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NBA power rankings, Week 7: Spurs, Thunder surge back on top

The Spurs and Thunder are at the top of this week's NBA Power Rankings, while the Lakers continued to tumble.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Get yer rank'ems here. As usual, if you object to any of the rankings, you're probably right.

Rank Team Record Prev. Rank Last Week
SB Nation Blog
1 San Antonio Spurs 17-4 1 W: MIL, HOU, @CHA Po Unding Ther Ock
The Spurs hardly perspired in three blowout wins over meek opponents this week. They're cruising short-handed and just slathering their bench bros head to toe in royal jelly in the process.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder 17-4 3 W: @BRO, LAL, IND Welco Me Tolo Udcity
It's amazing how Oklahoma City's offense remains unmistakably the best in the NBA, yet anecdotally, it doesn't seem to be operating quite at maximum force. It just doesn't matter. The Pacers' terrific defense gave OKC genuine trouble on Sunday and the Thunder still messed around and dropped 104 points on them (in a very slow game). Those guys are terrifying.
3 New York Knicks 15-5 6 W: @CHA, @MIA, DEN; L: @CHI Pos Ting and To a Sting
New York gamely handled a tough stretch, taking three wins out of four games in five nights, three of which were on the road and two of which were played without Carmelo Anthony and his lacerated finger. After opening the season dominantly, New York's defense has settled into on-and-off success, but their offense -- particularly with Jason Kidd in the lineup -- has yet to really falter for any prolonged period.
4 Memphis Grizzlies 14-4 2 W: PHO, @NOH; L: ATL St. Raight O Ut Tavanc O Uver
Memphis has a relatively easy December schedule after their tough but successful November. After collapsing against the Spurs last week, they got a meager bench performance and flopped against the Hawks. Other than that, it has been and will continue to be a run of opponents below the Grizzlies' echelon (they survived underwhelming performances against the Hornets and Suns this week) so it might be tough to gauge if and how much they're slipping. One item of note: one of the league's best turnover differential teams has lost that battle in each of its last four games.
5 Los Angeles Clippers 14-6 7 W: @UTA, DAL, PHO, TOR Clipsnat Ion
L.A. is steamrolling a soft part of the schedule and saving their starters' legs in the process. That deep, deep bench is finishing the Clippers' wins for them, and that includes Lamar Odom, who's been refreshingly productive and versatile in increased minutes over the last week or two.
6 Miami Heat 13-5 4 W: NOH; L: @WAS, NYK Ho Tho Thoops
Miami's lack of defensive effort finally caught up to them in those embarrassing back-to-back losses to Washington and New York. All that has got Erik Spoelstra turning some dials on his rotation -- in some respects, to make it resemble last year's look a bit more. Newcomer Rashard Lewis is back in DNP-ville while Joel Anthony's minutes are creeping upward. Udonis Haslem's been starting, even with Shane Battier back in uniform. More than any tinkering, though, the Heat may have just needed some actual humiliating defeats -- instead of just narrow victories over weak opponents -- to jolt them into a more personnel-appropriate defensive effort. All that said, Miami amassed a 13-5 record with the switch clearly flipped off. "Score and leave the defense for later" only hurt them so much up to this point.
7 Atlanta Hawks 12-5 8 W: DEN, WAS, @MEM Pea Cht Re eHoops
Hey now, Hawks. Atlanta hopped right back on track after last week's spill in Cleveland. After weathering comebacks from the Nuggets and the Wizards, they made one of their own to take down the Grizzlies in an impressive third quarter in Memphis. Of note: a trend of weakness on the boards came to a head when Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson out-rebounded the Hawks by themselves in that Cleveland game. The Hawks won the rebound battle in each of their three subsequent victories, and that includes a successful effort to keep the board-hungry Nuggets off the offensive glass. Problem addressed? If so ... hey now, Hawks.
8 Brooklyn Nets 11-8 5 L: OKC, GSW, MIL Nets Da ILY
It's hard to drop the Nets too low for floundering -- and badly -- without Brook Lopez, their offensive rock. Then again, it's a bit alarming that their offense has been so ineffective without Lopez and the backcourt unable to compensate for his absence. Meanwhile, is Kris Humphries' benching in favor or Reggie Evans a long-term thing? Guys?
9 Golden State Warriors 13-7 9 W: @DET, @BRO, @WAS; L: ORL Gol Dens Ta Teof MI ND
David Lee, Klay Thompson, and Stephen Curry (who took an ankle tweaking in stride this past week) are all having fine Decembers and Draymond Green's defending impressively in increased minutes off the bench. The short-handed Warriors continue to look remarkably well-rounded, and the next step seems to be eliminating stretches of carelessness so they can make quicker work of bad teams -- the Warriors let Detroit and Washington hang with them a bit this past week (and lost to the Magic, too). Stifling nippy bottom-dwellers and earning some blowouts might graduate Golden State from "team with a very good record" to "very good team."
10 Chicago Bulls 11-8 10 W: @CLE, @DET, NYK; L: IND Blo Gab Ull
With the exception of a near-disaster in Detroit (praise be to Joakim Noah), Chicago's defense looks back where it's supposed to be. The Bulls kicked off a harsh stretch of a schedule by dismantling a Melo-less but still dangerous Knicks offense on Saturday. Meanwhile, I don't know what's gotten into Marco Belinelli, but I imagine the Bulls would like to keep it in there.
11 Boston Celtics 11-9 13 W: MIN, PHI; L: @PHI Cel Tics Blo G
Boston's defensive rotations and overall efficiency looked a lot sharper this past week, albeit against the deficient offenses of the Wolves and 76ers. The offensive contributions of Jason Terry and Jeff Green have been sort of either/or lately (Most recently, Green was productive in both Philadelphia games, while Terry struggled from the field), but the top guns are producing. We'll see how that defense holds in a tough, road-heavy rest of 2012.
12 Utah Jazz 12-10 17 W: ORL, TOR, @LAL; L: LAC Slcdun K
'Twas a lovely week for the Jazz to get back above .500. They got a huge game from Al Jefferson in a win over the Magic, destroyed the Raptors without Jefferson, then were the latest team to rub the Lakers' noses in their own futility. Their offense in the last two wins was the best its been all season by a wide, wide margin.
13 Milwaukee Bucks 10-9 12 W: CHA, @BRO; L: @NOH, @SAS Bre Who Op
Milwaukee is consistently among the toughest teams to rank. Scott Skiles's lineups change as the wind changes, and Milwaukee can't figure out how competitive a team they are. Or at least I can't. One thing I did notice is that Ersan Ilyasova seems to be awake, which bodes well for the Bucks but might also create a half dozen new lineup permutations for Skiles to test.
14 Philadelphia 76ers 11-9 11 W: BOS; L: MIN, @BOS Libe R Tyb All Ers
The Sixers' best overall field goal percentage for a game this past week was their 42.2-percent output in a blowout loss to the Timberwolves. A problem, it seems, is that a decent three-point shooting outfit has suddenly started bricking in the month of December. Theory: Doug Collins screwed up his advent calendar order and gave his players calendars filled with tiny fingertip-sized bear traps instead of chocolates. ... Fine, then let's see you come up with a better theory.
15 Dallas Mavericks 10-10 20 W: @PHO, @HOU; L: @LAC Ma Vs Money Ba LL
Amid bad news that Dirk Nowitzki likely won't be back this month, Dallas quietly trundled back up to .500 overall. It was as if O.J. Mayo read the news and said "welp, time to start playing like a superstar again."
16 Minnesota Timberwolves 9-9 18 W: @PHI, CLE; L: @BOS Can I Shoop Us
The slightly disorganized Wolves benefited from the return of Andrei Kirilenko's guiding presence on offense (not to mention Kevin Love playing a lot more like himself) in a win over the Cavaliers. They're still not running their sets at maximum effectiveness, but we may be just days away from the return of Ricky Rubio.
17 Houston Rockets 9-10 14 W: LAL; L: @SAS, DAL The Dre Ams Hake
Poor starts have been hurting the Rockets lately. Even in their win over the Lakers -- the lone victory of the past week -- they had to claw back from down eight at the end of the first and down 13 at halftime. In general, they've been stuck playing from behind, relying on rapid runs (which, to be fair, are a specialty of theirs) to make games competitive. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how serious James Harden's ankle injury is after he skipped practice on Sunday.
18 Denver Nuggets 10-11 16 W: TOR, @IND; L: @ATL, @NYK Den Vers Tiffs
The crazy thing about the Nuggets' massively lopsided early schedule is that it won't really even out until 2013. After playing 15 of their first 21 games on the road, Denver will play another seven of 11 games away before the end of the calendar year. One hopes they can linger around .500 until January comes and they can finally set up shop at the Pepsi Center. One also hopes that habits like floundering in fourth quarters and shooting terribly for hours at a time are more products of a tough schedule than they are genuine Nugget identifiers. In other news, Denver's now all about alternating individual wins and losses after a first month filled with three- and four-game streaks.
19 Indiana Pacers 10-11 19 W: @CHI, POR; L: DEN, @OKC In Dycor N Rows
Indiana breached .500 briefly before dipping back below with hard-fought but unavoidable losses to the Nuggets and Thunder. The Pacers need substantial production from their starters pretty much every night, because with Lance Stephenson shifted into the starting lineup and D.J. Augustin struggling mightily, there just isn't any offensive creation subbing off the bench these days. Speaking of substantial production from the starters, hey now, Paul George.
20 Los Angeles Lakers 9-12 15 W: @NOH; L: @HOU, @OKC, UTA Si Lvers Creenan Droll
The Lakers opened their road-heavy stretch by dropping two of three, then returned to Staples to surrender 117 points to the Jazz. I believe that a healthy Steve Nash (if such a creature can exist at this point) might whip the offense into tip-top shape, but what of a defense that, after an OK start, has been woefully, hideously inefficient of late? Just repugnant. Can't see Nash fixing that one.
21 Orlando Magic 8-12 23 W: @GSW, @PHO; L: @UTA, @SAS Or LA N Dopin Strip Ed Post
The Magic are 7-6 with Jameer Nelson in the lineup. Other teams are a combined 0-0 with Jameer Nelson in the lineup.
22 Sacramento Kings 7-12 29 W: TOR, ORL, @POR Sac Tow N Roy Al TY
After a three-loss week, the Kings pulled off a three-win week against the Raptors, Magic and Blazers, two of those coming without Tyreke Evans. Keith Smart got useful minutes out of an Isaiah Thomas-Jimmer Fredette tandem, then suddenly summoned Travis Outlaw from among the sweatpants'd to play a solid game against his old team. The Kings may be mediocre, but they are deeply mediocre.
23 Portland Trail Blazers 8-12 22 W: @CHA; L: @IND, SAC Bla Zer Sed GE
Portland just looks tired and beat up, and they're not the kind of team that can call in reinforcements when the top guns need to sit. They are not that in the slightest.
24 Detroit Pistons 7-15 26 W: CLE, @CLE; L: GSW, CHI De Troi TBA DBoys
Brandon Knight played his most productive game of the year in the win in Cleveland and Rodney Stuckey's been quietly solid so far this month after an unseemly November. Detroit remains a cool .500 since snapping their eight-game losing streak to start the year.
25 Charlotte Bobcats 7-12 21 L: POR, NYK, @MIL, SAS R U Fuson Fire
The advanced stats underlying Charlotte's solid start suggested they weren't the decent team their record made them out to be and, indeed, they've looked more young and unreliable than young and irrepressible for a few weeks now. When they find themselves in games, they test the limits of the NBA rule book to find ways to shoot themselves in the feet.
26 New Orleans Hornets 5-14 25 W: MIL; L: LAL, MEM, @MIA ATT Heh Ive
I could not be more vehemently #TeamPelicans. I'll take a goofy, locally relevant mascot over a randomly chosen, ambiguously fierce animal at every opportunity.
27 Phoenix Suns 7-15 24 L: @MEM, DAL, @LAC, ORL BR Ights Ideo Ft Thesun
Suns are still weirdly able to compete for stretches of each of their games, but haven't been able to steal any this month. They've now lost seven straight after hovering near .500 for a little while there.
28 Cleveland Cavaliers 4-17 27 L: @DET, CHI, @MIN, DET Fe Art Hes Word
The Cavs without Kyrie Irving are pretty bad. The Cavs without Kyrie Irving AND Dion Waiters are like a very dark, deeply disturbing traveling interactive theater art piece.
29 Washington Wizards 2-15 30 W: MIA; L: @ATL, GSW Bul Lets Fore Ver
The fact that injuries only continue to pile up on this team -- Trevor Ariza, then A.J. Price, all while John Wall's timetable gets sketchier by the day -- is pretty cruel. On the other hand, they beat the goddamn Heat, and for that they get to step up a rank, if only for a week.
30 Toronto Raptors 4-17 28 L: @DEN, @SAC, @UTA, @LAC Rap Torsh Q
The Raptors are just torturing their fans. Two days after their most lopsided loss of the year in Utah, Toronto looked in contention to upset the Clippers ... until they simply punted the fourth quarter. They just stopped playing. I can't explain it and I feel the utmost sympathy for those of you who have to endure it.
117 Juneau FrostDonkeys 0-0 94 -- None yet
Inviting NBA veteran Zendon Hamilton in for a workout was one step toward legitimacy. Trying to catch him with a giant butterfly net when he balked at the foul stench of the training center, as well as the fact that the Donks' own only one basketball and it's made out of waxed walrus gut, were two steps backward.