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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Houston Rockets continue to rise, Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors take a fall

There was plenty of movement in this week's power rankings.

The Houston Rockets' hot streak jolted them up the ladder while the Toronto Raptors' winless week saw the defending champions take a slide. One team fell out of the top-10 as a new, but familiar team rejoined the NBA's best.

Take a look and see where your favourite team landed in this week's rankings!

10. Dallas Mavericks

Last week's ranking: 11th

Record: 36-24

Last week: 3-1 (win vs. MIN, win at SAS, loss vs. MIA, win at MIN)

This week: at CHI, vs. NOP, vs. MEM, vs. IND

The Mavericks put together an impressive 3-1 week to re-enter the top-10 on our rankings.

Luka Doncic was up to his usual business in the team's win over the Spurs, picking up his 13th triple-double of the season to the tune of 26 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds, tying him with LeBron James for the most in the league.

But he struggled in the team's loss to the Heat and sat out the team's win second win over the Timberwolves, where Seth Curry and Kristaps Porzingis stepped up accordingly.

Curry is really starting to carve a role as the starting shooting guard, and he dropped a career-high 37 points and eight 3-pointers in the Mavs loss in Miami. He followed that up with 27 points in the team's win over Minnesota to close the week, adding to what was a dominant performance of 38 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks from Porzingis.

Although Dallas has slid down to the No. 7 seed in the West, just three games separates them from the No. 4 seed and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

9. Miami Heat

Last week's ranking: 8th

Record: 38-22

Last week: 2-2 (loss at CLE, loss vs. MIN, win vs. DAL, win vs. BKN)

This week: vs. MIL, vs. ORL, at NOP, at WAS

The Heat started the week with a pair of brutal losses but were able to turn things around with wins over the Mavericks and Nets.

It's been a team-effort all season from this Miami squad with seven different players averaging double figures in scoring. This week was no different, as they had at least six different players notch double-digits points in each of their games. Some nights its Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson. Other nights its Kendrick Nunn, Goran Dragic, Derrick Jones Jr. or Jae Crowder. And that's with players like Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard sidelined with injuries.

This Heat team has a number of different ways to beat you and depth is their strength. They've struggled a bit losing four out of their last 10 games, slowly falling out of the race for the No. 2 seed in the East, but it's hard to imagine that any team would be hoping to see this fiesty squad in the playoffs.

They have one of their biggest tests of the season to kick off this next week, hosting the first-place Bucks.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: 10th

Record: 37-23

Last week: 2-1 (win at CHI, win vs. SAC, loss at MIL)

This week: vs. LAC, at DET, at NYK, at BOS

Since the start of December, the Bucks are the only team in the NBA with more wins than the Thunder. As a result, Oklahoma City has made their way up the Western Conference standings and surprisingly enough, find themselves just four games out of the No. 2 seed.

They were shorthanded and destroyed by Milwaukee to close their week, but the Bucks have been doing that to just about everybody. The Thunder remain the NBA's best team in close games, pulling off two more victories by less than two possessions with a win over the Bulls by two and the Kings by four.

Chris Paul was clutch in the fourth quarter of both games, as he has been all season. Danilo Gallinari stepped up in the fourth quarter of each win. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander knocked down key shots in each win. This team is loaded with players that aren't afraid of the moment, stepping up when called upon in close games.

According to NBA stats, their 27 wins "in the clutch" leads the league with the next closest team(s) - the Nuggets, 76ers and Jazz - being four wins shy of that mark. OKC is going to be a tough out in the playoffs, especially with how battle tested they've been all season in games decided by a small margin.

7. Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking: 3rd

Record: 42-18

Last week: 0-3 (loss vs. MIL, loss vs. CHA, loss at DEN)

This week: at PHX, at GSW, at SAC

it was a rough week for the defending champions.

Playing short-handed finally caught up to the Raptors, suffering an ugly home loss to the Hornets, followed by a blowout road loss to the Nuggets, both without Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka or Fred VanVleet in the lineup.

Toronto had kept the wins coming throughout the majority of the season so far regardless of who was healthy and who was hurt. This is just their second three-game losing streak of the season, but they remain in second place in the East with a half-game lead over the Celtics.

One of the glaring concerns from this bad stretch is the play of All-Star forward Pascal Siakam, who has looked like a shell of himself. Over the team's three losses, Siakam averaged 20.7 points but shot 36.2% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Without their go-to guy performing at an All-Star calibre level, Toronto struggled to find another source of offence.

But there was one bright spot from the week: OG Anunoby's performance against the Nuggets. Anunoby went for a career-high 32 points shooting 12-for-16 from the field to go with seven rebounds and seven steals. He became the first player in franchise history to record 30-plus points and seven steals in a game, and tallied a total of 13 steals over the Raptors final two games of the week.

They continue their road trip this week with the potential of seeing Stephen Curry in his return game when they play the Warriors.

6. Denver Nuggets

Last week's ranking: 7th

Record: 40-18

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. DET, loss at LAC, win vs. TOR)

This week: vs. GSW, at CHA, at CLE

The Nuggets were routed by the Clippers, but they were dominant in their other two wins this week.

Denver handled the defending champion Raptors as Nikola Jokic tortured Toronto's short-handed frontcourt. Without Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol available, Jokic took advantage of the size disparity going for a triple-double of 23 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists.

Jokic has been great this past month, averaging 25.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game shooting 64.7% from the field. After an extremely slow start to the season, The Joker has worked his way back into some MVP discussions as his Nuggets are pushing for that No. 2 seed in the West.

Though their result against the Clippers doesn't help that case, they have an easier schedule ahead of them this week facing off against three teams out of the playoff picture in their respective conferences.

5. Boston Celtics

Last week's ranking: 4th

Record: 41-18

Last week: 2-1 (win at POR, win at UTA, loss vs. HOU)

This week: vs. BKN, at CLE, vs. UTA, vs. OKC

The Celtics nearly pulled off a perfect week against three solid Western Conference opponents but their miraculous comeback came up short in overtime against the Rockets.

Regardless, Boston has truly established themselves as contenders in the East over the past few weeks as the team's play has risen to another level behind the jump taken by All-Star forward Jayson Tatum.

Tatum was unstoppable in February, finishing the month with averages of 30.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game shooting a lights-out 49.4% from the field and 48.1% from beyond the arc.

He's now scored at least 30 points in five of his last six contests and has notched back-to-back games with an impressive 30-plus points and 10-plus rebounds.

If this is any indication of how he's going to play the rest of the season, we might see this 21-year-old star carry this team deep into the postseason.

4. LA Clippers

Last week's ranking: 6th

Record: 41-19

Last week: 4-0 (win vs. MEM, win at PHX, win vs. DEN, win vs. PHI)

This week: at OKC, at HOU, at LAL

The Clippers are getting hot at the right time, winning four-consecutive games heading into their most important week of the regular season.

All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard has been at the forefront of this recent win streak, as he has been for LA all season. He averaged 24.5 points over the team's four wins, which included a 19-point game that brought his average down due to limited playing team in his team's blowout win over the Nuggets.

As for the Clippers other star forward, Paul George is still struggling to find his rhythm, scoring a combined 18 points shooting 7-for-24 from the field and 3-for-11 from deep in LA's first two wins of the week. He made progress on that front with back-to-back 24-point games to close the week, but the Clippers desperately need him to get going if they're going to reach their full potential.

With road games against the Thunder and Rockets on the horizon, finished off with the third edition of the Battle for LA, the Clippers have their toughest test of the season ahead of them and we'll truly get to see what this team is made of with a healthy roster going into these contests.

3. Houston Rockets

Last week's ranking: 5th

Record: 39-20

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. NYK, win vs. MEM, win at BOS)

This week: at NYK, vs. LAC, at CHA, vs. ORL

The Rockets are the second-hottest team in the NBA right now, riding a six-game win streak after another strong week.

In their first month experimenting with their new small-ball strategy, it's continued to work. They've gone 7-2 since committing to this strategy full-time, with one of their two losses coming without Russell Westbrook in the lineup and the other falling in a contest where an improbable buzzer-beater decided the outcome.

With their full small-ball lineup in the fold, they've been dominant, and they've beaten good teams, too. Their wins include the Celtics twice, the Jazz, the Lakers and the Grizzlies so far - all of which are playoff teams in their respective conferences.

Westbrook has played a huge role in that success, taking his game to another level over the past month. The former MVP averaged 33.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game over the month of February, all while shooting 54.9% from the field.

He took over in the team's overtime win against Boston, torching the Celtics for 41 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.

As long as Westbrook can keep this up, Houston should be able to keep this momentum moving forward.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Last week's ranking: 2nd

Record: 46-13

Last week: 3-1 (win vs. NOP, win at GSW, loss at MEM, win at NOP)

This week: vs. PHI, vs. MIL, at LAC

LeBron James simply is not human.

At 35 years old, in his 17th NBA season, he continues to raise his play to a level that few - if any - other players can reach. Stepping toe-to-toe with a next-generation superstar in 19-year-old Zion Williamson, James came out to prove a point that this is still his league.

In their first meeting, he posted a season-high 40 points including a couple of clutch 3s that put the game away. In their second meeting, he notched his 13th triple-double of the season going for 34 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds to outplay Williamson's career-high in scoring to assure his Lakers came away with another win.

He's The King for a reason, and when it comes to big matchups, he always steps up.

The Lakers are rolling, but have a mightily important week ahead of them with games against the 76ers, Bucks and Clippers.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week's ranking: 1st

Record: 52-8

Last week: 4-0 (win at WAS, win at TOR, win vs. OKC, win at CHA)

This week: at MIA, vs. IND, at LAL, at PHX

This is just getting silly.

The Bucks had two marquee games this week against playoff threats in each conference and made both contests look easy. They handled the Raptors without playing their best basketball, as Giannis Antetokounmpo was held under 20 points for just the sixth time this season. Then Milwaukee routed the Thunder by 47 points, destroying one of the NBA's best teams over the past few months.

To close the week, we saw the reigning MVP go for his first-ever 40-20 game, dropping 41 points, 20 rebounds and five assists on the Hornets.

He became the first player in recorded history to go for 40-plus points, 20 or more rebounds and five assists in under 35 minutes of playing time, racking up more records while only having to play an average of 30.8 minutes per game because of how bad the Bucks have been beating teams.

This upcoming week, they have another couple tests against East playoff teams like the Heat and Pacers, as well as their second highly anticipated clash against the Lakers. If Milwaukee can make it out of this week unscathed again, the rest of the league should just take cover.

Rest of the NBA

11. Indiana Pacers

12. Utah Jazz

13. Philadelphia 76ers

It appears that the 76ers have found their replacement for All-Star guard Ben Simmons, who's out of the lineup with lower back tightness.

Second year, undrafted guard Shake Milton made his presence known in the team's final game of the week against the Clippers. Though the effort came in a loss, Milton put on a show with a career-high 39 points to go with eight made 3-pointers.

Tobias Harris was also great this past week in the absence of Simmons and All-Star centre Joel Embiid, who is also out with a shoulder injury. Responsibility will fall on Harris, Al Horford, and apparently Milton to keep this team afloat while the Sixers try and get healthy before the playoffs.

14. Sacramento Kings

15. New Orleans Pelicans

Although the Pelicans lost both meetings against the Lakers, Zion Williamson handled his business in his first two head-to-head matchups against LeBron James.

He had 29 points and six rebounds in their first meeting, then followed that up with a career-high 35 points in their second contest.

He's scored 20-plus points in 11-consecutive games, the longest streak in NBA history from a teenager and it's still going.

Williamson has more than lived up to the hype through his first 15 games of his career, but New Orleans is still three games back from the No. 8 seed in the West. They have 22 games remaining in the season to try and cut into that deficit to make a playoff push.

16. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies were losing their grip on the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference after dropping their first five games after the All-Star break.

With a six-consecutive loss expected as they hosted the first-place Lakers, Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ja Morant was not going to let his team continue to slide. He went off against Los Angeles, going for 27 points, 14 assists and six rebounds in a much-needed win for Memphis.

With 22 games remaining in their schedule, they hold a XX lead over the next-closest team in the field fighting for the final playoff spot in the West.

17. Orlando Magic

Aaron Gordon has been on a tear since being snubbed from the Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star weekend.

Most recently, the Magic's forward recorded his first career triple-double with 17 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in a win over the Timberwolves.

Since the All-Star break, Gordon is averaging 17.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steals per game shooting 52.5% from the field.

18. San Antonio Spurs

19. Portland Trail Blazers

20. Brooklyn Nets

21. Phoenix Suns

22. Washington Wizards

23. Atlanta Hawks

24. Charlotte Hornets

25. Detroit Pistons

26. Cleveland Cavaliers

27. Chicago Bulls

28. Minnesota Timberwolves

29. New York Knicks

30. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors expected to get Stephen Curry back in the lineup for their final game of the week against the Wizards, but head coach Steve Kerr and Golden State's medical team ultimately decided to push the two-time MVP's return back.

Curry has been out since Oct. 30 with a fractured left hand. He returned to full-contact practice and scrimmaging last week, but Kerr and the medical staff have chosen to take a cautious approach despite the sharpshooter's desire to return to action.

The Warriors have three games coming up this week, with matchups against the Nuggets, Raptors and 76ers. Curry's return could come in one of those meetings.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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