The Miami Heat are back to their old win-streak ways and the Oklahoma City Thunder seeme to have re-adjusted to having Russell Westbrook back in the lineup. The rest of the NBA is waiting to see how the Los Angeles Clippers are going to look with Danny Granger and Glen Davis in the fold, and the Indiana Pacers are still rolling after winning five straight.
1. Miami Heat (42-14 and second in the Eastern Conference). The Heat have won seven straight games while holding opponents to 85 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting from the field and only 19.5 percent from three-point range.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-15 and first in the Western Conference). After a three-game slip, OKC is back to business, winning their last two games. It took Scotty Brooks reducing Russell Westbrook’s minutes, while Reggie Jackson continues to flourish.
3. Indiana Pacers (46-13 and first in the Eastern Conference). The Pacers protect their home court better than anyone in the league, while outscoring their opponents in the paint the last six games with 40 or more points in the restricted area. Accomplishments achieved without Andrew Bynum. They can only get better.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (41-20 and fourth in the Western Conference). The Clippers are winners of four straight games, while still playing without starting guard J.J. Redick. They have yet to get Danny Granger and Glen “Big Baby” Davis into the swing of things. Right now they’re the league’s biggest mystery.
5. San Antonio Spurs (43-16 and second in the Western Conference). Tony Parker returned to the Spurs lineup, however Kawhi Leonard and his wingspan returning from injury was of more importance to San Antonio. They are still the Western Conference leader in road wins (22).
6. Portland Trail Blazers (41-18 and third in the Western Conference). Any momentum the Blazers lost with LaMarcus Aldridge’s injury has been made up with their current five-game winning streak.
7. Houston Rockets (40-19 and fifth in the Western Conference). The Rockets have won their last 17 games when scoring at least 100 points, including a 42-point first quarter against the Sacramento Kings. Kevin McHale must get James Harden to fully commit on the defensive end for Houston to make a deep playoff run.
8. Chicago Bulls (33-26 and fourth in the Eastern Conference). The Bulls have won four straight games, and since January 1 have compiled a league-best 20 wins. During that stretch they hold the best record in the East with a mark of 20-8.
9. Phoenix Suns (35-24 and seventh in the Western Conference). Goran Dragic has filled the Eric Bledsoe void for the Suns quite well. They’re pretty solid at home, but tomorrow’s game against the Clippers will serve as a benchmark against their recent improvement.
10. Brooklyn Nets (28-29 and sixth in the Eastern Conference). The Nets continue to climb the Eastern Conference ladder, heading home on the positive side of a six-game, 11-day trip.
11. Memphis Grizzlies (33-25 and ninth in the Western Conference). The Grizzlies are at full health and sport a bench that has combined for 11 double-digit individual performances in 58 games.
12. Toronto Raptors (33-26 and third in the Eastern Conference). The Raptors have won seven of their last 10 games, but can’t be taken seriously in the third spot until they break 40 wins. By then Miami and Indiana will have most likely passed the 50-win marker.
13. Washington Wizards (31-28 and fifth in the Eastern Conference). Are the Wizards for real? They’ve won six games in a row, including a 40-point performance from Trevor Ariza.
14. Golden State Warriors (36-24 and sixth in the Western Conference). The Warriors are underachieving to say the least. Although they rank third in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 99 points per 100 possessions, Golden State lacks consistency in energy and effort.
15. Dallas Mavericks (36-25 and eighth in the Western Conference). Before getting dropped by the Spurs, the Mavericks were 13 games above .500, a record built primarily on playing opponents below the league standard.
16. Atlanta Hawks (26-32 and eighth in the Eastern Conference). The loss of Paul Millsap has devastated the Hawks. They’ll keep counting Kyle Korver’s three-point streak, as that’s the only consistency they’ll see for a while.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-29 and 10th in the Western Conference). The Timberwolves welcomed back Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. It’s not too late for Minnesota to slide into that eighth seed.
18. Charlotte Bobcats (27-32) and seventh in the Eastern Conference). Josh McRoberts hasn’t turned into the type of defender Charlotte was hoping for, however they’re holding opponents to only 96 points per game.
19. Denver Nuggets (25-33 and 11th in the Western Conference). The Nuggets have lost five straight, and it’s apparent that Denver’s hope for the future resides in Ty Lawson. The Nuggets are 3-10 without Lawson on the floor.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-37 and ninth in the Eastern Conference). General manager David Griffin seems to have a positive effect on the locker room as the Cavs have improved in almost every statistical category. They’re scoring four more points per game, collecting five extra boards and four more assists. Maybe there’s hope for Cleveland after all.
21. Detroit Pistons (23-36 and tenth in the Eastern Conference). For the majority of February, Brandon Jennings has shot 24 percent from the floor and 21 percent from three. No wonder there’s talk of Isiah Thomas replacing Joe Dumars as GM.
22. New York Knicks (21-39 and 11th in the Eastern Conference). The Knicks have lost six straight games and are still missing Iman Shumpert, Andrea Bargnani, and Kenyon Martin. Although Mike Woodson might want to blame injuries, the Knicks’ commitment to defense and the intangibles are more to blame.
23. Orlando Magic (19-43 and 13th in the Eastern Conference). Orlando bought out Glen Davis in an effort to focus their attention on the team’s younger talent. They’ll continue to slip down the power rankings.
24. Boston Celtics (20-40 and 12th in the Eastern Conference). The Cs just lost Gerald Wallace for the season due to injury, but their season was lost in October.
25. Utah Jazz (21-38 and 13th in the Western Conference). The Jazz were close to taking down the Pacers in a tough loss on Sunday, where the combination of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors combined to hold Roy Hibbert to two points on 1-of-9 shooting. Their team defense however is ranked third-worst in the league.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (20-39 and 14th in the Western Conference). The Lakers have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games and with whispers of Kobe Bryant sitting for the remainder of the season. For now the Lakers hopes reside in the lottery.
27. New Orleans Pelicans (23-36 and 12th in the Western Conference). The Pelicans have lost seven straight games, however Anthony Davis is on pace to become the first player to average 20 points 10 rebounds and 3 blocks in a single season since Shaquille O’Neal. Bittersweet.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (15-45 and 14th in the Eastern Conference). The 76ers retired Allen Iverson’s jersey while retiring their efforts on the season as well.
29. Sacramento Kings (20-39 and 15th in the Western Conference). The Kings rank sixth-to-last in defensive efficiency, giving up 106 points per game. Things are certainly at their worst when head coach Mike Malone turns to new 10-day contract pickup Orlando Johnson to help teach the team defense.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (11-47 and the 15th in the Eastern Conference). The Bucks finally jumped into the double-digit win column! Will they get to 20 wins before the season’s close?