The Miami Heat entered the year on top of the power rankings, and now they finally found themselves back at the summit thanks to a four-game winning streak and a thrilling comeback win over the Indiana Pacers. The bottom team is also the same as it was heading into the year, with the Philadelphia 76ers finally reaching the cellar after their surprising start.
1. Miami Heat (20-6, Last week: 5)
Dwyane Wade had himself quite the week. Not only did he look like vintage D-Wade on the court (32 points against the Pacers), but he also proposed to girlfriend Gabrielle Union prior to the Heat's Christmas Party. And she said yes! In LeBron James news...:
More on the Heat: Hot Hot Hoops
2. Indiana Pacers (21-5, Last week: 1)
It's tough to knock the Pacers out of the top spot, but there had to be some consequences for blowing that late seven-point lead in Miami. On a more positive note, Indiana has bounced back in a big way, notching two blowout victories. Danny Granger looked like a legitimate contributor in the win over the Celtics on Sunday, while Lance Stephenson did stuff:
More on the Pacers: Indy Cornrows
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-5, Last week: 4)
The Thunder were primed to possibly take over the No. 1 spot, sporting a nine-game winning streak and undefeated home record heading into Sunday. But both the winning streak and perfect home record were snapped in a stunning loss to Toronto.
More on the Thunder: Welcome to Loud City
4. Portland Trail Blazers (23-5, Last week: 3)
Damian Lillard has been doing some really cool things this year. After knocking down a game-winner two Sundays ago, the second-year man did it again in the Blazers' next game:
More on the Blazers: Blazer's Edge
5. San Antonio Spurs (21-6, Last week: 2)
The Spurs pulled out a spectacular win on the road over the Warriors, playing without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. However, that was followed up by a home loss to Oklahoma City. While San Antonio has been great pretty much all year, they're 0-4 against teams currently ranked ahead of them in these rankings.
More on the Spurs: Pounding The Rock
6. Los Angeles Clippers (20-9, Last week: 7)
The Clippers have won five games in a row, with the latest an absolute theft of a victory against the Timberwolves on Sunday. Blake Griffin has been excellent during the five-game win streak, averaging 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds while adding to his highlight reel:
More on the Clippers: Clips Nation
7. Phoenix Suns (16-10, Last week: 6)
The Suns continue to play an extremely fun brand of basketball. Phoenix has one loss in their last eight games, and that was to San Antonio. In the last victory over the Mavs, the Suns put up 123 points and knocked 15 three-pointers, both season highs.
More on the Suns: Bright Side Of The Sun
8. Houston Rockets (18-10, Last week: 8)
The Rockets looked out of their element in an ugly 33-point loss to Indiana. But in the next game against a Pistons team with an excellent frontcourt, Dwight Howard put forth an effort reminiscent of his Magic days, scoring 35 points and pulling down 19 rebounds in a blowout victory.
More on the Rockets: The Dream Shake
9. Golden State Warriors (15-13, Last week: 12)
I almost feel dirty putting the Warriors up this high after their awful loss against the short-handed Spurs. However, Golden State has generally looked pretty good with Andre Iguodala back in the lineup, so I'll forgive them for that hiccup.
More on the Warriors: Golden State Of Mind
10. Atlanta Hawks (15-12, Last week: 14)
The Hawks have officially staked a solid claim as the third-best team in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta has won three games in a row, averaging 118.7 points in the process. In addition, Lou Williams is showing some flashes of brilliance in his return from an ACL injury.
More on the Hawks: Peachtree Hoops
11. Dallas Mavericks (15-12, Last week: 10)
The Mavs are starting to slow just a tad, losers of two straight and four of six. Dallas gave up a season-high 123 points in a loss to Phoenix, and the next game comes against the high-powered Rockets. This is the third meeting between the two Texas squads, and both prior games have been shootouts. Expect the same again.
More on the Mavs: Mavs Moneyball
12. Denver Nuggets (14-12, Last week: 9)
Like the Mavs, the Nuggets have hit a little bump in the road. Losing three games in a row to the Thunder, Suns and Clippers isn't a huge sin, but two of those games were at the Pepsi Center. Denver has now lost five games at home on the season after losing just three at home all of last year.
More on the Nuggets: Denver Stiffs
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-15, Last week: 11)
The Wolves are tough to figure out. Kevin Love is having a monster season and there are some other really nice parts on the team, but the team still sits at two games under .500. After beating Portland, Minnesota was swept in a two-game trip against the tenants of the Staples Center, with the overtime loss against the Clippers a real kick in the nuts thanks to a late-game collapse:
More on the Wolves: Canis Hoopus
14. Toronto Raptors (11-14, Last week: 16)
Since trading Rudy Gay a few weeks ago, the Raptors are kind of ... legit. Toronto is 5-2 since the Gay trade, and the last two wins are extremely impressive. Going on the road and grabbing a win in Dallas and Oklahoma City is no easy task, and the Raptors nabbed victories in both places. So much for tanking?
More on the Raptors: Raptors HQ
15. Washington Wizards (12-13, Last week: 20)
The Wizards might be the most volatile team in the league this year. One week they're up and looking like one of the top four teams in the horrible East, and the next they look like a bottom feeder. This week, Washington is back up thanks to a three-game winning streak.
More on the Wizards: Bullets Forever
16. New Orleans Pelicans (11-14, Last week: 13)
Anthony Davis made a surprise early return from a hand injury, and he picked up right where he left off, averaging 22.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in two games. Unfortunately, the Pelicans are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, thanks to a real tough stretch of road games against the Western Conference.
More on the Pelicans: The Bird Writes
17. Charlotte Bobcats (13-15, Last week: 21)
Kemba Walker has been crazy good over the last week. In the Bobcats' last five games, Walker is averaging 26.2 points while shooting a scorching 62.3 percent overall and 52.2 percent from deep. He also did this:
More on the Bobcats: Rufus On Fire
18. Detroit Pistons (13-16, Last week: 17)
The Pistons' week got off to a fantastic start, as they the Pacers their first home loss of the season. Next came a thrilling comeback win over the Celtics, and it looked like a return to .500 was in the cards. But two straight double-digit point losses later and some of that good will is gone.
More on the Pistons: Detroit Bad Boys
19. Los Angeles Lakers (13-14, Last week: 15)
The Lakers were dealt a tough blow when Kobe Bryant injured his knee just six games after returning from an Achilles injury. Kobe will miss at least six weeks, and some have been beating the drum that he should just throw in the towel on this season and get completely healthy for next year. A decent sentiment, but knowing Kobe, likely not an option.
More on the Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll
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20. Boston Celtics (12-17, Last week: 18)
The Celtics have fallen out of first place in the god-awful Atlantic Division thanks to three consecutive losses. Rajon Rondo Watch is officially on, although it may still be a while before he returns to the court as he regains his conditioning after a torn ACL.
More on the Celtics: CelticsBlog
21. Memphis Grizzlies (11-15, Last week: 22)
The Grizzlies have been mostly hopeless without Marc Gasol, but a trip to Madison Square Garden proved to be a temporary remedy. Memphis battered New York's "big" lineup on the boards and in the paint, with Tony Allen grabbing as many rebounds as Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani combined.
More on the Grizzlies: Grizzly Bear Blues
22. Chicago Bulls (10-16, Last week: 26)
The Bulls' season is so sad that D.J. Augustin looks like some kind of savior for a truly miserable offense. In fairness to Augustin, he has played pretty well and looks miles better than Marquis Teague, who may be the worst player in the NBA right now. Augustin is also infinitely more enjoyable to watch than Kirk Hinrich, so there's that.
More on the Bulls: Blog a Bull
23. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-16, Last week: 19)
Right when I figured the Cavs might be figuring things out, they go out and get blitzed by a bad Bulls team playing without Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. Kyrie Irving was badly outplayed by Augustin and yeah, that's all I'm going to say about that.
More on the Cavs: Fear The Sword
24. Sacramento Kings (8-18, Last week: 23)
While the Raptors have flourished without Rudy Gay, the Kings haven't been quite so good with him. It's hard to blame Gay, however, as he's shooting 50.0 percent from the field in his first six games as a King.
More on the Kings: Sactown Royalty
25. New York Knicks (8-18, Last week: 25)
There's really not much more you can say about the Knicks at this point. Mike Woodson continues to be in love with a big lineup that doesn't work, which was on full display in the loss to Memphis. Meanwhile, Andrea Bargnani likes to do really dumb things. #TakeThatMasaiUjiri:
More on the Knicks: Posting and Toasting
26. Brooklyn Nets (9-17, Last week: 24)
A bad season got way worse when it was revealed last week that stud center Brook Lopez was out for the season due to yet another foot injury. Lopez has had a history of bad feet, and one has to wonder whether his career will be shortened because of it. Real shame, because the big man was in the midst of a superb individual season and the Nets are absolutely sunk without him.
More on the Nets: NetsDaily
27. Orlando Magic (8-19, Last week: 27)
The Magic grabbed a road win in Chicago earlier last week, but then proceeded to lose to two fellow bottom feeders in the Jazz and Kings. Next up? The Knicks. Perhaps New York can be the remedy like they were for Memphis.
More on the Magic: Orlando Pinstriped Post
28. Utah Jazz (8-22, Last week: 28)
The Jazz are currently 2-2 on their five-game road trip, with the two wins being of the low scoring variety and the two losses being of the beat down variety. The play of rookie point guard Trey Burke during the trip is indicative of how the team has played. In the two wins, Burke averaged 25.0 points. In the two losses, he averaged 2.5 points.
More on the Jazz: SLC Dunk
29. Milwaukee Bucks (6-21, Last week: 30)
The Bucks went just 1-2 last week, but they were at least competitive in both losses, with both of them coming in overtime. Progress!
More on the Bucks: Brew Hoop
30. Philadelphia 76ers (8-20, Last week: 29)
The Sixers are giving up the most points in the NBA by a wide margin and just lost to Milwaukee. So for that, I condemn Philly to the cellar.
More on the Sixers: Liberty Ballers