NBA Power Rankings: Thomas, Celtics make a statement


NBA Power Rankings: Thomas, Celtics make a statement

The race for the No. 3 seed in the East is heating up.

The Celtics took a significant step forward in that department by knocking off the Warriors in Oakland on Saturday night. Isaiah Thomas had a career night, going toe-to-toe with Steph Curry in scoring 22 points and handing out six assists. Jared Sullinger added 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Evan Turner added 21 points in the crucial victory.

With Jae Crowder back in the lineup, they've got a good chance to move past the Hawks and hold off the Heat for the third seed, which would both give them homecourt advantage in the first round and avoid the Cavaliers in the East semifinals.

See how each of the 30 teams stacked up in this week's edition of the NBA Power Rankings:

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 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22

Rank (LW) Team
Record Comment
1 (1) 69-8 The chase for 73 wins is still intact if they can finish the season 4-1. It will be interesting to see how Gregg Popovich plays his cards in the two remaining Spurs-Warriors games to end the year.
(2) 64-12 Now owners of the league's longest home winning streak, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge each went for 30+ points in a win over the Raptors. Yep, they're ready for the postseason.
(3) 55-22 LeBron James continued his tear this past week, and the Cavs picked up impressive victories against the Hawks and Hornets. Seems like they're righting the ship.
4 (4) 53-24 There isn't a better 1-2 combo in the league than KD and Russ, Steph and Klay included. But a league-lead 13 blown fourth quarter leads does not bode well in the playoffs. They need to close better.
5 (5) 51-25 They're entrenched in the No. 2 seed in the East, but they can make statements about their postseason potential against the Hornets and Hawks this week. 
6 (7) 45-32 There isn't a bigger statement to make than knocking off a healthy Warriors team at Oracle. But that's what Brad Stevens' group did, and they're now tied with the Hawks for third in the East.
7 (8) 48-28 Blake Griffin is finally back. They're basically locked in the No. 4 seed, but getting Griffin up to speed before the postseason will be their biggest hurdle to close out the regular season.
8 (6) 45-32 They failed both big tests this week against the Raptors and Cavaliers. Still, they're playing well enough that they could wind up with the No. 3 seed. Saturday's tilt against Boston could decide it.
9 (10) 44-32 Winners in five of seven has them in contention for the No. 3 seed. Sunday's wire-to-wire loss in Cleveland was a bit of a reality check in terms of where they are. Still, that offense is dangerous.
10 (9) 44-32 A trip out west resulted in a 1-2 record, including a head-scratching loss to the Lakers. Still, they're very much in the running for the coveted No. 3 seed. That means avoiding the Cavs in Round 2.
11 (12) 41-37 Winners in four of five, combined with Memphis' free fall, has the Blazers one-half game behind the Grizzlies for the fifth seed. That means avoiding the Thunder and instead getting the Clippers.
12 (15) 41-36 Detroit's magic number for a playoff berth is three. And despite a difficult stretch to end the year, they should be in after Saturday's road win over the Bulls.
13 (11) 41-36 Wins are wins, that much is true. But the Pacers needed late-game surges to beat the Sixers and Knicks. They should get in, but they're hardly playing good basketball down the stretch.
14 (16) 39-38 Winners in six of eight, with their only losses to Golden State and Oklahoma City, the Jazz appear primed to grab one of the final two playoff spots.
15 (14) 38-39 They're still a game behind Dallas and Utah for a playoff spot in the West, but Sunday's come-from-behind win over the Thunder could give them the boost they need down the stretch.
16 (19) 39-38 Four straight wins over sub-.500 teams was exactly what they needed to get back into the playoff race. As expected, Wednesday's tilt against the Rockets could be the decider.
17 (18) 39-38 Saturday's home loss to the Pistons may have burst their playoff bubble, but Jimmy Butler isn't going down without a fight. He was magnificent during the Bulls' five-game week.
18 (17) 37-40 Nothing says you've bowed out of the playoff picture than a nine-point loss to the Kings. They're four games back with five to play. In other words, ready the ping pong balls.
19 (13) 41-36 Uh oh. The Grizzlies have lost six straight and could fall as far as seventh or eighth in the West. That, of course, means a first round exit at the hands of the Warriors or Spurs.
20 (20) 31-46 It's time to start scoreboard watching for the Kings, who are just two games ahead of the Nuggets for the 11th best record. The Bulls get Sacramento's pick if it falls outside the top 10. 
21 (24) 33-44 They knocked off Chicago and Indiana to end March, and can affect the Eastern Conference standings with games against Detroit, Miami (twice) and Charlotte to end the year.
22 (25) 32-45 Point Giannis is no longer a temporary deal, and he was magnificent in Sunday's loss to the Bulls, going for a career-high 34 points and nine assists.
23 (26) 29-47 Tim Frazier is playing himself into a solid role next season for the Pelicans. He went for 19 points and 13 assists in Sunday's win over the Nets.
24 (22) 31-47 In yet another lost season, the Knicks were able to salvage a season series split with the Nets with a 14-point win. That's the extent of the Knicks' positives right now.
25 (21) 32-46 The schedule makers did the Nuggets no favors to end the season. Denver finishes with Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Utah and Portland.
26 (23) 25-52 It came in a losing effort, but Karl-Anthony Towns added another chapter to his historic rookie year on Sunday: 11 points, 21 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and a block against the Mavs. Wow.
27 (29) 16-60 For a team 46 games below .500 there are signs of optimism. The latest came on Julius Randle's game-winner in a home victory over the Heat. And they've got the No. 2 lottery spot locked up.
28 (27) 21-56 Shutting down Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young would make a lot more sense if the Nets had rights to their first round pick this year. They're a game up on Phoenix for the third worst record.
29 (28) 20-57 This week they passed the Sixers for worst in the NBA in points allowed per game (107.6). A healthy Eric Bledsoe will help next year, but this season can't end quickly enough.
30 (30) 9-68 They've wrapped up the league's worst record by losing 25 of their last 26 games. Even by #TheProcess's standards that's pretty brutal. Ben Simmons might not even be able to fix this mess.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, the Bulls Outsiders team of Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine join Kevin Anderson to talk about the series premier of ‘Bulls Outsiders’ Thursday night. Hear about how the show came together and what they are hoping to bring to the Bulls fanbase this season. They’ll also share their bold predictions for the season including two potential end-of-season award winners from this roster.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.