NBA Power Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 03/30/2009
Similar to LeBron James' underhanded 75-footer that caught all net on "60 Minutes," the Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming difficult to ignore. Their victory Sunday over the Dallas Mavericks was their 12th in a row and, combined with a loss from the Los Angeles Lakers, they pulled ahead with the NBA's best record.
What's more, they appear to have announced themselves as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Here are the NBA Power Rankings through March 29:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (60-13) - Cleveland's blowout win Sunday over Dallas showed how far this team has come. The Mavericks had more to play for with their playoff berth in jeopardy and it would have been easy for the Cavs to overlook them. Instead, they put on a dominating performance that sent a message to the rest of the league.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (58-15) - A slight letdown and loss to the Hawks on Sunday shouldn't provide much of a setback for the Lakers, who had won their previous five and have taken eight of their past 10. Upcoming road games against the Bobcats and Bucks should provide a nice scrimmage in which they can get back on track.
3. Boston Celtics (56-19) - The improvement and increased production from role players such as Glen Davis are a big reason why the Celtics have stayed hot despite waiting for the return of Kevin Garnett and others from injury. Boston has won six of seven and provided winning tickets for its backers in five of those.
4. Orlando Magic (54-18) - Preparing for what they hope will be a deep postseason run, the Magic have been in postseason form, at the behest of demanding coach Stan Van Gundy. Orlando has won five in a row and right of 10 overall, though they have taken the money just once in their past four.
5. San Antonio Spurs (48-25) - The Spurs have struggled a little as they continue to deal with nagging injuries to Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli. While their long-term prognosis is not a concern, their instability has left bettors empty-handed in seven of their past 10 games.
6. Houston Rockets (48-26) - The Rockets appear to have more of a cohesive unit since the loss of Tracy McGrady for the season to injury. Consistent play from Yao Ming and Ron Artest has led Houston to wins in four of its past five, with cashes in three of those.
7. Denver Nuggets (48-26) - The Nuggets have quietly become one of the league's hottest teams of late, with wins in eight of their past 10. They have earned the cash in four straight, which includes impressive road wins at Dallas and New Orleans.
8. Utah Jazz (45-27) -Formidable at home, soft on the road is still the prevailing theme for the talented Jazz, who often look indestructible in their comfortable Salt Lake confines but have dropped four of their past five road games.
9. Portland Trailblazers (46-27) -The Blazers are finally starting to show a little more consistency despite a disappointing overtime home loss to the 76ers last week. However, they rebounded to put away a hungry Suns team and took care of business Saturday with a sound win over the Grizzlies. Portland has lined the wallets of its backers in six of its last seven outings.
10. New Orleans Hornets (45-27) - New Orleans got a nice boost from its narrow home win Sunday over the Spurs. Now, the Hornets have to make sure their focus doesn't suffer during a road swing against the likes of the Kings, Clippers and Warriors.
11. Dallas Mavericks (43-30) - Sunday's 28-point road loss to the Cavaliers exemplified the Mavericks' erratic play this season. They might hold on to the last playoff spot in the West but, by the looks of it, they won't be around in the postseason for long.
12. Atlanta Hawks (43-31) -The Hawks beat the Lakers on Sunday in Atlanta to offset home losses to the Celtics and short-handed Spurs. Tough tests lie ahead with a road game against the Celtics and a home game against the Magic, contests the Hawks need to win in order to gain some confidence against the Eastern Conference's elite clubs.
13. Phoenix Suns (40-33) -Phoenix's desperate surge to take the final playoff spot in the Western Conference took a fatal blow with back-to-back losses to the Blazers and Jazz. Facing the Kings in two of their next three will help, but the Suns will have to win at Dallas and New Orleans to have a shot.
14. Miami Heat (39-34) - The Heat might go as far as Dwyane Wade can carry them, and he has proven he can will this team to more wins than they often appear capable of. Miami has splits its last 10 games and brought home the cash in six of them.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (37-35) - The Sixers missed a golden chance to build on their late-season run with narrow losses to the Bobcats in Pistons in their last two games. Even so, they have won six of their last 10 overall, although they have covered in just four of those.
16. Detroit Pistons (36-37) - A disappointing season continues to regress from bad to worse for the perennial-contending Pistons, who have dropped six of their last 10 to fall below .500 on the season. Once a reliable investment for bettors, their season ATS record sits at an ugly 31-42.
17. Chicago Bulls (36-39) - The guard-heavy Bulls are picking up some momentum toward the season's end, but their four-game winning streak went by the wayside with Sunday's loss in overtime to the Raptors.
18. Charlotte Bobcats (33-40) - D.J. Augustin has quietly had an excellent rookie year for the Bobcats; he will be Larry Brown's prized addition as the franchise moves forward. The Bobcats have won and earned the cash in five of their past seven games.
19. Indiana Pacers (31-43) - The high-scoring Pacers have covered in four straight, winning three of those, to offset a five-game losing streak.
20. Milwaukee Bucks (31-43) - Poor guard play and limited depth has hurt the Bucks, whose promising start has faded amid all their injuries to key players. The Bucks have lost and failed to cover in five straight.
21. New York Knicks (29-44) - So much for New York's late run at getting into the playoff picture. The Knicks' temporary momentum was halted by a six-game losing streak that included losses to the Clippers and Kings. It's hard to get back in contention with the league's second-worst defense and 29th-ranked rebounding team.
22. New Jersey Nets (30-43) - This team has more talent than its record indicates, which suggests some major off-season changes could be in its future. The Nets have lost eight of their past 10 in the form of two four-game losing streaks sandwiched around two wins.
23. Toronto Raptors (28-45) - Chris Bosh's resurgence to his all-star form is a big reason the Raptors have picked up a little momentum, with wins and covers in four straight games.
24. Golden State Warriors (25-48) - With injuries to almost all of their core players, Stephen Jackson the most recent casualty, the Warriors are in full play-the-string mode for the remainder of the season. Their rag-tag lineup has produced predictable results: Four straight losses, with just one cash in the mix.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-53) -The Timberwolves snapped an eight-game losing streak with Sunday's win over the Nets, but the stretch run of their season doesn't get very promising as they face games against such playoff-bound teams as the Mavericks, Jazz and Nuggets this week.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-53) - The Thunder had been solid all year against the big number, but their record took a dip with consecutive double-figure losses to the Lakers, Raptors and Celtics in which they didn't sniff the cash for their backers.
27. Memphis Grizzlies (18-54) - The Grizzlies' dismal 66-point performance in their loss to the Blazers on Saturday moved their offense to last in the league at 93 points per game. This helps explain why they have covered just twice in their past seven outings.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (18-56) - The Clippers have lost six of their last seven and covered in just two of those. Against their next five opponents, they covered against just one - the Lakers - in their last meeting.
29. Washington Wizards (17-58) - Gilbert Arenas couldn't return soon enough to salvage any kind of respectability for the Wizards this season, but having him around for a couple of weeks at least makes them more fun to watch. They covered against the Pistons in his debut, but lost by the hook to the Pacers on Sunday.
30. Sacramento Kings (15-56) - Losses in eight of their past 10 are indicative of the type of rock-bottom season the Kings are experiencing. However, they are doing OK against the big number, posting a 4-1 record ATS in their last five against spreads of nine or higher.