The blistering hot Milwaukee Bucks retain the top spot in this week’s updated NBA Power rankings, while the surging Heat jump up into the top-5.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks
Talk about domination… Over their last four games, the Bucks’ Net Rating is +33.4. They outscored their opponents by 137 points over this four-game stretch, which second-largest differential over a four-game span in NBA history. Milwaukee is currently on pace to finish the season ranked in the top-2 in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. The Bucks are for real, folks.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
The Bucks aren’t the only team currently on pace to notch 70 wins this season; the Lakers are as well. In Sunday’s victory over the Wolves, Anthony Davis exploded for a season-high 50 points (while shooting 20-of-29 from the floor and a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe) to go along with seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block in 39 minutes.
3. Boston Celtics
Boston won both games they played last week, beating the Heat at home on Wednesday and knocking off the Nuggets in Beantown on Friday. The C’s are now a perfect 9-0 at home this season. Remarkably, the top six teams in the Eastern Conference (Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, Heat, Pacers and Sixers) have played a combined 64 home games thus far this season and are a combined 59-5 in those home contests.
4. LA Clippers
The Clippers have won three of their last four games, and each win came in compelling fashion (by at least 16 points). The trouble is their sole defeat during this stretch came was a much-anticipated showdown in Milwaukee vs. the Bucks. LA got rocked, losing by 28 points. This week they play the final four games of their current six-game road trip. After playing on Sunday night, Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out Monday vs. the Pacers. Paul George said he’s going to play in Indy.
5. Miami Heat
With Goran Dragic (groin), Dion Waiters (illness) and Justise Winslow (back) all sidelined, rookie Tyler Herro stepped in and stepped up for the Heat on Sunday night. Herro scored 27 points, including 16 of Miami’s final 18, in the Heat’s 110-105 overtime win over the Bulls on Sunday.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
Despite leading by 20 points with 6½ minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Sixers ended up having to sweat out a victory over the Raptors on Sunday night. Nonetheless, Philly got the job done, thanks in large part to 26 points from Tobias Harris and a career-high 20 from rookie Matisse Thybulle. The Sixers have won each of thier first 12 games at home since 1966-67, when they won their first 22 home games of the season, which still stands as the franchise record.
7. Dallas Mavericks
Saturday’s 130-84 blowout victory over the Pelicans was Dallas’s fifth straight victory. And at 16-6, it was the first time they were ten games over .500 since the 2014-15 season. In addition, it was the Mavs’ 10th win in an 11-game stretch. They hadn’t won 10 of 11 since their only NBA championship campaign back in 2010-11. However, playing on the back end of a back-to-back, Dallas had their win streak snapped Sunday night to the Kings.
8. Toronto Raptors
The Raps came back down to earth a bit last week, dropping all three games they played. They lost to the Heat and to Houston at home, and then fell to the Sixers in Philly on Sunday. Toronto will look to get back on track with a winnable game vs. the Bulls in Chicago on Monday night. However, Fred VanVleet (right knee contusion) is listed as questionable for this contest.
9. Houston Rockets
We know what James Harden brings to the table. And Russell Westbrook, who has posted three straight triple-doubles, is starting to find his groove. But it’s been Ben McLemore that has provided a really nice boost of late. Over the Rockets’ last four games, McLemore is averaging 22.5 points, 4.5 rebounds 1.3 dimes and a whopping 5.5 made treys in 30.0 minutes, while shooting 57% from the floor, 49% from downtown and 100% from the charity stripe.
10. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets lost road games to the Celtics and Nets this weekend, but fortunately, they witnessed the re-emergence of an aggressive Nikola Jokic. The Joker averaged 27.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 32.2 minutes over those two contests, while attempting 21.0 shots per game and shooting 54.8% from the floor.
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11. Indiana Pacers
Indiana bounced back from a bad beat in Detroit on Friday by outlasting the Knicks in New York Saturday night. Despite failing to score a single point in the final 5 minutes and 17 seconds of the game, Indy hung on to win 104-103. (New York scored just five points over the last 5 mins themselves.) Starting PG Malcolm Brogdon (sore right hand) was unable to play in that contest but is expected to suit up will on Monday vs. the Clippers.
12. Utah Jazz
The good news is that over the last two weeks, the Jazz are undefeated (2-0) vs the Grizzlies. The bad news is that the Jazz are 0-5 vs. the rest of the NBA. To be fair to Utah, four of those five losses came on the road to difficult opponents (Bucks, Pacers, Raptors and 76ers) and the only home loss was to LeBron and the Lakers.
13. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets won yet another game without Kyrie Irving on Sunday, and yet again, it was Spencer Dinwiddie who saved the day. Dinwiddie poured in a team-high 24 points, including a bevy of clutch buckets down the stretch, as Brooklyn powered past the Denver Nuggets 105-102 on Sunday. It was Brooklyn’s third straight victory, and the Nets are now-9-3 without Irving this season. Prior to the game, coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters that Kyrie would increase his individual on-court work, and the team will integrate him into practice in the “next week or two.”
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves have lost four games in a row, and this recent slide has coincided with a bit of a regression from Andrew Wiggins. Minnesota is just 1-3 in the four games this season in which Wiggins has scored fewer than 20 points. They are also only 1-3 in the four games he has missed.
15. Orlando Magic
The Magic are currently riding a four-game winning streak. However, it’s important to note that each of these four victories has come against teams with losing records (Warriors, Wizards, Suns, Cavs). Orlando will face a much stiffer test on Monday night when they travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks.
16. Phoenix Suns
The Suns were able to notch a pair of much-needed road wins last week, knocking off the Hornets in Charlotte and the Pelicans in New Orleans. Phoenix hosts the Wolves on Monday and the Grizz on Wednesday before heading down to Mexico City to take on the Spurs in an international tilt.
17. Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC is playing well of late, winning four of their last five games. However, the rumor mill is starting to heat up, with December 15th just six days away. Expect Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari to be one of the league’s most-discussed players.
18. San Antonio Spurs
Hard to imagine two more unlikely back-to-back wins for the Spurs that what we saw last week. San Antonio trailed by eight points with under two minutes left in regulation in each of their previous two games and somehow ended up winning both contests. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no NBA team in the last 20 years has won back-to-back games after trailing by 8+ points in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
19. Portland Trail Blazers
Already forced to play without Zach Collins (shoulder surgery) and center Jusuf Nurkic (broken leg), the Blazers decimated frontcourt lost another member on Friday night when wing Rodney Hood suffered a torn left Achilles in the first half against the Lakers.
20. Sacramento Kings
As noted above, the Mavs had won five straight heading into Sunday’s showdown with the Kings, while Sacramento was riding a three-game losing streak. However, the Kings were able to beat Dallas behind a monster night from Nemanja Bjelica, who tied his career-high with 30 points to go along with four 3-pointers, seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block.
21. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons won three of the four games they played last week, as Andre Drummond continues to dominate the paint. The East’s AD averaged 21.7 points, 16.7 boards, 3.3 assists, 3.3 steals and 3.0 blocks in 34.9 minutes over Detroit’s past three games.
22. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets have lost four of their past five contests, with their sole recent victory coming against the woebegone Warriors at home. Charlotte hosts the Wizards on Tuesday before embarking on a three-game road trip to close out the week.
23. Washington Wizards
The Wizards entered the season short on talent, and are now playing without two of their starters. PG Isaiah Thomas (left calf strain) has missed three straight games, and we got word on Monday morning that he is expected to miss at least one more week. Last Tuesday, center Thomas Bryant was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right foot that will cost him at least three weeks.
24. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls went 1-2 last week, but fortunately for Chicago, Lauri Markkanen has finally shown some signs of life. Over his past four games, Markkanen is averaging 19.3 points, 4.0 treys and 5.5 boards, while shooting 50.9% from the floor, 43% from downtown and 87.5% from the FT stripe.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis’ slide continued last week, as they lost all three games they played. Dating back to mid-November, the Grizz are just 1-10. One bright spot has been Jaren Jackson Jr.‘s strong play of late. Over his last three games, JJJ is averaging 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.3 made triples, 1.0 steals and 1.7 blocks.
26. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pels are mired in a nasty slump, having lost eight straight games. On Saturday night in Dallas, they were shellacked, as the Mavs beat them by 46 points. The Pels defense has been awful all season. They currently rank 29th in the NBA in Defensive Efficiency (ahead of only the Wizards), allowing 114.5 points per 100 possessions.
27. Atlanta Hawks
After losing ten straight, the Hawks have bounced back a bit, winning two of their last three. The one consistent has been Trae Young posting monster numbers. Over his last eight games, TY is averaging 34.4 points, 8.1 assists, 4.3 rebounds, 4.5 treys while shooting 50.8% from the floor, 44.4% from 3-point range and 93.2% from the free-throw line.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers
When asked for his assessment of the Cavs performance Saturday night in Philly, Kevin Love replied: “We sucked.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, as Cleveland was routed 141-94 by the Sixers. The Cavs have lost six straight and have a brutal upcoming schedule. They play the Celtics in Boston on Monday, then come home to take on the Rockets, before embarking on a three-game road trip to San Antonio, Milwaukee and Toronto.
29. Golden State Warriors
My how things have changed in Golden State. The Warriors had four players avg over 15 points per game last season: Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins… The Warriors leaders in total points scored this season are 1. Eric Paschall, 2. Alec Burks and 3. Glenn Robinson
30. New York Knicks
2019-20 is the 74th season in the history of this Knicks franchise. During that time, New York had never lost two consecutive games by more than 35 points. That is, until this past week, when they were blown out by 44 points in Milwaukee on Monday, then by 37 points to the Nuggets Wednesday night. Those two embarrassing defeats cost head coach David Fizdale his job.