|NBA Power Rankings, 3/24||03.24.11 at 6:47 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (57-14): How is it possible that a team has played better than .800 basketball for pretty much the entire season has flown so far underneath the radar? The Spurs are five games better than every other team in the NBA. Sure, Tim Duncan is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle, but underestimating any team coached by Gregg Popovich would be a serious mistake.
2. LA Lakers (51-20): Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have reeled off a 13-1 stretch and begged for attention at every turn. After the lone loss, suffered in Miami, Kobe Bryant was so upset that he decided to start firing up shots in front of TV cameras. Lamar Odom has incessantly publicized his upcoming reality show with wife Khloe Kardashian. And Ron Artest performed his new single “Go Loco” alongside such dignitaries as Fat Joe and B-Real of Cypress Hill on “Lopez Tonight.”
3. Boston (50-20): The Celtics are 9-6 since the dreaded Kendrick Perkins trade, and panic has set in from Stockbridge to Boston. They’ve lost their toughness! Rajon Rondo is lonely without his friend! Where’s Shaquille O’Neal?! Relax. You know what the C’s record was in the first 15 games after the 2010 trade deadline? 9-6. And, more importantly, they have a healthy Kevin Garnett.
4. Chicago (51-19): “Hey, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference, what gives?” Is that what you’re thinking? Well, consider this: The Celtics have won eight more playoff series as a group than Derrick Rose & Co. — not to mention the fact that they’ve defeated Chicago in 2-of-3 meetings and play in a much tougher division.
5. Dallas (49-21): Is Dirk Nowitzki in the MVP conversation? I know he’s got Cedric Maxwell‘s vote. The giant German is threatening to join Ray Allen‘s “holy trinity of shooting” (the 50-40-90 club), as he’s draining shots at a 53.0 clip from the field, 41.8 from 3-point range and 89.0 from the free-throw line. Read the rest of this entry »
|NBA Power Rankings, 2/24||02.24.11 at 6:43 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (47-10): The Spurs have been conspicuously absent from the trade rumor bonanza. But it makes sense, considering their starters have missed one game all season between the five of them — and they’ve lost as many games as the Cavaliers have won.
2. Dallas (41-16): The Mavericks went hard after Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince (for injured Caron Butler and a first-round pick) and Denver’s J.R. Smith, but both deals fizzled quickly. Shocking that owner Mark Cuban was active around the trade deadline.
3. Boston (41-14): Who needs centers, anyway? There are other pieces to fall here, trust me. The Celtics aren’t finishing the season with 10 players. Until I know what their roster is going to look like, I’m not moving them anywhere.
4. Miami (42-15): The funniest tidbit I heard on the rumor mill was this: The Heat shopped Mike Miller in trade talks. Oh, sure, Mr. Riley, I’d love to take a 30-year-old guy with an extensive injury history, literal head problems and four years, $24 million remaining after this season. The one Miami rumor that’s intriguing is buyout candidate T.J. Ford.
5. Chicago (38-17): Both Juwan Howard and Chris Bosh have endorsed Derrick Rose for Most Valuable Player over LeBron James. Is it just me, or does that say a lot about what his Heat teammates think about him? Do you think Joakim Noah would side with James? Would Ron Artest back anybody but Kobe … nevermind, scratch that.
|NBA Power Rankings, 2/17||02.17.11 at 6:24 pm ET|
1. San Antonio (46-9): According to the New York Post, citing a waitress at Tao on 58th Street in New York City, Tony Parker “celebrated Valentine’s Day, a win over the Nets — and his divorce — by canoodling with a brunette.” When this is the biggest news about the Spurs for the week, it’s pretty clear they’re still the NBA’s No. 1 (regular-season) team and (somehow) still underrated.
2. Dallas (39-16): The Mavericks are 37-9 with Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup — and 18-7 against teams above .500. That’s pretty good. Not surprisingly, owner Mark Cuban told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram his team has all the pieces in place for a title run. While they’re certainly playing better than the Lakers — and even the Celtics — right now, I’m still not buying them as contenders.
3. Boston (40-14): With Glen Davis as the sole healthy member of their projected second unit — and even he suffered a bruised noggin — the Celtics finished 2-2 against the Mavericks, Magic, Lakers and Heat in the span of nine days. The win over the Heat was truly significant; no matter who earns the East’s No. 1 seed the C’s cemented themselves as the clear favorites in the conference.
4. Miami (41-15): Sure, the Heat are 38-10 (.792 winning percentage) with Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all in the lineup. Still, even with all three of those guys on the floor, they’re only 11-8 (.579) against teams above the .500 mark. Oh, and they’re 0-4 against the two other teams vying for Eastern Conference supremacy. I’d say that’s a concern.
5. Chicago (37-16): Under Tom Thibodeau‘s tutelage, the Bulls have gone from 11th place in points allowed per 100 possessions last season to second place this year — without defensive stalwart Joakim Noah at center since Dec. 15. The booby prize for finishing second in the East is not only a Game 7 on the road in the conference finals but also a semifinals matchup with Chicago.
|NBA Power Rankings, 2/10||02.10.11 at 8:28 pm ET|
A quick explanation of the top four: While the Celtics and Lakers have fallen prey to the annual February malaise at times, the Spurs continue to separate themselves in the standings, establishing a 5.5-game lead for homecourt throughout the playoffs.
Meanwhile, neither the Heat nor the Lakers have proven this season they can beat the Celtics, although that could change when both come to town in the next four days. While the Mavericks have won 10 straight and swept the C’s this season, I’m still not confident they’re any better than the third-best team out West. There you have it.
Now, it’s time to unveil this week’s full NBA Power Rankings. In a tribute to Ray Allen‘s chase for Reggie Miller‘s all-time 3-point record, we give you the best current and former long-distance shooters on each of the league’s 30 teams …
1. San Antonio (44-8): Sinking 916-of-2,450 (37.4 percent) in his Spurs career, Manu Ginobili is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter.
2. Boston (38-13): Sinking 1,540-of-4,158 (37.0 percent) in his Celtics career, Paul Pierce is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter. Allen has made 639 of his 1,586 3-point shots (40.3 percent) since coming to Boston in 2007.
3. Miami (38-14): Sinking 806-of-2,263 (35.6 percent) in his Heat career, Tim Hardaway is the team’s all-time leading 3-point shooter. Dwyane Wade is Miami’s current 3-point shooting leader, making 288-of-985 (29.2 percent) in his career with the team.
4. LA Lakers (36-16): Sinking 1,370-of-4,042 (33.9 percent) in his Lakers career, Kobe Bryant is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter.
5. Dallas (37-15): Sinking 1,175-of-3,084 (38.1 percent) in his Mavericks career, Dirk Nowitzki is both the team’s current and all-time leading 3-point shooter.
|NBA Power Rankings, 2/3||02.03.11 at 6:14 pm ET|
The Celtics haven’t claimed the top spot in our NBA Power Rankings since Jan. 6, but as Paul Flannery wrote following the C’s 109-96 victory against the Lakers on Sunday, “The Celtics’ performance proved that as of this moment they are the team to beat in the NBA. On their best day, and this may have been it, no one can even come close to matching them.”
There are four other legitimate contenders for the 2011 NBA title — the Spurs, Bulls, Heat and Lakers — and the Celtics have beaten all of them, recording six wins in seven games against those teams. That’s kinda good.
The C’s have now defeated 23 of the 29 other teams in the league. The only two teams they haven’t faced yet are the Clippers and Warriors. They’ve lost their only games against the Mavericks, Suns, Rockets and Hornets so far, but they get their respective shots at revenge on Friday, March 2, March 18 and March 19.
In short, pretty much everybody has praised the Celtics as one of, if not THE best in the league. Kevin Garnett might be one of the most disliked opponents in the league, but the C’s are getting their share of respect. That’s why we’ve decided to highlight the best quotes about the Celtics from opposing coaches and players in this week’s edition of the Power Rankings. Without further ado, here goes …
1. Boston (37-11): I don’t care that the Celtics have lost to the Wizards, Pistons, Raptors and Cavaliers. I don’t care that they scored only 71 points against the Suns. Four of those losses occurred on the road after playing the previous night, and the other came at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. When the Celtics are motivated, they’ve been almost unbeatable. Just ask the Spurs, Lakers and Heat.
2. San Antonio (40-8): Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 5, 105-103: “It’s just frustrating that we’re a definite, significant notch below the big boys — of course, Boston being one of the big boys — come playoff time if this continues. You know, Boston is third in field-goal percentage ‘D,’ and first in defensive rebounding. Those are the kind of stats we used to have defensively to do what you need to do to be the last team standing.” (via Sporting News)
3. Chicago (34-14): Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau after losing to the Celtics in overtime on Nov. 5, 110-105: “They’ve got a lot of weapons, they’re experienced, they know how to work the game and they’re hard to guard. I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and willingness to share with each other. ‘¦ It puts enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense can’t get set, and that’s something we’re striving for.”
4. Miami (34-14): Heat forward LeBron James on Wednesday: “We’re way behind [the Celtics]. Just look at the number of games played, the number of playoff series those guys have had. We’re only a few months in together — 40-something-plus games. I’ve seen the statistics. Boston has like 250-plus games played together. We’re way behind those teams.” (via ESPN.com)
|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.
|NBA Power Rankings, 1/20||01.20.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
So much for the Year of the Streak, huh? After the Celtics, Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Lakers and Hornets ripped off significant winning streaks earlier this season, everybody’s settling into midseason NBA mode (aka, “no heavy lifting”) — which makes sorting out the Power Rankings all that much more difficult.
In my mind, there are four heavy favorites to reach the two conference finals: Celtics vs. Heat, and Lakers vs. Spurs. And four other contenders: Bulls, Magic, Thunder and Jazz. Outside of that, it’s a matter of filling out the playoff picture now that we’re at the midway point, and that’s not a pretty picture at the bottom of the East. Here goes …
1. San Antonio (36-6): The Spurs are 22-2 at home and riding a 16-game winning streak at the AT&T Center. Only the Lakers are within 8.5 games of San Antonio for the West’s No. 1 seed, and even they’re six games back. If the Spurs manage to snag homecourt advantage, L.A.’s reign could be over sooner than expected. And Shaq won’t be the only guy playing for a fifth ring this spring; Tim Duncan will be, too.
2. Boston (32-9): The Celtics are 13-5 against teams with records above .500. They’ve beaten the Heat, Bulls, Magic, Spurs and Thunder already, and they play the Jazz (Friday) and Lakers (Jan. 30) over the next 10 days, so they could easily reclaim the top spot. That’s a remarkable feat for a team that’s never been fully healthy.
3. LA Lakers (31-13): The Lakers are now top-10 in points scored, points allowed, rebounds and assists, which is pretty good. They had won 8-of-9 before losing in Dallas on Wednesday night, which is also pretty good. And Lamar Odom granted Playboy an interview about basketball and marriage, which is beyond good.
4. Miami (30-13): You can’t really let the Heat slip too far down the rankings, despite their season-high four-game losing streak, considering LeBron James missed two of those contests and Chris Bosh missed another. Still, it’s midway through the season, and Miami still doesn’t have a defined rotation. That’s a problem.
5. Oklahoma City (27-15): Would you rather have the Miami Thrice on your team or the Kevin Durant–Russell Westbrook–Jeff Green triumvirate? The former, but the latter’s not far behind (Miami Thrice: 69.3 ppg, 13.3 apg; OKC Three: 65.9 ppg, 13.4 apg). Considering their respective salaries next season (Miami Thrice: $47.6 million; OKC Three: $24.6 million), it’s almost a toss-up as to who’s in better position for the future.
6. Chicago (28-14): This season, especially lately, Derrick Rose is getting a LOT of love. Charles Barkley called him the NBA’s best point guard. Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie gave him their midseason Most Improved Player award. There’s even some MVP chatter. Should he be crowned before he’s even won a playoff series?
7. Orlando (27-15): It’s funny how Otis Smith decided to pick this week — after losing 3-of-4, including one to the Celtics — to essentially call the C’s a bunch of posers. Because, you know, Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick are essentially Randy Couture and Mickey Ward. What’s that saying about glass houses?
8. Utah (27-15): The Celtics are welcoming the Jazz to Boston on Friday, and let’s hope a stomach bug doesn’t keep Deron Williams from playing. Boston fans have already missed Durant and Carmelo Anthony in their teams’ only trips to the hub. Missing a battle between Williams and Rajon Rondo would be a shame.
9. Atlanta (28-15): It’ll be interesting to see how much attention Jamal Crawford will get in free agency after this season. Even though he’s the returning Sixth Man of the Year, he’s not a guy I’d really want on my team. Same goes for a lot of guys on the Hawks, except for Al Horford.
10. New Orleans (27-16): Welcome back to the top 10, Chris Paul. A six-game winning streak — including wins over the Magic and Nuggets — will do that for you. The Hornets accomplished it with defense, allowing fewer than 90 points in four of those six contests.
11. Dallas (27-14): After Dirk Nowitzki missed nine games, he returned against the Grizzlies, only to be tossed by the referees midway through the third quarter. And then the Mavericks lost their sixth straight to the lowly Pistons. Good times. Mark Cuban was probably sticking forks in light sockets before they beat the Lakers.
12. Denver (24-17): I hate the fact that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov called off the ‘Melo trade discussion for two reasons: 1) he robbed us of a meeting between them and Jay-Z, which may have been the greatest meeting of all-time; and 2) now we have to listen to another few weeks of people speculating where he’ll go.
13. New York (22-19): How does the NBA’s top scoring team produce 83 points at home against the Kings? Seriously. It’s the Kings!?!? Since winning 13-of-14 from mid-November to mid-December, the Knicks are 6-10. There’s a lot less optimism around them since they played the C’s tough and were in the ‘Melo sweepstakes.
14. Portland (23-20): Another Trail Blazers player (Marcus Camby) injured his knee. In other news: The sky is blue. At this point, should opposing teams just rest their stars when they visit, for fear that their knees might disintegrate into the Portland air?
15. Houston (20-23): Rockets GM Daryl Morey is on Twitter and gives insightful comments about his team, like: “Our shot making disguised issues in our transition offense.” Can we lobby to get Danny Ainge on Twitter?
16. Memphis (19-23): When Zach Randolph is the one saying, “We’ve got to get some heart,” you’ve got problems. The Grizzlies still have an outside shot at a playoff berth, but Randolph’s words aren’t a good sign.
17. Phoenix (19-21): The only two players that have scored 20,000 points, are eligible for the Hall of Fame and haven’t been inducted are Mitch Richmond and Tom Chambers. Now that Vince Carter has joined the 20,000-point club, will he be the third to fall short of the Hall?
18. Indiana (16-23): Pacers wing Mike Dunleavey has been in the league since 2002 and never sniffed the playoffs, but this could be his year — even if Indiana doesn’t make the postseason. The Pacers are shopping him, and he’d be a nice pickup for any team looking to deepen their rotation.
19. LA Clippers (16-25): When Blake Griffin scored 47 points on 24 shots, he became just the 13th player in the last 20 seasons to score such a high figure on so few shots. TrueHoop did a nice job of breaking it down.
20. Golden State (18-23): According to the Contra Costa Times, over the last 13 games, Dorell Wright has averaged 20.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. Think the Miami Heat could use him in their rotation now?
21. Philadelphia (17-24): The 76ers might be the most confusing team in the NBA. They’ll lose to the Raptors twice in one week, and then play the Celtics tough. They’ll lose to the Bulls by 45 points one night, and then beat them by six another. Chalk that up to youth and the fact Andre Iguadola is their leader.
22. Milwaukee (15-24): A back injury has flared up for Bucks center Andrew Bogut. You wonder if the issue is something that will plague him for a while, considering that nasty fall he took last April. You know what they say: the bigger they are, the harder they fall … and the tougher it is to come back from it.
24. Detroit (15-27): Good thing the Pistons benched Richard Hamilton against the Celtics amid the trade rumors that would’ve sent him to New Jersey as part of a three-team ‘Melo trade — now that there’s no way the Nets are going to take on Rip’s contract without landing the big fish, too.
25. Washington (12-28): I saw this headline: “Lewis provides a steady influence for young Wizards.” Are we talking about Rashard Lewis? Well, I guess the headline didn’t distinguish whether it was a good or bad influence.
26. Toronto (13-29): The Raptors and Cavaliers have a combined 21 wins after the departures of Bosh and James. The Heat have 30 victories. Those guys were kind of important to their teams. Just a little.
27. New Jersey (11-31): Is anybody shocked by the fact that Prokhorov is pursuing Andrei Kirilenko. Next up: Timofey Mozgov. Let’s just hope they don’t turn out to be like Angelina Jolie‘s character in “Salt”.
28. Minnesota (10-33): I had to steal this line from Canis Hoopus: “Wesley Johnson: DNP (coach’s decision); Jonny Flynn: 15 minutes, 2 points; Ricky Rubio: tanning. What an awesome use of top lotto picks.”
29. Sacramento (9-31): The Maloofs could move to Anaheim. Sounds like a bad CBS comedy. Unfortunately, it could be a reality for Sacramento fans. If there are any of those.
30. Cleveland (8-33): Anderson Verajao out for the season. Mo Williams out for a couple weeks. Believe it or not, those are the Cavalier’s two best players. Now Cleveland fans literally have nothing to root for but a potential No. 1 pick in the lottery. Knowing their luck, though, that won’t happen.
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