NBA Power Rankings: Cavaliers, Thunder, Raptors climb – Metro US

NBA Power Rankings: Cavaliers, Thunder, Raptors climb

NBA Power Rankings: Cavaliers, Thunder, Raptors climb
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1. Golden State Warriors (24-1) Last week: 1 – It finally happened – the Warriors lost a game. A double-OT victory over the Celtics had them stumbling into Milwaukee one night later on the last game of a seven-game road trip, and the Bucks delivered the knockout blow. I guess they’re allowed one bad game out of every 25.

2. San Antonio Spurs (20-5) Last week: 2 – It says a lot about the Spurs that despite the Warriors winning at a historic pace, they’re just four games behind them in the standings. It also says a lot that they held an Atlanta Hawks team to just 25 first-half points last week.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers (15-7) Last week: 4 – Just 2.5 games separate a non-playoff team from the top seed in the Eastern Conference. But it’s those Cavs that currently hold the top seed in the East, and with Iman Shumpert returning and Kyrie Irving close to a return, it feels like they’re going to build on that soon enough.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (16-8) Last week: 6 – Five straight wins for the Thunder and the fifth one may have been sparked by Russell Westbrook’s inbounds pass off a defenders back that came back to him for a buzzer-beater at the half. Down 13 at half, they went on a 25-7 run and beat the Jazz in OT. Swagger on top of swagger.

5. Toronto Raptors (16-9) Last week: 9 – Toronto is nipping on the heels of Cleveland, going into Monday’s games just a half-game behind them in the standings. Winners of four in a row over the last week including one over the Spurs, they’re rounding into form.

6. Miami Heat (13-9) Last week: 3 – The Heat snapped its three-game losing streak with a 16-point comeback win over the Grizzlies. They went on an 11-0 run to end the game and win beat Memphis by three. It’s something to build on after three straight double-digit losses to the Wizards, Hornets, and Pacers.

7. Indiana Pacers (13-9) Last week: 7 – Blown out by the Pistons over the weekend, which may be an indication of the direction both teams are heading in lately. Indy also dropped one to the Warriors earlier last week, but followed it up with a win over the Heat.

8. Atlanta Hawks (14-11) Last week: 5 – If the playoffs started today – which is kind of a ridiculous to say seeing that we’re just a quarter of the way through the season – the Hawks would not be a part of them.

9. Dallas Mavericks (13-11) Last week: 8 – The Mavs returned home after two wins on the road and proceeded to lose to both the Hawks and Wizards, evening up their home record to 5-5. It goes without saying that in order to compete in the West, you’ve gotta win at home.

10. Chicago Bulls (13-8) Last week: 10 – After dropping one in Boston last week, the Bulls battled to beat the Clippers by three and Pelicans by four. They’ve got three more home games that wrap up a stretch of nine out of 10 at home, of which they’re currently 4-3.

11. Los Angeles Clippers (14-10) Last week: 11 – DeAndre Jordan may not be able to hit a free throw for the life of him, but the dude is still a force in the paint, averaging 13.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. But seriously dude, you gotta clean up those free throws – 39-percent ain’t gonna cut it.

12. Boston Celtics (14-10) Last week: 16 – If only the Celtics could play every game on the second night of a back-to-back, where they’re 10-0 on the road since last year’s All-Star Break. Friday’s double-OT loss to the Warriors followed by a comeback win one night later in Charlotte said a lot about this team’s mettle.

13. Charlotte Hornets (14-9) Last week: 14 – It’s pretty amazing to see this Charlotte team succeed without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and now Al Jefferson. But one thing is for certain about this team: They’ll live and die by the three especially with Jefferson down.

14. Houston Rockets (12-12) Last week: 17 – Five wins in their last six games and the Rockets are at .500 for the first time this season. Obviously it’s not how they drew up the first 24 games of the season, but the important thing is they’re on the right track.

15. Detroit Pistons (14-11) Last week: 22 – If not for a half-court buzzer-beater loss to the Grizzlies, the Pistons would be winners of seven of eight. Regardless, they’re playing good basketball as evidenced by their 118-96 undressing of the Pacers.

16. Memphis Grizzlies (13-12) Last week: 12 – It sounds like head coach Davd Joerger could be fired any day now. Memphis has simply given up in too many games this season, and owner Robert Pera feels the team is too talented to struggle the way they are. But what does minority owner Justin Timberlake think?

17. Utah Jazz (10-12) Last week: 13 – After dropping back-to-back games against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Jazz will be glad to not see them until late March. Of all the current playoff teams in the Western Conference, they’re the only one with a losing record against West teams (4-7).

18. Orlando Magic (12-11) Last week: 15 – The Magic have lost three of their last four, including a 35-point blowout loss to the Cavaliers at home. The problem is simple: the Magic are struggling from the field. Evan Turner is shooting 32.1-percent and Tobias Harris is shooting 36.4-percent over their last four games.

19. Phoenix Suns (11-14) Last week: 20 – Brandon Knight followed up an 0-for-12 performance in a loss to the Blazers with a career-high seven three-pointers and 25 points as the Suns beat the Timberwolves. They’ve won three of their last four games.

20. Portland Trail Blazers(10-15) Last week: 18 – Portland is having trouble holding onto leads, as their last three losses have been in the come-from-behind fashion. Gotta know how to put teams away when you have the chance.

21. New York Knicks (11-14) Last week: 21 – Robin Lopez probably has an extra hop in his step this week – not because the Knicks snapped their four-game losing streak, but because the new Star Wars movie opens in theaters.

22. Washington Wizards (10-12) Last week: 22 – The Wizards pulled off an impressive win over the Mavericks thanks to Otto Porter Jr.’s career-high 28 points, but can he and his teammates continue to step up for the injured Bradley Beal?

23. Milwaukee Bucks (10-15) Last week: 25 – Leave it to the Bucks of all teams to hand the Warriors their first loss of the season.

24. Sacramento Kings (9-15) Last week: 23 – Uh oh. Rajon Rondo in the news again for all the wrong reasons, this time due to using a homophobic slur at NBA referee Bill Kennedy, who came out on Monday as a gay man.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (9-14) Last week: 24 – They’ve lost six of seven, and the one win was a one-point win over the Lakers at home. Kevin Garnett passed Karl Malone as the NBA’s all-time leader in defensive rebounds.

26. Denver Nuggets (9-14) Last week: 26 – Emmanuel Mudiay averages 10.7 points and 5.7 assists per game and has played in every game for the Nuggets. But that will change as Mudiay sprained his ankle and will miss his first NBA game(s).

27. Brooklyn Nets (7-16) Last week: 28 – After beginning the season 3-13, the Nets have at least righted the ship somewhat in going 4-3 over their last seven games.

28. New Orleans Pelicans (6-17) Last week: 27 – If you want to point out one of the biggest flaws with the Pelicans, look no further than their 1-11 road record.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (3-21) Last week: 29 – If there’s one team that’s going to knock the 76ers from the last spot in the power rankings, it’s this sorry group. Why stop at Kobe? There’s about eight guys on this team that could retire.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (1-24) Last week: 30 – Just when things couldn’t get any worse for the Philadelhia 76ers, Nerlens Noel got elbowed in the eye and was forced to go to the hospital. File under: even harder to watch.