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NBA power rankings, week 8: Everyone's chasing the Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to not miss James Harden and have therefore surged to the top of this week's NBA power rankings.


We're back for yet another week of NBA power rankings. As usual: if you disagree with any of this, you're probably right.

Rank Team Record Prev. Rank Last Week
SB Nation Blog
1 Oklahoma City Thunder 19-4 2 W: NOH, SAC Welcome to Loud City
The Thunder were tripped up a bit by New Orleans' snail-paced game, and they had to dust off their starters when Isaiah Thomas nearly turned an OKC blowout into a Sacramento upset, but they survived unbeaten since around Thanksgiving. They have their rough defensive outings -- particularly against those slow-paced teams -- but consistently produce more than enough offense to compensate.
2 New York Knicks 18-5 3 W: @BRO, LAL, CLE Posting and Toasting
New York's not defending much either, but the Knick offense cruised through the beginning of a long home stand. Tyson Chandler has somehow grown even more efficient around the rim, and his guards have been helping him on the boards lately, neutralizing what should be large glass disparities against top rebounding teams.
3 San Antonio Spurs 19-6 1 W: @HOU, BOS; L: @UTA, @POR Pounding the Rock

San Antonio's frontcourt is undergoing some unrest and experimentation. Boris Diaw's presence has fouled up the defense, DeJuan Blair has struggled his way out of the lineup in favor of Tiago Splitter and even Tim Duncan's jumper has betrayed him a bit of late. It'd help if the Spurs could go small at times, but without Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson, they just haven't had the personnel. And now Manu Ginobili may miss a bit of time. Nothing too dire, but the very mini slide lost San Antonio some ground on Oklahoma City.

4 Los Angeles Clippers 17-6 5 W: @CHI, @CHA, @MIL Clips Nation
Still streaking, still benefiting from outstanding bench play, and doing all of the above with increasingly frequent lockdown defensive games.
5 Miami Heat 15-6 6 W: ATL, WAS; L: GSW Hot Hot Hoops
The Miami defense still isn't where it should be, but they did bounce back to win three of four after those humiliating back-to-back losses against the Wizards and Knicks, slipping only in that last-second loss to the Warriors. Good job avenging those dastardly Wizards, guys! (Honestly, though, Washington is terrible but it was cool/scary to see Miami actually rotate, close out and shut down an opposing offense for once.)
6 Memphis Grizzlies 15-6 4 W: @UTA; L: @PHO, @DEN Straight Outta Vancouver
Memphis woke up in the second half in Utah, but had an eerily meek, bleak week up to that point. Rudy Gay's been gobbling up a lot of possessions while failing to use those possessions efficiently. Shooting across the board has fallen off and that burly front line is getting bossed around a bit by the sprightlier, more gracile beast of the paint. Thankfully, the John Hollinger signing should shore up the struggling backcourt.
7 Golden State Warriors 16-8 9 W: @CHA, @MIA, @ATL; L: @ORL Golden State of Mind
The way Mark Jackson has gotten the Warriors to play defense -- even putting aside their excellent rebounding for a second to leave just the floor defense -- reminds me at times of the Grizzlies when the Grizzlies started to really click. The personnel on the floor rarely strike you as excellent individual defenders, but there they are rotating, helping and just generally knowing what to expect from one another on that end. Like, even David Lee. One thing: the win over the Heat was fairly impressive (nearly as impressive as the hungover flop in Orlando two nights later), and Golden State's been building this momentum on the road, but they've had and will continue to have a pretty easy December. January's going to get rough, so if they're still rolling then, this success stops being cute and starts getting scary.
8 Atlanta Hawks 14-7 7 W: @ORL, CHA; L: @MIA, GSW Peachtree Hoops
Saturday's blowout loss to those Warriors was Atlanta's first thoroughly awful game in quite a while. That and the loss in Miami interrupted what's otherwise been a fine defensive stretch with much-improved rebounding to boot.
9 Chicago Bulls 13-9 10 W: @PHI, BRO; L: LAC Blog a Bull
Amid the lingering concern for Tom Thibodeau's abuse of his top players (Hi, Luol Deng! He's not waving back. He must be asleep), guys like Marco Belinelli (still succeeding to the point that I've learned to spell his last name on the first try), Jimmy Butler and even Marquis Teague have had useful stretches. The defense looks fully renewed and the Bulls are playing pretty impressive ball after some early-season moments in which it looked like they'd kinda suck without him. (Upon proofreading this section, I realized that I just said "him" without ever naming the "him" in question. Still don't feel like I need to explain myself.)
10 Brooklyn Nets 13-10 8 W: @TOR, DET; L: NYK, @CHI Nets Daily
The Nets broke their slide and Brook Lopez is working his way back into heavy minutes and mighty contributions (18 and 10 in just 25 minutes in his second game back), but it's a little alarming for a team that features Deron Williams and Joe Johnson to be stumbling so regularly in crunch-time situations.
11 Minnesota Timberwolves 12-9 16 W: DEN, @NOH, DAL Canis Hoopus
12 Boston Celtics 12-11 11 W: DAL; L: @HOU, @SAS Celtics Blog
Boston had been defending pretty solidly until they crapped on that end -- both in the paint and behind the arc -- in a couple weary defeats in Houston and San Antonio.
13 Milwaukee Bucks 12-10 13 W: SAC, @CLE; L: LAC Brew Hoop
Milwaukee grabbed a couple truly yucky wins over the Kings and Cavs before finally falling for real against the high-flying Clippers. Any win's a good win, though, when you're as beset by injuries and illness as the Bucks have been.
14 Utah Jazz 13-12 12 W: SAS; L: @PHO, MEM SLC Dunk
Following a thrilling, buzzer-beating victory over the Spurs with a stinker against the lowly Suns and a second half collapse against the Grizzlies (and at home, where the Jazz are supposed to never lose ever) is no fun.
15 Denver Nuggets 13-12 18 W: @DET, MEM, @SAC; L: Denver Stiffs
Denver's still not quite at the point where they can count on every one to chip in on a given night -- each game is a process to figure out who of Andre Iguodala, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, etc. is on and who is horribly off -- but they're inching toward some consistency. Gallo's shot seems to be obeying him more regularly, and Lawson and Iguodala each had a couple sharp, aggressive games this past week. Meanwhile, it was encouraging to see Denver's stable of springy big men genuinely bother the talented but comparably sedentary Grizzlies frontcourt in that impressive win over Memphis.
16 Indiana Pacers 13-11 19 W: CLE, PHI, DET Indy Cornrows
Indiana's been shooting the ball much better and even playing the odd night of above-average offense in winning five of their last seven. Hopefully, Roy Hibbert is fine after suffering a thigh bruise during the Detroit game (and early word is that he should be), because he finally seemed to bust out of his slump in the win over Philly. Hibbert got 19 and 13 in that one, cracking 50 percent from the field for the first time in almost three weeks. Whatever the case, it's nice to see the Danny Granger-less Pacers making good on their excellent defense after they looked so thoroughly flat and depressing early in the year.
17 Portland Trail Blazers 11-12 23 W: TOR, SAS, NOR Blazer's Edge
Hey now, Blazers! Three straight wins, with Damian Lillard's most brilliant performance of a brilliant rookie season-to-date coming in the middle victory over the Spurs and his exceedingly ballsy game-winner stifling a New Orleans comeback on Sunday. One cause for concern: Right when Nicolas Batum seemed to be recovering and the Blazers gaining some momentum, LaMarcus Aldridge went and rolled his ankle. As I write this, it's unclear how hurt Aldridge is.
18 Philadelphia 76ers 12-12 14 W: DET; L: CHI, @IND, LAL Liberty Ballers
The Sixers haven't looked quite as bad as one might expect without Jrue Holiday (and with Nick Young as the de facto de swagto point guard), but they are 0-2 since he sprained his foot.
19 Los Angeles Lakers 11-14 20 W: @WAS, @PHI; L: @CLE, @NYK Silver Screen and Roll
Look at the plucky, upstart Lakers winning two straight! Holding opponents under 100 points, even! (I'm sorry. I really am. I just worry that we're running out of time to be snide about the Lakers.)
20 Houston Rockets 11-12 17 W: WAS, BOS; L: SAS, @TOR The Dream Shake
'Twas nice to see Jeremy Lin explode in that near-upset of the Spurs, though he's promptly reverted to limp, inefficient play since James Harden's return. Greg Smith, though. That man's been anything but limp in the last couple games. Totally rigid.
21 Orlando Magic 10-13 21 W: GSW, @CHA, L: ATL Orlando Pinstriped Post
Ya know, the Magic might actually end up competing for a playoff spot. They're kinda decent when healthy. Count me among those who'd love to see Andrew Nicholson get some more minutes, please.
22 Dallas Mavericks 11-13 15 W: SAC; L: @BOS, @TOR, @MIN Mavs Moneyball
An O-fer on a three-game road trip did not make for a pleasant week . The Mavs have just been giving possessions way with ample turnovers and so, so many offensive rebounds surrendered.
23 Phoenix Suns 9-15 27 W: MEM, UTA Bright Side of the Sun
Just when you think the Suns have finally, fully resigned to sucking, they peel off a couple genuinely impressive wins. Defensive wins, at that.
24 Toronto Raptors 6-19 30 W: DAL, HOU; L: @POR, BRO Raptors HQ
Win streak! Without Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors have suddenly started playing pretty terrific defense...?
25 Detroit Pistons 7-19 24 L: @PHI, DEN, @BRO, IND Detroit Bad Boys
They're not winning games or anything, but I've enjoyed watching the Pistons backcourt operate at a much higher level. I know I mentioned this last week, but Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey have been consistently solid after starting the season so, so badly.
26 New Orleans Hornets 5-18 26 L: WAS, @OKC, MIN, @POR At the Hive
Since around the time Anthony Davis returned, New Orleans is on a streak of falling juuuuust short in losses. After very nearly upsetting the Thunder and hanging with the Timberwolves, that crushing Lillard game-winner ruined a pretty astounding late-game comeback for the Pelicans-in-waiting.
27 Sacramento Kings 7-16 22 L: @DAL, @MIL, @OKC, DEN Sactown Royalty
Sacramento caught Denver's old bug, alternating three- and four-game win streaks (well, maybe not plural) with three- and four game losing streaks. Something tells me they're not about to win three or four straight with the Warriors and Clippers coming up on the schedule, though. Either way, it's been fun to see Isaiah Thomas have some familiar Isaiah Thomas moments instead of languishing. Isaiah Thomas is not meant to languish. Just look at him.
28 Cleveland Cavaliers 5-20 28 W: LAL; L: @IND, MIL, @NYK Fear the Sword
Oh, how very nice it is to have Kyrie Irving back on the floor. I was personally at the thoroughly terrified end of a thoroughly terrifying career night for a black-masked Irving on Saturday. The Knicks' win seemed in hand until Kyrie took it upon himself to make a succession of increasingly impossible contested shots and very nearly bring the Cavs all the way back. The kid had a career-high 41 in that one. Regarding the masks: Irving, Tyler Zeller, and Tristan Thompson are all wearing them now and, at least on Saturday, they all shot quite accurately. Why not mask the entire team? Shit, set them up with some creepy bank robbery masks for added fright. Only question is whether to go with the Point Break look or the Sugar & Spice look.
29 Charlotte Bobcats 7-16 25 L: GSW, LAC, @ATL, ORL Rufus on Fire
It's not like the Cats have stopped trying or anything; they tend to hang around in these losses. They just hit that seven win quota way too quickly. Other thing: Does Mike Dunlap look like he could be a Talking Head to anybody else?
30 Washington Wizards 3-18 29 W: @NOR; L: @HOU, LAL, @MIA Bullets Forever
Well, they won again, and there are signs that John Wall's condition may actually be improving ("ramping" and so forth). Meanwhile, amid a whole 'nother slew of injuries, Cartier Martin and Jordan Crawford have been pretty solid in increased roles.
104 Juneau FrostDonkeys 0-0 117 -- None yet
The Donks actually move up a few spots this week for actually making an earnest attempt to play their first game. It's not their fault the DonkeyDome got infested with spruce beetles. Well, it's kind of their fault for making their baskets giant, living evergreen trees with right whale clavicles as rims (the "more authentic" goal would be forbidden by the league if the league even bothered to police the Donks anymore), but still, at least they kind of tried to play a game. Head coach/hoary, lecherous coonhound Marv Biscuits even put on a tie.