NBA Power Rankings: LeBron James, Lakers take top spot from Bucks after huge wins; Heat, Jazz make big leaps
The Lakers beat what many would consider to be their top competition for the NBA title this week -- the Clippers and Bucks
Back in December, Giannis Antetokounmpo figuratively took the crown from LeBron James and placed it on his own head as the Bucks defeated the Lakers in Milwaukee. On Friday night, LeBron didn't pantomime the theatrics, but he snatched the crown right back. Not only did he prove he may still be the best player in the NBA with the win over the Bucks, but the Lakers also proved that they are the best team in the league right now with their subsequent win over the Clippers on Sunday.
Because of the wins over their chief competition for this year's title, the Lakers have taken the top spot from the Bucks in this week's Power Rankings. Meanwhile the Heat came up with their own signature win over the Bucks, which helped catapult them to No. 5 this week. But the biggest risers of the week were the Jazz, who rattled off four wins to climb to the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.
Here are this week's Power Rankings, which saw plenty of fluctuation after a wild stretch of games.
|1||Lakers||The Lakers couldn't have asked for a better week, with confidence-boosting wins over the Bucks and Clippers within a three-day span. LeBron James may not be able to catch Giannis for MVP this season, but he's certainly made a case for best player in the NBA over this last stretch. The Lakers have distanced themselves from the rest of the West, and now have the Bucks firmly in their crosshairs for the best record in the league, and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.||1||49-14|
|2||Bucks||The Bucks lost Giannis Antetokounmpo for at least a couple of games, but at this point in the season they're probably just relieved it wasn't a more significant injury. The loss to the Lakers hurts, and the team has now dropped three of its last four, previously unheard of for this Milwaukee juggernaut. Khris Middleton put up 39 points in Sunday's loss to the Suns, and will continue to carry the offensive load with Giannis out.||1||53-12|
|3||Clippers||Despite the high-profile loss to the Lakers in one of the best played games of the season, the Clippers are clearly starting to click. Now it's just up to Doc Rivers to find the right combinations with his incredibly deep and (for now) healthy roster. A silver lining to the Lakers loss is that Paul George had a breakout offensive game after struggling following his return from his latest injury.||1||44-20|
|4||Raptors||The Raptors bounced back from a rough week by taking care of the Suns, Warriors and Kings, who have been extremely hot. Serge Ibaka returned to the lineup for the latter two games, while Fred VanVleet looks like he's closer to a return. As has been the case all season, Raptors step up when other players go down. This week it was Norman Powell, who averaged 31.3 points in three games this week, including a career-high 37 in the win over Golden State.||3||46-18|
|5||Heat||The Heat went 3-1 this week, but their biggest win (perhaps of the season) came on Monday as they stifled the Bucks in Miami, holding Giannis Antetokounmpo to 13 points and Milwaukee to just 89. Duncan Robinson was an absolute madman, making at least seven 3-pointers in three straight games to close out the week, including 9 of 12 in a win over Orlando. For the week, he made a ridiculous 27-of-44 3s (61.4 percent).||5||41-24|
|6||Jazz||The roller coaster season continues for the Jazz, who won all four games this week to bring their winning streak to five. Wins over the Cavs, Knicks and Pistons were expected, but they picked up a big victory in Boston on Friday. After all the controversy about whether Mike Conley should start, he had a terrific week, averaging 17.3 points on 51 percent field goals and 46.2 percent 3-pointers for the week.||7||41-23|
|7||Thunder||With its win over the Celtics on Sunday, OKC gained sole possession of the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference playoff picture, ahead of the Houston Rockets -- simply remarkable given the outlook for this team heading into the season. The Thunder even beat Boston without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, as Dennis Schroder came up with the game-winning steal and layup in the final seconds. He led the team with 22.5 points per game this week, to go along with 4.5 assists on 38 percent 3-point shooting.||1||40-24|
|8||Celtics||Boston was once again hit by the injury bug, playing without Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward at different times this week en route to a 1-3 record. The Celtics lost to Oklahoma City on Sunday in epic fashion, as Walker had the ball stolen from him in the final seconds, followed by a layup to put the Thunder ahead for good. Teams adjusted to Tatum, though he still shot 46 percent from 3 this week, which made the absences of Brown and Hayward even more difficult.||3||43-21|
|9||Pacers||Indiana has now won six of its last seven, with the loss coming to the Bucks in Milwaukee. The Pacers are playing much better basketball after a brief lull before the All-Star break, and Victor Oladipo looks like he's slowly working off the rust. Domantas Sabonis continues to be a monster in the middle, averaging 18.3 points and 12.5 rebounds in a 3-1 week. Indiana has found success lately despite having players like Malcolm Brogdon and Doug McDermott in and out of the lineup.||3||39-26|
|10||Nuggets||When you lose to the Warriors (at home, no less) and the Cavs in the same week, you know something is up with your team. That was the case for the Nuggets, whose lone win this week came by two points in Charlotte. Nikola Jokic averaged just 12.7 points on 12 shots per game in three contests and committed five turnovers per game while dishing out 7.7 assists. Jamal Murray shot 38 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3. A positive sign: Gary Harris shot 57 percent from the 3-point line and averaged 13.3 points per game for the week.||4||43-22|
|11||Rockets||Perhaps we slightly overreacted to the effectiveness of the Rockets' small-ball attack. As great as they looked at the beginning of this experiment, that's how awful they looked this week with consecutive losses to the Knicks, Clippers, Hornets and Magic. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but the variance with this team could present problems come playoff time.||8||40-24|
|12||Mavericks||The Mavs split this week, with wins over the Pelicans and Grizzlies and losses to the Bulls and Pacers. The Chicago loss hurts, but the overtime win over the Pelicans was incredibly entertaining. Luka Doncic went for 36 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the loss to Indiana on Sunday in a rare off night for Kristaps Porzingis, who averaged 23 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in three games this week.||1||40-27|
|13||76ers||The Sixers went 1-2 this week as they await the return of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, who sounds like he may be back soon. Philly picked up a big win in Sacramento, but followed that up with a bad loss to the Warriors, who were without Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Brett Brown is sick of answering questions about his team's staggering home/road record discrepancy, but it's truly baffling (28-2 at home, 10-24 on the road). Luckily for them, they have a four-game homestand starting on Wednesday.||4||39-26|
|14||Grizzlies||If you thought Memphis was going to weakly bow out of the playoff race, you were sorely mistaken. Despite injuries to Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke, it won three of four games this week and holds a four-game lead over the Pelicans and Kings for the No. 8 seed in the West. The team's leading scorer for the week may come as a surprise to some -- Josh Jackson scored 17 points per game to go along with 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Jonas Valanciunas picked up the slack in the middle, averaging 16.3 points and 14.8 rebounds for the week. You have to love what Taylor Jenkins and the Grizzlies are doing.||1||32-33|
|15||Pelicans||The Pelicans' ascent toward the playoffs hit a snag with two losses to start the week, including a bad one at home to Minnesota, but they finished strong with a win over the Heat and redemption against the Wolves. Zion Williamson was held under 20 points for just the third time in his career by Miami, but he bounced back with 23 on Sunday. Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball have been excellent, each averaging over 21 points, 7.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds for the week. Ball hit seven 3-pointers in each of the back-to-back games to start the week.||1||28-36|
|16||Kings||The Kings probably wish they had turned in a better effort against a short-handed 76ers team at home, but they picked up a big win over the Blazers, who are among their competition for the final playoff spot in the West. De'Aaron Fox led the charge with 24 points per game despite battling nagging injuries, and Buddy Hield put up 18 points per game on 54.3 percent 3-point shooting for the week. The Kings also welcomed back Richaun Holmes, who will help beef up their frontcourt for the stretch run.||--||28-36|
|17||Nets||The Nets went 3-1 in a strange week that saw them part ways with coach Kenny Atkinson, which was either a surprise or not a surprise depending on who you ask. Caris LeVert went ballistic in the fourth quarter and overtime in a big win over the Celtics, scoring a career-high 51 points. The first order of business for interim coach Jacque Vaughn was moving DeAndre Jordan into the starting lineup over Jarrett Allen, and Jordan responded with 11 points and 15 rebounds in Sunday's win over the Bulls.||2||30-34|
|18||Magic||Starting off the week with losses to the Blazers and Heat, Orlando bounced back to beat the Wolves and pound the Rockets. Terrence Ross is on one of his hot streaks, averaging 22.5 points for the week, including a 35-point effort in the loss to Miami. Nikola Vucevic remains steady in the middle, while Aaron Gordon has elevated his all-around play since the All-Star break. The Magic are one game behind the Nets in the loss column for the No. 7 seed in the East, and five games ahead of the Wizards for the eighth seed.||--||30-35|
|19||Trail Blazers||Things were supposed to get better for the Blazers with the return of Damian Lillard. Instead, they've lost two of the three games since his return, including bad ones to the Suns and Kings -- two teams trying to beat them to a playoff spot. CJ McCollum carried the offense with Lillard out, and he continued his excellence this week, averaging 26.8 points, six assists and 4.5 rebounds over four games. Portland is five games back of the Grizzlies in the loss column for the final Western Conference playoff slot.||1||29-37|
|20||Suns||Sure, they didn't have Giannis, but the Bucks are still a formidable team even without him so the Suns' victory on Sunday could be great for momentum. They also beat the Blazers this week and lost to the Raptors, with Devin Booker averaging 27 points and 10 assists in the three games. Aron Baynes went bonkers filling in for the injured Deandre Ayton, putting up 37 points and 16 rebounds on 9-of-14 3-point shooting in the win over Portland, and following that up with 24 points against the Bucks.||2||26-39|
|21||Spurs||The Spurs' only win this week came by a single point in Charlotte, and Sunday's overtime loss to the Cavs really hurts. LaMarcus Aldridge missed all four games, and the scoring was evenly dispersed with seven players averaging double figures for the week. San Antonio is still only four games back of the Grizzlies in the loss column, but it has some work to do.||4||27-36|
|22||Hornets||The Hornets lost their first two games this week by a combined three points, then beat the struggling Rockets without Russell Westbrook. Terry Rozier caught fire from the 3-point line this week, hitting 52 percent on over eight attempts per game, while PJ Washington averaged over 20 points on 47.8 percent 3-point shooting.||1||23-42|
|23||Wizards||The Wiz went 1-3 this week, with the only win coming over the Trae Young-less Hawks at home. Bradley Beal continues to defy logic, averaging 30.5 points this week despite seeing waves and waves of defenders on a team that lacks another legitimate scoring threat. Shabazz Napier put up 27 points and seven assists against his former Miami Heat on Sunday.||--||24-40|
|24||Cavaliers||The Cavs lost to the Jazz and Celtics to start the week, but closed out their homestand with big wins over the Nuggets and Spurs. Collin Sexton has been on a mission with Darius Garland out of the lineup, averaging 31 points for the week on 55 percent shooting, including a career-high 41 points in the loss to the Celtics. Kevin Love has played well lately, averaging 22.3 points and 11.8 rebounds on 46 percent 3-point shooting for the week.||1||19-46|
|25||Knicks||The Knicks kicked off the week with a big win over the Rockets at Madison Square Garden, as RJ Barrett turned in the best game of his young career with 27 points, five rebounds and five assists. Another good sign is that Mitchell Robinson is starting to play better, averaging 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and two blocks in three games this week.||2||21-45|
|26||Timberwolves||The Wolves started off the week with wins over the Pelicans and Bulls before losses to the Magic and those very same Pelicans. Malik Beasley continued to shoot the ball well from distance, as he's done since joining the Wolves before the trade deadline, averaging 25.5 points on 52 percent 3-point shooting for the week. Naz Reid has been a solid replacement for the injured Karl-Anthony Towns, averaging 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in four games this week.||3||19-45|
|27||Warriors||The Warriors went 2-1 this week, and the only game they lost is the one Stephen Curry played in -- go figure. Curry looked great in his first game in four months against the Raptors, but came down with the flu and missed what would have been his encore against the Sixers, a game his team won without him. Steve Kerr said he's hoping to build some momentum for 2020-21 in this last month or so of the season, and Golden State has now won three of its last five.||3||15-50|
|28||Bulls||Chicago picked up a big win over the Mavericks on Monday, then followed that up with losses to the Wolves, Pacers and Nets. The Bulls have a host of players on minutes restrictions, including Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., and Zach LaVine missed all four of this week's games. Coby White has become the go-to playmaker in LaVine's absence, averaging 23 points and 6.3 assists for the week. Porter scored 23 points in 25 minutes on Sunday in just his fourth game since early November.||--||22-43|
|29||Hawks||The Hawks were absolutely bulldozed by the Grizzlies twice this week, with a loss to the Wizards in between. Ironically, the closest game of the week -- against the Wizards -- was the one Trae Young didn't suit up for. Young shot 27 percent from the field and went 1 for 14 from the 3-point line in the two Memphis losses, while Cam Reddish had a career-high 28 points on 5-of-7 3-point shooting in the loss to Washington.||5||20-47|
|30||Pistons||Three more losses for the Pistons this week, as they've now dropped 11 of their last 12 games. The lone bright spots have been Christian Wood, averaging 27 points and 9.3 rebounds on 40 percent 3-point shooting this week, and Brandon Knight, who's having a bit of a renaissance recently. He's averaged 16.5 points and 5.3 assists in 29.3 minutes over his last five games.||4||20-46|
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