NBA Power Rankings: Give the title to the Pacers already
1. Indiana Pacers (29-7, Previous: 1) - If defense wins championships, then just hand the Larry O’Brien over to the Pacers already. Just six times this year has an opponent reached 100 points. The Wizards reached 66 last Friday.
2. Miami Heat (27-10, Previous: 2) - The Heat went 0-for-New York last week, including a double-OT loss to the Nets. Of course, LeBron James fouled out and watched the second overtime from the bench. Guess the refs didn’t get the memo.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (28-9, Previous: 3) - Uncharacteristic losses to the Jazz and Nuggets last week. And no, a blowout win over the Bucks doesn’t make up for it. Nothing to worry about in OKC in the grand picture, however.
4. Golden State Warriors (25-14, Previous: 5) - Got plans Friday night? Whatever they are, figure out a way to catch the Warriors-Thunder game at 9:30. Porn for NBA diehards.
5. San Antonio Spurs (30-8 Previous: 7) - A five-game win streak has vaulted the deep Spurs into first place in the West. A win against the Blazers on Friday would validate that a bit more.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (28-9, Previous: 4) - This starting lineup is so good that you and the guy sitting next to you on the bus could come off the bench and they’d probably still win.
7. Houston Rockets (25-14, Previous: 6) - The Dwight Howard we’re seeing this year is everything the Lakers wanted to see last year. The big man is averaging 17.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, 0.0 drama.
8. Los Angeles Clippers (26-13, Previous: 8) - The Clips are 4-1 dating back to the game Chris Paul got injured. Backup point guard Darren Collison is averaging 18 points and six assists in those games.
9. Dallas Mavericks (23-16, Previous: 9) - We talk a lot about Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, but give it up for Vince Carter. The vet has hit double-digit scoring in six straight games.
10. Memphis Grizzlies (17-19, Previous: 12) - The Courtney Lee trade with the Celtics looks to be helping. Lee started and scored 15 points in the Griz’ win over the Hawks Sunday. But does it really make them title contenders?
11. Atlanta Hawks (20-18, Previous: 14) - Gutsy wins over the Pacers and Rockets at home last week followed by a loss on the road in Memphis. The next two are big: vs. Brooklyn, and vs. Miami. Heads above water. Barely.
12. Denver Nuggets (19-18, Previous: 15) - Denver is back from the dead – aside from a loss to Utah. The Nuggets have an opening in the standings now with the Suns and Pelicans taking big hits. Time to make a move.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (18-19, Previous: 13) - Kevin Love called out teammates J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham last week for not joining in on a huddle during a timeout. The T-Wolves certainly aren’t playing like a team – not a playoff team anyways.
14. Toronto Raptors (19-17, Previous: 16) - No more Atlantic Division jokes! The Raptors are a legit No. 3 seed as it stands based on record. Feel free to continue to make Eastern Conference jokes, though.
15. Phoenix Suns (21-16, Previous: 10) – The Suns are sorely missing their closer in Eric Bledsoe, who is out for a while (knee). Three straight losses, the last two by two points each. What a shame.
16. Brooklyn Nets (15-22, Previous: 19) - Better late than never. It looks as though the Nets have a pulse, having won 5-of-6, including wins over OKC, Atlanta, Golden State, and Miami. With plenty of season left, the Nets could easily win the Atlantic Division.
17. Washington Wizards (17-19, Previous: 18) - The Wiz desperately needed a win Monday against the Bulls, and got it in convincing fashion. Five home games in a row coming up – will they take advantage?
18. Chicago Bulls (17-19, Previous: 22) - Without Derrick Rose (and now Luol Deng), the Bulls must win with energy and defense. Without those two things, they’re toast.
19. Detroit Pistons (16-22, Previous: 17) - Two wins over the banged up Suns and hapless Sixers are fools gold. Not going to fool us.
20. New Orleans Pelicans (15-22, Previous: 11) - It can’t get much worse for New Orleans. Ryan Anderson is out indefinitely with a herniated disk. And now Jrue Holiday is out indefinitely with a leg injury. Six straight losses. How does fried pelican taste?
21. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24, Previous: 20) - Rough stretch of games ahead for Cleveland: in Portland on Wednesday, Denver on Friday, then home for games against Dallas and Chicago. LeBron James isn’t walking through that door.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (15-23, Previous: 21) - Meow. The Bobcats are 2-9 in their last 11 games (wins over Bucks and Kings). It was fun while it lasted. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returns after a six-week absence.
23. New York Knicks (15-22, Previous: 29) - New year, new Knicks. The Knicks have won five in a row, and even more surprisingly have started to play defense. Of course, opposing offenses are running around with untied shoe laces.
24. Utah Jazz (13-26, Previous: 26) - The Jazz are dead last in the West still, where they’ll probably stay. If they were in the East, they might be good enough to sneak into the playoffs.
25. Boston Celtics (13-26, Previous: 23) - Rajon Rondo tweeted out “29,233,380 sec,” which is roughly the time from his surgery to this Friday. It may also hint at the time until the C’s next win.
26. Sacramento Kings (13-22, Previous: 24) - What’s gotten into the Kings? Big win over the Blazers followed by two royal beat-downs over the the Magic (103-83) and Cavs (124-80). Yes, 124-80.
27. Los Angeles Lakers (14-23, Previous: 25) - The Lakers are 1-10 over their last 11 games. Their last five losses have been by at least 13 points. Their last loss (to Clippers) was by 36. Ouch.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (12-25, Previous: 27) – The Sixers could land a top-5 pick to play alongside Michael Carter-Williams for years to come, and that has to have Sixers fans excited. Eyes on the prize.
29. Orlando Magic (10-28, Previous: 28) - Eight straight losses. Probably a good year to buy a season pass to Disney World and skip these games.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (7-30, Previous: 30) - The polar vortex looks like it’s going to hover over the Bucks all season long.