The Golden State Warriors snapped an unprecedented four-game losing streak over the weekend, the Clippers remain red hot, and the Toronto Raptors jump up into the top spot in this week’s updated Power Rankings.
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1. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors, who own the NBA’s best record, are also riding the league’s longest active win streak (five games and counting). Part of the reason for Toronto's success early on has been their ability to beat the teams they’re supposed to - the Raps are 11-0 against teams with losing records.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
This is the first time the Bucks have won at least 14 of their first 19 games since 1985-86, when they also started the year 14-5. Milwaukee currently leads the league in scoring at 121.7 points per contest and have already scored 130-plus points in four games this season. Per NBA.com, that is the most such games in a season for the Bucks since they had four 130-point games over the entire 1990-91 campaign. Over the Bucks last three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 34.0 points, 14.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting a mind-boggling 69.2 percent from the field.
3. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors' loss to the Thunder last Wednesday was their fourth consecutive defeat, which is Golden State’s longest losing streak since Steve Kerr was hired as head coach in May of 2014. However, the Dubs bounced back with back-to-back victories on Friday (an impressive 28-point victory over the Blazers) and Saturday (a one-point nail-biter vs. the Kings). Kevin Durant averaged 38.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.5 blocks over those two wins. Encouragingly, Stephen Curry is expected to get back on the practice floor this week. The Warriors are hopeful Curry can return to game action within the upcoming five-game road trip that begins on Thursday.
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4. Denver Nuggets
Interesting stat on the Nuggets, courtesy of head coach Mike Malone: Denver is the only team in the NBA that has had 20 or more assists in every game and less than 20 turnovers every game this season.
5. L.A. Clippers
So, prior to the start of the season, we all expected the Clippers to have the best record in the Western Conference on the Monday after Thanksgiving, right? The Clips have won seven of their last eight games, and Sunday night’s victory over the Blazers may have been their most impressive. Despite trailing by 13 points at halftime on the road in Portland, L.A. managed to fight back and secure the 'W.'
6. Philadelphia 76ers
Another Jimmy Butler game-winning 3-pointer from the right wing secured a win for the Sixers on Sunday, and capped an incredible comeback. Philadelphia was down 118-105 with less than five minutes remaining in the contest, but then went on a spirited 16-2 run to take the lead. Philly has now won five of their last six games, with two of those victories courtesy of Butler buzzer-beaters.
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
After losing to the Nuggets on Saturday night in a game in which Russell Westbrook shot just 6-of-23 from the floor and missed all six of his shots in the fourth quarter, Russ and the Thunder will have a chance to rest up and rack up some wins in the near future. OKC plays only two games this week, with coming both at home. They host the Cavs Wednesday and the Hawks on Friday. Furthermore, five of their next six opponents have records at or below .500.
8. Memphis Grizzlies
With their victory over the Spurs last Wednesday, the Grizz improved to 12-5. However, Memphis lost an overtime heartbreaker to the Clippers on Friday and another close contest to the Knicks Sunday night in coach David Fizdale’s return to Memphis.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
As of last Monday, the Trail Blazers were one of only three teams ranked in the top-8 in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency and were 3rd overall in Net Rating. Portland then proceeded to get obliterated by the Bucks and Warriors in consecutive contests, losing those two games by a combined 71 points, and allowing 129.5 points per 100 possessions. The Blazers closed out the week by blowing a 13-point halftime lead to the Clippers at home on Sunday night.
10. Indiana Pacers
After not allowing any opponent to shot over 50 percent from the floor over their first 16 games of the season, the Pacers let the Hornets score 127 points on 56.2 percent shooting in Wednesday's loss, and the allowed the Spurs to shoot 50.6 percent from the floor two days later. It was just the second time Indiana has lost consecutive games this season. Victor Oladipo (sore right knee) has missed each of the Pacers previous three contests and is listed as questionable for Monday's game vs. the Jazz.
11. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers had won three straight games, and seven of their last eight, before losing to the Magic at home on Sunday. Los Angles travels to Denver on Tuesday to take on the Nuggets, but then returns home for four consecutive games at the Staples Center.
12. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons began a six-game homestand over the weekend by beating both the Rockets (in overtime) and the Suns. Detroit hosts the Knicks, Bulls, Warriors and Thunder over the next seven days.
13. Boston Celtics
What's going on in Boston? A team that most pundits predicted would have a chance to win 60 regular season games and represent the Eastern Conference in the 2019 NBA Finals, is just 10-10 through their first 20 games. Marcus Smart gave an interesting quote following the Celtics most recent loss, a 113-104 defeat in Dallas. "We don't impose our fear and will on teams," said Smart. "Last year, teams when they came in and played the Celtics, they knew they were in for a fight. This year, teams can't wait to play us and that's a problem."
14. New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis (strained right hip) injured himself on Friday and was forced to sit out Saturday’s loss to the Wizards. AD is listed as questionable for Monday's game vs. the Celtics, but is expected to suit up. The Pelicans have used four different starting lineups in each of Davis’ four absences this season, and have used eight different starting lineups in total. How vital is AD to their success? New Orleans is scoring better than 116 points per 100 possessions while Davis on the floor this season, and just 104.2 points when is off the court. They allow 107.7 points per 100 possessions while he on the floor, vs. 114.5 when he is on the bench.
15. Houston Rockets
After a slow start to the season, it appeared the Rockets were getting back on track after ripping off a five-game winning streak in the middle of the month. However, Houston dropped back-to-back games over the weekend, including an embarrassing lopsided defeat to the lowly Cavs on Saturday night. Outside of P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela, they are not getting nearly enough defensive effort from the rest of squad. Friday's game in Cleveland began a stretch in which the Rockets play seven of nine on the road.
16. Dallas Mavericks
Don’t look now, but the Mavs have climbed back to .500 after winning six of their last seven games and six straight at home. This is the latest Dallas has been at or above .500 in the regular season since the end of the 2015-16 campaign. However, Dallas’ next six opponents are the Rockets (twice), Lakers, Clippers, Blazers and Pelicans. Not an easy opponent in the bunch.
17. Sacramento Kings
A win last Monday over OKC pushed the Kings record to 10-8. It as the first time Sacramento had been over .500 through 18 games since the 2004-05 season. The following year, 2005-06, was the last time the Kings qualified for the postseason. (Mike Bibby was that team’s leading scorer.)
18. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs lost three of the four games they played last week. They will look to get back on track Monday night when they head to Chicago for a winnable game against the Bulls.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota has won five of the seven games they’ve played since trading Jimmy Butler. And one of the most shocking developments in the 2018-19 season has been Derrick Rose’s resurgence, including his newfound long-range marksmanship. Over the Wolves last 11 games, Rose is averaging 22.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.5 treys, while shooting a scorching 55.4 percent from the field, 56.3 percent from downtown and 90.5 percent from the free-throw line. Dating back to Halloween, D Rose has scored 251 points on 168 FG attempts. To put those numbers in context, Andrew Wiggins has scored 185 points on 200 attempts, over that same timespan.
20. Orlando Magic
With Sunday’s win in Los Angeles, Orlando swept the Lakers in a season for just the second time in franchise history. Nikola Vucevic led the way once again, dominating the paint on both ends of the floor and finishing with 31 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. In the Magic’s two victories over LeBron and company this year, Vucevic averaged 33.5 points, 14.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
21. Utah Jazz
The bad news for Jazz fans is that Utah is currently in 14th place in the Western Conference. The good news is that the West is incredibly crowded, with nearly all the teams bunched up. Incredibly, only 4.5 games currently separate first-place Clippers and the 14th place Jazz.
22. Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets had climbed back over .500 after beating the Pacers at home last Wednesday, but then proceeded to lose in Oklahoma City on Friday and disappointingly lost to the Hawks in Atlanta on Sunday night. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (right ankle sprain) has missed each of the Hornets past six games with a right ankle sprain, but coach James Borrego said over the weekend that he thinks he's MKG is close to returning and could play when Charlotte opens a four-game homestand on Monday.
23. Washington Wizards
Otto Porter Jr. finally broke out on Saturday night, pouring in a season-high 29 points to help lead the Wizards to a much-needed win over the Pelicans. He started out on fire, scoring 16 points (on 6-of-7 shooting) within the first eight minutes of the first quarter. We’ll see if he can build some positive momentum off this strong showing and stay on track offensively.
24. Miami Heat
Losers in seven of their past nine games, Miami has been one of the NBA’s most disappointing team’s this season. The Heat have been without Goran Dragic (right knee) for four games, but hope he can return sometime this week. Tyler Johnson (right hamstring) has also been sidelined for three straight but has a chance to get back in action soon as well. Miami begins a four-game homestand on Tuesday when they host the Hawks. They need to win that one.
25. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have lost three in a row, but D'Angelo Russell is playing some of the best ball of his career as he’s been asked to shoulder more of the offensive load since Caris LeVert (ankle) went down. On Sunday vs. the Sixers, Russell poured in a season-high 38 points and tacked on eight rebounds, eight assists, one block, and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes.
26. New York Knicks
Break up the Knicks! New York has won three straight games, which is tied for the second-longest active win streak in the NBA at the moment. On Sunday, the Knicks players fully acknowledged they were highly motivated to knock off the Grizzlies in David Fizdale’s first return to Memphis since being fired. Fiz admitted he was emotional, and joked that his young team ruined his suit by drenching him in water following the victory.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
Break up the Cavs! After beating the Sixers by double-digits in Philadelphia on Friday, they knocked off the Rockets in The Q on Saturday night. Cleveland has won two straight games for the first time this season. The Cavs got a terrific performance from rookie point guard Collin Sexton in the win over Houston. He efficiently scored a season-high 29 points, shooting 14-for-21 from the floor, including several clutch jumpers late in the fourth quarter. The Cavs will look to make it three in a row when they host the Timberwolves on Monday.
28. Chicago Bulls
Speaking with reporters on Saturday, coach Fred Hoiberg said Lauri Markkanen, who has been sidelined the entire season thus far due to an elbow injury, had a 2-on-2 workout involving some "controlled contact" and had responded well to the increased activity. Hoiberg stated that if Markkanen doesn’t experience a setback, he’ll progress to 2-on-2 with teammates. He also added that it’s just the elbow that's bothering Markkanen at this point, and that Lauri has maintained his conditioning.
29. Atlanta Hawks
In the Hawks four wins this season, Trae Young is averaging 23.5 points, 9.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds, while shooting 43.1 percent from the floor and 37.1 percent from downtown. In the Hawks 16 losses this season, Young is averaging 13.8 points, 7.3 assists and 2.7 rebounds, while shooting 36.7 percent from the floor and 18.5 percent from downtown.
30. Phoenix Suns
After converting 11 of his 13 field goal attempts in the Suns' loss to the Pistons on Sunday, Deandre Ayton is now shooting 62.4 percent from the floor this season. He is on pace to become the first rookie in NBA history to average at least 15 points and ten rebounds while shooting over 60 percent from the field over the course of a full season.