NBA Power Rankings: Wade, Heat proving to be battle-tested


NBA Power Rankings: Wade, Heat proving to be battle-tested

When Chris Bosh was forced out of action indefinitely with a blood clot in his left leg before the All-Star break, it felt like deja vu.

Bosh missed 30 games the previous season with a blood clot in his lungs, a serious situation that could have cost him his life. At that time, Miami was 22-30, sitting in the No. 8 spot in the East. After Bosh went down, Miami limped to the finish line without their All-Star, going 15-15 and missing out on the postseason by a single game.

This time around, however, Miami hasn't faltered. Since coming out of the All-Star break the Heat are 8-2 and have moved within one-half game of the Boston Celtics for the No. 3 seed in the East.

Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside and newcomer Joe Johnson all have contributed to the cause, while Goran Dragic is improving and Amare Stoudemire has helped fill some of the void left behind by Bosh inside. It's no surprise they're on the move in this week's power rankings. Here's how the rest of the teams shook out:

Previous power rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) 55-6 Statistically speaking, Sunday's loss to the Lakers was the biggest upset in NBA history. It just defies logic. Steph, Klay, Draymond and Barnes went 2-for-25 from deep.
(3) 53-9 Have yourself a week, Kawhi Leonard. San Antonio's franchise player averaged 27.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists in three victories. The Spurs are now just two games behind the Warriors for the league's best record.
(5) 44-17 What panic? Cleveland knocks off Indiana, Washington and Boston at home this week, averaging 109.3 points per game in the process. LeBron James averaged 26.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists after resting in Washington.
4 (4) 41-20 Another impressive week north of the border, as the Raptors keep pace with Cleveland after victories over Utah and Portland. They may not catch the Cavs, but there's no question about who's the East's second best team.
5 (3) 43-20 Brutal week for Kevin Durant and the Thunder. They choke away a victory on the road against the Clippers and then take a fourth-quarter lead against the Warriors...only to lose by 15.
6 (6) 40-21 Thursday's improbable come-from-behind victory over the Thunder, that ended in a 26-5 run, may be a turning point in the season for the Clips. How Blake Griffin acclimates when he returns will be interesting to watch.
7 (8) 37-26 Can't say enough about the job Erik Spoelstra has done, keeping the Heat in contention in the East after Chris Bosh was sidelined again. They're fourth in the East and closing fast on Boston.
8 (7) 38-26 The race for the No. 3 seed (and, thus, avoiding the Cavaliers in a potential second round series) will be exciting between the C's and Heat. Boston won three more at home this week but was blown out Saturday in Cleveland.
9 (10) 35-28 Gutsy win against the Clippers on Saturday night. Between that and their near-victory over the Warriors they're proving that hanging on to Al Horford and Jeff Teague at the trade deadline could pay off in the postseason.
10 (9) 33-31 Damian Lillard's encore after his sensational February? A March that began with averages of 33.3 points on 51 percent shooting and 4.3 triples in three games, including a 50-point outing in a loss to the Raptors.
11 (12) 37-25 Winners in six of eight against albeit weak competition, but their home win against the Jazz was an impressive victory. Zach Randolph went for 25 points and eight rebounds in that one.
12 (13) 33-28 Yet another impressive week for Kemba Walker and the Hornets: A 34-point win over the Suns, a 20-point win over the Sixers and a seven-point win over the Pacers. They're now up to No. 6 in the East.
13 (11) 33-30 The Pacers' next six games are against teams with winning records. They get four of those at home, but they've lost three of their last four in Indiana. We'll learn a lot about Paul George and the Pacers the next two weeks.
14 (14) 33-30 Crazy tough schedule upcoming for the Mavs: Nine of their next 10 come against teams at or above .500. That includes two against the Blazers, sandwiched between two against the Warriors. Gut-check time for Dallas.
15 (15) 31-31 The Pistons may look back on Saturday night's ugly loss to the Knicks as one that got away if they fail to make the playoffs. They fell behind the Bulls for the No. 8 seed with the loss.
16 (16) 31-30 Jimmy Butler wasted no time making an impact in his return to the Bulls' lineup. In a win over the Rockets he went for 24 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out. Maybe the two-time All-Star can save the Bulls' playoff chances.
17 (18) 29-33 Derrick Favors' 28 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks helped snap a five-game losing streak. The fight for the No. 8 seed in the West (and the right to get thumped by the Warriors) rages on. Utah's one game behind Houston.
18 (17) 30-32 Bradley Beal bruised his pelvis on Saturday (and it wasn't pretty). If he's forced to miss any time it may prove lethal to Washington's playoff chances. They're now 1.5 games behind the Bulls.
19 (21) 25-36 A silver lining in their rapidly declining record: They now hold the NBA's ninth worst record, two games worse than Orlando (11th). They'll keep their first round pick so long as it stays inside the top 10.
20 (20) 31-32 In Thursday's win over New Orelans, they went 3-for-34 from beyond the arc, an NBA record for outside shooting futility. A victory in Toronto on the second of a back-to-back was maybe the biggest win of the week.
21 (23) 26-37 Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing the best basketball of his young career. In his last seven games he's averaged 20.3 points, 10.6 rebounds and 8.7 assists, including three triple-doubles.
22 (25) 27-34 The good: Beating the Bulls by 13 at home. The (really) bad: Getting blown out at home by the Suns, who had previously lost 17 straight away from Phoenix. They're four games back of the No. 8 seed.
23 (19) 23-38 They have now lost four straight - three to teams below .500 - and Eric Gordon fractured his ring finger again. This season has been a complete and utter mess.
24 (22) 25-38 Emmanuel Mudiay was a stud in a matchup against fellow rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell, going for 22 points and seven assists in Denver's win over the Lakers. He followed it up with 25 against the Nets.
25 (24) 26-38 It's been tough listening to Carmelo Anthony air his frustrations with constant losing, so it was good to see him and the Knicks earn an impressive victory over the Pistons on Saturday. Melo had 24 and 10 in that one.
26 (26) 20-43 A beautiful sign for the future: In Saturday's win over the Nets Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine combined for 75 points on 33-for-44 shooting. Wiggins is the oldest of the three...at 21 years old.
27 (27) 18-45 Thomas Robinson went for 18 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists and four steals in Saturday's loss to the Timberwolves. It's just one game, but it'd be fun to see him finish the season strong. He's still just 24.
28 (29) 13-51 D'Angelo Russell's 39-point outing in a win over the Nets was something to behold. He hit eight triples, added six boards and was a game-high +13 in 35 minutes. He's the real deal.
29 (30) 17-46 Silver lining alert: 19-year-old Devin Booker has two games with 32+ points. The only other players to accomplish that? LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Good company for the rookie.
30 (28) 8-55 They've now lost 12 straight and have a 3.5-game "lead" on the Lakers for the league's worst record. Incredibly, they've had three 10-game-plus losing streaks this year. Trust the process?

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie


Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.