NBA Power Rankings: Warriors On Brink Of History; Playoff Races Intensify

by NESN Staff

April 11, 2016

Let’s take a moment to appreciate history: If the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs both win out, the 2015-16 season could provide us with the best and seventh-best regular-season NBA records of all time.

The Warriors are one win away from breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ unprecedented mark of 72 wins, while the Spurs only are enjoying their best campaign in franchise history.

Golden State and San Antonio certainly have distinguished themselves from the pack, but there’s still plenty of intrigue in that pack. The primary battle in the Eastern Conference is for the No. 3 through No. 6 playoff seeds, which all are up for grabs in the final few games.

In the Western Conference, high drama is unfolding in the bottom half of the playoff bracket, with the Houston Rockets hoping to sneak past the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 spot and the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks bunched up at Nos. 5 through 7.

What’s the state of the league as we enter the last week of the season? Find out in the final edition of our NBA Power Rankings, which account for all games played through Sunday, April 10.

1. Golden State Warriors (72-9): Golden State beat San Antonio in its own building Sunday to move to the brink of history. All that stands between the Warriors and a record-setting 73 wins is a home matchup against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Last week: 1

2. San Antonio Spurs (65-15): The Spurs’ quest for an undefeated home record ended Sunday at the hands of Golden State. Time to call off the dogs and rest up for the postseason. Last week: 2

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (56-24): The Cavs have lost two straight, but that doesn’t really matter, as they’ve clinched the East’s top seed. All eyes will be on LeBron James as he tries to bring Cleveland a championship. Last week: 3

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (54-26): See above. The Thunder have lost three of four and fell at the buzzer to the Kings on Saturday but have their sights set on the postseason as the West’s No. 3 seed. Last week: 4

5. Toronto Raptors (54-26): Toronto clinched the East’s No. 2 seed with a pair of wins this week and likely will get the Pacers or the Pistons in the first round. Last week: 5

6. Los Angeles Clippers (52-28): The Clippers are racking up wins down the stretch with victories in nine of their last 10. But the pressure still is on, as L.A. hopes to avoid another early playoff exit. Last week: 6

7. Atlanta Hawks (48-32): After three big wins this week, the Hawks’ magic number to clinch the No. 3 seed is down to one. That should come Monday against a Cavs team with nothing to play for in its final two games. Last week: 7

8. Boston Celtics (47-33): The third seed likely is out of reach for Boston, but the C’s still can earn home-court in the first round by beating the Hornets and Heat in their final two games. Last week: 8

9. Miami Heat (47-33): The Heat are tied with Boston for the East’s No. 4 seed, and their first-round matchup could be decided in Wednesday’s season finale against the Celtics at TD Garden. Last week: 9

10. Charlotte Hornets (46-34): The Hornets dropped to sole possession of sixth in the East with Sunday’s loss, but wins against the Celtics and Magic to close out the season could change that. Last week: 10

11. Detroit Pistons (43-37): The Pistons continued their strong play this week to clinch their first playoff appearance since 2009. A battle with the Pacers for the East’s No. 7 spot (and a chance to avoid the Cavs) awaits. Last week: 12

12. Indiana Pacers (43-37): Sole possession of the seventh seed is there for the taking for the Pacers, who finish their season against the Knicks and Bucks while the Pistons face the Heat and Cavs. Last week: 11

13. Portland Trail Blazers (43-38): The Blazers lost a tough one to the spoiler-minded Timberwolves on Saturday, but all they need to do is beat the Nuggets on Wednesday to clinch the West’s No. 5 seed. Last week: 14

14. Memphis Grizzlies (42-38): Memphis nearly stopped history Saturday, but a loss meant they’ll likely finish at No. 6 and have to play the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. Last week: 13

15. Dallas Mavericks (41-39): Dallas turned things around at the perfect time, but a huge game against the Jazz, who trail the Mavs by one game in the No. 8 spot, looms on Monday. Last week: 15

16. Utah Jazz (40-40): The Jazz have a tenuous hold on the West’s No. 8 spot, but wins in their last two games could vault them up to No. 7. Last week: 16

17. Chicago Bulls (40-40): The Bulls officially were eliminated from playoff contention after Indiana’s win on Sunday. Expect a major shakeup in Chicago this offseason. Last week: 17

18. Houston Rockets (39-41): Thursday’s loss to the lowly Suns killed Houston, which now will need to win out and get some help from Utah to sneak into the postseason. Last week: 18

19. Washington Wizards (39-41): After winning playoff series in each of their last two seasons, the Wizards will watch this postseason from the sideline. Last week: 19

20. Orlando Magic (34-46): Orlando’s season is over, but the Magic introduced some anarchy this week by beating the Heat on Friday as Miami fights for playoff seeding. Last week: 20

21. Milwaukee Bucks (33-47): We love watching the Great Giannis Antetokounmpo Point Guard Experiment, but he’s going to need a lot more help if the Bucks want to compete in the years to come.  Last week: 21

22. Denver Nuggets (33-48): Nothing screams “April basketball” like Denver beating the Spurs on Friday then scoring just 84 points Sunday in a loss to the Jazz. Last week: 22

23. Sacramento Kings (32-48): The Kings beat the Thunder at home in a thriller Saturday to send Sleep Train Arena (or ARCO Arena, if you prefer) out in style. Last week: 23

24. New York Knicks (32-49): New York has a lot of questions to answer this offseason. At the top of the list: Who will be the Knicks’ head coach next season? Last week: 24

25. New Orleans Pelicans (30-50): New Orleans has reached the 50-loss mark for the third time in its 14-year history. Injuries are the worst. Last week: 25

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (28-52): The Timberwolves toppled the Warriors in OT on Tuesday and followed that up with wins over the Kings and Trail Blazers. There’s a reason everyone’s so excited about this team. Last week: 26

27. Phoenix Suns (22-58): Apparently nobody explained tanking to the Suns, who have won two straight to leapfrog the Nets and drop a spot in the upcoming NBA lottery. Last week: 28

28. Brooklyn Nets (21-59): The Nets’ impressive tanking efforts to overtake the Suns for the NBA’s third-worst record would be impressive, if, you know, they actually owned their first-round pick. Last week: 27

29. Los Angeles Lakers (16-64): Kobe Bryant’s farewell tour comes to a grand conclusion this week with a road matchup Monday against the Thunder and one last home game against the Jazz on Wednesday. Last week: 29

30. Philadelphia 76ers (10-70): Apparently Philly has had enough of trusting the processLast week: 30

Thumbnail photo via Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs power forward David West (30) during the second half at AT&T Center.
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