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NBA Power Rankings: A new No. 1 emerges and the Toronto Raptors rise while the Houston Rockets come back down to earth

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Who rose to No. 1? (NBAE/Getty Images)

The playoffs are fast-approaching, as evidenced by a week of high-intensity meetings between top-10 teams.

How high did the Los Angeles Lakers surge after impressive back-to-back wins over title contenders? Did the Toronto Raptors make it back into the top five after grinding out a perfect week on West Coast? How much stock should we put into the Houston Rockets winless week?

Take a look at how this past week's results impacted our latest edition of power rankings.

10. Utah Jazz

Last week's ranking: 12th

Record: 41-22

Last week: 4-0 (win at CLE, win at NYK, win at BOS, win at DET)

This week: vs. TOR, at OKC, vs. NOP, vs. MEM

Have the Utah Jazz finally figured it out?

It's a question that's been asked numerous times throughout a season that's been filled with ups and downs, to say the least. Utah has responded to a concerning four-game skid with a five-game win streak, including four wins in the past week.

While the wins have come over the Wizards, Cavaliers, Knicks, Pistons and an ailing Celtics team, the Jazz deserve credit for handling business in games they should win. Someone to keep an eye on is Mike Conley, who is averaging 17.0 points and 5.4 assists on .500/.438/.846 shooting splits during the win streak.

Improved play from Conley in conjunction with solid play from the All-Star duo of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell can allow this team to reach its ceiling.

9. Miami Heat

Last week's ranking: 9th

Record: 41-23

Last week: 3-1 (win vs. MIL, win vs. ORL, loss at NOP, win at WAS)

This week: vs. CHA, vs. NYK, vs. CHI

It's hard to penalize a team for a week in which it bested the team with the league's top record and Miami did just that.

The Heat opened the week with a win over the Bucks in which they limited Giannis Antetokounmpo with a stifling effort on the defensive end.

They would also earn a home win over the Magic before splitting a pair of games on the road, with the loss coming in New Orleans and the win coming in D.C.

Thus continues the trend for a Miami team that looks unbeatable at home and much more flawed on the road. The Heat are now 27-4 at AmericanAirlines Arena but just 14-19 on the road.

It would appear that Miami is in a good position to have home court in the first round of the postseason but some of its road woes could be cause for concern down the line.

8. Denver Nuggets

Last week's ranking: 6th

Record: 42-21

Last week: 1-2 (loss vs. GSW, win at CHA, loss at CLE)

This week: vs. MIL, at DAL, at SAS, at LAL

It's not yet time to hit the panic button in Denver, but this past week could be a cause for concern.

In a loss to the shorthanded Warriors, the Nuggets managed to shoot just 3-for-20 (15.0%) from beyond the arc. They followed that performance up with a two-game trip that included a two-point win over the Hornets (courtesy of Jamal Murray) and a two-point loss to the Cavaliers in which they shot 3-for-8 (37.5%) from the charity stripe.

At its best, Denver looks like a team that can hang with the best teams in the league but at its worst, the team is susceptible to falling to lesser opponents. When playing up to their potential, the Nuggets can compete with the best of them.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: 8th

Record: 40-24

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

This week: vs. UTA, vs. MIN, at WAS

The Oklahoma City Thunder just keep finding ways to win.

After a loss to the Clippers, the Thunder closed the week with road wins over the Pistons, Knicks and Celtics.

In Boston, OKC was without leading scorer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, paving the way for All-Star Chris Paul and reserve Dennis Schroeder to step up to the challenge. CP3 responded with 28 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Schroeder scored 27 points and dished out six assists as the Thunder came from 18 down to earn a scrappy win.

In the clutch, Schroeder made the go-ahead layup while Paul got a crucial stop on Jayson Tatum in the game's final moments.

With the right matchup, this team can make some noise in the postseason.

6. Houston Rockets

Last week's ranking: 3rd

Record: 39-24

Last week: 0-4 (loss at NYK, loss vs. LAC, loss at CHA, loss vs. ORL)

This week: vs. MIN, at LAL, at POR

Houston might have a problem.

After surging towards the top of last week's rankings, the Rockets came back down to earth with a week of four disappointing losses.

Houston lost on the road to non-playoff teams in the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets while suffering double-digit home losses to playoff teams in the LA Clippers and Orlando Magic.

Slow starts have been an issue for the Rockets, who faced double-digit deficits in the first quarter against the Clippers, Hornets and Magic. Their small-ball approach still poses issues for opposing teams, but the past week might suggest that the code might have been cracked.

Houston will need to remedy its recent issues sooner rather than later in order to get back on track and avoid falling in the West's standings.

5. Boston Celtics

Last week's ranking: 5th

Record: 42-21

Last week: 1-3 (loss vs. BKN, win at CLE, loss vs. UTA, loss vs. OKC)

This week: at IND, at MIL, vs. WAS, at CHI

The results weren't ideal for the C's this past week, but the real concern is getting back to full strength.

In a week where it worked to re-integrate Kemba Walker (knee) back into the lineup, Jayson Tatum (illness), Jaylen Brown (hamstring) and Gordon Hayward (knee) each missed time due to various ailments.

It's hard to take much from a week where we didn't get a look at Boston at its best form and, in turn, it's difficult to penalize this team for the losses it sustained.

With Tatum developing into a bonafide superstar, the Celtics still have the potential to make a deep postseason run but as we saw this past week, that hinges on their ability to get everyone back and on the same page.

4. Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking: 7th

Record: 45-18

Last week: 3-0 (win at PHX, win at GSW, win at SAC)

This week: at UTA, vs. DET

As if going on a nine-day, five-game West Coast road trip wasn't difficult enough, the Raptors were forced to start the trip without starters Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet.

They still managed to put forth a perfect week.

A win over the Warriors saw Serge Ibaka return to the lineup while Marc Gasol was back in action in a win over the Kings.

Toronto's depth is one of its biggest strengths, as evidenced by the number of players capable of stepping up. While the All-Star duo of Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam can be expected to play at a high level, Norman Powell has excelled as of late, averaging 31.3 points (on 56.1% shooting) over the team's last three games.

The next step for the Raptors is to get all the pieces in order to establish some continuity for the postseason. They're well on their way.

3. LA Clippers

Last week's ranking: 4th

Record: 43-20

Last week: 2-1 (win at OKC, win at HOU, loss vs. LAL)

This week: at GSW, vs. BKN, vs. NOP

At their best, the LA Clippers look like the NBA's best team, and they'll only continue to get better.

And Kawhi Leonard is looking like the best version of himself that we've seen:

While the week ended with a win-streak-snapping loss to their in-arena rival, the Clippers did plenty to support the claim that they should be the favourite to win the NBA title in 2020.

Defensively, LA is scary.

With Patrick Beverley, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr. and Leonard each taking turns on teams' best perimeter scorers, points will be hard to come by. This was put on display in the dominant win over Houston that saw All-Stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook combine to shoot 15-for-44 (34.1%) from the field.

The Clippers are now 10-1 when at full strength, with the one loss coming to the Lakers this past week. With Leonard and George leading the way, LA has the star power and defensive pedigree to lead this franchise to its best postseason run ever.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week's ranking: 1st

Record: 53-11

Last week: 1-3 (loss at MIA, win vs. IND, loss at LAL, loss at PHX)

This week: at DEN, vs. BOS, vs. GSW

Three losses in a one-week span seemed unfathomable for a team that has been as dominant as the Bucks have been this season but somehow, over a quarter of Milwaukee's losses this season have come in the last seven days.

A look at recent injury reports can give an indicator of why.

Starting point guard Eric Bledsoe battled a stomach bug early in the week as the team fell in Miami. They were without sharpshooting reserve guard George Hill later in the week as they fell to the Lakers in a game that saw reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo suffer a sprained knee.

Without Giannis, Milwaukee fell behind early to Phoenix and could never put together enough to get over the hump.

While talks of 70 wins will probably come to an end - and understandably so - the Bucks are still historically dominant when at full strength. The concern now is a matter of their getting back to that level, and when they'll do so.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Last week's ranking: 2nd

Record: 49-13

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. PHI, win vs. MIL, win at LAC)

This week: vs. BKN, vs. HOU, vs. DEN

They've won 11 of their last 12 with the two most recent wins coming over the Bucks and Clippers. The Lakers entered the week in desperate need of a statement win, and in response, went out and got two, clinching a playoff berth in the process.

It's safe to say that this team is figuring things out and playing its best basketball at the best possible time.

During this span, LeBron James is averaging 28.4 points (on 52.3% shooting), 10.0 assists and 8.1 rebounds while Anthony Davis has posted averages of 27.4 points (on 49.5% shooting), 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks.

Even more encouraging? There's still room for improvement.

The past week also saw L.A. make an effort to address a need for shot creation and off-ball shooting by signing free agent Dion Waiters, who has only played in three games this season. The Lakers have already had a hand in the resurgence of Dwight Howard and if they can do similar with Waiters, they become an even scarier threat.

This recent surge suggests LeBron is gearing up for a monumental playoff showing, which only means great things for the Lakers.

Rest of the NBA

11. Dallas Mavericks

12. Indiana Pacers

The Pacers wrapped the week with a three-point road win over the Mavericks to finish a five-game road trip with a 4-1 record.

While Victor Oladipo is beginning to find his stride, Malcolm Brogdon will be out indefinitely with a torn left hip muscle. With Jeremy Lamb already out for the season, Indiana can ill-afford any other injuries to deplete its perimeter depth.

Still, the way this team digs deep to earn wins will make them a tough postseason opponent.

13. Philadelphia 76ers

14. Sacramento Kings

15. New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans has a minuscule margin of error in its playoff push and it's clear that the team knows.

After back-to-back losses to the Timberwolves and Mavericks, the Pelicans responded with wins over the Heat and a win in a rematch with the Timberwolves as Lonzo Ball continues to make strides in his game.

While Jrue Holiday has been incredible.

And Zion WIlliamson he continues to be Zion Williamson.

16. Memphis Grizzlies

17. Orlando Magic

18. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets saw just about everything this week.

It opened with Caris LeVert scoring a career-high 51 points to fuel a furious comeback victory over the Boston Celtics in overtime.

Less than 24 hours later, they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies by 39 points.

The week closed with a 19-point win over the Spurs followed by a coaching change

And a tight win over the Chicago Bulls.

Brooklyn now heads west for a four-game trip that includes meetings with both Los Angeles teams.

19. San Antonio Spurs

20. Phoenix Suns

21. Portland Trail Blazers

22. Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte is going all-in on developing its young talent and the approach is paying off.

The Hornets lost nail-biters to the Spurs and Nuggets by a combined three points before putting forth a pretty dominant performance against the Rockets that opened with a 20-0 run.

While Terry Rozier led the way, the Rising Stars trio of Devonte' Graham (23.5), P.J. Washington (21.0) and Miles Bridges (11.0) combined to score 55.5 points over the past week.

The rookie duo of twins Caleb and Cody Martin also showed very promising flashes of potential.

23. Washington Wizards

24. Atlanta Hawks

25. Cleveland Cavaliers

26. Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry looked great in his first game back from injury and the Warriors earned wins over the Nuggets and 76ers this week.

If nothing else, the final stretch of Golden State's season will provide plenty of excitement.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves

28. Chicago Bulls

29. New York Knicks

30. Detroit Pistons

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