5 Atlanta Hawks
The still East-leading Hawks are in a slump. There is no chance Atlanta doesn’t end up with the top seed, but their confidence could end up shaken heading to the playoffs and that wouldn’t be good for a team with minimal playoff experience. Three losses in a row, albeit to good teams Golden State and Oklahoma City on the road before getting blown out at home by San Antonio. Since the All-Star break, Atlanta is 10-6 allowing just under 100 points per game. They have allowed triple figures four games in a row. Injuries have contributed. Defensive stalwart Thabo Sefolosha hasn’t played since January 30 because of a strained right calf. Mike Scott has also been out for two weeks with a toe injury. It’s not time to panic yet in Atlanta, but there is work to do heading into the playoffs.
4 Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis is back rolling having won five of six. Jeff Green is coming off the bench, defensive maniac Tony Allen back in the starting line-up. We will really get a feel where Memphis is at after this week. LeBron James and the Cavs visit on Wednesday. Cleveland will be coming in on two days rest and the Cavs have not lost a game all year under those circumstances, 10-0. Then it is best in the league Golden State at home Friday followed by at San Antonio Sunday. “Super Grizz” is also firing on all cylinders taking down Robin Lopez.
3 San Antonio Spurs
In the same week, the Spurs lost to the Knicks and beat the Atlanta Hawks. Gregg Popovich called his team an “embarrassment” after the Knicks loss so of course his veteran group either responded, or simply paid their coach no mind and got back to playing good basketball. They have 10 of their last 12 dating back to March 4 and they dominated Atlanta leading 26-6 before most Hawks fans entered the arena. They ended up beating the best team in the East 114-95 while watching their old assistant coach Mike Budenholzer get ejected. The Spurs are just two games back in the loss column for the three seed, but wherever they end up, another deep playoff run looks likely.
2 Cleveland Cavaliers
They won’t catch sliding Atlanta, but Cleveland is a lock for the East’s two-seed. The season changed for the Cavs when Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and eventually Kendrick Perkins were added to the roster. LeBron James realized he had enough to win the championship and he hasn’t looked back playing MVP-caliber ball. After losing to a jacked-up Miami Heat team Monday night, the Cavs came back to post a 3-1 week. They have a light schedule this week and only 10 games left overall. Wednesday night will be interesting at Memphis for the Eastern Conference favorite Cavs.
1 Golden State Warriors
Six wins in a row for the more and more impressive Warriors. Thing do get tougher with seven of their next eight games on the road starting Tuesday night at Portland. Golden State has won their last four games by 81-points combined against Atlanta, New Orleans, Utah and Washington. Klay Thompson is back after being out with a sprained right ankle after missing only six days. It doesn’t matter who the Warriors play. They are 25-8 against teams over .500.
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