Updated 2013 NBA Playoff Power Rankings: Where Each Team Stands Right Now
It's nearly time for the nitty-gritty of the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Not that there's necessarily been anything wrong with the first two rounds. We've been treated to clutch shots, jaw-dropping performances and no shortage of contempt-fueled conflicts bred from the familiarity endemic to every postseason series.
Unfortunately, injuries (Russell Westbrook, Kirk Hinrich, David Lee, Stephen Curry), illnesses (Luol Deng) and cold streaks (Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith) have since sapped the second round of much of the drama we've come to expect of the NBA's elite eight.
That's not to mention the havoc these developments have wrought on our ever-dwindling power rankings. There's only so much room for movement now that the field has been reduced to five teams, though that hasn't stopped them from staking out new spots in relation to one another.
You'll surely see that with a few clicks herein.
5. New York Knicks
The New York Knicks appeared to be coming apart at the seams ahead of an all-important Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.
Carmelo Anthony was taking potshots at the Knicks' sputtering offense while Mike Woodson and J.R. Smith were busy playing tug-of-war with the team's share of blame, each one trying to look like the more contrite hero.
Realistically, though, New York's second-round failures are less about what the Knicks are doing wrong and more about what the Indiana Pacers are doing right.
Sure, Woody deserved a stern talking-to for clogging up the floor with Kenyon Martin in an oversized starting lineup and all but ignoring the likes of Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland as the series progressed.
(He should be applauded for reversing course the way he did in Game 5.)
Game 5 was still in doubt heading into the final few minutes of the fourth quarter, despite the fact that Indy did nearly everything it could (19 turnovers, 14 missed free throws, bad fouls by Paul George and Roy Hibbert) to give the game away.
The Pacers have proven themselves to be the better of the two teams in this matchup on the whole, so long as George Hill is involved (which he wasn't in Game 5, on account of a concussion).
The Knicks' hopes for survival rest all too precariously on the inconsistent shooting strokes of Carmelo and J.R., the Knicks' team-wide trust in their own strengths, and whatever helping hand Lady Luck might be around to offer.
4. San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs would appear to have righted the ship since their subpar start to their series against the Golden State Warriors.
San Antonio put on a pick-and-roll clinic in Game 5 to re-ignite its stagnant offense on the way to a 109-91 win. The Spurs then ground the Warriors to a pulp in front of a raucous crowd in Oakland to close out Golden State in Game 6, 94-82.
But as Grantland's Zach Lowe recently pointed out, the Spurs of the 2013 playoffs (not including their first-round romp over the D-League Los Angeles Lakers) are a far cry from the team that had its way with opposing defenses during the regular season.
They've settled for low-value mid-range shots at an alarming rate against a Dubs defense that, while plucky, is rather limited and quite often undisciplined. That's even more the case with Andrew Bogut's effectiveness waxing and waning from night to night.
The Spurs figure to have a much tougher time making hay against a Memphis Grizzlies defense that ranked among the most stout in the NBA this season. Moreover, Memphis is intimately familiar with San Antonio's system from the team's playoff tilt two years ago.
Then again, slowing down Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili when they're on is about as tough a task as there is in the NBA this side of checking the Miami Heat.
3. Indiana Pacers
Next time you see Frank Vogel in the huddle with his Indiana Pacers, pay close attention to the glint in his eye. It's the glint of a coach who's supremely confident in his team.
He knows how far his players have come along and how much farther they can go. He's like basketball's Rod Blagojevich: He's got this thing that's freaking golden, and he isn't about to give it up for freaking nothing.
The Pacers are well on their way to a postseason rematch with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, even after dropping Game 5 to the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Indy had every opportunity to close out its second-round series on the road. That's despite playing without George Hill (concussion), turning the ball over 19 times, watching Paul George and Roy Hibbert struggle with foul trouble and misfiring on 14-of-33 free-throw attempts in the 85-75 defeat.
Piling up mistakes to that degree will prove far more costly opposite Miami, though any that befall Indy won't likely be the result of intimidation.
Last year, Indy took a 2-1 lead over the eventual champions before LeBron James and Dwyane Wade came roaring back while Chris Bosh was sidelined with an abdominal injury. This year, they beat the Heat two out of three times during the regular season and sport the sort of size, defensive tenacity and all-around toughness to give Miami a run for its money.
The Pacers should not be considered at all likely to shock the Heat, though they certainly have the necessary ingredients to make things mighty interesting.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder put up a good fight in the second round, but there was no way they were sneaking past the Memphis Grizzlies without Russell Westbrook.
The Grizzlies ground Durant down to a pulp over the course of the five-game series, to the point where KD couldn't even hit shots when he was open.
The fates have smiled upon this Memphis squad so far, what with the relative health of its roster and the matchups it's enjoyed. Even more promising, the Grizz gashed the Spurs in six games during their first-round tilt two years ago without Rudy Gay.
And that was back before Marc Gasol had established himself as (arguably) the best center in basketball and prior to Mike Conley's coming-out party.
For now, all signs point to the Grizzlies doing something they'd hardly dared to dream about during their dark days in Vancouver: playing in the NBA Finals.
1. Miami Heat
Eight wins in nine games isn't a bad way to start the playoffs. The Miami Heat may well be 8-0 in this postseason if not for the way they sputtered during the final two minutes of Game 1 against the Chicago Bulls.
Mind you, they've done all of this with Dwyane Wade managing a thrice-bruised bone in his right knee and Chris Bosh hitting the 20-point mark just once in nine tries.
The going figures to get much tougher from here on out for the Heat, though.
They went a combined 2-5 during the regular season against the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. But the playoffs are an entirely different animal, one that Miami thus far appears entirely prepared to tackle.
At this point, it'd take nothing short of LeBron James getting Thunderstruck for the Heat to lose four times in seven games.