NBA power rankings

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NBA_nowitzki2_250.jpgOur weekly NBA rankings, where we have a new number one, but I kind of think the second ranked team would win a seven-game series between the two.

1. Mavericks (43-21) Eleven wins in a row. Next year when some talking head says deadline trades really don’t do much for a team, remember this. However, of the 11 wins, only two are by 10 points or more. They are squeaking by more than dominating.

2. Magic (44-20) They are 7-1 in their last eight with wins over the Cavaliers and the Lakers. They are coming together at the right time, and right now they may well be the best team in the East.

3. Cavaliers (49-15) LeBron is banged up but getting rest. Big Z will be back in a few weeks. For Cleveland, it’s about being right going into April, so while a loss to Milwaukee here and there might slide you down these rankings, that’s no big deal.

4. Lakers (46-18) Three losses in a row… Mark Cuban just petitioned David Stern to start the playoffs tomorrow.

5. Nuggets (42-21) With a slowed Birdman and possibly no K-Mart, Denver is about to workout Brian Cook. There is no bigger sign of desperation.

6. Hawks (40-22) In a little stretch playing teams they should beat, and they are (save Miami, but that was the dreaded second night of a back-to-back, so they are forgiven).

7. Jazz (40-22) I find this team oddly entertaining to watch, mostly because I like teams that just execute cleanly. That and I like to watch Deron Williams.

8. Spurs (36-24) They have won four in a row, and were doing their best Freddie Krueger “this team will not die” imitation, but with Tony Parker now out expect them to fall in the coming weeks.

9. Thunder (38-24) Saw them up close and in person for the first time this season this week, and they are more long and explosive live than on television. OKC has become one of my must-see teams when they come to town.

10. Suns (40-25) They can do a little more damage in the playoffs than people think, if the duct tape and superglue that is holding Steve Nash’s body together continues to work.

11. Celtics (40-21) Ray Allen seems to have found his shot again — in the last 10 Celtics games, he is hitting 44% from three. He was the key to the comeback win over Washington. If he’s hot Boston is a lot better, but does anyone expect him to sustain it?

12. Bucks (33-29) A win against Cleveland is a win against Cleveland, I don’t care who was missing from their roster… oh, it was LeBron. Well, that’s different.

13. Heat (32-31) Lost three in a row, now have won three in a row including beating the Lakers. Here’s the thing about these rankings — in the NBA teams 12 through about 21 are not that different, it’s just who is hot that week. This week the Heat are hot.

14. Blazers (37-28) This season may not have turned out the way Blazers fans had hoped going in, but this is still a team to fear in three years. Just not this year.

15. Bobcats (30-31) Teams that play good defense are supposed to be consistent. Not sure what is going on here.

16. Grizzlies (32-31) This team needs another road trip — they are undefeated in the last eight on the road. But have dropped six in a row at home.

17. Raptors (32-29) Chris Bosh returns and the Raptors put up one of their worst stinkers of the year at home, falling to the Sixers. Explain that, would ya?

18. Hornets (31-32) I like Darren Collison as much as the next guy, but the Hornets are 10-15 without CP3 in the lineup, 21-17 with him.

19. Rockets (31-31) Landry who? Don’t remember the guy, not with Scola scoring 21 and grabbing 18 boards a game the last three.

20. Bulls (31-31) Without Joakim Noah, the Bulls are getting killed in the paint. And losing games.

21. Kings (21-42) Of the teams in the bottom half of this grid, I would rather watch the Kings play more than anyone. That is because of Tyreke.  

22. Sixers (23-39) The win in Toronto is a reminder this team has the athletes, if the other team will help out by just turning the ball over a lot.

23. Wizards (21-39) That loss in Boston, up 13 with six minutes to go, was just painful.

24. Clippers (25-38) They had a win against Utah last week. That proved to be a fluke outing for both sides.

25 Pistons (22-41) Our thoughts are with Rodney Stuckey. Don’t come back until you are ready and healthy.

26. Pacers (20-43) If you are going to be a running team, it helps to have good ball handlers.

27. Knicks (21-41) The only people happy with the Knicks recent play are in Utah — they have the Knicks first round pick this draft.

28. Warriors (17-44) If Don Nelson just didn’t show up for a game, would anyone notice?

29. Timberwolves (14-49) Kevin Love coming off the bench is a good idea, not that you can tell in the team results.

30. Nets (7-55) They head out on the road — where they have won three in a row. Don’t expect that trend to continue.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.