Updated: April 14, 2014, 3:50 PM ET
Power Rankings: Spurs finish No. 1
By Marc Stein
Monday, April 14
Two more wins would give the San Antonio Spurs their highest single-season win total in franchise history. But they've already clinched plenty if they opt for a casual approach to the final week of the regular season.
Best record in the league. Home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. And the No. 1 ranking in the last edition of ESPN's weekly NBA Power Rankings until next fall.
The Spurs have occupied the top spot for the past four Mondays and, in the wake of the NBA Finals heartbreak that was supposed to bury them, have re-established themselves as the team to beat in the West.
The Miami Heat, meanwhile, have moved up to No. 3 in the season's final poll despite the Heat's 3-4 April, largely because the committee (of one) simply doesn't feel right having the team to beat in the East any lower heading into Saturday's start of the playoffs.
Further explanation behind this week's order can be found on Stein Line Live. You're also invited to rank the teams yourself here.
|Eighteen teams have lost a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. The Spurs can match the highest ensuing winning percentage posted by those 18, tying Detroit's .780 mark in 2005-06, if they win their final two games. But these are the Spurs. So they'll presumably settle for extra rest.|
|Not much of a reward for the heavy MVP favorite: Kevin Durant's Thunder might well have to see the Grizzlies and then the Clippers just to get to what is generally seen as a favorable matchup with San Antonio in the Western Conference finals ... barring some 11th-hour seed shuffling.|
|The champs haven't been much better than Indiana lately, but they did win the one game that mattered most last week. So we're guessing they'll be just fine against whatever combination of Charlotte, Washington and Toronto they'll see in the first two rounds of the playoffs. |
|The Clippers would naturally welcome the West's No. 3 seed if you could promise them good health in the playoffs. The problem, of course, is that no one has promised anything of the sort. Jamal Crawford is back, but Danny Granger is still out and J.J. Redick doesn't look comfortable yet.|
|The Rockets appear headed for the precise playoff matchups they want: Portland in Round 1, San Antonio in Round 2. Yet you have to hold off on saying that things are lined up perfectly for them until we know for sure that Dwight Howard is back in the lineup to stay. Ditto for Patrick Beverley.|
|We can still remember when the Griz actually targeted the West's No. 8 seed because they wanted San Antonio in Round 1. Rest assured these Grizzlies, three years later, badly want to win out and haul themselves up to No. 7 ... even though opening up with OKC obviously would be no treat.|
|Going 8-1 since getting LaMarcus Aldridge back is forcing Houston to work to clinch the No. 4 seed. I also suspect the Blazers -- who haven't won a playoff series, believe it or not, since 1999-2000 -- want the Rockets in Round 1 as much as the Rockets want them. Given the alternatives.|
|This will be their first 50-win season since Chris Webber was a rookie! The Dubs, though, might have avoided a first-round date with their pals from Clipperland had they fared better than 2-4 (with home L's to Minnesota, Charlotte and Denver) after layoffs of three days or more.|
|After his own Finals heartbreak against Miami in 2006, Dirk can identify with what this season was like for Timmy, Tony and Manu better than most. One more subplot for a likely Mavs-Spurs matchup in Round 1 that finds San Antonio, amazingly, having won the teams' past nine meetings.|
|Winning its regular-season finale, besides securing the No. 1 seed we've obsessed over for months, ensures Indy avoids some unwanted history. All 67 prior teams that had a win percentage of .750-plus at the All-Star break posted a winning record thereafter. Indy is 15-14 since the break.|
|The East's No. 3 seed is suddenly two wins away. The Raps' return to relevance has been officially underway for months. And that means your committee (of one) might just see itself dispatched to one of its favorite places on the planet even before the 2016 All-Star Game gets here.|
|I suppose the idea of playing Indiana in the second round is far more appealing than dealing with Miami, but do the Bulls prefer a Round 1 matchup with Brooklyn, too? That's where they're headed after a loss to the nothing-to-play-for Knicks that could cost 'em the East's No. 3 seed. |
|The loss that doomed the Desert Cinderellas' playoff chances, as much as their soul-crushing weekend collapses in Texas, was inflicted March 30 by the Lakers. But when they needed L.A. to do the same thing to Memphis, Swaggy P & Co. fell short. Sad, sad ending to an inspiring season.|
|Three one-point wins over the two-time champs. A fourth win in double OT. The Nets, frankly, haven't looked very good since completing their 4-0 season sweep of the Heat, but you know what? It's the first 4-0 season sweep of any LeBron James team. Ever. So it must be highlighted here.|
|Turns out that the Wiz never really got close to Third Best Team In The East status no matter how many times Charles Barkley predicted it. They'll gladly settle for No. 6, though. Happily, even, after they clinched a winning record and are getting Nene (knee) back from a 21-game absence.|
|Tough to complain too loudly when the Bobcats aren't all that far removed from a 7-59 campaign. But they had control of the East's No. 6 seed, promptly surrendered it by losing Friday night in Boston and might really rue that L if a Toronto team they've swept 3-0 finishes No. 3.|
|Recent upsets (Heat, Griz, Spurs) and discoveries (Corey Brewer! Gorgui Dieng!) can't camouflage a playoff drought that's up to 10 seasons. Hurts even worse because these Wolves sport the highest average nightly margin (plus-2.9) of any non-playoff team in the 16-team format. Ever.|
|Hard for me to deny that, purely for drama purposes, I was hooked on the idea of the Knicks rising off the mat to snag the East's last playoff spot. But I'm also by no means ready to say goodbye to the #eventhehawks hashtag. Good, then, to have 'em around for a couple more weeks. |
|There were some rocky moments, sure, but this hot-seat talk after Brian Shaw's first season is hard to process. Especially when you factor in all of the Nuggets' injuries that halted their long playoff streak ... plus the progress by Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried amid the rockiness.|
|The Knicks weren't going to do anything in the playoffs because sub-.500 teams never do. Just one in the annals of this format has ever won a series; Seattle won two in '86-87. But not even getting there still stings, mostly for a resurgent Amare and a no-playoffs-for-the-first-time Melo.|
|The Cavs held a joint news conference last week in which Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters tried to convince the audience they like each other. Questions about what to do with these two will nonetheless continue to nag the Cavs after a limp ending to a season filled with disappointment.|
|As we launch into the Rudy Gay Watch on Gay's decision whether to opt in or out of the final season left on his contract at $19.3 million, here's the newsiest Kings item we can muster: "Boogie" Cousins went 21 games without a tech, dating to Feb. 25, before Sunday's suspension-inducing T.|
|Two suggested goals for Anthony Davis next season: playing in at least 70 games and hauling the Pels out of the league's bottom 10 in defensive efficiency. New Orleans can only hope its horrible injury luck lately is replaced with a massive slice of lottery fortune to retain its top pick.|
|Relieved to finally see the Celts win a couple last week? Maybe that describes the beleaguered Brad Stevens, but I imagine that C's fans, after all of their suffering to this point, don't want to see Gang Green fall out of the top five of the draft. Our own Chris Forsberg breaks it all down here.|
|Back-to-back wins over Boston and Atlanta briefly made you think the Pistons were about to drag this nightmare season down further by finishing with the league's ninth-worst record. But they're back on course, at the very least, to keep their top pick in June for Joe Dumars' successor.|
|The Lakers have picked in the top five just four times since the modern draft era began in 1966. The Lakers' last top-five pick was James Worthy at No. 1 in 1982. And these are the sorts of tidbits you'll need after the catastrophic, injury-filled horror show Hollywood just endured.|
|Expounding on last week's comment: Orlando's 43 combined wins since parting with Dwight Howard in the Trade No One Won represents the fewest in a two-season stretch in team history. Which is another way of saying that the Magic really need to take some sort of step next season.|
|The last time Utah lost this many games, Deron Williams was waiting for it in the draft when the Hawks mercifully took current Jazz forward Marvin Williams ahead of D-Will and Chris Paul. So maybe that's why they didn't trade Marv before the February deadline. For the karma.|
|It's all rather hard to believe now, obviously, but don't forget that the Sixers -- long before the 26-game losing streak that secured their place in infamy -- took a 19-zip lead over Miami in the home opener, somehow started 3-0 and actually made some fans worry they'd win too many games.|
|If the Bucks do what the team with the worst record rarely does and wins the lottery, it'll be their third time after landing "Big Dog" Robinson in 1994 and Andrew Bogut in 2005. But better times must be ahead if the franchise, as it appears, is really going to be sold in the $550 million range. |