1. Golden State Warriors (56-14, 1st in Western Conference)
Steph Curry and the Warriors seem to have their mojo back. After a skid of three straight games, Golden State bounced back and is currently riding a four-game winning streak. Maybe it was the near-disaster at home against the Sixers or maybe the Warriors are just finally adapting to life without Kevin Durant. Speaking of Durant, Golden State dominated Oklahoma City yet again in the series finale, this time without the help of the former Thunder star. Warriors coach Steve Kerr is taking a page out of Popovich’s book. The 2016 Coach of the Year has shown he is not afraid to hand out DNPs to his All-Stars with the playoffs looming large.
2. San Antonio Spurs (53-16, 2nd in Western Conference)
The Spurs suffered back-to-back defeats for only the third time this season, losing to the Grizzlies and the Blazers last week. San Antonio was unable to gain ground on the Warriors in the wake of Kevin Durant’s injury despite its aging players finally healthy and consistently contributing as expected. The Spurs will face their toughest stretch of the season next week when they play the Cavs, Warriors, Thunder and Jazz. The fans won’t be able to enjoy the marquee matchups however, as coach Gregg Popovich will most likely sit his key players down the stretch.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (46-23, 1st in Eastern Conference)
LeBron James and the Cavs honestly couldn’t care less about the regular season. The league and the fans may be upset at the lack of effort from the defending champions during the regular season, but the Cavaliers have proven they are a force to be reckoned with come playoffs. With no valid challenger in the East, Cleveland has great odds to make its third straight finals appearance. Kevin Love and J.R. Smith have recovered from their injuries and look like they haven’t skipped a beat despite the minute restrictions. With a stacked bench and an All-Star-packed starting five, some would argue that this year’s Cavs is LeBron’s best supporting cast so far in his career. Cleveland plays Denver, Charlotte and Washington this week.
4. Houston Rockets (49-22, 3rd in Western Conference)
James Harden should receive more attention for what he is achieving in Houston this year. The shooting guard turned point guard is having himself a career year, averaging a career-high in points, rebounds, assists and 3-pointers made. The Rockets need only 42 more 3-pointers this season to break Golden State’s single-season record of 1,077. Houston plays Golden State two more times this season. It will be interesting to see if coach Mike D’Antoni continues to give his starters regular minutes despite no playoff implications as the Rockets have the No. 3 seed locked down.
5. Boston Celtics (45-26, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
Boston played without MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas against Brooklyn and Philadelphia, and it was quickly evident just how important the 5-9 point guard is. The Celtics barely eked out a win against the last-place Nets and were unable to hold on to a 13-point lead against the Sixers. The Celtics did get revenge against the Wizards at home with an 110-102 win Monday and solidified their hold on the No. 2 spot in the East. Boston has one of the easiest schedules in the league to close out the season with eight of its 11 games at home.