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
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.
Mountain Mike with quite a week over the teams' 4-game road sweep:- Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) March 9, 2020
𝐀𝐕𝐄𝐑𝐀𝐆𝐄𝐒: 17.3 points, 5.3 assists, shooting 46% from three.#PlayerOfTheWeek | @Xfinity pic.twitter.com/ncuauC4hMq
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
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.
Oh Deer, what a night on D 😬- Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) March 3, 2020
held the Bucks to 36.6% FG (15-41) and 14.3% 3PT FG (2-14) while forcing 6 turnovers and blocking 4 shots in the 2nd half of tonight's W. #HEATCulture pic.twitter.com/XnEb55iLsw
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
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.
𝙃𝙀 𝘾𝘼𝙇𝙇𝙀𝘿 𝙂𝘼𝙈𝙀- Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) March 6, 2020
The Blue Arrow closes it out with the fade-away dagger!!#MileHighBasketball pic.twitter.com/hKJG3iLvlw
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
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.
Nope that's our ball. #DennisSchröder | #6thman pic.twitter.com/8wzuzEAZgs- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 9, 2020
That's game.- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) March 9, 2020
And @CP3 is 𝙁𝙄𝙍𝙀𝘿 𝙐𝙋. pic.twitter.com/P446kS1OrJ
With the right matchup, this team can make some noise in the postseason.
6. Houston Rockets
Last week's ranking: 3rd
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.
James Harden is shooting 31.7% and 20.3% from three in the last 5 games.- StatMuse (@statmuse) March 9, 2020
He has shot 39.4 FG%, 30.4 3P% since the new year.
The Rockets have lost 4 straight. pic.twitter.com/9nZOOFdduG
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
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.
J.T. scores 30+ for 5th straight ☘️@jaytatum0 puts up 32 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST in the @celtics road win! #Celtics pic.twitter.com/A7OQtrD1IH- NBA (@NBA) March 5, 2020
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
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.
Lowry & Powell help the @Raptors pick up their 45th win of the season! #WeTheNorth @Klow7: 30 PTS, 8 AST@npowell2404: 31 PTS, 6 3PM pic.twitter.com/AdotdVAxUF- NBA (@NBA) March 9, 2020
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
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:
HAVE MERCY, KAWHI!@kawhileonard | #ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/WsbsMBhgwB- LA Clippers (@LAClippers) March 6, 2020
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
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.
Giannis sustained a left leg injury Friday night. He underwent an MRI and subsequent examination. The evaluation showed a minor joint capsule sprain of the left knee.- Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) March 8, 2020
He will not play in the remaining two games of the current road trip. https://t.co/I2PYJH0kWU
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
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.
LeBron James puts up 37 PTS, 8 REB, 7 AST as the Lakers beat Milwaukee and clinch an #NBAPlayoffs spot!- NBA (@NBA) March 7, 2020
Final in LA:@Bucks 103@Lakers 113 pic.twitter.com/uaLLooWdNJ
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.
LBJ, AD lift LAL 💪@KingJames (28 PTS, 7 REB, 9 AST) & @AntDavis23 (30 PTS) help the @Lakers top LAC at Staples Center! #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/MPJRj6KN6O- NBA (@NBA) March 8, 2020
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.
🗣️🗣️🗣️- NBA (@NBA) March 8, 2020
LeBron takes it STRONG to the cup and extends the lead!@Lakers 112@LAClippers 100
40.8 remaining on ABC pic.twitter.com/h60Xtryvib
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.
LONZO LATE GAME TAKEOVER pic.twitter.com/qpBqEKqCfl- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 8, 2020
While Jrue Holiday has been incredible.
❗️ Jrue season-high 37 ❗️@Jrue_Holiday11 posts 37 PTS, 9 REB, 8 AST as the @PelicansNBA defeat MIN. pic.twitter.com/sG4qmeXxzc- NBA (@NBA) March 8, 2020
And Zion WIlliamson he continues to be Zion Williamson.
Jrue ➡️ Zion! 💪 pic.twitter.com/8fNv8OArbK- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 7, 2020
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.
📼 | The 9th 50-point game in franchise history belongs to @CarisLeVert pic.twitter.com/66OCSjeSX9- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 4, 2020
That 50 was beautiful, Vert. Thank you for that masterpiece- Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 4, 2020
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
The Brooklyn Nets and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson have mutually agreed to part ways. Jacque Vaughn will serve as head coach for the remainder of the season.- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 7, 2020
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.
IT'S GETTING LOUD IN HERE! 💥@HornetsOnFSSE | @PJWashington x #AllFly pic.twitter.com/kTqMmGcSGj- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) March 8, 2020
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.
23 PTS | 7 REB | 7 AST@StephenCurry30 balled out last night 📽️ pic.twitter.com/5ZyC3kNRpw- Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 6, 2020
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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