NBA Power Rankings: Celtics, Nuggets, Grizzlies battle for No. 1; Lakers, Warriors in bottom 10; OKC rising

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Denver won all three games this week, and none was particularly close. The offense is clicking, putting up 125.5 points per 100 possessions, with the defense allowing just 107.2 — doesn’t take a statistician to see that’s a pretty solid formula for success. Jamal Murray went off for a season-high 34 points in the win over the Lakers, going 5-for-9 from 3-point range. Nikola Jokic averaged a monster triple-double of 21 points, 14.7 rebounds and 11.7 assists for the week while Bones Hyland caught fire, averaging 15.3 points per game on 47 percent 3-point shooting. The Nuggets are showing what they can do when their roster is (relatively) healthy and fully locked in. 3 28-13

The Celtics ran into a couple teams missing their big guns in wins over the Pelicans and Nets, but they still got the job done to run their win streak to five games. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown each averaged over 29 points for the week, with Tatum adding 8.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Malcolm Brogdon was feeling it from distance, knocking down 56 percent of his 3-pointers in a 4-0 week while scoring 17.5 points per game. Robert Williams III is slowly rounding into form, averaging eight points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just under 25 minutes per game this week. 5 31-12

Memphis beat the Jazz, then swept the Spurs in consecutive games to bring their winning streak to eight games. The Grizzlies kept up their trend of being able to win without key personnel, picking up two victories without Ja Morant this week. Tyus Jones never fails as a spot starter, averaging 22.5 points, six assists and 3.5 steals per game on 40 percent 3-point shooting in the two games without Morant. Then Ja returned to score 38 in Wednesday’s win over San Antonio. Good luck playing the Grizzlies right now. 3 28-13

The Nets went 2-1 this week with wins over the Pelicans and Heat, plus a loss to the Celtics in the first full game since Kevin Durant’s MCL injury which is expected to sideline him for about a month. With K.D. out against Boston, Ben Simmons became one of three players to put up at least 13 assists and nine rebounds in a game without scoring a point. Kyrie Irving averaged 24 points and six assists for the week, and will obviously be the main offensive initiator for as long as Durant is out of commission. TJ Warren has proven capable of shouldering some of the load as well, putting up 15 points per game this week on 51/46/100 shooting splits. Brooklyn will need all the help it can get. 2 27-14

The Cavs beat the Suns and Blazers this week, with losses to the Nuggets and Jazz. Donovan Mitchell went off for 46 points in his return to Utah, but it wasn’t enough to get Cleveland over the hump. He averaged 31.3 points for the week, while Darius Garland added 21 and 7.8 assists per game. Evan Mobley did a little bit of everything, averaging 13.8 points, eight rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 blocks in the four games. 4 27-16

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored just nine points in a baffling 29-point home loss to the Hornets last Friday, but the Bucks shook it off with wins over the Knicks and Hawks before losing to the Heat on a Giannis rest day on Thursday. Antetokounmpo finished with just seven points in 35 minutes against Atlanta, possibly explaining the day off — it’s not often you see him put up single-digits in two games in the same week. Jrue Holiday led the team with 19.5 points and 7.3 assists per game for the week, knocking down 46 percent of his 3-pointers. 3 27-15

Wins over the Raptors and Pacers sandwiched a loss to the Bucks this week for the Knicks, who have now won five of their last six games. Jalen Brunson kept up his scoring frenzy, averaging 34.7 points and 5.3 assists per game on uncanny 51/50/92 shooting splits. Julius Randle didn’t shoot the ball well, but put up 23.7 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. RJ Barrett also made his return from a six-game absence in the win over Indiana, scoring 27 points in just under 41 minutes — Thibs doesn’t know the meaning of the term “minutes restriction.” 2 23-19

The Sixers lost to the Bulls, swept the Pistons in a home-and-home set, then suffered an inexplicable 19-point home loss to OKC in which they allowed 133 points. Joel Embiid only played in two games this week, averaging 33 points and 10.5 rebounds in under 26 minutes per game. Tyrese Maxey averaged 20.5 points in four games, while James Harden added 19.5 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds per game on 48 percent 3-point shooting. 3 25-16

After a late foul on De’Aaron Fox led to game-winning free throws by Dennis Schroder in a loss to the Lakers, the Kings rebounded to beat the Magic and Rockets and make it a 2-1 week. The offense absolutely exploded, putting up a ridiculous 131.1 points per 100 possessions in the three games. Fox led the team with 23.3 points and nine assists per game, while Domantas Sabonis continued his dominant campaign with averages of 20.7 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Veteran Harrison Barnes added to the onslaught by scoring 21.3 points per game on 58 percent 3-point shooting. 2 22-18

The Mavericks went 2-2 this week, beating the Pelicans and Lakers with losses to the Thunder and Clippers. Thursday’s win over the Lakers came in double-overtime, with Luka Doncic hitting two clutch, game-tying 3-pointers. He missed the loss to OKC, but Doncic averaged an insane 37.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 10 assists in the other three games on 42 percent 3-point shooting. Christian Wood put up 22.8 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, while Tim Hardaway Jr. added 18.8 points per game on 42 percent 3-point shooting for the week. 5 24-19

The Pelicans’ lone win this week came against the Wizards, with losses to the Nets, Mavericks and Celtics. The normally stout defense slipped against some potent offensive players, allowing 117.4 points per 100 possessions. With Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram out of the lineup, CJ McCollum took the reins of the offense to the tune of 33.3 points per game on 50 percent 3-point shooting. Naji Marshall took advantage of the extra playing time, averaging 20.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and three assists per game this week. 2 25-17

It was a bittersweet week for the Pacers, who beat the Blazers and Hornets but then saw Tyrese Haliburton go down with elbow and knee injuries that will sideline him for at least two weeks in a loss to the Knicks. Prior to the injury, Haliburton averaged 15.5 points and 12.5 assists in the two wins. Buddy Hield put up 21 points per game for the week on 41 percent 3-point shooting, while Myles Turner averaged 23 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the two games he played. Most impressive, Indiana allowed just 105.1 points per 100 possessions for the week. 4 23-19

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Heat finished with a 3-1 week after wins over the Suns, Thunder and Giannis-less Bucks, with their only loss coming by a single point to the Nets. Jimmy Butler’s go-ahead 3-point play with 12.9 seconds left won the game against the Thunder, a game in which Miami set an NBA record by going 40-for-40 from the free throw line. As usual, Miami had key players missing throughout the week, but Butler was the steady hand, averaging 24.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in the four games. 4 23-20

A huge 3-1 week for the Thunder, with their only loss coming by a single point to the Heat on a night Miami went 40-for-40 from the free throw line. OKC dropped 133 points in a 19-point road win over the 76ers on Thursday, and put up 120.9 points per 100 possessions for the week. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did his thing, averaging 31.5 points, five rebounds and 4.8 assists on 57/40/91 shooting splits. Josh Giddey added 17 points, eight assists and 7.5 rebounds per game on 38.5 percent 3-point shooting. 7 19-23

Things were looking pretty dire for the Clippers, whose losing streak reached six games after losses to the Wolves and Hawks. They got a much-needed win over the Mavericks on Tuesday, however, with Kawhi Leonard dropping a season-high 33 points on just 12 field goal attempts (he went 12-for-12 from the free throw line), adding four steals and a block. Paul George missed all three games with a hamstring injury and Norman Powell relished the extra opportunity, averaging 20.7 points for the week on 53 percent 3-point shooting. 7 22-21

The Suns were without four of their five starters for most of the week, which makes their lone victory over the defending champion Warriors all the more impressive. They lost the other three games, however, and have now gone 2-8 over their last 10. Duane Washington Jr. has been a feel-good story, averaging 16.8 points and five assists per game this week on 44 percent 3-point shooting. Veteran Dario Saric had his best game of the season against Golden State, putting up 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as a fill-in starter. 6 21-22

The Wolves beat the Clippers and Rockets to run their win streak to four games before allowing 135 points in a loss to the Pistons. Anthony Edwards left the Detroit game with an injury, but returned in the fourth quarter. D’Angelo Russell led the team with 22 points per game on 53 percent 3-point shooting, while Rudy Gobert was a monster with averages of 20 points and 15.3 rebounds per game. Jaden McDaniels, Taurean Prince and Kyle Anderson all shot better than 40 percent from deep, which is exactly what Minnesota needs out of its role players. 3 20-22

The Bulls beat the 76ers and Jazz this week, and followed that up with losses to the Celtics and Wizards. Zach LaVine has been a man on a mission, averaging 35.5 points per game this week while hitting over 50 percent of his 12-plus 3-point attempts per game. DeMar DeRozan missed the loss to Washington, but averaged 20 points and a team-best 5.3 assists in the other three games. 5 19-23

The Jazz lost to the Bulls and Grizzlies to start the week, but were able to pull out an emotional win over the Cavs in Donovan Mitchell’s return to Utah. Lauri Markkanen averaged 24.7 points for the week, shooting just 25 percent from 3-point range, however. Jordan Clarkson added 22.3 points and five assists per game, but Utah allowed 118.6 points per 100 possessions on the other end, the cause of most of their woes. 7 21-23

The Raptors lost to the Knicks last Friday, but then rattled off a modest three-game winning streak against the Blazers and Hornets twice. The offense was on fire, putting up 123 points per 100 possessions behind 27 points, eight rebounds and 5.3 assists per game from Pascal Siakam on 47 percent 3-point shooting. Gary Trent Jr. averaged 22.3 points per game, while Fred VanVleet led the team with 7.5 assists per game. 5 19-23

The Lakers’ offense exploded in wins over the Hawks and Kings, then sputtered in losses to the Nuggets and Mavericks. LeBron James made headlines by saying “Y’all know what the f— should be happening” with regard to the looming trade deadline — an apparent implication that he needs more help. On the court, he inched closer to the NBA’s all-time scoring record, averaging 28.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists in three games. Russell Westbrook has been playing well, putting up 23.5 points, nine assists and 7.5 rebounds per game on 42 percent 3-point shooting. 1 19-23

The Hawks lost to the Lakers and Bucks this week, with a win over the Clippers in between. Trae Young averaged 31 points in the two L.A. games, but missed the loss to the Bucks due to a non-COVID illness. Dejounte Murray struggled from the field this week, shooting just 36.5 percent en route to 13.7 points per game. As a result, Atlanta put up just 106.4 points per 100 possessions in the three games. 3 19-22

Orlando picked up impressive road wins over the Warriors and Blazers this week, with a blowout loss to the Kings in between. Franz Wagner was fantastic, averaging 23 points on 41 percent 3-point shooting in the three games. Markelle Fultz led the team with 6.3 assists per game this week, adding 16.7 points, while rookie Paolo Banchero put up over 20 points per game, but shot just 40 percent from the field. 3 16-26

Trail Blazers
Rough times for the Blazers, who lost to the Pacers, Raptors, Magic and Cavs this week to extend their skid to five games. Damian Lillard led the team with 33.3 points per game, including a 50-piece in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, but shot just 27.5 percent from 3-point range for the week. Overall, the Portland offense was dreadful, mustering just 104.2 points per 100 possessions in the four games. 6 19-22

The Warriors played two games to finish off their homestand this week and they did not go well. They lost by 14 to the Magic, then trailed by as many as 27 points while falling to the utterly depleted Suns. The silver lining is that Steph Curry returned to the court against Phoenix after an 11-game absence due to a shoulder injury. He looked rusty, but finished with a 16-point flurry in the final frame. Things don’t get any easier for Golden State, as they embark on a five-game road trip. 1 20-21

The Wizards lost their first two games of the week by a combined 37 points, but Kyle Kuzma came to the rescue on Wednesday night with a game-winning 3-pointer with 6.2 seconds left against the Bulls. Kuzma led the team with 21 points per game for the week, while Kristaps Porzingis put up 18.5 per game on 43 percent 3-point shooting, but missed the win over Chicago. Good news for Washington: It sounds like Bradley Beal is inching closer to a return, and could take the court this week after playing just 13 minutes in the last seven games. — 18-24

The Spurs beat the Pistons last Friday, but followed that up with a loss to the Celtics and then two more to the Grizzlies. With Devin Vassell out of the lineup and Keldon Johnson missing two games this week, Tre Jones led the way with 20.8 points and 5.3 assists per game. Big man Zach Collins was a per-minute machine, putting up 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in just 22 minutes per game this week. 1 13-29

The Hornets must have blacked out for 48 minutes in a 29-point road win over the Bucks last Friday, but they went back to their losing ways in games against the Pacers and Raptors (times two). Terry Rozier caught fire, averaging 28 points and five assists on 53/40/86 shooting splits. LaMelo Ball added 23.3 points and 10.3 assists per game on 45 percent 3-point shooting. The problem, as usual, came on the defensive end, where Charlotte allowed 125.3 points per 100 possessions in its three losses. 1 11-32

It was shaping up to be an awful week for the Pistons with three double-digit losses to start things off, but they shook those off to beat a hot Wolves team by 17 at home on Wednesday. Bojan Bogdanovic missed a game, but led the team by averaging 22.7 points in the other three on 48/42/83 shooting splits. Killian Hayes and Jaden Ivey each averaged over 16 points and six assists per game. Defense was the main culprit, as it has been all season, as Detroit gave up 121.8 points per 100 possessions this week. — 12-33

Only two games this week for the Rockets — losses to the Wolves and Kings — and they managed just 103.9 points per 100 possessions while giving up, well, a lot more than that. Jalen Green scored nine points against Minnesota, but bounced back to put up 26 against the Kings, though it took him 25 shots to do it. Kenyon Martin Jr. continues to be a productive spark (and intriguing potential trade chip), averaging 16.5 points in the two games on 4-of-10 3-point shooting. — 10-31

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Publish Date:2023-01-14 00:47:11

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