NBA

NBA Power Rankings: 76ers challenge Jazz for top spot; Lakers drop out of top three; Mavericks take steep fall


1


Jazz
All great things must come to an end, and Utah finally had its 11-game winning streak snapped by the Nuggets on Sunday. Even in the loss, the Jazz still made 20 3-pointers and shot 43 percent from deep, but Denver was even hotter at 64 percent from behind the arc. Despite the loss, the Jazz still had a 3-1 week and remain in the top spot in the Power Rankings. Bojan Bogdanovic exploded in the final two games of the week, averaging 30.5 points while making 12-of-21 3-pointers. — 15-5
2


76ers
The Sixers shook off a loss to the Pistons without Joel Embiid to rattle off three straight wins to close out the week, including a strong performance to hand the Lakers their first road loss, capped off by a Tobias Harris game-winner. Nearly as impressive was a road win over the Pacers on Sunday with Embiid out of the lineup once again. 2 15-6
3


Clippers
The Clippers managed to win one of their two games this week without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, then looked back to full strength in wins over the Magic and Knicks to close out the week. Reggie Jackson went back to being an offensive focal point with the two stars out of the lineup, and he carried the momentum into Sunday’s win over the Knicks, scoring 18 points as a starter in place of Patrick Beverley. 1 16-5
4


Lakers
The Lakers came nail-bitingly close to suffering a third straight loss, but wound up escaping with a one-point win over the Celtics. They lost by one to the 76ers on a Tobias Harris jumper and fell to the Pistons without Anthony Davis, but back-to-back losses are noticeable for a team this good. LeBron James put his name at the center of the MVP discussions, averaging 30.8 points, 7.5 assists and seven rebounds on 49 percent 3-point shooting this week. We’ll see how the Lakers respond with three games coming up, including a rematch against the Pistons at Staples Center on Saturday. 1 15-6
5


Nuggets
What else can we say about Nikola Jokic? He averaged 31 points and 11 rebounds for the week, capping it off by tying a career high with 47 points to beat the league’s hottest team on Sunday. Jamal Murray expressed his frustration with being banged up physically, but managed to put up 16.5 points per game on 44 percent 3-point shooting this week. Michael Porter Jr. has also made an impact since returning to the lineup, averaging 16.8 points on 60 percent 3-point shooting in just 23 minutes per game this week. — 12-8
6


Nets
The Nets were on their way to a perfect week until a total disaster at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Wizards. The offense has been as advertised, putting up 147 and 146 points, respectively, in their last two games, but the defense has been expectedly concerning. Kevin Durant and James Harden each missed a game this week, but put up impressive numbers. Durant averaged 29.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while Harden added 25.3 points and 11.3 assists per game on 55 percent 3-point shooting. 1 13-9
7


Spurs
San Antonio picked up big wins over the Celtics and Nuggets to start the week, then fell to the hungry Grizzlies in their first game in nearly two weeks. Seven players averaged double-figure scoring this week, and Derrick White scored 18 points in his return to the court on Saturday. DeMar DeRozan shot 71 percent from the field this week, but took only 9.3 shots per game after averaging nearly 14 field goal attempts per game this season. 2 11-9
8


Celtics
Boston was one Kemba Walker jumper away from beating the Lakers on Saturday, and they received encouraging news that Marcus Smart is only expected to miss 2-3 weeks after a nasty-looking calf injury. The Celtics also lost to the Spurs and beat the Bulls this week, as Jayson Tatum averaged 26.3 points on 42 percent 3-point shooting in his return to the court after a five-game absence. Jaylen Brown continued his excellent season, averaging 26 points on 54 percent 3-point shooting for the week. — 10-8
9


Bucks
Not a great week for the Bucks, who dropped back-to-back games to the Pelicans and Hornets after beating the Raptors on Wednesday. Giannis Antetokounmpo was an absolute monster, averaging 32 points, 15.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists for the week, but the Milwaukee defense simply couldn’t get stops in its losses. It might not be panic time yet, but right now this certainly isn’t the regular-season powerhouse we’ve seen over the past two seasons. 3 11-8
10


Suns
The Suns went 2-1 this week without the services of Devin Booker, and Chris Paul took it upon himself to pick up the scoring slack. The veteran averaged 24.7 points and seven assists this week, while Jae Crowder added 15.7 points per game on 40 percent 3-point shooting. Phoenix also made up for the lack of offensive explosiveness by playing suffocating defense, something it has consistently done all season. 4 10-8
11


Rockets
That’s five wins in a row for the Rockets, who beat the Wizards, Blazers and Pelicans this week. The defense has been the story, with a league-leading rating of 100 during the winning streak, led by a host of scrappy, versatile, energetic wings. Christian Wood got right back to work after returning from an ankle injury, averaging 24.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games, while Victor Oladipo and John Wall both averaged 20 points for the week. If Houston continues to defend at this level, it’s going to be in virtually every game. 12 9-9
12


Pacers
The Pacers split four games this week, and missed an opportunity to beat the 76ers without Joel Embiid on Sunday. Malcolm Brogdon continued his All-Star-caliber season, averaging 26.8 points and 6.8 assists on 44 percent 3-point shooting for the week, while Domantas Sabonis pitched in 19 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Jeremy Lamb looked better this week, and the Pacers will need him to take on a prominent wing role as long as Caris LeVert is out of the lineup. 1 11-9
13


Warriors
All four games were blowouts this week for the Warriors, with two wins over the Wolves, one over the Pistons and a loss to the Suns. Steph Curry was incredible this week, averaging 26.8 points and 5.5 assists per game on 22-for-41 3-point shooting, and Andrew Wiggins kept up his steady production with 19.5 points per game on 40 percent 3-point shooting. 4 11-9
14


Hawks
Atlanta beat a shell of a Clippers roster and a struggling Wizards squad this week, but perhaps its most impressive effort was an overtime loss to the Nets with their full complement of star power. The Hawks offense, which had been dormant, exploded with a 116.6 offensive rating this week, while Trae Young is officially out of his slump, averaging 35.7 points and eight assists on 46 percent 3-point shooting in his last three games. Clint Capela continues to be an absolute monster on the boards and defending the rim, while John Collins is starting to regain his chemistry with Young. It’s a shame that De’Andre Hunter will have to miss at least a week with a knee issue as he’s been putting together a breakout campaign thus far. 6 10-9
15


Grizzlies
Memphis made its triumphant return to the court after nearly two weeks of postponements with a convincing win over the Spurs on Saturday. Ja Morant had 19 points and 11 assists, while De’Anthony Melton went off for 20 points on 4-of-7 3-point shooting. Rookie Desmond Bane is now shooting 52 percent from deep this season. 1 8-6
16


Thunder
Wasn’t this supposed to be a tank year for OKC? The Thunder pulled off impressive wins over the Blazers and Suns to start the week before getting blown out by the Nets on Friday. OKC was led by 23 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on 42 percent 3-point shooting, while rookie guard Theo Maledon has fully taken advantage of extra playing time in the absence of George Hill, averaging 13.7 points this week on 61 percent shooting, including 11 of 17 from 3-point range. Most pegged the Thunder to be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, but here they are hovering around .500 a quarter of the way through. 8 8-10
17


Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard saved the Blazers from an 0-3 week with a cold-blooded fadeaway 3-pointer as time expired on Saturday to beat the Bulls. The losses to the Thunder and Rockets were each by three points, as Portland has done a decent job staying afloat with CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic sidelined. Lillard averaged 33.3 points and 9.3 assists for the week on 40 percent 3-point shooting, while both Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons have contributed meaningful minutes in McCollum’s place. 7 10-8
18


Hornets
Charlotte lost two games to start the week, but bounced back for big wins over the Pacers and Bucks. LaMelo Ball was phenomenal in the Bucks game, putting up career-highs in points (27) and free throws (9 for 9) while taking over down the stretch. Terry Rozier also had a strong week, averaging 18.8 points on 52 percent 3-point shooting. 1 9-11
19


Pelicans
New Orleans responded after its worst loss of the season to the Wolves last week by ripping off consecutive wins over the Wizards and Bucks to start the week before losing to a buzzsaw Rockets team on Saturday. The Pelicans clearly made an effort to play with more pace and energy, and it translated to offensive success. Zion Williamson averaged 26.3 points on 63 percent shooting for the week, while Brandon Ingram added 25 points per game on 44 percent 3-point shooting. Lonzo Ball has also played well after his name popped up in trade rumors earlier in the week. 9 7-11
20


Heat
The Heat went 1-3 this week, but Saturday’s win over the Kings could start to build some momentum. Jimmy Butler scored 30 points, including the go-ahead basket with 42 seconds left, in his first game since Jan. 9. Bam Adebayo did his best to carry the load in Butler’s absence, averaging 18.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the week, but the Heat just haven’t had enough healthy bodies with Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Avery Bradley and Andre Iguodala also missing time. 1 7-12
21


Kings
The Kings’ defense has been just decent enough to allow their potent offense to do its thing as Sacramento nearly pulled off a 3-0 week but lost a close one to the Heat on Saturday. Buddy Hield has caught fire, as he tends to do occasionally, averaging 23 points per game this week on 18-for-33 3-point shooting. De’Aaron Fox averaged 23.3 points for the week, while Hassan Whiteside returned after a four-game absence to average 11.3 points and six rebounds off the bench. 5 8-11
22


Raptors
Just when it looked like the Raptors were turning the corner, they hit another snag with losses to the Pacers, Bucks and Kings this week. Kyle Lowry returned to the lineup after a two-game absence, but both OG Anunoby and Norman Powell missed time later in the week, leaving the Raptors thin on the wing. Pascal Siakam averaged 24.3 points and 7.7 rebounds, but he went 1 for 7 from 3-point range in the four games. 11 8-12
23


Mavericks
It’s not a good sign when your franchise player is calling out his team’s desire to win, and Luka Doncic clearly hasn’t been pleased with the Mavericks’ effort. The loss to the Suns might have been more disheartening than the blowouts against the Jazz, because the Mavs watched a 15-point, second-half lead disappear against Phoenix. Kristaps Porzingis shot just 36 percent from the field, including 20 percent from 3-point range, in the three losses. The glimmer of hope is that Dallas is finally starting to get close to a full roster after being without several players due to health and safety protocols. 11 8-12
24


Knicks
No shame in losing to two of the league’s best teams in the Jazz and Clippers, and the Knicks put up a 21-point win over the Cavs in between. Rookie sensation Immanuel Quickley scored 25 points in each of the final two games of the week, while averaging just 26 minutes. RJ Barrett and Julius Randle each shot over 55 percent from 3-point range this week while averaging over 20 points. 2 9-12
25


Cavaliers
The Cavs’ lone win this week was over the Pistons, with losses to the Lakers, Knicks and Timberwolves. The offense struggled despite Darius Garland averaging 16.5 points on 7-for-11 3-point shooting in the four games, while Andre Drummond put up 19.3 points and 17.5 rebounds. It’s become clear that the Cavs will have trouble winning games unless Collin Sexton gets hot — they’re now 6-1 when Sexton scores 25 points or more and 1-7 when he’s held under 25. 10 9-11
26


Pistons
What a strange week for the Pistons, who beat the 76ers and Lakers, each short-handed to be fair, but were blown out by the Cavs and Warriors. Jerami Grant led the way with 20.8 points per game on 53 percent 3-point shooting in the four games, with Wayne Ellington keeping up his hot shooting before Saturday’s 0-for-5 anomaly. 4 5-15
27


Bulls
The Bulls lost to the Celtics to start the week before having their hearts ripped out by a game-winning 3-pointer from Damian Lillard on Saturday. Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies was postponed, leaving Chicago with an 0-2 week. Zach LaVine continues to make a case for an All-Star selection, averaging 28 points on 12-for-18 3-point shooting in the two losses, while Lauri Markkanen put up 24.5 points on 9 of 17 from behind the arc. 9 7-11
28


Wizards
Russell Westbrook is back! Well, maybe not, but he surely was on Sunday night, when he put up 41 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and hit the game-winning 3-pointer to conclude a miraculous comeback by the Wizards to beat the Nets. It was Washington’s first win since its two-week hiatus due to health and safety protocols, and boy did it need it. Bradley Beal kept up his insane scoring pace, averaging 35.8 points for the week on 46 percent shooting. He and the Wizards are surely hoping that this game gets Westbrook going after a dreadful start to the season. 1 4-12
29


Magic
Orlando beat the Hornets to start the week before losing to the Kings, Clippers and Raptors, and the Magic have now lost 11 of its last 13 games. The lack of offense puts immense pressure on the team to pitch a shutout every night, which has not been happening with the league’s 21st-rated defense. One bright spot is Cole Anthony, who is starting to look better as the team’s starting point guard. He averaged 12.5 points and 5.3 assists on 40 percent 3-point shooting this week. Aaron Gordon hasn’t helped the struggling offense, averaging just 9.5 points on 31 percent field goals for the week. 4 8-13
30


Timberwolves
The Wolves picked up a much-needed win over the Cavs on Sunday, but it was their only victory in a 1-3 week. Malik Beasley stepped up offensively, averaging 25 points on 42 percent 3-point shooting for the week, and D’Angelo Russell returned for the Wolves’ last two games. Until Karl-Anthony Towns returns, however, it’s likely going to be a slog for Minnesota. 3 5-14



 

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