Turning up the Heat

Turning up the Heat
By Steve Kerr, Yahoo Sports
December 19, 2005

Steve Kerr
Yahoo Sports
While Miami played inconsistently through Shaquille O'Neal's ankle injury for the first quarter of the season, the rest of the league knew it was only a matter of time before the Heat returned to elite status. Sure enough, Shaq came back last week – bringing Pat Riley with him – and Miami made its jump into the top five of Yahoo! Sports' rankings.

But while the Heat's move was expected, the ascension of the Hornets and Hawks was not. Atlanta climbed a few rungs as Joe Johnson broke out in a big way, while New Orleans/OKC showed how pesky it can be with wins over the Suns, Clippers and Spurs.

A look at this week's rankings (records and statistics are through Dec. 19):

Detroit 1. Detroit Pistons (18-3, Last week: 1) – It'll be a crime if both Piston guards don't make the all-star game this year.

San Antonio 2. San Antonio Spurs (19-5, Last week: 2) – As Mike Myers said in "Wayne's World," "I thought I had mono once. Turned out I was just really bored."

Dallas 3. Dallas Mavericks (18-6, Last week: 3) – Josh Howard is emerging into a star. Is there anything he can't do?

L.A. Clippers 4. Los Angeles Clippers (15-8, Last week: 4) – Clips lose three in a row, but stem the tide with win over Houston. Livingston looking good.

Miami 5. Miami Heat (14-11, Last week: 12) – Shaq comes back, and the Heat win four straight games – what a coincidence.

Memphis 6. Memphis Grizzlies (14-8, Last week: 7) – Grizzlies allowing just 85 points per game.

Indiana 7. Indiana Pacers (14-8, Last week: 6) – Addition by subtraction? Artest's apparent departure should improve chemistry.

Phoenix 8. Phoenix Suns (14-9, Last week: 5) – Suns ravaged by injuries, and they can't get to the free-throw line.

Milwaukee 9. Milwaukee Bucks (13-9, Last week: 9) – Michael Redd is scoring 25 points a night.

Golden State 10. Golden State Warriors (14-10, Last week: 10) – Ike Diogu is barely getting of the bench.

Cleveland 11. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-9, Last week: 11) – Young Cavaliers must learn how to grind out victories with defense and execution.

L.A. Lakers 12. Los Angeles Lakers (13-11, Last week: 14) – Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant are starting to develop confidence in the second unit.

Minnesota 13. Minnesota Timberwolves (12-10, Last week: 8) – Four losses in a row, all of them close. Wolves must regroup.

Houston 14. Houston Rockets (10-13, Last week: 19) – Rockets are like the Jeffersons – they're "moving on up." Yao's injury could bring them back down.

Chicago 15. Chicago Bulls (12-11, Last week: 15) – Eight Bulls average between seven and 14 points. Skiles' club just finds a way.

Philadelphia 16. Philadelphia 76ers (13-12, Last week: 16) – Andre Iguodala just gets better and better.

New Jersey 17. New Jersey Nets (11-12, Last week: 18) – Nets can be good, and they can really stink. How about a little consistency?

New Orleans 18. New Orleans Hornets (11-13, Last week: 14) – You'd better be ready when you play the Hornets – they are lightning fast.

Denver 19. Denver Nuggets (12-13, Last week: 13) – Three straight losses to end Eastern swing sets the Nuggets back.

Utah 20. Utah Jazz (11-13, Last week: 26) – Andrei Kirilenko is back to his old self, filling up the stat sheet.

Seattle 21. Seattle SuperSonics (10-12, Last week: 17) – Luke Ridnour needed three stitches for a gash suffered in his forehead from chest-bumping Vitaly Potapenko during pregame warmups. Enough said.

Orlando 22. Orlando Magic (9-12, Last week: 21) – Jameer Nelson is making an impact.

Sacramento 23. Sacramento Kings (10-14 Last week: 20) – Bench play still an issue for the Kings. Adelman relying heavily on the starters.

Washington 24. Washington Wizards (9-13, Last week: 23) – Wizards need to find themselves, and quickly.

Boston 25. Boston Celtics (9-14, Last week: 22) – The Celtics haven't won two games in a row this season.

Atlanta 26. Atlanta Hawks (6-17, Last week: 29) – Joe Johnson is heating up, and the Hawks are finding some confidence.

New York 27. New York Knicks (6-17, Last week: 25) – It's getting ugly in the Big Apple. Larry Brown is ready to trade the whole team.

Charlotte 28. Charlotte Bobcats (6-18, Last week: 30) – Bobcats are reeling, but Brevin Knight is putting together another nice year.
Portland 29. Portland Trail Blazers (7-16, Last week: 27) – A win over Washington soothes the pain, but Nate McMillan's club is in for a long season.

Toronto 30. Toronto Raptors (4-20, Last week: 28) – Are the Argonauts playing for the Grey Cup this year?

Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Monday, Dec 19, 2005 6:00 pm, EST

Email to a Friend | View Popular