|The Spurs will have the homecourt advantage through at least three rounds of the playoffs. (Getty Images)|
Updated April 24
And so it ends.
This crazy, whacked out, exhausting season comes to a close this week, and with it your 2012 regular-season Power Rankings.
It's time to pour one for the constant outrage over where teams are subjectively ranked and shed a tear for those teams that won't join us as the postseason moves into May.
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The season ends with an unexpected team on top. How often have we said that? The Spurs just keep rolling along, dominating the competition and proving Gregg Popovich could coach three camels and a penguin to .500. Every year since 2003, the Spurs have been counted out before the ball gets tipped on Day One, and every year they surprise with how far they can take a team.
Last year that regular-season dominance ended in postseason disaster. The Spurs' place at the top is only surprising to those who haven't watched them enough this season. This year it would seem San Antonio has resolved to shore up the defense without losing the offense.
There are other surprises here as well. The Bulls are surprisingly fragile, health-wise, for a team that isn't that old. The Thunder have been surprised by a stretch of adversity that challenges their status as favorites. And perhaps not so surprising at this point, the Heat don't seem nearly as good as we always tend to think they are.
But there are also good surprises. The Pacers are better than we thought they would be, and are peaking at the right time. They started off strong, never suffered a huge regression, and have things working at full-speed going into the postseason. The Lakers have surprisingly not only survived all their drama, but surged through it. The Clippers made it through the year not only with Vinny Del Negro, but with their confidence mostly intact. The Mavericks are worse than expected, but the Suns surprisingly better.
The Bobcats are stunningly worse than expected, and we expected them to be one of the worst teams in the league. Turns out we should have said "history."
All of this leads into a postseason rife with the potential for surprise. You never know what you'll get from Miami, game to game, even quarter to quarter. Will Miami destroy everything? Fall apart? Neither do we know what we'll get out of Derrick Rose. We don't know whether the Thunder have the fortitude to overcome the challenges in their way. We don't know if the Spurs are made for the postseason. We don't know anything about what's going to happen with either L.A. team. Implode, win the title, make a good run, flame out? Nothing would stun, but the whole season for both will seem bizarre in retrospect.
The West is wide open, and the East more vulnerable than we expected.
I hope you like surprise endings.
Here are this week's Power Rankings.