|NBA Power Rankings, 1/27||01.27.11 at 5:38 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (39-7): It seems like every time I look at the NBA standings, the Spurs are 9-1 in their last 10 games. It’s ridiculous. According to John Hollinger’s playoff odds, San Antonio has a 78.1 percent chance of capturing the top seed out West and homecourt throughout the playoffs. Yet, their odds of making the Finals are just 27.3 percent, despite possessing the league’s best home record at 24-2. Strange.
2. Boston (34-10): The Celtics lost another game to a bad team when they fell to the Wizards over the weekend, but we’ll give them a break considering it was once again the result of playing on the road in the second game of a back-to-back following a plane trip. Losses to the Cavaliers, Rockets and Wizards are the only reason the C’s aren’t ranked No. 1, because no team has been better than them — when motivated.
3. LA Lakers (33-13): The silhouette of the NBA’s logo, former Lakers general manager Jerry West eased off his comments that the Lakers are too old to play defense (they’re ranked 10th in points allowed), but he didn’t back down from saying he wouldn’t want to play the Celtics every other night — calling the C’s the favorites over the Lakers to win the NBA title.
4. Miami (31-13): Speaking of predictions involving the Celtics and Lakers, Phil Jackson obviously chimed in, as he doesn’t believe the Heat can get by the Celtics to reach the NBA Finals. Considering the Celtics still own a 2-0 record against Miami (and it wasn’t even that close), how can you argue with Jackson? Especially after you watch some of the poses Chris Bosh gets into during his Maxim shoot.
5. Chicago (31-14): I figured the Bulls could be a top-five team once Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah were both healthy at the same time. It turns out Noah’s presence isn’t necessary for that to happen. Perhaps more important than homecourt advantage in the Celtics’ chase for the No. 1 seed is the fact that — as it stands now — they’d only have to face the Heat or Bulls and not both in the playoffs.
6. Oklahoma City (29-16): Over the past week, all Kevin Durant has done to help his MVP case is bury the game-winning 3-pointer against the Knicks, and then put up 47 points and 18 rebounds against the Timberwolves. Just as the Celtics would benefit twofold from earning the top seed, the Lakers would suffer twofold — as they’d likely have to beat the Thunder and Spurs to get back to the Finals for a fourth straight time.
7. Orlando (30-16): As it stands now, the Magic would be the No. 4 seed in the East and the Celtics’ second-round opponent. Does that scare you? Despite Hollinger’s claim that Orlando is playing as well — if not better — than anybody else in the league, I’m not buying it. The Magic are 9-4 in January but just 1-3 against teams above .500. The fourth loss? The Pistons, at home. Ouch.
8. New Orleans (31-16): The Hornets allow fewer points than any other team in the NBA. They won 11-of-12 games to start the season and now have won 10 straight since losing on the road to the Lakers almost three weeks ago. They’re the only team to beat the Spurs twice. I’m not sure how, but they’re legit. Monty Williams deserves serious consideration for Coach of the Year.
9. Dallas (29-15): Speaking of Coaches of the Year, it’s amazing 2001-02 winner Rick Carlisle did not have a head coaching job during the 2007-08 season. The man has won 50 games with all three teams he’s coached and only had a losing record once. And he actually has the Mavericks playing defense. Give him credit.
10. Atlanta (29-17): And speaking of defense, did you know the Hawks rank in top-10 for points allowed? If you gave me 20 guesses which teams were in the top 10, I’m not sure I would’ve put them in the top 20. Can you imagine how good they’d be if they’d picked a decent point guard? They’ve had their chances.
11. Denver (27-18): After reading this ESPN.com article, I’m convinced Carmelo Anthony will not be a free agent this summer and will sign an extension this season — whether it’s with the Nuggets, Knicks or Bulls. If he goes to free agency, he’d essentially be lighting $30 million on fire. That’s not gonna happen.
12. Utah (27-19): Of the 11 teams ranked higher than the Jazz, only the Celtics, Spurs and Bulls have not lost more than two straight games this season. The Hornets and Nuggets have had three-game losing streaks. The Heat, Lakers, Magic and Hakws have had four-game slides. And the Mavericks and Jazz (currently) have had six-game losing stints. Found that interesting.
13. Portland (25-21): Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had this to say about the Blazers before two of his former teams faced off Thursday night: “They have a lot of nice pieces. If they could get everybody healthy, they could contend for a title.” That might be the biggest IF ever uttered.
14. New York (23-21): There’s nothing like a home game against the Wizards to snap a six-game losing streak. The Knicks are 7-11 since losing to the Celtics in the best game of the NBA season on Dec. 15. On the bright side, Raymond Felton is the third-best point guard in the East now, right?
15. Memphis (22-24): Former Celtics guard Tony Allen is averaging 14.8 minutes per game for the Grizzlies this season. He averaged 16.5 minutes per game in Boston last year. It’s a good thing he signed in Memphis during the offseason for more playing time.
16. Houston (22-25): Speaking of great Grizzlies moves, did you know they dealt Kyle Lowry to the Rockets, turning him into DeMarre Carroll, Mike Wilks and Adonal Foyle. Fast forward and Lowry is now averaging 11.4 points, 6.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game for the Rockets. Brilliant!
17. Philadelphia (20-25): The 76ers have been playing .500-plus basketball since mid-November, and they’ve played the Celtics tough twice in that span. Give (some of the) credit to Sixth Man Louis Williams, who’s averaing 16.8 points off the bench in January.
18. Phoenix (20-24): Former Boston College and current Suns forward Jared Dudley tweeted this on Tuesday night: “Obama speaks out tonite at nine. What’s he’s speaking about?” Just a little thing called the State of the Union, Jared. That BC education is doing wonders for people.
20. Golden State (19-26): Is Stephen Curry on the trading block? Warriors owner Joe Lacob isn’t denying it.
22. Milwaukee (17-26): Both John Salmons and Brandon Jennings might be back this weekend. That could go a long way in their push for one of the final two playoff spots. Not bad for the least valuable franchise in the NBA.
24. Detroit (17-29): As Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix pointed out, the Pistons are 5-4 with victories against the Mavericks, Magic and Suns since benching Richard Hamilton on Jan. 12. And the Celtics would be interested in Rip for what reason exactly?
25. New Jersey (14-32): The Nets are 4-1 since they decided to end trade talks for Carmelo Anthony. Nobody messes with Mikhail Prokhorov. “Maybe the carrier pigeon got lost” is a genius line.
26. Washington (13-31): So, Rashard Lewis could be on the move again, which makes the ridiculous story I ready about Lewis being a great mentor for the young Wizards even more ridiculous.
28. Minnesota (10-35): The Timberwolves have lost to the Celtics, Lakers, Thunder and Spurs (twice) by five points or less this season. If they can play that well against those teams and still by 10-35, that tells me effort’s a problem for them, which is shocking from a team led by Michael Beasley.
30. Cleveland (8-37): I figured the Cavaliers would be bad,but this bad? As Michael Holley pointed out on WEEI earlier this week, is there anybody on Cleveland you would want? Maybe J.J. Hickson? Maybe.