NBA power rankings: Clippers, Thunder, Spurs, Heat have good weeks

USA TODAY Sports

The NBA's royalty all fared well and remain near the top of this week's NBA power rankings.

It was a mostly solid week for top NBA teams like the Clippers, Thunder, Spurs and Heat. Meanwhile, some middle-of-the-road teams, including those grappling for the bottom playoff seeds in the West, began to scramble a bit. As always, if you object to any of these NBA power rankings, you're probably right.

Rank Team Record Prev. Rank Last Week
SB Nation Blog
1 Los Angeles Clippers 32-9 1 W: @MEM, @HOU, @MIN, WAS Clips Nation
It's a testament to the Clippers' depth (and...Vinny Del Negro's coaching?) that they pushed through a three-game road trip without Chris Paul in the lineup. Paul returned right on time to guide L.A. through a choppy performance against the Wizards. The fact that lineups with Grant Hill still aren't quite clicking shows that the Clippers' depth isn't merely having a whole bunch of good players; they've struck a fine balance.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder 32-9 2 W: @PHO, DEN @DAL; L: @DEN Welcome to Loud City
They're not coasting or anything, but the Thunder seemed to relax a bit this week following a dominant defensive stretch, and the bench scoring has dwindled a bit.
3 San Antonio Spurs 32-11 3 W: MEM, GSW, @ATL Pounding the Rock
On Saturday, Matt Bonner arose from the bench in Tim Duncan's absence to hit three threes in rapid succession, convincing me therein that we should #LetMattShoot. Meanwhile, the Spurs have looked just fine without Manu Ginobili and in that one game in Atlanta sans Duncan.
4 Miami Heat 26-12 4 W: @GSW, @LAL; L: @UTA Hot Hot Hoops
FINALLY.
5 Denver Nuggets
25-18 5 W: POR, OKC; L: @OKC, WAS Denver Stiffs
The Nuggets got their revenge on the Thunder at home after a thoroughly meek performance in Oklahoma City. That was nice, but it doesn't wipe away the gaping hole the Wizards poked in Denver's pristine home record earlier in the week. A bit of transparency: I feel as if the Nuggets should drop from last week's rankings, but: 1. None of the teams below them feel legitimately top-five to me at the moment. 2. I accidentally typed their record as "225-8" before, and that really shed some light on this team's potential.
6 Golden State Warriors 24-15 7 W: @NOH; L: MIA, @SAS Golden State of Mind
The lesson this week is that Stephen Curry really needs to stay healthy. Even accounting for tough opponents, the offense turned pretty sour without him.
7 New York Knicks 25-13 8 W: @DET Posting and Toasting
The Knicks' mid-season trip was perfectly timed, allowing them the off-days necessary to rest some minute-laden starters, get Iman Shumpert ready for a superb debut in London and knock some days out of Raymond Felton's hand fracture recovery timetable. With Shumpert back and Felton close, the Knicks now run into a busier stretch, including important in-division rematches with the Nets and Celtics
8 Memphis Grizzlies
26-13 6 W: SAC, @CHI; L: LAC, @SAS Straight Outta Vancouver
Whether I understand the Grizzlies' desire to make a trade, I definitely don't understand their decision to just ooze trade rumors to the public. Damn near every important player on the roster has to be on edge right now, and it's not like this is the offseason. They have to play games.
9 Indiana Pacers 25-16 9 W: CHA, @HOU; L: @ORL Indy Cornrows
It feels like above-average Pacer offensive performances are happening on a more frequent basis. Such outings are still irregular, rare on the road, and generally against teams that suck at defense anyway, but they're still way up from that awful first month, and the league's best defense has somehow improved in the new year.
10 Brooklyn Nets 24-16 11 W: TOR, ATL; L: @ATL Nets Daily
Brooklyn's momentum is about to collide with a tough schedule to close January: four of six games on the road, four of six games against teams currently .500 or better. They've been very sharp since P.J. Carlesimo took over, and cruising into February would cut some of the remaining doubt.
11 Chicago Bulls 23-16 12 W: ATL, @TOR, @BOS; L: MEM Blog a Bull
I don't quite know how to explain the Bulls' wildly disparate home/road records: 12-5 away vs. 11-11 at home is bizarre, especially for a good team. I've never really been to Chicago, but I was in the Chicago airport last month and it's got the fanciest toilets I'VE EVER SEEN. Gotta be significant.
12 Houston Rockets 21-21 10 L: LAC, @IND, @MIN The Dream Shake
Failing to defend is nothing new, but now the Rockets are struggling to hit anything. That includes James Harden, who's 23 of his last 80 from the field. The team as a whole is still tending toward efficient shot choices, but they're taking slightly fewer looks at the rim while attempting (and missing) more threes and missing nearly all those rare shots from intermediate ranges. Recent history dictates that the Rockets'll turn this around out of the blue, but we'll see.
13 Milwaukee Bucks
21-18 16 W: @PHO, @POR; L: @LAL Brew Hoop
Come to think of it, the Bucks kinda remind me of last year's Knicks. They're bizarre, streaky, and prone to getting other teams' coaches fired (while having their own "quit" in the process). Anyway, nice road trip.
14 Utah Jazz
22-19 17 W: MIA, CLE SLC Dunk
The Jazz are rolling and their schedule ahead looks pretty manageable. If anyone above them in the West continues to slip, Utah's waiting to pounce on a top-six spot.
15 Atlanta Hawks 22-18 14 W: BRO; L: @CHI, @BRO, SAS Peachtree Hoops
With Lou Williams done for the year, Devin Harris nursing a freshly rolled ankle, and DeShawn Stevenson and Anthony Morrow still on the mend, the Hawks are now down to ... what, two healthy backcourt players? Good news for the promising and prolific John Jenkins, not so good news for Atlanta's positioning in the East. (Given how neatly and sharply the East halves over the playoff dividing line, a team like Atlanta probably doesn't need to worry about slipping out of the picture, but seeding's gonna count a lot down the road.)
16 Boston Celtics
20-20 13 W: CHA; L: NOH, CHI, @DET Celtics Blog
Whoaaawhoawhoa, the rims have tightened and things have turned sour again in a hurry.
17 Portland Trail Blazers
20-20 15 L: @DEN, CLE, MIL Blazer's Edge
Portland's rapid slide does not come at a convenient juncture. After facing the Wizards Monday night (no longer a cakewalk), the Blazers have a really difficult couple of weeks ahead, including the Pacers, a home-and-home with the Clippers, a home-and-home with the Jazz, and a six-game mid-February road trip.
18 Dallas Mavericks
18-24 22 W: MIN, HOU, @ORL; L: OKC Mavs Moneyball
Man, the Mavericks just need to avoid overtimes and they'll be golden. But yeah, after winning five of six and watching a couple teams ahead of them slide, the Mavericks have to feel genuinely encouraged that they might compete for a playoff spot. That certainly wasn't the case even just a few weeks ago.
19 Los Angeles Lakers 17-22 18 W: MIL; L: MIA, @TOR Silver Screen and Roll
My word, what a delicious mess. The defense is not just bad these days, but unabashedly token. Each Laker appears to be working on an assignment until any single molecule of activity -- a screen, an individual breakdown, a loose ball -- exposes that hardly anybody is actually paying attention out there.
20 Minnesota Timberwolves 17-20 19 W: HOU; L: @DAL, LAC Canis Hoopus
Hey, how about some splendid Timberwolf debuts for Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale in the slide-breaking win over Houston? They're active and defensively useful and, above all else, they are sound in skeleton and musculature for the time being. That sets them apart from, oh, every one of their teammates.
21 Detroit Pistons 15-25 20 W: BOS, L: NYK Detroit Bad Boys
I just watched my favorite team blow out the Pistons and came away feeling like it would have been a close game had Andre Drummond played, say, ten more minutes. That he was minus-12 in that game does not support my feeling, but who do you trust: the guy who just ate a Swedish Fish he found between the couch cushions or "math"?
22 Philadelphia 76ers 17-23 22 W: TOR, L: @NOH Liberty Ballers
The season's second opportunity to use this masterpiece!
23 Toronto Raptors 14-26 23 W: LAL; L: @BRO, CHI, @PHI Raptors HQ
The Raps have kinda reverted to breaking their fans' hearts with late-game collapses. They tried to do that again with the Lakers visiting, but L.A.'s just too bad.
24 New Orleans Hornets 13-27 25 W: @PHI, @BOS; L: GSW At the Hive
What could have been an undefeated week fell to some shoddy play-calling down the stretch of a narrow loss to the Warriors. Watching Eric Gordon go iso up the middle for the tie-breaking attempt saddened me just as much as watching Jason Smith commit a moving screen on the next crucial possession. (And of course, the Hornets worked to get Greivis Vasquez a genuinely good look on the next play, but that missed, too).
25 Sacramento Kings 16-25 27 W: CLE, WAS, @CHA; L: @MEM Sactown Royalty
Doesn't seem like people are too preoccupied with the actual basketball at this point (and for good reason), but the Kings had a pretty solid week that included a big comeback over the Wizards and survival in a very, very ugly game in Charlotte.
26 Orlando Magic
14-26 24 W: IND; L: @WAS, CHA, DAL Orlando Pinstriped Post
Orlando began the season as a mediocre team that could still lock opponents down with some regularity, but their defense has backslid pretty hard.
27 Washington Wizards 8-30 28 W: ORL, @DEN; L: @SAC, @LAC Bullets Forever
Washington is decidedly not a pushover team anymore with John Wall's minutes climbing and Bradley Beal finding his stride. They are still quite capable of, like, bazookaing themselves in the foot, though, with late unforced errors in a close game (shoulda had the Kings and coulda had the Clippers).
28 Phoenix Suns 13-28 26 L: OKC, MIL Bright Side of the Sun
While I'm not convinced Alvin Gentry was the problem at all, I've seen enough coaching changes in my neck of the woods to expect a little burst from the Suns under Lindsey Hunter.
29 Cleveland Cavaliers 10-32 29 W: @POR; L: @SAC, @UTA Fear the Sword
It's been nice to see Dion Waiters attack the rim a bit more, even through illness over the weekend. I know Cavs fans took extra pleasure in watching Kyrie Irving dominate Damian Lillard in Cleveland's lone win of the week, too.
30 Charlotte Bobcats 10-30 30 W: ORL; L: @BOS, IND, SAC Rufus on Fire
I'm hard-pressed to think of another team that's this dependent on its backcourt to produce and this utterly doomed when big men are even touching the ball on crucial possessions. The Cats did win a game this week, though.
98 Juneau FrostDonkeys 0-0 88 -- None yet
Inspired by the league's decision to send the Knicks and Pistons to London for a game, recently hired Donks GM Vic de la Spam tried to host a game at his private, floating compound in the Society Islands. Juneau couldn't find a willing opponent, though (no other organization even took their calls), and opted to take a team bonding trip by themselves. When the team kayak moored at Isla de la Spam, the Donks found that not only was the island completely barren except for a towering mound of rabbit skeletons, but their GM-- with whom ownership had only communicated via Twitter-- did not exist and was the sinister creation of recently deposed GM Swishy "Dave" Househunter. Anyway, some of the FrostDonkeys ate most of the other other FrostDonkeys, so Juneau is now a prime landing spot for free agents.

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