2016-17 NBA Power Rankings: Heat, Nuggets, Bucks Make Playoff Push In Week 21

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 12, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters (11) reacts after Miami scores a basket against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 102-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In Week 21 of NBA Power Rankings, the Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks are all making strong pushes to secure playoff spots.

With just under a month of regular season action left in the 2016-17 NBA campaign, everything we thought we knew about the league’s landscape has been flipped upside down.

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are locks for the NBA Finals? There’s a new No. 1 in the West, and the defending champs have now lost six of their last nine games.

The Miami Heat are a non-playoff team with an 11-30 record in mid-January? They’re now 0.5 games out of a playoff spot. The Milwaukee Bucks are down and out following Jabari Parker‘s injury? They’ve passed the Chicago Bulls for the East’s 8-seed.

The Denver Nuggets are still a year away because of their losing record? They’re suddenly in the driver’s seat for the West’s final playoff spot.

With the NBA’s heavyweights looking vulnerable, teams like the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards surging, and teams honing in on late-season playoff pushes, it’s time to take a look atwhere everyone stands in our Week 21 NBA Power Rankings.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 9, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell (1) dribbles against the Phoenix Suns during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

30

Los Angeles Lakers

20-47

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 29th

Ivica Zubac starting at center is great, and we can only be so mad about losses to teams with losing records like Dallas, Philadelphia and Denver when each one moves the Los Angeles Lakers closer to keeping their top-three protected pick.

However, as much fun as David Nwaba‘s rise to rotation minutes from out of nowhere has been, isn’t it a bit alarming to see him starting games over D’Angelo Russell?

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 6, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Dario Saric (9) in action against the Milwaukee Bucks at Wells Fargo Center. The Milwaukee Bucks won 112-98. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

29

Philadelphia 76ers

24-42

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 28th

The days when Joel Embiid was a legitimate All-Star candidate seem so long ago. Dario Saric is holding down the Rookie of the Year frontrunner spot, but the Philadelphia 76ers are firmly rooted in another tank job to close the season, with their only win last week coming against the Lakers.

On the plus side, Justin Anderson is fitting in well enough, Richaun Holmes has been productive in extended minutes and we’ve been enjoying all the recent Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot sightings, with the French rookie pouring in 18 points off the bench in that win over Los Angeles.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 8, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) drives to the basket against the Chicago Bulls during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

28

Orlando Magic

24-44

Last week: 1-4
Last rank: 25th

Woof, Orlando Magic. Despite three triple-doubles from Elfrid Payton over the Magic’s last five games, they still went 1-4 in that stretch…including losses to the lowly Knicks, slumping Cavs and crummy Kings, plus a 40-point smackdown at the hands of the Hornets.

Even with Aaron Gordon playing at his proper position and Payton looking like a starting point guard, there aren’t many positive ways to spin the last week.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 6, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) dunks the ball during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

27

Sacramento Kings

26-41

Last week: 1-4
Last rank: 27th

Is it wrong to think the Sacramento Kings are actually kind of fun so far in the post-DeMarcus Cousins era? Because even if Darren Collison doesn’t get your blood pumping, watching guys like Buddy Hield, Willie-Cauley Stein and even Skal Labissiere get minutes has definitely been entertaining.

It took a home contest against the floundering Magic to snap that eight-game losing streak, but even without a franchise player or a blue chip prospect waiting in the wings, at least there’s still some young talent to enjoy here.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

26

New York Knicks

26-41

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 26th

Remember when Derrick Rose called the New York Knicks a super-team? LOL.

With double-digit losses to the Bucks and Pistons, not to mention an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Linsanity and the lowly Nets, it’s hard to even appreciate Carmelo Anthony joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elvin Hayes as the only players in NBA history to score 10,000 points for two different teams.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 12, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin (7) in the fourth quarter against New York Knicks at Barclays Center. Nets win 120-112. Mandatory Credit: Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

25

Brooklyn Nets

12-52

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 30th

The Celtics should probably be glad Jeremy Lin was out for so long, because the Brooklyn Nets are a different team with him on the floor. Not a good one, mind you, but probably a lot better than their 6-37 record with him sidelined this season.

Wins over the Grizzlies and Knicks this week, on a related note, moved the Nets to 6-15 when Lin plays. Here’s hoping he can stay healthier in the second year of his Brooklyn deal.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reacts after scoring during the second half against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

24

Phoenix Suns

22-45

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 23rd

Perhaps we were a little overzealous to bump the Phoenix Suns all the way to No. 23 last week, but what can we say? Even after a 1-3 week, this youth movement is still a ton of fun.

That home loss to the Lakers was ugly, but a competitive loss to the red-hot Wizards, another competitive loss to the playoff-desperate Blazers and a road win over Dallas — punctuated by 38 points and the game-winner from Devin Booker — were at least respectable.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Nicolas Batum (5) shoots the ball against New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (33) in the second half at Spectrum Center. The Pelicans defeated the Hornets 125-122 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

23

Charlotte Hornets

29-38

Last week: 2-3
Last rank: 24th

That 40-point win over Orlando probably felt nice, but back-to-back narrow losses to the Pelicans and Bulls may be the killing blows to knock the Charlotte Hornets out of playoff contention.

For a team that started its season 19-14, there will be questions to answer about how Steve Clifford’s squad lost 24 of its next 34 games to fall four games out of a playoff spot. With only 15 games remaining, it’s going to take near perfection and a bit of luck to turn this midseason slump back into a postseason berth.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 4, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) reacts to a call against the LA Clippers during the second half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

22

Chicago Bulls

32-35

Last week: 1-4
Last rank: 17th

It took a season-high in scoring from both Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic to snap the Chicago Bulls’ five-game skid Monday night, but that win over the Hornets was crucial to recover from sliding out of the eighth seed in the East.

Mirotic finding his stroke was a welcome sight after falling out of Fred Hoiberg‘s rotation, as were Chicago’s 115 points against Charlotte after putting up a pathetic 26 points in the first half of a 20-point loss to Boston the game before.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) shoots the ball against Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) in the second half at Spectrum Center. The Pelicans defeated the Hornets 125-122 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

21

New Orleans Pelicans

26-40

Last week: 1-2
Last rank: 21st

Bigger storyline this week: Anthony Davis putting up 46 points and 21 rebounds on his 23rd birthday to lift the New Orleans Pelicans over the Hornets in overtime? Or DeMarcus Cousins being benched for most of that fourth quarter and extra period?

The answer is neither; Jordan Crawford is back in the NBA! That’s right ladies and gentlemen, Steezy is back in the league and has averaged 16.0 points per game on 55.6 percent shooting from downtown in his first three games for the Pellies. Talk about keeping those faint playoff hopes alive!

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 7, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) reacts after scoring his 30,000th point during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

20

Dallas Mavericks

28-38

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 19th

Whatever has gotten into Dirk Nowitzki and his early game detonations, we’re all for it. Maybe it was just a matter of time for him to get fully healthy, or maybe it was his big night in becoming the sixth player in NBA history to reach 30,000 points, but either way, it’s been fantastic to watch.

It’s unfortunate losses to the Suns and Raptors probably ended the Dallas Mavericks’ distant playoff hopes, but with Dirk back for at least another season, hopefully a young core of Harrison Barnes, Nerlens Noel, Seth Curry and Yogi Ferrell will be enough for a postseason berth next year.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter (15) motions to the crowd after scoring against the Atlanta Hawks at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

19

Memphis Grizzlies

37-30

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 10th

Now that Chandler Parsons is out indefinitely with a partially torn meniscus in his other knee, it’s safe to say the first year of that four-year, $94 million contract has been a major bust. The Memphis Grizzlies have enjoyed Parsons for just 34 games this season, and “enjoyed” is putting it nicely since he’s averaged 6.2 points per game on 33.8 percent shooting.

We won’t get to see what the Grizzlies’ core can do together this season, but if Vince Carter can just do what he did in his first game as a starter — 24 points on 8-of-8 shooting — they may be fine without Parsons. Sounds simple enough, right? Snapping back to reality, Memphis’ 15-16 record since the start of 2017 has dropped the Grizz to seventh in the standings.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 12, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) brings the ball up court against the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 102-98. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

18

Indiana Pacers

34-32

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 13th

The Indiana Pacers should probably be thankful for the Pistons, Bulls and Hornets, because otherwise we’d be paying more attention to their up-and-down play this season. This week alone, they alternated between double-digit losses to the Hornets and Bucks and solid wins over Detroit and Miami.

Luckily, the Pacers have been able to climb to sixth in the conference standings despite the sporadic fluctuation. The question is what — if anything — they can do in a first round matchup with the Wizards or Celtics should they hang on to their current playoff spot.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 8, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) signals a play in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Clippers 107-91. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

17

Minnesota Timberwolves

28-38

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 22nd

Make that 8-7 since the Minnesota Timberwolves lost Zach LaVine for the season, pulling them within 3.5 games of a playoff spot. What looked like a tank finish has suddenly given way to faint playoff hopes, especially after wins over the Clippers, Warriors and Wizards in the last week.

Karl-Anthony Towns is putting up monstrous numbers, Nemanja Bjelica is contributing off the bench and Ricky Rubio just posted a career-high 19 assists in a victory over John Wall‘s Wizards. As winners in seven of their last 10 games, could the Wolves somehow sneak into the postseason?

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 6, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) and guard Khris Middleton (22) and forward Mirza Teletovic (35) in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Milwaukee Bucks won 112-98. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

16

Milwaukee Bucks

32-34

Last week: 4-1
Last rank: 20th

That six-game win streak was unceremoniously snapped by the Grizzlies Monday night, but it was still good enough to vault the Milwaukee Bucks back into the East’s eighth playoff spot. As it turns out, having a healthy Khris Middleton has been more than enough to make up for Jabari Parker’s absence.

Though wins over losing teams like Philly, New York, Minnesota and even Indiana weren’t particularly impressive, the Bucks are suddenly only one game behind the Pistons for the East’s 7-seed, and 0.5 games ahead of Chicago and Miami as the 8-seed.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 9, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27) points to his wrist after guard Damian Lillard (0) made a basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the overtime at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

15

Portland Trail Blazers

29-36

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 18th

Whether it’s the addition of Jusuf Nurkic or the simple desperation of trying to keep playoff hopes alive, the Portland Trail Blazers have been a lot more fun to watch lately. If not for an errant no-call on Markieff Morris stepping out of bounds before his game-winner, Rip City would’ve gone 4-0 against OKC, Philly, Washington and Phoenix, with two of those games going to OT.

Unfortunately, that controversial finish in Portland leaves the Blazers two games behind the Nuggets for the eighth seed. At the very least, Rip City can take solace in Nurkic’s red-hot start, with the Bosnian Beast pouring in perhaps the best game of his career last week: 28 points, 20 rebounds, eight assists, six blocks and two steals in a win over the Sixers.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) celebrates during the game against the New York Knicks at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

14

Detroit Pistons

33-33

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 15th

Have the Detroit Pistons finally figured things out? Or, more specifically, are Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson back to their old selves?

That win over Cleveland doesn’t look as great with the Cavs slumping, but Jackson has averaged 21.8 points and 5.3 assists per game over the team’s last four wins…compared to six points and five boards in Detroit’s only loss within that same five-game stretch.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka (right) talks with Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (left) after DeRozan received a technical foul during the first half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

13

Toronto Raptors

39-28

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 12th

It hasn’t been pretty since the Toronto Raptors lost Kyle Lowry, but as long as they can hang on to that No. 4 seed in the East, they’ll get their chance for everything to come together at the last possible moment.

DeMar DeRozan and company are doing all they can to sustain that two-game lead over the Hawks in the standings, and for now it’s been good enough. With 10 of their last 15 games coming against teams that still have a legitimate chance of making the playoffs, however, the path won’t be easy.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 8, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) celebrates a basket in the second quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

12

Los Angeles Clippers

40-27

Last week: 3-2
Last rank: 9th

We’re still having a hard time figuring out whether or not the Los Angeles Clippers are a good team. They got encouraging double-digit wins over the Celtics and Grizzlies in the last week, but were also dismantled by the Wolves and bested by Utah’s stifling defense.

Blake Griffin has taken on more of a passive role when it comes to the offensive end, while Chris Paul is as masterful as ever. But after losing a crucial head-to-head with the Jazz to fall two games out of the 4-seed, we have to wonder if Lob City will even make it out of the first round without home-court advantage.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 8, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (10, right) celebrates a play with guard Dennis Schroder (17) in the fourth quarter of their game against the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena. The Hawks won 110 – 105. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

11

Atlanta Hawks

37-29

Last week: 3-2
Last rank: 16th

Could the Atlanta Hawks be in contention for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs? With Kyle Lowry out injured and the Raptors only two games up in the standings, it’s not out of the question.

With Dennis Schroder, Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. all playing terrific basketball at the moment, the Hawks have finally found their post-trade deadline groove. Toronto is still in the driver’s seat for the 4-seed, but the Hawks have a fighting chance…if they can somehow make it through Washington, Milwaukee, Boston and Cleveland (twice) over the next few weeks.

NBA Power Rankings

March 10, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) and center Nikola Jokic (15) react during the second half against the Boston Celtics at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 119-99. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

10

Denver Nuggets

32-35

Last week: 4-1
Last rank: 14th

They’re still a sub-.500 team, but the Denver Nuggets are finally looking like an actual playoff squad. They’d probably much rather face a banged-up Warriors team as that No. 1 seed rather than the red-hot Spurs, but either way the Nuggets are in the driver’s seat for the West’s 8-seed.

From Nikola Jokic being perhaps the NBA’s best passing big to scoring explosions from Wilson Chandler to Mason Plumlee finding his groove in the Mile High City to Jamal Murray being a legitimate force off the bench, everything is rounding into form for Denver. Well, except for former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay, who now finds himself on the outside of the rotation looking in.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after hitting a 2 point shot against the Utah Jazz during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

9

Oklahoma City Thunder

37-29

Last week: 2-1
Last rank: 11th

Russell Westbrook dominated the headlines all week, putting up a career-high 58 points in a loss to the Blazers, adding another bullet point for his MVP resume by besting Kawhi Leonard head-to-head with a triple-double, and then completing his 32nd triple-double of the season in a win over Utah.

However, as much as Russ is still the story here, we should probably point out how much the Oklahoma City Thunder missed Victor Oladipo. Since he returned from his back injury, OKC is 2-1, with wins over the Spurs and Jazz. The young shooting guard is also averaging 19.3 points per game in that span.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 8, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) celebrates with guard Isaiah Thomas (4) after a play against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Boston Celtics defeated the Golden State Warriors 99-86. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

8

Boston Celtics

42-25

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 6th

We’ve criticized a few teams this week for their up-and-down play, but the Boston Celtics were as guilty of that sin as anyone — and it’s part of the reason they had slipped to No. 3 in the conference standings before Washington’s Monday night loss bumped them back up to No. 2.

The Celtics followed up a 14-point loss to the Clippers with a dominant road win against the mighty (albeit shorthanded) Warriors. Then came a 20-point loss to Denver…followed by a 20-point win over Chicago where the defense once again clamped down, limiting the Bulls to 26 first half points. How about a little consistency, guys?

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 10, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) reacts to a call on the floor during the second half against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Timberwolves won 103-102. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

7

Golden State Warriors

52-14

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 4th

It’s not time to panic for the Golden State Warriors, since they still cling to a half-game lead for the No. 1 overall playoff seed even after a head-to-head loss against San Antonio. But even with Kevin Durant out, this team should be much better than it is right now, and the Spurs are gaining quickly.

With the Splash Brothers slumping from three-point range, the Dubs lost three straight regular season games for the first time since November of 2013. Will they figure things out and get KD back in time to make good on everyone’s preseason NBA Finals predictions?

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 9, 2017; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts after a play during the third quarter against the Detroit Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 106-101. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

6

Cleveland Cavaliers

43-22

Last week: 1-3
Last rank: 3rd

The Warriors aren’t the only defending conference champion trying to find itself right now, as the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost six of their last nine games despite LeBron James recording three triple-doubles in that span.

Sure, King James also sat out in two of those losses, but with Andrew Bogut‘s Cavs tenure limited to two minutes, Kyle Korver banged up, Kevin Love still out and J.R. Smith barely back now, the defending champs need to start getting healthy again.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra stands in front of his players during a timeout in the second half against the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 104-89. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

5

Miami Heat

32-35

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 8th

Aside from Goran Dragic looking like he went toe-to-toe with Rocky, it was another great week for the Miami Heat and their unexpected playoff push. Their four-game win streak was snapped by Milwaukee on Sunday, but the Heat have still won 21 of their last 26 games.

Oh, and in a week filled with Dion Waiters daggers, did we mention how much we love Dion Waiters daggers? At this point, everyone should be rooting for Miami to snag that eighth playoff seed, since that would gift the world with at least four games of Dion vs. his old team.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 5, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) celebrates after a play against the Sacramento Kings ahead of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (20) during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center. The Utah Jazz defeated the Sacramento Kings 110-109 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

4

Utah Jazz

42-25

Last week: 3-1
Last rank: 7th

Pretty big week with statement wins for the Utah Jazz, outlasting the New Orleans Pelicans, besting the Houston Rockets and finishing off a close game against the Clippers with stifling defense.

That win over Lob City puts two games of separation between Utah and Los Angeles for the 4-seed, and though Derrick Favors‘ ongoing absence is troublesome, the Jazz have the pieces to finally make good on the potential of this team’s young core.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 11, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) reacts after scoring a three point basket during the second half in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. The Wizards won in overtime 125-124. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

3

Washington Wizards

41-25

Last week: 4-1
Last rank: 5th

The Washington Wizards’ win streak was bound to end eventually, which it did Monday night in underwhelming fashion against the Wolves. After two straight overtime wins over non-playoff teams, one of which included a controversial Markieff Morris game-winner that never should’ve counted since he stepped out of bounds first, it wasn’t particularly surprising.

However, good teams find ways to win games. Even after Monday’s loss dropped Washington back to third in the standings after a brief stint at No. 2, the Wizards have now won 25 of their 34 games since the start of 2017. Can the playoffs just start already?

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 12, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

2

Houston Rockets

46-21

Last week: 2-2
Last rank: 2nd

No one should be sleeping on the Houston Rockets as legitimate title contenders. Though they failed their first two tests of the week against San Antonio and Utah, they responded nicely with a 21-point win over Chicago and a close home win over the Cavaliers.

James Harden was spectacular in particular. Everyone will remember Kawhi Leonard’s game-saving block on the Beard, but don’t forget Harden had 39 points and 12 dimes to lead his team in that contest, followed by a 38-11-10 triple-double in his other head-to-head with a fellow MVP candidate on the week.

NBA Power Rankings

Mar 6, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after a shot against the Houston Rockets during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

1

San Antonio Spurs

52-14

Last week: 4-1
Last rank: 1st

With a win over the Hawks Monday night and a win over the shorthanded Warriors over the weekend, the San Antonio Spurs are now the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Sure, Kevin Durant being out is obviously the main catalyst behind this dramatic turnaround in the standings, but it’s remarkable that the Spurs were able to keep Spurs-ing like this the season after Tim Duncan retired and the Dubs added KD. Kawhi Leonard is a legitimate MVP candidate, and for those who put a lot of stock in head-to-head showdowns, a loss against Russell Westbrook deserves to be overlooked after what Kawhi did to James Harden down the stretch of their recent matchup:

Where does your favorite NBA team land in Week 21 and where SHOULD they be? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

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