Here they are, the last Power Rankings of the season.
And I didn’t pull a Heisler and give five teams a No. 1 ranking — although I think we all understood his point when he did that last Wednesday.
As painful as it is to write this, watch out for the Hawks and Pacers in the East. Yes, they aren’t all that fun to watch. But you may be watching both of them in the second round.
The first round is shaping up as kind of boring, no? A Heat-Knicks series would be a treat, and Grizzlies-Clippers has the potential to be a seven-game thriller.
But let’s face it, the rest of the first round has the potential to make baseball fans out of the most die-hard NBA fans. (Just kidding. We are two different species.)
|LAST WEEK: 4-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at PHX|
Let’s run down the accolades: 2nd in the NBA in scoring; 2nd in the NBA in point differential; the only team with two, count ’em two, 11-game winning streaks. The deepest roster Tim Duncan says he has ever had. How will the ghosts of 2011 impact their final week? Remember, Manu Ginobili messed up his elbow in a meaningless Game #82 last season. But this year, home court throughout playoffs may be at stake.
|LAST WEEK: 3-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: WED at IND|
If they win out, they cannot be surpassed by the Spurs for No. 1 overall record — the Bulls have the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the only game between the teams this season. Their lineup was whole Saturday night for only the 14th time this season, but afterward Derrick Rose said his ankle was “throbbing.” Have NBA’s No. 1 defense allowing 88.4 ppg — 1.5 points ahead of 2nd-place Boston.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: SUN at LAL|
Sunday is a good measuring stick game — or maybe a good tank game. They are probably going to face either the Lakers or the Clippers in the second round, and they are 2-0 vs. the Lakers but only 1-3 vs. the Clippers. Mail one in this afternoon, and Lakers are in driver’s seat in Pacific and the accompanying No. 3 seed. How ’bout this stat: They are 30th (!) in the NBA in assists.
|LAST WEEK: 4-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: TUE at BOS|
The injuries never cease for Dwyane Wade. Now it is a dislocated index finger, and luckily for the Heat it is on his left hand instead of his right. They’ve done just fine without him this season, but you know they’ll need him in May and June. The chatter I hear is that LeBron James is the clubhouse leader for MVP. But is that fair to Chris Paul? Just asking.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI at SA|
A victory Sunday over OKC (which could be motivated to lose, see above) would move them closer to locking up the Pacific Division over the Clippers, reducing their magic number to 1. Kobe Bryant and his sore shins are back from a seven-game break, no team in the West can match the firepower of their twin towers, and Ramon Sessions is giving them 12.8 points, 6.4 assists and making 50 percent of his 3s.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED at NY|
Some week they have coming up: They are still in contention for the division title, but they have to go on the road for two games against Eastern Conference playoff teams and run the risk of dropping all the way to the 5 seed (if Memphis passes them). They are 13-3 in last 16. Blake Griffin is losing patience with hard fouls. Can he keep his cool when that keeps happening in playoffs?
|LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: WED vs CHI|
The last two games are meaningless, right? Well, actually no. Because you never know what’ll happen in the playoffs, and if these guys somehow manage to come out of the East, home court vs. Lakers, Clippers or Grizzlies would be assured if they finish 2-0. Frank Vogel has climbed to No. 2 (behind Thibodeau) on my tentative COY ballot (yes, I am an official voter).
|LAST WEEK: 4-1 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: THU vs ORL|
That loss last Sunday to New Orleans is going to come back and haunt them, as they lose tiebreakers to both Lakers and Clippers and will likely open on the road. They are 14-4 in their last 18, and you have to wonder whether Lionel Hollins is going to trust Gilbert Arenas to be on the court late in 4th quarters. They’ll need a Hibachi from long range, though Mayo and Gay have been pretty hot lately.
|LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: TUE vs LAC|
If they win two of their last three, they will have homecourt advantage in the first round over the Celtics, who they went 1-2 against — all three games were very close. In none of those games did they have Al Horford, who is now expected to be available in the first round. Let’s see Greg Stiesma, Sean Williams and Ryan Hollins try to stop him. The epitome of a playoff sleeper team.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: TUE vs MIA|
If they defeat the Heat on Tuesday night, they will be the only East team to win the season series against Miami. Incredible story from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo this week that they were prepared to move Ray Allen to Memphis and Paul Pierce to New Jersey before the deals fell through on deadline day. Stat to keep in mind for the playoffs: They are 30th (last) in the NBA in rebounding.
|LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED at OKC|
Shame on me for underestimating them week after week, as my Denver tweeps always tell me. The Lawson-Afflalo backcourt has been tremendous over the past month, Manimal Faried has moved up to 2nd on my tentative ROY ballot. Wednesday vs. Thunder could be first-round preview, but Nuggets are 0-2 thus far against them (and 1-3 against Lakers).
|LAST WEEK: 2-3 THIS WEEK: 1 games KEY GAME: THU at ATL|
No team will go into the playoffs more rested than these guys, who play only one game this week. If they win it, they get the sixth seed and a likely rematch with the Lakers, who they swept last season but were swept by this season. I am not a big believer in their chances of getting out of first round. Haven’t beaten quality opponent since April 4 against Memphis.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED vs LAC|
If they want, they can tank their way into a first-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls, if they find that preferable to playing the Heat. Methinks they’d rather have a shot at Miami, both for weather and competitive reasons. If they play the Heat, the pressure is all on Miami — and the stands are 25 percent blue and orange. Their make-or-break playoff player, IMHO, is J.R. Smith.
|LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: TUE vs PHX|
Win out, and they’re in. And wouldn’t that be a testament to an incredible franchise turnaround since 14 months ago when Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams were still around. (Plus they have Golden State’s No. 1 pick if it is no better than No. 8). Would they have a chance vs. top two? Maybe more against Spurs cuz of size advantage.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: TUE at UTA|
It was all coming together for them, and then it all came tumbling down in Saturday night’s second half of their home loss to the Nuggets. They aren’t out of it, but they need a 2-0 finish and for the Jazz to lose their final two, including a last-night matchup with an unmotivated Portland team. Summer prediction: If Suns overpay ($24M for 3 years), Nash will stay.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED vs CHA|
Only one win away from clinching sixth spot, and then it’ll be bombs away in the postseason as they try to beat the Pacers with 3-point shots. The big man positions are a mess, with Stan Van Gundy calling out rookie Daniel Orton as clueless for his play in OT loss at Utah. On plus side, Ryan Anderson has my Most Improved vote.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: TUE vs MIL|
Do they get booed onto the court when they play Game 3 of their first round series? Regardless of what happens vs. Bucks, they are going to get there, right? Only have to beat Jersey or the Pistons, and they can do that, right? Or did they leave it all in Indianapolis on Saturday night?
|LAST WEEK: 1-4 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: SUN at MIA|
Their season is on the line tonight against a Heat team that has shut down the intensity and may just shut down LeBron James for another game — although that would violate NBA protocol since it is a game with playoff implications. Were fun to watch 2 weeks ago; a train wreck ever since.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED vs MIL|
They can end the drama by mailing it in Monday night against the Raptors, but we should not expect that to happen. More likely is some resemblance of grit against the 76ers two nights later, then a summer of worrying about whether Ersan Ilyasova will leave, where they can find a center, and whether they’ll be seeking a new coach.
|LAST WEEK: 0-4 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Glad to see Paul Allen is a regular reader of John Canzano, one of America’s best sports columnists. Wish Paul would listen rather than mock. Memo to Jamal Crawford: Opt out, and get out.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Does Rubio take 2nd in ROY race after missing half the season? He won’t have that spot on my ballot. Manimal will.
|LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Winners of five of six, that did not go unnoticed. A season-high ranking. Still a long, long way from contention.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Sorry to bring it up, but trading for Allen Iverson was almost a worse offense than drafting Darko. Again, does Dumars survive?
|LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
From Piscataway to Exit 16W to the Purgatory Center, the New Jersey era finally ends Monday night. But wait, they’ll continue to practice in East Rutherford? Does Dwight know that?
|LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
C’mon guys, make it six Ws in a row, would ya? Give the folks something to remember you for by beating Miami twice in six days. OK?
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Will be last team to face an opponent with “New Jersey” written on its jerseys. Something for Smitty’s Top 100. Or 200.
|LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Congratulations to Kyrie Irving, Rookie of the Year. Now, let’s let the D.J. Kennedy era begin!
|LAST WEEK: 0-4 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
What poor soul has to sit in their seat on draft lottery night (they lose pick if it isn’t top 7).
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Bet this wasn’t what they envisioned when they claimed Travis Outlaw off waivers.
|LAST WEEK: 0-4 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: NONE|
An utter disgrace to the game of basketball.