The Warriors reclaim the No. 1 overall spot, while the Spurs climb back inside the top-10 in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.
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1. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have righted the ship of late, thanks in large part to their improved defense. Golden State has won three of their last (including wins over Denver, Houston and Oklahoma City), and allowed just 103.0 points per game. The Warriors were 1-3 in their previous four contests and allowed 118.5 points per game during that stretch.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo exploded for a career-high 52 points on Sunday, to go along with the 16 rebounds and seven assists, but it wasn’t enough to power the Bucks past the Sixers. Even worse, Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon for six-to-eight weeks due to plantar fascia tear in his right foot. It’s a significant blow to the Bucks, as Brogdon was a crucial contributor. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Milwaukee will sign Tim Frazier to supplement their backcourt depth.
3. Denver Nuggets
Denver’s victory over the Pacers on Saturday was their 30th home win of the season. At 30-6, they have the best home record in the NBA. In that win over Indiana, Paul Millsap hit a game-winning layup and finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. Over the Nuggets last three games, Millsap is averaging 23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 64.3 percent from the field in 34.3 minutes leading the Nuggets to a 3-0 record.
4. Houston Rockets
James Harden had a rare off-night on Sunday, shooting just 8-of-24 from the floor for 20 points, but the Rockets still beat the Wolves by 15. Chris Paul caught fire, knocking down 6-of-7 3-point attempts en route to 25 points, seven rebounds and ten assists. Sunday was just the seventh game this season in which Harden has scored fewer than 25 points. He has scored 40-plus points 25 times.
5. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors lost two of the three games they played last week, including an embarrassing 25-point loss to the Cavs in Cleveland. Kawhi Leonard (load management) did play in Sunday’s loss to the Pistons but has been ruled out of Monday's game vs. the Knicks. Kyle Lowry (left ankle sprain) has missed each of Toronto’s last two games and is expected to sit out Monday’s matchup with New York as well. Nonetheless, the Raps should be able to get off to a good start this week against the hapless Knicks.
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6. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers improved to a season-high 20 games over .500 with an impressive victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon. Joel Embiid carried Philadelphia to the win, as he dominated both ends of the floor and finished with 40 points, 15 rebounds, four 3-pointers, six assists and three steals in 36 minutes. However, the Sixers did announce that Embiid would be rested on Tuesday vs. the Hornets as a precaution.
7. Boston Celtics
The Celtics lost to the Clippers last Monday, but Kyrie Irving put Boston on his back and carried them to wins vs. the Kings and Hawks to close out the week. Irving hung a 30-point triple-double on Sacramento and then stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 30 points 11 rebounds, nine assists against Trae Young and the Hawks. Over Boston’s last four games, Kyrie is averaging 27.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.3 dimes, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 3.0 treys.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
Blazers fans probably didn’t sleep well Saturday night, as they watched C.J. McCollum crumble to the floor in pain in Portland’s loss to the Spurs. Many fans were likely nervously awaiting a Woj bomb that could potentially deliver devastating news. Fortunately, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted Sunday evening that McCollum has a popliteus strain in his left knee and will be re-examined in a week. As Woj explained, it was the best possible news for McCollum and Blazers, who avoided a serious injury.
9. San Antonio Spurs
Remarkably, the Spurs have won eight straight games, which is the league’s longest current winning streak, by far. (No one else in the NBA has won more than four in a row.) Once thought to be on the playoff bubble, the Spurs are now in sixth place in the Western Conference and, after beating Portland on Saturday, are just 1.5 games behind the Blazers for fourth.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook scored just seven points on 2-of-16 shooting in the Thunder’s loss to the Warriors on Sunday night. Worse yet, he also picked up his 16th technical foul of the season. Per league rules, Russ will be suspended for one game, which means he’ll miss Monday’s game vs. the Heat. Westbrook will be suspended another game if he gets hit with two more techs during the regular season. Dennis Schroder is expected to start at point guard on Monday night, with Raymond Felton backing him up.
11. Utah Jazz
The Jazz went 3-0 last week, with all three wins coming at home. However, they embark on a four-game road trip this week. The caliber of the opponents certainly isn’t intimidating (Wizards, Knicks, Hawks and Bulls), but Utah will play all four games over six days.
12. LA Clippers
Winners in seven of their last eight games, the Clippers have found all types of ways to win. On Sunday, they blew a double-digit lead in the final minute, but Lou Williams knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to save the day and deliver a win. The victory was Doc Rivers' 300th as Clippers coach. He is the seventh coach in NBA history with at least 300 regular-season wins with two or more teams.
13. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Saturday was just the first contest of a tough four-game road trip. They play a back-to-back vs. the Blazers and Clippers on Monday and Tuesday, and then travel to Golden State on Thursday. After returning home to take on the Nuggets on Sunday, Indiana has to get right back on the road and head to OKC and Boston.
14. Detroit Pistons
The streaking Pistons have won seven of their last nine and 14 of their last 18, and are playing their best basketball of the season behind phenomenal all-around performances from Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. In Sunday’s victory over the Raptors, Griffin poured in 25 points while Drummond scored 15 points and ripped down 17 rebounds. In the process, Detroit completed a season sweep of the Raptors.
15. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets lost a heart-breaker in Los Angeles on Sunday night. The Clippers were up 10 points with just over a minute remaining before Brooklyn scored ten straight to tie the score with five seconds remaining. However, Lou Williams sunk a 3-point dagger as time expired to hand the Nets a loss. It’s been a wild month for the Nets. Since the All-Star break, Brooklyn ranks dead last in Offensive Rating (averaging just 104.6 points per 100 possessions), but second overall in Defensive Rating.
16. Orlando Magic
Nikola Vucevic has picked an excellent time to have a career year. Set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Vucevic is one of only three players (along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis) averaging at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game in 2018-19. Vooch did it all in the Magic's 101-91 victory over the Hawks on Sunday, finishing with 27 points, 21 rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
17. Miami Heat
The Heat have won six of eight, but they have a very difficult upcoming schedule. Miami plays four times over the next six days, with all four games on the road: at OKC, at San Antonio, at Milwaukee and at Washington.
18. Sacramento Kings
The Kings were a feel-good story for most of the season as it seemed they had a real chance to snap their 13-year drought without reaching the playoffs. However, they are just 3-7 over their last ten games and find themselves six games back of the eighth-seed Clippers out West.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Wolves lost all three games they played last week and begin this week by hosting the Warriors Tuesday night. 2018-19 started with so much promise, but it will end with Minnesota on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
20. Washington Wizards
Thanks in large part to the incredible play of Bradley Beal, the Wizards still have an outside chance of crashing the postseason party. Beal is averaging 26.2 points, the most for an Eastern Conference guard this season. He’s also the only player in the NBA with more than 150 made 3-pointers, 100 steals and 50 blocks.
21. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are reeling. They are just 5-12 over their last 17 games and haven’t won consecutive contests in over six weeks. In Saturday’s blowout loss to the Heat, they scored only 75 points, which is a season-low and tied for the third-worst total in the NBA this season. Worse yet, this week they have to play the Sixers on Tuesday, the Wolves on Thursday, and then wrap up the week by playing a brutal back-to-back vs. Boston and Toronto on Saturday and Sunday. Yikes.
22. Los Angeles Lakers
In season chockfull of lowlights, Sunday afternoon in Madison Square Garden may have been the nadir of the Lakers 2018-19 season. Up 11 points with just over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, L.A. somehow allowed the lowly Knicks to finish the game on a 13-1 run and win 124-123. LeBron James, who was 4-of-13 in the final frame, was blocked by Mario Hezonja on L.A.’s final possession. The 11 missed FG attempts are the most by LeBron in one quarter in his career.
23. New Orleans Pelicans
As of last week, only seven players in NBA history had ever recorded a triple-double in four straight games: Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Russell Westbrook, Michael Jordan, James Harden and Magic Johnson… Well, we can add a new name to that list: Elfrid Payton. The Pelicans PG amazingly registered his fourth consecutive triple-double on Saturday, tallying 16 points, 13 boards, a career-high 16 assists. During this four-game stretch, Payton is averaging 14.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 13.3 assists.
24. Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic (right knee contusion) sat out Saturday’s victory over the Cavs but is listed as probable for Monday's game vs. the Pelicans. This game has a chance to be special for Mavericks fans, as Dirk Nowitzki needs just four points to pass Wilt Chamberlain for sixth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. After Monday, Dallas plays three straight on the road, so the Mavs will no doubt do everything within their power to make sure Dirk passes Wilt at home.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies don’t have all that many wins to show for it, but they have been competing hard and playing with effort over the last month. Dating back to the All-Star break, Memphis ranks 8th overall in Defensive Efficiency (allowing just 107.2 points per 100 possessions) and 12th in Net Rating (+1.2).
26. Atlanta Hawks
In the ten games John Collins has played since the All-Star break, he is averaging 22.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.0 made 3-pointers, while shooting 54.7 percent from the floor and 82.3 percent from the free-throw line. He ranks 18th overall in nine-category fantasy formats over the second-half.
27. Phoenix Suns
The Suns were trailing by three points with less than eight seconds left in overtime on Saturday night, and the Pelicans had the ball. It would take a miracle for Phoenix to win, right. Welp, the Pels got called for a five-second violation. Then Josh Jackson nailed a 3-pointer. Then New Orleans called a timeout, despite the fact they didn’t have one and got whistled for a technical. Devin Booker made the free throw, and the Suns won. One of the wildest finishes in the NBA this season.
28. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls defensive effort has waned of late. Chicago has lost five straight games and given up more than 120 points in each of their last four defeats.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Larry Nance (ribs) is listed as out on the injury report for Monday’s game vs. the Pistons. It’s never a good sign when a player is ruled out more than 24 hours prior to tip-off. Kevin Love (lower back contusion) is listed as questionable. We can assume the Cavs will look to get Love plenty of rest down the stretch even if he was 100 healthy.
30. New York Knicks
The Knicks picked up a rare win on Sunday by knocking off the slumping Lakers and LeBron. New York hasn’t had many highlights of late, but the impressive play of Damyean Dotson has been encouraging. Dotson finished with 25 points, six rebounds and three treys in the Knicks victory on Sunday. Over New York's last four games, Dotson is averaging 22.5 points, 5.0 points, 3.0 assists and 3.5 treys, while shooting 47.3 percent overall, 42.4 percent on 3PT's and 100 percent from the charity stripe.