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Brian’s basketball rankings: The Bulls take over the East

By Brian Tabakin

Section: Sports

March 18, 2011

1. Lakers (48-20): Though they lost a close game to the Heat, Kobe stole the headlines with his post-game shooting session in the Heat’s own stadium. It is this type of dedication that will make the Lakers the hardest to out in the playoffs.

2. Bulls (48-18): As the Celtics are fading, putting health beforeh seeding, the Bulls are surging toward the one seed in the East. Michael Jordan has said he sees “many” titles coming from this group and it’s hard to argue with MJ.

3. Celtics (47-18): Even though the Celtics have lost three out of four against horrible teams such as the Clippers, Nets and 76ers, the Celtics proved last season that you can never count them out. After finishing the season barely above .500 going 27-27 in the last 54 games last year, the Celtics made a playoff surge to come within four minutes of banner 18.

4. Spurs (54-13): After embarrassing the Heat with a 30-point win a week ago, the Heat returned the favor with their own 30-point dismantling of the Spurs. With the six and a half game cushion the Spurs have in the West, the Spurs are one of the few teams that can afford to take their foot off the gas down the stretch.

5. Mavericks (47-20): Even though the Mavericks are currently tied with the Lakers for the second seed in the East, there is panic down in Dallas. The Mavericks have constently been criticized for being “soft,” and this week their own coach echoed the same criticism.

6. Heat (46-21): Since Chris Bosh demanded he get the ball in the low post, the Heat have run off a three game winning-streak with solid wins against the Lakers, Grizzlies and Spurs. However, it’s hard to say that Chris Bosh is the X-factor when this is what he was expected to do as part of the Heat’s Big Three.

7. Thunder (43-23): In his first game since being traded, Kendrick Perkins posted six points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes. Perkins is a solid low-post presence who will make the Thunder a formidable foe in any potential playoff matchup.

8. Nuggets (40-27): How’s this for irony? Since trading Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks, the Nuggets are 8-2. The Knicks meanwhile are a pedestrian 6-6 since obtaining Melo.

9. Magic (42-26): Gilbert Arenas was supposed to make a resurgence in Orlando. Instead, he has constantly been beaten off the dribble and just looked plain old. Arenas is becoming an albatross on the neck of the Magic rather than the X-factor he was expected to be.

10. Trail Blazers (38-29): Even though the Blazers lost the final two games of their East Coast road trip after wins against the “Super Friends” in Miami and “Superman” in Orlando, the Blazers are debunking the common notion that the West is a top-heavy conference.

11. Grizzlies (37-31): After wins against Dallas and San Antonio, the only place to go was down for the Grizzlies. However, I doubt the Grizzlies expected a total freefall when they were destroyed by the Heat.

12. Hornets (39-30): In his first game back from the scary concussion he suffered against Cleveland, Chris Paul posted 33 points, 15 assists, seven rebounds and five steals. Not a bad outing for someone just back from a concussion.

13. 76ers (34-33): After starting the season 3-13, Doug Collins righted the ship and by doing so vaulted himself in the conversation for Coach of the Year. Only the Bulls at 14-4 have a better record than the 76ers, 13-6, in games played since Feb. 1.

14. Hawks (39-28): Here’s a painful statistic for Hawk fans. With their acquisition of Kirk Heinrich, he becomes their ninth point guard since 2005 when the Hawks opted not to choose Deron Williams or Chris Paul in the draft. Ouch.

15. Knicks (34-32): The Knicks have some explaining to do. After announcing a 45 percent rise in ticket prices for the next NBA season after their acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks are going to have to put on a better show than being just a .500 teams.

16. Rockets (34-34): With the Rockets almost certain to miss the playoffs, here is one stat to pin the blame on: the Rockets have nine losses this season after leading in the final three minutes of the game. Takeaway those snafus and the Rockets would be the fifth seed.

17. Suns (33-32): Though the Suns still have an outside shot at making the playoffs, those odds will quickly evaporate if Steve Nash is out much longer with his injury.

18. Warriors (30-37): At the beginning of last week, the Warriors had a slim chance of sneaking into the eighth spot in the West. After a three-game skid with losses to Minnesota, Indiana and New Jersey, those chances are gone.

19. Jazz (35-33): Already downtrodden after their loss of both Coach Jerry Sloan and all-star point guard Deron Williams, Minnesota threw salt in the wound with a 20-point beatdown.

20. Clippers (26-42): If I had told you that Blake Griffin would be held to single digits against the Celtics, you’d probably have asked me by how many points the Clippers lost. Instead the rest of the Clippers stepped up and led the team to an astonishing upset of the Celtics.

21. Bucks (26-40): I’ve never seen an NBA team throw in the towel in the first quarter. Then came Sunday’s Bucks vs. Celtics game. The Bucks scored just nine points in the first quarter en route to a complete dismantling at the hands of the Celtics.

22. Bobcats (28-38): Despite an abysmal -3.5-point differential the Bobcats sit just half a point behind the final playoff spot in the East.

23. Pacers (29-38): If the standings hold, the Pacers will make the playoffs almost seven games under .500. In the process they might become the worst team to make the playoffs since the ’94-’95 Celtics made the playoffs with a 35-47 record.

24. Timberwolves (17-51): The only good thing going for Minnesota ended this week with the end of Kevin Love’s 53-game double-double streak. The only consolation is that the T-Wolves have no intentions of firing head coach Kurt Rambis, allowing him to absorb the losses while coaching and breeding their young talent.

25. Nets (22-43): The Nets have put together a streak of five wins, their longest streak since the ’03-’04 season. Though a long shot, the Nets sit just six games out of the final playoff spot in the East, and with Indiana, Charlotte and Milwaukee all slumping, the Nets still have a chance­—albeit a small chance­—to make the playoffs.

26. Raptors (18-48): It’s widely known that the Cavaliers started an impressive 7-9 without Lebron James. Surprisingly less realized is the fact that the Raptors started 8-11 without Chris Bosh before completely crumbling like the Cavs.

27. Pistons (23-44): Rip Hamilton is finally out of John Kuester’s dog house, starting his first game since Dec. 17. However, that start came on the road so it will be interesting to see what kind of reaction he gets if he starts in the next Pistons’ home game.

28. Cavaliers (12-53): The one thing going for the lowly Cavaliers: they would probably beat the Knicks if they met in the playoffs. But the Cavaliers won’t be sniffing the playoffs for years to come.

29. Kings (16-49): The Kings have only 18 games remaining as the Sacramento Kings and only eight of those will be played at home. With the Kings moving to Los Angeles, it’s likely that their name will change too as the Los Angeles Kings (NHL) already have it.

30. Wizards (16-49): Even the abysmal Cavaliers have more road wins than the Wizards. The Wizards have 11 more chances to avoid matching Sacramento’s 1-40 road futility record in the ’90-’91 season.

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