NBA Power Rankings: Thunder, Clippers will settle the score Tuesday

Even Kendrick Perkins is smiling these days in OKC.

Records through Jan. 21:

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
(32-9, previous No. 1) – Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the most electrifying teammates in the NBA. Anybody else surprised that they’ve gotten along so well on the court even with their styles of play? It’s a true testament to them seeing the bigger picture.

2. Los Angeles Clippers (32-9, previous No. 2) – The Clippers host the Thunder Tuesday in L.A., and you can bet that the winner of this game will take over that No. 1 spot next week. OKC has an extra day’s rest, but this is your Western Conference Finals preview, folks.

3. San Antonio Spurs (32-11, previous No. 3) – No Manu Ginobili, no problem. The Spurs have beat the Grizzlies, Warriors, and Hawks with Ginobili nursing a strained hammy. They’re continuing to nip at the heels of the Thunder/Clippers. Why not them?

4. Miami Heat (26-12, previous No. 4) – The Heat haven’t played since Thursday, and don’ play until Wednesday. Clear your Sunday schedule, as Ray Allen and the Heat make their first trip to Boston. Will Allen be booed or cheered?

5. Memphis Grizzlies (26-14 previous No. 5) – Blowout losses to the Clippers and Spurs last week was a wakeup call for a Grizzlies team that still seems to be figuring out if they’re contenders or pretenders. Seems like they could be a player or two away.

6. Denver Nuggets (25-18, previous No. 6) – The Nuggets lost to the Thunder last Wednesday, so what did they do on Sunday? Beat them in OT. That’s the sign of a team that isn’t afraid of anybody. This is a really tough, hard-nosed group.

7. Brooklyn Nets (24-16, last week 9) – The Nets finally lost their first game of 2013 last week to the Hawks, but got revenge on Friday. They’re playing some of the best basketball in the NBA over that stretch.

8. Golden State Warriors (24-15, previous No. 7) – Golden State’s January schedule has been rough, and their results have been rougher. Losses to LAC, Memphis, Denver, Miami, and San Antonio have set them back a bit, and a couple of injuries are popping up.

9. Indiana Pacers (26-16, previous No. 10) – The Pacers rank first in rebounds and first in points allowed. They don’t exactly win pretty, but they win. And with Danny Granger hopeful to return before the All-Star break, there’s a lot to be excited about here.

10. New York Knicks (25-13, previous No. 8) – The Knicks have been playing .500 ball for a month now, and it’s TBD if this is the real Knicks. A Thursday night game on TNT between the Knicks and C’s has us thinking about our favorite cereals.

11. Chicago Bulls (23-16, previous No. 14) – If these rankings were based on confidence, the Bulls would be in the Top 5. So what if they don’t have Derrick Rose? They’re winning games knowing they’ll have him when it really counts. This team will cause trouble in the playoffs.

12. Atlanta Hawks (23-18, previous No. 11) – A 3-8 stretch isn’t going to do a whole lot for the coaches debating on whether or not to vote Josh Smith into the All-Star Game. But averages of 16.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.30 steals, and 2.24 blocks is hard to argue with.

13. Milwaukee Bucks (21-18, last week No. 16) – Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are averaging virtually the same numbers this season: around 19 points, three rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Not bad, but Milwaukee won’t make it out of the first round in the playoffs.

14. Boston Celtics (20-20, last week 12) – Shots fired! C’s coach Doc Rivers threatened to “get some guys out of here” if things don’t change for the better soon. The real question is, “Who wants any of these guys?” 

15. Utah Jazz (22-19, last week 17) – The Jazz have taken advantage of both the Rockets and Blazers’ skids, and now find themselves holding down the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference. They’ll take it

16. Houston Rockets (21-21, previous No. 13) – (Don’t say “Houston, we have a problem”, don’t say, “Houston we have a problem”…) … Houston, we have a problem! The Rockets have crash-landed back to earth after a surprising first two months.

17. Portland Trail Blazers (20-20, previous No. 15) – Losses to OKC and Denver are understood. It’s the losses to Cleveland and Milwaukee that have everybody second-guessing this streaky Trail Blazers team. Damian Lillard, though.

18. Dallas Mavericks (18-24, last week -) – Mavericks? Playoffs? It didn’t look like a possibility a month ago, but Dallas is playing good enough basketball to sneak in. They’ve got five days off to prepare for San Antonio.

19. Detroit Pistons (15-25, last week 19) – The Pistons didn’t make any new fans in London where they were blown away by the Knicks, but they returned home to some home cookin’ and a win over the reeling Celtics.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-21, last week 20) – The Minnesota Timberwolves are still better than the basement dwellers without Kevin Love, but that’s where it ends.


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