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NBA D-League Power Rankings: March 8, 2011

by Matthew Brennan, NBA

March 8, 2011: The Power Rankings are back with less than one month remaining in the regular season. Iowa remains in front with a league-best 31-11 record, but the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Tulsa 66ers, and Erie BayHawks are right on their heels. The Utah Flash are still looking to move up the ranks as their winning streak is now nine games long.

An inexplicable 32-point home loss to Idaho ended a six-game winning streak on Sunday, but the Energy are still in the drivers seat to earn home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. They are now without star guard Othyus Jeffers, a GATORADE Call-Up to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday. A light schedule this week consists of only one game, a home date on Sunday with the Erie BayHawks.
The Vipers split a pair on the road with Bakersfield and now return home with eight of their final ten games taking place in Rio Grande Valley. The Vipers are 13-4 as a home team this season. Guard Jerel McNeal has been red-hot, averaging 23.6 points and 6.5 assists over his last ten games.
The 66ers ended their five-game winning streak with a loss at the buzzer on Sunday in Erie. They'll try to bounce back this weekend with two home games against Sioux Falls, who they have beaten in all four meetings this season. 2009-10 West Coast Conference Player of the Year Matt Bouldin (Gonzaga) joined the team last week and averaged 5.0 points over his first two games.
The BayHawks had lost three straight heading into the weekend but they edged Tulsa and got past Springfield on Tuesday afternoon to get back on the winning track. Next up is a Thursday home game against Maine before five straight on the road. The team is without Garrett Temple again after his second GATORADE Call-Up of the season, this time to the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Flash walloped New Mexico twice to extend their winning streak to nine games. Ryan Thompson was named honorable mention for NBA D-League Performer of the Week after averaging 19.0 points in the wins. The Flash head to Reno this weekend to face the Bighorns, who have fallen twice to Utah during their current winning streak.
The Jam split a home set with red-hot Rio Grande Valley but are just 3-3 over their last six games. Two of those losses came in Boise to the Stampede, who loom on the schedule again this weekend. Willie Warren, back on assignment from the Clippers, is averaging 19.3 points and 6.6 assists with the Jam.
The Bighorns suffered an ugly loss in Dakota on Monday, ending a three-game winning streak. Next on the schedule are two home games against the streaking Utah Flash. Former NBA lottery pick Patrick O'Bryant is starting to make more of an impact at center, averaging 14.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks in March.
The Legends have lost eight of their last ten games, but would currently be the final team to qualify for a playoff berth. After nearly a week off, they face Sioux Falls at home on Wednesday before the Austin Toros visit for two very important games. Guard Justin Dentmon is averaging 23.2 points on .500 shooting over his last five games.
The Stampede crushed Iowa on Sunday, their seventh win in their last ten games. Just a half-game out of the last playoff spot, the Stampede are at home for their next five games starting with two against Bakersfield this weekend. Portland rookie Luke Babbitt has been a welcome addition on assignment, averaging 18.7 points and 6.8 rebounds with the team racking up a 4-2 record when he's in the lineup.
The Toros defeated Texas and Sioux Falls last week and are in the thick of the hunt for the final playoff spot, standing just a half game behind Texas with two games against the Legends next on the schedule. The team picked up NBA veteran Kyle Weaver in a trade with Iowa on Friday. Weaver averaged 16.6 points for Iowa in 21 games before being sidelined by an ankle injury in January.
The Mad Ants were swept by Reno last week and have lost three of their last four. They head east this week to take on both Springfield and Maine and try to improve their 5-14 road record. Forward Darnell Lazare has been playing well recently, averaging 17.1 points and 6.4 rebounds over his last ten games.
The Wizards are playing some of their best basketball of the year, easily defeating Reno on Monday for their fourth win in six games. They'll head out on the road for the next two weeks, visiting New Mexico and Idaho. All-Star center Chris Johnson has returned to the team after a ten-day contract with the Boston Celtics.
The Thunderbirds look like a longshot for the playoffs after losing 12 of their last 14 games. They play eight of their final ten games at home, starting with against Dakota this weekend. NBA veteran J.R. Giddens has gotten off to a slow start since joining the team, averaging 10.4 points over his last seven games.
The Red Claws dropped a home game to Springfield for the first time on Sunday, their fifth straight loss. They'll visit Erie on Thursday before a home game against Fort Wayne on Sunday. First-round draft pick Magnum Rolle has returned to the team from injury and is averaging 10.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in five games.
The Armor fell in Erie on Tuesday afternoon to suffer their 14th loss in their last 16 games. Their next four games are against Fort Wayne, starting with a home date on Thursday. The Armor are 0-4 against the Mad Ants this season.
Winners of just two of their last ten, the Skyforce are on the road for their next six with games in Texas and Tulsa on the schedule this week. Sioux Falls has won just won game on the road this season, a victory in Dakota back in November. Patrick Ewing Jr. continues to excel with 21.8 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last ten games.