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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz rise and a new team enters the top-10

We're nearing the halfway point of the NBA season as teams have shuffled in and out of the top-10 of these power rankings every week.

While the Milwaukee Bucks have yet to be dethroned from their top spot, there has been plenty of movement among the rest of the teams in the league.

This week, we had a new team enter the top-10 for the first time this season while another perennial powerhouse has fallen to their lowest spot of the season.

Take a look at where your favourite team landed in this week's power rankings.

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10. Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking: 8th

Record: 24-12

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. CLE, loss at MIA, win at BKN)

This week: vs. POR, at CHA, vs. SAS

The Raptors continue to fight through injuries, going 2-1 without star forward Pascal Siakam and key rotation players Marc Gasol and Norman Powell.

Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka have all stepped up to keep this team afloat while they recover from injuries, but it doesn't appear that any of the three hurt players are nearing a return any time soon.

Before Toronto's game against the Nets over the weekend, head coach Nick Nurse addressed the team's ailments, saying that if he were to guess, "the order of the comeback would probably be Matt (Thomas) and Norm (Powell), Marc (Gasol) and then lastly Pascal (Siakam) if that's the case.

"We're still a ways away with Marc and Pascal. I think Norm and Matt are in the front-view mirror, let's put it that way."

The Raptors have gone 5-4 since losing Siakam, Gasol and Powell in the same game back on Dec. 18.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: 13th

Record: 20-15

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. DAL, win at SAS, win at CLE)

This week: at PHI, at BKN, vs. HOU, vs. LAL

Aside from the first-place Bucks, there has been no team hotter than the Thunder over the past month.

Dating back to the start of December, Oklahoma City is 13-4. They've won five games in a row and nine of their last 10, surging their way into the Western Conference playoff picture.

Their backcourt is a three-headed monster featuring veteran Chris Paul, rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Dennis Schroder.

Paul is the floor general of this team, averaging 16.3 points and 6.6 assists per game while stepping up when his team needs him most, leading the NBA in clutch scoring. Gilgeous-Alexander is coming into his own as the team's leading scorer at 19.9 points per game and Schroder's 17 20-point games off the bench is the most in the league.

OKC has been one of the NBA's most plesant surprises this season and they don't appear to be slowing down any time soon.

8. Denver Nuggets

Last week's ranking: 3rd

Record: 24-11

Last week: 1-2 (loss at HOU, win at IND, loss at WAS)

This week: at ATL, at DAL, vs. CLE, vs. LAC

The Nuggets had a tough week falling to the Rockets then dropping a surprising game against the Wizards.

This team hasn't exactly clicked they were a season ago, yet they still own one of the best records in the NBA. Nikola Jokic has overcome a slow start to the season and is beginning to hit his stride.

Jamal Murray has struggled at times this year, but a 39-point outburst in their loss to Washington proves to be encouraging moving forward. Probably the biggest bright spot of the week came in their win over the Pacers, where rookie reserve Michael Porter Jr. was let loose for a career-high 25 points.

Should head coach Mike Malone continue to reward Porter Jr. with playing time, he could provide Denver with a much-needed spark on the offensive end at this point in the season.

7. Miami Heat

Last week's ranking: 2nd

Record: 26-10

Last week: 2-2 (loss at WAS, win vs. TOR, loss at ORL, win vs. POR)

This week: at IND, at BKN, at NYK

The Heat have had a very successful season but experienced some turmoil this week with a couple losses.

They were stunned by the short-handed Wizards and after picking up a strong win over the Raptors, they fell to the Magic on the back-end of a back-to-back.

Despite the so-so week, the Heat are still well above schedule to this point in the season, standing in at third place in the Eastern Conference. Jimmy Butler continues to put together a campaign worthy of a starting All-Star spot, averaging 20.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Breakout centre Bam Adebayo has also had an All-Star-worthy season, averaging 15.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.

These two players and the emergence of rookie standouts Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro have this team looking ready to make some noise in the playoffs, though we haven't hit the halfway point of the season just yet.

6. LA Clippers

Last week's ranking: 4th

Record: 26-12

Last week: 3-1 (win at SAC, win vs. DET, loss vs. MEM, win vs. NYK)

This week: vs. GSW, at DEN

The Clippers hit a bit of a snag following their blowout loss to the Grizzlies in which they allowed 140 points.

The dynamic bench duo Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams - two of the longest tenured players on the Clippers - each vocalized their displeasures with the team after the game, which sent shockwaves across the NBA world as people began to question what the issue could be.

When it was announced that Kawhi Leonard would miss the final game of the week, it put the team in jeopardy of suffering another inexplicable loss, which would have only made matters worse.

The Knicks gave LA all they could handle, but Harrell, Williams and Paul George were able to combine for 98 points to squeak out a victory.

Even if there is something going on in the lockerroom, the Clippers still own one of the best records in the NBA, but it's an interesting story to follow in the coming weeks.

5. Utah Jazz

Last week's ranking: 9th

Record: 23-12

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. DET, win at CHI, win at ORL)

This week: at NOP, vs. NYK, vs. CHA, at WAS

The Jazz are finally looking like the team they were hyped up to be this offseason, and it's all been without Mike Conley Jr.

Utah has won five games in a row and 10 of their last 11 and Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Bojan Bogdanovic have been amazing during that stretch.

Ingles has been a savior for the Jazz, filling in as the team's primary ball-handler with Conley out. As a starter, Ingles is averaging 13.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds shooting 50.7% from the field and 49.4% from 3. As a reserve, those numbers drop drastically at 7.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists shooting 36.2% from the field and 31.2% from 3.

Although they traded for Conley this offseason, it has been evident that the team is better with Ingles filling in that starting role for the time-being.

4. Houston Rockets

Last week's ranking: 7th

Record: 24-11

Last week: 2-0 (win vs. DEN, win vs. PHI)

This week: at ATL, at OKC, vs. MIN

The Rockets jumped into the top-five with two extremely impressive wins this week.

They scored 140 points against a stingy Nuggets defence with James Harden and Russell Westbrook combining for 63 points. In one of the best battles of the season against the 76ers, Harden exploded for a 44-point triple-double - his first triple-double of the season - to make a statement against one of the East's best teams on paper.

And it wasn't just Harden who stepped up in the win - centre Clint Capela handled All-Star big man Joel Embiid, going for a season-high 30 points to go with 14 rebounds.

When the trio of Harden, Westbrook and Capela are clicking, this Rockets team is tough to stop and we're starting to see them put it together. They have an easier week ahead, but do have one tough matchup against a red-hot Thunder squad.

3. Los Angeles Lakers

Last week's ranking: 6th

Record: 29-7

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. PHX, win vs. NOP, win vs. DET)

This week: vs. NYK, at DAL, at OKC

The Lakers hit a bit of a skid when they lost four consecutive games following their loss to the Clippers on Christmas Day. Since then, they've gotten right back on track rattling off five-straight wins to maintain their spot at the top of the Western Conference.

Their biggest performance of the week came from All-Star forward Anthony Davis punishing his former team. He exploded for 46 points and 13 rebounds while his runningmate LeBron James expanded upon his league-leading 11.0 assists per game, going for 17 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds.

Davis and James have been a dominant and driving force to keep this team atop of the grueling West and they are well on their way to both starting in the All-Star game.

2. Boston Celtics

Last week's ranking: 5th

Record: 22-8

Last week: 3-0 (win at CHA, win vs. ATL, win at CHI)

This week: at WAS, vs. SAS, at PHI, vs. NOP

The Celtics are rolling.

Behind the trio of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, this team is clicking on all cylinders and have surprisingly found their way to second-place in the Eastern Conference.

They're the only team in the NBA that has three players averaging 20.0 or more points per game with each of these stars stepping up whenever they're needed. Walker's 22.5 points per game leads the team as the three-time All-Star is well on his way to a fourth bid. Tatum and Brown are both averaging career-highs of 21.3 points and 20.6 points per game, respectively, and continue to grow their game every time they step on the floor.

Even with injuries and ailments sidelining key players like Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward and Robert Williams III, Boston has still found ways to churn out wins. And probably the biggest developmnet for a team that is constantly surrounded by the conversation of needing frontcourt help is Enes Kanter hitting his stride.

Kanter notched three-straight double-doubles in each of the Celtics' wins this week, averaging 14.7 points and 12.3 rebounds. He's also turned his defence up a notch, going for a career-high six blocks against the Hornets while averaging 3.3 blocks per game for the week.

If Kanter can keep that same energy moving forward, this team's ceiling will be higher than you think it is.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week's ranking: 1st

Record: 32-5

Last week: 3-0 (win at CHI, win vs. MIN, win vs. SAS)

This week: at SAS, at GSW, at SAC, at POR

The Bucks overtook the top spot of the power rankings in the first week of the season and have yet to surrender their spot. When you only have five losses nearly halfway through the season, their placement speaks for itself.

It was yet another perfect week for Milwaukee, who picked up a blowout win over the Bulls and close victories over the Timberwolves and Spurs. They had Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe return to the lineup this week, so it's no surprise they were able to go 3-0.

In their first games back, Antetokounmpo averaged 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists, including back-to-back 32-point performances to close the week. Bledsoe started the week on a minutes restriction but was slowly let loose, averaging 15.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals per game.

The Bucks are 26-3 in games that both Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe are in the lineup.

Rest of the NBA

11. Dallas Mavericks

12. Indiana Pacers

13. Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers drop to their lowest power rankings slot of the season after losing both of their matchups this week.

Philly fell to the Pacers and Rockets, extending their losing streak to a season-worst four games. Ben Simmons was a monster in their loss to the Rockets posting a big triple-double to go with four blocks and three steals, but they couldn't overcome Harden's 44-point triple-double.

The Sixers have three tough matchups coming up this week against the Thunder, Celtics and Mavericks, giving them a chance to right the ship against playoff-calibre teams.

14. Orlando Magic

15. Portland Trail Blazers

16. San Antonio Spurs

17. Phoenix Suns

18. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets started to hit their stride a bit behind the play of interim starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie but their success has come to a hault.

Brooklyn has now lost five games in a row and find themselves two games under .500, but they're still in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Before their game against the Raptors over the weekend, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving addressed the media for the first time.

He stated that he's "doing a lot better," but he's struggling to lift his shoulder when taking jump shots. Irving said he has seen several shoulder specialists and that surgery has been "posed as a possibility," but he does not have imminent plans for surgery and will continue to be evaluated.

Irving has not played since Nov. 14 and has no timetable for his return. In just 11 games with the Nets, he averaged 28.5 points, 7.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.

19. Charlotte Hornets

20. Sacramento Kings

21. New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans are starting to figure things out, winning five of their last six games to bring themselves within three games of the No. 8 seed in the West.

Brandon Ingram has been awesome all season, averaging 24.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists but it's Lonzo Ball's play over the past few weeks that has this team trending in the rigth direction.

This resurgence comes at the perfect time, as rookie phenom Zion Williamson appears to be inching closer to his NBA debut. He went through his first full practice of the season this past week, but there has yet to be a return date set in stone.

22. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have reportedly began to test the trade market for All-Star centre Andre Drummond.

Drummond is enjoying a solid season averaging a career-high 17.5 points per game to go with a league-leading 15.8 rebounds per game. He has led the NBA in rebounds per game in three of the past four seasons and could provide an assertive inside presence to a playoff contender in need of a big man.

23. Memphis Grizzlies

24. Minnesota Timberwolves

25. New York Knicks

26. Chicago Bulls

27. Washington Wizards

28. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are struggling but that hasn't stopped their young point guard from putting together an All-Star season.

Even playing through an ankle injury, Trae Young has been on a tear averaging 28.8 points and 8.3 assists per game, good for fourth and fifth-best in the NBA, respectively. He closed out the week with 41 points and eight assists in a win over a tough Pacers team.

29. Golden State Warriors

30. Cleveland Cavaliers

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