Everybody loves a fresh start. While it probably wasn't as long as most teams would have liked, the NBA All-Star break at the very least gave players a chance to rest and recuperate from a frenetic first half of the season. With the March 25 trade deadline just over a week away and the playoffs closer than you think, it's time for teams to buckle down and show what they can do in the second half.
The Brooklyn Nets started the second half just how they closed the first half -- winning. Their continued dominance and a misstep by the Utah Jazz was enough to push the Nets to the No. 1 spot this week as Utah falls to No. 2. Below them are the Philadelphia 76ers, who won all three games this week but lost MVP favorite Joel Embiid for at least a couple of weeks after a nasty-looking knee injury.
The Houston Rockets, on the other hand, failed to turn things around after the break and have now lost 16 straight games. Meanwhile, the Toronto Raptors' roster has been severely depleted by health and safety protocols, which resulted in them dropping the furthest of any team this week. It's not their fault, but that's just how this season has gone.
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Here's the first set of NBA Power Rankings from the second half of the season.
*Keep in mind that our Power Rankings are based on the team's performance the previous week, not the entire season.
|Two more wins this week for the Nets, who have now won 12 of 13 games. The remarkable part is that pretty much all of it has come with Kevin Durant sidelined, and Brooklyn has absolutely no reason to rush him back given how well it's playing. Kyrie Irving averaged 29 points on 56 percent shooting in wins over the Celtics and Pistons this week, while James Harden put up 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Landry Shamet also caught fire, averaging 16.5 points on 9-for-12 3-point shooting. Brooklyn is on a roll without probably its best all-around player, which is terrifying.||1||45-37|
|The Jazz's win over the hapless, depleted Rockets was closer than it needed to be, then they were simply outplayed on both ends in Sunday's loss to the Warriors. That's now four losses in six games for the Jazz, which is enough to bump them from the top spot in the Power Rankings for this week. Donovan Mitchell averaged 26 points and six assists in the two games on 37 percent 3-point shooting, while Rudy Gobert put up a monster 24-point, 28-rebound, four-block performance in the loss to Golden State. The Jazz are still a great team, so we'll see how they respond to the recent bumps in the road.||1||37-45|
|The Sixers won all three games this week, but all the focus is on Joel Embiid and how he'll recover from a nasty-looking knee hyperextension following a ferocious dunk against the Wizards on Friday. The league's leading MVP candidate in the eyes of many, Embiid avoided significant damage and will miss at least two weeks while he recovers. The Sixers got off to a good start without their leader, hanging on to beat the Wizards and then dismantling the Spurs on Sunday. But with all that Embiid does for this team on both ends, it will be interesting to see how they navigate the time without him.||2||54-28|
|The Lakers powered through a narrow victory over the Pacers in their only game this week, as Kyle Kuzma scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the comeback victory. LeBron James scored 18 points on 13 shots, and questions remain about how the Lakers will manage his minutes with Anthony Davis expected to miss at least another two weeks. Montrezl Harrell took advantage of the extra minutes in Friday's win, putting up 17 points on 8-for-11 shooting.||--||43-39|
|The Suns beat the Blazers in their first game after the break, then saw their five-game winning streak get snapped in a home loss to the Pacers. Devin Booker scored 35 points and dished out eight assists in the win over Portland, while Dario Saric continued his impressive play off the bench, averaging 14 points and five rebounds on 61 percent shooting in 25 minutes per game.||2||45-37|
|The Bucks destroyed the Knicks in their first game after the break, then hung on for a surprisingly close win over the Wizards without Bradley Beal. Giannis Antetokounmpo notched consecutive triple-doubles for the first time in his career, averaging 28.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists on 65 percent shooting, while six other Bucks averaged double figures. That's now eight wins in nine games for Milwaukee, which looks to have found its stride.||1||58-24|
|The Clippers beat the Warriors by 26 to open the second half of the season, then lost to the Pelicans by 20 on Sunday in a disappointing defensive effort with Patrick Beverley sidelined. The Clippers are perhaps the biggest Rorschach test in the NBA, as some will look at the team's performance with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the court and say they have nothing to worry about. Others will see their poor clutch metrics and propensity for lifeless performances and predict another playoff collapse. Trade deadline activity, or lack thereof, should help us get an idea of how the Clippers' front office views their current roster.||1||44-38|
|Must. Resist. Fire. Puns. The Heat have now won 11 out of 12, including three straight this week without the services of Bam Adebayo. Without him, Jimmy Butler did a little bit of everything, averaging 28 points, 9.3 assists, six rebounds and four steals in the three wins. Kelly Olynyk took advantage of the extra center minutes, putting up 15.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game on 44 percent 3-point shooting. After a rough start to the season, Miami has now moved all the way up to fourth in the East.||7||44-38|
|The Mavs went 2-1 this week, but their loss to the Thunder came without Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis in the second game of a back-to-back. The wins were solid, over the Spurs and Nuggets, and Dallas has now won seven of its last 10 games as it continues to rise in the Western Conference hierarchy. Kristaps Porzingis looked great in the two games he played, averaging 26.5 points and 10 rebounds on 58 percent 3-point shooting, while playing solid defense against Nikola Jokic in Saturday's win over Denver.||5||38-44|
|A gritty road victory over the Grizzlies took its toll on the Nuggets the next night against a hot Mavericks squad, leading to a 1-1 week. Jamal Murray came out of the break in a horrific slump, scoring just 13 total points on 5-for-27 shooting in the two games. Nikola Jokic enjoyed no such struggles, averaging 27 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Denver is also starting to get healthy, with Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green returning to the court this week.||2||53-29|
|The Celtics lost to the Nets in their first game after the break partly due to a catastrophic 5-for-23 shooting night from Jaylen Brown, but they bounced back to handily beat the reeling Rockets on Sunday. Jayson Tatum started to get things going before the break and continued his hot shooting this week, averaging 27 points on 56 percent field goals and 50 percent 3-pointers in the two games. Marcus Smart returned to the lineup to average 12 points in nearly 20 minutes per game, while going 4 for 7 from 3-point range.||1||57-25|
|It was a tale of two games this week for the Warriors, who came out flat against the Clippers in the team's fourth straight loss, which caused Steph Curry -- yes, Steph Curry -- to lose his temper on the sideline. But they completely flipped the script on Sunday with a near wire-to-wire victory over the best team in the NBA, the Utah Jazz. Steve Kerr has committed to youngsters James Wiseman, Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion in the second unit, which showed solid potential on Sunday. It's likely going to be inconsistent, but they needed to do something to generate more offense with Curry on the bench. We'll see how it goes.||--||44-38|
|The Blazers lost to the Suns before splitting a back-to-back with the Wolves in Minnesota to close out the week. Damian Lillard averaged 31 points and 7.3 assists on 40 percent 3-point shooting, with Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. providing supplemental scoring, but it simply wasn't enough. The good news is CJ McCollum, who was having a career year before fracturing his foot, said he would "bet on" coming back some time this week.||4||33-49|
|After announcing that they were mutually parting ways with LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs beat the Magic, then lost to the Mavericks and 76ers this week. DeMar DeRozan went for 30 points and 11 assists in the loss to Dallas before missing the last two games of the week to attend his father's funeral. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker all averaged double-figure scoring for the week, as the smaller, quicker Spurs look to make their mark without Aldridge.||3||22-60|
|The Knicks lost to the Bucks by 33 in their first game after the break, then took out their frustration on the Thunder with a 22-point win on Saturday. Julius Randle racked up an impressive triple-double with 26 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds in the win, while RJ Barrett added a career-high 32 points. Rookie Immanuel Quickley took advantage of extra minutes with Derrick Rose sidelined, averaging 18 points on 38 percent 3-point shooting in the two games.||2||47-35|
|The Hornets eked out a victory over the Pistons in the first game after the break, then throttled the short-handed Raptors at home on Saturday. LaMelo Ball furthered his Rookie of the Year candidacy by averaging 15 points, 7.5 assists and seven rebounds on 50 percent 3-point shooting in the two games, while Devonte' Graham looked good in his return from a seven-game absence due to a knee injury, putting up 12 points and five assists on 46 percent 3-point shooting off the bench in the two wins.||1||27-55|
|Looks like the Hawks got the message after Lloyd Pierce's firing. Atlanta has won five straight games under interim coach Nate McMillan after beating the Raptors, Kings and Cavs this week. McMillan's tenure has coincided with steady improvement from Danilo Gallinari, who averaged 18.3 points on 48 percent 3-point shooting in the three wins. Trae Young has been his normal self and Clint Capela has been a beast on the boards and in the paint. If De'Andre Hunter can pick up where he left off when he returns from knee surgery, the Hawks could build some momentum in the second half.||4||41-41|
|The Pacers received a huge jolt of energy on Saturday with the Indiana debut of Caris LeVert, who helped lead them to a convincing road victory over the Suns in his first game since having a cancerous mass removed from his kidney. LeVert put up 13 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes, and showed just how much Indiana lacked dynamic wing scoring with him and TJ Warren both sidelined. Malcolm Brogdon caught fire in a loss to the Lakers and stayed hot against the Suns, averaging 27 points on 8-for-13 3-point shooting in the two games, while Domantas Sabonis nearly averaged a triple-double with 21 points, 13.5 rebounds and nine assists. LeVert's return could be exactly what the Pacers needed to get themselves going.||1||35-47|
|If you watched the Pelicans' 30-point loss to the Timberwolves on Thursday, you'd think they were the worst team in the league. If you watched their subsequent wins over the Cavs and Clippers, you'd pencil them in as title favorites. As Stan Van Gundy said, "we're capable of being very, very good, and we're capable of being very, very bad." We saw both extremes this week, as we have pretty much all season. Zion Williamson's minutes were limited due to all three games being blowouts, but he averaged 24.7 points on 69 percent shooting.||3||42-40|
|OKC's only loss this week came without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander against the Knicks, with wins over the Mavericks (minus Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis) and the Grizzlies. Gilgeous-Alexander was brilliant in both wins, averaging 31 points and 5.5 assists on 46 percent 3-point shooting. NBA Twitter favorite Aleksej Pokusevski averaged nearly 33 minutes per game this week after his G League stint, putting up a career-high 23 points in Sunday's win over Memphis, while Moses Brown averaged 10 points and 8.3 rebounds in three games.||3||40-42|
|The Grizz beat the Wizards in their first game after the break, then lost close ones to the Nuggets and Thunder. Jonas Valanciunas had a monster 29-point, 20-rebound, four-block effort in the win over Washington, while Ja Morant averaged nearly 20 points and nine assists in three games this week. Rookie Desmond Bane continues to impress, averaging 12.3 points in the three games on 8-for-16 3-point shooting.||3||51-31|
|The Bulls lost to the 76ers and Heat this week before handling business against the depleted Raptors on Sunday. Billy Donovan shook up the starting rotation in Sunday's win over Toronto, moving Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. to the bench, and both turned in solid performances in their new roles. Zach LaVine's scoring has been down, but he still shot 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range while putting up 5.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.||2||40-42|
|Tony Snell's buzzer-beating 3-pointer broke the Raptors' hearts in their first game back from the break, with Toronto still missing several key players due to health and safety protocols. It turns out it really could have used that win, as the depleted roster simply ran out of gas in losses to the Hornets and Bulls to close out the week. That's now five losses in a row for Toronto, but Nick Nurse said he expects at least some of the sidelined players to be back for Wednesday's game against Detroit ... so at least that's something.||7||41-41|
|Sacramento easily put away a reeling Rockets squad on Thursday, then lost handily to the suddenly red-hot Atlanta Hawks on Saturday. De'Aaron Fox was a monster offensively, averaging 31 points and 7.5 assists on 51 percent shooting in the two games, while Richaun Holmes solidified the middle with 20 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Exciting rookie Tyrese Haliburton returned to the lineup after a calf injury sidelined him for the final four games before the All-Star break, and he'll undoubtedly be more productive once his minutes limit is removed.||2||48-34|
|Chris Finch had some time over the break to install his system, and it showed in the Wolves' first three games back from break. They bewildered Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram with a zone through most of their 30-point victory over the Pelicans, then split back-to-back games with the Blazers to close out the week. Anthony Edwards dropped a career-high 34 points in Sunday's win, and averaged 27.3 points for the week on 42 percent 3-point shooting. Jaylen Nowell has flourished with D'Angelo Russell and Jordan McLaughlin out of the lineup, averaging nearly 20 points on 13-for-21 3-point shooting for the week.||5||42-40|
|Rough start to the second half for the Wizards, who dropped games to the Grizzlies, 76ers and Bucks. The closest game they played actually came without Bradley Beal, as Russell Westbrook put up 42 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds against Milwaukee on Saturday. Beal was dealing with knee soreness, and it showed in the two games he played, as he averaged "just" 20 points per game on 2-for-10 3-point shooting. Rui Hachimura had a breakout game against the Bucks, putting up 29 points and 11 rebounds, which might get him going after an underwhelming first half.||2||35-47|
|Orlando dropped two games to the Heat this week, and was blown out by the Spurs in between. The Magic expectedly struggled to put the ball in the basket with Evan Fournier missing all three games and Terrence Ross out for two of them. Nikola Vucevic was forced to do most of the heavy lifting, averaging 29.3 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Ross returned with 31 points on 8-for-13 3-point shooting in Sunday's loss to Miami, and they'll need him to do that much more consistently in the second half if the Magic want to get back into the playoff picture.||--||34-48|
|Detroit continued its season-long trend of being competitive but still losing, dropping close games to the Hornets and Nets. Delon Wright returned to the lineup, averaging nine points and 4.5 assists in the two games while easing his way back into action. Jerami Grant averaged 27 points, but went 3 of 14 from the 3-point line. The front office acquired exciting young wing Hamidou Diallo from OKC in exchange for Svi Mykhailiuk, and Diallo should have plenty of opportunity in Detroit once he recovers from a groin issue.||--||17-65|
|Cleveland struggled in its first two games following the break, getting blown out by the Pelicans and Hawks. The Cavs mustered just 82 points, their second-lowest total of the season, in each game. Collin Sexton was completely out of rhythm in both games, shooting 34 percent from the field, going 1 for 8 from 3-point range and dishing out just two assists. Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. returned to the court this week, but Love left Sunday's loss after just two minutes due to a reaggravation of his calf injury.||4||51-31|
|Houston's 16-game losing streak shows no signs of slowing after the team dropped all three games this week by a significant margin. The best the Rockets played was actually against the Jazz without John Wall, Victor Oladipo or Eric Gordon, who will miss at least a month with a groin injury. Kevin Porter Jr. has been one of the team's lone bright spots, averaging 17 points and 8.3 assists in his first three games as a Rocket. Kenyon Martin Jr. has also impressed, averaging 16.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in over 30 minutes per game this week. Developing those two along with Christian Wood, who could return soon, will be a priority for the Rockets in the second half, since wins may be hard to come by.||1||22-60|