The 2012-13 NBA regular season is now two-thirds of the way finished. With less than 30 games of basketball ahead of us, we can now watch and study as the postseason standings take shape.
The question is, who is moving up and who is plummeting downwards?
So how does it all shape up?
30. Orlando Magic (16-41)
The Orlando Magic haven't won consecutive games since Dec. 19. They won their first game since Feb. 10 on the 26th.
Orlando has gone 4-28 over its past 32 games and has done all it can to enter the conversation for the first overall draft choice. Fortunately, the future is bright with a quality coach and front office.
For now, it's a devastatingly low point in this organization's history.
29. Charlotte Bobcats (13-43)
The Charlotte Bobcats are a league-worst 13-43. They've won six games since Nov. 24.
Fortunately, this squad is playing hard and competing every time out. Head coach Mike Dunlap can be credited for such a positive sign in a disappointing season.
If there's one reason to be encouraged, the Bobcats have nearly doubled their win total from 2011-12.
28. Sacramento Kings (19-39)
Two weeks ago, the Sacramento Kings were looking good. They had won two consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 16 and were finally building chemistry.
Then, the organization traded rookie Thomas Robinson. As a form of karma, the Kings have now lost six consecutive games.
New ownership is taking too long to arrive.
27. Phoenix Suns (18-39)
The Phoenix Suns move up a spot by virtue of being not quite as bad as the Sacramento Kings. With that being said, the Suns have lost three straight and seven of eight games.
They last won consecutive games on Jan. 24. To make matters worse, all of their past three losses have come by at least 10 points.
This is a franchise in disarray.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33)
The Minnesota Timberwolves were once 16-15. Since then, they've gone 4-18.
Injuries have, once again, struck this franchise at the improper times. From Kevin Love to Brandon Roy to Ricky Rubio, this team has been unable to place a healthy product on the floor.
The results have displayed as much.
25. Detroit Pistons (22-37)
I'm one of the guilty parties who looked at the Detroit Pistons' trade for point guard Jose Calderon as a sign of brighter days. Instead, we're witnessing the same Pistons we've grown far too used to seeing.
Detroit has lost three in a row and five of their past seven. This comes after an encouraging 3-3 start to the month.
So much for that.
24. New Orleans Hornets (20-38)
For a young team, every game is important. That's exactly why the New Orleans Hornets' recent 110-95 blowout of the Sacramento Kings is such an encouraging sign.
The Hornets are stacked with promising young talent. The question is, how healthy can they stay?
The results are promising when their core plays together.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (22-33)
The Philadelphia 76ers have lost six consecutive games. Four of their past six losses have come by double digits.
Most recently, they lost by a score of 98-84 against the Orlando Magic. The 16-41 Magic that hadn't won in more than two weeks.
The cries for Andrew Bynum's return are growing louder in Philadelphia.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-38)
The Cleveland Cavaliers are 9-7 over the span of their past 16 games. While they've lost four of their past six, they own near-upsets of both the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.
Things are looking up in Cleveland. Believe it or not, that's not just because of Kyrie Irving.
Tristan Thompson is averaging 9.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals during his past five games.
21. Portland Trail Blazers (26-30)
After losing seven consecutive games, the Portland Trail Blazers appear to have weathered the storm. They earned a much-needed 92-86 victory against the Boston Celtics on Feb. 24.
J.J. Hickson now has 30 double-doubles on the season and Damian Lillard continues his Rookie of the Year campaign. Unfortunately, Portland is now a full four games behind the Houston Rockets.
Could the Blazers' postseason dreams be neutralized?
20. Milwaukee Bucks (26-28)
The Milwaukee Bucks have lost nine of their past 11 games. They've dropped three in a row and seven of eight.
In other words, it's not looking good in Milwaukee.
Fortunately, the Bucks hold a four-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers for eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers' ineptitude may be the only thing keeping Milwaukee in the playoffs.
19. Washington Wizards (18-37)
You know how people tell you that John Wall is nothing more than an athlete? That he can't lead an NBA franchise?
Since Wall returned to the Washington Wizards, they are 13-9. They were 5-28 before he came back.
Their last seven opponents defeated: the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors.
About that leadership issue...
18. Toronto Raptors (23-34)
The Toronto Raptors were one of the hottest teams in basketball before running into the Washington Wizards. Now, they're just a hot team that can take anyone down.
Nothing has changed.
Toronto is 7-4 during the month of February. They've won six of their past eight games.
17. Dallas Mavericks (25-30)
Before folks around the league begin to panic, the Dallas Mavericks are 6-3 during the month of February. Their only losses have come against two playoff teams and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dirk Nowitzki and company are going to be just fine, especially considering the German big man is turning his season around. Over his past five games, Dirk is averaging 21.6 points per.
Dallas will be in this until the very end.
16. Los Angeles Lakers (28-30)
Just when the Los Angeles Lakers were getting hot, their defense failed to show up against the Denver Nuggets. This led to a 119-108 loss which pushed the Lakers to two games below .500.
Still, the Lakers have won 11 of 16.
15. Chicago Bulls (32-25)
The Chicago Bulls continued on their downward spiral by losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The result wasn't concerning, but the final score certainly was.
Chicago lost to OKC by a score of 102-72. That's a 30-point margin of defeat against a team that Chicago aspires to call its equal.
Most recently, Chicago lost to the 19-38 Cleveland Cavaliers.
14. Utah Jazz (31-26)
As of Feb. 19, the Utah Jazz were winners of three consecutive games. They had just defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder by 15 points and were riding high to future success.
Unfortunately, Utah has followed up that streak with a new one—two consecutive losses.
With a tight playoff race in the Western Conference, Utah simply can't afford to lose consecutively. Not with the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks all vying for just two spots.
One of which Utah holds.
13. Boston Celtics (30-27)
The Boston Celtics were able to breathe a deep sigh of relief after outlasting the Utah Jazz in an overtime thriller. Behind Paul Pierce's near triple-double, Boston won 110-107 and moved to three games above .500.
While their postseason berth appears to be safe, Boston knows how dangerous it can be to drop below .500. In a locker room full of veterans, that's the last thing you want to see transpire.
For now, Boston is safe.
12. Brooklyn Nets (34-24)
Prior to their Feb. 26 victory, the Brooklyn Nets had lost two consecutive outings. In that time, they averaged 84.0 points scored per game.
This is the worst possible time for Brooklyn to go cold, as it could have been gaining ground on the plummeting Knicks. Instead, a 1.5-game cushion remains between the rivals for the Atlantic Division lead.
Brooklyn needs to turn it around quickly before they miss out on a golden opportunity.
11. Houston Rockets (31-27)
The Houston Rockets are 31-27 overall and 18-7 against the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, the Rockets don't play in the Eastern Conference.
They play in the West—the conference where they are just 13-20.
This doesn't bode well for their postseason dreams. In fact, it suggests they could be swept out.
Fortunately, this Rockets team never ceases to amaze us—so why doubt them now?
10. Golden State Warriors (33-24)
If you're getting into a close game with the Golden State Warriors, prepare to learn a valuable lesson. Jarrett Jack is clutch, clutch, clutch.
Jack rose up and made the late shots against the San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 27. to earn a 107-101 overtime win. Two days later, he did it again as the Warriors won 100-99 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Once more, Jack is clutch.
9. Atlanta Hawks (32-23)
The Atlanta Hawks have won three consecutive games and six of their past eight. In other words, standing their ground at the trade deadline has paid off.
This team is rich in postseason experience and explosive from an athletic and three-point shooting perspective. With the addition of Dahntay Jones, they now have a veteran perimeter defender.
This is a sleeper team to watch come the playoffs.
8. New York Knicks (33-20)
The New York Knicks are stumbling, but so are the teams behind them. Unfortunately, the Indiana Pacers no longer fall under that category.
New York now trails Indiana by half a game for second place in the Eastern Conference. It's fallen a full 6.5 games behind the Miami Heat for first.
Even still, the Knicks are living comfortably at third in the East.
7. Denver Nuggets (36-22)
So much for that three-game losing streak.
The Denver Nuggets have won three of their past four games. That includes a 119-108 drubbing of the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 25.
Denver is now 36-22 and just 2.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for fourth in the Western Conference. Let the battle for home-court advantage begin.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (40-18)
The Los Angeles Clippers have won six of their past eight games. Most recently, they defeated the Utah Jazz, 107-94.
When this team is fully healthy, it can defeat any team it faces. The Clippers are an elite defensive team with one of the most high-powered offenses in the league.
As for why they fell to sixth: They haven't won seven in a row.
5. Memphis Grizzlies (37-18)
The Memphis Grizzlies have won seven consecutive games. Most recently, they held the Brooklyn Nets to 72 points.
This is no slight on Rudy Gay, but the acquisition of Tayshaun Prince has made this team all the more dangerous. For those who'd like to debate that belief, just check the numbers.
Seven in a row.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-15)
After shockingly losing three in a row, the Oklahoma City Thunder have now won two straight. That includes a 102-72 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Dominant and, quite frankly, a sign of how good this team should be—not how good it has been.
3. Indiana Pacers (36-21)
The Indiana Pacers have won 10 of 12 and five consecutive games. During their recent five-game winning streak, every victory has come by double digits.
Three of those wins have been by a final margin of at least 20 points. That includes a 125-91 win over the New York Knicks.
Indiana is the league's most dominant defensive team, statistically speaking. It's all coming together now.
2. San Antonio Spurs (45-13)
The San Antonio Spurs are a league-best 45-13. Most recently, they've won six of their past eight games.
Over the long run, San Antonio is 17-2 during their past 19 games. They're 26-5 during their past 31 outings.
In other words, you don't want to play the Spurs.
1. Miami Heat (41-14)
It hasn't been pretty, but the Miami Heat have escaped inferior opponents and moved to 41-14. The question is, why would they be above the league-leading Spurs?
Miami has now won 12 in a row.
The Heat have achieved victory in 17 of their past 20 games. This has been a small portion of what can only be described as a dominant turnaround after a pedestrian beginning.
To be the champs, you've got to beat the champs. Right now, no one can.
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