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NBA Report

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

POWER RANKINGS

Mike Jones ranks the top 10 NBA teams (last week in parentheses):

1.Celtics (1)

The PGA Tour paces Boston to a wire-to-wire finish in the regular season. Can their domination continue in the playoffs?

2. Lakers (4)

Kobe & Co. need one more win to lock up the Western Conference's top playoff spot.

3.Pistons (5)

Still overlooked, Detroit aims to reach the Eastern Conference championship for the sixth straight year — and obviously go beyond.

4. Jazz (6)

Utah is a scary team heading into the playoffs, having handily beaten the Spurs, Hornets and Nuggets in the last two weeks.

5. Hornets (2)

CP3 & Co. need a quick recovery after losing back-to-back games to the Lakers and Kings.

6. Spurs (3)

Experience is a huge asset heading into the playoffs, but does San Antonio have enough to repeat?

7. Rockets (9)

Houston regrouped after a lull that followed the 22-game win streak and still has a shot at second in the West.

8. Suns (7)

The Suns appear set for the sixth seed in the West. Here's to wondering how they would have faired without trading Marion for Shaq.

9.Magic (8)

Orlando has impressed this season, but they are what they are: the third-best team in the East.

10. Nuggets ()

A win over Memphis gives Denver its fifth straight playoff berth.

MVP Race

1. Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) The top seed in the West and 28.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 5.4 apg should be enough to earn Bryant his first MVP.

2. Chris Paul (New Orleans) It's hard to deny CP3 and his 21.1 points, 11.6 assists and 2.7 steals and his team's 55 wins.

3. Kevin Garnett (Boston) KG (19.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.5 apg) was indeed the Big Ticket for Bostonthis regular season.

ROY Race

1. Kevin Durant (Seattle) The highest-scoring rookie, Durant (20.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg) probably will win in a landslide.

2. Al Horford (Atlanta) — Horford is the only serious — yet distant — contender with 10.2 points and 9.6 rebounds.

3. Luis Scola (Houston) — Scola had a strong second half to the season, but his 10.0 points and 6.3 rebounds aren't enough.

THE BUZZ

WIZARDS' WISH — UP

DeShawn Stevenson and Gilbert Arenas get what they wanted: Cleveland in the first round for a third straight year.

SIXERS' SHOOTERS — DOWN

Against the Pacers, the 76ers became the first NBA team to shoot below 35 percent from the field and below 50 percent from the line.

D-LEAGUE SESSIONS — UP

Milwaukee's Ramon Sessions has 13 or more assists in two of his first 15 NBA games — one of only seven players to do so.

BY THE NUMBERS

40 More victories for Boston this season than last season. The Celtics have had the best record in the league from start to finish. At 64-16, they have the Knicks and Nets remaining.

30 Fewer victories for Miami this season than last season. They are a league-worst 14-66 with games left against playoff-bound Toronto and playoff-hopeful Atlanta.

QUOTABLE

"He's going to get his wish. We're going to bring it."

— forward Joe Smith about Gilbert Arenas' blog post saying the Wizards want to open the playoffs against the Cavaliers

KEY GAMES

Orlando at Atlanta

Today, 7 p.m.

The Hawks are still fighting to earn their first playoff berth since 1999.

Sacramento at Los Angeles Lakers

Today, 10:30 p.m.

A victory gives the Lakers the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, when they went 67-15.