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Evaluation Time
December 10, 2007 -- We have played exactly 300 games to date, which is 24.4 percent of the season. So, you could say that we have reached the quarter pole, which a good time to take a step back and evaluate what we've got so far.

In the West, we again have the Spurs and Suns at the top, but the Mavs aren't keeping pace this time. Instead, we have the Hornets as the third best team in the conference. If they keep it up, one team that made the playoffs last season won't repeat. Right now, that team is the disappointing Rockets.

In the East, the Celtics have come out faster than we expected, joining the Magic and the Pistons as the big three of the conference. Everyone has been pretty inconsistent, and three of last year's playoff teams are currently out of the playoff picture.

If you want to compare conferences, note that West teams have a 62-53 (.539) record against the East so far. They're winning the season series, but they're not as dominant as you may have guessed.

For the first time this season, our top four stays exactly the way it was last week, with the Pistons moving up into the five spot.

As always, if you've got beef with the rankings, feel free to comment in the blog, or drop us a line.

High jumps of the week: Portland (+9), L.A. Lakers (+7), Atlanta (+5), Chicago (+5), Seattle (+5)
Free falls of the week: Memphis (-8), New York (-5), Utah (-5)

Off: Points scored per 100 possessions
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions
The league averages 92.5 possessions (per team) per game and 107.0 points per 100 possessions.

1 San Antonio (1) 17-3 Off: 115.4 (1), Def: 104.6 (7) -- We were prepared to move the Spurs down after losing to the Mavs and/or Jazz without Tim Duncan. Then they went and beat them both.
2 Boston (2) 17-2 Off: 110.6 (7), Def: 95.8 (1) -- The Celtics are cruising along and they've got another five of six at home before heading out West for the first time.
3 Phoenix (3) 16-5 Off: 111.2 (5), Def: 105.4 (12) -- The Suns were 24 minutes from a 5-0 trip, but the travel got the best of them and they fell flat in the second half in Minnesota Saturday.
4 Orlando (4) 16-5 Off: 108.1 (12), Def: 100.8 (2) -- A light week for the Magic included a great win at Golden State, a disappointing loss to the Pacers, and 15 turnovers from Dwight Howard.
5 Detroit (6) 14-6 Off: 115.0 (2), Def: 105.9 (15) -- The Pistons have won six of seven, but somehow the Bulls have their number. But that's not as disturbing as this.
6 New Orleans (7) 14-7 Off: 107.2 (13), Def: 103.3 (4) -- The Hornets have won three of four, but the injury bug has returned (Stojakovic and Peterson missed Sunday's win over Seattle) and the next three are against teams in the top 10.
7 L.A. Lakers (14) 12-8 Off: 109.4 (11), Def: 105.7 (14) -- Quality wins over the Nuggets and Warriors this week have the Lakers matching their highest ranking of the season so far. Next up is the No. 1 Spurs on Thursday.
8 Denver (10) 13-8 Off: 106.3 (15), Def: 101.3 (3) -- K-Mart is looking strong and the Nuggets have won four of five. Of course, the one loss was fuel for a certain fire.
9 Dallas (8) 13-8 Off: 113.2 (4), Def: 108.4 (19) -- The Mavs simply outgunned the Jazz on Saturday. But defense is still a major issue. Is Jason Kidd the solution?
10 Utah (5) 13-8 Off: 114.2 (3), Def: 104.8 (8) -- The Jazz gave up 37 points to Manu Ginobili on Friday and 47 to Josh Howard on Saturday. They've lost three straight, but aside from a Wednesday visit to Phoenix, their upcoming schedule is pretty favorable.
11 Golden State (9) 11-9 Off: 110.1 (8), Def: 108.6 (20) -- Andrew Bynum showed you just how a big man can dominate against the smaller Warriors, scoring a career-high 20 points, while grabbing 11 boards and blocking five shots on Sunday. Next up for Golden State: Tim Duncan.
12 Toronto (11) 11-10 Off: 110.0 (9), Def: 105.7 (13) -- Last year, the Raptors began to turn things around right after Chris Bosh's injury. Now, after losing three of five without him, they pick up a big win over the Rockets upon his return. Could it be the start of a run?
13 Indiana (13) 10-10 Off: 103.6 (21), Def: 105.0 (10) -- With Friday's impressive win in Orlando, the Pacers have now beaten five of the teams in our top 10, but whatever positive thoughts came out of that W may have been erased after Sunday morning's incident involving Jamaal Tinsley.
14 Houston (12) 11-10 Off: 106.4 (14), Def: 104.8 (9) -- The Rockets simply got smoked in the second half of Sunday's loss in Toronto and it led Yao Ming to call out his team after the game.
15 Washington (16) 10-10 Off: 109.7 (10), Def: 110.0 (24) -- Caron Butler is playing the best basketball of his career and most impressive has to be his shooting: .524 from the field and .500 from downtown. Agent Who?
16 Atlanta (21) 9-10 Off: 104.7 (19), Def: 107.0 (16) -- The Hawks' two leading scorers, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, are shooting a combined .411 from the field this season, well below their career averages. Yet, they've won three of their last four and stand at No. 7 in the East.
17 Cleveland (15) 9-12 Off: 106.3 (16), Def: 110.2 (25) -- The Cavs are now 0-5 1/2 without LeBron, including Saturday's loss to the Bobcats, who had dropped seven straight coming in. The King is expected to be back Tuesday against Indiana.
18 Chicago (23) 6-12 Off: 96.9 (30), Def: 104.2 (5) -- The Bulls have won four of six and hung around with the Celtics until the final eight minutes, but shooting continues to be an issue.
19 Portland (28) 8-12 Off: 101.8 (26), Def: 108.8 (21) -- The streakiest team in the league is now on a three-game upswing with Sunday's double-comeback win over the Bucks helping build their confidence, which will be tested as they play their next seven against teams in our top 12.
20 Milwaukee (18) 8-11 Off: 106.1 (18), Def: 110.8 (27) -- After opening with a win over the Clippers, the Bucks have dropped three straight on their West Coast swing which finishes tonight in Sacramento. Something's got to give.
21 Sacramento (20) 7-12 Off: 106.3 (17), Def: 110.4 (26) -- Remember when the Nets traded for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and then took it back because of concern over scar tissue in his right knee? Abdur-Rahim had season-ending surgery on that knee this weekend, adding to the Kings' injury woes.
22 New Jersey (19) 9-12 Off: 100.1 (28), Def: 108.1 (18) -- The Nets haven't had a winning record after 21 games since 2002, yet they've made the playoffs every year. Changes may be coming, but Rod Thorn wants to see his big man return before evaluating what he's got.
23 Philadelphia (27) 7-13 Off: 102.2 (24), Def: 105.2 (11) -- The change up top has people speculating upcoming changes on the court. In the mean time, a back-to-back set against the Knicks can be a nice cure for what ails ya.
24 Seattle (29) 5-16 Off: 100.7 (27), Def: 109.8 (23) -- All of the Sonics' five wins have come on either Wednesday or Friday. They've got two winnable games this week ... on Wednesday and Friday.
25 Memphis (17) 6-14 Off: 111.0 (6), Def: 112.0 (28) -- With all the promise of a healthy Pau Gasol, a developing Rudy Gay and the additions of Mike Conley and Juan Carlos Navarro, the Grizz are right back where they were a year ago.
26 Miami (24) 5-15 Off: 98.7 (29), Def: 104.2 (6) -- In danger of having an 0-6 trip (which finishes in Phoenix tonight), the Heat got a win over the Clippers in the final minutes Sunday afternoon, thanks in part to L.A. missing three layups in the last 62 seconds.
27 New York (22) 6-13 Off: 102.8 (22), Def: 112.1 (29) -- Just when you thought the Knicks had started to turn things around, they lose back-to-back games to Philly by a total of 39 points.
28 Charlotte (26) 7-12 Off: 103.8 (20), Def: 109.2 (22) -- The Bobcats' only win in their last nine games was Sunday's three-point victory over the LeBron-less Cavs.
29 L.A. Clippers (25) 7-12 Off: 103.8 (20), Def: 109.2 (22) -- Having lost eight of nine, the Clips hit the road for six of their next seven. We could get an update on Elton Brand this week.
30 Minnesota (30) 3-15 Off: 102.4 (23), Def: 112.3 (30) -- They beat the Suns and Randy Foye could be back soon. Things are looking up in Minnesota.

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