Tramel: OKC Thunder No. 4 in NBA bubble rankings
We’re a week into the NBA bubble games, and the results have been interesting, if not fascinating. Only three undefeated teams, and two of them are Indiana and Phoenix. Only two winless teams, but both of them are 0-4 and one of them is Memphis, which came into the restart safely in eighth place in the Western Conference but now will be hard-pressed to stay as high as ninth.
Here’s how I rank the 22 teams based solely on their bubble performance:
1. Toronto 3-0: The amazing Raptors have beaten the Lakers, Heat and Magic, and only Miami stretched Toronto. The Raptors are making a case to pick them to repeat.
2. Miami 2-1: The Heat has been good. Solid wins over Denver and Boston, with a close loss to Toronto.
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3. Denver 2-1: The overtime win over the Thunder shines, plus a victory over the Spurs, with only the loss to Miami.
4. Oklahoma City 2-1: The Thunder is a missed Chris Paul foul shot from being No. 1. The Thunder has defeated the Jazz and Lakers, well-navigating the toughest stretch of their Orlando schedule.
5. Phoenix 3-0: Great start by the Suns, but their wins are over the Wizards, Mavericks and Clippers, who have a combined two bubble wins.
6. Portland 2-1: Only a close loss to Boston is keeping the Trail Blazers from being unbeaten. Portland has done more to help its cause than any other bubble team.
7. Houston 2-1: The Rockets’ wins over Dallas and Milwaukee were great, but the Mavericks and Bucks have combined for just two bubble wins.
8. Indiana 3-0: The Pacers seemed in trouble coming into Orlando but have beaten Philadelphia, Washington and Orlando.
9. LA Lakers 2-2: The Lakers suddenly can’t score. Their two lowest-scoring games of the season have come in the bubble, where scoring has been up.
10. Boston 2-2: The Celtics have been up and down in the bubble, beating Portland and Brooklyn, and losing to Milwaukee and Miami.
11. Philadelphia 2-1: The Sixers have one of the easiest Orlando schedules – they’ve lost to Indiana and beaten San Antonio and Washington. Up next are the Magic, Blazers and Suns.
12. Utah 2-2: The Jazz has beaten the Mississippi River duo of New Orleans and Memphis but lost to the Lakers and Thunder.
13. Brooklyn 2-2: The Netropolitans are a strange team. Lost to Orlando, beat Milwaukee.
14. Milwaukee 1-2: The Bucks look sort of listless so far, though they do have the win over Boston.
15. San Antonio 2-2: The Spurs’ 2-0 start got everyone excited, but their victims were Sacramento and Memphis.
16. LA Clippers 1-2: With all the bubble trouble, players exiting and re-entering, it’s no wonder the Clips are sort of wayward.
17. Dallas 1-2: The Mavs’ only victory is over the Kings.
18. New Orleans 1-2: The Pelicans’ only victory is over the Grizzlies.
19. Orlando 1-2: The Magic’s only victory is over the Kings. This is getting repetitive.
20. Sacramento 0-3: Disappointing performance. The Kings had a fighting chance to make the play-in series.
21. Memphis 0-4: The Grizzlies lost some tough games, then Jaren Jackson Jr. got hurt.
22. Washington 0-4: Didn’t belong here in the first place. The Wizards have fallen below Charlotte in the East standings, and the Hornets aren’t in the bubble.