Status quo at the break

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Top four in each conference should be same come season's end

Top four in each conference should be same come season's end

The NBA season has reached All-Star Week. From here until regular season's end on April 13, it really can become a different season from what we have seen the first 55 games or so. But for each conference's top four seeds, that is doubtful.

The All-Star break comes 13 games after the true halfway point of the season, but usually serves as the unofficial halfway mark. There are 23 games to be played amongst the 30 teams over the next three days before the season is tabled for the four-day break. When teams return to play Feb. 22 we will be two days shy of the trade deadline — where you can always expect the unexpected to a team's roster.

Some teams will equip themselves to make a more adequate run at the title, while some of the favorites will try and bolster themselves to make their roster that much more tougher to defeat.

Through the first 17 weeks of the Athlon Sports Power Rankings no team has been as dominant as the San Antonio Spurs. The Western Conference's top seed has been at the top almost the whole season while the Eastern Conference's top-seeded Boston has been right there at No. 2 seemingly just as long. Miami is starting to threaten but cannot get over the Celtics hump yet.

As a matter of fact, the top eight teams have pretty much been the same for the last four months, and there is no reason to think they shouldn't be the clear-cut favorites come playoff time. The top eight this week is split, with each of the conference's top four seeds being represented.

The Western Conference's Spurs, Mavericks, Lakers and Thunder represent Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 8. The Eastern Conference's Celtics, Heat, Bulls and Magic represent Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 7. Throw in Atlanta at No. 9 for the East and Memphis at No. 10 for the West and the parity couldn't get any better.

But the top four seeds in each conference currently should also be the final four teams left in their conference semifinals come May. Perhaps Memphis, New Orleans Portland or Denver could sneak in there in the West, while Atlanta seems like the only threat to disrupt the East's current top four.

As for this week it is fitting that in a shortened schedule of games there is only one matchup between teams in this week's Athlon Sports Power Rankings top 10.

The No. 5 Chicago Bulls play host to San Antonio Thursday night on TNT. The two teams met in November as the second game of the Bulls' annual circus trip — their two-week swing through the Western Conference due to the circus being at the United Center. San Antonio won the meeting 104-93 as part of its 13-1 run to begin the 2010-11 season.

Athlon Sports Power Rankings Week 17
1. San Antonio
2. Boston
3. Dallas
4. Miami
5. Lakers
6. Chicago
7. Orlando
8. Oklahoma City
9. Atlanta
10. Memphis
11. New Orleans
12. Portland
13. Denver
14. Philadelphia
15. Utah
16. Phoenix
17. New York
18. Indiana
19. Golden State
20. Houston
21. Charlotte
22. Detroit
23. Milwaukee
24. Clippers
25. New Jersey
26. Washington
27. Sacramento
28. Minnesota
29. Toronto
30. Cleveland

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

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