With the subpar return of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, the Thunder have lost two straight games and need to right the ship fast to stay at the top of these power rankings. The Miami Heat starting to pick up steam with LeBron James jockeying for MVP position and the Los Angeles Clippers are starting to pull their health and roster together after a big win on Sunday.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-14 and first in the Western Conference). OKC has lost two-straight after inserting Russell Westbrook back into the lineup. After losses to the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, it’s fair to say they’ve taken a temporoary on-court chemistry hit.
2. Miami Heat (40-14 and second in the Eastern Conference). The Heat are 8-2 in their last 10 games and have won five straight. Greg Oden was in their starting lineup Sunday, his first NBA start since December 2009.
3. Indiana Pacers (42-13 and first in the Eastern Conference). Indiana will have five straight games against teams with losing records. Enough to give them a commanding lead in the Eastern Conference standings, but not enough to regain the respect lost after their bad loss to the Heat.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (38-20 and fourth in the Western Conference). The Clippers have acquired big man “Big Baby” Glen Davis, and just in time as their next three games are against teams that feature an All-Star big man.
5. Houston Rockets (38-18 and third in the Western Conference). No other team has had a better stretch in their last 10 games than the Rockets going 9-1. They’re also leading the league in both three-point attempts and free throw attempts per game.
6. San Antonio Spurs (40-16 and second in the Western Conference). The Spurs have compiled the most road wins in the league (22), an impressive feat since the injury bug has been the 16th man on the roster.
7. Portland Trail Blazers (38-18 and fifth in the Western Conference). The Blazers have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games having played their last two without LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard.
8. Memphis Grizzlies (31-24 and 10th in the Western Conference). The Grizzlies got Tony Allen back in uniform after missing 21 games and are finally in complete health.
9. Golden State Warriors (34-22 and sixth in the Western Conference). With a tough road trip ahead of them, the Warriors have reason for optimism—finishing at .500 or better on seven of their past 10 trips. They’re likely get center Andrew Bogut back on the court sometime during this trip as well.
10. Phoenix Suns (30-21 and seventh in the Western Conference). Goran Dragic has seven games of at least 30 points this season, and the Suns are close to getting Eric Bledsoe back to practice. The Suns went 16-8 with Bledsoe, who missed his 30th game this past weekend.
11. Chicago Bulls (29-26 and fourth in the Eastern Conference). The Miami Heat outscored the Bulls 25-12 in the third quarter last night. It’s fair to say an added offensive weapon will do them good. They’re looking at Danny Granger.
12. Toronto Raptors (31-25 and third in the Eastern Conference). Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas is emerging for Toronto, scoring 10.6 points a game and grabbing 8.6 boards and shooting 50 percent from the field while also hitting 74 percent of his free throws. Will that be enough for the Raptors to cause an upset in the playoffs?
13. Washington Wizards (28-28 and fifth in the Eastern Conference). Adding Andre Miller to the Wizards was a perfect move. It gives John Wall the on-court mentor he needs, and a veteran presence for the club that’s currently on a three-game win streak.
14. Brooklyn Nets (26-28 and sixth in the Eastern Conference). Jason Collins has become the first active openly gay player in the NBA after signing a 10-day contract with the Nets. Meanwhile in Brooklyn, Kevin Garnett is shooting 56 percent for from the field in February.
15. Dallas Mavericks (34-23 and eighth in the Western Conference). Dallas made only four of 19 shots in the fourth quarter in a game against the Heat, and Dirk Nowitzki is shooting his lowest field goal percentage in the fourth quarter this season (44.1). Not a recipe for success.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (27-30 and seventh in the Eastern Conference). The Bobcats have won four straight games, sporting the second-best winning percentage in team history at .474. The squad also ranks sixth in defensive efficiency, making coach Steve Clifford a Coach of the Year candidate.
17. Atlanta Hawks (26-29 and eighth in the Eastern Conference). The Hawks recently lost All-Star forward Paul Millsap to injury with no timetable for return. It’s a make-or-break week for the Hawks, with the Detroit Pistons barely two games behind in the standings.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (27-29 and ninth in the Western Conference). Only four other big men in NBA history have had numbers better than Kevin Love’s 26.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Billy Cunningham. Is Minnesota holding Love back from extraordinary greatness?
19. Denver Nuggets (24-27 and 11th in the Western Conference). The Nuggets are nose-diving fast primarily due to injuries and have lost six of their last seven games, mostly by lopsided margins. In the month of February alone, the Nuggets have lost four games by 27 or more points.
20. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-35 and 10th in the Eastern Conference). The Cavs are losers of two in a row, and although they’re playing at an even .500 on the road, they’ve only compiled four division wins out of 12. That won’t cut it.
21. Detroit Pistons (23-33and ninth in the Eastern Conference). With a nine-game home stretch, the Pistons needed to compile eight wins with one loss to jump in to the Eastern Conference playoff cellar seeds. Instead they’ve gone 4-4 with one game left.
22. New York Knicks (21-35 and 11th in the Eastern Conference). The Knicks have gone 2-8 in their last 10 games. You know things are bleak when a usually optimistic Carmelo Anthony says “It’s starting to get tough to handle.”
23. Philadelphia 76ers (15-41 and 14th in the Eastern Conference). The 76ers have lost 10 straight, and don’t seem like they’ll get Danny Granger into uniform any time soon if ever. They’ll have to look for their next stud in the lottery.
24. Boston Celtics (19-38 and 12h in the Eastern Conference). Coach Brad Stevens has his work cut out for him, and while the Celtics have lost four straight, Danny Ainge will have to start planning rebuttals to Rajon Rondo’s summer request for trade.
25. Orlando Magic (17-41 and 13th in the Eastern Conference). Orlando only has three road wins on the year and three division wins. After the Glen Davis buyout, it seems the Magic have fully embraced the rebuilding process, planning to give more playing time to the younger guys.
26. New Orleans Pelicans (23-32 and 12th in the Western Conference). The Pelicans have lost three straight games. Against the Wizards, Greg Stiemsma collected zero points and one rebound in 15 minutes of action. Coach Monty Williams needs at least one person to step up behind Anthony Davis.
27. Sacramento Kings (20-36 and 13th in the Western Conference). The Kings have won two straight while allowing recently acquired veteran guard Jason Terry to hang out at home. It will take more than one back-to-back performance to lift this club out of the cellar.
28. Utah Jazz (19-36 and 14th in the Western Conference). The Jazz have lost three straight, and without Derrick Favors in the lineup, they’ve remained winless.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (19-37 and 15th in the Western Conference). None of the current Lakers were alive the last time the ball club sat at the bottom of the Western Conference. Then again they’re not playing with much life either.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (10-45 and the 15th in the Eastern Conference). The Bucks are keeping fans engaged by running a ’90s promotion. If you can’t replicate past success, might as well relive it.
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