The Nets have climbed inside the top-15 for the first time all season, but the Bucks, winners of four straight games, each by double-digits, secure the No. 1 overall spot in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.
Follow Tommy Beer on Twitter: @TommyBeer
1. Milwaukee Bucks
At 33-12, the Bucks have raced past the Raptors and now own the Eastern Conference’s, and the NBA’s, best record. Milwaukee is the only team in the league to rank inside the top five of both Offensive Rating (fourth, 113.6) and Defensive Rating (first, 103.8) rating this season. Their net rating of 9.7 also leads the NBA. The Bucks have won 15 of their last 18 games, and have won those 15 games by an average margin of 15.1 points.
2. Golden State Warriors
DeMarcus Cousins made his Golden State debut on Friday in a win over the Clippers. He joined Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green in the starting lineup and, in the process, the Warriors became the first team since the 1975-76 Boston Celtics to have five All-Stars from the previous season on the court at the same time. The five Celtics All-Stars were Jo Jo White, Charlie Scott, Dave Cowens, Paul Silas and John Havlicek.
3. Toronto Raptors
The Raps crushed the Grizzlies on Saturday night, 119-90. It was their ninth straight home victory, which is the longest active home win streak in the NBA at the moment. Saturday’s win also boosted Toronto’s record against West opponents this season to 13-5, which is an Eastern Conference-best.
4. Denver Nuggets
Nikola Jokic (19 points,12 assists, 11 rebounds in only 28 minutes) registered his sixth triple-double of the season on Saturday night. It was also the 22nd of his young career, which pushed him past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for second all-time among centers, trailing only Wilt Chamberlain (78). In addition, per Basketball-Reference, only three other players have ever registered more than 20 trip-dubs in their first 275 career games: Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Grant Hill.
5. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers won back-to-back games over the weekend against the Mavs and Hornets, and dating back to December 1st, Indiana is 18-5, which is tied with the Bucks for the best record in the NBA over this stretch. The Pacers are now 16 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2013-14 regular season when the team finished the season 56-26.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers had lost 18 straight games to the Thunder heading into their National TV matchup on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia. It certainly looked like Philly was going to snap that nasty nine-year losing streak after Jimmy Butler’s steal and driving layup gave them a two-point lead with less than seven seconds left in the fourth quarter. However, Paul George drilled a 3-pointer while being fouled by Butler to give OKC the stunning 117-115 victory. The Thunder's 19-game winning streak vs. the Sixers is the longest active winning streak by one NBA team against another.
7. Boston Celtics
After losing three in a row, Boston righted the ship last week, winning three straight, including an impressive victory over the Raptors. The C’s have won eight straight home games, matching their longest home winning streak since the 2015-16 season. Kyrie Irving has been carrying the Celtics of late. Over the C’s last five games, Irving is averaging 28.8 points, 9.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds, while shooting a scorching 57.3 percent from the field and 48.0 from 3-point territory.
8. Houston Rockets
As of Wednesday, no team in NBA history had ever attempted more than 61 three-pointers in an NBA game. Over the Rockets past two games, they are averaging 69 three-point attempts per contest. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, James Harden has been on a scoring binge. The Beard has scored 163 points over Houston’s last three games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have scored more in a three-game span in the previous 50 seasons.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
Incredibly, Russell Westbrook is on pace to average a triple-double for the third straight season. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, he also has a chance to become the first player in NBA history to attempt five or more treys per game while shooting below 28 percent from downtown. Russ is currently averaging 4.9 3-point attempts per contest, while shooting just 23.9 percent from behind the arc. He also may become only the second player in more than a decade to attempt more than 20 field goals per game, and shot below 42 percent from the field.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland scored 74 points in the first half of Friday’s 128-112 victory over the Pelicans, marking their highest-scoring half of the season. It was their sixth straight home win, which is their season-long home winning streak this season.
11. Utah Jazz
Winners of six in a row, the Jazz are streaking. Donovan Mitchell has been dominant during Utah’s six-game game run, averaging 30.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.8 treys, while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor, 40.5 percent from downtown and 82.5 percent from the charity stripe.
12. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs loss to the Clippers on Sunday was their second straight home defeat, and third loss in their last six games. Shockingly, DeMar DeRozan has scored more than 16 points just once in his previous six contests, while converting only 35 percent of his field goal attempts.
13. Los Angeles Lakers
After an embarrassing loss to the Cavs last Sunday, the Lakers bounced back to win their first two games of the week, before losing a heartbreaker to the Rockets in overtime on Saturday. Worse yet, L.A. announced that Lonzo Ball, who was injured in the loss to Houston, underwent an MRI which revealed a Grade 3 left ankle sprain. Ball is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
14. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets are 16-5 in their last 21 games. They are 9-1 at home, which is tied for the second-best home record in the league since December 7th, trailing only the Nuggets, who are 11-1. Of their five losses since Dec 7, four of them have been against the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, with three of those four defeats on the road (at Toronto, at Boston, and at Milwaukee).
15. LA Clippers
Losers of five straight heading into their matchup with the Spurs in San Antonio on Sunday, the Clippers badly needed a win. Despite playing without Danilo Gallinari (back) and Lou Williams (hamstring), L.A. got their much-desired ‘W’ thanks in large part to a brilliant all-around game from Tobias Harris, who flirted with a triple-double and tallied 27 points, a career-high nine assists, nine rebounds, three steals, one block and zero turnovers in 43 minutes.
16. Sacramento Kings
It appeared that the Kings, one of the NBA’s more pleasant surprises over the first couple months of the season, were going to crash back down to earth when they lost four straight in early January. However, Sacramento is rolling again, as they’ve won four of their last five. Their most recent victory, Saturday night in Detroit, required a miraculous buzzer-beater from Buddy Hield. The surging shooting guard has been a wildly efficient scoring machine of late. Over the Kings last 11 contests, 23.2 points and 4.5 trifectas, while shooting an incredible 52.4 percent from the floor, 53.8 percent from 3-point range and 91.7 percent from the charity stripe.
17. Miami Heat
Josh Richardson missed Friday’s loss to the Pistons due to an illness, but Miami welcomed him back to the lineup on Saturday and he scored a game-high 26 points to help beat the Bulls. On the season, J-Rich leads the team in points, assists, steals, field goals made, 3-point field goals made and free throws made.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Derrick Rose’s miraculous season continued on Sunday night, when he drained an 18-foot jumper with less than a second remaining to give the Wolves a 116-114 victory over the Phoenix Suns. D Rose deserves All-Star consideration, as he is averaging 19.3 points, 4.8 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 triples per game this season.
19. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets won each of their first three games last week, before getting obliterated, 120-95, by the Pacers on Sunday. Charlotte plays just two games this week, at Memphis on Wednesday and at Milwaukee on Friday.
20. New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis sprained his left index finger in the fourth quarter of Friday's loss to the Blazers, and on Saturday the team announced that he is expected to be sidelined for 1-2 weeks. However, it’s worth noting that AD's agent, Rich Paul, said that Davis will re-evaluate the injury by Tuesday to decide whether he needs to see a hand specialist. While we await an update on his status moving forward, it seems certain that Davis will miss at least three contests, as the Pelicans play on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. His earliest possible return date appears to be Saturday vs. the Spurs.
21. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have lost three games in a row, and begin this week with a difficult matchup, as they have to travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks. Luka Doncic was ejected from Saturday's loss after he booted a ball into the stands, but is averaging 20.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson are the only two rookies in NBA history to average at least 20/6/5 over a full NBA campaign. Fortunately for Dallas, Dennis Smith Jr. plans to return to the Mavericks for Tuesday's home game vs. the Clippers.
22. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons hit the road this week as they play at Wahington, New Orleans and Dallas over the next five days. Unfortunately, they will be without Andre Drummond for at least the first part of this trip. Drummond took an elbow to the face from James Johnson in Friday’s victory over Miami and was bleeding from the nose. The next day, he was ruled out of Detroit's matchup with Sacramento and is still in the concussion protocol.
23. Washington Wizards
The Wiz have won three of their last four games, with their only loss coming in double-overtime to Toronto. With John Wall (heel) sidelined, Bradley Beal has done the heavy lifting for the Wizards. Wall made his last appearance on December 26th, the day after Christmas. Washington has played ten games since then, and in those ten contests, Beal is averaging 29.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 3.5 treys and 2.5 steals, while shooting a 45.7 percent from the floor, 39.3 percent from downtown and 80.4 percent from the free-throw stripe.
24. Orlando Magic
Orlando has lost three straight games and may be forced to play without Aaron Gordon early this week. Gordon tweaked his back on Friday night and was ruled out of Saturday’s game vs. Milwaukee. He is questionable for Monday's game vs. the Hawks.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Over the last five weeks, the Grizzlies haven’t just been bad, they’ve been awful. Dating back to December 8th, they are 4-18. Their 18 losses during this stretch are tied with the Cavs for the most in the NBA. They rank 29th in Offensive Rating, scoring just 101.4 points per 100 possessions. Only the Bulls have been less efficient offensively.
26. Atlanta Hawks
Despite losing a close game to the Celtics on Saturday night, the Hawks have played much better of late. Atlanta is 8-8 over the past 16 games, including a 4-3 mark at home and a 2-0 record against the Western Conference. John Collins and Trae Young have been leading the way for the young Hawks. Over Atlanta’s last eight games, Young is averaging 19.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.3 trifectas and 1.4 steals.
27. Phoenix Suns
The Suns were missing both Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain) and Richaun Holmes (right foot sprain) on Sunday night, which allowed Dragan Bender to not only re-enter the rotation but also draw a start. Bender stepped in and stepped up, finishing with 12 points, ten rebounds, two assists and one block in 29 minutes in a tight loss to the Wolves.
28. New York Knicks
The Knicks played just once last week, losing to the Wizards in London. However, they did welcome back Mitchell Robinson (groin/ankle) to the lineup. Mitch Rob is shooting 64.8 percent from the floor and is averaging 3.8 blocks per-36 minutes this season. If Enes Kanter is traded or bought out in February, Robinson would see all the minutes he could handle in the second half of the season.
29. Chicago Bulls
As if the Bulls season couldn’t get any more depressing, Wendell Carter Jr. will undergo surgery on his left thumb. He is expected to be sidelined for up to three months, which effectively ends the promising big man’s rookie campaign.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs lost all three games they played last week and have dropped 15 of their last 16. They are the only team in NBA with fewer than ten wins in 2018-19. However, they do play five of their next seven at home. The six teams at the bottom of the standings in each conference (Knicks, Bulls, Cavs, Grizzlies, Mavs, Suns) have lost a combined 30 straight games.