Heading into this season, many felt as though a seemingly inevitable rematch between the Cavaliers and Warriors took away from the excitement of the regular season. What’s followed has been a tremendously entertaining season, with a fantastic MVP race, furious battles for the eighth seed of each conference, as well as a showcase for the next generation of elite young talent.
Lately, we’ve unfortunately seen the season clouded by injuries. Knee surgery for Kevin Love, a knee injury that could keep Kevin Durant out for the remainder of the regular season, and Kyle Lowry needing surgery on his hand. It’s a sad reminder that anything can happen and nothing is guaranteed. The NBA season is a war of attrition, and how teams respond to adversity can be the difference between winning a championship or bowing out early.
- San Antonio Spurs last week 4
It’s been a long time since the Warriors weren’t #1 in these rankings. But the injury to Kevin Durant, followed by two consecutive losses was enough to do it. The Spurs have quietly won seven games in a row and could make a real push for home court throughout the playoffs, which could help Kawhi Leonard in his case for MVP.
- Cleveland Cavaliers last week 2
The Cavs biggest win may have come on the buyout market, where they added both Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut. They’re still down two starters, but with the looming return of J.R. Smith and added depth, they have all the tools they need to make a serious run at repeating.
- Golden State Warriors last week 1
There’s few better cures for losing than a matchup against the New York Knicks. The Warriors busted their slump at The Garden, but the biggest question moving forward will be the usage of Steph Curry. The lack of pick and roll in the team’s offense continues to be baffling, and may be contributing to his recent shooting slump.
- Houston Rockets last week 3
Houston suffered a bad loss to the Pacers, but bounced back with blowout wins over the Clippers and Grizzlies. If Durant is not himself when he returns, the Rockets will be eyeing a Finals berth. They will get to test their legitimacy this week as they take on both the Spurs and the Cavaliers.
- Boston Celtics last week 5
The Celtics got a quality win over the Cavaliers in one of the best regular season games of the season. While much has been made over the production of Al Horford, his absence was felt in the Celtics loss to the Suns. His spacing and playmaking has been a large part of their success this season.
- Washington Wizards last week 7
It was a pretty great week for the Wizards. They defeated the Warriors at home, then got a dominant road win in Toronto. Losing the second half of the home at home against the Raptors may be a missed opportunity to generate space in the standings, though. While the Raptors are without Lowry, their schedule is considerably easier down the stretch and they now hold the tiebreaker.
- Toronto Raptors last week 6
The Raptors are 4-2 in their last six games, all without Kyle Lowry. They also managed to get wins against both the Celtics and Wizards. Without Lowry there is a lack of consistent playmaking, but Cory Joseph has been better and Serge Ibaka has helped transform the team’s defense. Toronto only plays one team with a top ten offense for the rest of the season, the Cavs on the final night of the season, so they may be able to keep their winning ways going.
- Utah Jazz last week 8
The Jazz haven’t been particularly impressive lately. They botched their comeback against the Thunder, lost to the Wolves, and barely beat the Kings in overtime. Still, they are fourth in the West, but they lack the consistency necessary to move up in the standings.
- L.A. Clippers last week 9
Their win over the Chicago Bulls helped put an end to the 1-4 rut the Clippers were in. With a healthy lineup, it’s now or never for L.A. to make a move.
- Detroit Pistons last week 15
Quietly, the Detroit Pistons have been playing better basketball lately. The team is 4-2 in their last six games and have a better point differential on the year than the Hawks, Pacers and Bulls. They’re just two games back of sixth in the East and could make a jump up the standings if they keep this play up.
- Memphis Grizzlies last week 11
It was an underwhelming week for the Grizzlies, going 2-2 with losses to the Mavericks and Rockets. They’re still a game up on the Thunder, but have little room for error.
- Dallas Mavericks last week 18
The Mavericks have won four of their last five games, including a blowout win over the Thunder. Seth Curry has been fantastic and Nerlens Noel has fit in well with his new team. They’re just two games back of a playoff spot, which would undoubtedly earn Rick Carlisle coach of the year.
- Chicago Bulls last week 12
With wins over the Cavaliers and Warriors, the Bulls can feel pretty good about this past week. They suffered a setback with a loss to the Clippers, but they’ve managed to hold their ground and remain in the playoffs.
- Oklahoma City Thunder last week 10
The Thunder have lost three straight games, despite Russell Westbrook still producing eye-popping statistics. The culprit for their slump may be adjusting to new pieces with Oladipo out of the lineup. Regardless of the reason, Westbrook simply isn’t getting much help at the moment.
- Indiana Pacers last week 16
Indiana has won three of their last five games, including a close win over the Atlanta Hawks. However, their inability to put together consecutive wins has hindered their ability to climb up the standings.
- Miami Heat last week 14
Alright, so the Heat technically beat the Cavs… but with no LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, or J.R. Smith, that’s not all that impressive. The Heat had a disappointing loss against the Magic, but have continued to impress with their strong team play overall.
- Atlanta Hawks last week 13
Seven teams have set their season high in three-point makes against the Hawks this season, including the Cavs setting an NBA record with 25. The team appears to be stuck on the same treadmill of mediocrity that has plagued the franchise in the past.
- Denver Nuggets last week 17
The Nuggets have played well enough to hold on to a playoff spot and achieved two quality wins over the Bulls and Bucks. They have an important game Monday against the Kings that could have a significant impact on the playoff picture.
- Milwaukee Bucks last week not ranked
The Bucks collected two quality wins against the Raptors and Clippers to help keep their playoff hopes alive. Few teams have had to deal with adversity like the Bucks this season, but the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo has been enough to keep them in the race.
- Portland Trail Blazers last week 19
Jusuf Nurkic has impressed for the Blazers in a more featured role. Portland has played better as of late as well, winning their last two games against the Thunder and Nets. Whether or not they can salvage their season remains to be seen.