll see if the streak survives that.

 
source:  5. Grizzlies (44-21, LW 5). They beat the Clippers and lost to the Nuggets in a close one this week. Yes, their 14-1 streak was against softer competition, but don’t sleep on this team being real. This week they get the Thunder.

 
source:  6. Clippers (46-21, LW 6). Was in the building to watch them against the Knicks Sunday, and they coasted to a win against a shorthanded team. That’s fine earlier in the season but this does not feel like a team gearing up for the playoffs.

 
source:  7. Lakers (36-32, LW 9). This ranking feels high for a team without Kobe Bryant, but they catch a break in the schedule with just a couple games against softies Phoenix and Washington. Kobe can rest and the Lakers are not going to fall back.

 
source:  8. Pacers (40-26, LW 8). They may get Danny Granger back next week — and they need him. They have lost four of six and their offense takes vacations for stretches each game. But the bigger issue of late is their defense has gone from lockdown to pretty good (allowing 101.8 points per 100 possessions in the last five games, 12th best in the NBA).

 
source:  9. Celtics (36-29, LW 11). Boston is a legitimate threat to the Heat streak — the Celtics have won 11 in a row at home and they catch Miami on a back-to-back. But if Kevin Garnett is out, that mountain suddenly looks a whole lot more steep.

 
source:  10. Nets (38-28, LW 10). They are the four seed but are 1.5 games away from being the seven seed as they embark on an eight game road trip, forced out of their new home by a circus. Which means brace for the fall about to come. They are at the Mavericks and Clippers this week.

 
source:  11. Rockets (36-31, LW 12). They have a lot of home games left but the Rockets are not pulling away in the standings, going 5-5 in their last 10. Big game against the Jazz Wednesday. Hopefully they shoot better than they did against the Warriors Sunday.

 
source:  12. Knicks (38-26, LW 7). They lost four in a row and with injuries to Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire they just cannot create offense. J.R. Smith tries but he’s streaky. Raymond Felton needs a pick-and-roll partner. The Knicks are now 20-21 since their hot start.

 
source:  13. Hawks (37-29, LW 15). When you watch Al Horford and Josh Smith play off each other like they did against the Nets on Sunday, you wonder why it can’t be like that all the time in Atlanta?

 
source:  14. Bulls (36-29, LW 13). They are an up-and-down team right now that needs to get Joakim Noah and Luol Deng some rest down the stretch. And sure, Derrick Rose back if he wants to. Tough games against the Nuggets and Pacers this week.

 
source:  15. Warriors (38-30, LW 16). That was a key win over the Rockets Sunday — gives them a little cushion because the Rockets and Lakers are eyeing that six seed and avoiding OKC and San Antonio in the first round. We’ll see how much Andrew Bogut helps their defense in the coming weeks.

 
source:  16. Bucks (33-32, LW 14). They lost three straight and looked terrible doing it, and only salvaged a win against Orlando because Monta Ellis went nova for a quarter. They look more and more like the sure thing eight seed out East, which means the Heat in the first round. Have fun with that.

 
source:  17. Jazz (34-32, LW 17). They got a quality win over Memphis Sunday and they are going to need a few more of those. They are not out of it — the last 10 games of the Lakers schedule is not easy — but they need wins. It won’t be easy this week against the Rockets, Spurs and Mavericks all on the road.

 
source:  18. Mavericks (31-35, LW 18). They tread water last week (2-2, although in the losses they played the Spurs and Thunder well) and you have to think at this point just getting to .500 on the season is the goal. And it won’t be an easy one with eight of their next nine against playoff teams.

 
source:  19. Trail Blazers (31-34, LW 19). Going small with Damian Lillard and Eric Maynor in the backcourt together has Portland playing some fantastic offensive ball. Five road games this week, tough schedule that includes stops in Chicago, Atlanta and Oklahoma City.

 
source:  20. Wizards (23-42, LW 22). Don’t tell anyone, but John Wall’s jumper looked pretty good last week and he was scoring 24 points a game and earning player of the week honors from the league. Washington swings through the West Coast for some road games this week.

 
source:  21. Raptors (26-41, LW 20). They played the Heat hard on Sunday. So that’s something. It and Amir Johnson’s play on the glass is really all the positives we can come up with.

 
source:  22. Cavaliers (22-44, LW 21). What would be the point of bringing Kyrie Irving back this season? Can’t think of one. Let the man’s body rest.

 
source:  23. Timberwolves (23-41, LW 25). Minnesota has to decide if they want to talk contract extension with Nikola Pekovic this summer or play the restricted free agent game in 2014. The bigger question may be is it David Kahn or Flip Saunders who will be making that call?

 
source:  24. Suns (22-45, LW 23). They have lost four in a row and it feels like the rest of the season is a countdown to big changes in the front office and everywhere this summer.

 
source:  25. Kings (23-44, LW 26). I can’t wait until the ownership situation gets settled there, so we don’t see things like the Thomas Robinson trade again.

 
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26. 76ers (25-40, LW 29). There is still some fight in this team — they almost beat the Heat last week. They have beaten Golden State and Indiana recently.

 
source:  27. Hornets (22-45, LW 28). Anthony Davis has started to consistently put up nice numbers again, and we’ve seen a couple nice games from Eric Gordon. I still want to believe that could be two key cornerstone guys for the franchise, but if seems like that ship has sailed.

 
source:  28. Pistons (23-45, LW 24). They have lost eight in a row but could at least get Andre Drummond back soon, which makes them infinitely more watchable.

 
source:  29. Magic (18-49, LW 27). Hey Milwaukee, why weren’t you playing Tobias Harris again? He looks pretty good down in Orlando.

 
source:  30. Bobcats (14-52, LW 30). They have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the first team in the NBA to do so. Congratulations.

  1. ygdn29 - Mar 18, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    There is never anything positive about the nets. Every week is them ranked around ten but bashing them somehow. Williams is finally playing well. THAT should be the story.

  2. lakerluver - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    I can feel the hatred coming your way for placing the LAKERS so high. However, I totally agree with you. They are playing much better since the all-star break. And what has gotten into Steve Blake? Dude is balling out lately! I really wish this team could’ve been healthy all season. With a healthy Dwight from the start and without injuries to Nash, Blake, Pau and Hill the LAKERS would not be battling just to get in the playoffs.

    • bucrightoff - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:45 PM

      Maybe, but they’d still at best be 6th in the West (SA, OKC, LAC, MEM, DEN), and if you disagree, tell me how the Lakers hold any of those teams (Memphis maybe) under 110? The Lakers issue, and it still hasn’t changed, is their defense is awful. The playoffs will only showcase that further. Are they better than when it looked like they’d miss the playoffs? You bet…but thats still only good enough for a 1st round elimination.

  3. lemfax - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    This is the best ranking you ever made since the season begun…

  4. dannymac17 - Mar 18, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    LMAO what a joke. you got the Clippers in the 6 spot

    and then you have the Lakers who hasnt beaten anyone right behind them

    laughable

    • manchestermiracle - Mar 18, 2013 at 8:25 PM

      Except the Clippers just lost to the Spurs, Thunder, Nuggets and Grizzlies. Seems to me your team has a lot more to worry about than the Lakers. And you might consider taking an ESL class…

    • broncobeta - Mar 20, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      Are the Clippers better than anyone above the six spot? No.

  5. michaeljordanseviltwin - Mar 18, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    Bobcats are making a “big announcement” tonight during the Wizards game. Could it be a name change? Or perhaps that they’ve agreed to move to Seattle? Either way I’m excited!

    • gls24 - Mar 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      Whoa! Two NBA teams in Seattle? But wait . . . if you add the Bobcats’ wins with the Kings’ total wins, we may have a winner. Maybe this is a good idea.

  6. phillyphannn83 - Mar 18, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    It really doesn’t mean much of anything because they suck but the Sixers should be higher, probably 22.

  7. baymac408 - Mar 18, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Wtf are you thinking ranking the Fakers so high!! It’s b.s. that the legit teams have to sit behind that fake bandwagon organization!! WARRIORS should be top 10 atleast ahead of the Fakers! Your on a good one

  8. manchestermiracle - Mar 18, 2013 at 8:20 PM

    Wow, if not for the Heat the EC really sucks.

    • kavika6 - Mar 19, 2013 at 4:45 AM

      Why do you think Miami has a good record? They play most of their games against the pathetic eastern conference.

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