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HIT LIST: New set of road rules has Kings on top

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With the Madness ending, the focus shifts back to the NBA just in time for the home stretch. Find out which teams are in position to make a run, and see which teams are also-rans.

Hit List
Rank Last week Team Comment
29 29 Golden State Warriors The Warriors have three promising rookies, a couple of potential stars in Jamison and Hughes, and the bleakest future in the League. It's absolutely amazing how bad this team can be.
28 27 Chicago Bulls If it weren't for the Warriors, the Horri-Bulls would once again reside in the Hit List basement. Despite the acquisition of Jalen Rose, the Bulls have lost 14 of their last 15 games. Which direction Crumbs decides to take the franchise in is anyone's guess at this point.
27 28 Graceland Grizzlies With the season well over, you would think the Grizz wouldn't want to waste the opportunity to get their young guns some valuable experience, but last year's #2 overall pick, Stro' Swift can't seem to crack the starting lineup over Grant Long. It's moves like this that keep this franchise from advancing.
26 26 Denver Nuggets George McCloud clearly isn't the future at the point guard slot but was getting some serious run there anyway. Finally the team wised up (Memphis, pay attention) and gave the youngster, Kenny Satterfield, an opportunity to showcase his skills. The kid responded with a double-double in his first start of the season and the franchise took a successful step in the right direction.
25 25 Cleveland Cavs Cleveland is considering the unthinkable — shipping Andre Miller out of town. Why they're even thinking about this is beyond us. Correct us if we're wrong, but having a future star point guard that is already the League's best assist man is generally considered an excellent building block for a struggling franchise.
24 23 Houston Rockets Clutch City must wait for next year for these Rockets to blast into the playoffs. The foundation is there, but this team must figure out a way to curtail all the leg injuries that have stricken this squad. Can you imagine where they would be if Glen Rice, Mo Taylor, Steve Franchise and Walt Williams hadn't missed most or all of this year due to bad stems? Playoffs, no doubt.
23 24 New York Knicks Watching the maturation of Kurt Thomas has us continually checking our eyes. How did Thomas go from a role-playing head case into a double-dipping inside force midseason? The Knicks could be very dangerous in the paint next year if Camby ever stays healthy.
22 18 Miami Heat After the debacle that was the first third of the Heat's season, Miami looked poised to make a playoff run. Lack of scoring and some bad breaks have limited their hopes. Barring a few major tricks up Slick Riley's sleeves, this team will be enjoying the warm Florida weather a few weeks earlier than they had hoped.
21 19 Atlanta Hawks On the verge of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Hawks went on an impressive run, winning six of seven games. Since then, they are just 1-4 and back near the bottom of the pack.
20 20 Phoenix Suns The Matrix has been absolutely ridiculous these last few games, but it's too little, too late for this team. A bundle of injuries and a build-for-the-future, midseason trade has really put a damper on the Suns' first season with Steph at the helm. Don't call him cursed yet, just really unlucky.
19 21 Washington Wizards Looking ahead at their tough-as-nails schedule and given their talent level, everyone should be writing off the Wiz. But we learned long ago not to doubt a man named Michael when it came to getting what he wanted. So as much as we want to dismiss the Wiz, we won't.
18 22 Toronto Raptors Down goes Vince, up go the Raptors in the standings. Constantly putting all their hope in a leader who was injured and also never wanted to take charge left Toronto headed in the wrong direction. Now that they know Vince isn't there to bail them out, the Raptors have bonded together and have reeled off a five-game winning streak. Suddenly, the playoffs aren't out of the question.
17 17 Indiana Pacers This year, the Pacers are 22-23 against Eastern Conference teams. Indiana has not finished the year with a sub-.500 record against the East since the 1996-97 season. That huge midseason trade isn't looking like the blockbuster everyone thought it would be.
16 16 LA Clippers The Clips' hopes of catching the Jazz for the last playoff berth in the West have all but disappeared. The team should relish every moment of time they spend together, because chances are more than a couple of these young guns will be balling in another city next year.
15 15 Milwaukee Bucks The Bucks are spiraling out of control at an alarming rate. Not only are they 5-11 in their last 16 games, but the team is also beginning to resemble a M.A.S.H. unit due to injuries. The frustration in Milwaukee is piling up and it is only a matter of time before someone goes utterly berserk.
14 13 Philly 76ers The Sixers just need to hang on and make the playoffs. They are a top three team in the East with AI in the lineup, and the little guy is due back just in time for the second season. Philly tops the list as the team no one wants to play in the first round.
13 14 Orlando Magic Orlando is making magic at just the right time. Mike Miller is back and has eased T-Mac's ginormous load ever so slightly. The boys in blue have actually gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and their potent offense is clicking. Give Pat Garrity some respect for picking up his game in Miller's absence.
12 12 Utah Jazz Even with Donyell Marshall doing more sitting than playing, the ageless Jazz continue to play playoff-caliber ball. Their experience and craftiness could sneak them by a greener first round opponent, but how far can you expect a 40-year-old point guard to lead them?
11 11 New Orleans Hornets The Hornets are so hot, they've turned the Hive into a sauna. After being on the outside looking in just a few short weeks ago, Charlotte has caught fire and vaulted up the standings into a tie for fifth place in the Least. Before the season is through, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Bugs in control of the #3 seed.
10 8 Boston Celtics Congrats to the legendary Celtics for clinching their first winning record in nine seasons. It's hard to imagine this storied franchise being so bad for so long, but they learned some valuable lessons along the way.
9 10 Seattle Sonics Losing Rashard Lewis hurts and this franchise will be severely tested in the next couple of weeks. If they make it through the fortnight intact, the Sonics will be that much better when Lewis returns from his sprained ankle, just in time for a playoff run.
8 4 Portland Blazers As the last two games demonstrated: no ¿Sheed, big problem. The Blazers might be in a pickle that even Shawn Kemp couldn't eat them out of.
7 9 Minnesota T-wolves What a horrible month for the T-Wolves. The Pups went 6-10 in March but are currently riding a three-game winning streak. KG had had some monster games, but it when he isn't being called upon to score, Minny is at their best.
6 7 Detroit Pistons Motown has reason to be proud; the Bad Boys clinched a playoff berth with their win on Sunday. The Pistons have been road warriors as of late, winning 14 of the last 17 games away from the Palace. Our vote is in for Ben Wallace as not only Defensive POY but also as the MVP. No way the Pistons even have a winning record without Big Ben.
5 5 New Jersey Nets Their unselfish style of play and willingness to mix it up on the blocks has the Nets sitting pretty atop the East. They should be able to fend off challengers to their throne, but all bets are off come playoff time. Everyone is wondering if Kenyon can keep it together when the fouls get harder in the playoffs? We say sure, considering he's been delivering playoff-style (not flagrant) fouls all year long to Jersey's opponents.
4 2 San Antonio Spurs The Spurs have been more up and down than a yo-yo. San Antonio dropped its third straight contest on the heels of a League-best 13-game winning streak. The team must be careful to avoid a collapse like the one the T-Wolves just endured.
3 6 Dallas Mavs The Mavs are the St. Louis Rams of basketball. They have a limitless arsenal of scoring options and the most potent offense in the League, but their D is seriously lacking. If they want to avoid a postseason collapse, they must take some extra steps to shore up their sieve-like defense before the real season begins.
2 1 L.A. Lakers Including Sunday's close win, the Lakers have won seven of their last eight games against the Spurs, including their sweep in the Western Conference finals last year. They drop from the top spot not because of anything they did, but because the Kings are simply the best team in all the land.
1 3 Sac-town Kings The Kings have played like royalty, winning four straight games and 11 of 13. But the real reason they have ascended to the throne is their 7-1 record in their last eight road games. The knock on Sac-Town has always been its inability to win away from Arco, but if this recent trend continues, there will be no stopping the Kings from claiming the title in June.

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Tagged: Hawks, Celtics, Pelicans, Bulls, Cavaliers, Mavericks, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Lakers, Bucks, Nets, Knicks, Magic, Kings, Spurs, Thunder, Jazz, Raptors, Grizzlies, Andre Miller, Ben Wallace, Jalen Rose, Kurt Thomas, Pat Garrity, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis, Donyell Marshall

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