FOXSports.com NBA power ratings
By Zac Jackson
Three teams have legit cases for the top -- and the Bulls are handling their business as well. The Celtics remain in the top spot for racking up style points while beating the Lakers and looking like they're already ready for the Finals. The Heat, well, they're darn good, too. The week's interesting moves come in the bottom half, as Memphis and Sacramento are playing some good basketball.
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The ride's been semi-bumpy, and there's still a long way to go for a team that has to be battling heavy legs and the urge to just get to May already. But Doc Rivers has been hinting that he really, really likes his team at full strength, and it's almost there now. After last Sunday, the Lakers would certainly vote Boston as No. 1.
Still sporting the league's best record, the Spurs keep scoring and handling their business as they keep inch closer to the coveted home-court advantage when the playoffs start. Many tests and potential bumps lie ahead, starting with the annual Rodeo Road Trip that will test the Spurs' not-so-young legs.
Fourth-quarter gut-check in OKC Sunday was not only big for the Heat's confidence (and good for writers when Kevin Durant called out Chris Bosh), but it served as a league-wide message. When LeBron and D-Wade go into attack mode, these guys look like the team nobody wants to play. Can they beat Boston? Probably not, but time will tell.
The Bulls just keep winning -- eight in a row entering the week, including a big one over Orlando last Friday. Derrick Rose keeps playing like an absolute superstar, Joakim Noah is due back at practice this week, and the weak Central Division bodes well for a potential high seed. Dangerous, to say the least.
Got smacked at home by the Celtics Sunday, resembling anything but a championship team in the process. But the Lakers themselves say they're not worried, that it's a marathon, that they'll be ready when it counts. Their track record says their right. Their regular season record against the league's top teams says trouble may be ahead.
What kind of week was it for Orlando? More accurately, what's the big concern going forward? Let's go right to coach Stan Van Gundy. "It's no coincidence the three teams ahead of us in the East are better defensively," he said Sunday. Then Monday: "We're not ready to contend. We don't defend hard enough or long enough. We'll see if that changes over the next 10 weeks." Ahem.
Do you recognize these Mavericks? They're still not playing at the level they were through December and before Dirk's injury, but they have won five straight and six of seven following a six-game losing streak. This is a team that's dangerous at full strength and, despite being cap-strapped, could still be active at the trade deadline.
Pushed the winning streak to 10 before dropping back-to-back games in Sacramento and Phoenix. Second loss could prove especially costly as Emeka Okafor is out at least a week and maybe three with a strained oblique. He's been a huge part of the defensive effort that got the Hornets' season back on the right track.
Games like the one last Sunday vs. Miami show the Thunder's potential, entertainment value and ... the frustration that they're not quite there yet. Kevin Durant is there, and Russell Westbrook is scary-athletic and dazzling in the open floor, but the Heat dominated the fourth quarter and kept getting to the rim. Nobody still wants to defend Durant in a seven-game series, but -- maybe next year?
Still beating most of the teams they're supposed to beat, and Joe Johnson's big month coincided with a pretty successful one for the team as a whole. Atlanta still isn't good enough on the road or good enough overall to be considered a true threat come playoff time, not without a move or two, anyway.
Gutted out a win over Charlotte Monday night on the tail end of a back-to-back, both with Deron Williams watching in a suit due to a wrist injury. It was a big win as the Jazz have lost seven of nine and remain fortunate that the Thunder haven't opened a bigger gap. They're in the market to add wing scoring.
It's still all about the Carmelo Saga, and his knees were bothering him in a tough one at Philly. He played more like himself in Monday night's loss to the Nets, but the inspired Nets basically ran Denver right out of the building. The Nuggets are a playoff team in their current state, but not a dangerous one.
Scoring struggles have cost the Blazers more than a few close games. Long weekend to rest and heal following a home loss to Boston should help, but a back-to-back with the Spurs visiting and then a trip to Denver officially registers as very big in the landscape as Memphis (among others) is closing the playoff gap.
The word is the Knicks are about to hire former Denver Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien as a high-level consultant -- for now anyway. Pressing matters on the court lie ahead as the largely defenseless Knicks prep for a huge stretch with Dallas, back-to-back with Philly, then back-to-back home games against the L.A. teams.
Huge win over Orlando Monday night was the Grizzlies' sixth in their last seven games and put them over .500 for the first time since they were 2-1 in the first week of the season. That takes O.J. Mayo's suspension out of the headlines. Zach Randolph was the Western Conference Player of the Week, and Mike Conley was very big in beating the Magic.
Pretty good news all around as Blake Griffin continues to destroy rims and demoralize opponents. The Clippers have now won nine straight at home, and Eric Gordon could be back within a week; the original diagnosis on his wrist injury was that he could have missed a month. The Clippers host the Bulls Wednesday, then go on a 10-game road trip.
Still hanging around, still getting huge numbers from Kevin Martin, still not serious contenders for anything as the trade deadline inches nearer. The Rockets have an aggressive GM and some flexibility, so they're a team to watch. It's a long climb in the loaded West, however.
Still a fun team to watch, and still very much looking like a playoff team at the bottom of the East. That doesn't mean a whole lot, but Doug Collins' team is getting scoring balance, and the Sixers lead the league in bench scoring. Thaddeus Young is playing well, and Evan Turner is following suit most nights.
The Suns finished January with an 8-7 record, the team's first winning month of the season. Yes, times have changed in Phoenix and not for the better. The team stance is that it's not going to trade Steve Nash, but this current group isn't going anywhere. At least Marcin Gortat is maximizing his chance to shine.
Winning enough to think things may be headed in the right direction for the long-term, and Monta Ellis is having a monster season by anybody's standards. The Warriors are still the league's second-worst defensive team, rarely win away from home and need to make a move (or three) to start to scare any of the West's real contenders.
Brandon Jennings is back. He's not at full speed, and the Bucks have injuries at other spots on their mismatched roster, but his return helps. And for as terrible as their offense has been, they're still on the cusp of the playoffs. Maybe it's better that they take their chances in the lottery. Stay tuned.
Offensively challenged, not deep enough and struggling to win on the road. But even at seven games under .500, the Bobcats are in playoff contention. The bigger issue for now is D.J. Augustin's improved play; if he's The Guy at the point for the future, that's a victory.
Last week's hot streak meets this week's reality check. Disjointed, poorly built Pistons have lost three straight, need to make several moves and aren't sure which guys are going to show up on which nights. The good news? They play in basketball's worst division and do have at least a few players showing glimpses.
Don't look now, but here come the Kings. And DeMarcus Cousins. And a team that's currently as dangerous as some thought it might be at the start of this season. The Kings still are miles from contention, but Cousins has been on an absolute tear and Tyreke Evans is playing like himself, too. Worth watching going forward.
They've won two of three and have Tyler Hansbrough back. Oh, they also fired their coach. Things are a mess, but this change should lead to more chances for first-round rookie Paul George, and that's a good thing for the future as these guys need an identity and all the help they can get.
The Nets dropped out of the Carmelo Derby, and it seems to have energized them. They waxed the Nuggets Monday night and are playing with a renewed energy. There's still a mile between the current roster and respectability, but more than a few hundred are coming out to weeknight games. That's progress.
New week, same story. The Wolves keep losing close ones, can't win in the division (0-10 entering the week) and keep wasting huge efforts by Kevin Love. This team probably isn't as bad as its record indicates, but winning remains the bottom line, right?
Played a close one in Dallas Monday night but, in typical Wizards fashion, faltered late. The loss was the Wizards' fifth straight overall and makes them 0-24 on the road, the third-worst road start in NBA history. The good news? They play at Cleveland on Feb. 13.
Losers of 12 straight, the Raptors have trouble starting games, closing them and keeping opponents out of the paint. Tough to see much direction with the current roster, but at least DeMar Derozan looks like a keeper and a future star. And, at least the Cavs are still in the league.
Losers of 21 straight, 15 of those by double-digit margins. The Cavs were outscored by 275 points total in an 0-16 January. Not a misprint. Barring a miracle, they'll tie the record of 23 straight losses in Memphis Friday and break it at home vs. Portland Saturday.