Looks like I was wrong about the Clippers. For now, anyway.
They cost me $100 in Vegas when they lost to the Heat, and they convinced me that they are for real — the lightest schedule of all 30 NBA teams notwithstanding — with their subsequent victory over the Lakers last night.
I am not going to start predicting a championship ring celebration at one of Donald Sterling’s “dress in all-white” parties, but I will say color me impressed after this decisive triumph on what is supposed to be date night for those who still go out on dates (as Bernucca notes in this piece).
Chris Paul has a date with the doctor today (Sunday) after injuring his left leg during the most anticipated regular season game of the three-week-old regular season, while the New York Knicks have a date with coach Mike D’Antoni for a noon practice after getting wiped out on the road in Oklahoma City and then flying home.
Lemme guess: D’Antoni will say afterward that they needed the extra session to work on defense. Either that or he wanted to deprive the Knicks of an NFL playoff Sunday that would have had the players on their sofas for seven straight hours.
The sofa was where I believed Paul would be for the playoffs, and that looks like a bad call right now. But it is still mid-January, there are still depth and rebounding issues for the Clips (although they weren’t factors against the Lakers), and the West looks like it will be an 11-team race for eight playoff spots. By late-April, this particular game will be long forgotten.
For now, though, the Clips will get their due.
|LAST WEEK: 5-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON at MEM|
No. 1 in defense for fewest points allowed. No. 1 in rebounding. Held four of five opponents below 80 points (three below 70) last week. Got quality fourth-quarter use out of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah at Boston on Friday night. 9-1 thus far this month, and it should surprise no one if they take a 12-game winning streak into their game at Miami two Sundays from now.
|LAST WEEK: 4-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: MON at BOS|
Kendrick Perkins returns to the Gah-den for the first time sine Danny Ainge pulled off the worst chemistry-killing deal since Roy Boe sold Dr. J to the Sixers. As panicky Celtics nation is well aware, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic will not be playing. The only thing you can knock Sam Presti for is giving away B.J. Mullens. OKC has been OK without him despite Perkins’ pedestrian averages of 5.4 points and 6.1 rebounds (Mullens is at 13.0 and 5.0 for the Bobcats). Kevin Durant enters Monday’s game having failed to reach 30 points in 9 straight games.
|LAST WEEK: 4-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT at ATL|
Their one loss last week came on the tail end of a back-to-back-to-back. They are ranked No. 3 in points per game, No. 2 in points allowed and No. 1 in point differential (15.2). They have seven, count ‘em, seven, players averaging in double figures, and Jodie Meeks may make it eight if he can replicate his 10-for-11, 26 point outburst from Friday against the Wizards. Of their next 11 games, 10 are at home, where they are undefeated. Question: At what point to the fickle fans in Philly take a genuine liking to these guys?
|LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT vs. PHI|
Next five are at home after the lost week out West, and the first three are true tough tests — San Antonio, the Lakers and the Sixers. If they lose all three, Pat Riley makes his coaching return Sunday against Milwaukee (Just kidding. I think). Dwyane Wade won’t be pushing 30 on Tuesday, he’ll be turning 30 and feeling even older due to a bruised foot, a strained calf and a badly sprained ankle that he initially thought was broken after coming down on Al Harrington’s foot.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED vs. DAL|
You want respect from me with a capital R, Clips Nation? Welcome to the No. 5 spot, north of the Lakers for the first time since these Power Rankings were birthed. After four days spent in the Pacific Time Zone, I am jealous of the life folks lead out there. In the East, we fight off sleep for 10:30 p.m. starts. In the West, everything is wrapped at 10:30. You have no idea how unfair that is. After having the lightest schedule in the Association, they get their first back-to-back-to-back Mon. Tues. and Wed. Next clash with the Lakers is two Wednesdays away. Coffee will be brewed at Casa de Sheridan at 10 p.m.
|LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI vs. LAL|
Props for their 3-0 trip out West, ending with the foulfest at Golden State in which Dwight Howard went to the line 39 times. True story: D12 once let me watch him practice free throws at the Magic’s practice facility on an off night during the playoffs. Of his first 200, he made 182. Of the 18 misses, 16 happened when he didn’t keep his eye on the rim for a full second before shooting. ESPN told me not to write that story.
|LAST WEEK: 4-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: THU at MIA|
A tough light (3 games) week: Mavericks, Heat, Magic — all on national TV. We have a new clubhouse leader in the MVP race, I’d say. For those wondering, the record for most consecutive 40-point games is 14 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1961. He did it 63 times in the ’61-62 season. Memo to Mitch Kupchak: Walker Russell is leading the D-League in assists with 9.4 per game.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: SAT at NY|
It’ll be the biggest comeback game at Madison Square Garden since Latrell Sprewell dropped 31 points on the Knicks and 31 f-bombs at James Dolan in his courtside seat in 2003. Whatcha got to top that, Danilo and Timofey? Bonus points in this week’s rankings for handing Miami its most lopsided defeat of the young season while beating the Heat at its own game: running. Ranked 1st in assists and 2nd in points.
|LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI at PHI|
Number of quality wins remains at 2 (Chicago and Miami). Saturday night vs. Cleveland brings their final home game of the month, and the Al Horford injury is beyond devastating. Might be the last time we see them in the Top 10. Comeback from 18-point deficit vs. Minnesota (although referee-aided) earns them bonus points. Eventually, the Pachulia factor will catch up to them.
|LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: SUN at LAL|
Beat Celtics by 14 on 2nd night of a back-to-back. Also beat higher-ranked Hawks by 12. Am I convinced? Not yet — though Danny Granger is: “I think the message is that we’re a force to be reckoned with in the East. It’s not one of those fluke things where we just started having a good beginning of the season. We’re actually a legitimate contender in the East. We’re right there, and we should be recognized as that.” Six of next seven are on road, so we shall see.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: TUE at MIA|
They are 8-0 at home, 0-2 on the road in cold-weather cities (with the next bring-your-winter-coat game not until Jan. 27 at Minnesota). Two huge bounce-back wins vs. Rockets and Blazers. A 4-1 week would not surprise me at all. One of only five teams averaging 100 points, this despite being without leading scorer Manu Ginobili for seven games now. Never doubt the offensive creativity of coach Popovich.
|LAST WEEK: 4-0 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at LAC|
Will spend this week on the road, but enter it with a head of steam after victories of 26 points over Milwaukee and 39 over Sacramento. Congratulations to Jason Kidd for his first 2-point FG of the season in game No. 13. The 60 points scored by Kings marked a franchise-record defensive effort for Mavs, who were playing fourth game in five nights. Good test week to show whether early season struggles were a fluke.
|LAST WEEK: 2-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at ATL|
Bummer ending (3 straight Ls) to a week that included a win over the Clippers. Glad to see ESPN finally confirmed what was first reported here — that LaMarcus Aldridge is on the 19-to-20-man early list for Team USA’s 2012 Olympic roster.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: TUE vs. LAC|
Winners of six of seven, they will show whether they are legit in a difficult week against Nuggets, Clippers, Mavericks and Timberwolves. None of the games are back-to-backs.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT vs. DEN|
Four-game homestand this week, and they play only two road games against Western Conference teams (they are 0-4 beyond the Mississippi River) between now and March. No ‘Melo is no excuse for allowing 70 first-half points against OKC.
|LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT vs SA|
Coming off a nice week, and as noted in last week’s rankings, they have played what is arguably the most difficult schedule of any NBA team. Not out of the question for them to take a 5-game winning streak into Saturday night’s home game vs. Spurs.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON vs. CHI|
These guys run awfully hot and cold, and if they can surprise the Bulls on Monday afternoon’s ESPN game they could set themselves up for a 4-0 week. Also, if Team USA expands its preliminary roster to 20, Rudy Gay will be that 20th guy.
|LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED vs. TOR|
Frankly, this is a VERY generous ranking. Wins have comes against Pistons, Wizards (twice) and Nets. I still would not want to play them in the playoffs, and they WILL make the playoffs in the dreadful East. Memo to Danny Ainge: Brian Butch is leading all D-League centers in rebounding at 12.5 per game.
|LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: TUE vs GS|
Still in the midst of playing seven straight on the road, the game against the Warriors is on the second night of a back-to-back. Then they get Bulls, Hawks and Heat, the latter two on the road. Ouch.
|LAST WEEK: 2-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI at LAC|
As Kevin Love tweeted, some day they will get the respect they are slowly earning. Ricky Rubio had 53 assists last week. Love had 117 points and 61 rebounds.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: TUE vs DEN|
The good news: They are undefeated at home, joining Bulls, Sixers, Pacers and Spurs. The bad news: They are winless on the road (0-7), where they play three of their four this week.
|LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI at BOS|
Play four in a row on the road this week, three in the East. Loss to Nets without Nash and Hill cost a certain someone a tuition payment for youngest son. On brighter note, oldest son bowled 276 Saturday. He is 13. I know, that has nothing to do with the Suns. Sorry.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at NJ|
Will finish a stretch of seven straight against Eastern teams, which began with a victory over Miami. Won’t play the Magic again, so Dwight’s FT record should stand for rest of the season
|LAST WEEK: 1-4 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED vs IND|
They scored 60 points against the Mavericks on Saturday night, 23 in the first half. No one scored in double figures. Only ranked this high because they beat the Lakers on Dec. 26. I hate ranking the bottom six teams.
|LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: SUN vs GS|
Lost six in a row by a combined 119 points, then beat the Bobcats by 17. How bad does that make the Bobcats?
|LAST WEEK: 1-4 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs. POR|
They have 4 wins, so that gets them the 27 spot – a drop of 3. Only 11 NBA players are averaging 20+ ppg. Andrea Bargnani (22.3) is among them.
|LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON at LAC|
If they win Monday at Staples Center with the Clippers still giddy over their victory over the Lakers, the road trip is an unbridled success. MarShon Brooks 2nd among rookies in scoring (14.2).
|LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED vs MEM|
Haven’t lost by more than 16 all season, stunned the Nuggets last Monday. Maybe I should have them higher, but the glow of that 2-0 start sure has faded.
|LAST WEEK: 1-4 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: MON vs CLE|
Boris Diaw had started 235 consecutive games before getting benched Saturday against GSW. Kemba Walker replaced him, and they won. Somebody will now steal Boris from them in a trade.
|LAST WEEK: 1-4 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: NONE|
Have not scored 100 points yet, but JaVale McGee leads NBA in blocks and Wizards are a better 3-point shooting team than the Lakers.