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NBA Power Rankings: Celtics, Nuggets separate from pack, Lakers make huge jump into top 10



1


Celtics
Remember a couple weeks ago when Kristaps Porzingis was like, “Don’t worry if we’re not beating everybody by 30 anymore?” Well, the Celtics started beating everyone by 30 again. Actually, they beat the Warriors by 52 on Sunday, their 11th straight win and their THIRD by 50 or more points this season — which no NBA team has ever done. Boston’s net rating for the season is now higher than the Kevin Durant-Steph Curry 2016-17 Warriors. Fans should just worry about the playoffs later and just enjoy this all-time great regular-season team. — 48-12
2


Nuggets
Alright, we NEED to know what Nikola Jokic texted his teammates during the All-Star break, because the Nuggets have cut out the nonsense and look every bit of the champions we saw last spring. They’ve won six straight and, more than that, you just get the feeling watching them that — even if they’re down by 15 — there’s no way they’re going to lose. They scored on every single possession in the final five minutes on Saturday to dismantle the Lakers as part of their streak. It’s the Beautiful Game at its best. 1 42-19
3


Bucks
The Bucks’ winning streak is getting as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo’s wingspan, reaching six games after four more victories this week, including on Monday over the Clippers, which was without Giannis. Milwaukee has by far the best defensive rating in the NBA since the All-Star break, and you better believe Doc Rivers is keeping receipts. 1 41-21
4


Timberwolves
Five games in seven nights for the Wolves this week, and they came away with wins over the three bad teams and losses to the two good teams by a combined five points. Minnesota is 4-3 since the All-Star break, averaging fewer than 110 points per 100 possessions — down from 115 on the season overall. Lineups with Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert still have a plus-nine net rating on the season, however, so Chris Finch probably isn’t too concerned. 1 43-19
5


Thunder
OKC’s prolific offense went dormant in a 2-2 week, which included a loss to the Spurs (eek). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued to do his part, averaging 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists on 52/43/86 shooting splits, but the supporting cast struggled (relatively) in the losses. 3 42-19
6


Cavaliers
PRP treatment to the knee of your best player is never great, and the Cavs will have to navigate at least a few more games without Donovan Mitchell. They’ve gone 7-6 without the dynamic guard this season, including a loss to the Knicks on Sunday. Related: Darius Garland went just 5-for-28 on 2-point field goal attempts in four games this week. 1 39-21
7


Clippers
The Clips had a nice win in Minnesota this week, but something is still not right with this team. Discounting a 140-piece against the relegation-worthy Wizards, the Clippers have averaged just 104 points per game since the All-Star break, despite having all three of their stars active for the majority of those games. Russell Westbrook’s hand injury has changed up the second unit, with Bones Hyland a plus-12 in 41 minutes this week. 1 39-21
8


Heat
Erik Spoelstra may have been named the Coach of the Month, but Jimmy Butler had himself a week. The star of Fall Out Boy’s latest music video averaged 27 points and six assists on 54/56/79 shooting splits in a 2-1 week for the Heat, who are now within striking distance of the No. 4 seed in the East. Cue “Jaws” music. 4 34-26
9


Pelicans
The Pelicans absolutely demolished the Knicks and Pacers this week, but also suffered a loss to Indiana in between. Lineups with Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum on the court still have a negative net rating this season, which makes New Orleans’ success so far somewhat baffling. 7 36-25
10


Lakers
Can we just take a second and reflect upon the fact that LeBron James is still winning NBA Player of the Week honors at 39 years old? Alright, now to the business at hand, as the Lakers bounced back from a brief post-All-Star break speed bump with a 3-1 week. They received a rude reminder of what it takes to be a champion against the Nuggets, but the Lakers are certainly on an upward trend with the No. 6 seed as the target to get out of the Play-In Tournament madness. 8 34-29
11


Knicks
The MASH unit known as the New York Knicks received another scare on Sunday, but it sounds like Jalen Brunson avoided major injury — and they held on to win in Cleveland as well. Still, the Knicks are searching for answers as they await the return of OG Anunoby, Julius Randle and possibly Mitchell Robinson. If Brunson has to miss any time, even the Knicks’ meager 106 offensive rating in three games this week will be difficult to maintain. 5 36-25
12


Magic
Orlando took care of business against three inferior opponents this week, as Paolo Banchero averaged 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists on 63% shooting in wins over the Jazz and Pistons. The Magic have now exceeded last season’s win total with 21 games remaining. 3 35-26
13


Warriors
The Warriors decided to intentionally leave Jaylen Brown open for the entire first quarter against the Celtics … and lost by 52. Bold strategy, Steve! They’ll flush that loss down the toilet as they kept up their impressive play with a 3-1 road trip. Three straight home games await them upon their return. 4 32-28
14


76ers
Joel Embiid’s public declaration that he hopes to return this season may have inspired the 76ers, as they beat the Hornets and Mavericks to close out the week. Tobias Harris stepped up as a much-needed second fiddle to Tyrese Maxey offensively, averaging 24 points and six rebounds on 51/48/80 shooting splits. — 35-25
15


Suns
Can a whole blurb just be a frowny-face emoji? Just as Bradley Beal made his way back to the lineup, Devin Booker is expected to miss at least a week with an ankle injury. This Phoenix IR carousel is getting ridiculous, and it’s limiting the amount of time these guys have to jell before the playoffs roll around. 4 35-26
16


Kings
The Kings picked up perhaps their most impressive win of the season in Minnesota without De’Aaron Fox on Friday, then followed that up by losing to the Bulls at home on Monday with Fox back in the lineup. Go figure. Malik Monk went nuclear in the win over the Wolves, scoring 35 of his 39 points in the final 20 minutes of the game. 3 34-26
17


Mavericks
Just as everyone starts picking the Mavs as the trendy sleeper championship contender, they go out and lose three of four games, including on Sunday at home to a Joel Embiid-less 76ers squad. The defense, which was trending upward, is now dead-last in the NBA (read: worse than the Wizards) since the All-Star break. Not hard to find a culprit for the recent losing skid. 7 34-27
18


Pacers
OK look, not to alarm Pacers fans, but … Since coming back from his hamstring injury at the end of January, Tyrese Haliburton is averaging 14.5 points on 43% shooting, including 32% from 3-point range. He scored ZERO points in their loss to the Pelicans on Friday. Fatigue? Normal NBA slump? Pressure to reach the 65-game threshold for All-NBA recognition? Hard to say, but it’s something to watch, as Indiana is 7-8 over that stretch. 9 34-28
19


Bulls
Only the Bulls can lose to the Pistons in the same week in which they beat the Cavs in overtime and the Kings on the road. You never know what you’re getting from night to night from these guys, and on Monday it was a career-high 37 points from Coby White (his previous career high was 36, also in Sacramento — he must love the local restaurant scene). — 29-32
20


Rockets
The Rockets’ nine-game losing streak came to an end with Saturday’s win in Phoenix, as Jalen Green dropped 34 points and nine rebounds. It was just a glimpse of what the Rockets need Green to be, on a consistent basis, if they’re going to make another leap next season. — 26-34
21


Nets
Consecutive wins over the Hawks gave the illusion that the Nets may have had something brewing, but a home loss to the Grizzlies on Monday put an end to that real quick. On the bright side, Cam Johnson has put together a nice stretch amid a disappointing season, averaging 20 points this week on 47% 3-point shooting. 2 24-37
22


Hawks
Those subscribing to the Ewing Theory with regards to Trae Young had a rough week, as the Hawks were blown out in consecutive games in Brooklyn following a win over the Jazz. Dejounte Murray received one of the strangest technical fouls of the year from referee Tony Brothers, but later had it rescinded. “Getting a tech because there was nothing to talk about is UNBELIEVABLE,” Murray wrote on social media. Look up the clip if you haven’t seen it. 2 26-34
23


Jazz
The Jazz salvaged a winless week by hanging on to beat the lowly Wizards without Lauri Markkanen and (mostly) Keyonte George. Continuing his nice bounce-back year, Collin Sexton averaged 22 points and five assists on 53% shooting in four games this week, while Jordan Clarkson had a monster 38-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist night against Washington. 1 28-34
24


Raptors
The dimmer switch was lowered on one of the few bright spots for the Raptors this season, as Scottie Barnes broke his hand and is expected to miss significant time. The injury led to some of the highest praise you’ll hear from another NBA player, as Draymond Green called Barnes a “special, special, special talent,” saying “I think Scottie will do way more than I ever did.” That had to take the sting out of the injury for at least a second. 3 23-38
25


Spurs
Victor Wembanyama put a vice grip on the Rookie of the Year Trophy this week with a signature fourth-quarter performance in Thursday’s upset win over the Thunder — pull-up 3s, wild assists and the block-heard-round-the-world on Chet Holmgren. It’s hard to stand out with Wembanyama as your teammate, but Devin Vassell averaged 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the Spurs’ 2-1 week. 3 13-48
26


Trail Blazers
The Blazers picked up consecutive road wins over the Grizzlies this week and were competitive in losses to the Heat and Wolves despite multiple key absences. The defense was legit, giving up just 107 points per 100 possessions in the four games, while Anfernee Simons led the offense with 24 points and eight assists per game on 38% 3-point shooting. 1 17-43
27


Grizzlies
With players once again in and out of the lineup, the Grizzlies lost their first three games of the week before beating the Nets on Monday. Only five players played in all four games, led by Vince Williams Jr.’s 13 points, five rebounds and five assists per game on 38% 3-point shooting. 1 21-41
28


Pistons
Hand it to the Pistons — when they win, they tend to do it convincingly. After beating the Bulls by 10 last Tuesday, that means that six of their nine wins have come by double-digits. They lost their other two games this week, but hey, who’s counting? 1 9-51
29


Hornets
Whatever mojo the Hornets injected at the trade deadline has worn off, losing all four games this week. Offense was the issue, as they generated just 106 points per 100 possessions. Newcomer Grant Williams continues to put in solid work, averaging 13 points and eight rebounds for the week on 56% shooting. 4 15-46
30


Wizards
The Wizards went 0-for-February, have lost 15 straight games, and now have a worse record than the Pistons — the definition of rock-bottom … at least we hope. Silver linings? Kyle Kuzma keeps putting up those numbers, baby, and Jordan Poole has been much better in his bench role, averaging 23.5 points and 4.5 assists this week on 47/41/89 shooting splits. — 9-52





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