1. Atlanta Hawks (40-9, Previous: 1)- Their impressive 19-game winning streak came to an end Monday night at the hands of the Pelicans. They went 17-0 in January, an NBA record for wins in a month.
2. Golden State Warriors (37-8, Previous: 2)- The Warriors dropped two-straight last week at the hands of the Bulls and Jazz, but that’s no reason to worry in the Golden State. They still hold the league’s best offense at 110.8 points per game and a potent scoring duo in Stephen Curry (23.0 ppg) and Klay Thompson (22.7 ppg) who rank eighth and ninth in the league in scoring respectively.
3. Memphis Grizzlies (36-12, Previous: 3)- Things are heating up in Memphis, where the Grizzlies are now winners of 11 of their last 12 games. They dropped the Mavs, Thunder and Suns on their way to a perfect 5-0 record last week. When Zach Randolph has played this season, the Grizzlies are 31-7. In the games he missed, they’re just 5-5.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (33-16, Previous: 4)– Losses to the Pelicans and Nets overshadowed a brilliant 20-point win against the Spurs this past week. They’ll now face arguably their toughest stretch of the season this week, with the Cavs, Raptors, Thunder and Mavs on tap.
5. Houston Rockets (33-15, Previous: 6) - Dwight Howard is out with a right knee injury for what looks to be a month, which means the Rockets are going to have some games like they had Saturday against Detroit. The Pistons manhandled Houston inside for 58 points in the paint. Without a post-presence like Howard, this team can’t be considered dominant.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers (30-20, Previous: 11) -With the Hawks losing on Monday, the Cavs now have the longest winning-streak in the NBA at 11 games. They face a tough Clippers team on Thursday, which was one of the catalysts to their streak back on January 16. Their win at Staples Center was just their second win of the streak. Now they’ll get to face them in their home confines of the Quicken Loans Arena.
7. Dallas Mavericks (33-17, Previous: 8) - The Mavs haven’t beaten a team above .500 since they beat the Grizzlies back on January 19. The Rajon Rondo trade isn’t going over as well as the team had hoped, as they finished just 9-7 in the month of January. A win against the Warriors Wednesday would start the month of February out on the right foot and prove their critics wrong in the process.
8. Portland Trailblazers (32-16, Previous: 5) - The Blazers are losers of eight of their past 10 games and it’s officially time to panic in Portland. The contender status the team once held is slipping away and they don’t have much time left to right the ship.
9. Chicago Bulls (30-19, Previous: 7)- You’d think that an overtime win over the Warriors would propel this team to the next level. Apparently it did the opposite, as the Bulls fell to the Lakers and Suns on back-to-back nights. They’ll face some tough Rockets and Pelicans teams this week in hopes of getting back on track.
10. San Antonio Spurs (30-18, Previous: 9) - The Spurs weren’t able to get their signature win in the month of January, which could’ve established them as one of the league’s best. For now, they’re just a good team with the defending champion labels on their backs. A win in Toronto Sunday would be a good place to start for Gregg Popovich & Co.
11. Toronto Raptors (33-16, Previous: 12)- The Raptors’ six-game winning-streak was snapped on Monday by the Milwaukee Bucks. Lou Williams has been sensational off the bench for Toronto in their recent surge. He’s averaging 19.4 ppg in their last five games.
12. Washington Wizards (31-18, Previous: 10) - The Wizards have gone just 2-5 in their past seven games. What hurts even more were losses to Toronto and Charlotte this past week, which gives each team more confidence in the Eastern Conference playoff race down the stretch. They have the Hawks up next, who’ve beaten them by an average margin of 17.5 ppg in the two times they’ve faced.
13. New Orleans Pelicans (26-22, Previous: 14)- The Pelicans are one of the NBA’s hottest team’s right now. They’re winners of six of their past seven games, while ending the Hawks’ winning-streak and silencing the Clippers in the process. Tyreke Evans has been sensational at point guard in Jrue Holiday’s absence. He’s notched 12 assists in four of the team’s past five games.
14. Phoenix Suns (28-22, Previous: 15) -Phoenix isn’t going to let its playoff spot slip away that easy. They battled some tough competition this past week (Wizards, Bulls, Warriors and Grizzlies) and came away with a respectable 2-2 record. They’re still a game up on the Pelicans for the eighth spot in the West and three games up on the Thunder. The race is on.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder (24-24, Previous: 13)- The Thunder have done themselves no favors in trying to grab the eighth seed in the West. They’ve gone just 2-4 in their past six games and now have the surging Pelicans twice in three days, before a matchup with the Clippers on Sunday. With just three months left in the season, these are crucial games for the reigning MVP, Kevin Durant.
16. Milwaukee Bucks (26-22, Previous: 17)– The Bucks went 4-0 this past week and a lot of it has to do with the improved play of guard Khris Middleton. Middleton is averaging 16.7 points and 4.5 rebounds on 57 percent shooting in the past four games, all higher than his season averages.
17. Charlotte Hornets (21-27, Previous: 18)- The Hornets’ saving grace has been the play of Al Jefferson since his return from injury. As a team they’ve gone 5-2 in his return, where he’s averaged 14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. With Kemba Walker out for the season with an ACL tear, he’s going to need to continue his dominance in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
18. Miami Heat (21-26, Previous: 16)– The Heat went just 1-2 this past week and lost a crucial game to the Bucks, who they’re fighting against in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Luckily for them, they have a fairly easy slate of games in February coming up against the Pistons, Timberwolves, Sixers, Magic and Knicks twice. They should be able to hold onto their seventh seed in the East a bit longer and maybe even climb up a spot in the standings.
19. Detroit Pistons (18-30, Previous: 18)- Losers of four of their past five games, including a 20-point loss to the Sixers, isn’t a good sign for Andre Drummond’s Pistons. They ended their week with a win over the Rockets, but unless they can show some more consistency without Brandon Jennings, they’ll be on the outside of the playoffs looking in for the rest of the season.
20. Brooklyn Nets (19-28, Previous: 23) -TheNets fought for all four quarters this past week against three of the league’s best teams in the Hawks, Raptors and Clippers. Their only win came against the Clippers, but it wasn’t the type of performance expected from a team whose ball boy is probably even rumored to be in trade discussions at the moment. The Nets have both the talent and experience to be a playoff team in the East, but using that talent to play as a team has been the hardest thing for them to do this season.
21. Boston Celtics (16-30, Previous: 20)– The Celtics’ winning ways were short-lived, as they’re now riding a three-game losing streak. But, they’re still in good position for a playoff push, with games against the lowly Knicks, Nuggets and Sixers this week. The question remains whether or not they want to make a push, and if it’s worth the all-so-necessary draft positioning for the upcoming NBA draft in June.
22. Utah Jazz (17-30, Previous: 21) –Jazz fans and their coaching staff has to be proud of the way they stood up to the top-seeded Warriors on Friday. Gordon Hayward had one of his best all-around performances of the season, notching 26 points, 15 rebounds, six assists and three steals in Utah’s 110-100 win. They’re all but out of the Western Conference playoff race, but the future is bright in Salt Lake City.
23. Denver Nuggets (19-29, Previous: 22)- Losers of nine of their past 10 games, there’s not too many positives to take away from the Nuggets at the moment. Ty Lawson statistically is playing among the tops in the NBA at the point guard position, averaging 16.5 points and 9.9 assists per game, but that’s about the only good coming out of Denver these days.
24. Indiana Pacers (17-32, Previous: 24) -Taking the place of an injured George Hill, Rodney Stuckey put together back-to-back 22-point games for the Pacers this past week. But, he came back down to earth with just a 2-point performance against the Kings on Saturday. It’s been a rough season of injuries for the Pacers, who will go into the All-Star break below .500 after reaching the Eastern Conference finals last season.
25. Sacramento Kings (17-29, Previous: 25) –DeMarcus Cousins received his first All-Star bid, filling in for an injured Kobe Bryant later this month. The big man is averaging 23.6 points and 12.6 rebounds in 34 games this season. It’s one of the only positives this Kings team can take from an otherwise dreadful season.
26. New York Knicks (10-38, Previous: 28) –Any wins for the Knicks the rest of the way, especially to a team like the Lakers who’rejust above them in the standings, should be frowned upon by coach Derek Fisher. But, with Carmelo Anthony still in the starting lineup, anything can happen on any given night for the blue and orange. This team is treading on thin ice in the race for the No. 1 pick. They’ve suddenly won five of their past seven games.
27. Philadelphia 76ers (10-39, Previous: 29) –The Sixers won two games this past week and played tough against two of the hottest teams in the league for four quarters. Their ability to stage comebacks against the Hawks and Cavs in consecutive games was commendable. Unfortunately, Michael Carter-Williams is said to have injured his right shin in Saturday’s game against Atlanta. If he’s forced to miss any time, expect a downward spiral once again.
28. Orlando Magic (15-36, Previous: 26) -The Magic are on a league-leading nine-game losing streak and the race for ping pong balls is on. They’re now just ½ a game ahead of the Lakers for the fourth-worst record in the league and a 12 percent shot at the No. 1 pick in June.
29. Los Angeles Lakers (13-35, Previous: 27) –Somehow, the Lakers snapped a nine-game losing streak with a win over the Bulls in overtime this past Thursday. The team must’ve been inspired to take down Pau Gasol, who left the Lakers in July for Chicago, after playing seven seasons in L.A. Regardless, a 12-point loss to the lowly Knicks Sunday put them right back into the tank race.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-40, Previous: 30) –Ricky Rubio had a few dazzling plays in his return to the starting lineup Monday for the Timberwolves. It almost made you wonder how good this team could’ve been if he had been there the whole season. Despite his impressive play, the T’Wolves dropped their eighth game in nine tries. They’re now in sole possession of the worst record in the league, and the future looks very bright in the mountains of Minnesota.
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