NBA power rankings, Week 12: Clippers stay in front, Nuggets surge

USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers remain on top in this week's NBA power rankings, but the Nuggets' recent hot streak has them climbing up the list.

The same team remains on top of this week's NBA power rankings, but a Western Conference club is rising at the right time. On to this week's rankings:

Rank Team Record Prev. Rank Last Week
SB Nation Blog
1 Los Angeles Clippers 28-9 1 W: DAL, L: ORL Clips Nation
The Clips' thin schedule continued with just a narrow victory over Dallas and a narrow upset loss to the visiting Magic this week. It's nice to finally have Grant Hill on the floor, though L.A.'s finely tuned bench looked like it'll need a little time to adjust to his presence.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder 29-8 3 W: MIN, @LAL, @POR; L: @WAS Welcome to Loud City
The Thunder have been winning recent games with their defense, which doesn't seem like something they should be allowed to do because that's not fair. Oh, and the guy on their bench who I thought was Royal Ivey turned out to be DeAndre Liggins this whole time. Also not fair.
3 San Antonio Spurs
29-11 2 W: LAL, MIN; L: @NOH, @MEM Pounding the Rock
It doesn't seem like anybody's that worried about the turnover issues or the stretches of lifeless play, but those have definitely been things. Meanwhile, as I write this, Manu Ginobili just interrupted a really solid stretch of play with a hamstring injury, severity not yet known.
4 Miami Heat 24-11 4 W: WAS, @SAC; L: IND, POR Hot Hot Hoops
I've been trying to decide whether a movie about this stretch of the Heat season would be called "Courting Birdman," "Considering Oden," or "Cutting Then Re-Signing Jorts." I just know "Finally Getting Fed Up With All the Opponent Rebounds" is a little wordy for my liking.
5 Denver Nuggets 23-16 8 W: ORL, CLE, GSW Denver Stiffs
Denver's on a roll, undoing all those early road troubles with dominant performance at home. Wilson Chandler's return gives George Karl another versatile defender to play with (and someone else to finish inside/miss lots of jumpers).
6 Memphis Grizzlies 24-11 7 W: SAC, @GSW, SAS; L: DAL Straight Outta Vancouver
We can chalk that miserable loss in Dallas up to tiredness, right? It's always fascinating to see how a team performs amid trade rumors, and the Grizzlies have been pretty solid.
7 Golden State Warriors 23-13 6 W: POR; L: MEM, @DEN Golden State of Mind
These bigger, inside-oriented teams have made a habit of feasting on Golden State's Bogut-lessness (and, most recently, Biedrins-lessness).
8 New York Knicks 24-13 5 W: NOH; L: BOS, @IND, CHI Posting and Toasting
New York's defense is as it was: pretty bad. But now the offense is spotty, too. Jason Kidd's play as the starting point guard is making it clear that he's a better fit off the ball, and the rest of the scorers are suffering a bit without Raymond Felton's ability to draw help. A thin schedule coming up (while they travel to London) is just what New York needs to kill time and get healthy.
9 Indiana Pacers 23-15 10 W: MIA, NYK, CHA; L: @BRO Indy Cornrows
Now that it is winning with some consistency, Indiana is kinda out-Grizzly-ing the Grizzlies. Its offense is much worse and its games are even uglier, but that defense can render opponents even more helpless. (Well, not the Nets this week. Their offense looked pretty OK.)
10 Houston Rockets 21-17 9 W: LAL; L: @NOH, @BOS, @PHI The Dream Shake
The Rockets are pretty erratic, and a combination of regular turnovers and irregular scoring lapses made for a pretty stinky road trip. Houston's been dismantling Eastern Conference teams this season, but even Philly and Boston took care of them this week.
11 Brooklyn Nets 22-15 13 W: @PHI, PHO, IND Nets Daily
The Nets continued to dominate inferior competition this week, then tacked on a win over the Pacers with some huge offensive spurts.
12 Chicago Bulls 20-15 12 W: CLE, @NYK; L: MIL, PHO Blog a Bull

The Bulls run a pretty disciplined offense, but their ability to execute that offense brilliantly one night and miss damn near everything the next is pretty impressive. They've also been letting teams shoot better and possess the ball longer than they were earlier in the season.

13 Boston Celtics 19-17 16 W: @NYK, PHO, HOU Celtics Blog
OK, I get what y'all were saying about Avery Bradley coming back. Helps to have the bench coalescing all at once, too.
14 Atlanta Hawks 21-15 11 W: UTA; L: @MIN, @CLE, @WAS Peachtree Hoops
Is it just the tight, road-heavy stretch of schedule killing the Hawks, or is something genuinely wrong with their defense?
15 Portland Trail Blazers 20-17 14 W: ORL, MIA; L: @GSW, OKC Blazer's Edge
Gahhhhh why y'all gotta go to a long LaMarcus Aldridge two with a win over OKC on the line?
16 Milwaukee Bucks 19-17 17 W: PHO, @CHI, @TOR; L: DET Brew Hoop
Since I have nothing remotely trenchant to say about the league's weirdest, most maddening team, I'll just say that it's awesome to see Larry Sanders not just terrorizing the painted area, but changing games with his propensity to terrorize the painted area. Related: here's our Larry Sanders Q&A!
17 Utah Jazz 20-19 18 W: DAL, @CHA, @DET; L: @ATL SLC Dunk
It's nice to see Alec Burks settling into a regular role even as Randy Foye continues to shoot well. The olds needn't exclude the youngs. And hey, Utah's back over .500!
18 Los Angeles Lakers 16-21 19 W: CLE; L: @HOU, @SAS, @OKC Silver Screen and Roll
We'll see how that defense does against teams that aren't that Cavs, but having Dwight Howard back in a timely fashion and Earl Clark stepping into open minutes and actually producing bodes well ... right?
19 Minnesota Timberwolves 16-18 15 W: ATL; L: @OKC, @NOH, @SAS Canis Hoopus
Yikes. This is an old yikes, but these are new, problematic yikeses. Injuries suck, and so does a tough schedule.
20 Detroit Pistons 14-24 20 W: @MIL; L: UTA Detroit Bad Boys
Detroit's had a rough few games, including a blown lead AND a blown comeback against Utah, dampening a bit of its momentum heading into the London trip. It is gaining ground in the East, though, by playing near-.500 ball since that awful start.
22 Dallas Mavericks 15-23 24 W: @SAC, MEM; L: @UTA, LAC Mavs Moneyball
Very interested to see whether or not the Mavericks make a move and, if they do, whether it's something to try and sneak into the playoffs or clearing out with the long con in mind.
22 Philadelphia 76ers 16-22 22 W: HOU; L: BRO, @TOR Liberty Ballers
Oh, there's Royal Ivey!
23 Toronto Raptors 14-23 23 W: PHI, CHA; L: MIL Raptors HQ
For all Toronto's backcourt issues -- Kyle Lowry has not been Kyle Lowry -- it's fun to watch Ed Davis and Amir Johnson work off each other in the paint.
24 Orlando Magic 13-23 26 W: @LAC; L: @POR, @DEN Orlando Pinstriped Post
Injuries and malaise have dropped the Magic all the way out of "hey, not totally impossible for them to make the playoffs" segment of the East, but that win over the Clippers was a great time. I just don't think this team is nearly as bad as it ... is, but here we are.
25 New Orleans Hornets 11-26 27 W: SAS, HOU, MIN; L: @NYK At the Hive
Things kinda fell apart after the first quarter in New York, but the Hornets have looked much sharper since Eric Gordon's return, even without him doing anything particularly special yet on offense. Rather, a bad defensive team's work on that end of the floor has picked up considerably (folks playing their natural positions helps) in his presence.
26 Phoenix Suns 13-26 25 W: @CHI; L: @MIL, @BOS, @BRO Bright Side of the Sun
Phoenix interrupted a stretch of abject misery with a shocking win over the Bulls, but ... yeah, stretch of abject misery.
27 Sacramento Kings
13-24 21 L: MEM, DAL, MIA Sactown Royalty
Would've been kinda cool if the Kings had reeled off a big home win streak to offer some on-court support for the campaign to keep 'em in Sacramento, but no such luck.
28 Washington Wizards 6-28 30 W: OKC, ATL Bullets Forever
What a week! Not only did John Wall return, but Bradley Beal put in some of the brightest minutes of his rookie season. And they beat the Thunder! And the Hawks! The Wizards!
29 Cleveland Cavaliers 9-30 29 W: ATL; L: @CHI, @DEN, @LAL Fear the Sword
With Kyrie Irving being Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson continuing to produce encouraging numbers, it'd be really nice for Dion Waiters to step up and join in the young, promising pieces party, but no such luck, at least not recently.
30 Charlotte Bobcats 9-27 28 L: UTA, TOR, @IND Rufus on Fire
Back to losing out after all of last week's excitement. Getting badly out-rebounded in each of the last two games didn't help. A team that gives up a lot of first-chance points can't afford to surrender second-chance points as well. Too generous, Cats.
88 Juneau FrostDonkeys 0-0 73 -- None yet
Leave it to new Donks GM Q-Flavor Snax to put an early taint on trade season by offering draft picks Junea didn't even have to the Pacers in exchange for a tray of crudites.

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