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NBA Power Rankings: Week 12

LeBron James

LeBron James

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets drop back to No. 9 while the slumping Philadelphia 76ers slide outside of the top-10 for the first time all season in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.

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1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 32-5

The Bucks beat the Spurs in Milwaukee on Saturday night, which certainly shouldn’t be a surprise, considering they 18-2 at home and 23-0 against sub-500 teams this season. In the process, the Bucks 100+ points for the 61st consecutive game, tying the 2016-17 Rockets for the longest such streak in the NBA in the last 30 years. Milwaukee begins a four-game west coast road swing in San Antonio on Monday night.

2. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 29-7

The Lakers have had plenty of offensive highlights this season, but it was their defense that carried them to victory on Sunday vs. Detroit, which marked their fifth straight win. Anthony Davis blocked eight of the Lakers’ 20 shots, JaVale McGee swatted six, and Dwight Howard registered five rejections. The team’s 20 blocks were the most any NBA team since March 2001 and one short of LA’s all-time franchise record.

3. Boston Celtics
Record: 25-8

The Celtics have won eight of their last nine games, including back-to-back wins this past weekend despite playing without leading scorer, Kemba Walker, who was sidelined by an illness. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward all chipped at least 17 points in Saturday’s victory over the Bulls.


4. LA Clippers
Record: 26-12

The Clippers were playing with Kawhi Leonard (load management) on Sunday, and lost Paul George after he fouled out with over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell carried them home. Back in 2018, the Clippers inked Williams to a 3-year, $24 million extension and signed Harrell to a 2-year, $12 million deal in free agency. Those are now two of the most team-friendly non-rookie contracts in the entire league.

5. Miami Heat
Record: 26-10

Despite playing without Jimmy Butler, who was ruled out due to back soreness, the Heat still beat the Blazers on Sunday. With Jimmy Buckets sidelined, Derrick Jones Jr. stepped into the starting lineup and stepped up, finishing with 19 points (8-of-17 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), six boards, two assists, two blocks and one steal. James Johnson also re-entered the rotation and tallied 12 points, two 3-pointers, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 22 minutes. The win improved Miami’s home record to 17-1, and they have yet to lose consecutive games this season.

6. Houston Rockets
Record: 24-11

The Rockets notched two impressive home victories last week, beating both the Nuggets and Sixers in Houston. This week, they have a road back-to-back starting Wednesday in Atlanta and concluding Thursday in OKC.

7. Utah Jazz
Record: 23-12

The Jazz have won five straight games, and if you are looking for a player primarily responsible, look no further than Donovan Mitchell. During Utah’s five-game run, Mitchell is averaging 26.3 points, 4.3 boards, 6.5 assists, and 2.5 treys while shooting 54% from the floor, 42% from downtown and 86 from the stripe. The Jazz wraps up a three-game road trip Monday in New Orleans.

8. Toronto Raptors
Record: 24-12

The Raptors are just 3-4 over their last seven games but were able to best the struggling Nets on Saturday thanks to monster games from guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Unfortunately, coach Nick Nurse told reporters over the weekend that Pascal Siakam (groin strain) and Marc Gasol (hamstring) are “still a ways away” from returning.

9. Denver Nuggets
Record: 24-11

The Nuggets, who have lost two of three on their current five-game road trip, got spanked by the shorthanded Wizards on Saturday night, and coach Mike Malone let it be known he was none too pleased. “We didn’t show up,” said Malone. “That was embarrassing. That was an embarrassing performance. We had a mindset that we’re just going to show up and win the game maybe because some of their starters were (out).” After his postgame press conference ended, as he walked back into the locker room, he said, “Sorry you had to watch that.” Denver will look to get back on track at Atlanta on Monday night.

10. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 22-13

Kristaps Porzingis (sore right knee) sat out Saturday and will not play in Monday’s game vs. the Bulls. However, he told reporters over the weekend that he is hopeful to be medically cleared for Wednesday’s game against Denver. With KP sidelined on Saturday, Maxi Kleber erupted for a career-high 24 points to go along with six triples, four rebounds, two assists and a block in 35 minutes in Dallas’ overtime loss to the Hornets. Oh, and Luka Doncic recorded his league-leading 10th triple-double, scoring 39 points, ripping down 12 rebounds, and dishing out ten dimes in 43 minutes.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 20-15

Last season, the Thunder were 22-13 through 35 games. This season, the Thunder are 20-15 through 35 games, despite the fact that OKC traded Paul George and Russell Westbrook for seven future first-round draft picks, and four first-round pick-swap options, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

12. Indiana Pacers
Record: 22-14

The suddenly struggling Pacers have lost five of their last seven games. To be fair, three of those defeats came against quality opponents (the Bucks in Milwaukee, the Heat in Miami and a home loss to the Nuggets). Indiana visits the Hornets on Monday night, but the Pacers have lost six of their last seven games at Charlotte.

13. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 23-14

The slumping Sixers have lost four consecutive contests and are just 3-7 over their last ten games. They’ll look to get back on track Monday night when they host the Thunder. On Thursday, they welcome the Celtics to Philadelphia.

14. Orlando Magic
Record: 16-20

The Magic received devastating last week when they learned Jonathan Isaac had been diagnosed with a severe sprain and bone bruise in his left knee. Isaac was establishing himself as one of the league’s most ferocious and versatile defenders, as would have in contention for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Instead, he’ll be sidelined for at least 8-10 weeks.

15. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 16-18

Kyrie Irving has been out of action since mid-November, and both he and the team had provided very few updates regarding his injury. Well, Irving finally broke his silence Saturday night but did not paint a rosy picture. Kyrie said he has met with numerous specialists since initially injuring his shoulder back on Nov. 4th, and that he has trouble lifting his shoulder when shooting. Irving received a cortisone shot on Christmas Eve in hopes that it relieves the pain. If not, he will consider surgery, which would likely sideline him for 3-4 months. The reeling Nets have lost five straight games.

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16. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 14-20

Dejounte Murray (personal) did not play Saturday but is expected to rejoin the team for Monday’s game vs. Milwaukee, and is not listed on the injury report for this matchup. Derrick White started in place of Murray on Saturday and played 24 minutes, scoring nine points (3-of-7 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) with four rebounds, two assists, one steal and one 3-pointer.

17. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 15-22

Thanks to fantastic production from their starting five, the Grizzlies shockingly stomped the Clippers 140-114 on Saturday afternoon. In fact, it was a record-setting performance, as Memphis had four players score over 20 points on the road for the first time in franchise history. In addition, the 140 total points are their second-most ever. The Grizz then backed it up with a 121-114 victory over the Suns on Sunday. Memphis is 10-9 since Dec. 1.

18. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 15-22

The Blazers snapped a five-game losing streak on Friday night in Washington but then fell to the Heat in Miami on Sunday, as Portland played without CJ McCollum (upper-respiratory infection) for the first time this season. The Blazers still have two games left on their current five-game road swing: at Toronto on Tuesday and at Minnesota on Thursday.

19. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 15-23

The Hornets lost each of their final six games in December and, at ten games below .500, were fading fast. However, Charlotte bounced back with two straight road wins to close out last week, with Terry Rozier tallying a combined 59 points, 11 triples, 12 rebounds and 11 assists over that two-game stretch.

20. Chicago Bulls
Record: 13-23

The Bulls lost for the fourth time in five games on Saturday and may have lost Lauri Markkanen for a bit. Markkanen was diagnosed with a sprained left ankle after a driving Marcus Smart landed on his left him Saturday night. He is listed as doubtful for Monday’s game vs. Dallas.

21. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 12-24

After losing 13 straight games from late November through mid-December, the Pels has suddenly righted the ship, winning six of their last eight. A big reason for their improved play of late has been the strong production from Lonzo Ball. He has scored at least 23 points in three straight games and is averaging 24.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 2.0 steals, 4.3 3-pointers and 2.0 turnovers over this three-game stretch.

22. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 14-21

Who needs Karl-Anthony Towns!? Starting in place of KAT, who missed his 10th straight game with a sprained left knee, Gorgui Dieng exploded for 22 points (on 8-of-10 shooting), 13 boards, six assists, four triples and four blocks in the Wolves’ victory over the Cavs on Sunday.

23. Phoenix Suns
Record: 14-22

Devin Booker remained red hot last week and has now scored 30+ points in six straight games, which is an all-time record for the Suns franchise. During this six-game stretch, Booker is averaging 34.8 points, 3.2 boards and 6.8 assists, while shooting 54.4% from the floor and 91.8% from the FT line.

24. Sacramento Kings
Record: 13-23

A once-promising season for the Kings has gone off the rails. Sacramento has lost eight of their last nine games and find themselves ten games below .500. However, because the bottom of the West is a mess, Sacramento is still within two games of the eighth seed.

25. Detroit Pistons
Record: 13-24

On Friday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Pistons were engaged in “serious” talks with the Hawks about a possible deal involving Andre Drummond. After Saturday’s game,
Drummond addressed the rumors and stated that he wants to finish his career in Detroit. “I was never brought up to be a quitter. If I start somewhere, I try to finish there, try to complete the mission, which is to win a championship here,” Drummond said. “It will never be me that wants to go anywhere ... I love being here. I would love to play here the rest of my career.”

26. Washington Wizards
Record: 11-24

The Wizards weren’t expected to win many games this season and were massive underdogs playing without their three leading scorers (Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Thomas Bryant) last week. However, the Wiz shockingly notched two wins against top-tier teams, beating the Heat on Monday and knocking off the Nuggets on Saturday.

27. New York Knicks
Record: 10-26

After stringing together a three-game win streak, the Knicks ended the week with two straight losses. However, as has been the case for most of the season, Marcus Morris couldn’t be blamed for the Knicks defeat on Sunday vs. the Clippers. Mook scored a career-high 38 points (on 13-of-19 shooting) to go along with six triples, five boards and two steals.

28. Golden State Warriors
Record: 9-28

After winning four straight at the end of December, the Warriors are currently riding a four-game losing streak. D’Angelo Russell (right shoulder contusion) has missed each of Golden State’s past three games; however, coach Steve Kerr said on Saturday that he is planning to play Monday vs. the Kings. Russell then returned to practice on Sunday and was listed a probable on the initial injury report. Yet, on Sunday’s final evening injury report, he was downgraded to “out.”

29. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 8-28

Despite being forced to play without John Collins (back), Jabari Parker (throat infection) and Cam Reddish (right wrist sprain), the Hawks stunned the Pacers on Saturday night, thanks in large part to Trae Young‘s 41 points and eight assists. This game was also notable because when Vince Carter checked in during the first quarter, he became the first player in NBA history to play in four decades.

30. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 10-26

As if the Cavs haven’t dealt with enough drama and losing of late, promising rookie Kevin Porter Jr. went down with a left knee injury on Sunday. He appeared to be in a lot of pain and was seen on crutches after the game. On the bright side, newly acquired guard Dante Exum scored a career-high 28 points (11-of-13 shooting) with four 3-pointers, three rebounds, two assists and one steal in 24 minutes on Sunday night.