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NBA Power Rankings Week 23 | T’Wolves crack top 10, Suns still in first and Lakers and LeBron keep losing

There are three weeks left in the NBA regular season, and the playoff picture is starting to become more clear.

Update:
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Capital One Arena on March 19, 2022 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
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The short break from the Madness of the NCAA Tournament gives us a chance to focus our attention back on the NBA as the regular season comes closer and closer to an end. With three weeks to go in the regular season we present our latest Power Rankings as of Monday, March 21.

1) Phoenix Suns, 58-14 (last week 1)

4-0 last week. Still no Chris Paul in Phoenix as he is still on the mend from a broken thumb, but that hasn’t stopped the Suns from building up a nine game lead over the next best team in the West. They were perfect on during the week which sets up a 10 game stretch that will be relatively stress free. The main concern will be getting CP3 back to his best before the first round of the playoffs.

2) Memphis Grizzlies, 49-23 (last week 2)

2-1 last week. Sitting in second in the West, the Grizzlies have nothing to prove to anyone, but they will have a chance to show just how good of a team they are this week with a tough slate against some tough teams in the East. Their task of fending off the Warriors for second place heading into the playoffs may have got easier with Steph Curry due to miss a handful of games due to injury.

3) Miami Heat, 47-24 (last week 4)

2-0 last week. The Heat have been the constant in the Eastern Conference. They had a light week, with just two games against some sub par competition in the Pistons and the Thunder. But this week they have full slate against some tough teams coming up this week. They will need Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro continue to produce the Heat with Jimmy Butler still looking to get back to 100%.

4) Golden State Warriors, 47-24 (last week 3)

1-2 last week. The worst news of the week wasn’t the Warriors winning just one of their three games. The worst news came when reports out of the Chase Center stated Steph Curry will be out for a couple weeks as his ankle continues to heal after a collision with Boston’s Marcus Smart.

5) Milwaukee Bucks, 44-27 (last week 7)

2-1 last week. The Bucks are back. This is a scary team that looks like they are getting closer and closer to recovering the form they were in during last year’s championship run. Brook Lopez made his long awaited return to action following a long stint on the sideline. He should be hitting stride just as the playoffs come around which will be a huge boost to the Bucks.

6) Utah Jazz, 45-26 (last week 8)

3-1 last week. Don’t let Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz continue to fly under the radar. They may not be the sexiest team in the league, but they continue to impress. Watch out Golden State, Utah is right on their heels for the three spot and if Mitchell plays like he did against the Knicks, when he put up 36 and 8 rebounds Utah might be sitting pretty heading into the playoffs.

7) Boston Celtics, 44-28 (last week 10)

3-0 last week. The Boys in Bean Town are making a late season statement and have found themselves in the thick of the race to the top of the Eastern Conference. Not only have they jumped the Chicago Bulls for fourth place, but they are tied with the Sixers at 3.5 games back of the Heat after winning eight of their last nine. Jayson Tatum has kicked it into overdrive, and maybe playing the best basketball of anyone in the league at the moment, averaging 34.2 points over the last nine games.

8) Minnesota Timberwolves, 42-30 (last week 11)

3-0 last week. There’s not even a hint of doubt. The Timberwolves are the hottest team in the league. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards are leading a revolution in Minnesota. They have won nine of their last ten and have overtaken the Nuggets to pop out of Play-In position as they sit in 6th in the West. KAT scored 60 against the Spurs last week, and in this ten game stretch, he is averaging 28.6 points a game.

9) Philadelphia 76ers, 43-27 (last week 5)

2-2 last week. Philly split a four game series this week, and it looks like the boys from the City of Brotherly Love have been brought back down to earth after a rampant start to the Embiid/Harden era. They head West for a three game road trip after playing the Heat tonight. They still have an outside shot of first place in the East, and can give themselves a big boost by beating the Heat in Philly.

10) Dallas Mavericks, 43-28, (last week 6)

1-2 last week. Don’t let the Mavs little losing skid fool you. Luka and Dallas are still playing some great basketball despite their 20 point loss to the Hornets over the weekend. They played two tough games against the Nets and then Sixers and the game in Charlotte was your typical let down game on the final night of a five game road trip. They have two matchups against the scorching hot T’Wolves this week and those games may determine who finishes with the higher seed when the regular season is all said and done.

11) Denver Nuggets, 42-30 (last week 9)

2-2 last week. It’s not that the Nuggets have been playing bad, and that’s why they have dropped down the rankings, it’s just that the Timberwolves are playing so well that the Denver has been bumped from the top 10, and from an automatic playoff spot for the moment. Unfortunately for the Nuggets it doesn’t appear that Jamal Murray will be making his return any time soon.

12) Cleveland Cavaliers, 41-30 (last week 15)

3-1 last week. The Cavs have been hanging on to the sixth spot, but just barely. The Raptors are keeping them hones, but if the Bulls continue to drop down the standings it might be Toronto and Cleveland avoiding the Play-In and Chicago having to fight for their playoff lives.

13) Toronto Raptors, 40-31 (last week 13)

3-1 last week. The Raptors capped off a successful weed with a big win over the 76ers in Philly on Sunday night. Now Toronto will go head to head against two direct rivals in the race for the fifth or sixth spot in the East, with a game against the struggling Bulls and the perseverant Cavs on Thursday.

14) Chicago Bulls, 41-29 (last week 12)

0-3 last week. It turns out getting Alex Caruso back was good for a very brief spark in Chicago. They have had the most dramatic fall from grace of any team in the league, if we aren’t talking about the Los Angeles Lakers. This was a team tied for first in the East going into the All-Star Break and now find themselves fighting to get a top six spot going into the post season.

15) Brooklyn Nets, 37-34 (last week 16)

2-1 last week. Brooklyn put up 150 against the Magic in Kyrie Irving’s 60 point performance, and if it wasn’t for a Spencer Dinwiddie game winner on Wednesday night the Nets would be on a six game win streak. A lot was expected from Brooklyn this year, and finally it looks like Steve Nash’s side is putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

16) Los Angeles Clippers, 36-37 (last week 14)

0-3 last week. It’s like we jinxed the Clippers after they had that blistering restart following the break. The question was how long can this injury-plagued, veteran team hold on. They are sort of in no mans land at the moment at the eight spot in the West, where they are 6.5 back of the Nuggets a sixth and five games ahead of the Pelicans in ninth.

17) Charlotte Hornets, 36-35 (last week 18)

3-0 last week. Are the Hornets hitting stride at the right time? They have won four straight but still sit quite a ways from the sixth spot in the East. Getting Gordon Hayward back will only help this team, but in a perfect world the Hornets would have him back a few games before the end of the season to reincorporate with the team.

18) New Orleans Pelicans, 30-41 (last week 22)

2-1 last week. The Lakers keep sliding down the standings and the Pelicans won’t mind one bit. Since that Sunday game a few weeks ago when New Orleans provoked LA fans to boo their team off the court, these two teams are going in opposite directions.

19) Atlanta Hawks, 35-36 (last week last week 17)

2-2 last week. The Atlanta Hawks have been anything but predictable this season. One thing we can predict with relative certainty is that Trae Young will do enough to take the Hawks to the Play-In, but with what seed? Two games separate Atlanta and Brooklyn with a few weeks left in the season.

20) Los Angeles Lakers, 30-41 (last week 19)

1-3 last week. Will Anthony Davis really cure the Lakers of all their ails? LeBron James has been playing at his usual super human level, but no one else is stepping up to help the 37 year old. Davis was seen warming up before the Wizards game, but how long will it take him to be back on the court looking like the AD of always?

21) New York Knicks, 30-41 (last week 20)

2-1 last week. The Knicks have won five of their last eight, and are playing respectable basketball. RJ Barrett has been a big part of the Knicks recent, but all too late success. He is getting 24 ppg since the turn of the year and shooting near 40% from downtown.

22) Washington Wizards, 30-40 (last week 21)

1-3 last week. The Wizards had lost six straight games before coming back on the Lakers in the nation’s capital. Kristaps Porzingis finally had the game that the Wizards brought him in to have on a consistent basis, but it comes a little to late last Washington is 4.5 games back of the last Play-In spot.

23) San Antonio Spurs, 28-44 (last week 24)

2-2 last week. There isn’t much to say about the Spurs, but Gregg Popovic hcontinues to build his all-time record for wins and proved this week that he even at 73 years old he is still as feisty and cheeky as ever.

24) Portland Trail Blazers, 26-44 (last week 23)

0-4 last week. The Trail Blazers took it on the chin over the past week, in what was the most important moments of the season. I don’t think we’ll be seeing Damian Lillard back with the Blazers this season after they have all but been eliminated from playoff contention.

25) Indiana Pacers, 25-47 (last week 26)

2-1 last week. The Pacers are on a rare win streak coming into the week. Let’s not get carried away, they have won two straight, but it’s been almost two months since they achieved back to back wins.

26) Sacramento Kings, 25-48 (last week 25)

0-3 last week. The Kings have gone through a brutal schedule in the month of March. They have played just one team that won’t make the post season, the New York Knicks, and lost to them by 16. Their three losses against the Bucks, Celtics and Suns have secured Sacramento’s fate as they will be missing the playoffs for the 16th straight year.

27) Detroit Pistons, 19-52 (last week 28)

1-2 last week. The Pistons got a win over the Magic, and of all the teams at the bottom of the standings, Detroit is showing the most fighting spirit. They have won four of their last 10 and just one of those six losses have by double digits.

28) Orlando Magic, 19-53 (last week 29)

1-2 last week. Orlando beat the Thunder in a weekend game with very little interest surrounding it. They got crushed early in the week by Kyrie and the Nets, and then lost to the lowly Pistons. At the moment Magic fans can hang their hat on Wendell Carter Jr. who is the only bright spot at the moment. He’s averaging a double double with 18 points and over 10 rebounds since January.

29) Oklahoma City Thunder, 20-51 (last week 27)

0-4 last week. The Thunder have the longest active losing streak in the league and lost to the Orlando Magic in a battle of futility to wrap up the week.

30) Houston Rockets, 17-54 (last week 30)

0-3 last week. There is not much to smile about in Houston, as the Rockets have a really problem winning games. Their wins over the Grizzlies and the Lakers were there only victories in the last 20.

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