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1. Milwaukee Bucks
In 2018-19, Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged career-highs in points (27.7), rebounds (12.5), assists (5.9) and triples (0.7) while shooting a career-best, and franchise record, 57.8% from the field (11th in NBA). He became the first player ever to average 25/10/5 while shooting over 55 percent from the floor. Welp, this season, he’s averaging more points, more boards, more steals and twice as many 3-pointers for the Bucks, who have won 11 straight games.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers entered Sunday winners of 17 of their previous 18 contests and riding a 10-game winning streak, which was LA’s longest such streak in a decade. However, they could not contain Dallas’ Luka Doncic and lost to the Mavs, 114-100, on Sunday afternoon. They’ll look to get back on track at Denver on Tuesday night.
3. Los Angeles Clippers
You’d think that if you survived the onslaught from Kawhi Leonard and Paul George early on, you’d be able to stay in the game. Well, with this Clipper squad, you’d be wrong. Sunday vs. the Wizards, Kawhi poured in 34 points and George tallied in 31, but then the bench players did damage as well. Montrezl Harrell scored 23 points and ripped down a career-high 15 rebounds, while Lou Williams chipped in 22 points. The Clips are now 12-1 at home this season.
4. Denver Nuggets
Including the playoffs, Nikola Jokic played 94 games in 2018-19. Only three times in those 94 contests did he score fewer than ten points and also dish out fewer than seven assists. Well, he’s only appeared in 17 games thus far this season and has already had five games in which he’s tallied fewer than ten points and fewer than seven dimes.
5. Boston Celtics
The Celtics went 3-1 in the four games they played last week. Of the five total games they’ve lost this season, four of them have been by five points or less. Marcus Smart suffering an oblique injury on Sunday and is considered day-to-day.
6. Toronto Raptors
The Raps lost Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, and have played ten games without Serge Ibaka (ankle) and 11 without Kyle Lowry (thumb). Yet, somehow, they’ve won 15 of their first 19. Which means Nick Nurse is an early favorite for Coach of the Year honors. On Sunday, they welcomed back Ibaka, who tallied 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in 21 minutes in a victory over the Jazz.
7. Dallas Mavericks
Per NBA.com, “The Mavs’ No. 1 offense will play seven December games against teams that enter the month in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. That’s two Sunday road games (Dec. 1 and 29) against the Lakers as well as five straight games (Dec. 14-22) against the top five teams in the Eastern Conference.” Dallas was up to the task on Sunday, when they whooped the Lakers.
8. Houston Rockets
In case you might have missed, James Harden scored a season-high 60 points in a blowout victory over the Hawks on Saturday and somehow needed only 31 minutes and 24 FG attempts to get the job done. Over Houston’s last 17 games, Harden is averaging 40.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds in 36.9 minutes. Seriously.
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9. Miami Heat
The Heat have won eight of their last ten contests but will face a stiff test early this week. They play the Raptors in Toronto on Tuesday and then travel to Boston to take on the Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid caught plenty of slack when he was somehow held scoreless on 0-for-11 shooting vs. the Raptors last Monday. In the three games Philly has played since then, Embiid is averaging 30.7 points, 14.7 boards, 2.3 dimes and 2.0 blocks.
11. Indiana Pacers
Malcolm Brogdon missed three consecutive games in mid-November due to back soreness, but returned to action last Monday and has looked great. In the four games the Pacers played last week, Brogdon averaged 20.0 points, 7.3 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 triples, while shooting 51.7% from the floor and 92.3% from the FT stripe.
12. Utah Jazz
The Jazz had been struggling prior to Sunday’s trip to Toronto, but no one could have predicted they would have been down 77-37 at halftime. It was the largest halftime deficit in the NBA this season and tied for the eighth largest in league history. Utah ended up losing by “only” 20 points. Things don’t get any easier for the Jazz, who travel to Phildalhoa on Monday night.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves racked up consecutive home wins to begin last week, but ended the week in disappointing fashion. Minnesota played a shorthanded Memphis squad on Sunday, that was missing both Ja Morant (back) and Jonas Valanciunas (illness). However, the Grizz walked away with a 115-107 win.
14. Brooklyn Nets
It appeared Brooklyn was going to notch yet another impressive victory on Sunday, as they led Miami by seven points with 1:45 to play in the fourth quarter. However, the Heat took control down the stretch and dealt Brooklyn a nasty defeat. Yet, despite that loss, and the loss of Kyrie Irving (shoulder), the Nets went 9-6 in November, which their first winning record in November since 2012.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
A few weeks ago, there was plenty of doubt as to whether Carmelo Anthony would ever set foot on an NBA court again. Today, he’s a part of a Portland team that has won three straight. And, during this current winning streak, Melo is averaging 22.3 points and 7.7 rebounds with a True Shooting percentage of 65.7%. During these past three contests, Portland has outscored their opponents by 56 points in the 96 minutes he’s been on the floor. In the 48 minutes Anthony hasn’t played, the Blazers have been outscored by 12 points.
16. Phoenix Suns
One of this season’s surprising success stories early on, the Suns have come crashing back down to earth of late. Phoenix has lost six of their last seven games, with four of those losses coming at home. This week they embark on a four-game road trip, with the four games spread over six nights.
17. Sacramento Kings
The Kings had dropped their first two games of the week (losing to the Celtics by one point in Boston on Monday, and by six to the Sixers on Wednesday), and it appeared they’d lose a third straight Saturday night. Sacramento trailed Denver by 17 at halftime and double-digits in the fourth quarter, but managed to come all the way back and beat the Nuggets in overtime.
18. Orlando Magic
Coming into this season, Jonathan Isaac was viewed as a player with the potential to compete for Defensive Player of the Year awards. Six weeks into 2019-20, those prognostications are looking more and more accurate. Isaac has been a defensive dynamo this season, averaging a league-leading 2.8 blocks, to go along with 1.4 steals.
19. Oklahoma City Thunder
There was plenty of concern that Chris Paul would take a step back this season, but the vet has actually been more efficient offensively. Compared to 2018-19, CP3 is averaging more points while shooting a higher percentage from the floor, from 3-point territory, and from the FT stripe.
20. Charlotte Hornets
How fantastic has Devonte’ Graham been for the Hornets? Well, consider this: In his eight years in Charlotte, Hornet legend Kemba Walker never averaged more than 6.1 assists, or 3.2 made 3-pointers per game. Graham is currently averaging 7.4 assists, and 3.4 made treys.
21. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs shockingly beat the Clippers at home on Friday night, and there was hope that San Antonio could use that impressive victory as a springboard to resuscitate their season. However, playing without LaMarcus Aldridge (thigh), they lost by 34 points to the Pistons on Sunday. The last time the Spurs were seven games under .500 was April 20th, 1997.
22. New Orleans Pelicans
Lonzo Ball has missed eight of the Pelicans’ first 19 games due to a right adductor strain and an illness. However, he returned to the starting lineup on Sunday for the first time since Nov. 8th, and played well, tallying 14 points, four rebounds, seven assists, a block and four turnovers in 33 minutes. It was his second game with four-plus treys this season, and he is currently shooting a career-high 35.9% from downtown.
23. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons had lost eight of ten heading into Sunday but got a significant boost from an unexpected source. Christian Wood exploded for a career-high 28 points with ten rebounds, two assists, two 3-pointers, one steal and one block in 22 minutes off the bench to help lead Detroit to a 132-98 victory over the Spurs.
24. Washington Wizards
The Wiz lost another game to the Clippers on Sunday, but Rui Hachimura looked awesome. The rookie scored a career-high 30 points (on13-of-23 shooting) with two 3-pointers, nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and zero turnovers in 38 minutes.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Despite playing without Ja Morant (back) and Jonas Valanciunas (illness), the Grizz still beat the Wolves on Sunday night, behind a game-high 26 points from Dillon Brooks. Memphis announced on Saturday that in Friday’s game against the Jazz, Ja Morant aggravated back spasms, which first occurred against the Pacers on Monday night. Morant did not travel with the team to Minnesota and is considered week-to-week, as a “period of short-term off-loading” is needed.
26. Chicago Bulls
Lauri Markkanen has been brutally cold of late. Over the Bulls last five games, he is averaging just 8.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 26.4 minutes, while shooting a putrid 26.9% from the floor and 25.0% from downtown.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have lost nine of their last ten games, with seven of those nine losses coming by at least nine points. During this ten-game stretch, they have a point differential of -13.2. Only the Hawks have been worse (-19.1).
28. Atlanta Hawks
Over the Hawks last five games, Trae Young is averaging 36.4 points (in 36.9 minutes) to go along with 4.8 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 5.0 made 3PT’s, while shooting 50.4% from the floor, 47.2% from downtown and 94.9% from the free-throw stripe.
29. New York Knicks
Have to give the Knicks credit; not only have they lost six straight, but they find new ways to lose on a nightly basis. New York blew a 16-point lead to the 76ers on Friday and were up nine late in the third quarter before the Celtics went on a 17-2 run in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Oh, and the Knicks have to travel to Milwaukee on Monday to play the Bucks on the second night of a back-to-back. Yikes.
30. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have lost ten of their last 12 games, with many coming by way of a blowout. However, Golden State does have the league’s easiest December schedule based on the cumulative winning percentage of their upcoming opponents, and Kevon Looney (hamstring) is expected to return to action on Monday.