The Spurs skyrocket back to No. 1, going 4-0 last week as teams in front of them stumbled. Impressive, but more striking is the overall strength in the Southwest Division. The equally torrid Houston Rockets not only are second in the division but also have risen to No. 2 in this week's Power Rankings.
With wins over Miami and (albeit struggling) Indiana, the Rockets have found a groove with James Harden assuming Batman duties. That doesn't mean Dwight Howard is Robin; he's more like Green Lantern -- or another superhero. Just not Aquaman, he's cooler than that. Nonethless, the Rockets' defensive intensity has ramped up, precipitating their rise.
And the Southwest is strong beyond the Spurs -- fighting through injuries with a system tried and true -- and Rockets, whose upside is unbelievable.
The Mavericks check in at No. 8, refusing to relinquish their playoff spot, and Memphis remains in postseason contention (No. 14 in this week's rankings). Even the Pelicans, who have little to play for these days, went 3-1 last week.
The Southwest always has been tough, but this year it has two legitimate title contenders, two more battling for playoff position and the Pelicans, who likely would be in the conversation if not for injuries.
We often overlook how difficult division schedules can be, with the Southwest perhaps the best example. If you can make it in the Southwest, you can make it anywhere in this league. Just ask the Spurs.