The NBA Power Rankings are cruising towards their conclusion as the end of the season approaches, but one team is making a late surge towards the top.
Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls have cruised their way to Eastern Conference dominance, having won 14 of their last 16 games and topped it all off with consecutive 30+ point thrashings of the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks. Oh yeah, and star offseason acquisition Carlos Boozer missed five of those 16 games. The Bulls are probably the most dangerous team in the league right now and Rose is likely the front-runner for league MVP.
In most rankings, they're right near the top with the Los Angeles Lakers, who've quietly won 13 of their last 14 (including last night's heartbreaking three-overtime victory over the home-town heros).
The San Antonio Spurs are still chugging along, doing their winning thang and all that, but Tim Duncan sprained his ankle and will miss around two weeks. It likely won't affect their play too much, since ol' Timmay hasn't been having a spectacular year as it is (and he hasn't had to). So, we basically know who the top powerhouses are in each conference.
The story of the bottom of the playoff race is a familiar one: the West is packed with quality and the East is going to let some pretty crappy teams into the postseason. The Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, and Phoenix Suns continue to battle desperately for the seventh and eighth seeds, though the Grizz just lost Rudy Gay for the year to shoulder surgery, so that doesn't help their cause one bit. In the East, the Indiana Pacers -- a team nine games below .500 -- sits as the eighth seed.
In local news, the Suns were making some headway up the rankings until Channing Frye went down with a dislocated shoulder and Steve Nash's groin got all "unstable." The team promptly dropped four straight games after that and made getting into the playoffs a whole lot harder on themselves. But, they've won two of three since then, and narrowly lost the aforementioned triple-overtime game against the defending champs. But, they're pretty well on the outside looking in, playoffs-wise, and with only thirteen games left, it'll be challenging to make up lost ground.
Anyway, here are the rankings:
SBNation.com | NBA Power Rankings: Heat Chase Bulls, Celtics; Spurs Maintain Dominance
The San Antonio Spurs remain in the driver's seat of Planet Earth; sources say Gregg Popovich actually picked Barack Obama's sterling bracket for him. In the meantime, the Miami Heat kinda survived its brutal 11-game stretch, and is rewarded with an easy run leading up to the final week of the season. Can they catch the Bulls or Celtics?
NBA.com | A look at the NBA's remaining races
The next 3 1/2 weeks should be pretty fun. Each team has between 11 and 14 games remaining, and there's still a lot to be settled before the playoffs get started. In total, 21 of the 30 teams are either in playoff position or within two games in the loss column of eighth place in their conference.
ESPN.com | Power Rankings: Can anyone dethrone champs?
The Los Angeles Lakers, for the third successive week, sit atop ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings. The Chicago Bulls and any other aspiring challenger have only three more Mondays to try to bump the reigning champs out of the top spot.
SI.com | NBA Power Rankings: Thunder roll as playoffs near
For now, they've won nine of 11 and are up to fifth in this week's Power Rankings.
ProBasketballTalk.com | NBA Power Rankings: The Lakers look like the Lakers again
Notice that two of the top three are from the West? That’s because the East is stumbling toward the playoffs.
CBSSports.com | Power Rankings: Race for top spot will be interesting
At a timeout with 5:56 to go in the Lakers-Timberwolves game at Staples Center on Friday night, I know exactly what Phil Jackson said to his team: "Guys, this is embarrassing. If we lose this game, we fall behind the Bulls in the CBSSports.com Power Rankings, and if that happens, I'm outta here at season's end." Silly, Phillie. It's the Spurs, not the Bulls. Whatever, it worked. The Lakers responded with an 18-7 game-ending run, allowing them to retain the top spot in this week's rankings.