Who rises and who falls in this NBA postseason power rankings installment?
(Team’s series record, Change in ranking from last week. Records as of 4/24/18)
Trail Blazers, Spurs, Heat
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (Down 3-1 to Rockets, +1)
To give the Timberwolves credit, they have played about as well as they could be expected to play against the Rockets. They have defended Harden well for part of the series and even stole a game at home. Harden has only shot 41.8% from the field. This Timberwolves team has talent but isn’t good on defense or coached well enough to realistically compete with this Houston team.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (Down 3-1 to Jazz, -7)
After a very promising game one where Oklahoma City looked dominant offensively, they have crashed and burned in the following three games. The Thunder have the third worst offensive rating in the playoffs (101.1); they’ve struggled to score against Utah’s stifling defense led by Rudy Gobert. Russell Westbrook has put up numbers (21.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.3 assists) but he hasn’t helped his teammates and has turned the ball over 5.3 times per game. Westbrook is showing that he can’t lead a more talented team in the playoffs; Paul George seems destined to leave this offseason.
11. Milwaukee Bucks (Down 3-2 to Celtics, +2)
Although the Bucks are in a hole down 3-2 to Boston, they are by no means out of this series. Remember, if a few shots go the other way in game one and the officials call the shot clock violation in game five, this series could be over in favor of Milwaukee. They have been great at home and have a chance to even it up in game six. Giannis Antetokounmpo needs to continue to dominate for Milwaukee to win; he’s averaged 25.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and seven assists in this series.
10. Washington Wizards (Tied 2-2 with Raptors, +6)
Washington looked dead in the water after two games. Their defense was a mess and they looked lost as a team. But some incredible John Wall play has lifted them back into the series. Wall averages 26.8 points, 13 assists and three steals per game. He has picked apart the Raptors’ defense in every game even when Bradley Beal is unable to supplement offense. They look like they could potentially win this series, achieving the illustrious 1-8 upset.
9. Toronto Raptors (Tied 2-2 with Wizards, -9)
After two games, the Raptors had ostensibly sheathed their playoff woes. They beat the Wizards twice at home, ending their game one drought and going up 2-0 for the first time ever. However, they lost both games in Washington, tying the series. The Raptors can’t ever seem to figure out John Wall. They were unable to beat the Wizards in game four, even though Bradley Beal fouled out with five minutes remaining. The Raptors have very little momentum heading back home for game five; another home win is crucial for this series.
8. Boston Celtics (Up 3-2 on Bucks, -5)
The Boston Celtics just won a hard-fought game five at home over Milwaukee. Marcus Smart’s return is huge for the Celtics’ defense. He helped to hamper Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe, even switching on to Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Celtics have not won in Milwaukee during this series. They look to close out this series on the road but Giannis and co. will not go down without a fight. This series could easily go seven if someone in Boston doesn’t step up.
7. Indiana Pacers (Tied 2-2 with Cavaliers, +1)
The Pacers were unable to take a commanding 3-1 lead over Cleveland in game four. They have had a bad habit in this series of getting behind big in games against the Cavaliers. Although they have made a comeback every time, they can’t keep putting themselves in these holes. LeBron James is too good to let the Pacers come back every single time.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (Tied 2-2 with Pacers, +5)
The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled away from the Indiana Pacers in game two, evening up the series heading back home. The Cavaliers rank second to last in the playoffs in offensive rating (100.8) but fifth best defensive rating (101.9). The Cavaliers have struggled to find offense besides LeBron James. If Victor Oladipo turns it on once again, Cleveland will need to match with some creative offense of their own.
5. Utah Jazz (Up 3-1 on Thunder, +7)
After losing game one, the Jazz have rebounded in a huge way, taking all three of the next games vs Oklahoma City. Donovan Mitchell has been an offensive force averaging 27.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. Their fundamentally sound game, stingy defense, and motion offense has stifled the Thunder Greatly. If Utah wins this series, they will go play Houston(probably).
4. Golden State Warriors (Won 4-1 vs Spurs, +2)
The Warriors finished off the Spurs last night but it was not the cakewalk that many thought it would be. Playing without Kawhi Leonard and Gregg Popovich, San Antonio fought valiantly, nearly stealing game five on the road. LaMarcus Aldridge was a tough cover for Golden State, averaging 23.6 points and 9.2 boards per game. They don’t get any breaks from elite big men; they will have to figure out how to defend Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic. Stephen Curry’s health is obviously a huge concern. If he is healthy, I see the Warriors winning this series no problem. But if he is not, this series could be on serious upset alert.
3. Houston Rockets (Up 3-1 on Timberwolves, -1)
Last night, we got another taste of what the Houston Rockets can do when they are on. Through the first three games of the series, the Rockets didn’t shoot particularly well and the Timberwolves hung around, even winning a game. However, a 50 point third quarter opened up game four. This Rockets team can put up 50 in a quarter at the flip of a switch, making them so dangerous.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (Won 4-1 vs Heat, +5)
In a hard-fought series, the 76ers, fueled by the Process, defeated the Heat in five games. The Heat gave them a few tough games but the Sixers always seemed to have a run in the third that helped them pull away. The 76ers rank fourth in the playoffs in offensive rating (109.6) and defensive rating (101.6). Philly will actually avoid the Cavaliers and Raptors if they make it out, playing the winner of the Celtics vs Bucks series.
1. New Orleans Pelicans (Won 4-0 vs Trail Blazers, +4)
The Pelicans lit up the basketball world with their sweep of the three seeded Trail Blazers. Anthony Davis leads the playoffs in scoring with 33 per game to go with 11.8 boards and 2.8 blocks. Despite only playing four games, Rajon Rondo still leads the playoffs in total assists with 53 (13.3 per game). Jrue Holiday averaged 27.8 points per game to go with 6.5 assists and four rebounds. Riding all of the momenta in the world, they could be on a course to upset Golden State, especially is Stephen Curry doesn’t play.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.