Power Rankings

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RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1 BULLS
(20-6)
LAST WEEK: 3-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED at NO
Why the nod over Miami, the team that beat them last Sunday? Because they are two-deep at every position, Luol Deng is back, they have an NBA-high 11 road wins (which will be 14 in next week’s rankings after an easy week), and because Derrick Rose is having a season worthy of being in the MVP debate with his FG pct and assists up from last year. Next game vs.Miami is March 14.
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2 HEAT
(17-6)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at ORL
The wheels seem to come off once a week, usually against Bucks. And who do they play a week from Monday on the third night of a road back-to-back-to-back? Yep, Milwaukee, which is 2-0 against them. Miami is 9-0 against the rest of the NBA since Jan. 17. Had a big soul-searching meeting before winning by 20 at Philly. “If we are going to hold ourselves to a championship standard then we have to go out there and play like it,” said LeBron James, who has 25, 5 and 5 in 25 straight games (last to do it was Oscar Robertson).
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3 THUNDER
(18-5)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI at UTA
This is what a 2-2 week will do to you, especially when you lose by double digits on the road against Clippers and Spurs. Everyone respects them. No one fears them. Check the site Monday afternoon for Jan Hubbard’s column. He isn’t convinced they are title-worthy. They are 27th in assists, and Westbrook is ranked 18th at 5.7. Both of Denver’s PGs, Lawson and Miller, average more. Friday closes stretch of 8 of 9 on the road.
1
4 CLIPPERS
(14-7)
LAST WEEK: 4-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at CLE
I went mea culpa once, and it’s time to do it again. Yes, I said they were not making the playoffs when they gave up Eric Gordon instead of Eric Bledsoe, but that was before they waiver claimed Chauncey Billups. Plus I was on the valium/cough syrup/hot dog diet that week. Now they have K-Mart. Yikes. Must-see TV is Wednesday when Chris Paul faces Kyrie Irving. Loudest cheers of Sat. night in Washington were for Blake, who went 1-for-7 from FT line. But he almost had a triple-double. Where was Obama?
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5 SPURS
(16-9)
LAST WEEK: 4-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED at PHI
If the ball had left Danny Green’s fingertips 0.1 second earlier last Sunday, they’d be coming off a 5-0 week. Parker went for 42 against Westbrook. And which one is the max player? Imagine if they had Lorbek? Might give them a deeper bench than Chicago’s. Not guaranteed to hold league’s best home record through February (Chicago, OKC and Portland can surpass them), but 13-1 mark will remain until leap day, Feb. 29, when they face Bulls at home after nine-game rodeo trip. Parker learns Thursday whether he is an All-Star.
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6 SIXERS
(17-7)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI vs. LAC
In last week’s rankings I wrote: “I don’t care what they do all week except for Friday, when they play the Heat, who beat them by 21 two weeks ago.” So what did they do two nights after defeating Bulls? Folded in fourth quarter and lost by 20. That means Kobayashi had a better week at Wachovia than them. Tough week: Lakers, Spurs, Clippers, Cavs. Next 20-point loss to Heat is scheduled for March 16.
5
7 PACERS
(16-7)
LAST WEEK: 4-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at ATL
Danny Granger looked positively meek down stretch of home loss Saturday night to Magic, airballing a key 3 then flatlining his next. Quite the buzzkill after what had been a very good week. 50 Cent asked for his money back. Throw a future No. 1 into this trade and maybe they can match up with Magic. Fantasy alert: Go grab Paul George.
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8 MAGIC
(15-9)
LAST WEEK: 3-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON vs. LAC
Yes, I run very hot and cold on these guys. Tell me why I shouldn’t. With Indy hotel rooms sold out for Super Bowl, had to spend Friday night in Cincinnati. The league office made them, saying they couldn’t fly from Orlando on day of the game. Stan Van Gundy, after roughly 200-day venom-free stint, ripped the NBA for that one. They are surviving OK without Jameer Nelson.
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9 NUGGETS
(15-9)
LAST WEEK: 1-4 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED vs DAL
Coming off a hell week schedule-wise, and 21-point win over Clips prevented a freefall into the teens. Corey Brewer said they need to be more physical. Maybe they just need some rest. Arrived in Portland at 4 a.m. after snow delayed their departure from Denver for third night of back-to-back-to-back. Masai’s man-crush on Batum (nine 3s Saturday) now stalker-like.
4
10 HAWKS
(16-8)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI at ORL
Gotta love the cupcake diet: They are 13-0 against sub-.500 teams, 3-8 against everyone else. Now Jason Collins is out at least 2 weeks. How are they not in the now-dormant Chris Kaman acquisition race? Oh yeah, the dreaded luxury tax. They are looking to shed payroll, not add it. This is a generous ranking. Very generous.
6
11 CELTICS
(12-10)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: THU vs LAL
If they didn’t melt down in final four minutes vs. Cavs, they’d be on an eight-game winning streak. Methinks Danny Ainge has seen enough to avert breaking up his big three as he had threatened. But I still wonder whether that fourth wheel, Rajon Rondo, is deemed expendable. They are 2nd in defense but 29th in rebounding. Defense and rebounding win championships, right? But you gotta have both.
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12 JAZZ
(13-9)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs OKC
Was I onto something last week when I said it seems Ty Corbin trusts Earl Watson more than Devin Harris? Eight points and six assists For Watson in 4th quarter of Sat. night win over Lakers. On a sprained ankle, no less. Question of the week: Does Paul Millsap get snubbed Thursday when All-Star reserves announced?
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13 BLAZERS
(14-10)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT at DAL
Losing to Kings on second-night of back-to-back is inexcusable when you are coming off a 44-point victory over Charlotte. Also lost to Jazz, and victory over Denver tainted by Nuggets’ travel and tiredness issues (see above). Outstanding home record will be put to test Mon vs. OKC and Wed. vs Houston. Home fans booed Greg Oden when he was shown on video board. Another ouch for the big fella.
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14 WOLVES
(12-12)
LAST WEEK: 3-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME:  FRI vs DAL
Ahead of the Lakers and Mavericks? Well, yes. And that despite their home loss to Kobe and Co. last Sunday. Excuse me for being a realist, but these guys and the Cavs are two of the most entertaining watches in the entire NBA. Bernucca is right: Kevin Love should have been an All-Star starter. Who has larger head: Pekovic or Sabonis? Just askin’.
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15 LAKERS
(14-10)
LAST WEEK: 3-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: THU at BOS
Eastern swing this week includes Kobe’s annual cheesesteak binge in Philly, after which he will get booed as he drops 40 on the Sixers. What was Mike Brown thinking when he charged at Zach Zarba and got two techs and an ejection in fourth quarter vs. Jazz. Coaches are supposed to set examples, and fourth-quarter technical fouls are the worst techs of them all.
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16 MAVERICKS
(12-8)
LAST WEEK: 2-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI at MIN
Like old times: Dirk Nowitzki is scoring again, Mark Cuban is criticizing the refs again, Rick Carlisle is kicking the ball, making inexcusable use of his feet for first time since tripping Latrell Sprewell as he ran upcourt more than a decade ago when Carlisle was an assistant. (No Rick, that hasn’t been forgotten). These guys run almost as hot and cold as the Magic.
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17 ROCKETS
(13-11)
LAST WEEK: 1-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME:  THU at PHX
In the midst of playing six straight on the road, recent slide has worked against Kyle Lowry in All-Star consideration, especially with Tony Parker surging. Haven’t beaten a good team since Jan. 23 against Minnesota, and have lost to the Wolves twice since. Next installment of Scola v. Love is Feb. 17.
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18 GRIZZLIES
(12-11)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON vs SA
All in all, an okay week given the caliber of competition. Another tough week awaits, and one home win vs. Spurs (like in last year’s playoffs) could be a catapault. Tony Allen couldn’t stop Kevin Durant on Friday night at end of 4th quarter. Gets to guard Paul Pierce today in warmup to SuperBowl. Also, Marc is currently the better Gasol.
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19 BUCKS
(10-13)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT vs. ORL
Could have been a great week after overcoming LeBron’s 24-point first quarter and defeating Heat yet again. But it wasn’t, because they lost to the woeful Pistons and got clobbered by the Bulls, whose fans outshouted the cheesers like it was a Cubs-Brewers game. The Stephen Jackson trade watch seems to be on.
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20 CAVALIERS
(9-13)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT vs. PHI
I underestimated them last week to the point of disrespect. My bad. Kyrie Irving is more fun to watch than Anderson Varejao, which is saying something. Dude took down the Mavs last night. The kid is a gamer.
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21 KNICKS
(9-15)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: FRI vs. LAL
Jeremy Lin was the No. 2 topic trending worldwide on Twitter Saturday night. Linsanity, indeed. Were close losses to Celtics and Bulls moral victories? Amare Stoudemire appears somewhat re-engaged.
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22 NETS
(8-17)
LAST WEEK: 1-4 THIS WEEK: 5 games KEY GAME: WED vs. NJ
Deja vu night at the PruCenter on Wednesday as Lawrence Frank returns yet again (he was there last Wednesday). Four guys named Williams on roster, and a Shawne, Sean, Marshon and DeShawn.
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23 KINGS
(8-16)
LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON vs NO
Showing some Sac. Close losses to Warriors and Jazz followed by Ws over Blazers and Warriors. Beat the Hornets in NOLA, and it’s first three-game winning streak since late in ’10-11 season.
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24 WARRIORS
(6-12)
LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: TUE vs OKC
Overtime loss vs. Sacto prevented a 3-0 week. Dorrell Wright has 15 3s in last 4 games. It took him 14 games to make his first 15.
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25 SUNS
(7-12)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: SAT vs SAC
Beat the Bobcats and the Hornets for a .500 week. Five of next six on road. Josh Childress is shooting 53 percent but has scored only 39 points. He makes $6M and has 3 years left on his deal.
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26 PISTONS
(6-20)
LAST WEEK: 2-3 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: FRI vs. NJ
Has to be the oddest schedule quirk in the NBA. Have a two-game week, both against Nets. Also played Nets last Wednesday.
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27 RAPTORS
(8-16)
LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: MON at WAS
Jose Calderon as Jason Kidd 2.0? How else to explain 17-assist, eight rebound, 2-for-6 shooting night vs. Wizards.
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28 WIZARDS
(4-19)
LAST WEEK: 0-4 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs MIA
Maybe President Obama skipped the Clippers game because he’s planning on seeing the Heat on Friday night. Or maybe he’ll send Joe Biden.
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29 HORNETS
(4-19)
LAST WEEK: 0-5 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: MON vs SAC
On a positive note, had a better week than the Bobcats. Now they get Kaman back from internal exile. Boy, NBA office sure has made them attractive to potential buyer, eh?
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30 BOBCATS
(3-21)
LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: SAT at LAC
Only 15 consecutive losses away from tying Cavs’ record set last season. Lost by 33 and 44 last week. Bismack Biyambo had double-double in first start.
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