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March 17, 2008 6:00 AM

NBA Power Rankings

Posted by Percy Allen

Each week we take a look at the NBA and rank the teams in order every Monday morning. Last week's ranking in parenthesis.

Rank

Team (Previous rank)

Comment

1.

Houston (1):

Starting to believe they can win it all because Rafer Alston is playing like an All-Star. He dropped a career-high 32 points to give them a big win over the LA Lakers, their 22nd straight win and the top spot in the Western Conference standings. Eleven behind '71-72 Lakers for NBA best.

2.

Boston (2):

All questions about the Cs will be answered this week as they enter the dreaded Texas Triangle (San Antonio, Houston and Dallas) before visiting New Orleans. Still not sure if newcomer Sam Cassell and Rajon Rondo can co-exist.

3.

Detroit (4):

Their magic number for clinching the Central Division is 5 1/2. Detroit is 27-1 when they score at least 100 points. Tayshaun Prince has started every game (339) in the past four years, which is the most in the NBA.

4.

New Orleans (6):

Owner George Shinn told state officials he's interested in renegotiating for a long-term deal that would ensure the franchise remains in New Orleans for the next 10 years without any exit clauses or attendance benchmarks. But it's unclear if the city want re-do the deal.

5.

Utah (7):

With a win tonight against Toronto, they would win their 19th straight game at home and tie the franchise record for consecutive homecourt wins. The Jazz haven't lost a game at home since Dec. 29. They play 10 more games in Salt Lake City.

6.

LA Lakers (3):

Their latest pair of losses proves how valuable Pau Gasol is. His sprained left ankle will keep him out of the next two games at Dallas and Utah, which could lengthen the losing streak and drop the Lakers from second to seventh in the standings.

7.

Orlando (8):

GM Otis Smith and coach Stan Van Gundy says they need to get tougher. Guaranteed their first winning season in five years and shooting for first 50-win season since 1995-96 which is possible because which now looks like a given because 13 of the final 16 games are against teams with losing records.

8.

San Antonio (5):

Not buying Bruce Bowen's "I'm a Christian," therefore "I'm not a dirty player" logic. He's the dirtiest player in the NBA, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The Spurs' 0-3 road trip last week is a tad troubling. Good thing there's no back-to-back sets in the playoffs.

9

Dallas (12):

They are 9-5 with Jason Kidd, however, every win is against teams with losing records. This week, they host LA Lakers, Boston and Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki moves past Rolando Blackman as the Mavs' all-time scoring leader. Dirk owns every major statistical record.

10.

Golden State (10):

Be sure to check out Friday's game against Houston. Not only is it the game of the week, it could be a preview of a first-round matchup. If the playoffs ended today, they would meet in the postseason. The Warriors are 2-1 against the Rockets this season.

11.

Philadelphia (13):

Suddenly, they've become the team nobody wants to face in the playoffs. They've got a veteran point guard (Andre Miller), a dynamic scorer (Andre Iguodala), a defensive-oriented big man (Samuel Dalembert) and a decent bench.

12.

Denver (11):

Allen Iverson makes his first trip to Philadelphia as a Nugget on Wednesday. Before the Dec. 2006 trade, he played 10½ seasons for the 76ers and is second on the team's all-time scoring list behind Hal Greer. If the Nuggets played in the East, they would be fourth in the conference.

13.

Phoenix (15):

The Suns get a couple of more tuneup games this week (Portland and Sonics) before facing Houston, Detroit and Boston. Shaquille O'Neal was perfect (7-for-7 shooting, 17 points) in Saturday's rout over Sacramento.

14:

Cleveland (9):

LeBron James will appear on the April cover of Vogue, joining actors Richard Gere and George Clooney as the only men to do so in the magazine's 116-year history. Zydrunas Ilgauskas returns after a seven-game, two-week layoff.

15.

Washington (19):

Gilbert Arenas plans to undergo an MRI on his surgically repaired left knee on Tuesday and if he results are positive, he wants to return on Wednesday.

16.

Portland (16):

Rookie Greg Oden practices with the team for the first time since undergoing knee surgery.

17.

New Jersey (21):

Rebounded from an 0-5 road trip with impressive wins over Cleveland and Utah to keep their playoff hopes alive.

18.

Atlanta (18):

Big game Wednesday at New Jersey. They're ninth in the standings and trail the Nets by a half game.

19.

Toronto (14):

Their disastrous five-game road trip began with four losses and ends tonight in Utah. Chris Bosh (sore right knee) has missed eight games and could one more. He wants to return Wednesday against Miami.

20.

Sacramento (24):

Ron Artest has scored 20 or more points in 17 of the last 21 games he's played in. The Kings have allowed 100 points in 22 of the past 26 games.

21.

Chicago (20):

Despite all of the antics - Tyrus Thomas and Chris Duhon were suspended one game in separate incidents - they're just 1½ games behind New Jersey for eighth place in the standings. Duhon, who missed a morning practice because he overslept, on being benched: "Usually, I don't play anyway, so it doesn't have that much of an effect on me."

22.

Indiana (23):

Co-owner Herb Simon: "We're talking about restructuring, re-thinking, all the things you do when your team is in crisis." CEO Donnie Walsh expected to leave after the season and could take over in New York or Atlanta where the general managers are on the hot seat.

23.

Charlotte (17):

It's pure coincidence that their five-game winning streak came to an embarrassing halt against Dallas when Gerald Wallace returned from a two-week injury. Still, wing players Jason Richardson, Matt Carroll and rookie Jared Dudley played better w/o Wallace who says his days at PF are over.

24.

LA Clippers (27):

Injury bug is biting hard. Rookie Al Thornton (right leg contusion) is out and center Chris Kaman (sore lower back) is expected to miss tonight's game.

25.

New York (28):

Eddy Curry will have season-ending knee surgery this week. Isiah Thomas, Minnesota's Randy Wittman and Atlanta's Mike Woodson were teammates at Indiana, which is the first time in NBA history three college teammates were coaching in the league at the same time. Too bad they don't win games as frequently as Bobby Knight.

26.

Minnesota (25):

Let's revisit the Kirk Snyder-Gerald Green trade. Snyder has developed into a 30-minutes-plus-a-night player while Houston waived Green, the 18th pick in the 2005 draft and '07 slam dunk champion, on Saturday.

27.

Milwaukee (22):

It's hard to fall out of the playoff picture in the East, but that's what they did after an 0-3 week. They are still just five games out of the eighth spot with 16 games remaining. However, there's four teams ahead of them.

28.

Memphis (26):

This lineup is too good to be this bad, which says that coach Marc Iavaroni's system hasn't worked. Only Golden State has allowed more points.

29.

Sonics (29):

Yes they're young and rebuilding, but 168 points? C'mon. There's no excuse for that. They've quit on coach P.J. Carlesimo and given up on the season.

30.

Miami (30):

Former Washington Husky Bobby Jones tied a NBA record when he signed a 10-day contract with Miami. He's the fourth player to play with four teams in the same season. Jones began with Denver before signing two 10-day contracts with Memphis and one with Houston. The other three players who share the record are Rod Higgins, Tony Massenburg and Alex Stivrins.

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