Chicago paces playoff rankings

Athlon Sports Power Rankings — Round 1 Edition

Athlon Sports Power Rankings — Round 1 Edition

Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings — Playoff Edition

1. Chicago — The league's best team rides into the playoffs as winners of 13 of 14 and a league-best winning percentage of .703 against teams with a .500 record or better (26-11).

2. Miami — The Heat picked a good time to start, um, heating up. Miami is 41-4 when it scores 100 or more points, while its first-round opponent, Philadelphia, is 6-25 when it gives up 100 or more points.

3. Los Angeles Lakers — Keep Andrew Bynum healthy and get contributions from role players and the Lake Show should at least make the Western Conference Finals. L.A. notched a league-high 31 wins against teams with a .500 record or better (31-15).

4. San Antonio — An injured Manu Ginobli, 4-6 in their last 10 games and a Memphis team that matches up well could spell trouble or at least a longer series than the Spurs would like.

5. Dallas — There has to be a pride issue with the Mavericks not being able to get it done in the playoffs. And that is magnified even more when many, myself included, are picking Dallas to be upset by a Portland team that hasn't won a playoff series since 2000.

6. Oklahoma City — The Thunder have had winning streaks of 6, 5 and 5 since the All-Star break and have not lost more than two in a row during that time. OKC is poised for a run to the Western Conference Finals ... and beyond?

7. Boston — Veterans, defense and never being down for long keeps Boston in the upper echelon. The Celtics join the Bulls as the only two teams in the league to have never lost more than two in a row this season. But the Cs have also only won more than two in a row just twice since March 6.

8. Orlando — Dwight Howard does all he can do and now it is up to the Magic 3-point shooters to do their part and fend off Atlanta in the opening round.

9. Denver — The series with the Thunder should be an exciting one, but the Thunder did defeat the Nuggets twice in the last eight days of the season, holding the top-scoring offense in the league to 89 and 94 points — well under Denver's average of 107.5 per game.

10. Portland — It's good to see this group in the playoffs. There are a number of players for the Blazers that are not household names but just might make themselves a name after this series — LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews, Rudy Fernandez and even veteran Andre Miller. Look out for the guys in Rip City.

11. Memphis — The Grizzlies are still searching for their first playoff victory and might get it this season. They have the personnel to match-up with the Spurs, but can they do it for seven games?

12. New York — If New York played an ounce of defense I would love to say it's going to be a knock-down-drag-out series. They don't, so it won't. The Knicks do stand a chance if the Celtics have no one inside to grab the boards, but getting past that Celtics defense in the playoffs after being swept in the season series is a tall task.

13. Philadelphia — If there was no Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, Doug Collins should get the nod for Coach of the Year. After a rough 3-13 start, the former Bulls coach got it turned around in Philly and improved 14 wins over last season's mark in his first year at the helm. The 76ers' reward: Miami. Good luck.

14. New Orleans — From the darlings in early November when they stayed undefeated for the first eight games to holding on to the seventh seed, it has been quite a roller coaster season for the Hornets. The Lakers will make quick work of the series.

15. Atlanta — What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results. This Hawks roster seems to have been together forever and nothing has come out of it. I do expect them to drag out their series with the Magic, maybe even win it, but the run stops there with Chicago around the corner.

16. Indiana — What can you say about a 37-win team in the postseason? Nothing. The Pacers made a nice run when Frank Vogel took over at midseason, but the Bulls ran through the Pacers in three of the four meetings. Indiana is 12-31 against teams with a .500 or better record. Since every other team in the postseason has at least a .500 record, that's not good news for the Pacers.

Eastern Conference at a Glance

Western Conference at a Glance

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

Exclude From Games: 
<p> The NBA playoffs are here. The first round begins Saturday, April 15. Sixteen teams made the pro dance, and Athlon Sports ranks those 16 teams as they enter the postseason.</p>

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