NBA Power Rankings: Heat still No. 1

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NBA Power Rankings: Heat still No. 1

By Tony Andracki & Mark Strotman

Each Monday throughout the regular season, Mark Strotman and Tony Andracki will rank all 30 NBA teams. Below are the first power rankings of the year in advance of the 2012-12 season. Think we're way off? Agree with our picks? Hit us up on Twitter at @BullsTalkCSN with comments or criticisms.

Tony
Mark Comments 1
Tony: The best team until somebody dethrones them.
Mark: Defending champs get even better with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.
2

Tony: Kobe is going to will this team to come together quickly.
Mark: Best starting lineup in the league, but will bench produce enough?
3
Tony: Very Dangerous even without Harden. Will Ibaka get it together on O?
Mark: Ginobili's back injury starting to become a concern (will miss opener).
4
Tony: Will be really fun to watch. Faried will be a monster. Mark: Still the Western champs, but took a small step back losing Harden.
5
Tony: Established as an annual contender behind CP3.
Mark: Core still strong; Courtney Lee and Jason Terry will help replace Allen.
6
Tony: Can't ever count them out, despite the aging roster.
Mark: Young, rising team gets better with Iguodala. 7
Tony: Paul George could key Pacers taking the next step.
Mark: Bringing back Hill and Hibbert means Indiana will contend again in East. 8
Tony: Will be in the thick of things again, but no longer a powerhouse.
Mark: Revamped bench (and a healthy Billups) should support star-studded starting lineup.
9
Tony: Exciting offseason. Will go as far as D-Will takes them.
Mark: The loss of O.J. Mayo hurts, but Conley on the verge of stardom.
10
Tony: Losing Iguodala was big, but Collins will keep 'em contenders.
Mark: New location, new lineup, new jerseys. But will we see new results?
11
Tony: RandolphGasol frontcourt will carry this team.
Mark: Deepest frontcourt in the NBA needs production from point guard Mo Williams.
12
Tony: Thibs will keep their head above water 'til Rose's Return.
Mark: Losing Lou Williams and Iguodala hurts, but Bynum (when healthy) is finally a face to the franchise.
13
Tony: Is this the year Teague takes the next step? Could be big.
Mark: Ugly start to preseason a thing of the past, and Hinrich appears to have avoided serious injury.
14
Tony: Dirk's health will determine season.
Mark: With Horford healthy and Lou Williams on board, Hawks could be sneaky contender in East.
15
Tony: Not sold on them as a contender right now.
Mark: Amar'e will miss six weeks, and point guard (Kidd, Felton) still a question mark.
16
Tony: Hayward is an intriguing guy. Should be integral part of this team.
Mark: No Dirk for a month leaves questions, but core still in tact.
17
Tony: Season hinges on how well JenningsEllis share the ball.
Mark: Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut's health will be a key to the season.
18
Tony: Nicolas Batum is this year's breakout star.
Mark: Jennings and Ellis form elite backcourt, but frontcourt past Ilyosova must improve.
19
Tony: Lin, Harden, Omer an interesting Big Three, to say the least.
Mark: Addition of Harden helps, but can Asik and Lin live up to their contracts?
20
Tony: Health of Curry, Bogut will dictate record.
Mark: Minnesota drops a few spots with Love (hand) and Rubio (ACL) out to start season.
21
Tony: Will be a team to watch when they get LoveRubio back.
Mark: Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge are a dynamic core, but they have little help.
22
Tony: Could surprise people. Monroe is turning into a star.
Mark: The talent is there, but they need an identity...and a defense.
23
Tony: Like their young pieces. Will they trade Varejao?
Mark: The Steve Nash-less era won't be a fun start, but Suns hoping Marshall can one day be heir apparent.
24
Tony: Will Valanciunas live up to the hype?
Mark: Anthony Davis is the real deal, but the Hornets are still a couple of years away.
25
Tony: Year 1 A.N. (After Nash). Is Dragic the answer at PG?
Mark: Addition of Kyle Lowry was a big move, but the Raptors will need help to have chance at No. 8 spot.
26
Tony: Will Cousins mature into a bonafide star?
Mark: Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe are great 1-2 duo to build around.
27
Tony: Remember when Eric Gordon played?
Mark: Kyrie Irving has the franchise in good hands, and Dion WaitersTristan Thompson are great supporters.
28
Tony: Wall's injury a severe blow to a team that should lose often.
Mark: Washington will really struggle until John Wall returns from a knee injury.
29
Tony: "Rebuilding" year after Dwight. Afflalo a nice get, though.
Mark: Dwight Howard nightmare is finally over, but the Magic got very little in return.
30
Tony: Should improve on last year's record, but not by much.
Mark: Love Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's upside, but even he can't change the Bobcats' fortunes this year.

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games

 

 

 

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling found out at 8 o'clock this morning that he was starting for an ailing Corey Crawford. Considering he did this back in December for a few weeks, adjusting quick for one game was fine.

"It's kind of my job," Darling said.

And Darling, once again, did his job.

Darling stopped 30 of 32 shots and Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games. They're one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who made their splashy trade-deadline move in acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday. But the Blackhawks, thanks to veterans regaining their form, a top line finding its rhythm and youth consistently improving, are just rolling right along.

"We had a great start to the game. I thought Darls was excellent all night, great stretch there in the last 10 minutes where we fight through some tough shifts, particularly in the last couple of minutes in our end. But good win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the nice plays on the goals, it was kind of a comparable ending to the outdoor game: tied and about the same time they scored, we scored (tonight). Big two points for us."

Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winning goal with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks already knew they'd be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for at least a day or two when they found out Crawford couldn't go this morning. As Quenneville said Darling was strong once again, denying the Blues all but twice (a 2-on-1 goal from Magnus Paajarvi and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo).

Toews and Kane (power-play goal) staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early before the Blues tied it in the second. But late in the third period Anisimov took the feed from Artemi Panarin to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.

"I saw the puck all the way. It was easy to pick up," Anisimov said. "When you don't see the puck at the last moment and it comes, it's hard to receive and prepare for the next move. But I saw it all the way. Easy to prepare for the next move."

Speaking of next moves, do the Blackhawks make any more before the trade deadline. General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, following the acquisition of Tomas Jurco, that he'll keep talking and listening but likes the group he has right now. If Bowman's made moves it's for what the Blackhawks have needed, not because of another team's trades. The Blackhawks like what they have right now. Winning nine of 10 and continuing to trend in the right direction, they should be careful not to disrupt what they've got going.

"I think we're, as we've said lately, trending the right way. We're playing solid. I think all four lines are contributing in every which way," Toews said. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing right now. We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better too."