The Heat are still having their way with the majority of opponents, regardless of whether their biggest stars play. But the Thunder, Spurs and, yes, the Knicks are sending notice that the playoffs won’t be a cakewalk.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are getting some rest and the Heat are marching on, anyway. Even scarier than originally thought, huh?
2 Thunder 56-21
Kevin Martin has been in a bit of a late-season slump. The Thunder need him to snap out of it if they’re to have any real title hopes. 3 Spurs 57-20
As many suspected, the Spurs are sort of dragging to the finish with injuries to key players. But Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich always give them a chance at great things. 4 Knicks 50-26 +4
Carmelo Anthony looks every bit as good as he did when the Knicks looked like true contenders early in the season. J.R. Smith isn’t half-bad, either. 5 Grizzlies 52-25
Their defense and rebounding has been at a playoff level all season. That’s likely to mean something when the playoffs are actually here.
6 Clippers 51-26 +1
Even when the starters are fairly ordinary, Jamal Crawford can make up for it with his sleek scoring off the bench. Read: The Clippers are as deadly as ever.
7 Nuggets 53-24 -3
Losing Danilo Gallinari with a knee injury is a killer. On a team full of role players, he was the closest thing the Nuggets had to a real star.
8 Pacers 48-29 -2
Their postseason success is likely to boil down to Roy Hibbert. If he plays with energy and can score, Paul George and all those hustling men next to him should be able to take care of the rest.
9 Nets 44-32 +1
Still too fickle to know what to expect from one night to the next. But as has always been the case with the Nets, the talent is certainly there.
10 Warriors 44-33 -1
Inexperience in bigger games is starting to show. Stephen Curry, David Lee and the Warriors are headed for very good things. It just might not be this year. 11 Rockets 43-34 +2
Loads of fun to watch and haven’t missed a beat since dealing frequent starter Patrick Patterson. Fantastic job by Kevin McHale — and, oh yeah, that James Harden guy. 12 Bulls 42-34
Their enthusiasm and defense make them one great player away from potentially accomplishing very good things. So, how’s that knee, Derrick Rose? 13 Jazz 41-37 +1
In the driver’s seat for the final playoff spot in the West. And with the way Al Jefferson and the gang have been playing, the Jazz have earned it.
14 Celtics 40-37 +3
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are back. So the fact the Celtics will be a lower seed in the playoffs really doesn’t mean anything.
15 Lakers 40-37
Will spend the final week of the regular season with fingers crossed and one eye on the Jazz. And probably feeding Kobe Bryant the ball a lot.
16 Hawks 42-36 -5
As Larry Drew will tell you, the Hawks need to rediscover the determination that enabled them to hush the experts who predicted a meaningless season. Otherwise, it’ll end up being a rather meaningless season. 17 Mavericks 38-39 -1
The Mavericks are acting as if they have an actual shot to steal the final playoff spot on the final day. And guess what? It’s a long shot, but it’s a shot.
18 Bucks 37-39
The Bucks are more or less backing their way into the postseason with inconsistency in all areas. Turning it on and off is no way to approach the most meaningful part of the year.
19 76ers 31-45 +2
Give Doug Collins and the Sixers credit for playing hard and treating every game in March like a playoff game. But it won’t be long until they’ll have to start anew — most likely sans Collins.
20 Wizards 29-48
Never before has a team failed to reach the postseason and been so proud. John Wall and the Wizards are everything you want from a team that can finish no place special.
21 Trail Blazers 33-44 -2
Lengthy losing streak confirmed what we already suspected about the Blazers. Basically, they can’t afford to be so soft entering next season, or it’ll be more of the same.
22 Timberwolves 29-47
Kevin Love is officially done for the year. The Timberwolves were officially done the moment Love injured his hand.
23 Raptors 29-48
It’s hard to tell what may be in their plans for the offseason. But if it’s good, truth is, the Raptors really aren’t that far away. 24 Hornets 27-50 +2
It took a while, but Anthony Davis truly does give the organization reason for hope. All that’s left is to see what they can get for Eric Gordon and his huge contract. 25 Pistons 26-52
Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight make them perhaps the team with the most promise in the East. Question is, will Lawrence Frank be around to lead them into their next phase? 26 Kings 27-50 -2
Nobody will have a more important April. That’s because this is the month we find out whether the Kings will still exist as we’ve come to know and love them — or if they’ll start fresh in Seattle.
27 Cavaliers 24-52 +1
With Kyrie Irving slumping after an injury, this team is suddenly going as Tristan Thompson goes. Either way, when all the talk is centered around Byron Scott’s job, you know it’s been another bad season. 28 Suns 23-54 -1
Aside from Goran Dragic, no one on this roster qualifies as someone you have to bring back. The Suns’ biggest reason for hope is the Lakers’ struggles. If LA misses the playoffs, the Suns get another lottery pick. 29 Magic 19-59
Nikola Vucevic is a double-double machine. Raise your hand if you predicted he’d be a better center than Andrew Bynum at the start of the season.
30 Bobcats 18-59
Say this much: At least the Bobcats are in familiar territory. And at least they know another summer shakeup is forthcoming. Other than that, things really stink.