|Francona Wins Big in Return to Fenway||Connelly’s Top Ten: Rask Falls on Face||Bruins Lose 4-3 in OT as Rangers Fight to Stay Alive||For the Bulletin Board: Lundqvist’s “Lucky Bounces,” Savard’s “#ByeByeTorts”|
Another week of Basketball in the books means another Power Rankings column! We have a new #1 today: Congratulations Chicago!
Away. We. Go.
1) Chicago Bulls (10-2) – There is a pretty clear top three right now, and I’m giving the Bulls a slight edge this week based on the fact that they are 9-1 in their last 10 games. Their latest win came against the Wizards without Derrick Rose.
2) Oklahoma City Thunder (10-2) – James Harden is putting up some ridiculous numbers right now, and if he isn’t starting by the end of the season he should be the clear-cut ‘sixth man of the year’. What a weapon. Oh by the way, the Thunder are on a league-best five-game winning streak.
3) Miami Heat (8-3) – The good: They have only lost one game in regulation time this season. The Bad: They have lost two straight games in overtime.
4) Los Angeles Lakers (8-4) – If the Lakers weren’t back last week, they’re really back now. Andrew Bynum is still playing like the best center in the league, and Kobe Bryant is coming off back-to-back 40-point games. He looks healthy, and that’s bad for every team in the league.
5) Portland Trailblazer (7-3) – I still don’t understand how Phoenix blew them out last Friday, but they currently hold the #2 seed in the West, and I still believe in their depth. They also currently have the lowest turnover percentage in the league, which is even more impressive when you consider the pace that they play.
6) Philadelphia 76ers (7-3) – I like to refer to them as “Portland East”. They just play good, solid basketball. I look at the roster and I see a decent team, but they are playing like a great team right now. I would expect them to drop off at some point, but for now they are playing as good as anyone.
7) Denver Nuggets (7-4) – I don’t know what it is about Denver, but they can do no wrong right now. Ty Lawson doesn’t play Wednesday? No problem, more minutes for Corey Brewer who decided to score 19 points in 15 minutes on 7-8 shooting. No biggie.
8) Indiana Pacers (7-3) – They don’t stand out in any particular statistic, and I’m sure casual NBA fans would struggle to name two players on their roster, but they just keep winning.
9) Orlando Magic (7-3) – I’m not crazy about putting Orlando here, but I guess they deserve it. Hedo Turkoglu is playing well right now, and when he plays well Orlando plays well.
10) New York Knicks (6-5) – The Knicks finally look like they have started to figure things out. They are also 3-0 when rookie guard Iman Shumpert starts … coincidence? I think not.
11) San Antonio Spurs (7-4) – It understandably took them a little while to adjust to losing Manu Ginobili, losing two straight games to the Thunder and the Bucks shortly after he went down, but they followed it up with a nice win over Houston, and Gary Neal has done an admirable job as Ginobili’s replacement so far.
12) Atlanta Hawks (8-4) – They hold a 2-2 record against the Heat and the Bulls this season, which tells me they can hang with the top teams in the East. Not many other teams can claim that at this point. I’m still not in love with the roster, though. And to make matters worse, it looks like Al Horford could miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
13) Los Angeles Clippers (5-3) – The Clippers come in just outside the Top 10, and I fully expect them to enter the Top 10 soon. They had their biggest victory of the season last night against the Miami Heat in overtime, which capped off a very nice stretch for them where they won four of their last five.
14) Dallas Mavericks (6-5) – The theme this week seems to be that the teams that were supposed to be good coming into the season are starting to live up to those projections. Dallas falls in line with this theme as well, with three consecutive wins on the road over New Orleans, Detroit, and Boston.
15) Boston Celtics (4-5) – The bottom of the East is bad this year, which means the under=.500 Boston Celtics would make the playoffs if they started today. Every conversation I have around town starts and ends with how old Kevin Garnett looks. When you consider the fact that Jermaine O’Neal also looks (and has looked) incredibly old … that’s not a good sign for your starting frontcourt. It may be time to change things up in the starting lineup. I know Doc doesn’t want to do it, but I think the starters need an injection of youth and athleticism. Yes, I’m talking to you, Greg Stiemsma. Maybe I’m a little crazy, but let’s face it, to this point the Celtics’ best win has come against the Detroit Pistons. I repeat, the BEST win. Boston simply cannot close out games against average-to-good teams right now. With our next three games coming against the Bulls, Pacers, and Thunder, this should make for a very interesting week.
16) Utah Jazz (6-4) – The Jazz have been impressive! Good for them. They would be on a six-game winning streak if it weren’t for an overtime loss to the Lakers Wednesday night.
17) Houston Rockets (3-7) – The bottom half of the league is just total garbage right now, which makes it hard to evaluate. The Rockets only have three wins, but they have had an incredibly hard schedule thus far, and they are better than some of the four-win teams. Don’t make me look bad, Houston.
18) Memphis Grizzlies (4-6) – In my preseason ranking I mentioned how I thought this team could be either great or terrible and neither outcome would surprise me. Well, here we are, three weeks into the season and they’re pretty bad. They’re missing their best player though, so I guess we still don’t know that much about this Grizzlies team.
19) Phoenix Suns (4-5) – I would love to be able to write my weekly “Trade Steve Nash” line here, but they deserve more than that this week. I honestly don’t know how they have four wins, including a victory over the Blazers, when Marcin Gortat is their leading scorer at 12.7 PPG.
20) Sacramento Kings (4-7) – Under new head Coach Keith Smart the Kings are 2-2 on the season. This is in large part due to how ridiculous DeMarcus Cousins has been since Smart took over, averaging 18.25 points and 13.5 rebounds per game.
21) Cleveland Cavaliers (4-5) – I still think this team is overachieving, but they did get a win over my beloved Timberwolves this past Friday. They haven’t really beaten any ‘good’ teams yet, but for a young team, beating the teams you are supposed to beat is a good sign.
22) Minnesota Timberwolves (3-7) – I’m still a believer. Rich Adelman is a great, great coach. This team is close: once they figure out how to win close games they’ll start piling up the wins. They aren’t a playoff team, but they’re better than a few teams ranked above them.
23) Golden State Warriors (3-6) – They beat the Miami Heat on Tuesday night. That’s enough for me to rank them over all the other teams left.
24) Toronto Raptors (4-7) – Another team that I watch and say, “How does this team have four wins?” I know this means nothing, but in a seven-game series against the one-win Wizards, I’m taking Washington.
25) Milwaukee Bucks (4-6) – Hey! The Bucks beat the Spurs! Seriously though, they should be better than they are. I’m sure head coach Scott Skiles in on the hot seat right now, so look out for that.
26) New Orleans Hornets (3-7) – If Eric Gordon can stop missing games, they’ll win more. It’s that simple.
27) Charlotte Bobcats (2-9) – P U
28) Detroit Pistons (2-9) – P U
29) New Jersey Nets (2-9) – P U
30) Washington Wizards (1-9) - P U
Sorry, Charlotte, Detroit, New Jersey, and Washington, you haven’t played well enough to earn real words. At least we have a clear Bottom Four this season. The bottom half of the league is pretty bad in general, but these teams are really, really terrible. All hope is not lost, though! Lucky for them it looks like this year’s draft class is particularly strong. Better luck next year.