By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Dec 13 2010 10:45AM
How do the Dallas Mavericks not take the top spot in the Power Rankings after 12 straight wins? Because the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs are playing just as well as the Mavs are.
It's one of those times in the season where parity is abandoned, the great teams play well and the bad teams play poorly. Through Sunday, four teams have winning streaks of eight games or more, and we have a clear top five in the Power Rankings, with a dropoff after that.
The Celtics put their 10-game streak up against the eight-game streak of the Knicks on Wednesday. The No. 1 defense in the league vs. the No. 3 offense should be a fun watch, but we won't see a Power Rankings top-five matchup until the Mavs visit the Heat next Monday.
Until then, the streaks may just keep going.
• Last week: Time to take stock: Who's in and who's out?
• This time last year: Celtics take the hard road to No. 1 - The Celtics had won 10 straight, the Lakers finally had their first road trip, the Pistons were a playoff team, and it wasn't yet known that Blake Griffin was out for the season.
Hero Team of the Week: Chicago (4-0) - The Bulls' victory in Cleveland wasn't pretty, but they did their part in the East-West argument with wins over the Thunder, Lakers and Wolves.
Zero Team of the Week: Detroit (0-4) - How do you top a loss in Minnesota? You blow a 25-point lead at home to the Raptors.
High jumps of the week: Miami (+4), Philadelphia (+4), New York (+3)
Free falls of the week: Denver (-6), Cleveland (-5), Orlando (-4)
East vs. West: The West is 73-58 (.557) against the East in inter-conference games this season and was 13-13 last 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 95.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.0 points scored per 100 possessions.
NBA.com's Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail. You can also follow him on twitter.
Pace: 92.9 (23), Off: 107.2 (7), Def: 96.3 (1)
The Celtics have done a great job of integrating Shaquille O'Neal, but they're still 6-1 without him. They're also 3-1 without Rajon Rondo. Jermaine O'Neal, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins have played a combined 12 games. As Paul Pierce said last week, "It's going to be scary when we get healthy."
San Antonio (20-3)|
Pace: 95.7 (12), Off: 110.3 (1), Def: 99.7 (8)
What's more amazing: That the Spurs have the No. 1 offense in the league, or that they haven't missed a single game from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker? Maybe the two are related. They're the first team to 20 wins and their home-heavy schedule continues through the end of the month.
Pace: 92.9 (24), Off: 106.9 (8), Def: 99.1 (8)
Dirk Nowitzki shot 50.2 percent in his MVP season, a career-high. He's shooting 56.8 percent this season and a ridiculous 58.9 percent during the Mavs' 12-game winning streak. The story in Dallas is the Mavs' defense, but Nowitzki is as much an MVP candidate as anyone right now.
L.A. Lakers (17-7)|
Pace: 97.1 (7), Off: 109.3 (4), Def: 101.8 (10)
The Lakers have won four out of five after that four-game losing streak, but the four wins have come against teams with a combined record of 22-70. And the competition for the remaining four games of their seven-game trip isn't much stronger. Andrew Bynum may or may not return Tuesday in Washington.
Pace: 93.0 (22), Off: 108.9 (5), Def: 97.1 (2)
This is what we thought the Heat would be. They've won eight straight, the defense is suffocating and the three big-three combinations are at the top of their two-man plus-minus list for the last 10 games. That should quiet the questions about on-court chemistry, no?
Oklahoma City (17-8)|
Pace: 95.6 (13), Off: 105.9 (12), Def: 104.2 (16)
Jeff Green. Serge Ibaka. Russell Westbrook. And now James Harden. Don't get caught under the basket against this team. And is it time for Kevin Durant to catch fire? He shot 10-for-17 in an easy win over the Cavs on Sunday and will face some sketchy defenses in the next couple of weeks.
Pace: 93.5 (19), Off: 106.3 (9), Def: 103.4 (13)
The only teams the Jazz have lost to in the last 5 1/2 weeks have been the Thunder, Spurs, Mavs and Heat. If they continue to beat teams below them in the standings, they'll win their next 17. But they've been rather inconsistent from game to game (heck, from quarter to quarter) on both ends of the floor.
Pace: 92.6 (27), Off: 105.4 (14), Def: 98.6 (3)
Maybe the stomach flu (and ensuing recovery) wasn't the cause for the Magic's entire four-game losing streak, but it certainly had a hand in them losing the second spot in the Eastern Conference. There's a lot of basketball to be played, but getting a top-two seed is critical in a conference with three title contenders.
New York (16-9)|
Pace: 99.0 (3), Off: 109.5 (3), Def: 106.0 (20)
So the Knicks finally got tested by a good team on Sunday, and what happened? They had their best offensive game of the season. (It was also their worst defensive game, but a W is a W.) Devil's advocate: How much would Carmelo Anthony help if their offense is already third-best in the league?
Pace: 92.7 (25), Off: 106.2 (10), Def: 103.1 (12)
The Hawks are now 5-2, with losses in Miami and San Antonio, without the guy who will be 34 years old in the final year of his $124 million contract. Jason Collins (who's 32) had more rebounds in his three starts last week (15) than he had in 24 games last season (14).
Pace: 96.1 (11), Off: 102.6 (19), Def: 99.0 (5)
Maybe the Bulls can play great defense with Carlos Boozer in the lineup after all. Boozer's offensive production has been inconsistent and he's a minus-six thus far, but Chicago held its four opponents (including the Thunder and Lakers) to 39 percent shooting and 88 points per 100 possessions last week.
Pace: 99.2 (2), Off: 107.7 (6), Def: 105.6 (18)
On Sunday, George Karl called the Nuggets' 1-3 trip east "solid," even though they lost to the Bobcats, gave up 129 points to the Knicks and allowed their opponents to shoot 52 percent on the trip. They're still 10-1 (and much better offensively) at home, but they get visits from the Magic and Spurs this week.
New Orleans (14-9)|
Pace: 92.6 (26), Off: 101.3 (21), Def: 98.9 (4)
The Hornets have lost eight of their last 11 games, with their offense reaching a new low in Philadelphia on Sunday. Chris Paul made eight of his 12 shots, but his teammates made just 16 of their 65. With a visit to Miami on Monday, recovering from that stinker might be difficult.
Pace: 96.9 (9), Off: 101.9 (20), Def: 100.5 (9)
Against the Raptors on Monday, the Pacers had their best offensive game since the 20-for-21 night. But they've lost the momentum they had after wins over the Heat and Lakers, and they keep bouncing back to the .500 mark. With the Bulls, Lakers, Cavs and Celtics on the schedule this week, they may go below it.
Pace: 91.2 (30), Off: 103.2 (15), Def: 103.8 (15)
After shooting 12-for-40 in the first three games of the Blazers' winning streak, Brandon Roy carried them to win No. 4 in Phoenix on Friday. Then it was another rough night (4-for-16) as the streak came to an end in San Antonio. The Blazers have now shot 40 percent or worse in seven of their last 12 games.
Pace: 96.9 (8), Off: 109.5 (2), Def: 110.0 (30)
And back down the roller coaster go the Suns. What's strange about this three-game losing streak is that it's their offense that has hurt them. It's the first time in five years that they've been held under 100 points in three straight games, and that's with one of the games going to overtime.
Pace: 95.6 (14), Off: 102.6 (18), Def: 105.4 (17)
With seven of their eight remaining games this month coming against teams at or below .500, the Grizzlies have a real shot at making a run at the eighth spot in the West. The stretch begins with the team that currently holds that eighth spot. The Blazers visit Memphis on Monday.
Pace: 97.7 (5), Off: 106.0 (11), Def: 106.9 (22)
After winning just three of their first 13 games, the Rockets have won six of their last 10. And the key may be the pace. They're scoring fewer points per game over the last 10, but it's only because they've been playing slower. They've actually been more efficient offensively (108.5 points per 100 possessions).
Pace: 94.4 (17), Off: 103.2 (16), Def: 102.4 (11)
Improvement on both ends (Off: 109.8, Def: 98.1) have sparked this 5-2 stretch for the Sixers, which includes Thursday's heartbreaking loss to the Celtics. They need to keep it going against the Nets and Clippers early this week, because after that, they host the Lakers and then play eight straight on the road.
Pace: 93.5 (20), Off: 97.0 (30), Def: 99.3 (7)
Their offense hasn't exactly taken off, but the Bucks have been able to grind out wins in three of their last four games with Andrew Bogut averaging 20.8 points and 16.0 boards. As disappointing as they've been, they're currently a playoff team. But their schedule over the next four weeks is brutal.
Pace: 97.1 (6), Off: 105.5 (13), Def: 109.0 (27)
The average score of the Raps' last five games has been 109-118. Playing consistently atrocious defense, they managed the biggest comeback in franchise history to end their four-game losing streak on Saturday. A couple of timely stops might allow them to hold the Bobcats under 115 on Tuesday.
Pace: 93.3 (21), Off: 99.9 (25), Def: 103.4 (14)
On the bright side, the 62 points the Bobcats scored against the Celtics on Saturday were three more than they scored against Boston in their first game last season. Obviously a victim of the Hang Time Blog jinx, D.J. Augustin failed to score and registered just one assist in more than 32 minutes of playing time.
Pace: 91.6 (28), Off: 100.9 (22), Def: 108.8 (26)
The Pistons really found a new way to lose on Saturday. It was new because Ben Wallace had never scored 23 points in a game before, and no team had ever blown a 25-point lead to the Raptors. Detroit has allowed its opponents to shoot 51 percent and has lost eight of their last nine.
Golden State (8-15)|
Pace: 98.0 (4), Off: 102.6 (17), Def: 109.3 (29)
That 6-2 start the Warriors had is long forgotten. Stephen Curry is out again with the same ankle injury and David Lee is clearly still bothered by the hole in his elbow. Still, neither injury is an excuse for a defense that has allowed 112.6 points per 100 possessions over the last 16 games.
New Jersey (6-18)|
Pace: 91.6 (29), Off: 99.9 (26), Def: 105.8 (19)
Clearly, the Nets need Carmelo Anthony more than the Knicks do. They're still 5-1 when Devin Harris scores 21-plus, but they' re 0-7 and scoring a measly 95.2 points per 100 possessions since the last time he did. Sunday's strong effort against the Lakers is evidence that they haven't let go of the rope.
Pace: 100.6 (1), Off: 100.5 (23), Def: 108.3 (24)
The Timberwolves are undefeated (1-0, with Friday's win over Detroit) and Darko Milicic is averaging 7.0 blocks per game when they wear their new black uniforms. Back in blue, they got crushed in Chicago on Saturday. Perhaps they should wear the black on the road, where they're now 1-12.
L.A. Clippers (5-20)|
Pace: 94.3 (18), Off: 99.7 (27), Def: 107.2 (23)
The Clippers had Wednesday's game against the Lakers in their hands. Up five with 1:14 left, they didn't even miss a shot the rest of the way. But they were done in by two Eric Gordon turnovers and Derek Fisher's (barely) buzzer-beating drive. Another one-point loss (to Memphis) followed.
Pace: 95.0 (16), Off: 99.2 (28), Def: 106.6 (21)
With a loss to the Clippers and a win over the Wizards (which ended an eight-game slide), the Kings were in the middle of the bottom-five round robin last week. Tyreke Evans, who continues to struggle with plantar fascitis, will reportedly miss their three-game trip this week.
Pace: 96.2 (10), Off: 100.3 (24), Def: 109.1 (28)
After playing the Lakers pretty tough the night before, Wednesday's visit to Sacramento was a great opportunity for the Wizards to pick up their first road win of the season ... and (playing without John Wall) they lost to the Kings by 25. Both the Lakers and Heat visit the Verizon Center this week.
Pace: 95.1 (15), Off: 97.7 (29), Def: 108.5 (25)
Byron Scott changed his starting lineup on Wednesday against the Bulls and the Cavs showed their first signs of life since the Heat debacle. They had a six-point lead with three minutes to go, but choked it away. After losses by a combined 44 points in Houston and Oklahoma City, they've dropped eight straight.
|Block Off Backboard|
LeBron James with an excellent block during the first quarter.
Jamal Crawford sinks a nice shot during the fourth quarter.
|Jordan Banks It In|
DeAndre Jordan grabs the rebound and sinks a tough shot.
Jamal Crawford with an impressive block during the third quarter.
Jimmy Butler picks up an injury during the third quarter.