NBA power rankings, Week 9: Clippers surge to the top

USA TODAY Sports

Fueled by a 13-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Clippers have surged to the top of this week's NBA power rankings.

There's a new team on top of this week's NBA Power Rankings. As always: if you disagree with these, you're probably right.

Rank Team Record Prev. Rank Last Week
SB Nation Blog
1 Los Angeles Clippers 21-6 4 W: @DET, NO, SAC, @PHO Clips Nation
This is a "wait, why the hell did I have them so low before?" week for me and the Clippers. I don't think they HAVE to be above Oklahoma City just because a 13-game win streak trumps the Thunder's similar-but-interrupted-by-a-single-loss stretch; L.A. and OKC feel pretty equivalent to me in their dominance. That said, I'm letting this serve as my tiebreaker. Each time I gravitate toward the Thunder, Eric Bledsoe falls from the ceiling to kick me in the uvula.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder 21-5 1 W: SAS, @ATL; L: @MIN Welcome to Loud City
They had to lose again eventually, and doing so in Minnesota on the second night of a road back-to-back without Kevin Martin wasn't the most shameful time to do it.
3 Miami Heat 18-6 5 W: MIN, @DAL, UTA Hot Hot Hoops
While Erik Spoelstra experiments with his rotations, the Miami defense is gradually creeping upward to meet the offense. They might be top 10 in both efficiency categories within a week or two.
4 New York Knicks 20-7 2 W: BRO, MIN; L: HOU, CHI Posting and Toasting
New York's defense is riddled with holes, and the Garden rims proved unwelcoming during a six-game home stand. The Knicks squeezed four wins out of said home stand, but they could use some help. Eventually, Amar'e Stoudemire very well may constitute help. In the nearer future, a healthy, active Marcus Camby -- if such a person exists -- could bolster the sagging Knicks. Never playing the Rockets again should also help.
5 San Antonio Spurs 21-8 3 W: NOH, DAL; L: @OKC, @DEN Pounding the Rock
San Antonio dropped both ends of a sleepy road back-to-back to open the week, but returned to full health thereafter and took care of New Orleans and Dallas (took CARE of Dallas). This group actually feels stronger for having struggled through the Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson injuries (among other smaller ones) and they seem likely to stride back ahead at full staff.
6 Memphis Grizzlies 18-7 6 W: CHI, MIL, DAL; L: @hou Straight Outta Vancouver
The Grizzlies haven't quite solved their own offensive ills, but they dialed the defense to unprecedented levels of stinginess over a four-game win streak spanning back to last week. Then they had their worst defensive game of the year against the fast-paced Rockets.
7 Golden State Warriors 18-10 7 W: NOH, CHA; L: @SAC, LAL Golden State of Mind
Golden State's defense finally started to let up a bit and expose some of its Andrew Bogut-lessness this past week. The collapse against the Lakers was heartbreaking, but it's the Kings who really seem to have the Warriors' number for some reason.
8 Atlanta Hawks 16-9 8 W: @WAS, CHI; L: @OKC, PHI Peachtree Hoops
Larry Drew finds himself struggling to hoard and deploy "energy," one of the NBA's most capricious natural resources (up there with chemistry and Pargos). That seems to be the chief thing distinguishing a blowout loss to the Sixers from a blowout win over the Bulls.
9 Chicago Bulls 15-11 9 W: BOS, @NYK; L: @MEM, @ATL Blog a Bull
The Bulls really took a dump in Atlanta, but their wins over Boston and New York were big and impressive. Enough barking from Tom Thibodeau can get even this group to play some genuinely brilliant offense.
10 Indiana Pacers 16-12 16 W: UTA, @CLE, @NOH; L: @MIL Indiana Pacers
Indiana's top defense is topper than ever and, at least in second halves, they're picking up offensively. After winning six of their last seven, the Pacers look solidly like a good team missing its best player and the depth afforded by his presence. They looked nothing like that through the beginning of the season.
11 Houston Rockets 14-12 20 W: @NYK, PHI, MEM The Dream Shake
It's not the first time this season the Rockets have strung together a few wins, but this here is clearly the strongest and most offensively dominant of those strings yet.
12 Denver Nuggets 15-13 15 W: SAS, CHA; L: @POR Denver Stiffs
I'm so grouchy over Ty Lawson hitting that one meaningless last-second jumper against the Blazers. It's as if he had no idea the Nuggets were going to have been the first team ever awarded the 80-point bonus for making zero jump shots in a game. Meanwhile, one hopes Lawson's okay after straining his Achilles in Denver's bounce-back win over Charlotte.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves 13-12 11 W: OKC; L: @ORL, @MIA, @NYK Canis Hoopus
There simply must be offensive consistency to be found in these Wolves if they'd only get and keep themselves available all at once.
14 Brooklyn Nets 14-12 10 W: PHI; L: UTA, @NYK Nets Daily
Avery Johnson making calculated strategic (meeting Deron Williams halfway) and rotational (shuffling frontcourt minutes) changes to better suit his roster seems warranted, given Brooklyn's recent turmoil. It surely behooves Johnson and his grasp on the reins to make such decisions.
15 Milwaukee Bucks 14-12 13 W: IND, @BOS; L: @MEM, CLE Brew Hoop
I felt at the beginning of the season like I needed more games to figure out who the Bucks were and how they stacked up with the rest of the league. We're now two months in and I have even less of a clue. Each performance feels like a random output totally unrelated to those surrounding it.
16 Los Angeles Lakers 13-14 19 W: CHA, @GSW Silver Screen and Roll
The Lakers miiiiight have a bit of momentum? They made a big comeback to escape the humiliating loss to end all humiliating losses to the Bobcats, then made a more impressive comeback to upend the Warriors in Steve Nash's return. The next step, it seems, is to stop falling so far behind in first halves and to get a more consistent defensive effort from and around Dwight Howard. I suppose those two things are related. I'm also not yet confident they'll come to pass.
17 Utah Jazz 15-14 14 W: @BRO, @ORL; L: @IND, @MIA SLC Dunk
Early returns sans Mo Williams were pretty okay, with Utah taking down the Magic in a balanced effort.
18 Boston Celtics 13-13 12 W: CLE; L: @CHI, MIL Celtics Blog
Boston's poor, depleted (just lost Chris Wilcox) frontcourt is grasping at straws for defense now. Even with Fab Melo putting up some outrageous D-League numbers, the newest straw in town is Jarvis Varnado, who's also been known to block a shot or two. Meanwhile, Boston would like whatever got into Paul Pierce to stay there, please.
19 Portland Trail Blazers 13-13 17 W: DEN, PHO; L: @SAC Blazer's Edge
.500! The Blazers made it! They surpassed it, actually, but perhaps flew close to the sun before falling to the Kings behind some familiar ills (that bench, for one).
20 Orlando Magic 12-15 21 W: MIN, WAS; L: @TOR, UTA Orlando Pinstriped Post
Especially as a defense-oriented squad, Orlando seems pretty well-equipped to handle the loss of Glen Davis. Early returns suggest that Gustavo Ayon should and will inherit most of those minutes over Andrew Nicholson, but Jacque Vaughn likely has some tinkering still to do.
21 Philadelphia 76ers 13-15 18 W: ATL; L: @DAL, @HOU, @BRO Liberty Ballers
Around now appears to be the point at which a number of teams missing first options are establishing a suitable, effective, other identity -- particularly that of a defensive stalwart. Not the Sixers. Philadelphia's hold on that end of the floor is slipping, if anything.
22 Dallas Mavericks 12-16 22 W: PHI; L: MIA, @MEM, @SAS Mavs Moneyball
Blowout loss of a debut aside, it's wonderful to see Dirk Nowitzki back on the floor and the fascinating Chris Douglas-Roberts back in the league. Nothing against Derek Fisher -- wish you the best, Mr. Fish -- but these feel more like the right kind of returns.
23 Phoenix Suns 11-17 23 W: SAC, CHA; L: @POR, LAC Bright Side of the Sun
The Suns were rolling for a minute there, but stumbled in Portland, then totally face-planted against the Clippers. Phoenix is one of those West teams that might be competing for a playoff spot this season if they were in the Eastern Conference. If they had jet packs, too.
24 Toronto Raptors 9-19 24 W: @CLE, DET, ORL Raptors HQ
It's customary to shout "break up the Raptors!" at a juncture like this one, right? What if breaking up the Raptors -- more specifically, dealing Jose Calderon, who's been the guiding force behind this five-game boom -- is still actually in the cards?
25 Sacramento Kings 9-18 27 W: GSW, POR; L: @PHO, @LAC Sactown Royalty
Thing that makes sense in my head in the middle of the night: The Kings' rotation is Wacky Races and DeMarcus Cousins is Muttley? Aaron Brooks is kinda Muttley, though. Wait, the Kings are mostly Muttley.
26 Detroit Pistons 9-21 25 W: WAS, @WAS; L: LAC, @TOR Detroit Bad Boys
Well, the Pistons are decidedly better than the Wizards, so there's that. Andre Drummond's minutes might just be creeping upward, which is most pleasing.
27 New Orleans Hornets 5-22 26 L: @GSW, @SAC, @SAS, IND At the Hive
Very much looking forward to the eventual return of Eric Gordon: excellent shooting guard who's incredibly fun to watch, and the demise of Eric Gordon: injured shooting guard who says dumb stuff and irritates everybody. The question is how eventual of a return we're talking about.
28 Cleveland Cavaliers 6-23 28 W: @MIL; L: @IND, MIL, @NYK Fear the Sword
Cleveland continues to be entertaining, even in losses. Praise be to Kyrie Irving. Meanwhile, these guys managed to take a win from Milwaukee without Anderson Varejao on the floor. Not a bad way to break a slide, and Tristan Thompson's play has been genuinely encouraging in Varejao's absence.
29 Charlotte Bobcats 7-20 29 L: @LAL, @PHO, @GSW, @DEN Rufus on Fire
Of all the layers of Charlotte's rapid demise, the "can't figure out how to get a shot off in 24 seconds" part is perhaps the most fascinating. Definitely not the most important, though. That'd be their defense. It no longer works at all.
30 Washington Wizards 3-22 30 L: ATL, @ORL, @DET, DET Bullets Forever
Welcome back, Shelvin Mack.
107 Juneau FrostDonkeys 0-0 104 -- None yet
Not really sure it's deserved, but Coach Biscuits got an extension for Christmas. As per team policy, details of the extension were not disclosed, but we're told he's being paid in treats again.

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