NBA Power Rankings: Nets on Jazzs heels for top spot; Lakers keep dropping; surging Raptors make big jump – CBS Sports


1


Jazz
Utah emerged with a 2-1 record against two of the league’s best teams this week, beating the 76ers before splitting with the Clippers. The win over the Clippers came with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the sideline, and both were back for Friday’s rematch. Even in the loss, Donovan Mitchell’s heroic effort made things interesting down the stretch. Another silver lining is that Mike Conley returned for that game, scoring 16 points in 25 minutes following a six-game absence. Despite the loss, the Jazz have still won 20 of 22 games and occupy first place in the West. — 24-6
2


Nets
This week served as a warning shot to the league, and proved just how dangerous the Nets are. James Harden was simply phenomenal, leading Brooklyn to a comeback win over Phoenix on Tuesday without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. The Nets followed that up with wins over the Lakers and Clippers to complete a perfect five-game West Coast road trip. Harden averaged nearly 32 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds on 47 percent 3-point shooting this week. 5 20-12
3


Clippers
The Clippers pulled off an impressive victory over the Heat without Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, then split a pair of games after the duo came back against the Jazz and the Nets. The loss to a Kevin Durant-less Brooklyn team on Sunday was not without controversy, as Kawhi Leonard’s late, potentially game-tying layup was wiped off due to an offensive foul. Hopefully the Clippers stay healthy so we can see exactly what they’re capable of over the next few weeks. 1 22-10
4


Suns
Blowing a 24-point lead against the Nets without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving was a tough way to start the week for the Suns, but they turned around to pull off a fourth-quarter comeback of their own against the Pelicans before destroying an undermanned Grizzlies squad on Saturday. Chris Paul has been a madman of late, averaging 20 points and 10.7 assists for the week on scorching 61 percent 3-point shooting to go along with Devin Booker’s 22.7 points per game, which helped the Suns to an absurd 131.5 offensive rating. 1 19-10
5


Lakers
Hey, it turns out not having Anthony Davis makes things a little more difficult for your team. Who knew? After beating the Wolves, the Lakers lost to the Nets and Heat at home to close out the week. Dennis Schroder missed the two losses as well, making offense a struggle, particularly when LeBron James was on the bench. Kyle Kuzma has stepped up, averaging 15.3 points and 5.7 rebounds on 39 percent 3-point shooting for the week, and they’ll need him to continue producing for as long as Davis is out. 1 22-9
6


Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard and the Blazers ran their win streak to six games by beating the Thunder and Pelicans before losing to the Wizards on Saturday. Lillard was his normal outstanding self this week with 36.3 points, 12.7 assists and more than six 3-pointers per game. Gary Trent Jr. kept up his strong play with 19.3 points on 41 percent 3-point shooting, while Derrick Jones Jr. has provided some solid minutes. CJ McCollum’s fractured foot is set to be reevaluated in about a week, and the Blazers have done about as well as possible without him. 1 18-11
7


Raptors
Well we knew the Raptors would eventually go on a run, and it started this week with four wins, including two in Milwaukee and one over the Sixers. Even more impressive is that Toronto did it with Kyle Lowry only playing 22 total minutes this week due to an ankle injury and OG Anunoby missing two games. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam stepped up as expected, and Norman Powell came through with 29- and 30-point efforts against the Bucks and Wolves. The Raptors’ defense is flying around the court, making them a very dangerous team. 8 16-15
8


76ers
The Sixers beat the Rockets and Bulls this week while falling to the Jazz and Raptors. Joel Embiid missed the Utah game, but had a career-high 50 points in the win over Chicago in another phenomenal week. Ben Simmons dropped a career high of his own with 42 points against the Jazz, and returned from illness on Sunday to score 28 points on 9-for-11 shooting in the loss to Toronto. 1 20-11
9


Bucks
The Bucks saw their losing streak extend to five games with back-to-back losses to the Raptors to start the week, but they bounced back to beat the Thunder and Kings. The Bucks offense has struggled, and the eventual return of Jrue Holiday should help them in that department. Giannis Antetokounmpo had another monster week, averaging 31 points, 14.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists, while Khris Middleton broke out for 32 points on 13-for-22 shooting in Sunday’s win over the Kings. 1 18-13
10


Spurs
The Spurs had all three games this week postponed due to positive COVID tests within the organization. Monday’s game against the Pacers has also been postponed. 2 16-11
11


Celtics
The Celtics were on their way to a 3-1 week, but saw a 24-point lead evaporate on Sunday as the Pelicans prevailed in overtime. Kemba Walker looked to have found his shooting stroke, but then put up another 5-for-21 clunker in Sunday’s loss. Jayson Tatum averaged 28.3 points and 7.3 rebounds for the week, but shot just 31 percent from 3-point range, while Jaylen Brown added 22.8 points on 41 percent 3-pointers. It’s been hard to find consistent contributors behind Tatum, Brown and Walker with Marcus Smart out of the lineup. 3 15-15
12


Warriors
After a thrilling comeback victory over the Heat on Wednesday, the Warriors were oh so close to winning three straight games for the first time this season, but they lost to a severely depleted Magic team. They followed that up with a valiant effort without Steph Curry against the Hornets, but Draymond Green’s two technical fouls and Terry Rozier’s insane game-winner made it two losses in a row for Golden State. Kelly Oubre Jr. has really found his stride after a dreadful start, averaging 22 points on 48 percent 3-point shooting this week. 1 16-15
13


Nuggets
Jamal Murray had a week for the ages, averaging 35 points per game on 56 percent 3-point shooting, but that only translated to one win for the Nuggets, partly due to a thin rotation because of various injuries. Nikola Jokic averaged 26.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists on 53 percent 3-point shooting, but Denver once again had defensive issues in losses to the Celtics, Wizards and Hawks. The Nuggets now have a bottom-10 defense, allowing 111.9 points per 100 possessions. 7 16-14
14


Mavericks
The Mavericks had their only two games postponed this week due to government closures as Texas faces severe weather conditions. Dallas has home games scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, so we’ll see if it’s able to play those. 2 13-15
15


Heat
The Heat’s losing streak extended to three games with losses to the Clippers and Warriors to start the week, but they finished strong with wins over the Kings and Lakers as a tough seven-game road trip winds down. Goran Dragic missed all four games this week, and Kendrick Nunn filled in admirably with 17 points per game on 52 percent 3-point shooting. Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler continue to lead the way, but Miami needs to string together some wins if it wants to get back into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. 3 13-17
16


Pacers
The Pacers played two overtime games, losing to the Bulls and beating the Wolves, before their final game of the week against the Rockets was postponed. Domantas Sabonis had a monster triple-double against Minnesota, putting up 36 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. Malcolm Brogdon seems to have returned to his early season form after a short slump, averaging 27.5 points, 12 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 50 percent 3-point shooting in the two games. 3 15-14
17


Hornets
The Hornets had two games postponed this week due to health and safety protocols, then beat the Warriors in one of the most unbelievable endings you’ll ever see in sports. With the Hornets trailing by two, Draymond Green picked up two technical fouls, which allowed Terry Rozier to tie the game at the free throw line. On the ensuing Hornets possession, Rozier hit an absolutely ridiculous fall-away jumper from the corner to beat the buzzer and give Charlotte the win. The Hornets looked out of sorts after six days off and nearly failed to capitalize against the Steph Curry-less Warriors, but Rozier absolutely took over in the fourth quarter, finishing with 36 points on 8-for-11 3-point shooting to continue his breakout season. — 14-15
18


Pelicans
Zion Williamson averaged almost 30 points on 67 percent shooting this week, to go along with 7.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He was an absolute monster as the Pelicans went 2-2 this week, capped off by a thrilling comeback overtime win against the Celtics on Sunday. Brandon Ingram was no slouch himself, averaging 23.5 points on 42 percent 3-point shooting, while Lonzo Ball continues to play excellent all-around basketball. 7 13-17
19


Grizzlies
Memphis was blown out by the Pelicans and Suns this week, but picked up wins over the Thunder and Pistons in between. Ja Morant struggled from 3-point range, but still put up 21 points and 7.3 assists per game, while Kyle Anderson was impressive with over 18 points per game on 60 percent 3-point shooting. Justise Winslow made his long-anticipated Grizzlies, putting up nine points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. 3 13-13
20


Magic
Steve Clifford might deserve Coach of the Year buzz for what he did this week with the Magic. The return of Evan Fournier was apparently all the team needed, as Orlando rattled off wins over the Knicks, Warriors and Pistons for a perfect week. Nikola Vucevic is an undisputed beast, and Fournier took over the perimeter scoring duties for a team that has played consistent, disciplined defense. It’s not pretty, but the Magic are getting it done against all odds. 8 13-18
21


Knicks
The Knicks beat the Hawks and Timberwolves this week, but lost a winnable game against the short-handed Magic in Orlando. Julius Randle scored 44 points and sunk a career-high seven 3-pointers in the win over the Hawks as he continues his breakout season. RJ Barrett also had a strong week, scoring 21 points against both the Hawks and Wolves. 2 15-16
22


Wizards
Well, well, well. The Wizards won all three games this week to make it four in a row overall, and beating the Nuggets and Blazers should certainly provide this group with some confidence. Bradley Beal averaged 33 points on 54 percent field goals this week, while Russell Westbrook put up 18.3 points, 13.3 assists and 12.3 rebounds per game. Davis Bertans went berserk in the win over the Nuggets, scoring 35 points on 9-for-11 3-pointers to become the first player to ever score 30 or more points without attempting a 2-point shot. 1 10-17
23


Bulls
Chicago went 3-1 this week with wins over the Pacers, Pistons and Kings, and its loss came on the road to the 76ers. The defense was much better, and Zach LaVine continued his monster season with 33.8 points per game on 42 percent 3-point shooting. He also averaged over 10 points in the fourth quarter over the three games, as he’s become one of the game’s best closers. All-Star or not, LaVine has made a huge leap this season. 1 13-16
24


Hawks
The Hawks lost to the Knicks, split with the Celtics, then finished off the week by beating the Nuggets behind 35 points and 15 assists from Trae Young. After all of their offseason moves, Atlanta’s bench unit is a hodgepodge of journeymen and rookies, as Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo and DeAndre Hunter all deal with injuries. If they can stay afloat while those guys recuperate, the Hawks could be poised for a second-half run. 2 13-17
25


Thunder
OKC had some offensive struggles in three losses to start the week, but it finished things off with a win over the Cavs on Sunday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went for 31 points and nine assists in the win, and he was one of six Thunder players to average double-figure scoring for the week. 5 12-18
26


Kings
Oof. After appearing to be on the cusp of turning their season around, the Kings lost all four games this week to make it seven straight, as the defense has regressed to its early season lows. Harrison Barnes, Richaun Holmes and Glenn Robinson III all missed time this week, necessitating more minutes for Hassan Whiteside and Nemanja Bjelica, which never helps your defense. Marvin Bagley looked good offensively as he continues to ramp up his minutes, and Tyrese Haliburton went for 23 points and eight assists in Sunday’s loss to the Bucks. 5 12-18
27


Pistons
The Pistons went back to their losing ways after three big wins last week, falling to the Bulls, Grizzlies and Magic. An injury to Delon Wright leaves Dwane Casey with a tricky situation at point guard, as Dennis Smith and rookie Saben Lee are his only options. Lee played well in Sunday’s loss to the Magic, while Jerami Grant scored a career-high 43 points in the loss to the Bulls. 5 8-22
28


Rockets
Houston dropped two games this week before the other two were postponed due to mandatory closures in Texas brought on by severe weather. John Wall had a huge game in his return to Washington, and averaged 28.5 points and 9.0 assists in the two losses this week. The big news is that Houston has cut ties with DeMarcus Cousins, possibly indicating a more concrete shift toward rebuilding amid a seven-game losing streak. 1 11-17
29


Cavaliers
The Cavs aren’t just losing — they’re not even coming close. That’s now 10 losses in a row, nine of which were by at least 16 points. On the plus side, Jarrett Allen has played well since Andre Drummond left the mix and Darius Garland has shown flashes of brilliance, but a team that can’t score and can’t get stops isn’t going to win many games. — 10-21
30


Timberwolves
If the Wolves are going to turn their season around, they’re going to have to do it with a new coach. Ryan Saunders was relieved of his duties after Sunday’s loss to the Knicks, and will reportedly be replaced by Raptors assistant Chris Finch, who will inherit the worst team in the NBA, record-wise at least. Karl-Anthony Towns is starting to get his legs under him after recovering from COVID-19, but he’s getting very little consistent help with D’Angelo Russell sidelined. — 7-24