The Miami Heat's run at the top was short-lived thanks to a stretch of absolutely dominant play by the Indiana Pacers. Can we just fast forward to the Eastern Conference Finals?
1. Indiana Pacers (24-5, Last week: 2)
Since losing to the Heat, the Pacers have won four games in a row by an average of 22.3 points. Indiana is tops in the NBA in both average point differential and net rating, so yeah, I'd say they deserve to be back in the top slot.
More on the Pacers: Indy Cornrows
2. Miami Heat (23-7, Last week: 1)
The Heat suffered a tough loss on the road against the Kings, but they bounced back the next night with a huge win over the Blazers despite not having LeBron James in the lineup. Just how did they do it? Chris Bosh, that's how:
More on the Heat: Hot Hot Hoops
3. Portland Trail Blazers (24-6, Last week: 4)
Losing to the LeBron-less Heat at home wasn't a good look, but they did come up with a thrilling overtime victory over the Clippers a few nights before. Overtime wouldn't have been possible without this clutch three from Nicolas Batum:
More on the Blazers: Blazer's Edge
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-5, Last week: 3)
Yes, the Thunder have the NBA's best record and just took the Rockets to the woodshed. But I simply had to drop them one spot because of the Russell Westbrook injury. There has been little drop off yet, but despite the improvement of Reggie Jackson, I expect there to be some going forward.
More on the Thunder: Welcome to Loud City
5. San Antonio Spurs (24-7, Last week: 5)
The Spurs went 3-1 last week, but in the high profile matchup on Christmas against the Rockets, things went very poorly. San Antonio gave up 40 points in the first quarter and while they did make a run, still lost by 13 on their home court. So a troubling trend of losing to the NBA's other top teams continues.
More on the Spurs: Pounding The Rock
6. Los Angeles Clippers (21-11, Last week: 6)
I highlighted Blake Griffin's strong play in last week's power rankings, and he only did better this past week, although the Clippers did go just 1-2. Griffin scored 75 points in his last two outings and is now averaging a tick under 22 points per game.
More on the Clippers: Clips Nation
7. Houston Rockets (21-12, Last week: 8)
The Rockets were absolutely woeful in a loss to the Thunder on Sunday, but it's hard to blame them considering it was their fourth game in five days. Houston had won three games in a row prior to that beat down, including the aforementioned huge win over San Antonio on Christmas.
More on the Rockets: The Dream Shake
8. Golden State Warriors (19-13, Last week: 9)
The Warriors continue to look more and more legit with Andre Iguodala back in the lineup. Golden State beat the Clippers on Christmas and followed that up with arguably their most impressive win of the season, a 115-86 thrashing of Phoenix. Just how much does Iggy help?:
GSW's defense was 18th among teams during the period Iguodala missed. 2nd among teams since the date he returned— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) December 30, 2013
More on the Warriors: Golden State Of Mind
9. Phoenix Suns (18-11, Last week: 7)
The Suns had won three games in a row prior to the ugly loss to the Warriors, so that was quite the let down. However, Phoenix got back to their winning ways the next night against Philadelphia and looked good doing it.
More on the Suns: Bright Side Of The Sun
10. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-15, Last week: 13)
Kevin Love is just silly good right now. Like, absurdly good. Since missing a game against the Heat due to personal reasons, Love has notched at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in nine of 10 games. In the one game he didn't grab 10 boards, he had 30 points and nine rebounds. Unreal stuff.
More on the Wolves: Canis Hoopus
11. Dallas Mavericks (17-13, Last week: 11)
It was tough for me to put the Mavs behind the Wolves considering they had a solid week, but Minnesota does have a better average point differential and net rating. Also, Kevin Love.
More on the Mavs: Mavs Moneyball
12. Toronto Raptors (13-15, Last week: 14)
Thanks to Al Horford's pectoral injury, the Raptors may very well be the third-best team in the dumpster fire known as the Eastern Conference. Kyle Lowry teased Knicks fans by putting up 32 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds at Madison Square Garden.
More on the Raptors: Raptors HQ
13. New Orleans Pelicans (13-15, Last week: 16)
Tyreke Evans made his return to Sacramento last week, and he had his best game of the season. The former King torched his old quad to the tune of 25 points, 12 assists and six rebounds in a 113-100 victory.
More on the Pelicans: The Bird Writes
14. Washington Wizards (13-14, Last week: 15)
The Wizards played two games this past week, and they couldn't have been more different. On Friday night, Washington was subject to a beating at the hands of Kevin Love and Minnesota. The following evening, the Wizards blasted the Pistons by 24 points.
More on the Wizards: Bullets Forever
15. Atlanta Hawks (17-14, Last week: 10)
The Al Horford injury is simply devastating. The Hawks were playing some excellent ball before Horford went down, and now they're destined for mediocrity. On a more positive note, Kyle Korver has now hit a three in 100 straight games.
More on the Hawks: Peachtree Hoops
16. Denver Nuggets (14-15, Last week: 12)
The Nuggets went 1-4 in their first five games. They then went 10-2 over the next 12 games. Since that point? 3-9 and a six-game losing streak. Ouch.
More on the Nuggets: Denver Stiffs
17. Charlotte Bobcats (14-17, Last week: 17)
The Bobcats have been involved in some really tight games of late. Two overtime finishes in the last week and a third game that came down to the wire against Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, two of the games were losses and the third was a tight overtime victory against the hapless Bucks.
More on the Bobcats: Rufus On Fire
18. Detroit Pistons (14-18, Last week: 18)
Hey, so this Josh Smith thing isn't going too well. There was a recent stretch that was pretty good, but Smith has nine points in the last two games combined and was benched...again. Yikes.
More on the Pistons: Detroit Bad Boys
19. Boston Celtics (13-17, Last week: 20)
The Celtics played just one game last week, a 103-100 victory over the reeling Cavaliers. Brandon Bass made a key play late, blocking a potential game-tying layup by Dion Waiters:
More on the Celtics: CelticsBlog
20. Memphis Grizzlies (13-16, Last week: 21)
After falling a season-high five games below .500 nearly two weeks ago, the Grizzlies have won three of four, including a dominant win over the Nuggets in their last contest. Marc Gasol could return from an MCL sprain in early January, so perhaps there's some hope for Memphis?
More on the Grizzlies: Grizzly Bear Blues
21. Chicago Bulls (11-17, Last week: 22)
The short-handed Bulls returned to the Barclays Center for the first time since the short-handed Bulls beat the Nets in a Game 7 in the playoffs...and promptly clowned the Nets again on Christmas Day. Chicago used a big third quarter run to take control and also had some highlight reel plays, including this one from Taj Gibson:
More on the Bulls: Blog a Bull
22. Sacramento Kings (9-20, Last week: 24)
The Kings nearly had themselves quite the weekend to remember. After beating the two-time defending champion Heat on Friday, Sacramento was up six heading into the fourth quarter against San Antonio on Sunday. But alas, the Spurs dominated the final frame to spoil it.
More on the Kings: Sactown Royalty
23. Orlando Magic (10-20, Last week: 27)
The Magic have taken a brief reprieve from stinking up the joint, tallying two straight impressive wins. Arron Afflalo continues to play absolutely marvelous basketball, posting an average of 24.0 points over the last four games while shooting 61.8 percent overall and 73.3 percent from three.
More on the Magic: Orlando Pinstriped Post
24. Los Angeles Lakers (13-18, Last week: 19)
The Lakers are an absolute mess right now. Seemingly everybody is hurt, with Xavier Henry the latest to suffer an injury. Some may want to blame Mike D'Antoni for some of the embarrassing efforts of late, but he simply doesn't have the horses to compete.
More on the Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-20, Last week: 23)
The Cavs had looked like they were starting to find a bit of a groove, but now things are starting to spiral out of control. Cleveland has lost five in a row and the Andrew Bynum situation has gone south, with the team suspending the big man for conduct detrimental to the team. Bynum is now on the trading block and may have played his last game in a Cavs uniform.
More on the Cavs: Fear The Sword
26. Brooklyn Nets (10-20, Last week: 26)
The Nets were the first of the two New York teams to embarrass themselves with their aforementioned beat down at the hands of the Bulls on Christmas Day. Head coach Jason Kidd seemingly threw in the towel in the third quarter, just adding to the list of questionable decisions the first-year headmaster has made this season:
More on the Nets: NetsDaily
27. New York Knicks (9-21, Last week: 25)
It's tough to win games without your best player, but the Knicks have barely competed in the last couple of games without Carmelo Anthony. First there was the Christmas trouncing at the hands of the Thunder, then there was an ugly home-and-home sweep against the Raptors, Andrea Bargnani's former team. Speaking of Bargnani:
Bargs being Bargs. pic.twitter.com/2kgcRVGSsk— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) December 30, 2013
More on the Knicks: Posting and Toasting
28. Utah Jazz (9-24, Last week: 28)
A somewhat non-descript week for the Jazz, who went 1-2. The one win was rather exciting though, with Derrick Favors beating the Lakers in the final seconds:
More on the Jazz: SLC Dunk
29. Philadelphia 76ers (9-21, Last week: 30)
The Sixers ended a 13-game road losing streak on Sunday with a win over the almost equally awful Lakers. Thaddeus Young has been killing it of late, averaging 24.8 points and 7.8 rebounds over the last five games.
More on the Sixers: Liberty Ballers
30. Milwaukee Bucks (6-24, Last week: 29)
The Bucks slip back down to the last slot in these rankings thanks to a three-game losing streak that featured a double-digit point loss to Brooklyn. Considering how bad the Nets have been playing, that's grounds for punishment.
More on the Bucks: Brew Hoop