First time ever, OKC is No. 1
They finally got there this week with easy wins in the last eight days over the only two teams that have been atop the rankings this season. The Thunder took down the Heat last Sunday and dropped the Bulls on Sunday, both in impressive fashion. In between, they went to L.A. and handed the revamped Lakers their fifth loss at home.
Kevin Durant is now the MVP favorite in the minds of some, Russell Westbrook is destroying opposing defenses, and James Harden and Serge Ibaka are as good as it gets in their supporting roles.
Defense has been an issue for the Thunder but certainly wasn't a problem against Chicago. Oklahoma City now has the eighth-best defense since the All-Star break and is the only team in the top eight in both offensive and defensive post-break efficiency.
The big games keep coming for the Thunder. In the next 10 days, they host the Grizzlies and Clippers, and visit the Heat and Pacers. They're tied in the loss column with the Bulls and still only two games ahead of the Spurs and Heat. So it's far too early for them to take their foot off the pedal.
• Last week: Thunder pass the first test
• This time last year: Nuggets earn a spot in the top five - Shaquille O'Neal returned from a 27-game absence, played 5 1/2 minutes, and didn't play again for another month. LeBron James had shot 62 percent over the last six games, JaVale McGee did this to Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and with six games left, the Bobcats were still alive for a playoff spot.
Hero Team of the Week: Boston (4-0) - Since the Thunder got all the love above, we'll honor the Celtics' perfect week here. Their defense has been ridiculously good (see below) and Avery Bradley has emerged as someone they can count on.
Zero Team of the Week: Cleveland (0-4) - The Cavs didn't exactly have a murderer's row of opponents, but they weren't at all competitive. The low point was a 37-point loss at home to the Bucks.
Plus-minus Stud: Rajon Rondo (BOS) was a plus-68 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: Antawn Jamison and Donald Sloan (CLE) were both a minus-57 in four games last week.
High jumps of the week: Boston (+5), New Jersey (+5), Denver (+3), L.A. Clippers (+3)
Free falls of the week: Five teams (-3)
East vs. West: The West is 139-105 (.570) against the East in inter-conference games this season, and was 9-7 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 is averaging 93.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 101.5 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 contact him via twitter.
Oklahoma City (40-12)|
Pace: 95.6 (6), Off: 107.8 (1), Def: 100.0 (11)
In the Thunder's three signature wins over the last eight days, against three teams in the top 10 defensively, Kevin Durant shot 55 percent, including a ridiculous 7-for-9 from 3-point range. The Heat, Lakers and Bulls are all pretty good offensively, too, so maybe most important is that the Thunder got stops.
San Antonio (36-14)|
Pace: 94.4 (9), Off: 106.5 (2), Def: 101.4 (13)
A brief, four-game stretch of suffocating defense didn't last, but the Spurs have still won seven straight and 10 of their last 11. That sets up a great matchup between two red-hot teams in Boston on Wednesday, but the Spurs will first need to take care of business in Cleveland the night before.
Pace: 91.9 (26), Off: 105.3 (5), Def: 96.2 (3)
Forget Monday's loss to the Nuggets, when the vaunted Bulls' defense got scorched. And forget Sunday's loss in Oklahoma City, when their offense looked a mess. The only thing that matters now is that Derrick Rose gets healthy in the next few weeks. He said Sunday that he doesn't know when he'll be back.
Pace: 94.1 (15), Off: 106.2 (3), Def: 97.4 (5)
Sunday brought a new low for the Heat, who had their worst offensive game of the season in Boston. We'll find out if their issues are restricted to the road over the next nine days, as they host the Sixers, Thunder, Grizzlies and Celtics on a five-game homestand. It's crazy, but this team has won 15 straight at home.
L.A. Lakers (33-20)|
Pace: 92.8 (21), Off: 102.8 (11), Def: 99.9 (9)
The Lakers continue to struggle defensively, but mostly when their reserves are in the game. Their new starting lineup has allowed just 95 points per 100 possessions in 105 minutes. And though L.A. is just 6-4 with Ramon Sessions in uniform, Sessions has had a positive plus-minus in all 10 games.
Pace: 92.8 (20), Off: 98.6 (25), Def: 95.8 (2)
The Celtics couldn't have had a better start to their rough April schedule, crushing the Heat in the first of their three meetings this month. Now it's not so hard to think they'll keep that Atlantic Division lead. Incredibly, they've allowed fewer than 90 points per 100 possessions in six of their last eight games.
Pace: 93.3 (19), Off: 102.4 (13), Def: 99.9 (10)
This should be a fun week to be a season ticket holder at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Pacers will host three good teams - New York, Oklahoma City and Boston - playing their best basketball. And with the East standings from 3-7 so jumbled right now, the home team has plenty on the line.
Pace: 91.6 (28), Off: 102.1 (16), Def: 100.4 (12)
As expected, the Magic defense was pretty terrible as Dwight Howard missed just his third game to injury in his eight-year career on Sunday. But the Magic defense has been pretty terrible for four games running. They've lost three in a row and are losing their grip on third place in the East.
L.A. Clippers (31-21)|
Pace: 91.6 (27), Off: 104.7 (6), Def: 103.2 (21)
Chris Paul turned it up, averaging 21 points and 11.6 six assists as the Clippers swept a five-game homestand. They have a very interesting few days ahead. They visit Dallas on Monday and host the Lakers on Wednesday. The first two meetings between the housemates have been intense, to say the least.
Pace: 94.2 (12), Off: 100.1 (22), Def: 99.0 (8)
It looks like the Grizzlies are comfortably in the West's top six, but lets see how they get through the next six days, when they play the Mavs twice and visit both Oklahoma City and Miami. Oh yeah, they also host the Warriors on Tuesday. A rough stretch, but they are 10-3 (second-best in the league) with no rest.
Pace: 92.1 (24), Off: 100.4 (19), Def: 98.6 (6)
The Hawks have suffered some defensive slippage and now could be in danger of slipping into seventh place in the East. But they have an easier schedule than both the Sixers and Knicks, including two games each against the Pistons, Raptors and Bobcats. Both Charlotte games are this week.
Pace: 94.4 (10), Off: 102.5 (12), Def: 103.0 (20)
The Suns are hanging in there, just a game in the loss column out of eighth. And in the next 12 days, they'll play each of the four teams closest to them in the standings, so they can't be counted out at all. But the absence of Grant Hill, who had minor surgery on Friday, will really hurt them defensively.
Pace: 93.9 (16), Off: 100.2 (21), Def: 98.7 (7)
It's easy to doubt the Mavs, who have struggled offensively all season and regressed defensively since the break. But they've survived a pretty brutal post-break schedule. It started with nine games in 12 days, and now they're about to conclude a stretch of 10 straight games against teams with winning records.
New York (27-26)|
Pace: 96.5 (3), Off: 99.9 (23), Def: 97.3 (4)
With Jeremy Lin and Amar'e Stoudemire out, Carmelo Anthony will be the focus of attention in New York. But this is Tyson Chandler's team as much as it is Anthony's. The Knicks are a top-five defense (believe it or not) because of Chandler, and will have to continue to win with defense.
Pace: 96.9 (2), Off: 105.3 (4), Def: 103.6 (22)
A year ago, we pointed out how George Karl had his team playing the league's best post-break defense, after having the most efficient pre-break offense. Now, Karl deserves credit for keeping the Nuggets in playoff position despite a rash of injuries. Their most-used lineup has played in only 13 games together.
Pace: 91.9 (25), Off: 101.7 (17), Def: 94.9 (1)
The Sixers are just 9-14 since Feb. 15, but Friday's 21-point loss in Washington was really the first in that time that made you shake your head. Now, to avoid a first-round series with the Bulls or Heat, they have to find a way to win on the road. After Saturday, they're home for only two of their final 11 games.
Pace: 94.1 (14), Off: 102.9 (9), Def: 103.7 (23)
The Jazz showed resolve in winning on the road a day after playing four overtimes, but circle Friday's home loss to the Kings as one to look back on if they miss the playoffs. Derrick Favors somehow shot 0-for-13 in that one, which was just their second home loss to a bad team this season.
Pace: 94.2 (13), Off: 102.9 (8), Def: 101.6 (14)
The Rockets' two losses to the Mavs in the last 10 days had a bigger effect on the standings, but neither was as tough to swallow as Sunday's loss to the Pacers, in which they blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead. They still have a one-game lead for eighth, but begin a four-game trip in Chicago on Monday.
Pace: 95.8 (5), Off: 102.3 (14), Def: 102.7 (19)
The good news is that the Bucks' defense has improved, allowing less than a point per possession over the last eight games. The bad news is that they've laid a few eggs offensively in that stretch and need some help to catch the Knicks. After visiting Washington on Monday, they're home for five straight.
Pace: 93.5 (18), Off: 102.9 (10), Def: 102.2 (15)
J.J. Hickson is averaging 16 points on 65 percent shooting in six games as a Blazer. And not surprisingly, Portland has been great offensively and terrible defensively when he's been on the floor. They almost knocked off the Clippers on Friday and have the ability to play spoiler over the last few weeks.
Pace: 95.9 (4), Off: 102.2 (15), Def: 102.6 (18)
With weekend losses to the Celtics and Blazers, the Wolves have pretty much sealed their fate of missing the playoffs for the eighth straight season, and bought the Hornets an extra ticket to the lottery too. They're now 4-9 since losing Ricky Rubio for the season, with 10 of the 13 games on the road.
Pace: 91.3 (29), Off: 97.0 (29), Def: 104.4 (24)
Rodney Stuckey's game-winner in Washington was a highlight of what has been a strong, under-the-radar season. But that was the only full game he's played in the last seven. Tayshaun Prince stepped up in Stuckey's absence, totaling 53 points and 17 boards in wins over the Cavs and Bobcats last week.
Pace: 92.2 (23), Off: 98.9 (24), Def: 102.2 (16)
Only two teams have improved more offensively than the Raptors since the All-Star break. After Wednesday's win over the Nuggets, they have four post-break victories over playoff teams, with DeMar DeRozan averaging 22 points in those four games. He has shot 47 percent in wins and just 39 percent in losses.
New Jersey (19-35)|
Pace: 92.3 (22), Off: 100.3 (20), Def: 107.0 (29)
Well, the Nets did it. Not only have they won three straight games for the first time this season, but after 80 days as the worst defensive team in the league, they've moved up to No. 29 in defensive efficiency. It was a good run at the bottom, but it had to come to an end with the addition of Gerald Wallace.
Golden State (20-31)|
Pace: 94.5 (8), Off: 103.7 (7), Def: 105.1 (26)
The Warriors hung tough with the the Lakers twice last week. In between, they lost home games to the Hornets and Nets, blowing a 19-point lead to New Jersey on Friday. This shouldn't be any surprise with this team, but they were outrebounded by 56 boards in their four games last week.
Pace: 97.3 (1), Off: 100.4 (18), Def: 106.3 (28)
The three-guard combination of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans has been fun to watch, and pretty good offensively, scoring 107 points per 100 possessions in 488 minutes. But they're getting destroyed on the other end, allowing 110, with opponents shooting 50 percent in those minutes.
Pace: 94.3 (x), Off: 98.3 (x), Def: 104.6 (x)
The Cavs have won just one of their last 11 games, quickly putting themselves in the middle of the Anthony Davis sweepstakes. Statistically, only the Blazers have regressed more than Cleveland since the All-Star break. Defense has been the biggest problem, which could be fixed if Anderson Varejao returns.
Pace: 95.1 (7), Off: 97.2 (28), Def: 105.2 (27)
Things haven't been too pretty offensively, but until Sunday's stinker in Toronto, the Wizards had held six of their last seven opponents under a point per possession. And Friday's win over the Sixers was one of their best games of the season, up there with wins over the Thunder and Lakers. Baby steps.
New Orleans (13-40)|
Pace: 90.7 (30), Off: 97.4 (27), Def: 102.6 (17)
The Hornets' ability to play good teams tough over the last month and a half has been pretty impressive. But on Sunday in Phoenix, we saw some signs of cracks, as Monty Williams appeared to call out Carl Landry for sitting out the loss. Landry has missed 25 games and is a free agent this summer.
Pace: 93.9 (17), Off: 92.9 (30), Def: 107.1 (30)
At this time last year, Kemba Walker was leading UConn to its 11th straight win and a national championship. Now, he's playing for one of the worst teams in NBA history and has the worst plus-minus in the league. The Bobcats found a new way to lose on Saturday, blowing a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead.