NBA Power Rankings: Trail Blazers stay put, Celtics rise, Lakers fall
1. Portland Trail Blazers (18-4, Previous: 1) – The Blazers continue to win all types of games, including overtime buzzer-beaters on the road (looking at you, Pistons). They also got revenge on the Rockets.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-4, Previous: 4) – Their six-game winning streak is the longest active streak in the NBA and Kevin Durant loves the holiday season. In December: 29.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.8 blocks, 2.0 steals, 51.6 percent from 3-point range.
3. Indiana Pacers (20-4, Previous: 2) – It took 12 home games, but the Pacers finally lost Monday night. They may have met their match down low with the Pistons, who just looked tougher. It’s a loss Indy will learn from.
4. Miami Heat (18-6, Previous: 3) – Last week’s loss to the Pacers validates their spot behind them. Don’t forget, though, they hope to have Greg Oden when it matters.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (17-9, Previous: 7) – Doc Rivers has given the Clippers some toughness that they previously lacked, and it will make them that much tougher to beat in the postseason.
6. Houston Rockets (16-9, Previous: 5) – Word is that Omer Asik will be traded by Thursday. That can only make the Rockets better, since he hasn’t played in the team’s last six games (3-3).
7. San Antonio Spurs (19-5 Previous: 6) – The Spurs continue beat up on the bad teams and lose to the really good teams (see every Western Conference team above). This pattern won’t get them very far this spring.
8. Denver Nuggets (14-9, Previous: 8) – After a bad loss at home to the Jazz, the Nuggets took down the Pelicans. Their bench, including the always-interesting Nate Robinson – is averaging 45.3 points per game, third best in NBA.
9. Dallas Mavericks (14-10, Previous: 10) – Dallas fans probably love Dirk Nowitzki for the same reason they can’t stand Tony Romo: He comes up huge when it matters most.
10. Atlanta Hawks (13-12, Previous: 12) – The ATL gets the only two Western Conference teams bad enough to lose consistently in the East (Kings, Jazz) on the schedule. Then it’s a trip to South Beach where the Heat will further show the disparity between the two top teams in the East and the rest.
11. Detroit Pistons (12-14, Previous: 13) – The Pistons were dealt a tough OT loss against the Blazers, but followed it up with a big win against the Pacers on the road. A quarter of the way into the season, it looks like the Pistons have arrived.
12. Phoenix Suns (14-9, Previous: 17) – Eric Bledsoe is turning into an NBA star right in front of everyone’s eyes. He has more than doubled his scoring and rebound averages from last season now that he has a starting role.
13. Golden State Warriors (13-12, Previous: 9) – The Warriors have three home games in a row to get back on track after dropping four of their last six games.
14. Memphis Grizzlies (10-13, Previous: 11) – At this rate the Grizzlies may go into hibernation a lot earlier than anybody expected. Injuries are piling up.
15. Boston Celtics (12-14, Previous: 18) – You’re not taking crazy pills. The Celtics have won 8 of 12 games and Brad Stevens has them working on both ends of the court.
16. New Orleans Pelicans (11-11, Previous: 15) – December is pretty brutal for the Pelicans. Road games against the Warriors, Clippers, Blazers, and Rockets remain. Home games against the Nuggets and Blazers too. Yeesh.
17. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-13, Previous: 16) – Kevin Love, Corey Brewer, and Ricky Rubio are all in the top 26 of NBA plus/minus, yet the T-Wolves find themselves with a losing record.
18. Washington Wizards (10-13, Previous: 19) – Hard to figure out the Wiz. Three close losses by a combined seven points (two of which were in OT), followed up by a 16-point loss to Clippers at home … followed up by one-point win over Knicks in final seconds Monday night. The streak is snapped, though.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (10-14, Previous: 14) – Uh oh. A losing streak for the Bobcats. We’ve been down this road before − it’s more like a rotary they just keep driving around.
20. Brooklyn Nets (9-15, Previous: 24) – Blast from the past from Joe Johnson Monday night (37 points, 10 3-pointers). Nets are slowly righting the ship, but Brook Lopez (sprained ankle) needs to return soon.
21. Chicago Bulls (9-14, Previous: 20) – Eleven losses in their last 14 games. The Bulls have fallen out of the playoff picture, and it won’t be shocking if they stay out of the frame for good.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-14, Previous: 25) – Good to see explosive Uncle Drew starting to show up more consistently for the Cavs. Irving vs. Damian Lillard Tuesday night should be fun.
23. Los Angeles Lakers (11-13, Previous: 21) – The Lakers are just 1-4 since Kobe’s return. In all four losses, they’ve given up at least 106 points. The Hawks may have been on to something by shadowing Kobe full-court on Monday and tiring out his legs (4-for-14 from field).
24. Sacramento Kings (7-15, Previous: 22) – Kings fans loved what they saw on Sunday: A 15-point win over the Rockets in which Rudy Gay led all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting. DeMarcus Cousins had to love it too.
25. Toronto Raptors (9-13, Previous: 23) – One of the biggest trade names right now is Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who had interest from the Knicks. The Raps are in full tank-mode — anything goes, and anyone goes.
26. Orlando Magic (8-17, Previous: 27) – Orlando starts a six-game homestand Wednesday with three games against the Jazz, Kings, and Knicks. Not too often do you expect a three-game winning streak from them, but this could be one.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (7-19, Previous: 26) – Seven losses in a row, including back-to-black 30-plus point losses to Blazers and Nets. They are who we thought they were!
28. New York Knicks (7-17, Previous: 28) – This is a sorry bunch, and head coach Mike Woodson is going to be the first one to go – maybe even before this gets published.
29. Milwaukee Bucks (5-19, Previous: 29) – We’re really struggling to say something positive about the Bucks. John Henson is averaging 15.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks over his last four games. There.
30. Utah Jazz (6-21, Previous: 30) – Andrew Wiggins: 15.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists. Julius Randle: 17.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists. Jabari Parker: 22.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists. Get excited.