11. Boston Celtics
The Celtics’ have been the main source of curiosity for NBA fans since Rajon Rondo’s season ended with a torn ACL. After holding the Denver Nuggets off in 3OT this Sunday, their seven-game winning streak was snapped at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats. Considering how Rondo is one of the premier defenders and passers in the NBA, it’s astonishing that Boston has been better in both these aspects in his absence. Regardless of what happens, this is likely the C’s last hurrah. It’s nice to see them going out with a bang.
12. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls, taking on likely playoff teams, have gone 1-3 this week while Joakim Noah is still visibly hurting. I say visible because he’s still visible on the court for over 35 minutes per night. They’re still dawning the best record in their division though, and Derrick Rose should be back within weeks.
13. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have gone just .500 this month, but they did manage to pull out an impressive Williams-less victory against the Indiana Pacers yesterday night. Unfortunately however, Brook Lopez was still the only bright spot.
14. Utah Jazz
Going 1-3 over the past week, the Jazz are struggling to stay in playoff contention. All the while, the trade deadline looms and Al Jefferson’s future with the team remains in question.
With a tough game against the Thunder coming up, the Jazz either have to pick it up or risk falling into NBA hell.
15. Atlanta Hawks
Despite the on-going trade rumors, the Hawks have managed to go 2-2 this week. While Josh Smith’s days with Atlanta seem numbered, his play hasn’t faltered. In a victory against the Mavs last night, he scored 26 points, including four three-pointers. While he’s probably better off staying within the perimeter, it can’t hurt too much to see his long distance bombs occasionally meet the bottom of the net.
16. Los Angeles Lakers
Well, the Lakers are still looking a lot better than they have for the majority of the season, but with the loss of Pau Gasol, they’re going to be hard pressed to make a playoff run.
17. Portland Trail Blazers
Heading to Miami tomorrow night in an effort to put a halt to a three-game losing streak, the Blazers playoff hopes are slowly but surely dwindling away. After dropping a game to the Magic, which ended a 12-game losing streak for them, things are looking dim. Things aren’t all bad for Portland though. I mean, they’ve got Damian Lillard and a pretty solid starting five.
18. Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks may be six games under .500, and the team may not shave again until November, but the month of February has treated them better than expected. They’ve gone 3-2 and Dirk is finally healthy even though their playoff hopes are close to shot.
19. Philadelphia 76ers
After feasting on low-level lottery teams for a couple of games, the 76ers got their butts handed to them by the Clippers and Pacers, who were more than happy to provide them with a dose of reality. With Bynum’s debut being pretty much unknown and the Celtics’ racking up wins, it’s looking like Philly will settle into the lottery this season.
20. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks are the worst-ranked playoff team on the list. Appropriately, the also have the worst record of any team currently slotted to make the playoffs. They’ve got a pretty comfortable cushion as they’re 3 games ahead of the 76er’s but their four game slide can’t continue, especially against teams like Detroit and Washington, as ramped up as they might be. The Bucks and 76ers are facing off this Tuesday, battling for the “I’m not as mediocre as you are” title to go with the 8th playoff spot in the east.