Dec 27, 2010, 2:10 PM EDT
Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, where the top four teams are all 9-1 in their last 10 and probably could be ranked in any order.
1. Mavericks (23-5). They move into the top spot on the strength of their sweep of Miami and Orlando on back-to-back nights. That depth Mark Cuban touted really helps them in the regular season
2. Spurs (26-4). Wondering if these Spurs are for real? We say they are but the next five games — Lakers, Mavericks, Thunder, Knicks and Celtics — will be a real test of that.
3. Heat (23-9). That domination of the Lakers was a good confidence boost. The game will be meaningless if these teams meet again in June, but right now it is a validation — especially of their defense. And couldn’t we all use a little validation?
4. Celtics (23-5). The one loss to Orlando was not that bad, but they miss Rondo when the game is tight and that is going to hurt them until he is back. Whenever that is.
5. Thunder (21-10). We’re discounting the loss to New York — second night of a back-to-back, fourth game in five days and then you have to run with the Knicks? That was a schedule maker’s loss. They are still 7-3 in their last 10.
6. Jazz (21-9). Congrats to Jerry Sloan for moving past Pat Riley on the all-time wins list. That guy does it year after year — it’s time to give him Coach of the Year.
7. Lakers (21-9). Last year after LeBron thumped the Lakers on Christmas on national television the Lakers won five of their next six. Just something to watch, to see if that really was a wakeup call.
8. Magic (18-12). Orlando beat Boston and San Antonio this week. We are pretty skeptical how much better the big trades make them long term, but right now they look pretty good, don’t they?
9. Knicks (18-12). They ran the Thunder off the floor then played one quarter of pretty good defense against the Bulls and that was enough. Two big wins in one week, plus Spike Lee is back doing NBA commercials. It’s all good.
10. Bulls (19-10). Loss to the Knicks then needed overtime to get by the Pistons. The numbers say their defense has been better without Noah but it doesn’t feel like it when you watch them.
11. Hornets (18-12). Chris Paul is really, really good. That can never be said enough. Dude is shooting 45.5 percent from three this season. Remember when he couldn’t hit the three?
12. Hawks (19-13). In his five games since returning, Joe Johnson is shooting 40.7 percent overall and 32.1 percent from three. Not good.
13. Blazers (15-15). A very good team at home in the Rose Garden that struggles on the road. This week they are on the road a lot.
15. Rockets (14-15). Four straight wins. All against pretty soft competition but the fact is they are beating the teams they are supposed to.
16. Sixers (11-16). They had a 2-2 week — wins over Orlando and Denver, losses to Boston and Chicago. That’s a tough week, so 2-2 is pretty darn good.
18. Suns (13-16). They may get Vince Carter back next weekend. When you’ve lost three in a row and are in danger of not making the playoffs you look forward to Vince Carter.
19. Bucks (10-15). They are going to need more wins like the impressive one over the Lakers, because the schedule gets brutal the next couple weeks.
20. Grizzlies (13-17). January means a lot of time on the road for a team that needs to find a groove if they are going to get in the playoffs.
21. Warriors (11-18). Monta Ellis is a stud. Flat out scoring machine. Just fun to watch.
22. Clippers (9-22). If you stop watching Blake Griffin dunks for a few minutes you notice the Clips are 5-5 in their last 10.
23. Raptors (10-19). The Raptors are out of Toronto a lot next month, on the road and missing some Canadian winter. They’d like to thank the schedule maker for that, but they’ll need to find a way to win some of those games.
24. Pistons (10-20). No team’s fans were more convinced we had this team pegged wrong before the season — and they let us know it. This was a team that could make the playoffs they said. Some people don’t like to gloat about being right. I’m not one of those people.
25. Nets (9-21). Sasha Vujacic is averaging 11 points a game and the Nets have played some decent defense lately. Not that it has meant a lot of wins or anything.
26. Bobcats (9-19). Paul Silas is a fine replacement for Larry Brown, but until the roster is fixed the coach won’t really matter.
27. Timberwolves (7-24). They beat Cleveland and are now 2-8 in their last 10. Which is enough to move up two spots.
28. Cavaliers (8-22). If you look at their point per possession differential they are the worst team in the league. Which is saying maybe this ranking is generous, but it is Christmas time and we’re feeling generous still.
30. Kings (5-22). They actually hang in games then lose them in the fourth quarter — they came from ahead to lose twice last week. Which is just a little more salt in the wounds of Kings fans. Sorry.
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