NBA Power Rankings, where the Spurs, they jingle, jangle, jingle

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Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, or, how the West looks better than the East right now by a long shot.

1. Spurs (11-1). Distraction? What are you talking about? Right now the Spurs are focused and playing the best basketball in the association — and the offense is really clicking with Parker dishing a little more.

2. Lakers (12-2). Los Angeles is playing well, but we need to note they have played one of the five softest schedules in the league so far. They’re beating who they are supposed to beat, though, and big wins over bad opponents are a good sign.

3. Hornets (11-1). Jarrett Jack can be a nice backup point guard and play a little two, sure, but what really matters is that Chris Paul likes him, and all that really matters for New Orleans is what makes Chris Paul happy.

4. Magic (9-3). Four wins in a row, but not against he strongest of competition (although they did beat Memphis, something the Heat couldn’t do. Monday night against the Spurs is a much better test.

5. Thunder (9-4). Big jump up the board because despite Kevin Durant having to sit a game they beat Boston, Utah and Milwaukee in one week. They are getting their swagger back.

6. Mavericks (8-4). What Dallas is doing poorly so far? Getting the ball on the offensive glass. What Dallas is doing well so far? Not fouling on defense.

7. Jazz (9-5). All credit to Jerry Sloan, I thought this team would take a step back this season and so far they are what they always are — a good, professional side.

8. Celtics (9-4). The Celtics are playing with the passion usually reserved for a road trip in February already. I suppose we should have expected that. They need Rondo back soon, mostly for his defense.

9. Heat (8-5). The long front line of Memphis pushed the Haslem-less Heat around at the end of their loss this week. Pat Riley needs to do something about that, but his options are limited.

10. Hawks (8-5). Al Horford is tearing it up this season, 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds a game, a true shooing percentage of 68.5 percent (third best in the league) and a PER of 27.8 (behind only Chris Paul).

11. Bulls (7-4). Tom Thibodeau has them running, the Bulls are playing at the fourth fastest pace in the league.

12. Nuggets (7-6). Carmelo Antony isn’t playing much defense, JR Smith and coach Karl are butting heads — despite all the rumors everything remains the same as it ever was in Denver.

13. Blazers (8-6). Brandon Roy and Greg Oden will never be quite the forces that will lead this team everyone had hoped for. Rich Cho’s job has gotten a lot harder.

14. Pacers (5-6). They are cruising along in the middle of the East, which for them is a big step forward.

15. Warriors (7-6). Hey, new owners, lots of hope. Look at that and not that Sunday night game against the Lakers. Ignore the man behind the curtain.

16. Cavaliers (5-7). Nice win against Boston this week, but suddenly it’s trendy for every middle of the road team to beat Boston. Can they play Antawn Jamison and JJ Hickson together?

17. Suns (6-7). Without Steve Nash this team is not good on offense, and they are terrible on defense either way. Nash may be back Monday night.

18. Bucks (5-8). I think they are the best 5-8 team in the league, for what that’s worth. Which isn’t much. Andrew Bogut can’t fully extend his arm on his shot release, which is why he is shooting 46.3 percent on free throws.

19. Knicks (6-8). Three wins in a row, following a week with three losses in a row to bad teams. Inconsistent. Why? Well, this goes a long way in explaining it.

20. Bobcats (5-8). Stephen Jackson with the franchise’s first triple double — that took a long time.

21. Grizzlies (5-9). OJ Mayo has not been good this season (PER of 10.4 best example). Despite that they get a quality win against the Heat, ending a five-game losing streak.

22. Raptors (5-9). Three straight wins including one over Boston. And they’re doing it with defense. Didn’t see that coming.

23. Pistons (5-8). When an opposing coach (Phil Jackson) questions your team’s effort and the response is “yea, he’s probably right” things are bad.

24. Wizards (4-8). Gilbert Arenas is racking up big, inefficient numbers. John Wall should be back this week.

25. Rockets (3-9). Kyle Lowry is no Aaron Brooks, and no Yao Ming now for a couple more weeks. They have lost three in a row.

26. Nets (4-9). The offense really needs to be more about Devin Harris.

27. Kings (4-8). If the Kings start to play defense consistently like they did against the Hornets they are going to start winning some games and moving up these rankings. But we need to see it to believe it.

28. Timberwolves (4-10). Man, Ron Artest just took Kevin Love out of his game. They could use Jonny Flynn back to provide some scoring punch.

29. Sixers (3-10). The Sixers offense has been terrible the last week or so. The defense isn’t great, but the offense is terrible.

30. Clippers (1-13). Blake Griffin’s highlights mask a bad team right now. And Baron Davis coming back soon isn’t really going to help that.

LeBron James: ‘The closeout game is always the hardest, and Boston is going to make it even harder’

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BOSTON (AP) — It took 10 games and halfway through the third round of the NBA playoffs before the Cleveland Cavaliers finally encountered their first true dose of resistance this postseason.

After cruising to a 2-0 Eastern Conference finals lead over Boston, the Cavs were humbled at home in a Game 3 loss, and needed a 42-point night from Kyrie Irving to battle back from a 16-point hole and win Game 4.

The chatter about an NBA Finals’ matchup of two teams with unblemished playoff records is gone, but the challenge from the Celtics has sharpened the focus of the defending champs. Cleveland is expecting another unflinching effort in Game 5 from a Celtics team that isn’t backing down despite facing a 3-1 deficit in the series.

“The closeout game is always the hardest, and Boston is going to make it even harder,” said LeBron James, who rebounded from a playoff-low 11 points in Game 3 to score 34 in Game 4.

James had been saying that he felt like the Cavs needed to go through some adversity after a blistering 10-0 start to the postseason.

The way they responded Tuesday night – particularly on the defensive end – is a good sign for their prospects of wrapping up their third straight Eastern Conference crown on Thursday.

Boston shot 47 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point line in the first half of Game 4 on their way to building as much as a 16-point lead.

While Irving’s scoring ignited the Cavs’ comeback, it was made possible thanks to Cleveland’s defensive effort over the final 24 minutes. Cleveland limited the Celtics to 41 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc.

“We have to go in with a bunker mentality that we had in Game 1 and Game 2, to go out and do what we do, but we have to defend,” James said. “We have to execute offensively. We have to have low turnovers, and we have to try to make them miss because some of those guys play a lot better at home. That’s just how the game be played.”

If the Celtics were playing with house money heading into the series, they are flush with it again as they return to the Garden.

They’ve given themselves a chance to erase the sting of their 44-point loss in Game 2. The Celtics are also guarding against ending their season by having to watch the Cavs celebrate a conference title on their home floor.

Boston lost All-Star Isaiah Thomas for the remainder of the postseason to a hip injury in Game 2, forcing coach Brad Stevens to shuffle his lineup and rotations in Games 3 and 4.

In addition, Jae Crowder suffered a strained left thigh in the third quarter of Game 4 as well, but returned to play the entire fourth quarter.

It’s an indication that despite still being in a dire 3-1 hole, the resolve inside Boston’s locker room remains strong.

“We owe our fans a better performance, and we know that, and we’re going to play hard,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said. “You’re going to see a team playing hard, very hard, the entire game.”

It’s also why Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said that his team must keep all thoughts of being on the cusp of a return to the NBA Finals at bay for now.

“You can’t (think about it). As much as you want to, it’s not over,” he said.

If nothing else, Lue said their recent taste of adversity should help them remain humble heading into Game 5.

“I think it is making us better. And it’s making us tougher. It’s making us work,” the Cavs coach said. “Because they got a tough group over there. (Terry) Rozier is tough, Avery is tough, (Marcus) Smart’s tough. Crowder. So, they got a lot of tough guys that are going to compete so they’re making us compete, which is good for us.”

 

PBT Podcast: Celtics draft or trade? Carmelo future? All from your Twitter questions.

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What will Boston do with the No. 1 pick, keep it or trade it?

What does the future hold for Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks?

Is there a correct way to eat pizza? Actually, the answer to that one is yes, and it is not with a knife and fork, Donald Trump.

PBT’s Kurt Helin and Dane Carbaugh discuss all that that and more from your Twitter questions.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Lakers hire Kardashian trainer Gunnar Peterson

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LOS ANGELES (AP) A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers’ new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

Report: Bucks interested in Cavaliers GM David Griffin

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The Magic hired Jeff Weltman, and the Hawks are reportedly close to hiring Travis Schlenk.

In other words, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin – who’s still without a contract for next season – lost his leverage with other teams.

But to the rescue are the Bucks, who will not necessarily promote assistant general manager Justin Zanik to replace Orland-bound general manager John Hammond.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Multiple sources told cleveland.com that the Bucks, who lost general manager John Hammond to the Orlando Magic this week, have interest in Griffin, 47.

Griffin and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert have spoken about continuing their partnership in recent days, sources said, though no agreement was reached.

I still think Griffin stays in Cleveland. He helped assemble a championship contender, and he has LeBron Jamesendorsement. Plus, the Cavaliers can afford him.

But whomever gets the Milwaukee job will inherit a roster stocked with promising young talent like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. The Bucks wouldn’t be a bad fallback option for Griffin – if he can’t use them to get a deal with the Cavs.