20 Milwaukee Bucks
Fading fast in Milwaukee, the Bucks are now 4- 9 since the All-Star break and the surprising trade that sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix bringing in Michael Carter-Williams. The Bucks are only four games up on Indiana-Charlotte for the final playoff spot. Carter-Williams was scratched from Saturday’s loss at Memphis with a sore ankle. Guards Jerry Bayless and O.J. Mayo have also been limited by injuries. Missing the playoffs is becoming more of possibility in confusing Milwaukee, where Ownership is still searching for the a state approved stadium deal.
19 Boston Celtics
Nobody expected the Celtics to make the playoffs this year. They still may come up just short, but this group deserves credit for being only .5 games back with 17 games left in the season. Jared Sullinger went down in February creating a hole in the paint. No problem. Celtics have won nine of 12 since. Even more impressive, the games are close and the young Celtics, who only diehard hoop fans have heard of, are winning them. This week was highlighted by a three-point win at home over Memphis and four-point crucial road win at Indiana. The Celtics still have to play Cleveland twice, San Antonio and the Clippers but they look capable of hanging in until the bitter end.
18 Charlotte Hornets
Steve Clifford is losing his mind coach this sometimes dysfunctional bunch. Its started Monday night with a 36-point loss to the Wizards. That ended a five-game winning streak, but there was only one win against a playoff team, Toronto. Clifford said his team played tired against the Wizards. That “tired” effort was followed up another home loss to Sacramento. Clifford was even more upset after that one:
"“If we’re going to play like this, forget the playoffs,” Clifford said. “We can’t win like this. We can’t win like this. You’ve got to know who you are and play to your game.”"
The Hornets salvaged their week coming back from 19-down Saturday to beat Chicago, but the Bulls are playing at 1/3 strength.
17 Indiana Pacers
Paul George has been practicing for three weeks. Hope was raised George would join the Pacers for their playoff push by now, but it is becoming more evident George won’t be ready to be anywhere near a major contributor if he even plays at all this season. Too bad for one of the NBA’s class acts.
The Pacers deserve credit for hanging around without George. They had won seven in a row, before dropping their last two to Boston and Toronto. One bright spot in the two losses was the continued impressive play from George Hill – 30 and 23 points respectively on 20-33 shooting combined. Hill has been great since coming back from a groin injury that cost him 11 games in January. The Pacers figure to hang around even without George.
16 Utah Jazz
Perfect week for the Jazz who have won five in a row and eight of nine. The most impressive win was an 18-point drubbing of Houston punctuated early by a Rudy Gobert throw-down. Gobert has bee getting more playing time since the Jazz traded Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City and has been taking advantage of his opportunity.
Derrick Favors continues to get better and better. Favors had 26 as the focal point of the offense in Saturday’s three-point win over Detroit. Favors will end the year with a higher scoring average than last year, something he has accomplished in each of his first six seasons in the league. There will be a change in the front office, CEO Greg Miller is stepping down. The Jazz have a heavy schedule the rest of the month, nine games in 15 days. Maybe that work load made Miller feel guilty so he stepped down.
Next: No. 15- No. 11