The NBA: Power Rankings: Week 22

The regular season will end on April 16. We have two weeks left of playoff intensity basketball especially between teams that are chasing playoff spots and those trying for higher seeds.

The Spurs are definitely the "Best of the West" and the NBA. It is possible that they win all of their remaining games in the regular season which would give them 26 straight wins but I have a feeling that Coach Pop will decide to rest his players and disregard their winning streak. Meanwhile, the battle for the bottom seeds are getting too tight. Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix are so close to one another and they have head-to-head games coming up in the last two weeks. The playoff spots won't be known until literally the last game of the season.

Over in the East, Indiana is sputtering while Miami has found some consistency. The Heat are atop the East for the first time all season and they can solidify their hold especially with an easier schedule compared to the Pacers. Now, the Knicks and Cavaliers are making some noise and both are threatening to unseat the Hawks from the 8th spot.

Hero team of the week: The Spurs have won 18 straight games which is a franchise record. I wonder when will Pop decide to rest half his team and screw their streak.

Sucky team of the week: The Pacers are fighting among themselves and relinquished the top spot in the East even after beating Miami last week.

The standings are current up to April 2, 2014 and the rankings from Last Week refer to Week 21.

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Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich are leading the Spurs into the playoffs
(Image by: AP)

1. San Antonio Spurs | 58-16 | Last Week: 1 | Same
The Spurs are extremely hot and peaking at the right time! Their 18-game win streak is a franchise record and their average winning margin during that stretch is about 17 per game. Six of their last 8 games will be against playoff teams so it will be interesting to see if Pop rests players.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder | 54-19 | Last Week: 2 | Same
OKC can still challenge the Spurs for the best record in the NBA and that starts by beating SAS on Thursday. Kevin Durant will probably win MVP and his current scoring streak of at least 25 points or more in 38 consecutive games is just 2 games away from MJ's accomplishment.

3. Los Angeles Clippers | 50-21 | Last Week: 2 | -1
The Clippers are going to the playoffs for the 3rd straight year which is a franchise best. Third seed in the West seems to be their most likely destination. Chris Paul rebounded from a bad game of only 2 points vs the Pelicans by averaging 27 points in their next 3 games after that.

4. Miami Heat | 51-22 | Last Week: 5 | +1
After losing to the Pacers last week, the Heat won 3 straight and now they actually have 1st place in the East. They did all of this without Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Greg Oden. They have 9 games left and only 4 of those are against 0.500 teams including a home game vs Indiana.

5. Houston Rockets | 49-24 | Last Week: 4 | -1
The Rockets are stumbling a little bit, going 5-5 in their last 10 in a very tight West. A big part due to Dwight Howard (ankle) and Patrick Beverley (knee) missing games. Howard could be back soon while Beverley has a torn meniscus but there are reports saying that he won't undergo surgery.

6. Indiana Pacers | 52-23 | Last Week: 6 | Same
Indy failed to score more than 80 points in 5 of  their 6 games and have lost 3 straight. They are 10-10 since acquiring Evan Turner. After having the best record at 33-7, Indy has stumbled to a mediocre 19-16 and players are bickering and pointing fingers.

7. Portland | 49-27 | Last Week: 8 | +1
The Blazers quickly won 4 straight with LaMarcus Aldridge back in the lineup. LA posted 2 double-doubles in those 4 games. They are trying to chase the Rockets for home-court advantage in the first round but the Rockets own the tiebreaker so securing the 5th spot is better than falling to 6th.

8. Golden State Warriors | 46-28 | Last Week: 7 | -1
Steph Curry had another game-winner (he has around 5-6 for the year) vs the Mavs that was crucial for the Dubs because that gave them the tiebreaker over Dallas. They are safely in 6th place for now but injuries to David Lee and Andrew Bogut will surely threaten their positioning.

9. Memphis Grizzlies | 44-30 | Last Week: 9 | Same
Memphis lost 2 of their past 3 games to playoff teams that are battling with them for positioning (Blazers, Warriors). Fortunately, they survived with a 2-point win over the Nuggets to retain the 7th spot. Timofey Mozgov has been great lately: 12 pts, 9 rebs in his last 5 games.

10. Phoenix Suns | 44-30 | Last Week: 11 | +1
The Suns are 8-2 in their last 10 but one of the losses came from the Lakers. Still, they are currently at the 8th spot but have a slim 0.5 game lead over Dallas. Their remaining schedule is tough with 6 games against playoff teams including Memphis and Dallas who are battling with them.

11. Dallas Mavericks | 44-31 | Last Week: 10 | -1 
Tough loss to the Dubs in OT which placed them out of the playoffs for now. Dallas has the easiest schedule left among Memphis and Phoenix. The Mavs have 4 games versus playoff teams and their last 2 games will be the Grizzlies and Suns which gives them full control of their destiny.

12. Chicago Bulls | 42-32 | Last Week: 12 | Same
DJ Augustin continues to play well for the Bulls. His latest brilliant game came against the Celtics. Augustin exploded for 33 points in 31 minutes off the bench. The Bulls are 39-25 since acquiring him from the Raptors. Taj Gibson has 4 double-doubles in his last 8 games.

13. Toronto Raptors | 42-32 | Last Week: 13 | Same
The Raps clinched a playoff spot for the 1st time since 2008. However, they are barely holding on to the 3rd spot in the East and their division is still up for grabs. Their next 2 games are tough (Rockets, Pacers) but their last 6 games will all be against sub-500 teams.

14. Brooklyn Nets | 40-33 | Last Week: 15 | +1
Hello Brooklyn! The Nets clinched a playoff spot after their quality win over the Rockets. The Raptors and Bulls are still within striking distance so settling for the 5th spot is unlikely. Joe Johnson has been good in their last 5 games, shooting at 53% and averaging close to 20.

15. Washington Wizards | 38-36 | Last Week: 15 | Same
John Wall upped his game after the All-Star break. He is averaging slightly more points, assists and shooting a higher percentage since the break. His much improved jumper has translated into 104 made threes which is a career-high and more than all the threes he made in his previous 3 years combined (49).

16. Minnesota Timberwolves | 36-37 | Last Week: 16 | Same
Nik Pekovic is back in the starting lineup which resulted in Gorgui Dieng playing 20 minutes or less off the bench. Dieng still posted around 10 points and 8 boards with less minutes. Ricky Rubio is only averaging 9 points and shooting an abysmal 37% which is a career-high.

17. Charlotte Bobcats | 36-38 | Last Week: 17 | Same
Kemba Walker played well 2 years ago during March Madness. He is doing the same during the past two weeks. Walker scored 20 points or more in 7 of his past 8 games and also averaged over 7 assists. Big Al continues to dominate in the paint (24 ppg in his last 5 games).

18. New York Knicks | 32-43 | Last Week: 21 | +3
The Knicks are within 1 game of the 8th spot. Losses to the Lakers and Suns hurt their chances but they responded with quality wins over the Kings, Warriors and Jazz. Amare Stoudemire has been playing well in March. He scored double digits in all the games that he played (17 ppg).

19. New Orleans Pelicans | 32-42 | Last Week: 18 | -1
Anthony Davis sustained an ankle injury that limited his production over his last 2 games. Consequently, the Pelicans lost their past 2 games after winning 5 straight. Eric Gordon has missed their last 6 games and with the season ending, he might miss the rest of the season.

20. Atlanta Hawks | 32-41 | Last Week: 20 | Same
The Hawks are 2 games up on the Knicks in the loss column and they own the tiebreaker so they have complete control of their destiny. They have 9 games left and 5 of them are against playoff teams. Paul Millsap needs to post monster nights if the Hawks want to make the playoffs.

21. Denver Nuggets | 32-42 | Last Week: 19 | -2
The Nuggets dropped 4 straight including a heart-breaker vs the Grizzlies. Ty Lawson has been wildly inconsistent over his last 9 games. He has been alternating good (over 10 points scored) and bad games (less than 10 points) during that stretch.

22. Cleveland Cavaliers | 30-45 | Last Week: 22 | Same
The Cavs are actually within reach of a playoff spot. They are 3 games back of the 8th spot but need to overtake Atlanta and New York for it. They are 4-4 since Kyrie got hurt (biceps injury) and there's a chance Irving might be back by next week for the stretch run.

23. Detroit Pistons | 27-47 | Last Week: 23 | Same
Terrible week for the Pistons who lost at the buzzer vs the Cavs, then lost to a short-handed Miami squad, then got blown out by the Sixers (25 points) who have lost 26 straight previously. Luckily, they escaped with a 5-point win over the Bucks.

24. Sacramento Kings | 26-48 | Last Week: 24 | Same
Boogie Cousins challenged and bested his fellow Kentucky alumni Anthony Davis in their most recent match-up. DMC came up big with 35 points and 14 boards plus a win. Cousins has 3 games of 30+ points and 10+ rebounds in his last 5 games.

25. Los Angeles Lakers | 25-49 | Last Week: 25 | Same
Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are back in the lineup but the Lakers continue to lose games. They are 29th in points allowed which is not unusual for Coach Mike D'Antoni. Chris Kaman has not received a lot of minutes but when called upon, he has been producing.

26. Orlando Magic | 21-53 | Last Week: 28 | +2
Orlando actually won 2 straight games last week vs the Blazers and Bobcats. That made them 2-8 in their last 10 games which is already an improvement. Victor Oladipo is averaging 16, 5 and 4 in his last 10 games to make the ROY race slightly interesting.

27. Boston Celtics | 23-47 | Last Week: 26 | -1
The Celtics lost 5 straight including two sets of home-and-home games vs the Raptors and Bulls. Jeff Green is having a subpar season as their primary offensive weapon. He is shooting a career-low 41% and only averaging below 17 points a game.

28. Utah Jazz | 23-52 | Last Week: 27 | -1
The Jazz lost 5 straight and just 1-9 in their last 10 games. They are in the bottom fifth in points, rebounds and assists. On the bright side, Gordon Hayward has improved this season and is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, steals and assists.

29. Milwaukee Bucks | 14-60 | Last Week: 29 | Same
The Bucks are 2-0 vs the hapless Lakers with Brandon Knight averaging 33 points against them. Ersan Ilyasova was ruled out for the season with an ankle injury while OJ Mayo is healthy but playing poorly. Mayo has been a colossal disappointment for them.

30. Philadelphia 76ers | 16-58 | Last Week: 30 | Same
The Sixers are 1-27 in their last 28 games but they managed to snap their losing streak at 26 thanks to the Pistons. They will have to wait next season to see if they can establish a new record for futility. Despite all of their losing, Thad Young has played well with  a career-high in scoring.

Biggest Jump of the Week: Knicks +3
Biggest Drop of the Week: Nuggets -2

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