4. Chicago Bulls (33-14, Prev: #5) -- The Bulls swept the Magic and Pacers, and now sets off for a five-game road spell. There's no tough test until Feb. 12 at New Orleans; visits to Portland and Utah could provide pitfalls, however. Joakim Noah's cast has been removed, but he still looks to be a couple weeks away. Can Kurt Thomas keep the dream alive?
That's fair, although you could make a case for the Bulls to rate ahead of the Celtics, who, Ziller says, had a "bad, bad loss" to the Suns, and the Bulls thumped Boston convincingly at the UC in January. Noah, as our David Miller wrote yesterday, is expected back after the All-Star break, so his first game could be Wednesday, Feb. 23 at Toronto against the Raptors, or in a key matchup against the Heat the next day.
What's more interesting about the ranking is the last team on the list.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, who everyone expected to be bad after LeBron James left them for "South Beach" (seriously, how pretentious can you be?), are not bad. They're horrendous. They could be historically bad. The Heat defeated the Cavs 117-90 last night -- Cleveland's 21st loss in a row. That's two defeats short of the league single-season record, currently held by the 1995-96 Grizzlies (then in Vancouver) and the 1997-98 Nuggets; in addition to the 21 straight losses, they've lost 31 out of their last 32, the only win coming at home against the Knicks on Dec. 18, 109-102 -- and they had to go to overtime to do that.
The overall NBA consecutive loss record belongs to... the Cavaliers, who lost 24 straight games in a string that began in March, 1982, at the end of the 1981-82 season, and continued until November of the following 1982-83 season.
The Cavs are 8-40 -- setting yet another futility mark of sorts; last season, with LeBron, they were the first team to win 40 games. This year they're the first to lose 40. The NBA's worst-ever single season record is held by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73. The Cavs would have to lose every one of their remaining games -- that'd be 33 more in a row, which would give them a 54-game losing streak -- to break that record.
It's a sad statement to the current state of the NBA that accomplishing that "feat" actually seems possible.