NBA Power Rankings: Kyle Kuzma leads Lakers to top spot amid trade rumors; Jazz keep rolling; Celtics tumble
There were some unexpected results this week, with a shift in power at the top
Just when you think you've got the NBA figured out, we get a strange week like this one. The Lakers were all but left for dead when LeBron James and Anthony Davis both missed Saturday's game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City. But what happened? Kyle Kuzma, who has been the poster boy for the Lakers' lack of scoring depth for the past month or so, dominated the game with Rajon Rondo and Dwight Howard turning back the clock. The result is the Lakers eclipsing the Bucks for the top spot in this week's Power Rankings.
Other weird losses this week included the Nuggets getting blown out at home by the Cavs, who appeared to be on the verge of implosion earlier in the week, and the Heat losing to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. And then there are the Grizzlies, who just keep winning games and are looking like a legitimate contender to make the playoffs. All of that weirdness was buoyed by the return of Kyrie Irving, who put on an absolute display for the Nets in his first game since November.
Now we're starting to understand what Socrates meant when he said, "All I know is that I know nothing." Here are this week's NBA Power Rankings.
|1||Lakers||For all the talk of the Lakers being hopeless if either LeBron or Anthony Davis missed time, they emphatically proved that wrong by manhandling the Thunder on Saturday in OKC without either of their superstars. Kyle Kuzma, whose name has consistently been involved in trade rumors over the past month, led the team with a career-high 36 points while Rajon Rondo played like the 2009 version of himself. The Lakers' role players surely heard the chatter about it being a two-man team, and proved their point in a huge win, their eighth straight. The Lakers have earned their return to the top of the Power Rankings.||1||33-7|
|2||Bucks||It seems unfair to penalize the Bucks for one loss, but that's how good the top two teams in the league have been this season. Even with three convincing wins this week, that 22-point loss to the Spurs with a relatively healthy roster knocks Milwaukee out of the top spot ... for now. One thing to keep an eye on is the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was noticeably bothered by his back during their win over the Warriors and later admitted there was still lingering soreness. His scoring dropped from nearly 30 points per game on the season to "just" 24.8 this week.||1||36-6|
|3||Jazz||Don't look now, but the Jazz are tied with the Heat, Nuggets and Clippers for the third-most wins in the NBA. The schedule has softened and the Jazz are taking care of business, going 4-0 against the Pelicans, Knicks, Hornets and Wizards this week. The win streak is now up to nine, and Utah has put forth a balanced offensive attack. Six players are averaging double figures over the nine-game streak, including five over 14 points per game, and their offensive rating leads the league at 121.9 over that stretch.||3||28-12|
|4||Nuggets||Nothing like a home loss to the Cavs to wake you up, eh? The Nuggets were embarrassed by Cleveland, then took it to the Clippers the next night, leading by as many as 20 en route to a convincing win. Nikola Jokic put on a scoring display earlier in the week, putting up a career-high 47 points in a win over the Hawks, then dropping 33 in a win over the Mavericks.||5||27-12|
|5||Clippers||The Clippers looked less than refreshed after four days off, putting up a lackluster effort in a win over the Warriors then getting blown out by the Nuggets, who had lost at home to the Cavs the night before. Paul George missed both games with a hamstring strain, and head coach Doc Rivers doesn't seem too concerned with his team's recent malaise. The Clippers have have gone 4-3 with a negative net rating since their Christmas Day win over the Lakers, and aren't exactly looking like title contenders at the moment.||--||28-13|
|6||Rockets||The Rockets were embarrassed in Russell Westbrook's return to OKC as James Harden's shooting slump stagnated the offense. Harden dropped a 41-point triple-double against the Hawks, but shot a combined 14 for 51 from the field and 6 for 29 from the 3-point line in that game and the Thunder loss. He found his stroke in a win over the Wolves on Saturday, however, hitting 6 of 11 from deep. Westbrook has played well in his last two games, averaging 32 points and 7.5 assists.||2||26-13|
|7||Celtics||It was a rough week for the Celtics, who went 1-3 despite having most of their key players healthy. Brad Stevens said he hasn't been happy with the way his team has played since their Christmas Day win over the Raptors, after which they've had a 107.5 defensive rating, up from their stellar season mark of 104.5. They exploded offensively on Saturday behind a career-high 41 points from Jayson Tatum (in three quarters, no less), so maybe that will get the ship pointed back in the right direction.||4||27-11|
|8||76ers||The Sixers will wait to see how long they'll be without big man Joel Embiid, who had surgery on his left hand on Friday and is expected to be evaluated in the next week or so. Meanwhile, the 76ers looked great without him against the Celtics, with Ben Simmons taking advantage of the suddenly open court offensively. In their loss to the Mavericks on Saturday, however, Embiid's presence was sorely missed on both ends down the stretch. Al Horford has stepped up with Embiid out, averaging 16.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the last two games.||4||25-16|
|9||Heat||Miami beat the Pacers to open the week before dropping consecutive games to the Nets and Knicks. The Heat allowed 40 points in the fourth quarter to blow a 14-point second-half lead at MSG -- extremely uncharacteristic of an Erik Spoelstra team. Justise Winslow returned for one game before suffering a setback, and now he's going to see a back specialist. The Heat defense has been awful for the last 10 games, ranking 22nd in the NBA at 112.6 points allowed per 100 possessions.||2||27-12|
|10||Raptors||The bad news is the Raptors lost to the Blazers and Spurs at home during a 1-2 week. The good news is, Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell returned to the lineup in Sunday's loss to San Antonio. Both losses were one-possession games, so no reason to panic here. With Marc Gasol nearing a return, that just leaves Fred VanVleet as the biggest piece they're missing. It's going to look strange if the Raptors ever get their full roster active for the same game.||2||25-14|
|11||Mavericks||Kristaps Porzingis hasn't played in 2020, and the Mavs have gone 3-4 without him. Luka Doncic has been visibly frustrated with defenses getting more physical, but he took over late against the 76ers on Saturday to give Dallas a much-needed home win. Porzingis still hasn't practiced after receiving a PRP injection in his sore right knee, and the Mavericks miss him most defensively -- they're 21st in the NBA in defensive rating in their last seven games.||--||25-15|
|12||Pacers||Indiana lost to the Heat this week while beating the Hornets and Bulls, all without Malcolm Brogdon, who appears to be over his sore back but came down with an illness that kept him out of Friday's win over Chicago. Myles Turner went off for a season-high 27 points and 14 rebounds with Domantas Sabonis on the sidelines against the Bulls, highlighting the potential that's been somewhat stymied this season while Sabonis has thrived.||1||25-15|
|13||Thunder||The Thunder picked up a huge national TV win over the Rockets in Russell Westbrook's emotional return game and Chris Paul showcased his closing abilities in a win over the Nets, but they also lost to the 76ers and Lakers. The Lakers game was quite a shock, since neither LeBron James nor Anthony Davis suited up and OKC was never even close to winning. The Thunder have solidified themselves in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings, and it will take a dramatic turnaround to get them out of playoff position.||3||23-17|
|14||Grizzlies||The bottom of the West has been bad, and the Grizzlies are making their move for the No. 8 spot with five wins in a row, including victories this week over the Timberwolves, Spurs and Warriors. Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks have all averaged over 18.5 points per game during the win streak, and Jackson has made 18-of-35 3-pointers.||--||19-22|
|15||Spurs||If we told you the Spurs went 3-1 against the Bucks, Celtics, Grizzlies and Raptors this week, you probably wouldn't guess that the loss came to the Grizzlies. The Spurs have played much better of late, winning five of their last eight games behind the best stretch of the season for DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. DeRozan is averaging 28.3 points per game on 62 percent shooting over the last eight games, while Aldridge has averaged three made 3-pointers per game.||3||17-21|
|16||Magic||The Magic missed out on a 3-0 week by blowing a four-point lead with less than a minute remaining against the Suns on Friday. They've now won four of their last six games despite losing Jonathan Isaac for an extended period of time. They've struggled to score over that stretch, but the defense has been outstanding. Terrence Ross has picked up the scoring slack, averaging 16.8 points over his last six games.||1||19-21|
|17||Nets||The Nets couldn't have asked for a better first game back for Kyrie Irving -- he scored 21 points in 20 minutes on a ridiculous 10 for 11 from the field in a blowout win over the Trae Young-less Hawks. Things will get tougher soon, though, as the Nets face the Jazz, 76ers twice, Bucks and Lakers over the next two weeks.||1||18-21|
|18||Pelicans||The Pelicans have been playing better of late as we anticipate the debut of Zion Williamson. Alvin Gentry said that the return of Derrick Favors has a lot to do with the Pels' turnaround, and his point was proven when the Celtics dropped 140 points on them with Favors out of the lineup on Saturday. New Orleans has now won seven of its last 10 games and during that time the defense has improved to 15th in the NBA, compared to 27th in the league before that stretch.||1||15-26|
|19||Suns||The Suns beat the Magic and Hornets this week and lost to the Kings. They had trouble putting the ball in the basket, but the defense was stout -- a sign that they might be getting back to what made them successful in the early season. Kelly Oubre Jr. has come alive offensively, averaging 22 points and nine rebounds on 40 percent 3-point shooting over his last five games.||1||16-24|
|20||Kings||The Kings beat the Warriors and Suns this week before being blown out by the Bucks. The injuries continue to mount, as Richaun Holmes was the latest to miss action for Sacramento. The good news for the Kings is that De'Aaron Fox is starting to play like the budding All-Star he is, averaging 22.3 points, 7.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds over his last three games. Trevor Ariza has stepped up with all the team's injuries, putting up nearly 15 points per game on 52.9 percent 3-point shooting this week.||5||15-25|
|21||Hornets||Charlotte lost all four games this week, and their net rating is now 26th in the NBA at minus-6.8. Feel-good story of the first quarter of the season Devonte' Graham has dropped off since his hot start, averaging 16.7 points on 31.6 percent 3-point shooting over his last 10 games. They need all the scoring help they can get since they're a bottom-three defensive team right now.||4||15-28|
|22||Wizards||The Wiz continued their 2019-20 tradition of beating teams they have no business beating by taking down the Celtics without Bradley Beal to kick off the week. They added a win over the Hawks, with losses to the Magic and Jazz. Beal, Thomas Bryant and Davis Bertans are all healthy now, which makes the potent Wizards offense -- now ninth in the NBA in efficiency -- even more dangerous. Their porous defense limits their chances at being a legitimate contender to earn a playoff spot, however.||2||13-26|
|23||Timberwolves||The short-handed Wolves dropped games to the Grizzlies and Rockets this week, but blew out the Blazers for a big home win. Karl-Anthony Towns' knee is still bothering him, but Gorgui Dieng has filled in admirably in the middle for the Wolves, averaging 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game since entering the starting lineup on Dec. 18. Rookie Jarrett Culver has also picked up his play of late, averaging 17 points and 6.3 rebounds on 50 percent 3-point shooting in three games this week.||2||15-24|
|24||Trail Blazers||Carmelo Anthony's game-winner in Toronto was spoiled by a disastrous Blazers performance in a blowout loss to the Timberwolves two nights later. Portland has now lost eight of its last 10 games as it remains logjammed in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot out West. CJ McCollum is mired in a mini-slump, shooting 36 percent from the field in his last three games.||1||17-24|
|25||Cavaliers||With the Cavs already on the verge of mutiny, it appeared that head coach John Beilein using the word "thugs" when addressing his team might be the last straw. Instead he apologized, saying he meant to use the word "slugs," and then they won their next two games, including a shocker over the Nuggets in Denver on Saturday. Go figure. Tristan Thompson had a career-high 35 points in their win over the Pistons following the incident, and the Cavs celebrated like they won the NBA title. It appears some joy has returned to the Cleveland locker room ... at least for now.||4||12-29|
|26||Bulls||Chicago snapped a six-game losing streak on Saturday with a win over the undermanned Pistons, who became further depleted when Andre Drummond was ejected early in the second half. Zach LaVine has been a scoring machine, averaging 30 points per game this week, but the Bulls defense -- which is ninth in the NBA overall -- has fallen to the bottom of the league over the last four games.||4||14-27|
|27||Knicks||The Knicks struggled early in the week with key players like Marcus Morris and Julius Randle missing games, but they put a ribbon on the week with a huge comeback win over the Miami Heat. Reggie Bullock got some extra run with the injuries, and may have piqued the interest of contenders looking for shooting ahead of the trade deadline, averaging 11.8 points on two made 3-pointers per game over his last four.||--||11-30|
|28||Pistons||The Pistons beat the Cavs, 115-113, to start the week, then lost to the Cavs two nights later by almost the exact same score, 115-112. Such statistical quirks are about all we have to look forward to with Pistons games, as Blake Griffin's potentially season-ending knee surgery has all but ended any playoff hopes. A full rebuild may be on the horizon in Detroit, so they're certainly a team to keep an eye on as the trade deadline nears.||--||14-27|
|29||Warriors||Golden State played the Bucks and Clippers close this week, but still went winless in four games. D'Angelo Russell returned to the court in Sunday's loss to the red-hot Grizzlies and showed no ill effects, putting up 34 points on 12-for-24 shooting, including 5-of-9 3-pointers. With Draymond Green and Russell in the lineup, Golden State will likely be much more competitive and may even get a couple of wins in the near future.||1||9-33|
|30||Hawks||The Hawks have the fewest wins in the NBA, and Trae Young missed Sunday's blowout loss to the Nets with a hamstring issue. Young is fourth in the NBA in usage rate, so needless to say Atlanta will be lost without him offensively if he misses extended time. It has now lost eight of the nine games that John Collins has played in since returning from suspension, so it hasn't exactly been the boost it was hoping for. We'll see if the Hawks make a play for Andre Drummond, whom they've reportedly shown interest in, at the trade deadline.||4||9-32|
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