NBA Power Rankings (March 10-23)
(All stats through Saturday’s games)
(Last week’s rank and change are in parentheses; “NC” means there was no change in rank)
1. San Antonio Spurs (4, +3): The Spurs have really turned it up a notch over the last two weeks. Since losing to the Suns on Feb. 21, they’ve won six straight games and are 4th in the NBA in scoring over that span, averaging 111.4 ppg. Their defense has been nearly as good, allowing the sixth-fewest points (97.2) to the opposition over those two weeks. With Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard healthy again, the Spurs could make another trip to the NBA Finals.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (2, NC): The Thunder lost three in a row following the return of Russell Westbrook, but their star PG seems to have his feet back under him. Over his last three games, Westbrook is averaging 25.0 points, 9.3 assists, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 steals. He recorded a triple-double vs. the Sixers in just 20 minutes on Tuesday.
3. Houston Rockets (5, +2): We have blast off in Houston! The Rockets have been firing on all cylinders and now have a 14-2 record since Feb. 23. Friday’s win over the Pacers showed they are a team to be reckoned with.
4. Indiana Pacers (1, -3): After three straight losses, the Pacers no longer look immortal. Normally defensively stout, they lost those three games by an average of 16.7 points. Roy Hibbert should take a lot of the blame. The All-Star center has looked rather disinterested of late and averaged a mere 8.3 points and 3.3 boards in those three defeats.
5. Miami Heat (3, -2): LeBron James scored 61 points in Miami’s victory over the Bobcats last Monday, but all the hoopla over that amazing game has subsided, as the Heat have dropped two in row. In those two losses, LeBron scored just 20.5 points on 41.6 percent shooting. Is it fatigue, or are the sleeved jerseys to blame? Either way, LeBron and the Heat are sure to turn it around sooner rather than later.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (6, NC): By signing Glen Davis and Danny Granger, the Clippers have become one of the deepest teams in the league, something that could go a long way come playoff time. The highlight of their week had to be their 142-94 dismantling of their in-town rival Lakers. The 48-point victory was the largest win in franchise history.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (8, +1): If Portland wants to excel in the playoffs they’re going to have to be more consistent. They almost pulled out a miraculous win vs. the Mavs on Friday after being down 40-10 at one point in the second quarter. Serious contenders can’t play such shoddy basketball.
8. Golden State Warriors (9, +1): Most people don’t think of the Warriors as a defensive team, but that’s one part of their game that has really improved as the year has gone by. Over the past two weeks, the Warriors are allowing the fourth-fewest points (96.6) in the NBA. Coach Mark Jackson deserves a lot of credit for turning that aspect of their game around.
9. Toronto Raptors (12, +3): Winners of eight of their last 10 games, the Raptors have built a cushy four-game lead over the Nets in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. DeMar DeRozan has led the way, averaging 25.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in that span.
10. Phoenix Suns (7, -3): There’s good news on the horizon in Phoenix, as star point guard Eric Bledsoe is set to make his return to the court this week following his knee surgery. The team announced he could be back as soon as Wednesday. Gerald Green did his best Bledsoe impersonation this past Thursday, scoring 41 points in the Suns 128-122 win over the Thunder.