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Power Rankings

The Great Divide

Posted Jan 12 2009 11:56AM

Last week was Parity Week, but there's still some real separation between the haves and have-nots in this league.

There are currently 15 teams above .500, and none of them have been below .500 since late November. There are also 15 teams below .500 and, other than the Nets, none of them have been above .500 since late November.

The Nets are Even Steven, like Jerry Seinfeld in the episode where George gets a job with the Yankees and Elaine gets evicted. They've been within two games of .500 since Dec. 10. They win some, they lose some. When their defense improves, their offense takes a step back. They stink at home and they're great on the road.

Even Steven.

The divide between the haves and the have-nots has been pretty strong. Other than the Nets, no team that is currently ranked in the bottom 15 has been in the top half since the Raptors were No. 15 on Dec. 1.

We may see some mixing of the two groups again soon though. The Sixers have won four straight and are threatening to crack the top 15. The Bucks have also showed the potential to go on a run. Meanwhile, the Heat have four more road games before returning home to face Boston, Orlando and Atlanta. So, they could possibly fall below .500.

• Last Week: Parity Week
• This Time Last Year: All the Way to the Top -- The Lakers topped the rankings for the first time of the season, the Mavs had won seven straight, the Knicks held the Pistons to 65 points, Stan Van Gundy called his team's defense "one of the worst in the league right now," and the NBA granted a protest for the first time in 25 years, delaying a Hawks' win for two months.

Hero Team of the Week: Orlando (4-0)
Zero Team of the Week: New York (0-3)

High jumps of the week: Philadelphia (+6), Utah (+4), Four teams (+3)
Free falls of the week: New York (-9), Atlanta (-7), Boston (-3), Dallas (-3)

East vs. West: The East leads 109-94 (.537) in inter-conference games, but the West was 14-9 this week.

Off: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) The league averages through Sunday are 90.3 possessions (per team) per game and 108.4 points scored per 100 possessions.

As always, the stats don't determine the rankings, but they help evaluate each team and provide a picture of where they stand on both sides of the ball.

NBA.com's Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you've got an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail.

TEAM (LAST WEEK) REC. BREAKDOWN
1 Cleveland (3) 29-6 Off: 114.6 (2), Def: 100.6 (1)
Friday's win over the Celtics puts the Cavs at 19-0 at Quicken Loans Arena, but they've got six of their next seven on the road, including a Finals preview next Monday in L.A. Yeah, I said it. Finals preview.
2 L.A. Lakers (1) 30-6 Off: 114.8 (1), Def: 105.3 (5)
After an inconsistent four-week stretch that ended with a 2-for-7 performance in Tuesday's loss to the Hornets, Andrew Bynum has got it together again, averaging 20.7 points on 65.7 percent shooting over the last three games. A back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio this week is followed by home games against the Magic and Cavs, maybe the toughest four-game stretch L.A. will play all season.
3 Orlando (5) 30-8 Off: 110.8 (7), Def: 102.3 (3)
Did you think you'd ever see a team other than the Cavs or Celtics in second place in the East? Or did you think you'd ever see J.J. Redick hit big shots down the stretch for the Magic? With Friday's 34-point pasting of the Hawks in Atlanta (they were up 101-51 at one point), and Sunday's win in San Antonio, is anybody still overlooking Orlando?
4 San Antonio (4) 24-12 Off: 110.3 (11), Def: 106.2 (6)
The Spurs had hit 36 threes in their three games before Sunday's matchup with the Magic, but they were outscored 42-9 beyond the arc by Orlando in what was one of the best games of the week. Next up is their first meeting of the season with the Lakers, before San Antonio hits the road for 14 of 17.
5 Boston (2) 30-9 Off: 110.8 (8), Def: 101.4 (2)
Losing six out of eight is bad, but Friday's loss in Cleveland was just as critical. Winning that game would have gone a long way in righting the Celtics' ship. They picked up a win Sunday in Toronto, thanks to Ray Allen going 8-for-10 from deep.
6 New Orleans (8) 22-11 Off: 111.5 (6), Def: 107.0 (9)
The Hornets continue to tease us. They followed up Tuesday's big win over the Lakers with a 26-point loss to the Jazz. What is more bothersome though is that Chris Paul still trails Tracy McGrady for the second All-Star starting spot in the West. You can help fix that.
7 Denver (7) 25-13 Off: 111.7 (5), Def: 107.7 (14)
The good news: The Nuggets got under the luxury tax by trading Cheikh Samb and Chucky Atkins. The bad news: Carmelo Anthony is out for a few weeks with a broken hand. Linas Kleiza replaced 'Melo in the starting lineup and scored 21 points in Wednesday's win over Miami. He then scored one point in Friday's loss to Detroit.
8 Phoenix (9) 21-13 Off: 113.3 (4), Def: 111.1 (25)
Friday's 128-100 trouncing of the Mavs was probably the Suns' best win of the season and a nice way to recover from getting beat at the buzzer by Danny Granger two days earlier. But any improvement in Phoenix has been on the offensive end and they're still not showing much defensively.
9 Portland (12) 22-14 Off: 114.3 (3), Def: 110.7 (22)
Does getting Brandon Roy back from his hamstring injury help ease the pain of likely losing $9 million of cap space? The Blazers head east for a four-game trip and a good chance to get their road record above .500, as all four opponents are below it.
10 Utah (14) 22-15 Off: 110.6 (9), Def: 106.4 (8)
The Jazz beat the Warriors, Hornets and Pistons at home this week and the last two came with Deron Williams under the weather and scoring just 15 total points. And the Detroit win came despite Paul Millsap's double-double streak ending at 19 games.
TEAM (LAST WEEK) REC. BREAKDOWN
11 Detroit (10) 22-13 Off: 107.7 (18), Def: 107.1 (11)
The Pistons have showed improved defense (102.2) in their eight games without Richard Hamilton, which includes four games without Rasheed Wallace as well. The offense has suffered a bit though. And with Detroit's loss in Utah on Saturday, Mehmet Okur is now 9-1 against his former team.
12 Houston (13) 24-15 Off: 108.2 (16), Def: 104.8 (4)
Just when you think the Rockets are falling apart, they go and win three straight, starting with the Celtics' first loss at home in 14 games. Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady each played in only one of the three games. It's amazing that this team is nine games over .500.
13 Atlanta (6) 22-14 Off: 110.6 (10), Def: 108.9 (16)
So much for any thought of the Southeast Division being a two-team race. And not only did the Hawks get their butts whooped by the Magic at home on Friday, they lost Al Horford for an indefinite amount of time with a bone bruise in the process.
14 Dallas (11) 22-15 Off: 109.4 (13), Def: 107.7 (13)
Josh Howard sprained his wrist as the Mavs got blown out in Phoenix on Friday, and with Sunday's loss in Sacramento, the Mavs have dropped consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 14. Games against the Nuggets, Hornets and Jazz this week won't make it easy to get back on track.
15 Miami (15) 19-17 Off: 107.2 (19), Def: 107.3 (12)
The Heat are 1-2 on their seven-game trip so far. On the bright side, James Jones finally made his Heat debut, Michael Beasley has put together the first consecutive 20-point games of his career and the team showed toughness in Sunday's three-point loss to the Lakers.
16 Philadelphia (22) 17-20 Off: 106.2 (22), Def: 107.0 (10)
The Sixers have won four straight and are just a game behind the Bucks for the eighth spot in the East. Over the last five games, they have a potent offensive rating of 121.1, and that has been against some pretty good defensive teams. Elton who?
17 Milwaukee (16) 18-21 Off: 106.9 (20), Def: 106.3 (7)
The Bucks have alternated wins and losses for the last nine games, but their defense really fell off when Andrew Bogut missed four games with back spasms. And it didn't recover when he returned for Saturday's loss in Minnesota. Their defensive rating over the last five games is an ugly 117.9.
18 New Jersey (17) 18-19 Off: 109.9 (12), Def: 112.0 (27)
Devin Harris returns to action Monday after missing all but 19 minutes of the last four games with a strained hamstring. But the Nets lose Yi Jianlian for 4-6 weeks with a broken finger after he put together his most productive three-game stretch of the season. Even Steven.
19 Toronto (18) 16-22 Off: 108.1 (17), Def: 110.5 (19)
Maybe I spoke too soon about Andrea Bargnani not showing any improvement under the new coach. Il Mago (are we still calling him that?) is averaging 21.0 points on 54.2 percent shooting (hitting 22-of-35 from downtown) over the last seven games.
20 Indiana (19) 13-24 Off: 108.3 (15), Def: 110.8 (23)
The Pacers played three more games that came down to the final possession this week, including a thrilling win in Phoenix and a thrilling loss in L.A. They've now had 13 games determined by three points or less (they're 5-8), while no other team has had more than eight.
TEAM (LAST WEEK) REC. BREAKDOWN
21 Minnesota (24) 11-25 Off: 106.2 (23), Def: 110.6 (21)
Glass half empty: The Timberwolves haven't beat a good team since their Nov. 23 win in Detroit. Glass half full: They've got their first five-game winning streak since Dec. of 2005 and have won their last seven games against teams they should be beating.
22 Charlotte (23) 14-24 Off: 104.4 (27), Def: 107.8 (15)
It was certainly an eventful week in Charlotte. The Bobcats beat the Celtics, lost D.J. Augustin to an abdominal strain, almost lost Raymond Felton to a sprained ankle, might lose Felton to a trade, told Sean May he can't play until he's down to 260 pounds, and sat Gerald Wallace for not playing hard. Who says this team isn't interesting?
23 Chicago (21) 16-21 Off: 105.9 (24), Def: 109.4 (18)
When you have a five-game homestand with Minnesota, Sacramento, Washington, Oklahoma City and Portland, you should not be 2-2 going into the game against the Blazers.
24 Sacramento (27) 9-29 Off: 104.2 (28), Def: 113.4 (29)
Kevin Martin had a string of four games where he scored 28 points or more ... and the Kings lost all four. Martin scored just 21 against the Mavs on Sunday and the Kings won, getting double-figures from five other guys.
25 Washington (26) 7-29 Off: 104.9 (25), Def: 112.3 (28)
It would be nice to see Gilbert Arenas play at some point this season, even though the Wizards are on pace to record the lowest win total in franchise history (even lower than when they were the Chicago Packers). The thought of another $15 million going down the drain is tough to take in this economy. Add Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis and you've got $56 million going to three unused point guards.
26 Memphis (25) 11-26 Off: 104.6 (26), Def: 110.8 (24)
Taking away the Grizzlies' 20-point win over the Mavs last Sunday, opposing post players (Duncan, Jefferson, Shaquille O'Neal, Brook Lopez and Bosh) are averaging 25.6 points on 65.4 percent shooting in their last seven games.
27 Golden State (30) 11-28 Off: 108.6 (14), Def: 114.7 (30)
As bad as the Warriors have been, it must be stated that before Wednesday, they had played 13 games at home and 23 on the road. With Sunday's narrow win over the Pacers, they're 7-8 at ORACLE Arena, where they play their next six and 15 of their next 20.
28 Oklahoma City (29) 6-32 Off: 102.3 (29), Def: 111.1 (26)
The Thunder have won three of their last six and have shown they can play some defense on occasion. Russell Westbrook is certainly a key to both of these revelations and Nenad Krstic has looked pretty good in his first three games back in the NBA, which is great to see.
29 New York (20) 13-22 Off: 106.7 (21), Def: 110.6 (20)
Maybe the surest sign that the Celtics are in a real funk is that two days after they lost to the Knicks, New York lost in Oklahoma City. While the Knicks' defense has improved, their offense has suddenly gone the way of the Thunder.
30 L.A. Clippers (28) 8-29 Off: 101.1 (30), Def: 108.9 (17)
The Clippers have lost 11 straight and with a pair of technical fouls (and an automatic ejection) on Sunday, coach Mike Dunleavy has more Ts (nine) than wins (eight) this season.

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