20. Indiana Pacers (23): The Pacers continue to pick up wins after firing now-former Head Coach Jim O’Brien. With their streak up to four consecutive victories, Indiana is quickly putting it’s name in the hat for the East’s final playoff spot. Given, three of the Pacers’ four wins have come against Toronto, Cleveland and New Jersey, but to make the playoffs in the East, that’s really all you need to do – beat the team’s that are worse than you and occasionally pick up an upset win.
19. Golden State Warriors (20): Have the Warriors caught a little wind? They are 6-4 over their last 10 games and ended the week with a big, 11-point win over the Bulls. However, a tough stretch of games this week will reveal if the Warriors are for real or if they are just pretenders. Monta Ellis may not have been the biggest snub from all-star weekend, but he’s dropping 25.3 PPG on opposing teams, which is hard to do – even on a less-than-stellar team.
18. Houston Rockets (18): The Rockets knocked off the streaking Grizzlies in OT on Saturday, but what’s even more promising about this team – aside from their potential – is the fact that they are fourth in the league in scoring (104.8 PPG), 10th in rebounds per game (42.4 RPG) and third in assists (23.1 APG). Unfortunately, they can’t stop their opponent from doing they same, as they allow almost as many points as they score, which is never a good stat to have.
17. Philadelphia 76ers (17): Basketball isn’t revived in Philly quite yet, however, the resurrection of one player’s career is definitely taking place. In a 100-98 win over the Knicks on Friday night, former all-star Elton Brand posted 33 points and 16 boards – the first time Brand has broken the 30-point plateau since April 12, 2007.
16. New York Knicks (15): After making everyone in New York forget that they had lost out on LeBron this past summer with stellar play, the Knicks have continued to struggle. Losers of six of their last 10 games and they inch closer and closer to the dreaded .500-mark – a mark they have avoided since Nov. 24. Amare’s still beastin’ it for the Knicks, but if Steve Nash and Stoudemire couldn’t be more than a high-octane offense, there’s no way Raymond Felton running the point is going to change that, let alone make an Amare-led team better.