NBA Power Rankings: All-Star influenced edition

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With teams only playing one or two games this weekend due to the All-Star break, we decided to let the weekend activities influence the power rankings. Like dunking over a car moves you up. But just a little.

1. Celtics (40-14, LW #2). Doc Rivers played Kevin Garnett 7:32 in the All Star Game and LeBron James 32:20. Take that Erik Spoelstra.

2. Spurs (46-10, Last Week #1). Derrick Rose shredded them on national television last Thursday. What should we take away from that? Only that it was the last game of a 9-game road trip and the last game before a vacation.

3. Mavericks (40-16, LW #3). Dallas is 9-1 in the last 10 and got better by adding Roddy Beaubois to the lineup this week. They head into the final months 2.5 games ahead of the Lakers, they will need that home court advantage to stand a chance against L.A. in the playoffs.

4. Heat (41-15, LW #5). LeBron James with the All-Star triple-double, joining Jordan as the only other guy to do that.

5. Bulls (38-16, LW #6). They keep looking to trade for a two guard. What they get depends on what they will give up, but it shouldn’t be much for Anthony Parker.

6. Magic (36-21, LW #7). Dwight Howard was non-existent in this All-Star Game. Next year the game is in Orlando, expect him to win MVP.

7. Lakers (38-17, LW #4). Kobe’s All-Star MVP not enough to wipe away stain of loss to Cleveland. People around the Lakers were less shocked by that loss than the fans — if the Lakers don’t respect an opponent they barely show up. Throw in last game of a road trip and it was a trap game. By the way, the Lakers have one of the toughest schedules in the league from here on out.

8. Thunder (35-19, LW #8). It was clear that Kevin Durant came out trying to win the All-Star MVP as well, but he shot 5-for-14 in the first half while Kobe was hot.

9. Blazers (32-24, LW #11). LaMarcus Aldridge has been playing like a guy who was ticked about not being an All-Star. They have played well of late, the question is how they blend in Brandon Roy on his return.

10. Grizzlies (31-26, LW #12). They are currently tied for the eighth seed in the West, but they are playing better than several of the teams ahead of them now. They keep it up and they are in the playoffs easy.

11. Hawks (34-21, LW #9). Joe Johnson was an East best +10 in the All-Star Game. As for his Hawks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them take steps back heading into the playoffs.

12. Hornets (33-25, LW #10). Ten points and 7 dimes for Chris Paul in the All-Star Game. They are the six seed in the West and that seems a likely landing spot. Of course, right now that would mean the Lakers in the first round.

13. Sixers (27-29, LW #15). They are 7-3 in their last 10 before the break. This is a playoff team that will show better against one of the East’s three powers than most fans expect.

14. Nuggets (32-25, LW #13). At least it ends this week.

15. Jazz (31-26, LW #14). They are 3-7 in their last 10 and considering all the changes, this team needed the break more than most. We’ll see now if Ty Corbin can rally the squad.

16. Knicks (28-26, LW #17). How good are they with Carmelo Anthony and no role players? We’re about to find out I think.

17. Pacers (24-30, LW #16). They are playing better under interim coach Frank Vogel, but I’m still not sure what the long-term plan is.

18. Suns (27-27, LW #18). Suns fans may dream of the playoffs, but the hard part of the Suns schedule is ahead of them. Need to make up 2.5 games against that schedule

19. Warriors (26-29, LW #19). Another team playing well of late with playoff dreams, but they play 12 of next 15 on the road. Tough to climb up through that.

20. Bobcats (24-32, LW #20). There are some serious talks about moving Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson right now, expect one of them to move in the coming days.

21. Rockets (26-31, LW #21). Look for them to make a move or two at the deadline — but not to help this year. For them it is about rebuilding.

22. Bucks (21-34, LW #22). They are 3.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the East, they get Brandon Jennings back and the schedule gets easier form here on out. If one team makes a late playoff run…

23. Pistons (21-36, LW #23). The Tom Gores era hasn’t started yet, but it sounded All-Star weekend in L.A. like it will very soon.

24. Clippers (21-35, LW #26). Blake Griffin may have figured out this weekend just how big a star he really is now. Especially in Los Angeles.

25. Wizards (15-39, LW #25). John Wall’s bounce-pass ally-oop to Blake Griffin still may have been the best play of the entire All-Star Weekend.

26. Timberwolves (13-43, LW #27). Kevin Love did not get an All-Star double-double, just four boards and two points (on a nice top of the key jumper).

27. Nets (17-40, LW #24). Avery Johnson is going to have to be putting some new pieces together on the fly, one way or another.

28. Raptors (15-41, LW #28). They are here because their defense is so, so, so bad.

29. Kings (13-40, LW #29). With DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans on the team they should not be this far down the rankings. And no, they are not going to Anaheim. Not long term anyway.

30. Cavaliers (10-46, LW #30). Even beating the Lakers will not move them out of last in the poll. Sorry.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.