Week 23 NBA Power Rankings: Western Conference Races Heating Up

Taylor SmithAnalyst IMarch 29, 2010

The NBA regular season has three weeks remaining and the scramble for the playoff seeding in the Western Conference is still a mess.

The Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns are all within one game of each other, while the Spurs, Thunder, and Trail Blazers are all tied.

Out East, the under-.500 Raptors and Bulls are fighting for the final playoff spot, with Toronto holding a slim half-game lead.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (58-16, Last Week: 1)

The Cavs completed their 10-0 sweep of the Pacific Division Sunday with a 97-90 win over the Kings.

Remember when they started the season 0-2?

2. Los Angeles Lakers (54-19, Last Week: 2)

The defending champs rebounded from their lopsided loss at Oklahoma City with a 109-101 win in Houston Saturday night.

Pau Gasol scored a season-high 30 points in that game, and Kobe Bryant was one assist shy of a triple-double.

L.A. currently holds a solid six-game lead over second place Dallas.

3. Orlando Magic (52-22, Last Week: 3)

Nobody is really talking about Orlando at this point, but they've gone 8-2 in their last 10 games.

They'll follow their tough home win over the Nuggets on Sunday with three consecutive off-days before traveling to Dallas Thursday.

4. Phoenix Suns (47-26, Last Week: 5)

Speaking of under-the-radar, the Suns are just one game removed from the coveted no. 2 seed out West.

They'll have a good opportunity to continue to rise in the standings as well, as their next three come against sub-.500 teams in Chicago, New Jersey, and Detroit.

5. Dallas Mavericks (48-25, Last Week: 7)

Dallas holds a narrow half-game lead over Denver and Utah going into Monday night's showdown with the Nuggets.

French rookie Rodrigue Beaubois erupted for 40 points in just 30 minutes of action Saturday against Golden State, while also going a ridiculous 9-11 from three-point range.Β 

6. Utah Jazz (48-26, Last Week: 6)

A trio of double-doubles (Boozer, Williams, Okur) led Utah to its 19th road win of the season Saturday night in Washington.

Okur doesn't have a reputation for being much of a rebounder, but he's averaging 11.5 over his last four games.

7. San Antonio Spurs (44-28, Last Week: 11)

The Spurs are playing the best they have all season at the right time, and showed it by waltzing into Boston on Sunday and crushing the Celtics 94-73.Β 

They now sit just 3.5 games behind the Mavs, and, despite a sub-par season to this point, the no. 2 seed is very much within their reach.

8. Atlanta Hawks (47-26, Last Week: 10)

Atlanta's reward for beating Indiana on Sunday?

Back-to-back games against the Lakers and Cavaliers on both Wednesday and Friday.

9. Boston Celtics (47-26, Last Week: 9)

Could the Celtics' awful performance in the home loss to San Antonio actually be worse than their home loss to the Nets last month?

Somehow, it was worse. Way worse.

10. Denver Nuggets (48-26, Last Week: 8)

Denver couldn't really be limping any more as they head into Dallas for the biggest game of the season so far.

They've lost four of their last five games and the only win occurred when they managed to score one point over the struggling Raptors.

11. Milwaukee Bucks (40-32, Last Week: 4)

The Bucks scuffled a bit last week after lighting the world on fire the previous week, but got a huge OT win over the Grizzlies Sunday.

After missing Friday night's game with a sore back, Andrew Bogut returned to score 18 points, grab 11 rebounds, and block four shots.Β 

12. Portland Trail Blazers (45-29, Last Week: 13)

Portland has won three in a row, all in impressive fashion.

They followed wins over Dallas and New Orleans with a huge win in Oklahoma City Sunday night to pull into a tie for sixth place with San Antonio and OKC.

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (44-28, Last Week: 12)

The young Thunder are one of those tightly-packed Western Conference teams with the no. 2 seed still in its sights.

They also have a very tough upcoming schedule, with games against Boston, Dallas, Utah, Denver, and Phoenix.

14. Miami Heat (40-34, Last Week: 14)

D-Wade and company have won five in a row, and now sit just one game back of the no. 5 seed in the East.

Wade did it all in Sunday night's win over Toronto, with 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists, five steals, and three blocks in 43 minutes of action.

15. Charlotte Bobcats (38-34, Last Week: 15)

The trade for Stephen Jackson earlier in the season may have been the most underrated move of the season, as he's helped breathe life into the Bobcats' formerly-anemic offense.

Nobody is going to want to face Captain Jack and his team in the playoffs.

16. Memphis Grizzlies (38-35, Last Week: 17)

If Memphis played in the East, they'd be battling for at least the no. 7 seed in the playoffs.

Due to their unfortunate placement out West, they're stuck 6.5 games out of the final spot.

17. Houston Rockets (36-36, Last Week: 16)

The injury-ravaged Rockets have lost four in a row, and their playoff hopes have flown right out the window in the process.

Rockets' players missing from the losses last Wednesday and Thursday:

Kevin Martin, Yao Ming, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries, Shane Battier, and David Andersen.

18. Toronto Raptors (35-37, Last Week: 18)

The Raptors have a fairly easy schedule down the stretch, and they now lead the Bulls by a half-game.

It could all come down to one game, Sunday, April 11, when those Bulls come to town.

19. Chicago Bulls (35-38, Last Week: 19)

Chicago has won two in a row, and also doesn't have a particularly difficult schedule the rest of the way.

However, they'll face a tough test against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday.

20. Indiana Pacers (27-47, Last Week: 22)

The Pacers have been playing well lately, thanks in large part to the resurgence of Danny Granger.

They've won four of five, and Granger is averaging 31.4 points per game during that stretch.

21. New York Knicks (26-46, Last Week: 20)

The Knicks followed their shocking win over the Nuggets with an awful effort against the Suns, losing 132-96.

To say that Tracy McGrady's scoring output since donning a Knicks uniform has been inconsistent would be a massive understatement.

He followed a 12-point game with a scoreless game, and consecutive 15-point games with a 5-point effort.

22. New Orleans Hornets (34-40, Last Week: 21)

Chris Paul returned last week, and he's been slow to round into form so far.

He's averaging 7.7 points and 6.7 assists in about 28 minutes per game in the three games since his return.

23. Philadelphia 76ers (26-47, Last Week: 24)

The Sixers have impressively won two games in a row over Eastern Conference playoff teams in Milwaukee and Atlanta.

Andre Iguodala has quietly become one of the better all-around players in the league, averaging 17 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game this season.

24. Los Angeles Clippers (27-46, Last Week: 26)

The Clips snapped their 11-game road losing streak last Wednesday with a win in Houston.

Chris Kaman, a forgotten part of that legendary 2003 draft class, has turned into a very reliable big man, and is going for 19 points and nine rebounds this season.

25. Sacramento Kings (24-50, Last Week: 23)

The Kings have struggled since Tyreke Evans went down, and have lost four straight games.

Carl Landry has continued his steady ways since coming to the Kings, averaging 18.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in March.

26. Golden State Warriors (21-52, Last Week: 27)

In a completely under-the-radar record chase, Don Nelson is just three wins away from becoming the NBA's all-time wins leader as a head coach.

With his future uncertain, can his 21-win Warriors manage to win three of their final nine games?

27. Detroit Pistons (23-50, Last Week: 25)

The Pistons have lost eight straight games, and have completely fallen off the map.

With games against Miami, Phoenix, and Atlanta coming up, that streak may not be ending soon.

28. Washington Wizards (21-51, Last Week: 28)

The Wiz haven't won a game since February 28.

Yes, February.

29. New Jersey Nets (9-64, Last Week: 30)

It's finally happened.

The Nets actually won two games last week, good enough to finally climb out of the cellar.

30. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-60, Last Week: 29)

The Wolves have lost 16 games in a row, and haven't won since February 23.

Yes, February.


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