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NBA Power Rankings: Oh-oh Thunder road, oh Thunder road

Dec 10, 2012, 2:43 PM EDT

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook AP

A lot of the preseason talk in the West focused on the Lakers… and it still does. And too often it ends with “and the Thunder are still contenders, too.” No, the Thunder are the defending Western Conference champs, the team to beat in that conference and they look pretty good right now. Thank you very much.

source:  1. Thunder (16-4, Last week ranked No. 2). Winners of eight in a row after Monday night including some quality victories last week against the Nets and Lakers. Are the Lakers still considered a quality win? Well it was the Pacers win that impressed me — putting up an offensive rating of 115.3 (points per 100 possessions) against what had been the best defense in the NBA. The Thunder are rolling.


source:  2. Spurs (17-4, LW 3). For the past few years, the Spurs have evolved into an offensive team that played enough defense to win games (a lot of games). But this season the Spurs are back to their old ways with the sixth best defense in the NBA (98.2 points per 100 possessions).


source:  3. Knicks (15-5, LW 5). Going 2-1 this week without Carmelo Anthony (until Sunday), including a big win over Miami in Miami was impressive. New York is going to ride the train of threes as long as they keep falling. Trail Blazers fans had to watch Raymond Felton in that Heat game and throw things at the television, he didn’t give them games like that last season.


source:  4. Clippers (13-6, LW 6). They are the winners of six in a row — and for the last three games the starters have not set foot on the floor in the fourth quarter. The Clippers remain the best and still by far least talked about team in Los Angeles.


source:  5. Grizzlies (14-4, LW 4). Not their best week, needing overtime to beat the Suns and losing to the Hawks (who are playing well, to be fair). The Grizzlies remain an elite defensive team and that is keeping them in games, and they are beating the teams they are supposed to beat (they don’t have bad losses) so we’re not worried.


source:  6. Heat (13-5, LW 1). Last week I said they might be finding their defensive footing. I would like to officially take that back. Their defense was bad in losses to the Knicks and Wizards, and they really were just a hot shooting team in their one win last week. They get a rematch with the Wizards Saturday.


source:  7. Hawks (12-5, LW 8). Quality wins this week over the Grizzlies and Nuggets, with the Heat on tap for Monday. While you weren’t looking they have been a strong defensive team this season behind Josh Smith and Al Horford.


source:  8. Warriors (13-7, LW 11). Here’s a shocker — if you put a bunch of guys who can shoot together on a team they are going to score points. For the season their point differential suggests they should be a .500 team but in the past five games their offense has found a groove. They have started a seven-game road trip 3-0.


source:  9. Celtics (11-9, LW 10). Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but they have started to play really good defense in Boston the past couple weeks. That’s the first building block. And Doc Rivers is not building for February, he’s looking at May and beyond.


source:  10. 76ers (11-9, LW 9). They did well, getting an Evan Turner game winner and splitting a home-and-home with Boston, but they get some tests this week with the Bulls, Pacers and Lakers. And with the Laker game, expect a plethora of Bynum stories. There still is no timeline for his return.


source:  11. Bulls (11-8, LW 13). Don’t put too much into the rumors of Rose’s recovery, he’s doing well but he is still more than a month away from playing in games, probably longer. But they are doing okay without him. Winners of three straight, they have a tough stretch ahead — Clippers, 76ers, Nets, Grizzlies, Celtics and Knicks are the next six.


source:  12. Bucks (9-9, LW 12). One of the many inconsistent teams in the middle of the pack in the NBA — they lost to the Hornets (in an ugly fashion) then beat the Nets later in the week. It’s like that every week with the Bucks, it feels.


source:  13. Nets (11-8, LW 7). Losers of four straight and, dare we say it, their defense is terrible without Brook Lopez in the lineup? It’s true, which suggests maybe the Mayans were right and we should all be stacking up on canned goods for the shelter. Rematch with the Knicks this week.


source:  14. Jazz (12-10, LW 15). They split with the Los Angeles teams this week, losing to the good one and beating the struggling one. The Jazz are what we thought they are — a good, hard working, balanced team. One that faces the Spurs and Grizzlies this week, so good luck.


source:  15. Mavericks (10-10, LW 17). O.J. Mayo was a 36.4 percent three-point shooter the past two seasons, but this year he is knocking down 52.3 percent of his looks from deep. And he is taking 5.6 threes a game. I keep expecting this bubble to burst but we are 20 games in now.


source:  16. Lakers (9-12, LW 14). What the slow start almost ensures is that the Lakers will have no home court advantage come the playoffs. The Thunder, Spurs and Grizzlies are out of their reach, and they are 5.5 games back of a good Clippers team in the Pacific. The Lakers are back out on the road for four more this week and they may or may not get Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to help them at some point.


source:  17. Nuggets (10-11, LW 18). They have faced a tough schedule (although the Clippers and Hornets have had it worse) but that does not excuse the bad turnovers late in a couple games last week by Ty Lawson. This is another middle of the pack NBA team we keep expecting to get it and go on a run.


source:  18. Timberwolves (9-9, LW 19). They expect to get Ricky Rubio back this week, which will be a huge boost to a struggling offense. Once they start putting up points again look for them to shoot up the rankings and the standings.


source:  19. Pacers (10-11, LW 21). The drop off with this team when the bench enters the game is just hard to watch. They continue to play good defense as a team (save the Oklahoma City game) but the offense is passable at best with the starters then nosedives with the bench play.


source:  20. Rockets (9-10, LW 16). We are just happy to see Kevin McHale back on the sidelines with this squad. Hopefully he can help even out another up and down team, one that beat the Lakers and the Jazz then lost to Spurs and Mavericks in their last four.


source:  21. Trail Blazers (8-12, LW 22). If you’re a Trail Blazers fan and you watch the play of Raymond Felton in New York or Jamal Crawford in Los Angeles this season, you just have to be pissed.


source:  22. Magic (8-12, LW 25). The gutted Magic have gone 3-2 on their road trip and are playing hard for Jacque Vaughn. They are the eighth best defensive team in the NBA without what’s his name in the paint blocking shots.


source:  23. Pistons (7-15, LW 24). Detroit’s offense is 12.7 points better per 100 possessions at home compared to on the road. Which is good news for the Sixers and Nets as the Pistons travel there this week.


source:  24. Kings (7-12, LW 29). The Kings are on a three game winning streak, but that will get tested on the road this week at Dallas, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City.


source:  25. Bobcats (7-12, LW 20). They are the losers of seven in a row, and the reason is they can’t defend. In their last five games they have given up 116.1 points per 100 possessions, the worst team in the NBA during that stretch (using the NBA’s own stats page).


source:  26. Suns (7-15, LW 23). They also have lost seven in a row, including one to the Magic on Sunday night they though was winnable. The two games this week are Memphis and Utah, although they are at home (and Utah can struggle on the road).


source:  27. Raptors (4-17, LW 26). They are a terrible road team and this West Coast swing has them losing and looking for answers. I look at the roster and still don’t see a grand plan from GM Bryan Colangelo.


source:  28. Hornets (5-14, LW 27). I want to cut them some slack — they have been without Anthony Davis for a long stretch and have played the toughest schedule in the NBA so far. But their problems go well beyond that.


source:  29. Cavaliers (4-17, LW 28). Losers of five straight but they get Kyrie Irving back Tuesday night. And they bring him back against a Lakers team that has terrible defense at the point guard position.


source:  3 30. Wizards (2-15, LW 30). Sorry, even a win over the Heat can’t get them out of the cellar… although if not for a Festus Ezeli block they would have beat the Warriors and moved up. They are close to getting out of this jail. Oh, and still no John Wall timeline.

  1. kdn4 - Dec 10, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    Can we really say the win over the Lakers was quality for the Thunder? Nets, yes, that was quality. But to call a win over a struggling team with no identity and a lot of internal tension is asinine.

  2. magicbucs - Dec 10, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Lakers should be more around the 20-22 spot. Still only 1 win better than the magic. Bahahaha!

  3. rickyspanish - Dec 10, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Another pukey title.

  4. lucky5936 - Dec 10, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    It must have pained Kurt to put the Heat so low.

  5. dko83 - Dec 10, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Shocked by the Warriors and Hawks so far, but that’s good. It’s refreshing to see teams play better than expected.

  6. jerdogthompson - Dec 10, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    The fact the Clippers beat a better OKC team 3 outta 4 last year and dropped the game in OKC this year by a last second attempt by CP3 that he would hit 8 outta 10 times makes me feel good about their prospects.

    I never thought I’d say this though, I actually have pity on the Lakers. Mind you I have nothing but visceral hated for the most idiotic and self entitled bizatches that call themselves fans though.

    Funny you don’t hear them much lately, my guess is the go 0-4 on this road trip and likely burn down Kupcake & Jerry Buss’s house as a sign of mis content.

    Enjoy mediocrity ladies, enjoy. Perhaps you all can pitch in for a case of Mangina-sil for the team as the yeast infection has spread to the entire bunch of them!


    • bozosforall - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:40 PM

      Mangina-sil? Proof that jizzdumpthompson is a jealous and bitter Boston fan…Pudhummer53 in disguise.

    • letangusespertplus - Dec 11, 2012 at 8:05 AM

      Flop city lost to NOLA and Cleveland, I wouldn’t feel good about them.

  7. ron05342 - Dec 10, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    “The Clippers remain the best and still by far least talked about team in Los Angeles.”

    Yup. Truer words were never written. All day long on KSPN 710 in L.A. I am hearing Lakers Lakers Lakers Lakers and their problems blah blah blah blah…I am freaking tired of it.

    Time to switch, KSPN. I know you got your noses up the Lakers’ collective azzes, but its time to move on. The Clippers have a deep bench, a great starting lineup, and barring injury they will contend for the title this year.

    Time to move on and talk about the Clippers. Oh, and by the way, when and if hockey ever, ever gets going again, why don’t you talk about the Kings before they make it to the SLC again. Front-runners.

    And by the way, I have been a Laker fan for 45 years. But enough is enough…I rather listen to want-to-kill-myself-xmas-music rather than Laker drivel all freaking day long.

  8. jerdogthompson - Dec 10, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    Well said Ron. Time for real change in LA. Meet the new “Showtime”.

    Let the Laker hate begun in one, two……..

    • bozosforall - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:42 PM

      Laker hate is alive and well in jealous Boston. FIVE titles to a measly ONE in this millennium. The envy is palpable.

  9. jerdogthompson - Dec 10, 2012 at 11:56 PM

    Wow. I never really considered you can have an alias on these sites. If I’m the only one that knows the real slim shady then please stand up.

    Yep, Mangina-sil. Helps those tacos with too much cheese muchacho. Face it, Lakers are in disarray with little or no hope of making the playoffs let alone making it out of the first round. Enjoy mediocrity, bozo, lakerbjgiver, et al……..

  10. jerdogthompson - Dec 11, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Yep. Dropped a couple easy ones after beating Memphis, Lakers, Spurs, Miami, Bulls, Utah, shall I continue.

    Face it, with the embarrassment of riches in the form of talent & depth it’s pretty easy to overlook lottery teams. Conversely those same lottery teams treat a game against the Clippers as their playoff game as they certainly have no chance of actually making them.

    And then?

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