The Bucks hold onto the No.1 overall spot as they continue to steamroll through the league, while the Heat stays hot and crack the top-3 in this week's updated NBA Power Rankings.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks finally lost a game! After 18 straight wins, Milwaukee had their streak snapped by the Mavs on Monday. Of course, they came right back and beat up the Lakers two nights later. And then they won both ends of a back-to-back by a combined 49 points over the weekend. The Bucks are head and shoulders above the rest of the league right now.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers were 23-3 to start the season, but went 0-3 last week, losing to the Bucks, Pacers and Nuggets. However, they still have two more wins than every other non-Milwaukee team in the league. LeBron James (thoracic muscle strain) was ruled out for Sunday's game against the Nuggets. Let's hope King James is healthy enough to return to action for the Lakers' Christmas Day showdown with the Clippers. The good news for the Lakers is they welcomed back Kyle Kuzma (ankle) on Sunday, and he looked good, scoring 16 points.
3. Miami Heat
The Heat slipped up in a loss to the Grizzlies on Monday, but bounced back with an impressive win in Philly over the Sixers on Wednesday and pounded the Knicks on Friday night. Miami has yet to lose consecutive games this season and is tied for second place in the Eastern Conference.
4. Boston Celtics
Gordon Hayward (left foot soreness) did not play in Sunday's victory over the Hornets. It was his third straight game on the sidelines, but coach Brad Stevens said that Hayward had a good workout on Sunday, and the team expects him to be medically cleared for the matchup with the Raptors on Christmas.
5. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors trailed the Mavericks by 30 points in the third quarter on Sunday afternoon, and were down 23 heading into the fourth. Yet, thanks in large part to Kyle Lowry's 20 points in the final frame, Toronto incredibly came back to win. It was the largest comeback in franchise history and the NBA's first 30-point comeback in more than ten years.
6. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets wrapped up a perfect 5-0 five-game homestand on Friday with a victory over the Wolves. Denver then traveled to Los Angeles and knocked off the LeBron-less Lakers on Sunday night. The Nuggets play in Phoenix on Monday, before heading back to Denver for three straight winnable games vs. the Pels, Grizzlies and Kings.
7. LA Clippers
Last season, the Raptors were able to sustain success even when Kawhi Leonard was sidelined or resting. Toronto went 17-5 in the 22 games Kawhi sat out in 2018-19. The Clippers record sans Kawhi has not been nearly as impressive, as they are just 4-4 in such contests, including two straight losses to Chicago and OKC.
8. Houston Rockets
James Harden continues to score at an incredible clip, and he's also received extra help from Russell Westbrook of late. Over his last seven appearances, Russ is averaging 29.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.1 assists and 1.9 steals while shooting a surprising 50.7% from the floor and 88% from the free-throw stripe.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
Prior to beating up on a shorthanded Wizards squad Saturday night, the Sixers had lost three straight games, two of them in blowout fashion. Last Sunday, they lost by 20 points to a Nets team playing without Kyrie Irving. On Friday, they lost by 19 points to a Mavs team playing without Luka Doncic. In addition, Joel Embiid (illness) is questionable for Monday's game vs. Detroit.
10. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers had won five straight games before running into the buzzsaw that is the Bucks on Sunday. Indiana has two more tough games to start this week, hosting the Raptors on Monday and then traveling to Miami to take on the Heat Friday night.
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11. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs have gone 2-2 in the four games without Luka Doncic (ankle), but Dallas' MVP candidate could be back sooner rather than later. Luka ramped up his rehab work this weekend, and coach Rick Carlisle said the four games between Christmas and January are "certainly in play."
12. Utah Jazz
The Jazz has won a season-high five straight games, and Joe Ingles resurgence has been a major reason why. During this five-game stretch, Ingles is averaging 16.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.8 triples, while shooting 57% from the floor, 54% from downtown and 100% from the stripe.
13. Brooklyn Nets
Over the last month, five players are averaging more than 26 points and more than seven assists per game: LeBron James, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, James Harden and ... Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nets PG had zero 30-point games over the first four years of his NBA career. He had three 30-point games last week. Dinwiddie is averaging 37 points and six assists per game over that three-game stretch.
14. Oklahoma City Thunder
After a bit of a scoring lull in the middle of the month, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went on a tear last week, scoring 20+ points in three straight games. During this three-game run, SGA averaged 28.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 treys, while shooting 54% from the floor, 50% from downtown and 94% from the charity stripe.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
Don't sleep on the Blazers, who are currently riding a season-high four-game winning streak. In their most recent victory on Saturday night, Hassan Whiteside exploded for 16 points, 22 rebounds, two assists, one steal, seven blocks, becoming the became the first player in franchise history with at least 20 points, 15 boards and seven swats in a single game.
16. Orlando Magic
Orlando is trending in the wrong direction, having lost all three games they played last week, and six of their last seven overall. Fortunately, they returned home from a four-game road swing over the weekend and now play seven of their next nine contests in Orlando.
17. Sacramento Kings
The Kings also lost three straight last week, with all three coming on the road. And, like Orlando, Sacramento hopes to get healthy on some home cooking. Remarkably, the Kings play ten of their next 12 games at home. If they hope to turn their season around, they have an excellent opportunity to do so.
18. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs lost two of three last week, but those losses can be excused as the first came in Houston, and the second was against the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard in uniform. Three of the Spurs next four games are vs. teams with losing records, the only exception being the Mavs on Thursday (who may still be without Luka Doncic).
19. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls have won two and row, and Lauri Markkanen is finally scoring efficiently. Over Chicago's last four games, he is averaging 18.0 points, 9.0 boards, 1.5 blocks and 2.3 made triples, while shooting a solid 54% from the floor, 39% from downtown and 100% from the stripe.
20. Charlotte Hornets
After winning three straight in the middle of the month, the Hornets have lost four of five, including three consecutive defeats to close out the week. Devonte' Graham is now up to 125 made 3-pointers this season, trailing only James Harden
21. Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton (right ankle) finally returned from 25-game PED suspension on Tuesday and looked good, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and a block in just 24 minutes of action. However, he injured his ankle in the process and missed two straight games, and has already been ruled out of Monday's matchup with the Nuggets.
22. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizz have looked better of late, winning three of their last five, including impressive, consecutive home wins last week vs. the Heat and Kings.
23. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons lost all four games they played last week, but hope to get some reinforcements back shortly. Blake Griffin (illness), who sat out Saturday, are listed as questionable for Monday's game vs. the Sixers. Griffin was also sidelined on Friday due to a knee injury, but Coach Dwane Casey said Griffin missed Saturday's game due to an illness, not because of his knee issue. In addition, both Derrick Rose (sore left knee) and Christian Wood (knee) are probable for Monday.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves
The day before Thanksgiving, the Wolves were two games above .500 at 10-8. Remarkably, they haven't won since, losing ten straight contests. They will have some interesting pieces to trade away if they decide they are sellers before the deadline, most appealing of which is Robert Covington, who is making less than $13 million per season through 2020.
25. Washington Wizards
The league announced on Sunday that Isaiah Thomas had been suspended two games without pay for entering the spectator stands. NBA rules state that any player who deliberately enters the spectator stands during a game will be automatically ejected and subject to a fine and/or suspension. Per the NBA memo: "This bright-line rule is intended to prevent altercations or other hostile interactions between players and fans, for the benefit of both, and is therefore enforced even in circumstances such as these when the encounter between Thomas and fans did not escalate."
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
After losing ten of their previous 11 games, the Cavs have won each of their last two contests. They have a chance to make it three in a row on Monday when they host the Hawks; however, Atlanta will finally welcome John Collins (suspension) back to action Monday night.
27. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pels season has obviously not gone as hoped. Also, Lonzo Ball's improved shooting mechanics have been faulty. Zo has made more than one free-throw in a game only once since October 28th. He is shooting below 29% from the charity stripe over the last three weeks.
28. New York Knicks
The Knicks showed some promise under new head coach Mike Miller initially, winning three of four heading into last weekend. Then they got blown out in back-to-back games. On the season, New York has nine 20-point losses in their first 30 games - that's the most in franchise history (and the fourth most in league history).
29. Atlanta Hawks
The good news for Hawks fans is that Trae Young is averaging 29.7 points, 8.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 made treys over Atlanta's last seven games. The bad news is the Hawks ate 0-7 in those seven games.
30. Golden State Warriors
Only two Warriors have scored more than 400 total points this season: Alec Burks and Eric Paschall. Not what was expected heading into 2019-20, huh? Marquese Chriss has shown signs of life recently, averaging 8.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 17.4 minutes over Golden State's last five games.