NBA Power Rankings: Friday, May 3 (Part Two)

 Photo by B. Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Photo by B. Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

By Joe Manganiello

Check out Part One, and without further ado.

5. Indiana (The next best in the East)

I don’t understood why people fell off the Pacers bandwagon midseason, or why the same people haven’t gotten back on. Yeah, losing Granger is a bother, but Paul George has transformed into an all-star in his absence; the Pacers finished with the third-best record in the East; and so far during this series against Atlanta, they have won each home game by an average of 18.3 points.

Teams lose on the road in the playoffs, and Atlanta is not an easy venue to walk into, particularly when Josh Smith is playing for a new contract and Horford is playing with a chip on his shoulder, frustrated that he is still one of the most underrated players in the Association.

Hibbert, West and George combined for 63 points, 24 rebounds and 19-23 from the charity stripe in game five. This is a frontcourt that should not be slept on. Particularly with my Knicks shooting the way they have against the Celtics (but we’ll get to that) the Pacers are still the toughest matchup for the Heat coming out of the East. The Pacers may or may not have what it takes to take Miami to seven games, but I would not be shocked if the series went 2-2 before a game five in South Beach.

6. Oklahoma City (The former favorite who’s still a contender out West)

7. New York (The most inconsistent contender but who can still contend)

Both these teams took a 3-0 edge in their respective series, then gave up consecutive losses to their opponent and now must win a game six in their opponent’s arena to avoid a strenuous game seven. Here’s a stat that I’m sure NOBODY has told you the last week (joke): no NBA team has ever blown a 3-0 lead in a playoff series. Here’s the stat that I’m more impressed by: only three NBA teams have ever been pushed to a game seven after going up 3-0. We might see it twice this post-season.

Seriously, how shocked would you really be if the James Harden-led Rockets, behind a crowd of screaming Rockets fans, beat the fourth-quarter challenged Thunder in game six OR if the Boston Celtics held the Knicks to under 40 percent shooting from the field in a 86-83 affair in TD Garden OR both?

The Thunder could easily be down 3-2 if Durant’s three-pointer didn’t fall into the net in game three. Games 2-5 were decided by a combined 15 points, and seven of them were in the Rockets game five victory, 107-100. Are the Thunder missing Westbrook, as any team would? Yes. But it’s the playoffs, and they have not made the necessary adjustments to overcome the injury. Like my pal Conrad said in Part One, the Thunder are playing the exact same style as they have all season, just without Westbrook. That won’t work; Durant iso’s won’t work every play; and Reggie Jackson iso’s certainly won’t work most plays.

The Knicks meanwhile found a way to embarrass themselves three different ways this week: J.R. Smith earned a one-game suspension before game four, which the Knicks lost by seven points; the Knicks then attempted the “funeral” stunt before game five, which was stupid; and Carmelo Anthony and Smith went 11-35 shooting from the field in game five, which they trailed the whole game. The Knicks have scored 90 points or less in every game this series. Things are not suddenly going to get easier in a series against the Pacers, who held opponents to 96.6 points per 100 possessions in the regular season on 42 percent shooting.

With all that said, the Thunder and Knicks control their own destiny. The difference between joining one of the most undesirable lists in the sport and advancing to the second round a game early is huge, and both of these teams know that.

8. Golden State (The sleeper that everybody knows is a sleeper)

Tweets from last night:

I’ll keep it short. Curry has evolved as the league’s most likable player and fastest-rising superstar overnight. Thompson/Jack/Barnes/Green/Landry/Ezeli/Bogut and some Lee is a formidable ensemble, particularly with Bogut at full strength. The Spurs might bat around the Warriors like the young Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA finals, or the Warriors could shoot the Spurs off the court like the Thunder did last year. This series really could become anything. The only thing that is for certain is that it will be fun, and the whole sport will be watching for how Curry responds to the moment.

9. Houston (The sleeper that nobody wants to think is a sleeper)

10. Boston (The old (old) contender in the east)

I talked a lot about these two teams already. Look, can either team make a run at the finals? No, not unless something crazy happens. Something like a top 5 scorer in the league going down with a season-ending injury in the first game of a series or the most important reserve in the association getting himself suspended and then forgetting to show up in his return game, simultaneously handing over all the momentum to the other team.

Yeah, something like that would have to happen… again.

11. Atlanta (not a contender but highly motivated for an upset)

Even if Atlanta wins at home for game six, Indiana is the much better team and Atlanta has shown no evidence that they can defeat the Pacers in Indiana. If for no other reason then to agitate my kid brother, the only Atlanta Hawks fan in upstate New York, I will refrain from saying another word about the Hawks.

(The only other reason to keep my mouth shut about the Hawks? They could actually upset the Pacers in game seven, and I would hate to talk myself into yet another hole in the first round. Remember, I’m the guy who picked the Nuggets to sweep the Warriors.)

12. Brooklyn (cannot possibly win in second round unless LeBron gets hurt)

13. Chicago (cannot possibly win in second round unless LeBron gets hurt… or if Rose never tore his ACL)

Brooklyn’s huge game six win puts Chicago in a bad spot. Chicago is dealing with as much adversity as one team can: their best player has been out all year and is now being heckled for not playing while half the team is sick with the flu. Chicago has been the smarter and more efficient team so far, but Brooklyn has too much talent. Brook Lopez is the best player on either side and Deron Williams/Joe Johnson have made enough plays to set up this game seven at home.

The Nets have to win – right? Either way, I’m not sure it matters much. Miami will violently sweep whoever wins this series.

Follow me @joemags32. Look for another installment of The Shoot Around with David Holcomb and I this weekend. Enjoy the NBA – Peace, love, recycle and ball.

3 Responses to "NBA Power Rankings: Friday, May 3 (Part Two)"

  1. Joe Manganiello   May 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    So my friend Matt asked me an important question: how are Clippers ahead of Knicks if the Clippers are underdogs down 3-2 against Grizzles and Knicks are favorites(ish) to take care of Boston in either game six or seven.

    My answer: I don’t think the Memphis/L.A. series is over. I would not be shocked if CP3 went 10-12 FG, 25+ points, 12+ assists, 3+ steals and helped lead a 4th quarter charge to take game six. And I don’t think Memphis wins game seven in Staples Center, particularly coming off a game six loss.

  2. pgotham   May 4, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Give credit it to the Rockets. They were over-matched but liked their plan of attack with the guards. Interesting how Houston was able to get to the rim in transition even when OKC had four or five back on defense.

  3. Joe Manganiello   May 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Yeah, McHale has Houston playing a great offensive style: blazing fast, either to the rim or three-point line; they don’t shoot long twos. They played Oklahoma City as well as an eight seed could, and even if they only evaded a sweep because of injury, I don’t discredit what Houston pulled off in games 2-6.

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