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Power Rankings

Lakers Earn the No. 1 Spot

By John Schuhmann,
Posted Feb 9 2009 11:25AM

There will be joy in the Power Rankings e-mail this week. Your Los Angeles Lakers are back on No. 1 for the first time since Jan. 5.

The Lakers haven't lost since Andrew Bynum went down with his latest knee injury and they picked up their two biggest wins of the season this week. They beat the big three in Boston for the first time and handed the Cavs their first home loss of the season.

L.A. has truly earned its way to the top.

The last several days have brought plenty of trade speculation, and it will continue until next Thursday's deadline. But while fans and GMs around the league spend their time worrying about that, the players have another concern.

If you don't have children or don't work in an office, you might not know that there's this thing called the flu going around. And believe it or not, NBA players are not immune to it. So, I submit to you this week's All-Flu Team: Joe Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Caron Butler, Kevin Garnett and Yao Ming.

That's a pretty strong lineup, with 29 All-Star appearances between them. And they've all been affected this week by the flu. Get well, fellas. And get your flu shot next year.

• Last Week: Don't Believe What You Read
• This Time Last Year:
Let's Get This Right -- The Pistons had won eight straight and took over the top spot; the Jazz, Hornets and Suns were all in the top five, the Rockets' streak was at six, and the Blazers were losing their grip on the playoffs.

Hero Team of the Week: L.A. Lakers (4-0)
Zero Team of the Week: Toronto (0-4)

High jumps of the week: New Jersey (+7), Dallas (+3), Six teams (+2)
Free falls of the week: Miami (-3), Orlando (-3), Sacramento (-3), Toronto (-3)

East vs. West: The East leads 156-144 (.520) in inter-conference games, but the West went 17-5 this week.

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
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 48 minutes and 109.3 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.'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.

1 L.A. Lakers (3) 41-9 Pace: 93.1 (5), Off: 116.1 (1), Def: 106.9 (7)
What a week for the Lakers. They completed season sweeps against their two most likely opponents in June (if they get there themselves) and finished their road trip 6-0. And getting a big game from Lamar Odom in Cleveland could have long-term benefits. Oh yeah, that Bryant guy scored a lot of points in New York on Monday.
2 Cleveland (4) 39-10 Pace: 87.9 (25), Off: 114.5 (3), Def: 103.3 (2)
The perfect record at home is no more. LeBron's historic triple-double is no more. And Mo Williams got overlooked for an All-Star spot again. Keep your head up Cleveland. You still have the best team in the Eastern Conference and the only squad that has yet to lose two straight.
3 Boston (1) 42-11 Pace: 89.4 (17), Off: 112.5 (6), Def: 102.2 (1)
Losses to the Lakers and Spurs at home put the Celtics at 1-4 against the other three teams in our top four. The only win was over the Cavs on opening night. Of more concern should be not having home-court advantage in the postseason.
4 San Antonio (5) 34-15 Pace: 87.4 (26), Off: 110.2 (12), Def: 106.7 (6)
Big Shot Rog does it again. Roger Mason got the Clippers, Suns, Lakers and now the Celtics. Of course, it helped that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili actually played on Sunday to put Mason in position to win the game. Tuesday in Denver was a different story.
5 Orlando (2) 38-12 Pace: 91.1 (10), Off: 112.7 (4), Def: 103.4 (3)
This is still the third best team in the Eastern Conference, but you can take the Magic out of title contention now that they've likely lost Jameer Nelson for the season. Without Nelson, Orlando's defense wasn't able to hold up against the Mavs or Pacers this week.
6 Denver (6) 34-17 Pace: 93.3 (4), Off: 111.1 (9), Def: 107.6 (10)
The Nuggets had won four straight and were healthy, but they lost to a sub-.500 team for the first time since acquiring Chauncey Billups ... by 44 points Saturday in New Jersey. They finish their pre-break schedule with challenging visits to Miami and Orlando.
7 Dallas (10) 30-20 Pace: 90.5 (13), Off: 110.3 (11), Def: 109.3 (17)
The Mavs have won five of their last six games (including Monday's big win in Orlando) and eight of their last 11, but their defense hasn't been particularly good or consistent. And now they've lost Jason Terry for the foreseeable future with a broken hand.
8 Portland (7) 31-19 Pace: 85.3 (30), Off: 114.8 (2), Def: 110.7 (18)
Brandon Roy's drive-and-scoop to beat the Knicks Sunday night (along with key plays from Travis Outlaw and Greg Oden) kept the Blazers from losing three straight. They can avenge Friday's loss in Oklahoma City (the road woes continue) when the Thunder visit on Wednesday.
9 New Orleans (8) 30-18 Pace: 86.2 (28), Off: 111.4 (8), Def: 108.3 (12)
Just in case you didn't realize how much the Hornets depend on Chris Paul, they were outscored by the Blazers 42-17 in 13 1/2 minutes after he went down with a groin injury on Monday. Somehow, they beat the Timberwolves on Sunday (even after David West got ejected) on Sean Marks' game-winning dunk. Yes, Sean Marks' game-winning dunk.
10 Houston (9) 31-20 Pace: 89.1 (18), Off: 109.5 (14), Def: 106.2 (4)
The Rockets are in the midst of an easy stretch in their schedule, but they couldn't stop the Grizzlies on Wednesday. It was their second loss in Memphis this season. They play the Bucks and Kings this week, but nothing is guaranteed with this team.
11 Philadelphia (11) 25-24 Pace: 89.6 (16), Off: 107.4 (23), Def: 106.5 (5)
I'm not going to write that the Sixers are better off without Elton Brand, but it does say a lot about this team that it had a coaching change and lost its highest-paid player for the season and still has a realistic shot at the No. 4 spot in the East.
12 Utah (14) 29-23 Pace: 90.9 (11), Off: 111.7 (7), Def: 108.9 (14)
With the prospect of getting Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko back after the All-Star break, the Jazz are doing their best to stay within range of Houston, Dallas and Phoenix, who all seem to be on the brink of collapse every other day. Deron Williams is doing his part, averaging 33.5 points on 58 percent shooting in his last four games.
13 Phoenix (13) 28-21 Pace: 92.8 (6), Off: 112.5 (5), Def: 110.8 (19)
As Steve Kerr was weighing his trade options, the Suns won the Battle of Discontent in Detroit on Sunday. They've actually put together a couple of decent defensive games after losing eight of 12 and are ahead of Utah for the eighth spot in the West.
14 Detroit (16) 27-22 Pace: 86.1 (29), Off: 107.9 (20), Def: 108.2 (11)
With their loss to the Suns, the Pistons are now 1-9 on Sundays (0-6 at home), with the only win coming by one point over the Clippers. They've still got six more Sunday games on the schedule and Amar'e Stoudemire averages 25.3 points on 57 percent shooting on Sundays. Just sayin'.
15 Miami (12) 27-23 Pace: 89.0 (20), Off: 107.9 (21), Def: 107.4 (8)
The Heat are just a game ahead of the Sixers in the loss column after Saturday's collapse (in part due to Dwyane Wade being under the weather) in Philly. James Jones was brought in for his shooting, but he's just 6-for-28 from three-point range this season after going 2-for-13 in four games this week.
16 Atlanta (15) 29-21 Pace: 88.9 (21), Off: 110.7 (10), Def: 109.1 (15)
The Hawks won two games on the road without Joe Johnson (flu) this week, but couldn't beat the Clippers at home (their worst defensive game of the season) without Mike Bibby (sprained foot). Johnson is shooting 37 percent over his last eight games.
17 New Jersey (24) 24-28 Pace: 88.7 (24), Off: 109.5 (13), Def: 111.3 (22)
The Nets were the most improved defensive team from November to January, and that has extended into February. They had a 94.4 defensive rating in their four straight wins before losing Sunday in Orlando without Vince Carter.
18 New York (17) 21-29 Pace: 95.3 (2), Off: 109.1 (16), Def: 111.6 (27)
Brandon Roy's game-winner was a rough end to a rough week for the Knicks. Somehow though, they're just a game back of eighth place in the loss column, and with the Warriors and Clippers on the schedule this week, they could be in playoff position at the break.
19 Milwaukee (18) 24-29 Pace: 90.4 (14), Off: 108.1 (18), Def: 108.3 (13)
Ramon Sessions scored 44 points and dished out 12 assists in the Bucks' overtime loss to the Pistons on Saturday. Two of his assists were on threes, so he was directly involved in 70 of his team's points. That's two more than Kobe Bryant was involved with when he had 61 points and three assists in New York on Monday.
20 Chicago (20) 22-29 Pace: 92.2 (9), Off: 107.2 (24), Def: 109.3 (16)
The Bulls went 4-3 on their road trip and could have gone 6-1 had Derrick Rose been able to hit a couple of game-winners. Within striking distance of the eighth spot in the East, they host Detroit and Miami before the break.
21 Charlotte (19) 19-31 Pace: 86.6 (27), Off: 104.7 (28), Def: 107.4 (9)
So the Adam Morrison era comes to an end in Charlotte and we take one more look back at the 2006 NBA Draft to see what could have been for the Bobcats. We then realize that there wasn't much quality in that draft, but there was that gem taken at No. 6.
22 Minnesota (22) 17-33 Pace: 90.9 (12), Off: 107.4 (22), Def: 111.4 (24)
A bad season got much worse when Al Jefferson went down with a right knee injury late in the Wolves' loss in New Orleans on Sunday, a day after he put up 36 and 22 in a loss in Houston. The good news is that Jefferson left the arena without crutches.
23 Indiana (21) 20-32 Pace: 95.3 (3), Off: 108.8 (17), Def: 111.1 (21)
The Pacers lost another heartbreaker in Washington on Sunday, making them 5-10 in games decided by three points or less. Only the Spurs (9-2) have played more than nine such games. After hosting the Cavs on Tuesday, the Pacers play a stretch of seven games where Philly is their only opponent above .500. It's their best chance to make a run for the playoffs.
24 Oklahoma City (25) 13-38 Pace: 92.2 (8), Off: 104.9 (27), Def: 111.0 (20)
Kevin Durant continues his charge up the scoring leaders list, averaging 30.3 points over the last month. He's shooting 51 percent and getting to the line nine times a game while doing it, and it seems to be working for the Thunder. They're 8-7 with a 111.5 offensive rating during that stretch.
25 Golden State (26) 17-35 Pace: 96.3 (1), Off: 109.5 (15), Def: 113.7 (28)
The Warriors are back to being a competitive team. They've won seven of their last 14 games, beating the Suns and Jazz this week and falling to the Spurs in overtime. They've got a solid 107.7 defensive rating in the nine games since Monta Ellis returned.
26 Toronto (23) 19-34 Pace: 89.0 (19), Off: 108.1 (19), Def: 111.5 (26)
Having lost six straight and without Chris Bosh, the Raptors are quickly losing any hope of making the playoffs. But is it bad enough that Bryan Colangelo would consider dealing Bosh? I doubt it.
27 L.A. Clippers (29) 12-39 Pace: 90.3 (15), Off: 103.1 (30), Def: 111.5 (25)
Break up the Clippers! They've won two straight, their two best offensive games of the season, shooting 58 percent combined. It's one thing to beat the Grizzlies, but Saturday's 24-point win in Atlanta was the real eye-opener.
28 Memphis (30) 14-36 Pace: 88.7 (23), Off: 104.3 (29), Def: 111.3 (23)
The Grizzlies' 12-game losing streak came to an end and they won three of their four games this week. Their only loss was to the Clippers, giving up 126 points to the worst offense in the league. And they followed it up with their best defensive game of the season, holding the Bosh-less Raps to 70 on Saturday.
29 Washington (28) 11-40 Pace: 88.9 (22), Off: 106.3 (25), Def: 114.9 (29)
After missing two games, Caron Butler put 35 points and 13 boards on the Pacers on Sunday, capping it off his team's final 15 points of the game, including the game-winner over Danny Granger. That keeps the Wiz out of the basement.
30 Sacramento (27) 11-41 Pace: 92.3 (7), Off: 106.2 (26), Def: 116.4 (30)
With their 0-3 week, the Kings have the worst record in the league and take over the bottom spot in the rankings for the first time this season. Their hold on the "Worst Defensive Team in the NBA" title is now three weeks strong.

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