The Celtics climb back inside the top-10, and the Warriors reclaim the top spot in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.
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1. Golden State Warriors
Golden State went undefeated last week, and the NBA’s best team is close to getting two-fifths of their optimal starting lineup back in action. Draymond Green (toe), who has missed each of the Warriors previous 11 games, will play on Monday against the Timberwolves. DeMarcus Cousins (left Achilles surgery) is ramping up his rehab and is expected to practice fully with the Warriors' G League affiliate on Monday. It’s looking like Boogie could make his Golden State debut by early January.
2. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors lost consecutive games over the weekend, but still have three more wins than any other team in the league. However, Kyle Lowry’s shooting struggles are concerning. Over his last five games, Lowry is averaging just 5.0 points in 35.3 minutes, while shooting a frigid 19.0 percent from the floor and 15.6 percent from 3-point territory.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks notched an impressive road win on Sunday when they knocked off the Raptors in Toronto. Unsurprisingly, Malcolm Brogdon knocked down a bunch of crucial buckets in the closing minutes. Obviously, Giannis is the team’s MVP, but Brogdon’s value is evident on a nightly basis. Over the Bucks last eight games, Brodgon is averaging 18.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists, while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor and 57.5 percent from downtown.
4. Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid made some interesting comments over the weekend. He’s been slumping offensively of late, averaging just 13.7 points 33.3% shooting from the floor and 11.1% from 3-point range over his last three games. Coach Brett Brown decided to rest him on Friday night as the Sixers felt he was wearing down a bit. However, Embiid said he isn't tired and that his struggles stem from his role in the offense. "I haven’t been myself lately," explained Embiid. "I think it’s mainly because of the way I’ve been used, which is I’m being used as a spacer... it seems like the past couple games, like with the way I play, our setup, [coach Brown] always has me starting on the perimeter … and it just really frustrates me."
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
OKC had won four games in a row before dropping a disappointing decision to the Bulls in Chicago on Friday. The loss looked that much worse after the Bulls were pummeled by Boston the following the night.
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6. Boston Celtics
Winners of five straight games, Boston is back on track. They utterly destroyed the Bulls on Saturday night, 133-77. The 56-point margin of victory tied for the largest road win in NBA history. (In 1986, the SuperSonics defeated the Rockets in Houston by 56 points). It was also the largest margin of victory in Boston’s franchise history, besting the previous mark of 51 points set back in 1962.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma had been balling for the Lake Show of late. In Saturday’s win over Memphis, Kuz finished with 20 points (8-of-16 FG’s), nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks, one steal and four 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Over his last five games, he is averaging 21.4 points, 9.2 boards, 4.4 dimes and 3.0 treys.
8. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets lost a pair of disappointing games over the weekend to the Hornets and the Hawks. However, more discouraging were the players they lost to injury. Paul Millsap (right foot) broke a toe in his right foot on Friday. Then, after an MRI confirmed a right hip strain for Gary Harris, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Saturday that Harris is expected to need three-to-four weeks to rehab his injury. The Pacers will likely have to lean on unproven players such as Juancho Hernangomez, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley and Trey Lyles over the next few weeks. They signed free agent guard Nick Young off the street on Monday.
9. LA Clippers
The Clippers have come back down to earth a bit of late. After winning nine of ten to close out December, L.A. has lost three of the four games they’ve played this month. Fourntuantly, they get the hapless Suns on Monday night, but then host the Raptors on Tuesday before heading to San Antonio and Oklahoma City later in the week.
10. Indiana Pacers
Victor Oldadipo has missed each of the Pacers last ten games, but Indiana is chugging along. They’ve won three straight and have climbed up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference. It has been the Pacers’ defense that has spurred on their success this season. Indiana is one of only three teams in the league allowing fewer than 103 points per 100 possessions.
11. Memphis Grizzlies
Mike Conley struggled with his jumper in back-to-back games over the weekend. He shot just 2-for-12 from the floor on Friday and was 4-for-12 in Saturday’s loss to the Lakers. Afterward, he admitted his injured finger still isn’t 100 percent. "There’s pain still, but it’s uncomfortable and it’s hard to hold the ball," said Conley. "I like to go right a lot, and it’s hard to hold the ball with my right hand." He is hoping that the swelling will subside before Monday night’s game vs. the Nuggets.
12. Portland Trail Blazers
Portland was trending in the wrong direction, having lost six of seven, before securing a pair of wins late last week. However, Portland has a very tough upcoming schedule. Eleven of their next 14 opponents currently have a winning record. The only two teams they will face during that span with sub-.500 records are the Rockets and Jazz.
13. Dallas Mavericks
Thanks to Luka Doncic’s incredible closing sequence (a personal 11-0 run in the final three minutes to give Dallas the lead) the Mavericks beat the Rockets on Saturday night for their ninth consecutive home victory. It's the Mavs’ longest home winning streak since Dallas won nine straight in 2011, the year the beat LeBron, Wade and Bosh in the NBA finals to capture the championship.
14. Detroit Pistons
This season has been one of peaks and valleys for the Detroit. They won four in a row to start the season. Then lost five straight. Right after Thanksgiving, they went on a five-game winning streak. However, that surge ended on the first of this month, and they have not won since. Sunday’s loss to the Pelicans was their fourth straight defeat. They play the Sixers in Philly on Monday, the second night of a back-to-back.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves
Robert Covington sat out Saturday’s loss to the Blazers due to a sore right knee, but fortunately, it appears it will be just a one-game absence for the Wolves 3-and-D wing. RoCo is listed as “probable” on the injury report for Monday’s matchup against the Warriors.
16. Houston Rockets
Losers of seven of their last nine games, the Rockets are sinking. At 11-14, the only team in the Western Conference with a worse record than the Rockets are the last-place Phoenix Suns. Last season, en route to a league-leading 65 wins, Houston didn’t lose their 14th game of the season until March 9th, when they fell to 51-14. They didn’t lose their 15th game until April.
17. Sacramento Kings
It’s December 10th and the Kings are over .500! Why is this notable? Because it’s the first time Sacramento has been over .500 this late in the season since April of 2006. That 2005-2006 season was the last time the Kings qualified for the postseason.
18. Charlotte Hornets
After a mini-slump to start the month, Kemba Walker scored 20-plus points in consecutive victories for Charlotte over the weekend. In Friday’s win over the Knicks in his hometown of New York, Walker scored 25 points and tacked on six rebounds, six assists, four steals and four 3-pointers.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans got only six points from Anthony Davis on Sunday due to a right hip injury that sidelined him for most of the first half. However, Jrue Holiday saved the day and carried New Orleans to a win over the Pistons. Holiday poured in a season-high 37 points (on 14-of-22 shooting) and racked up five boards, five dimes, three steals and six 3-pointers in 40 minutes.
20. Utah Jazz
Jazz fans were hoping Donovan Mitchell would take another leap forward after his incredible rookie campaign. However, despite averaging the same number of minutes in 2018-19 as he did in 2017-18, Mitchell is averaging fewer assists, rebounds and 3-pointers. He’s also shooting a lower percentage from the floor and from downtown.
21. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs defense has been awful much of this season. For any team, that’s an issue, but it’s almost unheard of in San Antonio. The Spurs have allowed 130 or more points in a game five times this season. Over the previous 21 seasons under Coach Pop, they allowed 130 or more points just four times.
22. Miami Heat
Hassan Whiteside (personal) is listed as out for Monday's game against the Lakers. It will be the third straight game Whiteside has missed to be with his family after the birth of his first child. Bam Adebayo, who scored a total of 36 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in Miami’s last two games, is expected to draw another start at center in place of Whiteside. The good news for Miami is that Goran Dragic is no longer listed on the team’s injury report.
23. Orlando Magic
After getting back to .500 following road wins in Phoenix and Miami early last week, the Magic came back home and lost two straight to the Nuggets and Pacers. Orlando travels Dallas on Monday, but then play seven of their next eight games in Orlando. The only road game over that stretch is against the Bulls in Chicago.
24. Washington Wizards
After scoring just one point and failing to make a field goal for the first time in his career on Saturday, Wall has been ruled out of Monday’s game vs. Indiana. After Saturday’s debacle, Wall said he was significantly hampered by a bone spur in his left heel. "I probably shouldn't have played. That's my fault....I've had it for a while," Wall said. "I couldn’t move. Couldn't run. You seen me out there."
25. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets once-promising season was spiraling out of control. They had lost eight straight games heading into Friday’s matchup against the first-place Raptors (who had beaten them 12 consecutive times). Yet, despite nearly blowing another double-digit lead, Brooklyn held on to knock off Toronto. It was the first time in six years that a team with an eight-game losing streak beat the team with the NBA’s best record. The Nets then backed up that victory by heading across the river and taking down the Knicks on Saturday. It was the first time they won the second half of a back-to-back set on the road since 2015.
26. New York Knicks
Kevin Knox exploded for 26 points, a career-high 15 rebounds, four 3-pointers and one steal in 41 minutes. According to Basketball-Reference, Knox joined Patrick Ewing as just the second Knicks rookie over the last 40-plus years with at least 25 points and 15 boards in a game. He also became just the second teenager in NBA history with at least 25 and 15. The other teenager was LeBron James.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
Alec Burks has exceeded expectations since arriving via trade from Utah. In the six games he’s played for Cleveland, Burks is averaging 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 triples. He made his first start for the Cavs and Saturday and tallied 14 points, seven boards and four assists in 34 minutes.
28. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks wrapped up a three-game homestand with a win over the shorthanded Nuggets on Saturday, but are about to begin a very rough stretch of their schedule. Starting Wednesday in Dallas, Atlanta plays 12 of their next 16 games on the road. They don’t play consecutive home games again until the 13th and 15th of January.
29. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls had an awful Saturday. Somehow, Sunday was even worse. A number of Chicago players reportedly refused to practice the day after losing by 56 points, which tied the worst home loss in NBA history. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic reported that players were planning to skip Sunday's practice entirely in protest, but Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez got them to come to the facility for a meeting.
30. Phoenix Suns
The Suns have been brutally bad this season, and especially of late. Phoenix has been outscored by 108 points over their six most recent defeats. In the first quarter of Tuesday’s game vs. the Kings and Thursday’s loss to Portland, the Suns were outscored 70-18. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Phoenix is the first team in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) to be held under 10 points in the first quarter of back-to-back games.