NBA Power Rankings: Warriors rise, Clippers fall and Knicks look ... good?

Momentum is tricky. The Spurs have won nine in a row but are really struggling to put together the kind of performance we're used to seeing from San Antonio. The Rockets' longest winning streak is only three, but their overall performance has been impressive.

Then, of course, there are the Warriors (No. 2 this week). They overtook the Clippers for the best record in the league and had the Sixers pulled off the upset over the Cavs Sunday, Golden State would be No. 1 for the first time since preseason. They've won 11 in a row, and are getting better in every category with every game. After their defense struggled all year, they're now eighth in points allowed per 100 possessions. They're middle of the pack in rebounding, and their offense is out of this world.

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The Warriors being good isn't scary; everyone knew they would be. What's impressive is that they are getting so much better, smarter, and stronger with every game.

The Clippers have fallen off, and draw the Cavaliers Thursday, then the Warriors next Monday. Meanwhile, down the line, the Finals rematch everyone's waiting on is like that Christmas present that just popped up under the tree. There are some games with real weight starting to hit the schedule, and we're just getting started in what's already been a fascinating season.

Biggest Movers
7 Knicks
8 Timberwolves
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Cavaliers The Cavaliers are just a 48-minute tempest this year. They form over the court and it's just pounding rain, winds, and lightning until the final buzzer sounds. Kevin Love went from being considered expendable to putting up 34 points in the first quarter against Portland. The "fit" is incredible with every guy on this team this year. 1 30-12
2 Warriors Oh, look. The Warriors have the best record in the Western Conference. Who saw that coming? They are currently on pace for the best offensive rate of scoring per 100 possessions, ever. 1 38-6
3 Spurs Nine in a row and it seems like a typical Spurs season, but there are some legitimate concerns. Gregg Popovich ripped them after a win over the Mavericks and they rank just 14th in opponent effective field-goal percentage. It's hard to tell sometimes whether you're just looking for things to complain about with the Spurs, but this team isn't the same as in some of their stronger seasons, at least not yet. 1 34-9
4 Rockets Since the opening-night loss to the Lakers, they don't have a bad defeat on the resume. They've fallen to good teams with genuine playoff hopes, and there are signs that this team has a higher gear in it that will show itself as the year goes on. They're not a sleeping giant, but kind of a dozing dragon. 1 34-13
5 Raptors Their defense has fallen off a very steep cliff on this road trip, despite a strong finish with a win over Houston. They're very Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde on that end. However, there's a growing sense that this is clearly the second-best overall team in the East. 1 28-16
6 Clippers They just HAD to go to that Cowboys game on Thanksgiving when they had a road game against a tough squad in Detroit, didn't they? They're on a huge swoon right now. Losing to the Pistons the day after Thanksgiving is one thing, but the beatdown by the Pacers signals a few warning signs that maybe these really are the same old Clippers. I'm not selling stock yet, but you go on that kind of slump and you have to pay the power rankings piper. 5 29-16
7 Celtics The defense has rediscovered itself and that, combined with the return of Al Horford, has put them back on track. However, they don't give off a very threatening vibe. They're not better than last year's version. A lot of time left in the season, but there's also a lot of work to do to make this team a real threat to the Cavaliers. 5 26-17
8 Bulls They enjoyed a long break off coming off the road trip. Cleveland looms Friday. Chicago is this year's "looks way better in reality than they did on paper." -- 22-23
9 Grizzlies The Grizzlies have won 7 of 8, so I feel bad about dropping them. But they went to OT with the Sixers, then lost to the Heat. There are injury woes, but that's part of the model with how the roster's built. The other teams are a little hotter, but Memphis is probably better than its 11-6 record. 2 26-20
10 Jazz George Hill is their most valuable player, that's pretty clear. The Jazz are 6-3 with Hill in the lineup, 3-5 in games where he's been out. He's the Draymond Green of the Jazz, and he unlocks what they're capable of. Oh, and with Gordon Hayward and George Hill, they haven't lost a game. 3 29-16
11 Thunder OKC is like that person you meet at the party and you think "Hey, we have stuff in common, we could be friends!" except every now and again they say something that is just really awkward. Or in other words, the Thunder are all of us. Anyway, they lost to the Pacers and beat the pants off the Pistons. Sure. -- 25-19
12 Hornets Charlotte lost four in a row, but three were against pretty good teams (the Knicks are pretty good, who knew) and two were in overtime. The Hornets are 11th in offense, 9th in defense, but losing Marvin Williams for at least a week due to a knee hyper-extension is going to prove costly. 2 23-21
13 Knicks Wins over the Hawks, Blazers and Hornets -- who inevitably got them back in the second game of the home-and-home. Are ... are the Knicks actually good? 7 19-26
14 Hawks You OK over there, Atlanta? You look a little woozy. Maybe you should go home. And lie down. With a cold compress. And watch "Gilmore Girls" until you feel better. The Hawks lost four of five, held a players-only meeting to stem the bleeding and then lost to the Lakers without D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Call a doctor. 5 26-18
15 Trail Blazers Portland's now dead-last in defense, and have lost six of eight. If the Blazers want to avoid being an also-ran, they need to gamble on a major change. 1 19-27
16 Pistons They beat the Clippers and then were trounced by the Thunder. They are a random outcome generator without Reggie Jackson, just all over the map. 1 21-24
17 Bucks They face the Cavaliers three times in the next four weeks, and that book-ends a brutal stretch. They have not been a good enough team thus far to survive it. They have to improve in a hurry if they're going to survive. 1 20-23
18 Lakers Losing D'Angelo Russell with the knee injury compromises both their immediate play and long-term development, and having Julius Randle out is equally problematic. Still, they've managed to go 3-3 during the first half of a bad schedule run. However, let's be through with the jokes about the Warriors fear them. 4 16-32
19 Pacers Well, they're .500, but ... wait, the Pacers are .500? How are the Pacers .500?! Paul George must have had a huge week ... wait, Paul George has been out?! -- 22-21
20 Nuggets Denver is 7-10, with three home losses in overtime, vs. playoff teams, by a combined total of seven points. On the one hand, they're hanging against good teams. On the other, they've had a good record on the table and dropped it on the floor and let dogs run away with it. Learning to win is tough. Pay attention to Jamal Murray, the kid is electric. 1 18-25
21 Kings The lineup changes have helped things. Sure, they're not using several players who are actually good, but Garrett Temple and Matt Barnes are giving them solid minutes and contributions. 5 16-27
22 Wizards The Wizards are more of a mess than their record would indicate, and their record isn't good. There's a very "What are we actually doing, here?" vibe going on. 5 23-20
23 Timberwolves Minnesota's lost in the, ahem, woods at the moment. The schedule is a nightmare through December. Unless the Wolves figure out how to play defense, and in a hurry, you have to think Tom Thibodeau is going to get awfully itchy to add a veteran. 8 16-28
24 Heat The Heat have given quality efforts in losses to several good teams, but they've also thrown up on themselves against bad teams. They're not totally lost, but that doesn't mean they know where they're going, either. 1 14-30
25 Pelicans The Pelicans are much better with Jrue Holiday back, but the loss to the Mavericks Sunday set back their momentum. The schedule turns hard now; they have to play their best basketball, immediately, or the hole may get too big to dig out of, even with five months of play left. -- 17-27
26 Magic The Magic are a net-negative team anyway, but when Jeff Green is on the floor, they are outscored by 11.9 points more per 100 possessions than when he's on the bench. So not a great spending of $15 million, one might say, so far. 2 18-28
27 Suns The Suns have so much talent and are still so incredibly forgettable. 2 15-29
28 76ers Hey, the Sixers are 20th in effective field-goal percentage this season. That's not completely horrible. That's promising, right? (The Sixers are still really bad.) -- 15-27
29 Mavericks Mark Cuban says he doesn't want to tank. And that's OK. We often do things we don't want to in our lives. 1 15-29
30 Nets The Nets have been outscored by 135 points over their last seven games. So much for them being "pesky." 8 9-34
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Moore's colleagues have been known to describe him as a "maniac" in terms of his approach to covering the NBA, which he has done for CBS Sports since 2010. Moore prides himself on melding reporting,... Full Bio

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