The red hot Jazz climb all the way into the top-3, but the Bucks refuse to budge and maintain a tight grip on the No. 1 overall spot in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks beat the Hornets in Paris on Thursday for their eighth consecutive victory, and 40th win this season. Just how dominant have the Bucks been in 2019-20. Consider this: The Nets, at 19-26, currently have a 2.5 game lead over the Bulls for the No. 8 seed the Eastern Conference. Thus, it’s highly unlikely the eighth seed in the East will finish at or above .500 this season. This means the Bucks could go 0-36 over their final 36 games and still almost certainly qualify for the playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
The passing of Kobe Bryant broke the hearts of everyone associated with the NBA, but no organization was harder hit than the Lakers. Kobe was the face of the franchise for the better part of two decades. The Lakers’ first game this week is at home vs. the Clippers. The Staples Center will be incredibly emotional that evening. RIP Kobe.
3. Utah Jazz
The Jazz, who have won 14 of 15 and 19 of their last 21 games, are playing as well as any team in the NBA over the last month. Rudy Gobert has dominated the paint on both ends of the floor for Utah during this incredible run. Over his last nine games, Rudy G is averaging 20.3 points, 15.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.8 blocks, while shooting 76.7% from the floor.
4. LA Clippers
Despite playing without Paul George (hamstring), the Clippers have won six of their last seven games, including four out of five on their current road trip. Kawhi Leonard has scored at least 30 points in each of his last eight appearances and is averaging 35.0 points, 7.9 boards, 5.4 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.9 treys, during this eight-game tear.
5. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets went 3-1 last week, as they welcomed and welcomed back Gary Harris to the lineup. However, Paul Millsap (left knee sprain) and Jamal Murray (ankle) remain sidelined. Fortunately, Nikola Jokic is playing his best basketball of the season. The Joker recorded a 24-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double during Sunday’s 117-110 win over the Rockets. It was Jokic’s 37th career triple-double.
6. Toronto Raptors
The Raps are riding another seven-game winning streak (their second of the season) and have climbed back into second place in the Eastern Conference standings. Remarkably, Toronto has lost just three games since Christmas, and two of those losses were by one point each.
7. Miami Heat
Incredibly, the Heat won two more overtime games last week, beating both the Kings and Wizards in extra time. Miami is now a perfect 8-0 in overtime games this season.
8. Boston Celtics
Riding a three-game losing streak as of last Monday morning, the Celtics won each of their first three games last week, all in dominant fashion. They beat the Lakers by 22 points on Monday, the Grizzlies 24 points on Wednesday, and the Magic by 11 on Friday night.
9. Philadelphia 76ers
Ben Simmons carried the Sixers to yet another impressive victory on Saturday night, as Philly knocked off the Lakers on national TV. Big Ben racked up 28 points (12-of-15 FGs), ten rebounds, eight assists and four steals in 41 minutes. Over Philly’s last 11 games, Simmons is averaging 21.8 points, 10.2 boards, 8.2 dimes and 2.3 steals, while shooting over 64% from the floor.
10. Indiana Pacers
Not only are the Pacers expected to welcome back Victor Oladipo (knee) for his season debut on Wednesday night, but that game is the first in a very favorable stretch for Indy. The Pacers play just twice this week, and eight of their next nine games are at home (most against teams with losing records).
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11. Houston Rockets
James Harden took a knee to the upper thigh during Friday’s game and did not play Sunday against the Nuggets due to the left thigh contusion. On Sunday night, coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden was doubtful for Monday’s game against the Jazz and added that Russell Westbrook (res) will sit it out.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder simply refuses to slow down. They went 4-0 last week, with three of those victories coming on the road. In fact, OKC has won nine of its last ten games away from Oklahoma City.
13. Dallas Mavericks
With Dwight Powell out for the season after tearing his right Achilles tendon, the Mavs needed to add some depth up front. Thus, they sent a second-round draft pick to Golden State in exchange for Willie Cauley-Stein over the weekend. WCS is expected to make his Dallas debut vs. OKC on Monday night.
14. Memphis Grizzlies
Even with Zion Williamson stepping back on the floor, Ja Morant‘s grip on the Rookie of the Year race seemingly gets stronger by the week. Morant scored 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to power Memphis past Phoenix Sunday night. He also added five rebounds and eight assists.
15. Orlando Magic
After playing in Miami on Monday night, the Magic have five full days off before suiting up again on Saturday. Having played their last road game in Charlotte back on January 20th, Orlando won’t have to leave the state of Florida again until February 3rd.
16. San Antonio Spurs
DeMar DeRozan, who grew up in Compton, California, and idolized Kobe as a younger man, was clearly emotional after Sunday’s loss to the Raptors. «Everything. Everything,» DeRozan said when asked what Bryant meant to him. «Everything I’ve learned came from Kobe, everything. Take Kobe away, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have love, I wouldn’t have the passion, the drive. Everything came from him.»
17. Phoenix Suns
Coming into last week, Ricky Rubio had dished out at least eight assists in 11 straight games for the Suns. However, in the Suns three games last week, Rubio averaged just 2.7 dimes while shooting 32% from the floor and 29% from the free-throw stripe.
18. Brooklyn Nets
Losers of five straight games coming into this weekend, the Nets desperately needed a win Saturday night in Detroit, and Kyrie Irving delivered. Irving put on a show, pouring in 45 points (15-of-30 FGs, 10-of-10 FTs) with six rebounds, seven assists, five 3-pointers and just one turnover in 40 minutes. However, after finding out about the death of Kobe, a close personal mentor to Kyrie, Irving was unable to play Sunday vs. the Knicks.
19. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard had a week for the ages, as he became the first Portland player with 40-plus points in three straight games. Over this three-game stretch, he averaged 52.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 9.3 assists and 9.0 made 3-pointers. Amazing.
20. New Orleans Pelicans
It turns out Zion was worth the wait, huh? Williamson is the first and only player in NBA history to score at least 15 points and shoot over 70% from the floor in each of his first two career games. On Sunday, in his third game as a pro, he shot «only» 56% from the field en route to his team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds.
21. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls got some bad news late last week when they learned that Lauri Markkanen (right hip) underwent an MRI of his right hip which revealed an early stress reaction of his right pelvis. Markkanen will be sidelined for the next 4-to-6 weeks. Zach LaVine carried Chicago to a victory over the Cavaliers on Saturday, scoring 44 points, ripping down ten rebounds, and dishing out a season-high eight assists.
22. Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond (lip laceration) returned from a two-game absence on Saturday and racked up 20 points and 21 rebounds in 41 minutes. It was Drummond’s eighth 20-point, 20-rebound performance this season, which is remarkable considering Clint Capela is the only other player in the NBA that has recorded more than one 20/20 game in 2019-20.
23. Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley (sore left foot), who missed each of the Kings’ previous two contests, will miss at least one more, as Sacramento has already ruled him out of Monday’s matchup with Minnesota. Dewayne Dedmon and Nemanja Bjelica will continue to soak up additional minutes in his absence.
24. Washington Wizards
The Wizards haven’t been able to stop anybody on the defensive end of the floor, but Bradley Beal notched his fifth 40-point game of the season on Sunday. Over his last three games, Beal is averaging 38.0 points (on 63% shooting), 4.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.3 made trifectas.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns racked up 37 points (13-of-23 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, two blocks and four 3-pointers in 35 minutes on Saturday. However, he appeared to injure his left hand/wrist and his foot in the contest. We’re still awaiting word on his status for Monday’s game vs. Sacramento.
26. Charlotte Hornets
After averaging just 3.1 points on 26.5% shooting over his previous eight appearances, Malik Monk scored 20 points in a loss to the Magic on Monday. Then, on Thursday in Paris, he exploded for a career-high 31 points with five rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers in 34 minutes.
27. New York Knicks
The Knicks announced on Saturday that RJ Barrett (ankle) has transitioned from crutches to a walking boot and will be re-evaluated in one week. The fact that Barrett is just now transitioning to a walking boot is not an overly encouraging update. With the Knicks 22 games below .500 and already effectively eliminated from playoff contention, expect New York to err on the side of caution and make sure RJ is as close to 100% healthy as possible before clearing him to return.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers
The slumping Cavs have lost seven straight and 12 of their last 14 games. With the season circling the drain, it will be interesting to see if they trade away Kevin Love prior to the February 6th deadline, or hold onto him for the rest of the year.
29. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young erupted for 45 points, 14 assists, six 3-pointers, six rebounds in Sunday’s victory over Washington. He is the first player to tally at least 40 points and ten dimes in a single game before turning 22 years old. Young, who was a huge fan of Kobe, wore a Hawks No. 8 jersey to honor Bryant at the start of the game. Remarkably, the last player to have a 40-point double-double vs. the Wizards was… Kobe Bryant in 2006.
30. Golden State Warriors
Warriors fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season, but D’Angelo Russell‘s strong play has been a bright spot. Over the Warriors’ last four games, DAR is averaging 29.0 points, 4.3 boards, 7.3 assists and 5.0 made triples.