Dec 13, 2010, 1:15 PM EDT
Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, where if it were a seven-game series we’d take any of the next three teams below Dallas to come out on top, but when you win 12 in a row you get to keep the top spot.
1. Mavericks (19-4). They’ve won an even dozen in a row now. In the last 10 Dirk Nowitzki is shooting a ridiculous 62.5 percent overall, 46.2 percent from three. Second best shooter among the Mavs’ starters by percentage in the last 10? Tyson Chandler, of course (54.5 percent).
2. Celtics (19-4). Winners of 10 in a row and they are doing it with reduced practices to keep the team fresh. They are still suffering injuries but without Rajon Rondo they went 3-1. They went 6-1 without Shaq.
3. Spurs (20-3). After they beat the Blazers Sunday Nate McMillan called the Spurs the best team in the NBA right now. Hard to argue that, there may be a couple teams hotter right now but better?
4. Heat (17-8). They have won 8 in a row, and most importantly they are getting out and running now, getting out in transition where they have the most unstoppable players on the planet.
5. Jazz (17-8). Utah has been consistently beating the weaker teams in the league but have lost to the teams above them on this list (and the Thunder). Can they win when it matters?
6. Lakers (17-7). Los Angeles is in the middle of a six-game road trip with every game left against teams under .500. The Lakers often sleepwalk through these kinds of trips, just something to watch. They lost the only meaningful game, to the Bulls, because Derrick Rose got inside on them, but Andrew Bynum returns this week and that may change things.
7. Knicks (16-9). They are red hot right now, looking good against the softest schedule in the league… wait, they beat Denver, right? Pretty good team they topped Sunday and they held on to do it. Boston and Miami on the schedule this week will be a tougher test.
8. Thunder (17-8). Um, did you see what James Harden did to JJ Hickson?
9. Bulls (14-8). Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose are still figuring it out — Boozer is putting up numbers a lot of nights but the flow isn’t right — but the Bulls are winning with defense. Yes, with Boozer and Rose in the lineup. Tom Thibodeau is a magician.
10. Magic (16-8). They are dropping like a stone down the rankings and down the standings if things don’t turn around. The recent bout with the flu for half the team hurt, but the questions about if this squad can really get it done or if a move should be made persist.
11. Hawks (16-9). They are 5-2 since Joe Johnson went down, and the losses are to the Heat and Spurs. This team is still plenty solid right now.
12. Nuggets (14-9). They have lost three of four and have the Magic, Thunder and two against the Spurs in the next five. And at some point, don’t the Anthony rumors wear on this squad?
13. Pacers (11-11). Bulls, Lakers, Celtics and the Heat this week. This team has had some big wins this year but that is a tough order.
14. Blazers (12-12). The definition of a .500 team? When you’re 14th in the league in offensive efficiency and 15th in defensive efficiency.
15. Hornets (14-9). They are 3-7 in their last 10, because their offense is just so ineffective. Which is hard to believe with Chris Paul on the team but there you are.
16. Suns (11-12). Robin Lopez is set to return this week, which will help in the paint on defense, but the Suns also need a more consistent offense.
17. Grizzlies (10-14). Last season this was just about when the Grizzlies figured it out and put together a nice little run that got them close to the playoffs. The schedule gets easier the next few weeks, do we see it again?
18. Rockets (9-14). The Rockets are 6-4 in their last 10, but how do they adjust when Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming return?
19. Bucks (9-13). They have won three of their last four now that Andrew Bogut is back. Not exactly pretty basketball but they are getting it done — as of right now they are the 8 seed in the East.
20. Bobcats (8-15). They had a quality win against Denver last week, but the thumping Saturday by the Celtics tells you where they stand in the East right now.
21. Sixers (8-15). They are 5-2 in their last 10 and we said last week this is a team whose numbers are better than their record. It is starting to turn around.
22. Raptors (9-15). Their terrible defense is really starting to catch up with them.
23. Pistons (7-18). Four losses in a row on the road last week, because the Pistons are just not a good road team.
24. Wizards (6-16). They have yet to win on the road. If there was a way to get the Pistons and the Wizards to play a game where they were both on the road then somebody would have to win.
25. Warriors (8-15). They have lost six in a row, but the schedule lightens up for them after Monday against Utah.
26. Clippers (5-20). We’re giving them moral victories for the one-point losses to the Lakers and Grizzlies last week. We shouldn’t but if they’re doing that with this owner, it should count for something.
27. Cavaliers (7-17). Changes to the lineup don’t help — if you move the guys scoring (Daniel Gibson, Antawn Jamison) from the bench to the starting lineup then your bench stinks. Doesn’t matter where the deck chairs are on the Titanic. Eight losses in a row.
28. Timberwolves (6-18). I kind of liked the new black uniforms. I may well be alone there.
29. Nets (6-18). Seven losses in a row. They tried to make a game of it with the Lakers but this team needs more offense, and their best answer to that plays in Denver.
30. Kings (5-16). No Tyreke Evans this week. They got a win against the Wizards last week but looking forward it only looks worse for this squad.
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