Week 20 NBA Power Rankings: Mavericks on Top, Lakers Falling
Apparently, nobody really wants that eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Every team currently ninth or lower in the West has dropped their most recent game, and no team has gone better than 5-5 in their last 10.
The eighth place Blazers are just 6-4 in that stretch, but appear to have a stranglehold on that playoff spot, currently holding a four-game lead.
Things are just as hectic at the top of the Western Conference, as Lakers aren't clear-cut favorites anymore" target="_blank">the Lakers aren't clear-cut favorites anymore.
1. Dallas Mavericks (44-21, Last Week: 2)
The Mavs have now won 12 in a row, and have emerged as a very legitimate championship contender since the deadline trade.
The No. 1 overall seed in the West is within their sights as well, as they sit just three games behind the slumping Lakers as of Wednesday.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (50-15, Last Week 1)
Cleveland was able to make the most of their weak schedule last week, easily defeating Eastern Conference bottom-feeders New York, New Jersey, and Detroit before dropping a game against the Bucks without LeBron James in the lineup.
The Cavs had won six in a row before the loss to Milwaukee, and still hold a nice five-game lead over the second place Magic.
3. Orlando Magic (45-20, Last Week: 4)
Orlando got a huge win over the Lakers Sunday at home, and they look stronger and stronger each week.
They've been winning big games of late, a good sign as they head towards the postseason with hopes of a return trip to the Finals.
4. Denver Nuggets (42-21, Last Week: 5)
Denver has won three in a row in impressive fashion, and has closed to within four games of the Lakers.
Unfortunately, concern is growing regarding Kenyon Martin's arthritic knee, as the swelling and pain have reportedly worsened in recent days.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (47-18, Last Week: 3)
The defending champs have lost three straight games for the first time since Pau Gasol became a Laker, and are suddenly looking quite mortal.
Don't blame Kobe for the Lakers' recent slide: he's scored 39, 26, 34, and 32 points in each of the four games.
In other news, Ron Artest's transformation into Dennis Rodman is nearing completion.
6. Utah Jazz (41-22, Last Week: 6)
The Jazz got revenge for their loss to the Clippers last Monday with a resounding 22-point victory Saturday night in Salt Lake City.
While they're still just fourth place in the West, lots of people like the Jazz as a dark horse out West.
7. Boston Celtics (40-22, Last Week: 10)
Boston had won four in a row since the debacle against the Nets last week before losing to the red-hot Bucks Wednesday night.
They had to rally from double-digits down just to beat the Wizards Sunday night, and will need to ramp it up in order to contend with Cleveland and Orlando.
8. Phoenix Suns (40-25, Last Week: 8)
The Suns will have plenty of time to think about their upcoming showdown at home against the Lakers.
They will have had five straight days off before the game Friday night.
9. Atlanta Hawks (40-23, Last Week: 7)
With all the weapons on the Hawks roster, the decline in numbers for point guard Mike Bibby have flown under the radar.
Bibby has career averages of 16 points and six assists per game, but is scoring just nine points and dishing out four assists per game this season.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-24, Last Week: 9)
OKC was able to right the ship after their trouncing at the hands of the Nuggets by taking advantage of the dregs of the Pacific Division, the Kings and Clippers.
If the playoffs were to begin today, the Thunder would face the aforementioned Nuggets in the first round.
Quite the amazing turnaround this season.
11. Milwaukee Bucks (34-29, Last Week: 13)
Gumby Jennings led his Bucks to a 92-85 win over the LeBron-less Cavaliers Saturday night, and Milwaukee has risen all the way to fifth out East.
The Bucks then got another huge win, this time over the Celtics Tuesday night.
They'll play their third consecutive tough game Friday when Utah comes to town.
12. San Antonio Spurs (36-25, Last Week: 11)
Those poor Spurs.
Just when it appeared as though they may have been turning a corner, Tony Parker goes down with a broken hand and will miss six weeks.
George Hill, who has been seeing big minutes at off-guard, will now start at point for the Spurs.
13. Miami Heat (32-32, Last Week: 18)
Just when it seemed as though their season might be doomed, the Heat go out and reel off three straight wins, including W's over the Lakers and Hawks.
They're eighth in the East, but just dropped a crucial game to Charlotte Tuesday night.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (38-28, Last Week: 12)
In what's been a horrible year for Blazer big men, Marcus Camby sat out of Sunday's loss to the Nuggets with a tender ankle.
Also, Joel Przybilla, already out with a patella injury, reportedly ruptured that same surgically-repaired patella after he slipped in the shower the other day.
He could be out for all of the 2010-11 season now, and his career could even be in jeopardy.
15. Toronto Raptors (32-29, Last Week: 16)
Chris Bosh returned from injury in Sunday's loss to the Sixers, and posted 12 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes.
The Raptors struggled without him, and are now just 2.5 games from falling to ninth place in the East.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (31-31, Last Week: 17)
The Bobcats vaulted themselves back into the playoff picture, and now sit in seventh place.
They have games against the Sixers and Clippers before a big showdown Sunday in Orlando.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (33-31, Last Week: 20)
The Grizzlies are four games out of the playoffs as of today, and their hopes of making it appear slim.
They'll be tested Wednesday night when they go to Boston to face the Celtics.
18. Houston Rockets (32-31, Last Week: 19)
Houston got two of its key parts back in Tuesday's win over the Wizards in Trevor Ariza and Kyle Lowry.
A playoff berth is a huge longshot at this point, and the Rockets will likely use the rest of this season to evaluate their talent for the future.
19. New Orleans Hornets (32-32, Last Week: 15)
New Orleans is just 4-6 in their last 10 games, and have dropped to 11th in the West.
Darren Collison continues to be the surprise rookie so far this season.
In the last game, a 135-131 win over Golden State, Collison scored 16 points and racked up 20 assists.
20. Chicago Bulls (31-32, Last Week: 14)
The Bulls have dropped five games in a row, and are now on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
They're still just a half game out, but their next five games are tough: at Orlando, at Miami, at Memphis, at Dallas, vs. Cleveland.
21. New York Knicks (22-41, Last Week: 28)
Still waiting for 2010.
After losing to the lowly Nets, the Knicks curiously came out and stole a win over the Atlanta Hawks.
22. Detroit Pistons (22-41, Last Week: 24)
Fortunately, Rodney Stuckey appears to be fine following his scary incident last Friday against Cleveland.
The Pistons are struggling on the court, but showed sime fight and resolve in Sunday's comeback OT win over the Rockets.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (23-40, Last Week: 21)
Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday broke out in Sunday's win over Toronto.
Young posted a career-high 32 points, while Holiday chipped in with 21.
24. Los Angeles Clippers (25-39, Last Week: 23)
Since stunning the Jazz last Monday, the Clippers have dropped four games in a row.
Might the firing of Mike Dunleavy be opening the door for a potential Larry Brown return?
25. Sacramento Kings (21-43, Last Week: 25)
The Kings' season is lost, but they've got a decent core of talent in place.
Add what should be a high lottery pick to a mix already including Tyreke Evans, Carl Landry, Omri Casspie, and Jason Thompson/Spencer Hawes, and you've got yourself a nice young group.
26. Washington Wizards (21-40, Last Week: 22)
The Wizards have lost four games in a row, all to teams in the playoff hunt.
They will now play an ultra-rare three games in three nights, as a result of a rescheduled game from earlier this season.
27. Indiana Pacers (21-43, Last Week: 26)
Indy lost four straight on a tough schedule last week, but rebounded with a win over the Sixers Tuesday night.
Not a lot going on here worth note.
28. Golden State Warriors (17-46, Last Week: 27)
CJ Watson has been great without Monta Ellis in the lineup for the Warriors.
He's averaging 16 points and three steals per game in his last five.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-50, Last Week: 29)
The T'Wolves have won just one game since Feb. 6.
30. New Jersey Nets (7-56, Last Week: 30)
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