In the first of four highly anticipated matchups between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, it was the Pacers who came out on top after falling behind by double-digits early. Thanks to the victory, Indiana remains on top of this week's power rankings. There was a bit of shuffling in the rest of the top five, and there's now a new team bringing up the rear.
1. Indiana Pacers (20-3, Last week: 1)
Roy Hibbert just loves playing against Miami. Much like he did in last year's Eastern Conference Finals, Hibbert dominated down low, scoring 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the win on Tuesday. The Pacers followed up that big win with a narrow victory over the Bobcats, although Hibbert's night wasn't nearly as good:
I looked angry during the game its cause I used flexall/Bengay on my knees under my black tights. Somehow it got on my balls. Burned so bad— Roy Hibbert (@Hoya2aPacer) December 14, 2013
More on the Pacers: Indy Cornrows
2. San Antonio Spurs (19-4, Last week: 4)
The Spurs may not be on top of the Western Conference, but they earn this spot on the basis of their league-leading average point differential and net rating. San Antonio has won four in a row since a blowout loss to Indiana.
More on the Spurs: Pounding The Rock
3. Portland Trail Blazers (21-4, Last week: 2)
It's tough to drop the Blazers a spot considering they've also won four in a row and lead the West, but the Spurs are just that impressive right now. At any rate, Portland, and especially LaMarcus Aldridge, continue to be awesome. Damian Lillard also did cool stuff:
More on the Blazers: Blazer's Edge
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-4, Last week: 3)
Another team that drops a spot despite doing nothing wrong, although the Thunder did nearly blow a big fourth-quarter lead against the lowly Magic. But a win is a win, and Oklahoma City continues to roll right along, winners of six straight.
More on the Thunder: Welcome to Loud City
5. Miami Heat (17-6, Last week: 5)
The Big Three were in top form in a victory over LeBron James' old team on Saturday. James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 71 points, 27 rebounds and 13 assists while shooting 28-of-44 from the field in a win over Cleveland. Kind of tough to beat the Heat when those three dudes play like that.
More on the Heat: Hot Hot Hoops
6. Phoenix Suns (14-9, Last week: 11)
The Suns might just be the story of the year thus far. Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic are tearing teams apart and have helped lead Phoenix to five straight wins. Now, instead of playing for the lottery, the Suns are playing to win now and may look to swing a deal for an established player to aid a playoff push.
More on the Suns: Bright Side Of The Sun
7. Los Angeles Clippers (16-9, Last week: 7)
The Clippers stunk up the joint in Brooklyn on Thursday, so Chris Paul said enough was enough when his squad took the floor again over the weekend. In a 16-point win over the Wizards, Paul scored 38 points on just 14 shots, which is just ridiculous. CP3 also had 12 assists just for good measure.
More on the Clippers: Clips Nation
8. Houston Rockets (16-9, Last week: 6)
The Rockets drop two spots thanks to an up-and-down week that featured one reasonable loss and one bad loss. Houston lost by 15 to Sacramento on Sunday, but despite that, there was something to celebrate this week:
More on the Rockets: The Dream Shake
9. Denver Nuggets (14-9, Last week: 9)
The Nuggets bounced back from an ugly home loss to the Jazz with a win over New Orleans on Sunday. Nate Robinson had 14 points off the bench, which was reason enough to dance afterward.
More on the Nuggets: Denver Stiffs
10. Dallas Mavericks (14-10, Last week: 8)
After two straight losses earlier in the week, the Mavs got a boost from the return of Brandan Wright on Saturday. Wright had missed the entire season up to that point because of a shoulder injury, and in his season debut, he put up 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting in a win over Milwaukee. His PER after one game? 45.49.
More on the Mavs: Mavs Moneyball
11. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-12, Last week: 14)
Kevin Love returned to the team after missing some time for personal reasons, and he led the Wolves to a 3-1 record for the week. Love averaged 31.0 points and 13.5 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent overall and 58.6 percent from three in the four games.
More on the Wolves: Canis Hoopus
12. Golden State Warriors (13-12, Last week: 10)
The Warriors continue to scuffle along as they await the return of Andre Iguodala from a hamstring injury. Golden State lost three of four games last week, giving up 115 points to the offensively challenged Bobcats in one of the losses. Luckily, Stephen Curry saved the Warriors from a winless week:
More on the Warriors: Golden State Of Mind
13. New Orleans Pelicans (11-11, Last week: 17)
The Pelicans have done a respectable job not falling apart without star Anthony Davis in the lineup, going 3-3 in the big man's absence thus far. Davis hopes to return from a hand injury in the next couple weeks or so, and if New Orleans can stay afloat during a particularly grueling stretch of upcoming games, they'll be in good shape when he comes back.
More on the Pelicans: The Bird Writes
14. Atlanta Hawks (12-12, Last week: 12)
The Hawks shot 60.6 percent overall and made 15 three-pointers against the Knicks on Saturday...and lost. Atlanta turned the ball over 27 times in the game, which is a high in the NBA this season.
More on the Hawks: Peachtree Hoops
15. Los Angeles Lakers (11-12, Last week: 13)
Kobe Bryant is still struggling with turnovers as he returns from an Achilles injury, but he put forth his best effort of the season in a win over the Bobcats on Saturday. Bryant had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds while shooting 8-of-15 from the field in the victory:
More on the Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll
16. Toronto Raptors (9-13, Last week: 22)
The Raptors rid themselves of the enormous Rudy Gay contract, and they've won three of four games since the deal. Playing well might not exactly be in the plans for this season, which is why more trades may be on the horizon. Expect Kyle Lowry to get dealt soon.
More on the Raptors: Raptors HQ
17. Detroit Pistons (11-14, Last week: 15)
Josh Smith scored an efficient 31 points on just 17 shots in a heartbreaking loss to the Blazers on Sunday, but Smith hasn't exactly been the model of efficiency this year. In the spirit of the season, Kevin McCallister has some thoughts about Smith's year thus far (via @sean_corp):
More on the Pistons: Detroit Bad Boys
18. Boston Celtics (11-14, Last week: 19)
The Celtics still remain on top of the Atlantic Division, but the Raptors are creeping up behind them. Rajon Rondo is nearing a return from an ACL injury, and he's expected back on the court sometime in January.
More on the Celtics: CelticsBlog
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-14, Last week: 24)
The Cavs are starting to look like the playoff contender many expected them to be heading into the season. Cleveland's only loss last week came on the road in Miami, a game which was competitive throughout. Kyrie Irving had back-to-back 30-point games in two victories.
More on the Cavs: Fear The Sword
20. Washington Wizards (9-13, Last week: 16)
The Wizards have truly been all over the map this season. Washington appeared ready to possibly stake a claim as the third-best team in the East, but since reaching .500 two weeks ago, they've lost four games in a row and have generally looked really bad doing it.
More on the Wizards: Bullets Forever
21. Charlotte Bobcats (10-14, Last week: 20)
The Bobcats looked like an offensive juggernaut during a recent two-game winning streak, but the offense has gone back down the drain in the last three contests, all losses. Charlotte is averaging 87.3 points during the three-game losing streak.
More on the Bobcats: Rufus On Fire
22. Memphis Grizzlies (10-13, Last week: 21)
The Grizzlies are free-falling down the standings as the injuries continue to pile up. Memphis has lost three games in a row and lost Quincy Pondexter for the season with a fractured foot. It's just not the Grizzlies' season.
More on the Grizzlies: Grizzly Bear Blues
23. Sacramento Kings (7-15, Last week: 23)
Rudy Gay has looked good in his first two games with the Kings, scoring 50 points combined and shooting 56.3 percent from the field in the process. In fact, the threesome of Gay, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas has meshed pretty well, so maybe there's something to this?
More on the Kings: Sactown Royalty
24. Brooklyn Nets (8-15, Last week: 26)
The Nets have shown some signs of life with Deron Williams back in the lineup. Brooklyn looked extremely impressive in a victory over the Clippers on TNT Thursday night, dominating for most of the night after a slow start. In the game, Williams did this to Chris Paul:
More on the Nets: NetsDaily
25. New York Knicks (7-16, Last week: 25)
The Knicks continue to be an excellent source of entertainment. From blowing late leads to owner James Dolan vetoing trades, you never know what's coming next in New York. But for all the Knicks' struggles, they remain just three games out of first place in the Atlantic Division.
More on the Knicks: Posting and Toasting
26. Chicago Bulls (9-13, Last week: 18)
The Bulls very well could be the least watchable team in the NBA right now. The offense just stinks, as Chicago has managed to reach 80 points just once in the last five games. In the one game they did score more than 80, they needed a miracle from Mike Dunleavy to pull out a win over the horrible Bucks:
More on the Bulls: Blog a Bull
27. Orlando Magic (7-17, Last week: 28)
The Magic finally ended their seven-game losing streak, beating the Bobcats last Wednesday. However, a new losing streak has begun. Orlando will have a good chance to keep that streak from getting to three when they face the struggling Bulls on Monday.
More on the Magic: Orlando Pinstriped Post
28. Utah Jazz (6-20, Last week: 30)
The Jazz are out of the cellar! The Jazz are out of the cellar! Utah's offense has been bad for much of the year, but they exploded during a two-game winning streak last week, averaging 112.5 points. Gordon Hayward had his best game of the year in a win over the Nuggets, going for 30 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
More on the Jazz: SLC Dunk
29. Philadelphia 76ers (7-18, Last week: 27)
The Sixers creep closer and closer to the spot many people figured they'd populate for much of the year. Philadelphia has lost six games in a row and gave up a whopping 139 spot to Portland over the weekend.
More on the Sixers: Liberty Ballers
30. Milwaukee Bucks (5-19, Last week: 29)
The Bucks are really awful and take over the bottom spot in the rankings. But let's focus on something positive, shall we? Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds over the last three games, so that should give Bucks fans reason to smile.
More on the Bucks: Brew Hoop