It seemed as if the Nets and Celtics were bound to stay in the bottom half of the league with such poor play, but they have returned strong. The Celtics had strong wins over the Hawks and Knicks while the Nets blew out the Thunder on the road. Teams like the Heat have slipped and are at a season-low in their ranking while the Bulls have made a big jump from last weeks number ten ranking.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves
When Kevin Love was injured just before the start of the season, many thought the Timberwolves would remain competitive enough so that when Love returns he could carry them into the playoffs in the tough Western Conference. Even though Love has been sub-par this year, he has done great things for them—now though Love is sidelined again with a broken hand and Minnesota does not seem prepared for the dog days of January and February without their leading scorer and rebounder. Minnesota is currently a game and a half out of the final playoff spot in the West, and it seems that they will only slide farther down the standings and are on track to miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season, longest active streak today.
Last Week: 12
14. Indiana Pacers
Indiana is consistent in being second in something—they are second in points against, but they are also second worst in points for. Even though they lost their most consistent scorer Danny Granger to injury, Paul George and Roy Hibbert were expected to keep this team afloat. While George is posting an average of 16 points a night which is below his lofty prospects but still fine, but Roy Hibbert is averaging under ten points per game and is not making the impact that Indiana expecting when they signed 7’2” 26-year old.
Last Week: 15
13. Brooklyn Nets
Under the regime of P.J Carlesimo the Nets are 5-1 including their best performance of the season in a blowout win over the Thunder in OKC. That matchup featured a complete performance from their big three, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and big man Brook Lopez. It also saw the Nets close out a tight game against a title contender, something they have not done all year long, spending the last seven minutes enjoying a 25-8 run. The Nets then followed this great game with a near tragic loss that was their double overtime win over the Wizards that they were lucky to win, being a part of a magical eight-point comeback in the final 73 seconds. The Nets need to keep up this great play from their big three and Gerald Wallace to get back to where they were in November, a top the East.
Last Week: 17
12. Boston Celtics
Maybe the Celtics are not done after all—clearly this team is in the Knicks head as of the team’s win in MSG. With Boston building momentum, which includes their blowout win over tough Indiana and a great comeback against the Hawks, the Celtics seemed to have regained their swagger. Even though this week was great steps in the right direction for this squad, they still seem positioned to make a deal at the deadline, with trade pieces Avery Bradley and Jeff Green on the roster and healthy, Danny Ainge may not be content enough with the team in tact and make some adjustments to prepare them for another deep run in the postseason.
Last Week: 18
11. Atlanta Hawks
If you want to be an elite team in a very meager Eastern Conference, you can not blow a 15-point halftime lead to a much older than you. Although the third place Hawks dropped the ball against the reeling Celtics on Saturday night, a battle that could solidify the Hawks spot just behind the likes of the Heat and Knicks. The Hawks added to their awful week with a one-point loss to the Pistons and a close call with New Orleans that required a 15-point turnaround to knock them off. Trouble is brewing in Atlanta; follow this coming collapse carefully because it will happen sooner rather than later
Last Week: 7
10. Houston Rockets
Oh the Rockets have scored over 100 points in nine of their past ten? That surprises next to no one at this point. The way this Rocket squad is set up, let James Harden penetrate and go to the line an absurd amount, ten times a game, and when they clog it up, dish it out to Chandler Parsons and other role players, the Rockets are going to continue to put up points at a torrid pace. Many teams should be afraid of Houston because they are young and will run many veteran teams out of the gym that prefer a more traditional, half-court game.
Last Week: 9
9. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have one of the most balanced rotations in all of basketball, so balanced that they can trade one starter in return for other pieces, that player is Rudy Gay. Gay has been in Memphis since the beginning of this new era and has been a building block to their success—Gay now is holding this team back as he takes away from Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph on the offensive end. Gay is a great player, but the Grizzlies struggles since their great start out West, should be signs that they need to make a move before the deadline. Coach Lionel Hollins is a great one, and with less top scorers, the Grizzlies will be more productive and more dangerous. Rudy Gay could be the top named moved on February 21st.
Last Week: 8
8. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets continue their ascent to the top of the Western Conference, as seen when they knocked off the Lakers at the Staples Center, blew out the Jazz, and snapped the Clippers 17-game winning streak on New Years Day. With such a young talented roster ready to compete this year, the Clippers have proven they could beat the top of the West, Clippers, and have the speed to keep up with the Thunder, and they have already knocked off the Spurs this year. The media’s favorite dark horse coming into the year may be living up to its reputation after a slow start to 2012.
Last Week: 11
7. Miami Heat
In a battle of two of the top three in the East, the Heat fell to the Bulls who are still without Derrick Rose, a certainly frightening site to see in South Beach. With Derrick Rose practicing and the Knicks still shooting the lights out, Miami may be shocked at their final outcome this season with the way the top of the East is shaping out. Miami is by no means a lock to get to the Finals for the third straight year if they continue to play down to their opponents, the big three has been doing their part, but it all relies on their role players that have been extremely underwhelming.
Last Week: 6
6. Golden State Warriors
Just three days after the Warriors handed the Clippers there second loss in as many games, they were ran out of the gym by the same opponent 115-89 making them forget about Blake Griffin and his comical three point attempt that sent the Warriors bench into hysteria. Despite this blowout loss to an inner-city rival Golden State is still a young and talented bunch that should be very satisfied with a 22-11 start to the year. The only worry the Warriors should have is if Stephen Curry and David Lee get the credit they deserve this season and get elected to the All Star game in February.
Last Week: 4
5. Chicago Bulls
First the Knicks were put on notice several weeks ago in the Bulls complete performance against them and now the defending champion Heat are. The Bulls marched right into Miami and beat down the Heat in every aspect of the game led behind Carlos Boozer and his 27 points and 12 rebounds on 70-percent shooting. If Boozer can keep up that great play, him along with role player Taj Gibson and all around stud big man Joakim Noah can carry this team and let Derrick Rose ease back into his workhorse role. Still one of the stingiest defenses in all of basketball, allowing just 91 points a game, 3rd best in the league, the Bulls do not need to rely on Rose to score as much as they need him to facilitate his three front court mates.
Last Week: 10
4. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs had a streak of six straight games of 100 points or more snapped in their 17-point loss to the Knicks on the road. After that the Spurs took their frustrations out on the Sixers, but then fell to the woeful Hornets, only scoring 88 points against an average defense. Do not doubt this San Antonio club at this point in the season, they are one of the best regular season teams in the NBA, but their real challenges come to a head in the postseason. They could absolutely win another ring this season, making it four in the Tim Duncan era, but with so much young teams out in the West it will be tough to see the Spurs hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Last Week: 2
3. New York Knicks
The Knicks did fall in Madison Square Garden twice this past week, which is equal to the amount of times they lost up to this point, one to the Damian Lillard-led Blazers and a motivated Celtic squad who has a chip on their shoulder. Past those two losses, New York had a fierce comeback against Orlando that had Carmelo Anthony drop 40 points on them and a blowout win over the Spurs that saw J.R Smith throw down one of the best dunks of the year. The most intriguing part of their week is their loss to Boston—in this one Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett got into it in the final moments and it dragged out into the postgame where Melo went towards the Celtic locker room looking for Garnett. This argument could come back to haunt the Knicks because the Celtics may just be in their head at this point.
Last Week: 5
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder are in the midst of a rough stretch that saw them get trounced by the Nets at home and then drop to the hands of the leagues worst record Wizards with less than a second to go. Despite this poor week for the always-great Thunder they are still the odds-on favorite to make their second straight trip to the NBA Finals no matter who stands in their way—Kevin Durant has maintained his complete play, scoring and rebounding, and is making a strong case for MVP this year. Do not worry about these two losses to an average Eastern Conference team and one of the leagues worst teams because OKC remains just .5 games out of first in the West.
Last Week: 3
1. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers came into the New Year with a 17-game winning streak, but had it quickly changed to a two game losing streak after their losses to Denver and Golden State. Although Los Angeles bounced back quickly with wins over their stadium-sharing Lakers and a fierce beat down of the Warriors, bouncing back from their loss just three days before. The Clippers hold onto the number one spot despite their two losses this week because they have dominated for well over a month and lost to two top-ten teams this week. With Chris Paul still keeping this team at the top of the Western Conference and maintain his MVP play, the Clippers are going nowhere.
Last Week: 1
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