Nets keep top spot in NBA rankings

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Since we are into the second half of the season, I figured it would be fun to keep these power rankings going. These will give you a glimpse of what teams did previous week and what you can expect as we head into the next week of action.

This week, we have a new team taking over the second spot in my rankings, as the Milwaukee Bucks put together a dominant three-game run. However, the highest riser this week is an Atlanta team that put together its own undefeated week. We also have a Western Conference contender falling to the edges of the top 10 after a brutal loss on Sunday.

Last week’s ranking in parentheses.

1. BROOKLYN NETS (1)

Week recap: 3-0 SU/1-2 ATS

An undefeated week keeps Brooklyn on top, but close calls against the Pistons and Knicks have them on thin ice. Their pace on offense has slowed down (116.6 offensive rating), but since the All-Star break, their defense has given up only 107.8 points per 100 possessions!

2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS (5)

Week recap: 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS

Milwaukee has been dominant since the break, outscoring New York and Washington, which they played twice, by 16.1 points every 100 possessions. Giannis Antetokounmpo added to his sneaky MVP resume by posting three straight triple-doubles with an average of 29.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10.3 assists per game.

3. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (4)

Week recap: 3-0 SU/3-0 ATS

When you respond to losing your best player and MVP candidate by blowing out all three of your opponents, you get a bump in the power rankings. The competition might not have been great (Chicago, Washington, San Antonio), but suffocating these teams on defense (100.7 defensive rating) was very impressive.

4. PHOENIX SUNS (3)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

A loss to a mediocre Indiana team at home and two poor defensive performances knocks Phoenix down a spot. However, the Suns’ offense keeps humming along with a 119.6 rating this week despite facing two top-10 defenses.

5. UTAH JAZZ (2)

Week recap: 1-1 SU/0-2 ATS

 

The loss to Golden State, coupled with prolonged slump, drops Utah three spots. They play Boston on Tuesday night, which will count toward next week’s ranking, but their once-dominant offense is slipping (111.0 offensive rating, 35.7% 3-point shooting).

6. LOS ANGELES LAKERS (6)

Week recap: 2-0 SU/2-0 ATS

The Lakers’ defensive prowess was on display this week, holding Indiana and Golden State to a combined 98.0 points per 100 possessions. Their offense still needs work, as they managed just 114.2 points every 100 possessions, but that is still above average for this team.

7. MIAMI HEAT (8)

Week recap: 3-0 SU/1-2 ATS

The wins keep coming, but the market is too bullish on this team from a power ratings perspective. Miami closed as a nine- and eight-point favorite in its two games against Orlando but failed to cover both. Bam Adebayo will be back in the lineup on Tuesday, so that is a boon for a team that has yet to be 100% healthy this season.

8. BOSTON CELTICS (9)

Week recap: 1-1 SU/1-1 ATS

The Celtics’ rise in this week’s rankings is due to the fall of the Clippers, not due to their split against Brooklyn and Houston. The Celtics’ offense is in pretty solid form, averaging 1.185 points per possession over these two games, and if they can beat Utah on Tuesday, they will find themselves moving north on this list.

9. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (7)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

There is no shame in losing to New Orleans, but the way in which the Clippers lost over the weekend is why they have fallen so far. They gave up 72 points in the paint and were blown out by 20 points. When is this team going to put together a consistent stretch of quality play?

10. DALLAS MAVERICKS (13)

Week recap: 2-2 SU/2-2 ATS

The Mavericks punted on a game against Oklahoma City by resting Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but their wins over San Antonio and Denver this week, at full strength, were very good. They posted the fifth-best offensive rating in the league this week (118.7), a positive sign for a team that continues to struggle on defense.

11. DENVER NUGGETS (10)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/1-2 ATS

 

The drop for Denver is due its loss to Dallas over the weekend. Yet again the Nuggets’ defense showed its inconsistencies, allowing the Mavericks to average 1.341 points per possession while shooting 40.9% from deep.

12. NEW YORK KNICKS (12)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/2-1 ATS

A blowout at the hands of the Bucks got the week off to a bad start, but beating down the Thunder and making the Nets work in a cover ended the week in a positive fashion. New York’s defense gave up 1.219 points per possession to Brooklyn, its second game this week allowing over 1.2 points per possession.

13. CHARLOTTE HORNETS (14)

Week recap: 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS

A three-game winning streak since the break bumps Charlotte up a spot from last week. The Hornets have become one of the deadliest shooting teams in the league, and they continued that trend this week by hitting 39.4% of their 36.3 3-point attempts per game. Tough times are ahead though, as they embark on a five-game West Coast trip on Wednesday.

14. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (11)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/0-2-1 ATS

A loss to the Timberwolves should result in a slightly bigger drop, but the Grizzlies made that impossible with their poor week. Portland posted a 120.9 offensive rating over these three games but lost two of them because of a defense that allowed 122.7 points per 100 possessions.

15. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (15)

Week recap: 0-3 SU/1-2 ATS

Just when they seemed to be turning the corner, the Grizzlies slipped and fell. Not only did they lose each of their games this week, but they covered just once in a one point loss to Denver. A blown fourth-quarter lead to the Thunder and a blowout loss to Phoenix on Monday night means they stay where they were a week ago.

16. ATLANTA HAWKS (20)

Week recap: 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS

The Hawks remained undefeated under interim coach Nate McMillan this week, but it was not perfect. They trailed Sacramento by 14 points before rallying to win, and they needed a Tony Snell 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat a short-handed Toronto team. Winning is great, but the schedule is going to toughen up with a West Coast trip that starts this weekend.

17. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (17)

Week recap: 2-2 SU/2-2 ATS

 

Splitting four games is nothing worth discussing, but there is something to take from this past week for the Spurs. Their two wins came against Orlando and Detroit, and they were blown out by Dallas and Philadelphia. Sensing a trend there?

18. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (18)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/1-2 ATS

Golden State’s win over Utah keeps them from slipping down the rankings, so they can thank Andrew Wiggins, who had 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting. However, blowout losses to both Los Angeles teams by an average of 28.5 points showed the true caliber of this team.

19. TORONTO RAPTORS (16)

Week recap: 0-3 SU/1-2 ATS

The Raptors blew a late fourth-quarter lead to Atlanta, then got handled by Charlotte and Chicago. Toronto has been playing without Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet for an extended period of time. Nick Nurse told the media he expects them all back in the next week, which means the Raptors could start to climb up these rankings, and the standings, in the near future.

20. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (21)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

The win over the Clippers on Sunday showed just how great and explosive this team can be. It also made their loss to the Timberwolves last Thursday that much more of a head-scratcher. 

21. INDIANA PACERS (23)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/1-2 ATS

A blown double-digit lead in the fourth quarter against the Lakers, a win over Phoenix and a blowout loss to Denver was the week the Pacers just put together. Their offense, which averaged just 1.093 points per possession, continues to operate at a mediocre level.

22. CHICAGO BULLS (22)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/1-2 ATS

Chicago continues to string together fantastically average stretches. After losses to Philadelphia and Miami in which the Bulls averaged just 0.98 points per possession, they blew out Toronto while putting up 1.163 points per possession. They seem to be stuck in a purgatory where they cannot compete with the best teams but are clearly better than the cellar dwellers.

23. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (24)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

The Thunder were gifted a win when Dallas rested its two best players last Thursday, but they stole one three days later when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned to the lineup. Down by 10 entering the fourth quarter, they outscored Memphis 38-22 in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

The cover improved Oklahoma City’s record to 21-16-2 ATS on the season, the fifth-best mark in the league.

24. WASHINGTON WIZARDS (19)

Week recap: 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS

The Wizards’ -13.5 net rating over this four-game losing streak is the third-worst in the NBA over the past week. Their lone cover came courtesy of a Russell Westbrook 40-point triple-double. If that’s what they need to cover 13 points, what is the rest of this season going to look like?

25. DETROIT PISTONS (28)

Week recap: 0-3 SU/2-1 ATS

The Pistons might have dropped each of their three games this week, but they did not go down without a fight. The Hornets needed Terry Rozier to score 12 of their 15 points in the fourth quarter, and the Nets needed James Harden to drop 12 points in the fourth quarter to escape their games against Detroit. The Pistons are one of the worst teams in the league, but unlike a few of the teams down here, they are a threat to cover each night.

26. SACRAMENTO KINGS (25)

Week recap: 1-2 SU/1-2 ATS

Not only did the Kings lose two of three games this week, but they blew double-digit leads in both of them. Congratulations on the win over Houston, but who isn’t beating the Rockets these days? The rumors are swirling that Sacramento is going to be a seller at the trade deadline, which means their residency at the bottom of this list will likely last the rest of the season.

27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (29)

Week recap: 2-1 SU/2-1 ATS

Two wins for a team that had only seven heading into the All-Star break means a good jump in my power ratings. The Timberwolves have quietly shown some more consistency on offense, averaging 123.3 points every 100 possessions in their three games. They meet the Lakers on Tuesday night, which will tell us a lot about their newfound electricity on offense.

28. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (26)

Week recap: 0-2 SU/0-2 ATS

Cleveland dropped its two matchups this week in eerily similar fashion, scoring just 82 points in losses to New Orleans and Atlanta. During their recent five-game winning streak, the Cavaliers were, statistically, one of the best defensive teams in the league. This week, they gave up 1.161 points per possession.

29. ORLANDO MAGIC (27)

Week recap: 0-3 SU/2-1 ATS

 

Injuries have ravaged Orlando, so it's almost unfair to put them this far down the list, but I have no choice. Can they play Miami every night? The underrated rivalry always brings out the best in the Magic, and it gave them two covers this week.

30. HOUSTON ROCKETS (30)

Week recap: 0-3 SU/1-2 ATS

I mean, come on. The lone cover this week was a free pass when the market closed them as a 19-point underdog to Utah. No question this is the worst team in basketball, and the Rockets will likely have a permanent grip on this spot.

 

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