NBA Playoff Power Rankings: How each team stacks up as playoffs kick off

Previous Power Rankings:  PreseasonWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10Week 11Week 12Week 13Week 14Week 15Week 16Week 17Week 18Week 19Week 20, Week 21

  1. Phoenix Suns

Previous Ranking: 2 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 1-0

Despite being the 2 seed in the Western Conference, the Suns are the underdogs in their first round series with the Los Angeles Lakers. Fortunately for Phoenix, they were able to pick up a win in the first game of the series behind a great performance from Devin Booker (34 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Deandre Ayton (21 points, 16 rebounds on 10-11 FG) despite an early injury to Chris Paul who did return. On the flip side however they are playing a LA team who lost a couple game ones in the bubble last year only to come back and win the series.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

Previous Ranking: 3 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 1-0

Philadelphia came out and grabbed a big game one victory over the Washington Wizards behind a 37 point performance for Tobias Harris. This performance is huge for Harris, as he struggled mightily in the first round series in the bubble last season and was a major reason for the Sixers getting swept in the first round. If these performances continue and Joel Embiid continues to play at his MVP level, the 76ers could be looking at a deep playoff run.

  1. Brooklyn Nets

Previous Ranking: 3 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 1-0

After a rocky first half, Brooklyn’s big three came out roaring in the second half to take back the lead from the Boston Celtics and win Game 1 104-93. Kevin Durant had 32 points while Kyrie Irving had 29 and James Harden had 21. However it was really the defense of the Nets that got them the win, as they held Boston to under 100 points and only 40 points in the second half. 

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

Previous Ranking: 5 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 1-0

Khris Middleton hit the dagger in overtime to give the Bucks the 109-107 win in Game 1 against the Miami Heat. Middleton finished with 27 points, as he hit his first career playoff game winner. As a team the Bucks shot a horrid 5-31 from three, yet still managed to pull out the win. The Bucks should feel very confident going into Game 2 as they pulled out a huge win in Game 1 despite shooting so terribly from three point range.

  1. Utah Jazz

Previous Ranking: 1 (Down 4)

Playoff Record: 0-1

The Jazz decided to sit Donovan Mitchell for Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies, and that decision came back to hurt them. Utah would go on to lose 112-109 and now find themselves in a 1-0 hole to an 8 seed team that is red hot. Although they still should be able to bounce back and win this series considering Mitchell was out and Jordan Clarkson only had 14 points on 5-16 shooting, this is a bad way to gain confidence for a team that is somewhat unproven in the playoffs.

  1. Dallas Mavericks

Previous Ranking: 8 (Up 2)

Playoff Record: 1-0

Dallas got a huge Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, thanks in large part to Luka Doncic. Doncic posted a 31 point, 11 assist, 10 rebound line to carry Dallas to a win. When the Clippers started to double team Doncic, he was able to find guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, and Jalen Brunson who were able to hit their open shots, and carry the Mavs down the stretch. The Clippers appear to be somewhat vulnerable right now, and after snatching Game 1 away from them, Dallas appears to have a good chance of moving on past the first round.

  1. Denver Nuggets

Previous Ranking: 6 (Down 1)

Playoff Record: 0-1

Could this be when the Jamal Murray injury catches up to the Nuggets? Nikola Jokic was phenomenal on Saturday in Game 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers, dropping 34 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, but he only managed to get one assist, and struggled to get his teammates involved in this contest. Portland made it an effort of theirs to reduce Jokic’s impact as a playmaker, so it will be interesting to see if Jokic can adjust and find a way to get his teammates involved in a crucial Game 2.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

Previous Ranking: 9 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 1-0

Portland had arguably the most impressive victory in the first set of games of round 1, as they shut down Denver’s offense and used a big second half to cruise to a 1-0 lead. Damian Lillard led the way with 34 points and 13 assists, and really took over the game in the second half. They shut down the Nuggets offense for the most part, but can’t count on Michael Porter Jr. to shoot 1/10 from threes every night, so they will have to keep up their defensive effort if they want to bounce Denver out of the playoffs.

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Previous Ranking: 7 (Down 2)

Playoff Record: 0-1

The Clippers Game 1 performance certainly won’t quell their fanbases worries about their playoff struggles. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George scored 26 and 23 points respectively, but both struggled with their efficiency for the entire contest, which is a big concern for the Clippers. They had no answer for the Mavs and their array of shooters, and they will need to shore up their gameplan on both sides of the ball before Game 2 rolls around.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Previous Ranking: 10 (Same)

Playoff Record: 0-1

Play-In Record: 1-0

LeBron James’ deep three point shot secured the win for the Lakers in the play-in game and earned themselves the 7 seed. Despite being a 7 seed, the Lakers are still favorites in many people’s eyes to go on to win the championship, in large part because of LeBron’s greatness. However in Game one LeBron seemed uninterested, scoring only 18 points in the loss, while Anthony Davis had maybe his worst game ever, scoring only 13 points on 5-16 shooting. The Lakers will need this duo to play at their superstar level if they want a shot at getting out of the first round.

  1. Atlanta Hawks

Previous Ranking: 12 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 1-0

Atlanta was able to steal Game 1 in New York thanks to a great playoff debut from Trae Young. Young had a 32 point 10 assist game to go along with his game winning floater with 0.9 seconds left in the game. Young happily silenced the fans in the Madison Square Garden as a rivalry between Atlanta and New York might be in the making. The Hawks will look to carry this momentum into Game 2 as they look to take a 2-0 lead.

  1. New York Knicks

Previous Ranking: 11 (Down 1)

Playoff Record: 0-1

New York was on the losing side of the 107-105 nail biter, as they were unable to get a shot off with 0.9 left on the clock. Most of the starters struggled this game, including Julius Randle who shot a horrid 6-23 scoring only 15 points in the game. However the bench stepped up big with Alec Burks and Derrick Rose providing some much needed scoring to keep the game close. Randle will need to shake off this bad performance to try and prevent New York from going down 2-0 in the series.

  1. Miami Heat

Previous Ranking: 13 (Same)

Playoff Record: 0-1

In the rematch from the second round of last year’s playoffs, the Heat were unable to steal Game 1 from the Bucks. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo played horribly, as Butler scored 17 points on 4-22 shooting while Bam only had 9 on 4-15 shooting. Despite this, the Heat were still able to force overtime thanks to the team shooting 20-50 from three, but were unable to get it done losing 109-107.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Previous Ranking: 15 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 1-0

Play-in Record: 2-0

Memphis has easily been the biggest surprise of the postseason so far. They were able to beat both the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors in order to earn themselves the 8 seed and a matchup with the Jazz. Memphis came out playing hard and were able to take advantage of the Jazz missing Donovan Mitchell as they stole Game 1 112-109. Dillon Brooks led the way, scoring 31 points in the win, and they will need more big performances like this if they want to pull off an upset over Utah.

  1. Boston Celtics

Previous Ranking: 16 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 0-1

Play-in Record: 1-0

Jayson Tatum had a 50 point performance in the play-in game against the Washington Wizards, which was enough to help them secure the win and get the 7 seed. Tatum couldn’t keep up the scoring momentum, as he finished Game 1 against Brooklyn with only 22 points on 6-20 shooting from the field. Boston will need it’s superstar player to do better than that if they want any shot at beating the Nets.

  1. Washington Wizards

Previous Ranking: 16 (Up 1)

Playoff Record: 0-1

Play-in Record: 1-1

After losing the first play-in game to the Celtics, Washington bounced back in the elimination game against the Indiana Pacers to secure the 8 seed. Bradley Beal, who has had a lingering hamstring injury, had a great second half against Indiana and looks to be fully back after a 33 point game in the loss against the Sixers. He will need to continue these scoring performances if the Wizards want any shot at stealing the series with Philly.

  1. Golden State Warriors

Previous Ranking: 14 (Down 3)

Play-in Record: 0-2

The shock of the play-in tournament has to be the Warriors crashing out after losing both of their games. They came up just short in a riveting game against the Lakers, before getting upset by the up and coming Grizzlies. Stephen Curry was phenomenal in both contests, but just didn’t have the scoring support needed to pull out a win in either game. The Warriors will welcome back Klay Thompson with open arms next season, and look to put themselves back in title contention.

  1. Indiana Pacers

Previous Ranking: 18 (Up 1)

Play-in Record: 1-1

It seemed like Indiana was ready to put their season long struggles behind them and roll into the playoffs after destroying the Charlotte Hornets in their first play-in game, but were then blown out by the Wizards themselves in their second game. It’s a fitting end to a strange season for Indiana, as they just never could get healthy, with Caris LeVert even missing both play-in games due to COVID protocols. There’s a good chance head coach Nate Bjorkgren gets fired this offseason, which could provide this team with the fresh start it needs.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

Previous Ranking: 18 (Down 1)

Play-in Record: 0-1

The Spurs stayed right with Memphis for most of their play-in game despite miserable shooting performances from DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray, but ultimately came up short. San Antonio has to be pleased with how their season went, as they weren’t expected to be anywhere near the play-in tournament at the start of the season, but saw much of their young core develop on the fly, which led to qualifying for the tournament. The Spurs will look to improve their young squad in an important offseason.

  1. Charlotte Hornets

Previous Ranking: 20 (Same)

Play-in Record: 0-1

Charlotte limped into the play-in round as the 10 seed, and barely put up any fight against the Pacers, resulting in a quick exit. Regardless of the disappointing end to the season, it’s clear the Hornets have a really good young core in place, which should lead to actually playoff berths in the future. Getting LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward back to full health over the offseason will be the top priorities, and Charlotte could be a dark horse playoff team come next season.

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