|NBA Power Rankings, 3/31||03.31.11 at 7:41 pm ET|
1. LA Lakers (53-20): Kobe Bryant recently said if he weren’t a basketball player, he’d be a bum. The rest of the league wishes he were the latter right about now. The Lakers are 15-1 since the All-Star break.
2. Chicago (54-20): The Bulls are one of two teams that haven’t lost three straight games all season. The other? The Celtics. The difference is that the Bulls have been better bottom feeders, recording a 31-6 record against lottery-bound teams.
3. San Antonio (57-17): With Tim Duncan in the lineup, the Spurs are 56-13 (.812 winning percentage). Without him, they’re 1-4 (.200). The guy’s still got it, and he should be in the lineup on Thursday night against the Celtics.
4. Dallas (53-21): While the surging Bulls and Lakers get all the attention, the Mavericks have quietly reeled off another five-game winning streak. Meanwhile, owner Mark Cuban not-so-quietly explained how to beat the Lakers: “Anything that puts the ball in Ron Artest‘s hands is always a good thing.” Except when its Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
5. Boston (51-22): I maintain that the Celtics are better than the Mavericks, Spurs or Bulls – and should still be the favorites to win the East – but I can’t slot them any higher simply because of that atrocious loss to the Bobcats. Until they start trying again, this is where they’ll sit. While they’re at it, they should ponder why their record against playoff teams (25-11) is nearly identical to their record against non-playoff teams (Hint: effort).
6. Oklahoma City (50-24): Before anybody gets too excited about the Thunder going 8-1 with Kendrick Perkins in the lineup, consider the fact that they’re 14-2 with Nazr Mohammed in uniform. Look at those two guys’ numbers. They’re not so different.
7. Miami (52-23): LeBron James‘ excuse for missing his pregame introduction during the Heat’s loss to the Cavaliers in Cleveland? “I was using the restroom.” And then his team proceeded to perform like something that may have been left in the restroom.
8. Orlando (47-28): ESPN.com’s John Hollinger made a pretty compelling argument for Dwight Howard over Derrick Rose for MVP. Considering his team has the eighth-best record in the NBA, I’m not buying what he’s selling. But compelling nonetheless.
9. Atlanta (43-32): So, apparently a former referee attacked former Hawks great and current TV analyst Dominique Wilkins courstide over a $15,000 dry cleaning bill. Nobody’s been that upset about dry cleaning since they shrunk Jerry Seinfeld‘s shirt.
10. Denver (45-29): Nuggets fans got pretty upset when I said they’d get crushed in the first round of the playoffs. “Hey, they’re 12-4 since the Carmelo Anthony trade!” Ok, but you do realize they’ll have to face a Thunder team that’s 14-2 in March, right?
11. New Orleans (43-32): The Hornets finished 2-1 in their first week without David West‘s services. That’s a real testament to the ability of Chris Paul, who now plays for a team that features Carl Landry as its next-best scorer. #freechrispaul
12. Portland (43-32): The Blazers picked up a guy who can score 40 points on a given night — and Gerald Wallace did just that against the Thunder — for a guy who’s out for the season (Joel Przybilla), another guy who once fell on his face during a breakaway attempt (Dante Cunningham) and a pick during a weak draft year.
13. Memphis (42-33): In his podcast with Celtics radio play-by-play announcer Sean Grande, Bill Simmons theorized that the Rudy Gay injury might have ended any discussion between the C’s and Grizzlies about a deal for Tony Allen. Interesting.
14. Philadelphia (39-36): Does anybody outside of Philadelphia, New York or Indiana actually think the 76ers, Knicks or Pacers could beat the Celtics in a seven-game series? The C’s are 8-2 against those three teams.
16. Phoenix (36-38): With a playoff spot staring them in the face, the Suns have lost four straight and nine of their last 12 games. It’s a truly shocking development for a team with Vince Carter on its roster.
17. New York (37-38): Rapper Fabolous claimed he’s going to recruit Dwight Howard and Chris Paul to play for the Knicks. No word yet on whether he’s also going to purchase a time machine and bring back Michael Jordan and Bill Russell in their primes.
21. Golden State (32-44): After losing to the Grizzlies by 19 points, Monta Ellis told reporters, “We made some crazy judgments out there.” That should be the new 2010-11 Warriors slogan: “We make crazy judgments!”
25. New Jersey (23-51): Nets part-owner Jay-Z is reportedly being investigated for hanging out with potential lottery picks Brandon Knight and Terrance Jones in the Kentucky locker room after their NCAA win over North Carolina. Is that the least exciting investigation involving a rapper?
27. Toronto (20-54): A raptor is defined as “a carnivorous bipedal dinosaur of the late Cretaceous period. The Raptors are defined as “an extraneous 15-man roster of the post-Chris Bosh era.” Velociraptors generally killed prey as a team. The Toronto Raptors generally get killed as a team. I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
28. Washington (18-56): Remember the “Nobody beats the Wiz” bit from “Seinfeld”? That would totally be true for the Wizards … if 28 of the 29 other NBA teams didn’t exist. The Jazz are the only team not to defeat John Wall & Co. this season.
29. Minnesota (17-58): In the past six seasons, the NBA’s best rebounding team has made the playoffs each time and won the championship twice, so things are looking good for the Timberwolves. Oh, they’ve only won 17 games, you say? Nevermind.
30. Cleveland (15-59): After defeating the Heat, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert tweeted, “Not in our garage!” He must have forgot to include the follow-up tweet, “Except for the 28 times we lost at the Q this season!” Great win. Not-so-great season.