NBA Power Rankings: Will Oklahoma City Thunder Knock Off Chicago Bulls?
As the 2012 NBA season heads down the stretch run, it's now the most important stretch for each team to position themselves for the postseason.
For the top teams in the league, they don't have to worry about that as much. It's more about making a statement that they are the team to beat, in an attempt to win the NBA championship.
The Oklahoma City Thunder did that last night with a convincing win over the Miami Heat. But was the performance of Kevin Durant and company enough to vault them over the Chicago Bulls into the top spot overall.
Let's see what our power rankings have to say.
1. Chicago Bulls (40-10)
Still getting it done, winners of eight of 10, despite their original starting backcourt in Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton out with injuries.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (37-12)
Closing the gap on Chicago a. bit, but the best in the west have to settle for the No. 2 spot. They are the NBA's highest scoring team (103.6 PPG) and are ready to make a title.
3. Miami Heat (35-12)
LeBron James was outclassed by Durant last night and needs to get out of the funk he's been in for the past four games.
4. San Antonio Spurs (33-14)
The Spurs have won even of eight and don't appear to be slowing down any time soon. Not only do they keep winning, but they're doing so while getting their older players like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker rest along the way.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (30-19)
Is new point guard Ramon Sessions the missing piece for another Lakers' long postseason run? The offense is certainly much better with him on the floor; now if only head coach Mike Brown would decide to keep Kobe Bryant on the floor, the Lakers could be dangerous.
6. Orlando Magic (31-18)
Dwight Howard elected to remain in Orlando, but the Magic are only 3-3 since he decided to opt-in.
7. Atlanta Hawks (30-20)
Fresh off a quadruple-overtime victory against Utah, the Hawks have won four straight and six of seven overall, as they are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time.
8. New York Knicks (24-25)
Speaking of red hot teams, the Knicks are No. 8 despite being under .500. Winners of six of seven after replacing Mike D'Antoni with interim head coach Mike Woodson. During that span, New York has scored 100.9 per game, while allowing only 86.6. If they continue to commit to playing defense, they will be a very tough out.
9. Indiana Pacers (28-19)
Indiana's won only three of their past six, including back-to-back losses to the Knicks. The pacers have been sliding and right now would be down to the No. 6 seed in the East.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (26-21)
After a very hot streak, Memphis has cooled off a bit, going only 4-6 in their past 10, but they showed the Lakers last night that they will still be a tough out in the postseason.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (27-22)
After a hot start to the season, the Sixers have come back to the pack a bit and are only 2-5 in their past seven and their Atlantic Division lead is down to only a half game.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (27-21)
Is Vinny Del Negro losing the locker room? That could be the case, but they came up with a much-needed win against Memphis on Saturday to break a three-game losing streak.
13. Utah Jazz (26-23)
The Jazz have been playing very well as of late as yesterday's four-overtime thriller put an end to Utah's six-game win streak. Utah's in the top seven in the NBA in both scoring (99.0 PPG) and rebounding (43.7 RPG).
14. Dallas Mavericks (28-22)
The defending champs could be getting hot at the right time, winners of five of their past seven as Dirk Nowitzki has been playing his best basketball of the season. Don't count Dallas out just yet.
15. Phoenix Suns: (25-24)
After a slow start to the season, the Suns have really turned things around. Phoenix has won six of eight and are putting pressure on the Houston Rockets and others as they are only a game out of the playoff picture.
16. Boston Celtics (26-22)
Boston's only a half-game behind in the Atlantic, but hasn't taken advantage, splitting their past 10 games. They also have to keep their eyes on the Knicks, who are charging hard.
17. Houston Rockets (26-23)
Houston's barely holding onto a playoff spot as they've also split their past 10 games. A tough overtime loss to Dallas on Saturday didn't help as the Rockets can't get point guard Kyle Lowry back soon enough.
18. Milwaukee Bucks (22-26)
The Knicks have opened the gap on Milwaukee as the Bucks try to make a charge for the No. 8 spot. They've won seven of nine though and aren't going away anytime soon.
19. Denver Nuggets (26-24)
The Nuggets are close to having an NBA-high seven players averaging double-figures on the season, but right now they would be staying home for the playoffs.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-26)
It's been a rough go of it for Minnesota as of late as the loss of Ricky Rubio has had an impact with the Wolves only winning three of their past 10 games. Kevin Love is playing at a high enough level though that Minnesota will still be in the hunt down the stretch.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (23-26)
It's been a struggle in Portland, but the Blazers are 3-3 since the trade deadline and the firing of coach Nate McMillan. They aren't totally out of the playoff picture in the West.
22. Golden State Warriors (20-27)
The Warriors have lost six of eight, and it's time for Mark Jackson to begin thinking about next season.
23. Toronto Raptors (16-32)
The Raptors have been the only team to hand the Knicks a loss under Woodson, the only game they've won in their past five.
24. Sacramento Kings (17-31)
The Kings do a good job of scoring and rebounding, but it hasn't translated into wins.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-29)
The Cavs have hit the skids as of late, losing six of seven, but Kyrie Irving has still been fun to watch.
26. New Orleans Hornets (12-36)
It's been another rough month in New Orleans. They've won only four games in March, but three have been against potential playoff teams.
27. New Jersey Nets (16-34)
The Nets failed to acquire Howard and have failed to do anything since the trade deadline, as a win against Charlotte put an end to a five-game losing streak.
28. Detroit Pistons (16-32)
Five consecutive losses have the Pistons looking forward to the lottery.
29. Washington Wizards (11-37)
Getting rid of JaVale McGee didn't help as Washington has lost five of six since the trade.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (7-39)
The only questions left in Charlotte are will the Bobcats get to double-digits in wins and will they win the Anthony Davis lottery and land the No. 1 overall pick.
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