As another week passes, we have seen teams try to discover their identity on the fly — whether it be the Warriors trying to win without Durant, the Raptors without Lowry, the Cavaliers trying to integrate pieces that haven’t played together all year, or the Spurs dealing with a health scare to LaMarcus Aldridge. Nothing is given in today’s NBA and just because things look inevitable on paper, doesn’t mean that the league doesn’t have any surprises in store for us come playoffs. In the spirit of March Madness, it’s important to remember that upsets can and do happen, and what teams do down the stretch may impact their ability to execute when it matters.
- San Antonio Spurs last week 1
It wasn’t a particularly good week for the Spurs. They lost to both the Blazers and Grizzlies, but rebounded with a convincing win over the Kings. With none of the top teams playing their best basketball, the Spurs keep their top spot.
- Houston Rockets last week 2
With a 4-1 record over their last five games, the Rockets are getting closer and closer to securing the third seed in the playoffs. That position may not be as desirable, though, should the Spurs overtake the Warriors for the top seed in the West.
- Cleveland Cavaliers last week 3
The Cavs are starting to take shape as Kevin Love and J.R. Smith are both back. While the team rested the big three for the blowout loss against the Clippers, the offense has looked potent in the two games Love has played in. Now they must try to shake off the rust before the playoffs start.
- Golden State Warriors last week 4
The Warriors have busted out of their slump with three straight wins. The struggles of Steph Curry had made things difficult for the Warriors, but his 28 point performance on 9-of-13 shooting against the Bucks was a loud statement that he is still one of the league’s best players.
- Boston Celtics last week 8
Resting Isaiah Thomas over the weekend caused Boston to have a close game against the Nets, plus suffer a loss to the Sixers. If there was ever any doubt about Thomas’ value, it should be put to rest now. Overall the Celtics are 3-1 over their last four and have an important showdown Monday against the Wizards.
- Utah Jazz last week 5
The Jazz fell on the second night of a back-to-back against the Cavaliers as Kevin Love made a surprise return. That loss would be understandable, but they followed it up with a low-scoring loss against the Chicago Bulls. At this point the Jazz have likely had too many setbacks to catch the Rockets for the third seed.
- Toronto Raptors last week 9
Don’t look now, but the Raptors appear to be adjusting to playing without Kyle Lowry. Their defense has been strong since the acquisitions of Ibaka and Tucker, but now their offense is finding ways to move the ball and be effective. A blowout win over the Pacers was the exclamation mark to a 3-1 week for the dinos.
- Washington Wizards last week 5
The defensive slide from the Wizards since the All Star break has made things considerably tougher for them. Now the Wizards need to right the ship in a hurry, or they could lose their third seed to a Raptors team that has found its stride. Washington went 1-3 over the last week.
- Oklahoma City Thunder last week 12
The Thunder have been an absolute buzzsaw lately, winning five straight games including quality wins over the Spurs, Jazz, and Raptors. The team is clicking offensively to go along with their excellent defense and are roaring up the standings. That Russell Westbrook guy has also had a pretty good stretch, someone should talk about him.
- Memphis Grizzlies last week 10
Memphis isn’t giving the Thunder much room to relax after winning their last four games. They are just a half game back of the Thunder and are playing some great basketball. This will likely be a photo-finish out West.
- L.A. Clippers last week 7
The Clippers had lost three straight games before their 30 point beatdown of the Cavaliers. While they rested Paul and Griffin for their loss to the Nuggets, the team is now in danger of losing the fifth seed to the surging Thunder.
- Milwaukee Bucks last week 11
With an 8-2 record over their last ten games, the Bucks are one of the hottest teams in the league. They’ve moved up to seventh place in the East and if they can hold on to that positioning, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them make some noise in the playoffs.
- Portland Trail Blazers last week 18
Like the Bucks, the Blazers are 8-2 over their last ten games. Damian Lillard has been sensational and the team is finally living up to the amount of talent they possess. They will give the Nuggets all they can handle in the race for eight.
- Denver Nuggets last week 17
Denver won’t go down without a fight. The Nuggets had won four straight games before their close loss to the Rockets. Their schedule doesn’t do them any favors with back-to-back games against the Rockets and Cavaliers coming up, but their schedule gets much easier after that point.
- Miami Heat last week 13
The Heat have won six of their last eight games, but have suffered a big loss on the injury front with Dion Waiters going down. Waiters hopes to return before the end of the season, but his absence could hurt their shot at a playoff spot.
- Dallas Mavericks last week 14
The Mavericks got a quality win over the Wizards and took care of business against the Nets. However those wins served as the bread to a bad loss sandwich as the Mavs were blown out in Philadelphia by 42 points.
- Indiana Pacers last week 16
Last week I pointed out that the Pacers have alternated between wins and losses for the last ten games. Well, that streak is now up to thirteen games for one of the league’s most inconsistent teams.
- Detroit Pistons last week 10
The Pistons put an end to their three game losing streak with a win over the Suns. Detroit is still in a playoff spot, but the Heat are right on their tail.
- Atlanta Hawks last week 15
If it wasn’t for the hot start from Atlanta, this likely wouldn’t be a playoff team. They are ninth in point differential in the East and have lost three straight games. They have the ability to play good basketball, but they appear to be stuck in limbo.
- Chicago Bulls last week 20
The Bulls got a solid win over the Jazz, however Dwyane Wade is done for the season. That may be the final dagger in the heart of their playoff hopes.