NBA Power Rankings, Week 19: Mavericks Hurtling Toward the Top
Out West, the Mavericks, Nuggets, Lakers, and Jazz appear to be separating themselves from the pack as we near the playoffs.
In the East, the Cavs appear to have gotten things back in order, and the Celtics are struggling once again.
Here's the full NBA rundown as we head into the second-to-last month of the regular season.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (46-14, Last Week: 2)
After losing three in a row to start the Antawn Jamison era, the Cavs have righted the ship and have now won three straight.
Since his abysmal 0-12 start with Cleveland, Jamison has started to look more comfortable. He has scored at least 18 points in three of his last four games.
It'll be interesting to see how they play without Shaq in the middle.
2. Dallas Mavericks (39-21, Last Week: 7)
The Mavericks have won seven straight games, including tough wins over the Lakers and Hawks.
Jason Kidd has been going off lately, and posted a ridiculous 19 point-17 assist-16 rebound line in the win over Atlanta last Friday night.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (45-15, Last Week: 1)
The Lakers notched a huge win over the Nuggets in LA Sunday afternoon, using 12 assists from Kobe Bryant and 20 points from Lamar Odom to get the job done.
They should enjoy a relatively easy week (vs. Indiana, at Miami, at Charlotte) before heading into Orlando Sunday afternoon for a Finals rematch.
4. Orlando Magic (40-20, Last Week: 4)
Jameer Nelson had his best individual month of the season in February, averaging about 14 points and seven assists per game.
The Magic appear to be the clear-cut second-best team in the East and are deep enough to make a second-consecutive run to the Finals.
5. Denver Nuggets (39-20, Last Week: 5)
The Nuggets lost a tough one in Los Angeles Sunday, and it won't get any easier as they have to turn around and face the Suns in Phoenix Monday night.
Expect points to be scored in this one, as it is a matchup of the league's two highest-scoring teams.
6. Utah Jazz (38-21, Last Week: 3)
In Saturday night's resounding 133-110 win over the Rockets, the Jazz shot a ridiculous 68 percent from the floor, including 14-25 (56 percent) from beyond the arc.
Deron Williams enjoyed one of his best games of the season, racking up 35 points (20 in first quarter alone), 13 assists, and seven rebounds.
7. Atlanta Hawks (37-21, Last Week: 11)
Atlanta is currently a half-game ahead of the Celtics for third place in the Eastern Conference, but don't be surprised if that number starts to grow.
The Hawks' upcoming schedule: at Chicago, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Golden State, at Miami, at New York, at Washington, vs. Detroit.
8. Phoenix Suns (37-24, Last Week: 9)
The Suns were a missed Jason Richardson fastbreak dunk away from possibly taking the Spurs to overtime Sunday afternoon.
Of all the players on the Phoenix roster, is there a player you'd expect to miss a dunk like that less than Richardson?
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-23, Last Week: 6)
OKC rebounded from tough back-to-back losses against Phoenix and San Antonio with wins over the terrible T-Wolves and shorthanded Raptors.
They'll travel to Denver to face the Nuggets this Wednesday in what is sure to be one of the more exciting games of the week.
10. Boston Celtics (36-21, Last Week: 8)
The Celtics lost to the Nets on Saturday.
Need I say more about their dwindling championship aspirations?
11. San Antonio Spurs (33-24, Last Week: 13)
As touched on here , the Spurs are in the same boat as the Celtics in terms of contending for a title this season.
They haven't been consistent all season long, and their window to win another championship with Tim Duncan as their centerpiece appears to be closing quickly.
12. Portland Trail Blazers (35-27, Last Week: 12)
Second-year forward Nicolas Batum erupted last Saturday at Minnesota, pouring in 31 points (11-16 FG, 5-8 3P), seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.
With Travis Outlaw now a Clipper, expect Batum's minutes to continue to rise, and his production should follow.
13. Milwaukee Bucks (30-29, Last Week: 18)
Prior to Sunday's narrow loss at Atlanta, the Bucks had won six in a row and were one of the league's hottest teams.
John Salmons has been a huge acquisition for them and he's led them in scoring in all but two games since his arrival from Chicago.
14. Chicago Bulls (31-28, Last Week: 15)
The Bulls' lack of consistency remains a concern, especially headed into a tough stretch that pits them against Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas, Utah, Orlando, and Miami.
Surprisingly, Chicago has played fairly well since trading a few key parts at the trade deadline.
15. New Orleans Hornets (31-29, Last Week: 14)
The Hornets are currently ninth in the West but are playing some solid basketball.
Darren Collison racked up 35 points in Sunday's loss to the Mavs and continues to make a strong, late push for Rookie of the Year honors.
16. Toronto Raptors (31-27, Last Week: 10)
The Raptors have lost three in a row and have missed Chris Bosh.
They're likely stuck in the bottom half of the Eastern playoff picture, which means a likely first round matchup with either Cleveland, Orlando, Atlanta, or Boston.
17. Charlotte Bobcats (28-29, Last Week: 20)
The Bobcats are back up to eighth place out East, just a half-game ahead of the plummeting Heat.
Their reward for a solid win over the Grizzlies Friday night?
Three straight games against the Mavericks, Celtics, and Lakers.
18. Miami Heat (29-31, Last Week: 16)
Without Dwyane Wade, the Heat were faltering, and have fallen out of the playoff picture for the time being.
A week's worth of games against the Warriors, Lakers, and Hawks doesn't help anything, either.
19. Houston Rockets (29-29, Last Week: 17)
Kevin Martin has scored over 30 points in each of his last two games, but the Rockets are just 1-4 since he arrived from Sacramento on deadline day.
The Rockets missed two of their best perimeter defenders last week (Kyle Lowry and Trevor Ariza), and should be much better off once they return from their respective injuries.
20. Memphis Grizzlies (30-29, Last Week: 19)
In Saturday night's win over the Knicks, the Grizzlies' frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined for 56 points and 38 rebounds.
Although he's been putting up hefty stat lines for years, Randolph (and Gasol, for that matter) could actually be a legitimate candidate for the Most Improved Player award.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (22-36, Last Week: 22)
The Sixers continue to chug along well-below .500, but young guard Lou Williams has been playing very well lately.
In the last five games, Williams is averaging 18 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game.
With Allen Iverson gone, Williams is seeing much more time at shooting guard.
22. Washington Wizards (21-36, Last Week: 21)
Andray Blatche continues to flourish since the trade of Antawn Jamison.
The fourth-year forward is averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds, and almost two blocks per game in the last five.
Apparently, all he needed was an opportunity.
23. Los Angeles Clippers (24-35, Last Week: 24)
Drew Gooden is another player that has flourished since the deadline, and he's scored at least 15 points and grabbed at least eight rebounds in each of his last three games.
Though he's been a solid contributor for years, the Clippers are Gooden's ninth team in just eight NBA seasons.
24. Detroit Pistons (21-38, Last Week: 23)
Needless to say, expect the Pistons to draft a big man in this year's draft.
They're built entirely around perimeter players and have suffered through an awful season as a result.
25. Sacramento Kings (20-39, Last Week: 27)
The Kings have been playing a little better lately and were able to steal an impressive win at home against the Jazz last Friday.
Tyreke Evans (20.4 points, 5.4 assists) continues to be one of the more impressive rookies in recent years.
26. Indiana Pacers (20-39, Last Week: 26)
The Pacers reportedly released guard Travis Deiner Monday.
Big news, I know.
27. Golden State Warriors (17-41, Last Week: 29)
Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins will not be with the Warriors as they take their tour through the Southeast Division this week.
Their next four games take them to Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, and Charlotte.
28. New York Knicks (20-38, Last Week: 25)
Still waiting for 2010.
The Knicks are scuffling and are just 1-9 in their last 10 games.
It doesn't help that T-Mac sat out for the entire second half Saturday night with knee stiffness.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-47, Last Week: 28)
Easy schedule ahead for the Timberwolves.
Dallas, Houston, Dallas, Denver, San Antonio.
30. New Jersey Nets (6-53, Last Week: 30)
They beat the Celtics in Boston.
I don't even know what to say. They should probably have a parade.
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