The NBA returned to action Thursday night after the all-star break came to an end. The excitement of the back half of the season commenced and it’s already heating up. Oklahoma City are continuing their successful run through the middle of the season and have their eyes locked on a playoff spot. On the other side of the playoff picture, the Lakers have now won five in a row and have set themselves at least five games ahead of everyone else in the West. In the East the Bucks clinched a playoff spot this week and are still by far the best team in the league. The middle of the pack in the East is starting to slowly separate with over eight games separating the second-placed Toronto Raptors and the sixth-seeded Indiana Pacers. Somehow, even in this shortened week, there was still plenty of excitement in the NBA.
- Milwaukee Bucks
This week: DET 106-126 MIL, MIL 119-98 PHI
Last week’s rank: 1
The Bucks had two blowout wins this week, beating both the Detroit Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers by at least 20 points. There isn’t much to say about the Bucks this week as this team is simply phenomenal, their level of consistency is unparalleled in the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the MVP front runner, and rightfully so, but he only plays 30 minutes per game, which is a testament to how well rounded this team truly is.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
This week: LAL 117-105 MEM
Last week’s rank: 2
It was a quiet week for the Lakers. Their only game came at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, they won the game comfortably against the Grizz. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are beginning to fully synch-up and they are the most fearsome duo in the league at the moment. No one else in the league can boast comparable size, athleticism and skill that the Lakers have.
3. Toronto Raptors
This week: TOR 118-101 PHX
Last week’s rank: 3
The Raptors beat the struggling Phoenix Suns by 17 in their only game this week. This Toronto team has been playing great team basketball all season, if they continue their consistency and style of play, they will be a real problem come playoff time. This team in incredibly deep, every time they have to throw someone in the game off the bench it’s nearly impossible to notice the drop-off.
4. Boston Celtics
This week: MIN 117-127 BOS
Last week’s rank: 5
This Boston Celtics team is starting to get the respect it deserves. They are 9-1 in their last ten games and are keeping pace with the Raptors for the second seed. Jayson Tatum has reached a new level of quality as he is leading this young Celtics team, but more importantly, any player that steps on the floor for the Boston Celtics can go for 20 on any given night. This team is one to watch coming down the stretch.
5. Denver Nuggets
This week: OKC 113-101 DEN
Last week’s rank: 6
A winless week for the Denver Nuggets! One loss to the Thunder though doesn’t mean the sky is falling for the second-best team in the West. They are now five games back of the Lakers, but they are still one of the best teams in the league. Jamal Murray has been playing great basketball as of late and they will need him to be fantastic for the Nuggets down the stretch.
6. Houston Rockets
This week: GSW 105-135 HOU, UTA 110-120 HOU
Last week’s rank:
Last week’s rank: 9
Since the Houston Rockets made the change to small ball, they have been playing great and getting wins. This week the blew out the Golden State Warriors and had a very professional victory over a very good Utah Jazz team. Russell Westbrook is nearing his best form and should be entering the MVP talks if this Rockets team keeps on winning.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
This week: LAC 103-112 SAC
Last week’s rank: 7
The Clippers only lost once this week in a disappointing defeat to the Sacramento Kings. The Clippers have had quite a few of these kinds of loses throughout the year. They are the type of team that gets up for the big games and forgets to show up for the games against teams below .500. Even with their new roster feature Marcus Morris Sr. this team continues to drop disappointing games.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder
This week: OKC 113-101 DEN
Last week’s rank: 11
People continue to underestimate this OKC team to no end. Whenever a team, like Denver, underestimate the Thunder, OKC almost always ends up winning. In their only game of the week OKC handled the second-placed Denver Nuggets like they were just another bump in the road they had to go past. The Oklahoma City Thunder will continue to beat teams that don’t respect them and may even do some damage in the playoffs.
9. Utah Jazz
This week: UTA 104-113 SAS, UTA 110-120 HOU
Last week’s rank: 4
The Utah Jazz have been lacking consistency over the last month or so. After a four-game losing skid earlier in February they bounced back and won three in a row. Now, the Jazz are 4-6 in their last ten games and are lagging around three games back of Denver. This Jazz team has one of the best starting lineups in the league, but for some reason can’t seem to get the job done on a nightly basis.
10. Miami Heat
This week: ATL 129-124 MIA, MIA 124-105 CLE
Last week’s rank: 8
The Heat are perfectly in the middle of the 76ers and Celtics. As of late they’ve fallen back in the race for the two-seed but still haven’t yet been threatened with dropping to the five-seed. Their new additions are taking time to adjust and once they figure out the chemistry, they will be a tough team to beat. This Miami team is one of the toughest in the league, but for some reason they’ve been dropping easy games lately.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
12. Dallas Mavericks
13. Indiana Pacers
14. Memphis Grizzlies
Riley Fussell is a Journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto Canada. Riley is originally from a small town on Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada, he is a passionate writer that takes interest in nearly all sports, but especially Basketball. Riley played Basketball all through high school and being from the west coast he was able to watch two games nearly every night. He is a big fan of the Toronto Raptors even though Damian Lillard is his favourite player to watch.