NBA Power Rankings for February 23rd, 2013

serge-ibakaThe defending champion Miami Heat have really started to take form in February. They’ve now won nine straight games, including victories over the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls. The hot streak doesn’t look to end any time soon either because Miami has some easy home games coming up. This being said, we had to put the Heat on top this week in our NBA power rankings. However, there were a couple of other teams who are right on Miami’s trail for the best overall ranking so let’s discuss all of this below.

1. Miami Heat (38-14) – LeBron James has definitely been the biggest catalyst in the Heat’s great month. He’s averaging 30.2 PPG in February, which is up three points from his season average of 27.2 PPG. The big challenge come playoff time will be finding reliable bench production. Ray Allen has averaged 10.8 PPG off the bench, but he’s only scoring 7.6 PPG this month and is shooting 31.1% from the field.

2. San Antonio Spurs (44-13) – It’s hard picking a number one team when you also factor in how successful the Spurs have been lately. They’ve gone 16-2 since early January and have held the league’s best record for two weeks. And they’ll finally be ending a nine-game road trip in Phoenix tomorrow night, which means a friendly home stretch is coming up. Tony Parker is quite possibly having the best season of his 11-year career with 21.1 PPG, 7.6 APG and 53.6% shooting.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (40-15) – The Thunder finally ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves at home. Based on their recent struggles, Oklahoma City has now fallen behind the Spurs by three games in the Western Conference race. So it’ll be interesting to see how they respond over the final 27 games of the season. Serge Ibaka has really improved his offensive role with the team in averaging 13.3 PPG and shooting 55.6% from the field. Of course, he’s still providing excellent defense too with 3.0 BPG.

chauncey-billups4. Los Angeles Clippers (39-18) – After suffering through a terrible stretch from mid-January to early February – where they lost 8 out of 11 games – the Clippers appear to be back on track. They’ve now won four out of the past five games, with the lone loss being to the Spurs. Chauncey Billups returned from a long injury layoff during this stretch and is giving the team a big boost with 10.4 PPG and 44.4% three-point shooting.

5. Indiana Pacers (34-21) – Just last week, we predicated that the Pacers would soon take over the Eastern Conference’s number two spot. And this came true in a major way after Indiana thumped New York by 26 points. Paul George (17.7 PPG) was huge in this game as he scored 27 points and carried the Pacers to victory. David West (17.2 PPG) has also come up big in plenty of games this season, giving Indiana a nice one-two punch.

6. Memphis Grizzlies (36-18) – Who’d have thought that the Grizzlies would be firmly entrenched in the West’s number four spot after trading away their leading scorer, Rudy Gay. They’ve now grabbed six straight tony-allenvictories and are getting more offense out of starting SG Tony Allen, who’s averaging 11.6 PPG and shooting 57.5% in February. Traditionally known for his defense, Allen is having a career revival in Memphis.

7. New York Knicks (32-20) – The aforementioned 26-point loss to the Pacers isn’t the only problem that the Knicks have had lately. They’ve dropped four straight games and fallen out of the Eastern Conference’s top two spots for the first time this year. Unfortunately, Amar’e Stoudemire’s return hasn’t quite provided the boost New York has been looking for in the win-loss column – although he is averaging 13.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG.

8. Denver Nuggets (34-22) – The Nuggets continue to fall down our power rankings after losing four out of the past five contests. Losses to Toronto and Washington have really hurt Denver’s bid to grab home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Of course, you can’t really blame any of this on PG Ty Lawson (16.2 PPG) since he’s played incredible and is averaging 23.0 PPG and 9.0 APG in February.

9. Brooklyn Nets (33-23) – Brooklyn recently went on a good run after beating Indiana, Milwaukee (twice) and Denver – before finally losing to the Rockets last night. Brook Lopze continues to impress in his fifth season with 18.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 2.1 BPG. He’s especially stepped up his scoring production in February after contributing 20.1 PPG this month. You can bet that Lopez is still carrying a chip on his shoulder after not making the All-Star team.

10. Chicago Bulls (32-23) – As more and more reports surface regarding Derrick Rose’s return, it’s looking like he won’t be back this season. The thinking here is that the Bulls don’t want to rush their franchise player back onto the court – especially when the supporting cast is doing an admirable job already. Center Joakim Noah has really stood out this year by averaging 11.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 20.6 BPG and 1.29 SPG.

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