The Miami Heat are bored, the Indiana Pacers are consistent, and the San Antonio Spurs sport the best road record in the league. The Portland Trail Blazers are still on the hunt for respect, and just when you thought the New York Knicks would start winning, they stop. Oh and the Houston Rockets only scored 19 points in one half of basketball. What a week it was!
1. Indiana Pacers (32-7 and first in the Eastern Conference). Lance Stephenson is making an All-Star bid and Paul George certainly put his bid in for the slam-dunk contest with a 360-windmill jam against the Los Angeles Clippers. However, with 21 out of their 32 wins at home, the last test for Indiana will be their road legs.
2. San Antonio Spurs (32-9 and first in the Western Conference). The only other team to pick up eight wins in their last 10 games is Indiana. The Spurs have a 59-9 record in home games where Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli all score 15 points or more. Is it possible we’ve misdirected the “big three” title?
3. Miami Heat (29-11 and second in the Eastern Conference). The Miami Heat haven’t compiled anything that resembles their 27-game win streak of last season. With Joel Anthony traded away, rumblings of signing Andrew Bynum are increasing. But that’s the bulk of excitement you’ll get out of South Beach these days. Much like their fluctuating level of play, they’re just flat out bored.
4. Portland Trail Blazers (31-9 and second in the Western Conference). Portland is tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the current longest win streak, which sits at fives games now. How far can the Blazers go with such a young and inexperienced bench? Only time will tell.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (28-14 and fourth in the Western Conference). Blake Griffin’s recent play is worth every MVP mention he receives, and it’s just a matter of time until the chants begin at Staples. Griffin is the only player in the NBA averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists, and he’s also tallied 25-plus points in eight of his last 14 contests. Will his good play last until Chris Paul’s return?
6. Oklahoma City Thunder (31-10 and third in the Western Conference). OKC has limited all opponents to a 42.2 percent shooting average, so it’s apparent that they’re playing defense. The question remains: who’s really Batman? KD or Russ?
7. Houston Rockets (27-15 and fifth in the Western Conference). The Rockets scored 73 points in the first half against the Thunder, and then scored 19 in the second half to lose. Go ahead and read that again. I’ll wait.
8. Golden State Warriors (26-16 and sixth in the Western Conference). The additions of Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks will give the Dubs a push on offense, but, being ranked 16th for most fast-break points allowed, coach Mark Jackson will soon learn that more ball chucking and long rebounds will come at a great expense.
9. Toronto Raptors (20-20 and third in the Eastern Conference). Toronto is the fourth team in the East to be above .500 but DeMar DeRozan only shooting 38 percent over his last three games won’t cut it, as they’re currently without injured players John Salmons and Tyler Hansbrough.
10. Dallas Mavericks (25-18 and seventh in the Western Conference). The Mavs have the opportunity to gain a ton of momentum as eight of their next 12 games are against Eastern Conference teams, against whom they’re 10-4 this season. It’ll be a make-or-break couple of weeks for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.
11. Phoenix Suns (23-17 and eighth in the Western Conference). There’s a lot riding on Goran Dragic in Phoenix. After the backcourt pairing of Eric Bledsoe and Gragic pushed the Suns into playoff contention, since Bledsoe’s injury, Dragic is left with increased play-making and defensive duties. If Dragic gets injured, it’ll be lights out for Phoenix.
12. Atlanta Hawks (20-19 and third in the Eastern Conference). Kyle Korver’s streak is still alive at 109 consecutive games with at least one made three-pointer. They’ve compiled four wins and six losses in their last 10, as they’ve slipped from the 10th most efficient offense to 23rd due to the loss of Al Horford.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-21 and 11th in the Western Conference). The Timberwolves are pushing themselves further out of the Western Conference playoff picture. With reports that chemistry isn’t the best right now, in addition to the team giving up 102.7 ppg, Minnesota could be a foregone conclusion by All-Star break.
14. Denver Nuggets (20-20 and 10th in the Western Conference). Randy Foye is pushing the Nuggets with an offensive rating of 123. If coach Brian Shaw can push Randy Foye, Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson and Kenneth Faried towards more consistency, Denver can easily sneak into the playoff picture.
15. Chicago Bulls (19-20 and sixth in the Eastern Conference). The Bulls have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games carried by great play from Joakim Noah and rookie Tony Snell. The Bulls appear to be tanking, however Kirk Hinrich and Noah might be thinking otherwise.
16. Washington Wizards (19-20 and fifth in the Eastern Conference). Someone must teach John Wall that even when he scores 30-plus, the Wizards still have the ability to lose. Until Wall steps up to be the leader he’s being groomed to be and unite the team on the defensive end, the Wizards will continue to be bottom feeders.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (20-19 and ninth in the Western Conference). Don’t look now, but the Griz have won five straight games. With Mike Conley playing at a high level, averaging 27 points and six assists, it’s fair to say the Grizzlies will move right back into playoff contention with Gasol back in the lineup.
18. Brooklyn Nets (17-22 and seventh in the Eastern Conference). Things are looking up for the Nets, who had their first winning month of the season with impressive victories over the Thunder, Warriors and Heat. Their lone loss of 2014 came on the second night of a back-to-back, when they traveled late-night to Toronto after defeating the Heat in double OT.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (18-25 and eighth in the Eastern Conference). With Kemba Walker out for up to two weeks, things aren’t looking good for Charlotte. He’s averaging team highs of 18.7 points and five assists. That’ll be tough for the already struggling Bobcats to replace.
20. Detroit Pistons (17-24 and ninth in the Eastern Conference). With a better record on the road (10-10) than they have at home (7-12), things seem a bit topsy-turvy for the Pistons, especially with Josh Smith shooting 28 percent from three and on pace to attempt over 300 shots from deep on the season.
21. New York Knicks (15-26 and 10th in the Eastern Conference). The Knicks are looking slim in their frontcourt with injuries to Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire, and after winning five straight, they’re now on a three-game losing streak. Being tied with the Magic for the second-worst home record in the NBA doesn’t help things either.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (13-27 and 13th in the Eastern Conference). 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel has been cleared to resume basketball activity after a torn ACL, however Philadelphia hasn’t decided on whether or not to play him. Their 8-16 conference record says, “Why not?”
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-26 and 11th in the Eastern Conference). Going 3-2 on a 5 game road trip shows improvement, and Luol Deng has fit seamless into Head Coach Mike Brown’s strategy apparent from two 25 point games on the week. With rumors that he’s lost the locker room, how long will Brown stay at the helm?
24. Boston Celtics (14-28 and 12th in the Eastern Conference). Rondo is back, and if he’s on his way out via trade, the Celtics will continue to suffer. As if going 1-9 in their last 10 games wasn’t bad enough.
25. Orlando Magic (11-30 and 14th in the Eastern Conference). The Magic have gone 1-9 in their last 10 games, and at this point it looks like their eyes are on the lottery.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (16-25 and 12th in the Western Conference). There’s chatter of Kobe Bryant’s and Steve Nash’s returns, but even then there’s not much optimism left in the tank for the Lakers. Look for Kobe and Nash to be wheeled back on the court too early. Once they suffer more losses, Gasol will be shipped elsewhere.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (15-24 and 13th in the Western Conference). The injury bug has devastated the Pelicans with Ryan Anderson out for the season and injuries nagging at Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Jason Smith and Greg Stiemsma. Then again, losing doesn’t feel too good either.
28. Sacramento Kings (14-25 and 14th in the Western Conference). Sacramento has found their nucleus of Isaiah Thomas, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins, but until they figure out who’s the closer, they’ll continue to lose close games.
29. Utah Jazz (14-28 and 15th in the Western Conference). Utah is still struggling to put points on the board. They’ll most likely stick with Tyrone Corbin for the season but cut him loose in the summer.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (7-33 and 15th in the Eastern Conference). Milwaukee is on a nine-game losing streak. I hear the lottery calling.