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Brian’s basketball rankings: Bulls on stampede

By Brian Tabakin

Section: Sports

March 25, 2011

1. Bulls (51-19): It’s not that the Lakers did anything wrong to be knocked off of the top perch; the Bulls are just too good. In their last two games they have demolished their opponents by an average of 36.5 points, with a 40-point beat-down on the Kings and a 33-point drubbing of the Hawks. This is also the first 50-win Bulls team since the days of Michael Jordan.

2. Lakers (51-20): The Lakers are seven games behind the Spurs for the number one seed out West, so the Lakers will have to concentrate on keeping the two seed away from the Mavericks, who only sit a game back. However, with Andrew Bynum’s two-game suspension for a hard foul on Michael Beasley, it’s worth monitoring whether Bynum will tone down his recent tough play and revert to that dreaded word: “soft.”

3. Celtics (50-19): After getting blown out of the building by the Rockets last Friday, the Celtics have strung together two impressive 15-point comebacks against both the Hornets and the Knicks. Even better news for the Celtics is that Rajon Rondo appears to be coming out of his recent slump, dishing out 12 assists, scoring 13 points and getting two steals against the Knicks.

4. Spurs (57-13): While the Spurs have the best record in the NBA and are playing inspired basketball, their championship hopes flashed before their eyes on Monday night. Tim Duncan went down with an ankle injury and had to be helped off of the court by teammate Tony Parker. He was seen on crutches on Tuesday. Without Duncan, the Spurs will not be going anywhere in the playoffs.

5. Heat (48-22): After their killer 11-game stretch against +.500 teams, the Heat salvaged a 5-6 record during that period despite losing the first five games of the series. The Heat have now eked back up to .500 at 20-20 against teams more than .500. Basically, Christmas came early in Miami.

6. Mavericks (49-21): I mentioned the rumblings of panic down in Dallas last week; now there’s full-blown hysteria down in Dallas after they have suffered six-straight narrow defeats to the playoff bound teams in the West.

7. Thunder (45-24): The Thunder are currently 9-1 in the month of March despite newly acquired center Kendrick Perkins only playing in three of those games. The bad news? That one loss came to the lowly Raptors.

8. Nuggets (42-29): The Nuggets are four games behind the Thunder for the fourth seed in the West. However, with two games left against the Thunder and with the Nuggets playing some of the best basketball in the league right now. The Nuggets have ample opportunity to grab that fourth spot.

9. Magic (45-26): As much as I want Kevin Garnett to win the Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard has the award on lockdown. While Derrick Rose appears to have the MVP award on lockdown, Dwight Howard has a small chance at the MVP if Rose falls back to earth. If Howard manages to win the MVP, he will become the third to garner both awards in the same season, placing himself in the company of Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

10. Trail Blazers (41-30): Things are looking up for the perpetually cursed team known as the Blazers. Gerald Wallace has been extremely productive since he was acquired from the Bobcats, Brandon Roy has successfully come back from surgery on both of his knees, and Nicolas Batum exploded for 25 points against the Lakers. Now if only they could get Greg Oden on the court instead of on the bench.

11. Grizzlies (39-32): A big blow was dealt to the Grizzlies this week with the news that Rudy Gay will require season-ending surgery. However, even with Gay’s injury they are still the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

12. Rockets (37-34): The Rockets have won 11 out of their past 14 games, including a home domination of the Celtics. Yet they still sit two games out of the playoffs. Remember when the Rockets were in the Eastern Conference? Their record would be good for the sixth seed.

13. 76ers (36-34): The 76ers have now jumped in front of the Knicks for the sixth seed in the East. The 76ers would probably rather avoid the Heat in the playoffs since the 76ers like to use a small lineup and run with the ball, all things that would help the Heat. Still the matchup would prove to be interesting.

14. Hornets (40-31): The Hornets jumped out to a 15-point lead on the Celtics this past weekend. Then they took a nosedive and gave away the game to the Celtics.

15. Hawks (40-31): The Hawks just got the doors blown off their arena by the Bulls, who dominated them on every end of the floor, in a 33-point loss. Even worse? Their own fans were chanting MVP for Derrick Rose. Reminds me of the Jordan days.

16. Suns (35-34): Steve Nash has returned from his pelvic injury, but if his first outing down in New Orleans was any indicator, he still is feeling the effects from the injury.

17. Pacers (31-40): Since Tyler Hansbrough has been put into the starting lineup he has been on an absolute tear, averaging 19.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg. Once again Larry “Legend” Bird was right, after commenting that Hansbrough should have been starting since the beginning of the season.

18. Knicks (35-35): The Knicks v. Celtics game Monday night should be nicknamed “There Will Be Blood” resulting in 12 stitches, three elbows to faces and two bleeding eyes. Oh yeah and the Knicks blew a 15-point lead to the Celtics including a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Knicks are going to have to exorcize the Green demons before they can be truly called a title contender.

19. Jazz (36-35): Any chances the Jazz had at the playoffs vanished in an 18-point loss to the Grizzlies in a must-win game. The Jazz are now just 5-10 since Jerry Sloan left.

20. Bucks (28-41): A week after scoring just 56 points against the Celtics, the Bucks have posted two 100+ point games in a row. I guess the Bucks found their offense on the back of the milk carton.

21. Warriors (30-41): If there were an award for most inconsistent player, then Dorell Wright would have it on lockdown. In last Friday’s game against Phoenix, Wright scored zero points in the first half before torching the Suns for 30 in the second half.

22. Clippers (27-44): In games where there is a guy with a butcher knife on the court during pre-game workouts, the Clippers are undefeated at 1-0. Maybe the Clippers should hire that guy to be the mascot.

23. Bobcats (28-41): Want more evidence that the eighth seed in the East may be one of the worst playoff teams in NBA history? The Bobcats already have three more losses than they had all of last season and are still in contention for the final playoff spot in the East.

24. Nets (22-47): Remember that chance I mentioned of the Nets getting into the playoffs? It vanished this past week. However, Kris Humphries has posted 15+ rebounds in five consecutive games. Kevin Garnett is the only other player to accomplish such a feat.

25. Raptors (20-50): Before losing to the Nuggets on Monday night by 33 points, the Raptors posted their first winning streak (even if it was just two games) with wins against the Wizards and Thunder.

26. Pistons (25-45): Someone has it out for Detroit. Rip Hamilton reverted into his championship form averaging 19.8 ppg on 52 percent shooting in the past four games. Then he had to leave the team due to a family emergency.

27. Timberwolves (17-54): It appears we found out why Kevin Love’s double-double streak was ended against a team, the Warriors, that doesn’t know what defense is; Kevin Love is out indefinitely with a groin injury that he may have been enduring in said game.

28. Cavaliers (13-56): I looked at the NBA scoreboard on ESPN this past week and almost choked on my dinner. The Cavaliers were down 30-0 to the Blazers in the first quarter. That about sums up their season.

29. Kings (17-52): The once-feared home-court advantage of Arco Arena is gone with the Kings being the only team out West with fewer than 10 home wins. Adding insult to injury, the Kings only have five games left at the arena before they ship out to Anaheim.

30. Wizards (17-52): In a season full of misery, the Wizards can take solace in the fact that Javale McGee posted 12 blocks in a game this past week becoming the first player to do so since the 2000-2001 season.

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