|STEVE KERR'S THREE POINTS
|Player of the Week
Morris Peterson – His only bucket of the game in Washington helped the Toronto Raptors win in overtime on Friday, but it was a doozie. He grabbed Michael Ruffin's celebratory heave – which didn't go high enough – and drained a 31-foot prayer at the buzzer. Following Rasheed Wallace's 60-foot game-tying three-pointer last Monday, Peterson's shot represented the second miracle finish in less than a week in the NBA.
Stat of the Week
49.7, 40.3, 80.5 – The Phoenix Suns are close to becoming the first team in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three point line, and 80 percent from the free-throw line. Very few individual players reach those marks in one season, let alone an entire team.
Game of the Week
Thursday: Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs – The Suns are trying to hold off the Spurs for the No. 2 seed in the West, which would mean home-court advantage in a likely second-round playoff matchup. The winner of this game will own the tiebreaker in the event the two teams finish the season with the same record. In other words, this is a big one for both clubs.
No change at the top this week, but the Dallas Mavericks finally looked somewhat vulnerable in a 22-point blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
With two victories over Dallas in the last few weeks, the Suns have to feel better about their chances if a playoff showdown with the Mavericks occurs. But Phoenix is much more concerned with what's going on below it, where the Spurs are making a late push to overcome the Suns for the West's No. 2 seed.
If all holds true in the coming weeks, the two teams are looking at a second-round clash in the postseason. The only question – other than whether or not each team advances past the first round – is which club will have home-court advantage if they meet each other.
Dallas, meanwhile, will take great joy knowing the Spurs and Suns are on a collision course in the playoffs. That means the Mavs will only have to play one of them on their projected road to the NBA finals.
Here's a look at the latest rankings (records and statistics are through April 1):
1. Dallas Mavericks (61-12, Last ranking: 1) – Jason Terry was sorry to see the end of March. He averaged 21 points on 58-percent shooting for the month.
2. Phoenix Suns (55-18, Last ranking: 2) – Shawn Marion broke out of a scoring drought with back-to-back big games against Denver and Dallas. The win over the Mavs evened the season series at 2-2.
3. San Antonio Spurs (52-21, Last ranking: 3) – Tim Duncan is the forgotten man in the MVP race, but he's had a fantastic season and might still be the most dominating player in the league.
4. Utah Jazz (48-25, Last ranking: 6) – Huge win for the Jazz over the Rockets, giving them the inside track for the No. 4 seed in the West.
5. Detroit Pistons (47-26, Last ranking: 5) – Richard Hamilton came back from a four-game absence to lead the Pistons to a win over Miami on Sunday.
6. Houston Rockets (47-27, Last ranking: 4) – Luther Head has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. The Rockets could have used him in their loss to Utah on Sunday.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (44-30, Last ranking: 7) – How important is LeBron James to the Cavaliers? Without him on Sunday, they lost to the Celtics.
8. Chicago Bulls (44-31, Last ranking: 8) – With Andres Nocioni still out, Tyrus Thomas has gotten his chance and he's made some huge plays for the Bulls. Thomas is raw, but he is starting to come along.
9. Toronto Raptors (41-32, Last ranking: 9) – Jorge Garbajosa's grotesque foot injury was a big blow for the Raptors, who will miss his toughness and perimeter shooting.
10. Los Angeles Lakers (39-34, Last ranking: 11) – Kobe Bryant decided it wasn't necessary for him to score big anymore for his team to win: He dished out 13 assists (and scored only 19 points) in the Lakers' 23-point rout of Sacramento.
11. Miami Heat (39-34, Last ranking: 12) – Dwyane Wade will begin practicing Monday to test his injured shoulder and see if he can return this season.
12. Washington Wizards (39-33, Last ranking: 13) – What a crushing blow for the Wizards: Caron Butler broke his hand in a win over Milwaukee and might miss the playoffs.
13. Los Angeles Clippers (36-37, Last ranking: 14) – Cuttino Mobley has picked up the pace for the Clippers, who continued their surge toward the postseason.
14. Denver Nuggets (36-36, Last ranking: 10) – The schedule seems to get tougher and tougher for the Nuggets, who are trying to hang on to a playoff spot in the West. They've got the Lakers, Kings, Mavericks and Clippers this week.
15. Golden State Warriors (35-39, Last ranking: 15) – Jason Richardson is doing his best to make up for a poor season. He scored 36 and 26 in consecutive wins for the Warriors last week. Golden State is not dead yet.
16. Orlando Magic (34-40, Last ranking: 17) – Trevor Ariza is proving to be a steal for the Magic as part of last year's Steve Francis trade. Ariza is proving he can defend three or four different positions on the floor, and his offensive game is developing.
17. New Jersey Nets (34-39, Last ranking: 18) – Josh Boone has been giving the Nets some big minutes. The rookie from UConn had back-to-back 20-point nights last week for New Jersey.
18. New Orleans Hornets (33-40, Last ranking: 16) – Tyson Chandler has developed just enough of a low-post game to warrant defensive attention. He has quietly had a terrific season.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves (31-42, Last ranking: 22) – The Wolves won a thriller in Orlando on Sunday, but they're still headed for their third straight season without a playoff appearance.
20. Indiana Pacers (32-41, Last ranking: 23) – Maybe the Pacers aren't dead yet. They beat San Antonio on Sunday thanks to Jamaal Tinsley's last-second shot.
21. New York Knicks (31-42, Last ranking: 19) – Isiah Thomas signed a long-term contract extension with the Knicks after the team showed pretty solid improvement from last year. Of course, the bar was set awfully low.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (29-44, Last ranking: 20) – Kyle Korver will get some votes for the Sixth Man Award. He's made 43.1 percent of his three-pointers and averaged 14.5 points per game.
23. Seattle SuperSonics (30-43, Last ranking: 28) – Pretty good week for the Sonics. They won three of four games as Rashard Lewis averaged 29 points.
24. Sacramento Kings (30-42, Last ranking: 21) – The Kings are in for some changes this summer. They're headed for their worst record since 1998 when they finished 27-55.
25. Charlotte Bobcats (28-46, Last ranking: 26) – Argentinean star Walter Hermann is finally getting a chance to play for the Bobcats and he's making the most of it: 17 points per game on almost 60-percent shooting in his last nine games. Plus he has great hair.
26. Portland Trail Blazers (29-44, Last ranking: 24) – The Blazers' four-game losing streak figures to get much worse. Their next five games are against Utah, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston again.
27. Atlanta Hawks (27-47, Last ranking: 27) – The only interesting issue left for the Hawks this season is to see where they end up in the draft. If they have a top-three pick, they keep it. If not, it goes to Phoenix as part of the Joe Johnson trade.
28. Milwaukee Bucks (25-47, Last ranking: 25) – Tough season for the Bucks, but with a probable top-five pick coming in the June draft and a talented roster returning for new coach Larry Krystkowiak, this could be a sleeper team next season.
29. Boston Celtics (23-50, Last ranking: 29) – Al Jefferson has helped the Celtics play some good basketball late in the season. He's averaged 18.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in Boston's last five games, which included three victories.
30. Memphis Grizzlies (19-56, Last ranking: 30) – Who is Tarence Kinsey? The Grizzlies' unknown rookie out of South Carolina put up 20 or more points in four straight games last week.