One benefit of having the NBA standings so close at this time of year is that almost every night features playoff-level atmospheres as teams fight for postseason position. This week was no exception, and it's interesting to see which teams rise to the occasion and which ones falter under pressure.
Speaking of the latter, the Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of one of the more epic regular-season collapses we've seen, dropping crucial games this week to short-handed opponents. As a result, they fall a massive 12 spots in this week's Power Rankings and are now on the outside looking in on the play-in race.
On a more pleasant note, the Boston Celtics looked great in a key road win over the Sacramento Kings, then won two more games to cement the No. 1 position in this week's rankings, taking over for the James Harden-less Philadelphia 76ers. Also stepping up were the Denver Nuggets, who won a crucial home matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks to get their momentum headed back in the right direction.
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Another team gaining steam while getting healthy is the Minnesota Timberwolves, going undefeated this week, including a defensive-minded win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
Here are this week's NBA Power Rankings, with just a handful of games to go.
*Please keep in mind that our NBA Power Rankings are based on weekly performance, not the whole season.
|Boston got back on track this week with wins over the Kings, Pacers and Spurs, while losses by the Bucks and 76ers helped the Celtics' standing in the Eastern Conference. Jaylen Brown averaged 32 points and eight rebounds for the week on 39% 3-point shooting.||6||57-25|
|The Nuggets won both games this week, sending a mini-statement with a dominant second half in Saturday's blowout victory over the Bucks. Jamal Murray put on a show against Milwaukee, scoring 20 of his 26 points in the first half, while Nikola Jokic went for 31 points, 11 assists and six rebounds.||6||53-29|
|Three more wins make it four in a row for the Cavs, who took down the Nets twice and the Rockets once this week. Isaac Okoro hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the second Brooklyn game, while Donovan Mitchell averaged 28 points for the week.||1||51-31|
|All in all, a great week for the Grizzlies. They won all four games and also saw Ja Morant return to the lineup after his suspension, averaging just under 21 points in 24 minutes in his three games this week. Jaren Jackson Jr. has been aggressive offensively lately, putting up 24.5 points per game this week on 59% shooting.||2||51-31|
|The Bucks manhandled the Spurs and Jazz to start the week, then fizzled in the second half of a blowout loss in Denver on Saturday. They were on a back-to-back, but the third-quarter offensive drought in such a big game has to at least be somewhat concerning.||3||58-24|
|The Kings went 2-2 this week, but that pales in comparison to the jubilation the franchise and its fans must feel as the reality sets in: Sacramento is going to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. Kevin Huerter returned from a hamstring injury better than ever, averaging 28 points, eight rebounds and 4.5 assists in the last two games on 38% 3-point shooting.||3||48-34|
|The Sixers split with the Bulls to start the week, before dropping road games to the Warriors and Suns. James Harden missed all but the first Bulls game, with Tyrese Maxey picking up the offensive slack to the tune of 26 points and four assists per game. Joel Embiid was dominant against Golden State, posting 46 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.||6||54-28|
|The Wolves are playing well just as Karl-Anthony Towns rejoins the lineup, winning all three games this week against quality opponents. Towns is still finding his legs offensively, but Chris Finch has to be pleased with a defense that allowed just 96 points in Sunday's road win over the Warriors.||10||42-40|
|The Warriors finally won a couple of road games, then carried the momentum back home in a win over the 76ers. Unfortunately they were stunned on Sunday in a loss to the Wolves, but the good news is Gary Payton II made his season debut for the team. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Warriors held Minnesota to 99 points.||11||44-38|
|Whatever worked for the Heat in Wednesday's win over the Knicks did not work in a rough 29-point home loss to the Nets on Saturday. The defense didn't show up on either occasion, allowing an eye-popping 132.4 points per 100 possessions in the two games.||--||44-38|
|Not a great week for the Knicks, who lost to the Wolves, Heat and Magic while allowing almost 125 points per 100 possessions. Julius Randle led the offensive effort with nearly 32 points and five assists per game, while Jalen Brunson averaged 24 points and eight assists in the two games he played.||6||47-35|
|The Pelicans need to win to stay in, and that's exactly what they did this week, taking care of the Spurs, Hornets and Clippers in dominant fashion. Brandon Ingram has been otherworldly, averaging 31 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the week on 46% shooting.||10||42-40|
|The Suns lost road games to the Lakers and Kings to start the week, before returning home to beat the 76ers on Saturday. Kevin Durant could return as soon as Wednesday, with Phoenix gearing up for what it hopes is a lengthy postseason run.||2||45-37|
|Paul George's injury cast a cloud over the Clippers' week, though they did handily beat the Thunder without him on Thursday. However, they followed that up with a lackluster effort in Saturday's home loss to the Pelicans. Kawhi Leonard went out of that game with a facial contusion, and the Clippers certainly can't afford to lose him for any stretch of time.||5||44-38|
|The Bulls are trending in the right direction heading into the postseason, winning three of four games this week and seven of nine overall. Zach LaVine averaged 27 points per game on 40% 3-point shooting in the four games this week.||6||40-42|
|The vibes were immaculate before LeBron James had to return and mess it all up. Joking aside, the Lakers look very scary despite losing to the Bulls in James' first game back from a foot injury. He put up 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists while coming off the bench for just the second time in his career.||3||43-39|
|The Raptors started off the week with a loss to the Pacers, but finished up with wins over the Pistons and Wizards. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet each averaged over 24 points and six assists for the week.||3||41-41|
|OKC split with the Clippers to start the week before losing to the Lakers and beating the hapless Blazers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his surgical slicing of defenses with 30 points per game on 51% shooting.||3||40-42|
|The Nets lost three games this week, with a 29-point road win over the Heat mixed in. Mikal Bridges continues to be the go-to guy offensively, averaging over 30 points for the week.||3||45-37|
|The Hawks took care of the Pistons and Pacers this week, while dropping games to the Wolves and Grizzlies. The offense was on point, but the defense simply couldn't get keep pace. Stop me if you've heard this one before with Atlanta.||1||41-41|
|The Jazz picked up a nice win over the Kings to start the week, but then suffered losses to the Blazers, Bucks and in Saturday's rematch with Sacramento. Lauri Markkanen dropped 40 points in the loss to Portland, the only game he played this week, while Walker Kessler put up a career-high 31 points on 14-for-16 shooting in the loss to the Kings.||4||37-45|
|The Magic went undefeated this week, with wins over the Wizards, Knicks and Nets. The defense was stingy, allowing just 108 points per 100 possessions, while Cole Anthony and Franz Wagner led the way with 18.3 points per game.||6||34-48|
|If the Hornets are trying to pile up losses to end the season, someone forgot to tell the players. Charlotte went 3-1 this week despite missing numerous key players at various times, punctuated by two straight wins over the Mavs, who are desperately fighting for a playoff spot. Gordon Hayward led the way with 20 points and six assists per game on 54% shooting in the four games.||7||27-55|
|An absolutely devastating week for the Mavs' postseason hopes started by dropping a game to the Grizzlies, followed by and a protest-inducing loss to the Warriors at home. Then Dallas absolutely cratered, losing consecutive games to the short-handed Hornets with both Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving on the floor. And just when you thought things couldn't get worse, Doncic will be suspended for Monday's game because he picked up his 16th technical foul of the season on Sunday against Charlotte. Yikes.||12||38-44|
|The play-in is probably out of reach after a 1-3 week for the Pacers, with their only win coming against the Raptors. Tyrese Haliburton only played in two games, averaging almost 20 points and 11 assists.||2||35-47|
|The Wizards' only win this week came against the Spurs, so it's almost like not having any wins at all. Washington appears resigned to missing the play-in and trying to get as many ping pong balls as possible. On the plus side, Kristaps Porzingis continued his excellent season, averaging 26 points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocks this week on 50% 3-point shooting.||2||35-47|
|The Blazers started off the week with a win over the Jazz, which was enough to scare the franchise into resting Damian Lillard (along with most of the starters) for what looks like the rest of the season. Winning does not appear to be the object, though the reserves put up a solid fight against OKC on Sunday.||2||33-49|
|The Rockets lost four games convincingly to quality opponents this week, giving up nearly 130 points per 100 possessions in the process. Jalen Green led the team with 24 points per game on 41% 3-point shooting.||2||22-60|
|Two more losses for the Pistons this week, and neither was remotely close. On the plus side, Marvin Bagley III had his best game of the season in the loss to Atlanta, putting up 31 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks on 4-of-5 3-point shooting in 41 minutes.||--||17-65|
|After a couple of anomalous wins last week, the Spurs got back on track with losses to the Pelicans, Bucks, Wizards and Celtics. The available roster varies greatly from night to night, but Sandro Mamukelashvili is making an impact lately, putting up 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game this week on 51% shooting.||3||22-60|