Blakely's NBA Power Rankings: Hawks take over
Blakely's NBA Power Rankings
BOSTON — Games of late in the NBA are starting to get a little bit testier, a clear sign that players are giving more and more thought to the postseason.
The need to be physical is something all teams, playoff contenders and postseason wannabes alike, can agree on.
And as we have seen time and time again, the aggressor more often than not comes out ahead in the postseason.
But there are clear moments when things are taken a bit too far, like the recent brouhaha between former Celtic Kevin Garnett (now with Brooklyn) and Houston's Dwight Howard which led to Garnett being suspended for one game and Howard being hit with a $15,000 fine.
While that incident is certainly not the kind of fight the league wants to see from its players, it still serves as a reminder of how players are starting to get fired up about every game, knowing it could have playoff implications.
And with that, here's this week's power rankings:
BACK OF THE PACK
30. New York Knicks (Record: 5-35. Last week 30): Record-setting losing streak. Best player (Carmelo Anthony) banged up. The Knicks are pulling away as the league's most pathetic team.
29. Minnesota (Record: 5-31. Last week 29): Andrew Wiggins has scored 20 or more points in four of the Timberwolves last five games.
28. Philadelphia (Record: 7-29. Last week 28): Sixers showing signs of real progress, winners in two of last three games.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 12-26. Last week 27): Lost 7 of last 10, their place among the NBA's worst is secure
26. Utah (Record: 13-25. Last week 24): Struggle to win games, but they are allowing a league-low 46.8 rebounds per game.
25. Orlando (Record: 14-27. Last week 21): The good news is the next three games are all at home. The bad news? Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City are all on the docket.
TRAILING THE PACK
24. Sacramento (Record: 16-21. Last week 22): As the losses continue to pile up, the closer Sacramento's dream season becomes yet another nightmarish run.
23. Boston (Record: 13-23. Last week 23): Jae Crowder coming off a career-high 22 points scored, looking like Boston's best among the newcomers to the team.
22. Indiana (Record: 15-24. Last week 19): Five of last six games decided by five points or less. In those games, the Pacers are 3-2.
21. Brooklyn (Record: 16-22. Last week 16): The Nets are stuck between being good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to stay very long.
20. Charlotte (Record: 15-24. Last week 25): Kemba Walker has been on a tear of late, but the Hornets have lots of ground to make up if they're going to make the playoffs for a second straight season.
19. Denver (Record: 17-20. Last week 20): The Nuggets beat you up badly on the offensive glass, averaging 12.6 offensive rebounds per game which is the league's second-highest average.
MIDDLE OF THE PACK
18. Cleveland (Record: 19-19. Last week 14): Winning with LeBron was tough. Winning without him? Damn near impossible for the Cavaliers.
17. New Orleans (Record: 18-19. Last week 17): Monty Williams' future as the Pelicans' head coach becomes even more murky with each loss.
16. Detroit (Record: 14-24. Last week 23): The Josh Smith-less Pistons continue to cruise along, poised to be officially in one of the eight playoff spots before this month ends.
15. Oklahoma City (Record: 18-19. Last week 15): The Thunder, currently 10th in the Western Conference, remain the team out of the playoffs now to most likely play their way in by the end of this season.
14. Miami (Record: 16-21. Last week 18): Hassan Whiteside has been a pleasant surprise for the Heat of late, averaging 12.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in his last five games.
13. Phoenix (Record: 22-18. Last week 12):
The addition of Brandan Wright gives them another excellent finisher in transition.
RUNNING WITH THE PACK
12. Milwaukee (Record: 20-19. Last week 13): They continue to hover around .500 which in the East makes you a lock for the postseason.
11. San Antonio (Record: 23-15. Last week 11): Kawhi Leonard's return will be the jumping off point to a second half of the season surge by the Spurs.
10. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 25-13. Last week 10): Doc's OK with his son Austin playing for him. Don't be surprised if Ainge and the Celtics get a better offer elsewhere for the former lottery pick.
9. Memphis (Record: 26-11. Last week 8): It'll be interesting to see if Jeff Green can play with enough consistency - especially on defense - to fit in with the Grizzlies.
8. Washington (Record: 25-12. Last week 6): Wizards help-side defense remains a strength which has played a role in them giving up a league-low 38.2 points in the paint this season.
7. Toronto (Record: 25-12. Last week 7): Talk about instant offense! Lou Williams is averaging 15 points per game in just 24 minutes of court time.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
6. Dallas (Record: 26-12. Last week 5): Transition defense still an issue as the Mavericks are giving up a league-high 16.1 fast break points per game.
5. Chicago (Record: 26-13. Last week 3): The fact that they can't rely on Derrick Rose for any extended period of time makes the Bulls a wild card team for the rest of the season and playoffs.
4. Houston (Record: 27-11. Last week 9): James Harden has carried this Rockets team all season, doing what a legit MVP candidate should do.
3. Portland (Record: 30-8. Last week 4): NBA's stingiest defense giving up 96.4 points per game, the Blazers are riding a four-game winning streak holding opponents to 94 points or less.
2. Golden State (Record: 29-5. Last week 1): Warriors success still hinges heavily on their ability to defend at a high level, score efficiently from several points on the floor.
1. Atlanta (Record: 29-8. Last week 2): That 31-point drubbing of Washington, even at home, was impressive.