Power Rankings: Streaking Rockets stay on top
They haven't lost a game since losing Yao Ming. They haven't lost a road game since Jan. 2. They haven't lost a game of any sort since Jan. 27.
Could the Houston Rockets be jinx-proof?
Since moving into the top spot of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings for the first time in our six seasons using the current format, the Rockets are merely 4-0, nudging them to the top of the Western Conference standings for the first time this late in the season since -- wow -- 1977. No surprise, then, that the Rockets were in zero danger of losing their grip on No. 1, even with Boston still alone in the NBA's 50-win club.
This week's most dramatic changes, then, involve Philadelphia rising to the brink of the top 10 and Miami making the humbling drop back into the basement. You can rank the teams yourself or click here or at the bottom to register your approval or disagreement with the order at the top or anywhere else.
Tune into "NBA Fastbreak" on ESPN to see this week's Army Power Rankings.
|2007-08 Power Rankings: Week 20
|TEAM / RECORD
Last Week: 1
|Since no one has guessed right yet in trying to project when this winning streak is going to end, perhaps we need to ask a new question. Such as: How on earth did these Rockets lose six straight games back in November?
Last Week: 2
|Nice St. Patrick's Day treat for the league's only 50-win team . . . back-to-back games in San Antonio and Houston. Of course, if the Celts sweep both and thus halt Houston's historic streak, No. 2 will be too low.
Last Week: 6
|Disconcerting as it was to lose at home to Philly right after the Sixers lost at home to Boston, Detroit answered about as loudly as you can in the regular season with the impressive home W's over the Spurs and Hornets.
Last Week: 4
|Ray Allen's injury departure diminishes Friday's breakthrough in Boston . . . but only a little. The Jazz just gained some much-needed confidence on the road to go with the distinction of being the last team to beat Houston.
Last Week: 3
|It won't be easy -- and the Lakers honestly have bigger concerns if Pau isn't back in a few games -- but Kobe can't do his MVP campaign any harm if he can keep LA in the top five with Bynum and Gasol out injured.
Last Week: 7
|Cause for concern? Paul and West are indeed banged up, but neither injury appears serious. Cause for optimism? The Hornets have two wins over San Antonio by at least 24 points, which is saying something.
Last Week: 8
|Bad news: 10 of its next 14 games are roadies. Good news: Phoenix just won big games with two different teams, the Spurs (grinding) and the Warriors (running). Just what the Suns were hoping for with Shaq.
Last Week: 9
|The Mavs mowed through the cupcake portion of their schedule with five full-on routs. Now to see how much momentum and continuity they've gathered up with J-Kidd as the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs come to town.
Last Week: 5
|More from our Didn't See This Coming files: San Antonio is a mere 9-11 this season against the rest of the West's top eight. Our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau say only Phoenix, at 7-14, has been worse.
Last Week: 10
|The Warriors need a 9-8 finish for their first 50-win season since Webber was a rookie . . . and Baron needs to play in just five more games for his first 70-game season since playing all 82 in each of his first three years.
Last Week: 14
|March Madness, indeed. The Sixers are 7-1 this month and 15-4 since falling 12 games under .500 on Feb. 4. That adds up to some tasty revenge for not having a single representative in All-Star Weekend events.
Last Week: 13
|The Magic were the league's third-fastest team to clinch a playoff berth. Count that as a surprise that can only help Stan Van's Coach of the Year candidacy and Hedo's odds in the Most Improved Player race.
Last Week: 11
|I'm afraid that those entertaining 168 points weren't enough to drastically change Denver's outlook. Not with a five-game trip looming for a 12-19 road team and not when Seattle is on the schedule only once more.
Last Week: 18
|Butler is back and so is Washington's .500 record. The problem is Philly's surge up the East ladder, which threatens to bump the Raps or the Wiz down to the dreaded No. 7 seed and a first-round series with Detroit.
Last Week: 12
|Big Z and Big Ben are ailing and the Cavs are just 8-6 since swinging their big trade. Something else to concern LeBron: Houston seems intent on winning every game until T-Mac at least passes LBJ in the MVP race.
Last Week: 15
|Oden is suddenly back on the practice floor and the Blazers won't let their record dip below .500. I know March generally belongs to the collegians, but no one will mind if we keep calling these guys Cinderellas. Right?
Last Week: 17
|The question was inevitably raised by our man Marty Mac in Sactown even though Theus is winning more than expected as an NBA coaching rook: Do Kings fans now miss the coach who's on that 22-0 run in Houston?
Last Week: 16
|The Raps are wise to rest Bosh for safety's sake, but the wait for his return must feel like forever. Bosh hasn't played yet in March and Toronto is 0-6 on the road, with just two W's in nine games. Over Seattle and Miami.
Last Week: 22
|Does it hurt more, Leasterners, coming from one of your own? The Nets lose six straight to Western teams, beat Cleveland in their return and Richard Jefferson says, "It's good to be back in the Eastern Conference."
Last Week: 19
|If the Hawks miss the playoffs after all that time in the top eight, they'll surely know why. Beating the Knicks at MSG was only Atlanta's third win in 22 road games, including a 2-8 road record in the Mike Bibby Era.
Last Week: 20
|The latest farce in the East's "race" for No. 8: Chicago is still alive and still hasn't won three games in a row all season. The M-Stands-For-Misery trio of Memphis, Minnesota and Miami are the only other such teams.
Last Week: 24
|What we used as our comment in the very first batch of rankings this season was essentially just repeated by Indy co-owner Herb Simon: "Ever since [the brawl in] Detroit, we seem to have one problem after the other."
Last Week: 21
|The Bobs have played four straight games on the road and play six of the next seven games on the road. The first five-game winning streak in franchise history, in other words, must already feel like a distant memory.
Last Week: 23
|Where do you stand, Clips fans, on Elton's comeback? Want to see him play at least one game? Would you rather EB hold off until next season? Or is it a mistake to even assume he's coming back to Clipperland?
Last Week: 25
|Don't worry: There will be more on Cal State Fullerton's forthcoming slaying of Wisconsin as the week unfolds. First, though, we pass along the big Bucks news: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Bobblehead Night is March 28.
Last Week: 26
|The Wolves have seven sub-.500 teams still left on the schedule. Memphis has 10 left on its schedule. Yet I'd say that the Grizz are a near-unanimous favorite to finish with the worst record in the West. Any dissenters?
Last Week: 29
|Eddy Curry (knee) might be finished for the season, but Isiah's Knicks still have an outside shot to record the lowest single-season winning percentage in franchise history. A 2-14 finish will get that done.
Last Week: 27
|So much for the cynical suggestion that Kevin Durant won't get anywhere close to a real playoff race as a rook. All but three of Seattle's final 16 games have postseason implications . . . at least for the other team.
Last Week: 30
|We're pretty much out of Grizz material, but we have to track the No. 1 team in town for a change this week. Calipari's Memphis, you see, drew Mrs. Line's alma mater in the NCAAs: UT-Arlington's Runnin' Mavs.
Last Week: 28
|Good line from the banned blogger in Dallas: Tim MacMahon says those EL HEAT uniforms Miami sported Sunday actually should have read L, HEAT on the front after the Mavs inflicted Miami's 35th loss in 38 games.