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NBA Power Rankings: Red-hot Hawks leapfrog to top spot

1. Atlanta Hawks (26-8, Previous: 9)The Hawks are kicking ass and taking names, and it isn't just teams in the East. They are now a very impressive 9-2 against Western Conference teams, including most recently big wins in Portland and in L.A. over the Clippers.

2. Golden State Warriors (27-5, Previous: 1) Their last three wins have been by 26 (OKC), 21 (Toronto), and 40 (hi, Philly!). And did you see Steph Curry's moves against the Thunder? The ball is his puppet.

3. Portland Trailblazers (27-8, Previous: 3) Ten wins in their last 12 games, but a 115-107 loss to the Hawks a few days ago puts them in their rightful spot. They're also a undermanned at center now (Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland are both out).

4. Memphis Grizzlies (25-9, Previous: 2) After a four-game losing streak, it looks like the Grizzlies have righted the ship, going 4-1 over their last five games. Big test for them Wednesday in Atlanta.

5. Dallas Mavericks (26-10, Previous: 6) The team with the longest winning streak in the NBA right now is the Mavericks at six games. It should be no surprise, as Rajon Rondo has come in and had a huge effect on them, especially defensively. Sorry, C's fans.

6. Chicago Bulls (25-10, Previous: 13) Look out. The Bulls have won 10 of their last 11 games and Jimmy Butler is emerging as an MVP candidate. And let's not forget about Pau Gasol who's averaging 18.0 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. This team is nails.

7. Houston Rockets (23-11, Previous: 5) James Harden earned Western Conference Player of the Month, averaging 30.6 points, 7.1 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. But if the playoffs started today, they'd be on the road.

8. Toronto Raptors (24-10, Previous: 4) After a 2-6 road trip, the Raptors are glad to be north of the border. And taking a look at their home schedule, they should be even happier. Next six games: vs. Charlotte, vs. Boston, vs. Detroit, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Atlanta, vs. New Orleans. They should go 5-1.

9. Washington Wizards (23-11, Previous: 12) Snapped a three-game losing streak just in time to prepare for two huge Eastern Conference games against the Hawks and Bulls. One of these matchups could very well be a playoff preview. Expect great atmosphere.

10. Los Angeles Clippers (23-12, Previous: 7) The Clippers have exactly one good win (over the Warriors on Christmas day) since Dec. 8 when they beat the Phoenix Suns. Since then, they're 8-7 with just one win over a team with a winning record, the Bucks.

11. San Antonio Spurs (21-14, Previous: 8) Are the Spurs really, actually, finally slipping? The record would seem to indicate so. Hey, father time waits for no one - although he's definitely taken his time with this bunch. Kawhi Leonard can't return soon enough.

12. Phoenix Suns (20-16, Previous: 11) The Suns would be considered one of the top teams in the East, but because they're in the West, there's a chance they miss the playoffs this season. Life isn't fair.

13. Oklahoma City Thunder (17-18, Previous: 14) Kevin Durant returned with two big performances - and two big wins - over the Suns and Wizards, but OKC just got smoked in Golden State. They also welcome Dion Waiters to the squad.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-16, Previous: 10) The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a tailspin right now - LeBron James is out and they just lost to the Philadelphia 76ers. The only way this could go worse in Cleveland is if Johnny Manziel shows up courtside with bottle service.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (18-17, Previous: 19) The Bucks have been a fun team to watch this season, despite their future star Jabari Parker going down with an ACL and now news that Larry Sanders doesn't want to play basketball anymore.

16. Miami Heat (15-20, Previous: 15) Dangerous west coast road trip on tap for a Heat team that has lost four its last five games. They're having trouble putting points on the board.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (17-17, Previous: 16) Are the Pelicans going to be on the outside looking in once again? It appears so, as a surging Thunder team is going to pass them soon and make it even harder for them to sneak into the playoffs.

18. Denver Nuggets (15-20, Previous: 17) The Nuggets hadn't won a road game since Dec. 1 against the Utah Jazz. Then they traveled to Minnesota, and well, you already know. They also dismantled the Grizzlies on Saturday, so there's that.

19. Brooklyn Nets (16-18, Previous: 20) Have been playing a little better as of late. Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup has worked with Deron Williams coming off the bench. Still, these guys are going nowhere.

20. Indiana Pacers (14-22, Previous: 21) Not going to blow you away offensively, but will shut you down with their defense. And in a very sketchy Eastern Conference, this team is very much a playoff team.

21. Sacramento Kings (14-20, Previous: 18) The Kings front office is starting to feel the heat from fans. Bad losses to the Celtics and Pistons won't do anything to change that.

22. Charlotte Hornets (12-24, Previous: 24)Kemba Walker has scored at least 28 points in four of his last six games, including a 42-point game. He's taking a bigger offensive role without Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson.

23. Orlando Magic (13-24, Previous: 23) The Magic have lost 8 of 11, are about to embark on a tough four-game road trip, and then return home to play three of the West's best. In other words, it's about to get uglier.

24. Boston Celtics (11-21, Previous: 22) The Celtics are good at making fourth-quarter comebacks after the game is way out of hand just to make the score look justifiable. They aren't playing even close to four quarters of basketball.

25. Los Angeles Lakers (11-24, Previous: 25) It's good to see Kobe altering his game a little bit. And by that we mean not hoisting up 20-plus shots - mostly bricks - per game.

26. Utah Jazz (12-23, Previous: 26) They're 6-4 over their last 10 games, which is a better 10-game stretch than most people thought they'd go on this season.

27. Detroit Pistons (10-23, Previous: 28) Things we thought we'd never say this year: The Pistons currently have the longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference. It's at five games.

28. New York Knicks (5-32, Previous: 27) The Pistons traded away Josh Smith and started winning games. Maybe the same will happen to the Knicks after trading away J.R. Smith… nahhhhhh.

29. Philadelphia 76ers (5-28, Previous: 30) The Sixers had been absolutely blown away in their previous five games (we're talking 20-plus, 30-plus, and 40-point losses). And then the Cavs came to town. Winning!

30. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-28, Previous: 29) Minnesota is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". By next season it will be known as the "Land of 10,000 losses".

 
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