Let this sink in: Three weeks from now, the NBA regular season will be a thing of the past and we'll be doing last-minute prep on whichever teams end up facing off in the play-in matchups. The season can sometimes be a slog, but things come quick when time starts to run out.
The tightness of the Western Conference is virtually unprecedented, we know, but a couple of months ago it was hard to foresee the battle taking place at the top of the Eastern Conference. With the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks dominating for much of the year, the Philadelphia 76ers have gone on a late run to close the gap, pulling within two games of the first-place Bucks in the loss column.
It helps that the Sixers have won eight straight games, which makes them No. 1 in the Power Rankings for the second straight week. The Bucks also moved up by virtue of a win over last week's No. 2, the Sacramento Kings, while the Celtics' slide dropped them below the New York Knicks, who are in the top five again after a brief fall from grace last week.
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Speaking of falls from grace, the defending champion Golden State Warriors still can't win games (one game?) away from home, which led to a five-spot drop in this week's rankings. The biggest fallers, however, were the Brooklyn Nets, who are slipping closer to a play-in spot with every loss. The opposite end of fortune falls on the Toronto Raptors, who moved up a whopping nine spots thanks to their own wins and some losses from teams ahead of them.
Here are this week's NBA Power Rankings as the end of the regular season draws near.
*Please keep in mind that our NBA Power Rankings are based on weekly performance, not the whole season.
|The Sixers remain the league's hottest team with eight straight wins, including victories over the Cavs, Hornets and Pacers this week. The offense looked unstoppable behind a 35-point average from Joel Embiid in the three games, helping Philadelphia to a ridiculous 130.6 offensive rating.||--||54-28|
|Besides inexplicably allowing 139 points in a home loss to the Pacers without Tyrese Haliburton, the Bucks kept the train rolling this week with wins over the Kings, Suns and Raptors. As if they needed more good news, Khris Middleton -- who has struggled from distance so far this season -- knocked down 48 percent of his 3-pointers this week while averaging over 22 points per game.||1||58-24|
|The Kings kept on rolling with three more wins this week, their only loss coming in a litmus test against the Bucks on Monday. De'Aaron Fox continued his clutch heroics with a game-winning 3-pointer with less than a second remaining in a win over the Bulls.||1||48-34|
|The Cavs beat the Hornets and Wizards this week, with a loss to the 76ers in between. Caris LeVert had a strong stretch, putting up 20.3 points, 5.3 assists and three steals per game this week on 56 percent 3-point shooting.||1||51-31|
|The Knicks only had two games this week, picking up wins over the Blazers and Nuggets. Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett each averaged over 21 points in the two wins.||6||47-35|
|Strong week for the Grizzlies, whose only loss came to the Heat with wins over the Mavs, Spurs and Warriors. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane each averaged over 20 points for the week, and continue to lead the offensive attack with Ja Morant away from the team.||--||51-31|
|Boston's loss to the Rockets on Monday was one of the more shocking of the season, and they blew yet another large lead in Saturday's loss to the Jazz. In between were victories over the Wolves and Blazers, as Jaylen Brown led the way offensively with 32.5 points per game on 46 percent 3-point shooting.||3||57-25|
|The Nuggets' struggles continued this week with losses to the Raptors and Knicks, but they were able to beat the Pistons and Nets. Nikola Jokic averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds and 8.5 assists on absurd 72 percent shooting in the four games.||--||53-29|
|The Clippers beat the Warriors and Blazers this week, with a loss to the Magic sandwiched in between. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George each averaged over 27 points, while center Ivica Zubac put up 16.3 points and 14 rebounds per game.||1||44-38|
|Strong week for the Heat, who continue to gain ground on the Nets for the coveted No. 6 spot in the East, which would keep them out of the play-in. They beat the Jazz, Grizzlies and Pistons, with a loss to the Bulls. Jimmy Butler averaged 24.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists in the four games.||2||44-38|
|The Suns beat the Magic on Thursday, but that was their only win of the week with losses to the Warriors, Bucks and Thunder. Devin Booker carried the offense as Kevin Durant continues his rehab, averaging 32 points in the four games on 54 percent shooting.||2||45-37|
|With Luka Doncic still out, the Mavs lost to the Grizzlies and eked out an overtime win over the Spurs, then welcomed back Kyrie Irving in a thrilling win over the Lakers. Irving scored 38 points, but Maxi Kleber played the hero by scoring six points in the final seven seconds, including an improbable buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win it.||7||38-44|
|The Lakers lost to the Rockets without Anthony Davis this week, and were stunned by a miraculous game-winner by the Mavericks' Maxi Kleber, but they were able to pull out two more victories as they await LeBron James' return. Austin Reaves took over down the stretch in Sunday's win over the Magic, scoring a career-high 35 points and making 16 of 18 free throws.||--||43-39|
|The Raptors had a good week, beating the Nuggets, Thunder and Wolves before running into a buzzsaw Bucks team. Fred VanVleet caught fire from long range, averaging 26.5 points and 7.8 assists for the week on 49 percent 3-point shooting.||9||41-41|
|OKC beat the Nets and Suns this week, with a loss to the Raptors in between. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was masterful in Sunday's win over Phoenix, scoring 40 points while going 16 for 19 from the free throw line.||2||40-42|
|Rough week for the Nets, who lost to the Thunder, Kings and Nuggets. Offense was hard to come by, as they only mustered 104 points per 100 possessions despite playing a couple of forgiving defenses.||9||45-37|
|The Jazz dropped a close game with the Heat no Monday, but bounced back for an impressive one-point win over the Celtics on Saturday, in which they erased a 19-point deficit. Utah's defense held Jayson Tatum to 4-of-12 shooting in the win.||5||37-45|
|After blowing out the Hawks to start the week, things went downhill for Minnesota with losses to the Celtics, Bulls and Raptors, along with an ankle injury to Anthony Edwards. Defensive wiz Jaden McDaniels stepped up his offense with Edwards out, averaging 21.5 points in the last two games of the week on 8-for-15 3-point shooting.||4||42-40|
|Thank goodness the Hawks beat the Warriors this week, because their other two games were not pretty. They lost by 21 at home to the Wolves on Monday and suffered a devastating late collapse in Sunday's loss to the Spurs. A 24-point third-quarter lead in San Antonio was essentially dissolved by the start of the fourth en route to a demoralizing loss.||3||41-41|
|The Warriors started off the week with a win over the Suns, but then hit the road, where they're simply incapable of winning a game. Steph Curry dropped 50 points against the Clippers and averaged 30 for the week, but the Golden State defense forgot to board the plane, as usual.||5||44-38|
|The Bulls dropped a close one to the Kings to start the week before beating the Wolves and Heat on back-to-back nights. DeMar DeRozan is on a tear, averaging over 35 points in the three games, while Zach LaVine was close behind him with 27.3 per game.||--||40-42|
|The Pels lost to the Lakers to start the week, then were stunned on Jabari Smith Jr.'s game-winning 3-pointer in Friday's loss to the Rockets. New Orleans got revenge in Houston on Sunday, however, with CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram each going for 26 points.||4||42-40|
|It's pretty rare that you lose by 20 to the Pistons and beat the Bucks by 16 in the same week, but that's exactly what the Pacers did before being blown out by the 76ers on Saturday. What a ride. Aaron Nesmith and Andrew Nembhard led the scoring effort with Tyrese Haliburton missing all three games.||3||35-47|
|The Wizards beat the Pistons to start the week, before losing to the Cavs and Kings. Bradley Beal scored 36 points against Detroit, but Washington was unable to keep pace in the next two games.||--||35-47|
|Three losses this week for the Blazers, whose overall skid now sits at six games. Damian Lillard is still going strong, averaging 33 points this week on 38 percent 3-point shooting, but Portland struggled to generate enough offense with Jerami Grant sidelined.||--||33-49|
|Break up the Rockets! Houston rattled off three straight unexpected wins this week, beating the Celtics, Lakers and Pelicans -- the last one coming on a cold-blooded, last-second 3-pointer by rookie Jabari Smith Jr. Even Sunday's loss in the rematch with New Orleans yielded some positives, as Jalen Green hit the 40-point mark for the fourth time this season.||3||22-60|
|The Spurs decided they were sick of being a doormat this week, with victories over the Magic and Hawks and narrow defeats at the hands of the Mavs and Grizzlies. Players were in and out of the lineup, but Devin Vassell averaged 19.5 points on 50 percent 3-point shooting in the two wins.||1||22-60|
|Orlando picked up a solid road win over the Clippers this week, but balanced that out with an 18-point loss to the Spurs, in addition to defeats at the hands of the Suns and Lakers. Markelle Fultz continues to be a great story for the Magic, as he posted consecutive 25-point games for the first time in his career against the Suns and Clippers.||1||34-48|
|The Pistons started off the week on a bright note, beating the short-handed Pacers by 20 points, but then suffered double-digit losses to the Wizards, Nuggets and Heat. Rodney McGruder was the team's leading scorer this week, which should tell you everything you need to know about the current state of the Detroit Pistons.||1||17-65|
|The Hornets were blown out by two tough Eastern Conference opponents this week in the Cavs and 76ers. Kelly Oubre Jr. led the team with 19.5 points per game, but Charlotte shot just 11 for 58 from 3-point range in the two games. Not gonna get it done.||4||27-55|