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With one week left before the All-Star break, the NBA playoff picture is now coming into focus.
Out West, the San Antonio Spurs have separated themselves from the pack, and are in the driver seat for the No. 1 seed. The Dallas Mavericks, who trail the Spurs by seven games, have a precarious hold on the No. 2 seed. On the Mavs’ heels are the defending-champion Los Angeles Lakers, who are just a half game behind Dallas in the No. 3 spot.
The Portland Trailblazers would be the No. 8 seed if the playoffs started today, but with well over a month remaining in the season, the Memphis Grizzlies trail Portland by just one game.
In the East, the Boston Celtics are now in the driver’s seat, but hold a slim half game lead on the Miami Heat. The Chicago Bulls, who could be this year’s dark horse, are just 2.5 games behind Boston in the No. 3 spot.
The Indiana Pacers would be the No. 8 seed in the East if the playoffs started today, and are trailed by the Charlotte Bobcats, who sit two games back.
In this week’s SoB NBA Power Rankings, the Spurs are ranked No. 1 for the third consecutive time. San Antonio has now held the top spot for nearly two months, dating back to December 17, 2010.
The Heat supplanted the Celtics for the No. 2 spot, while the Lakers remain at No. 3. Despite yet another big win over the Heat on Sunday, the Celtics slipped from No. 2 to No. 5, and the streaking Mavericks snuck back into the top 5, climbing six spots from No. 10 to the No. 4 position.
The Bulls fell one spot from No. 5 to No. 6 this week.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 7), Orlando Magic (No. 8), Atlanta Hawks (No. 9), and New Orleans Hornets (No. 10) round out the field.
|1 (30)||San Antonio Spurs||45-9||The Spurs are old, but they’re oh so good. (KC Downey)|
|2 (23)||Miami Heat||39-15||It looks like King James is finally taking command of his new fiefdom. (John Scullane)|
|3 (23)||Los Angeles Lakers||38-17||Andrew Bynum is silencing his critics with one outstanding performance after another (Andrew Kipp)|
|4 (21)||Dallas Mavericks||38-16||The red-hot Mavs are on fire after taking down the C’s, Knicks, and Hawks. (KC Downey)|
|5 (20)||Boston Celtics||39-14||It’s easy to blame the injuries, but losing to the Bobcats is inexcusable. (John Scullane)|
|6 (18)||Chicago Bulls||36-16||There are a lot of elite teams in the NBA this season, and the Bulls should certainly be considered among them (Andrew Kipp)|
|7 (12)||OKC Thunder||34-19||MVP for Derrick Rose? Not if Kevin Durant has anything to say about it. (KC Downey)|
|8 (6)||Orlando Magic||35-21||No doubt Orlando had much higher expectations for themselves entering the regular season. We’ll just have to wait and see how they handle the adversity in the playoffs. (John Scullane)|
|9 (6)||Atlanta Hawks||33-20||Surrendering a 22-point lead at home to the Bobcats was devastating. (Andrew Kipp)|
|10 (6)||New Orleans Hornets||33-23||Not sure what to make of the Hornets, who have had separate stretches of 11-1 and 10-0, but are only 33-23 overall. (KC Downey)|