NBA Power Rankings (March 24): Cavs, Lakers Riding Hot Streaks
We're into the final month of the NBA regular season, and there are still important races going on throughout both conferences.
While the Cavaliers and Lakers each have their No. 1 seeds all but locked up, the rest of the teams are all battling it out for position.
In the West, just five games separate the second-seeded Nuggets from the eighth-seeded Trail Blazers.
Here's how they stack up 1-30.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (56-15, Last Week: 1)
It's looking more and more like LeBron's Cavs are going to end the regular season with the league's best record for the second straight year.
With Big Z now back on board and Shaq apparently healing for the playoffs, they certainly look poised for a return trip to the Finals, where they last appeared in 2007.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (52-18, Last Week: 4)
The Lakers have won six straight, but they haven't exactly been slaying dragons along the way.
Their streak consists of wins over Toronto, Phoenix, Golden State, Sacramento, Minnesota, and Washington.
3. Orlando Magic (50-21, Last Week: 2)
Despite struggling through the beginning of March, Rashard Lewis has found his shooting stroke during Orlando's mini three-game win streak.
He's scored at least 20 points in each of the games, while going 23-39 from the field, and 11-21 from three-point range.
4. Milwaukee Bucks (39-30, Last Week: 6)
The Bucks have won nine of their last 10, and appear to be locked into the fifth slot in the East.
If the playoffs started today, they'd be facing the Celtics in the first round.
You know the Celtics want no part of that.
5. Phoenix Suns (45-26, Last Week: 11)
Phoenix is surging, and are just two games behind the Nuggets and Mavericks for the No. 2 seed in the West.
Amar'e Stoudemire has been going off during the Suns' five-game winning streak, averaging 32 points and nine rebounds on ridiculous 52-78 shooting.
6. Utah Jazz (46-25, Last Week: 10)
Utah is currently fourth in the West, also right in the mix for the No. 2 seed.
After a nice win over the Celtics at home Monday night, the Jazz have an easy slew of games coming up, as they play Toronto, Indiana, Washington, New York, and Golden State.
7. Dallas Mavericks (47-24, Last Week: 3)
The Mavs have struggled a bit recently, going 2-3 since their 13-game winning streak.
Next Monday's matchup at home against Denver could prove to be the most important game of the season.
8. Denver Nuggets (47-24, Last Week: 5)
The Nuggets dropped a game they had to have Tuesday in a 109-104 loss to the Knicks.
That was the first game of a tough five-game road trip, with stops remaining in Boston, Orlando, and Dallas.
9. Boston Celtics (45-25, Last Week: 14)
Boston has played better basketball recently, picking up tough back-to-back wins in Houston and Dallas before losing to Utah Monday night.
The C's actually took a five-point lead into the locker room against the Jazz, but looked tired down the stretch as they were outscored by 18 points in the second half.
10. Atlanta Hawks (45-25, Last Week: 8)
Just one night after burning the Spurs for 26 points in an OT win, Marvin Williams wasn't a factor in the loss to the Bucks, scoring just two points on 1-2 shooting in 30 minutes of action.
Remember when he was taken ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul?
11. San Antonio Spurs (42-27, Last Week: 12)
George Hill had a weird game Monday against the Thunder, scoring 27 points with zero assists.
Picking up the assist slack were Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, who combined for 10 in the win.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (42-27, Last Week: 7)
OKC has dropped to seventh in the West, just one game ahead of the Blazers.
As both teams would surely love to avoid a matchup with the Lakers in the first round, Sunday's matchup between the two teams could prove to be a huge game.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (42-29, Last Week: 13)
Despite all the front office distractions and injuries to key players, the Blazers continue to play great basketball.
They also hold a comfortable four-game lead over Memphis for the final playoff spot out West.
14. Miami Heat (37-34, Last Week: 15)
Dwyane Wade is Miami's leading scorer, averaging 26.5 points per game.
Their second-leading scorer, Michael Beasley, is averaging just over 15 points per game.
That kind of balance likely won't do you much good in a long playoff series.
15. Charlotte Bobcats (36-34, Last Week: 9)
After playing so well for two weeks, the Bobcats came back down to earth last week, losing three of four.
They earned a much-needed win Tuesday night over the Wizards, and vaulted themselves a half-game back ahead of Toronto into seventh place in the East.
16. Houston Rockets (36-33, Last Week: 16)
The Rockets' playoff hopes took a critical hit Monday, losing 98-88 to the struggling Bulls.
Aaron Brooks has struggled a bit since his consecutive 31-point games last week, having scored just 35 points total in the three games since.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (38-33, Last Week: 17)
The Grizzlies also retain slim playoff hopes, but their schedule down the stretch may not be too helpful.
They have games remaining against Milwaukee, Dallas (twice), Orlando, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, and Oklahoma City.
18. Toronto Raptors (35-34, Last Week: 18)
After getting crushed by the Thunder, the Raptors were able to help themselves out a bit by beating the league's two worst teams, New Jersey and Minnesota.
Chris Bosh continues to play great basketball, and is averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds on the season.
Will he stay?
19. Chicago Bulls (33-37, Last Week: 19)
Chicago needs some help at this point, sitting 2.5 games behind the Raptors for the final playoff spot in the East with 12 to play.
Derrick Rose has come back strong from a wrist injury, averaging 25 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds in the two games since his return.
20. New York Knicks (26-45, Last Week: 21)
David Lee may be the most underrated and underappreciated player in the league.
The 26-year-old is averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per game this season, and could be a solid find for some team this summer in free agency.
21. New Orleans Hornets (34-38, Last Week: 20)
Chris Paul made his return in Monday night's win over Dallas, but it's too little, too late.
In his absence, the Hornets went just 8-17 and fell out of the playoff race.
22. Indiana Pacers (25-46, Last Week: 26)
The Pacers have suddenly gotten semi-hot, and have won three games in a row.
They beat Detroit Tuesday night to clinch their first-ever season sweep of the Pistons.
23. Sacramento Kings (24-47, Last Week: 23)
Tyreke Evans is expected to miss a week with a jaw injury, but it isn't going to hinder his Rookie of the Year resume at all.
However, his presence would certainly help the Kings in their quest to not become the eighth victim of the lowly Nets Wednesday night.
24. Philadelphia 76ers (24-47, Last Week: 24)
Philly's only win in its last nine games came against New Jersey last Wednesday.
With Milwaukee, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Charlotte on the upcoming schedule, they may not win another one for quite some time, either.
25. Detroit Pistons (23-48, Last Week: 22)
In each of the Pistons' last five games (all losses), they've had a different leading scorer (Bynum, Hamilton, Maxiell, Stuckey, Prince).
26. Los Angeles Clippers (26-45, Last Week: 27)
The Clippers have lost nine of ten, somehow winning their only game against the red-hot Bucks.
They showed signs of life during Tuesday's loss to the Mavericks, and got a huge 26-point-20-rebound game from Drew Gooden.
27. Golden State Warriors (19-51, Last Week: 25)
Golden State's defense has gone from bad to worse in recent games.
Allowing a league-worst 112 points per game to opponents this season, the Warriors have allowed 124, 121, 147, 123, and 133 points in each of their last five games.
28. Washington Wizards (21-48, Last Week: 28)
The Wizards have lost 12 games in a row.
29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-57, Last Week: 29)
The Timberwolves have lost 13 games in a row.
30. New Jersey Nets (7-63, Last Week: 30)
The Nets have lost 63 games on the season, and could lose as many as 75 total.
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