Stein's Power Rankings: Week 23


Almost had to do it.

Almost had to dump the Indiana Pacers out of the top 10 of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings ... crazy as that sounds when you say it out loud.

After six consecutive losses on the road, followed by that debacle of a home defeat Sunday night to Atlanta, Indy made it tough on the committee (of one) on the penultimate Power Rankings Monday of the season. We ultimately decided to keep the Pacers at No. 10 -- largely in a nod to the fact that they've been our No. 1 team nine times this season out of a possible 25 editions of the rankings -- but one more bad week will indeed knock them all the way out as we enter the playoffs.

Which, to repeat, would be completely farcical given where the Pacers were as recently as March 26.

How steep and sudden is this decline? According to our friends at NumberFire, Indy had an 84 percent chance to finish the season as the East's No. 1 seed after beating Miami at home on the aforementioned date of March 26. Now? The Pacers are down to a 33 percent shot to proceed to the playoffs as the East's top team.

Here's a closer look at how fast the Pacers' odds for the No. 1 seed, via numberFire, have declined:

March 26 home win over Miami: 84 percent

March 28 loss at Washington: Down to 70 percent

March 30 loss at Cleveland: Down to 58 percent

March 31 home loss to San Antonio: Down to 41 percent

April 2 home win over Detroit: Up to 45 percent

April 4 loss at Toronto: 47 percent

Sunday home loss to Atlanta: Down to 33 percent

The state of the Pacers overshadows pretty much everything else happening in the latest edition of the rankings, where there were no changes in the top five and nothing else especially tricky for the committee beyond flirting with bumping Portland back into the top 10 thanks to the Blazers' mini-revival. But we ultimately decided to give the Pacers one more week of leeway as Friday's final regular-season encounter with the Heat looms, largely because they were such a Power Rankings powerhouse in the first half of the season.

We repeat: Indy topped this poll nine times before the All-Star break and still leads the league in that category. The breakdown of ESPN.com's weekly No. 1s is as follows heading into next Monday's final batch of rankings until late September:

Pacers 9

Spurs 5

Thunder 5

Heat 4

Clippers 1

Rockets 1

These rankings, as always, were compiled in conjunction with the usual peerless assisting provided by ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau. Click here to rank the teams yourself.