If you're good enough to win 22 consecutive games, you're good enough to lead the Powerless Rankings.
For one night at least.
The Houston Rockets' stay at the top likely depends on the outcome of their East-meets-West matchup with the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night. After watching the Celtics rally from 22 down in San Antonio on Monday, we almost awarded them No. 1A.
Rankings, as usual, are judged on games from Tuesday through Monday. Previous standing for each team follows current ranking.
- 1. (2) Houston Rockets – Rick Adelman said it. So did Kobe Bryant. So it's worth repeating again: If the Rockets' winning streak is built solely on luck, why has only one other team in NBA history ever done it?
- 2. (1) Boston Celtics – Celtics need to find a new travel agent. This week's trip takes them to San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans. The NBA Finals don't start until June, but the Celtics should know if they're the best in the West by Saturday night.
- 3. (5) Detroit Pistons – Jason Maxiell's stuff of Tyson Chandler was the best block by a Piston – or anyone else in the NBA – since Tayshaun Prince ran down Reggie Miller.
- 4. (7) New Orleans Hornets – Routed the Spurs, beat the Lakers then hobbled into a blowout loss in Detroit. David West is out again with an ankle injury and Chris Paul isn't at full speed, either. The Hornets could end up with home-court advantage in the first round. Provided they're still standing.
- 5. (4)Utah Jazz– Victory in Boston was impressive, but tempered by losses in Chicago and New Jersey and a near-loss in Milwaukee. A month before the playoffs, it appears there are still only a few places you can take these Jazz.
6. (3) Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant's shot is flat, Pau Gasol is on crutches and Andrew Bynum is running on a $75,000 anti-gravity treadmill. But the biggest concern of the Lakers? Finding their AWOL defense. Only one of the Lakers' past eight opponents has failed to crack 100 points, and that was their Staples Center roommates, the Clippers.
- 7. (8) Dallas Mavericks – Avery Johnson gave new Mavs a test on the team's system last week. He wouldn't reveal individual grades, but Jason Kidd proved he knows exactly what plays to signal in from the bench in late-game situations.
8. (9) Phoenix Suns – Suns win four in a row, Amare Stoudemire gets Player of the Week, but the most surprising news? Gordan Giricek going for 18 and 23 points in wins over Memphis and Sacramento.
9. (10) Golden State Warriors – Is Monta Ellis allowed to win Most Improved Player of the Year in consecutive seasons?
10. (11) Orlando Magic – Magic secured playoff berth with month left in season. One reason why: Rashard Lewis has made 38 of 79 3-pointers (48.1 percent) in past 12 games.
11. (13) Denver Nuggets – Nuggets clocked for franchise-high 168 against Seattle only to have record dismissed by Denver city prosecutor.
- 12. (15) Philadelphia 76ers – Allen Iverson returns to Philadelphia Wednesday for first time since he was traded to Denver. A legitimate question: Did the Sixers get the better end of that deal?
13. (6) San Antonio Spurs – They've lost four in a row for the first time since 2003, six of seven overall and should be counting down the days until Brent Barry returns.
14. (12) Cleveland Cavaliers – Three losses in four games hasn't helped Cavs' prospects of reaching 50 wins for third straight season – or enhanced LeBron James' MVP credentials.
15. (15) Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden creates buzz in Portland with workout, but Blazers still longing for day when they'll see him in uniform.
16. (17) Washington Wizards – Gilbert Watch has begun. Arenas thinks he's ready to return, but promises to have only an "assist game." Over/under on number of shots he puts up in his first performance: 33.
17. (14) Toronto Raptors – Chris Bosh is still out, T.J. Ford's frustrated about being a backup and then there's the five-game losing streak. But the Raptors do have this going for them: Miami visits on Wednesday.
18. (18) Atlanta Hawks – Hawks have more than one reason to feel fortunate. They've won three in a row to move into eighth place in the East and a windstorm that hit the damaged Georgia Dome missed Philips Arena where they were playing.
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19. (21) New Jersey Nets – Nets knock off Cavaliers and Jazz in consecutive games. They'll do anything, it seems, to impress LeBron.
- 20. (20) Sacramento Kings – The Maloof brothers who own the Kings are giving out suitcases of cash to "Oprah" guests. Their only request: That the recipients "do good" with the cash. Like, for example, buying out the remainder of Kenny Thomas' contract.
21. (24) Minnesota Timberwolves – Wolves win four of six games and owner Glen Taylor steals spotlight by saying Kevin Garnett "tanked it" when he didn't play final five games of last season. Here's hoping ABC adds KG's visit to Minnesota next season to its national schedule.
22. (22) Chicago Bulls – Bulls still in hunt for playoff spot, but are they really going to benefit from a first-round matchup with the Celtics?
- 23. (23) Indiana Pacers – Should Mike Dunleavy's improvement this season be classified under "Realizing Your Potential?" Or, "Someone Has to Score on a Bad Team?"
24. (19) Charlotte Bobcats – Sam Vincent gave himself a "C" for the job he's done as the Bobcats' first-year coach. He didn't mention whether he was grading on a curve.
- 25. (24) Los Angeles Clippers – This has to go down as one of the season's top-10 moments. Forced by the Miami Heat to take a paid leave for most of the season, Smush Parker finally gets his contract buyout, signs with the Clippers then picks up a technical less than a minute after making his debut. We missed you, Smush. We missed you.
26. (28) Memphis Grizzlies – Not only did the Grizzlies beat Charlotte, but they've got Minnesota and the Knicks up next. Could a three-game win streak be in their future?
- 27. (26) Milwaukee Bucks – Michael Redd vows to keep "plugging away." Unfortunately, he doesn't have enough fingers to plug all the holes in the Bucks' sinking ship.
- 28. (29) New York Knicks – NBA commissioner David Stern predicts on ESPN Radio that the Knicks are headed for a "transformative offseason." Not sure what that means, but someone better check to see if the Commish has a ping-pong ball or two stashed in his freezer.
- 29. (30) Miami Heat –Pat Riley said he left team to scout players at Heat owner Micky Arison's insistence. His conclusion: Michael Beasley is good.
- 30. (27) Seattle SuperSonics– What's more surprising: That the Sonics gave up 168 points in a single game? Or that the fine citizens of Seattle are actually fighting to keep this team?