By Steve Kerr, Yahoo Sports
November 20, 2006
Utah is back.
STEVE KERR'S THREE POINTS
Player of the Week
Carmelo Anthony – The Nuggets star forward has scored 30 plus points in six straight games, four of which his team won. Anthony's scoring outburst has everything to do with aggressiveness; he's averaging 10 free throw attempts per game.
Team of the Week
Utah Jazz – Back-to-back awards for the Jazz. Their epic comeback against the Suns on Saturday night vaulted their record to 9-1, and they're doing it without Andrei Kirilenko. Is there a stronger two guard in the NBA than Matt Harpring?
Statistic of the Week
19-29 – That's the cumulative record of the Atlantic Division, which is once again on its way to being the worst in the NBA.
It became official on Saturday night when the Suns' Leandro Barbosa was called for a phantom foul on a late Mehmet Okur desperation three-pointer. The Jazz center made all three free throws to force overtime and help Utah win for the ninth time in 10 games.
It was the kind of improbable victory that seemed routine during the John Stockton/Karl Malone era, when the Jazz were almost impossible to defeat at home. Those teams executed, defended, hustled and flopped, infuriating opponents and establishing the Delta Center as the toughest place to play in the league.
The current Jazz squad – led by Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer – is establishing the same sort of home-court dominance. They're unbeaten this season at the newly renamed EnergySolutions Arena, and that's one reason why they're sitting atop Yahoo! Sports' NBA rankings.
(Records and statistics are through Nov. 19.)
1. Utah Jazz (9-1, Last ranking: 1) – It's rare for Jerry Sloan to play rookies, but both Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap are making major contributions to the Jazz.
2. San Antonio Spurs (8-2, Last ranking: 2) – Depth is a factor. The Spurs' 19-point comeback win over Houston last week was led by Beno Udrih, Brent Barry, Robert Horry and Michael Finley.
3. Los Angeles Clippers (6-2, Last ranking: 3) – Elton Brand's 33-point, 12-rebound night in a win over Philadelphia might have been his breakout game after a slow start.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (7-3, Last ranking: 5) – Damon Jones is starting to heat up. When the Cavs shoot the three well, they're awfully tough to beat.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (7-3, Last ranking: 7) – Andrew Bynum's defensive presence in the paint has been a major factor in the Lakers' hot start.
6. Orlando Magic (7-3, Last ranking: 11) – The Magic are getting great bench play from Carlos Arroyo and Trevor Ariza, and they're atop the Southeast Division.
7. Golden State Warriors (7-3, Last ranking: 12) – Andris Biedrins has been a pleasant surprise for Don Nelson. He's big and active, has great hands and can finish in the lane. Now the schedule gets tougher. Can they keep up the pace?
8. New Orleans Hornets (7-3, Last ranking: 17) – The Hornets are a team of streaks: four consecutive wins, three straight losses and then three more wins in a row.
9. Houston Rockets (6-4, Last ranking: 4) – Tracy McGrady is off to a very slow start, but the Rockets should fatten up on weak competition this week.
10. Dallas Mavericks (5-4, Last ranking: 18) – The Mavs are like George Jefferson: They're "movin' on up" after a 3-0 week. Not bad, especially considering that Josh Howard is still out with an ankle injury.
11. Denver Nuggets (2-3, Last ranking: 21) – Andre Miller had one of his best games in a win over Miami last week: 29 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
12. New Jersey Nets (3-2, Last ranking: 9) – The Nets miss Richard Jefferson, who has sat out the last five games with a sprained ankle.
13. Sacramento Kings (4-2, Last ranking: 6) – Eric Musselman is preaching defense, but the Kings gave up an average of 112 points in a 1-2 week.
14. Indiana Pacers (4-3, Last ranking: 10) – Jermaine O'Neal has yet to find his groove. He's scoring 16 points per game on 43-percent shooting.
15. Detroit Pistons (5-5, Last ranking: 20) – The Pistons are .500. Thirty-two straight wins and they'll tie last year's start.
16. Miami Heat (4-5, Last ranking: 15) – Shaquille O'Neal's out for six weeks following knee surgery. Can Miami hang on until he gets back?
17. Atlanta Hawks (4-4, Last ranking: 8) – Joe Johnson has led the Hawks in scoring in every game this season.
18. Phoenix Suns (3-6, Last ranking: 23) – The good news? The Suns averaged 111.5 points in two games without Steve Nash. The bad news? They blew another big fourth-quarter lead in a loss to Utah.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (4-5, Last ranking: 22) – Chris Webber's numbers are down, including his minutes. There are rumblings that he's not happy, but the truth is, his career is near the end.
20. Washington Wizards (4-5, Last ranking: 14) – Talk about offensive efficiency: 45 points on 22 shots for Gilbert Arenas in a win over Cleveland.
21. Chicago Bulls (3-7, Last ranking: 13) – In the last seven seasons, the Bulls are 4-44 on their annual November western swing. (That is not a misprint).
22. Seattle SuperSonics (4-7, Last ranking: 19) – Four of their next five are at home, but the Sonics will face a very tough set of teams.
23. Portland Trail Blazers (5-6, Last ranking: 16) – LaMarcus Aldridge is giving the Blazers some good minutes, averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 boards to go with 69.7-percent shooting.
24. Boston Celtics (4-6, Last ranking: 29) – The Celtics averaged 118 points during a three-game winning streak last week.
25. New York Knicks (2-5, Last ranking: 27) – Sophomore slump? Channing Frye is off to a horrible start: 5.9 points per game on 33-percent shooting.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-6, Last ranking: 24) – The Wolves have lost six of seven. When will the Kevin Garnett trade talk begin?
27. Milwaukee Bucks (3-7, Last ranking: 25) – The Bucks can score, but they can't rebound or defend. They're being out-boarded by 7.4 per game and giving up 103.6 points per game.
28. Charlotte Bobcats (2-7, Last ranking: 30) – Adam Morrison poured in 32 points against Bruce Bowen in the Bobcats' upset of the Spurs.
29. Toronto Raptors (2-7, Last ranking: 26) – Andrea Bargnani has played 11 total minutes in the last two games.
30. Memphis Grizzlies (1-8, Last ranking: 28) – The Grizzlies are getting no inside scoring; everything is a jump shot. That's why they're shooting a league-worst 41 percent from the field.
Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Tuesday, Nov 21, 2006 2:59 am, EST
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