With the NBA’s regular season now in it’s final week, it’s time to look at the best teams heading into the postseason. Although the Lakers technically have been rolling of late, the prospects of them winning without the injured Kobe Bryant, are slim—especially against the Thunder. Here are the final power rankings:
10. (Previous: NR) Golden State Warriors (46-35)—There are a number of teams that could be put here such as Houston, Atlanta, or even Chicago but only the Warriors have Stephen Curry. Curry first made a name for himself in the 2008 NCAA tournament as a clutch shooter on the biggest stage, leading Davidson all the way to the regional finals. Already this season Curry, who averages 23.0 points per game has a 54-point performance at MSG to his credit. Look for him to be a major thorn in Denver’s side should the two square off in the opening round.
9. (7) Indiana Pacers (49-31)—The Pacers, losers of four of their last five, end their regular season on a bit of a down note, having lost the second-seed to the red-hot New York Knicks. Still, the season overall would have to be considered a success given the fact that Danny Granger, who has led the team in scoring each of the past five seasons, played just five games this season before being shut down again.
8. (8) Brooklyn Nets (48-33)—Though the Nets have been playing well recently, their exploits have paled in comparison to Miami and New York. Point guard Deron Williams has put up averages of 23.4 points and 8.1 assists per game since the All-Star break—as compared to 16.7 and 7.6 before. With Williams finally showing the flash the Nets had hoped for since trading for him two years ago, the team has won 14 of their last 21 games and has its best record since 2006.
7. (6) Memphis Grizzlies (55-26)—The Grizzlies wrap up their best regular season in franchise history (dating back to 1995 in Vancouver) against Utah on Wednesday, already with five more wins than in any other season. The team has allowed the fewest points in the NBA at 89.5 per game, yet may have to tangle with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the Clippers just to get out of the first round—quite a reward.
6. (3) San Antonio Spurs (58-23)—The Spurs, which have lost three out of their last four, may actually be playing themselves into a better playoff matchup should they get Houston instead of the Lakers, who even without Kobe have had the Spurs’ number in the postseason. On the injury front Manu Ginobli, who was thought to be done for the regular season with a hamstring injury could actually return for the season finale Wednesday night against Minnesota.
5. (9) New York Knicks (53-28)—The Knicks, 15-2 over their last 17 games, have quickly played themselves into the number-two seed. Although they are playing great basketball, they may have inadvertently played themselves into a more difficult first round matchup against Boston—which has won 11 playoff series over the past five seasons and at least one every year. Of course with Carmelo Anthony playing at such a high level (averaging 36.9 points per game in April) it may not matter.
4 (5) Los Angeles Clippers (54-26)—The Clippers, like the Grizzlies, are putting the finishing touches on their best season in franchise history, dating back to 1970 when they were the Buffalo Braves. Though Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are known for their offensive prowess, the team is fourth in the NBA in fewest points allowed at 94.7 and should at least be able to make it to the second round.
3. (4) Denver Nuggets (56-25)*—The Nuggets are the third of four teams on this list (along with the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Heat) with a NBA franchise-best amount of wins (they did win 65 in 1975 in the ABA with Larry Brown as coach) this season. Their achievement has come with a bit of a price as the team lost second-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari to a torn ACL earlier in the month. Leading rebounder Kenneth Faried suffered a ligament sprain last Friday and the Nuggets are hoping he’ll return in time for the playoffs.
2. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder (60-21)—Though out-shined this season by the long winning streaks of the Heat (27,) Clippers (17,) Nuggets (15,) and Knicks (13) the Thunder stayed consistent to wrap up the best record in the Western Conference. Though they’re five games behind Miami in the win-loss column the Thunder are tops in the league in point differential at plus-9.4 a game.
1. (1) Miami Heat (65-16)—The Heat, with its best regular season ever and now 36-2 since losing on Super Bowl Sunday, have looked like they’re ready to defend their title—with ease. Though they are heavy favorites to handle Milwaukee in the first round, Miami is opting to mess with team chemistry here a bit and rest their starters before the playoffs start. Fortunately, they should get their chemistry right back in the first round against the clearly-over-matched Milwaukee Bucks.
*-denotes record through Monday.