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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: The Portland Trail Blazers and LA Clippers are on the rise, Toronto Raptors drop out of top-five

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The Blazers and Clippers are on the rise [NBA.com Illustration]

Here is a look at the NBA Power Rankings through Week 23 of the 2018-19 NBA season.

Let's make one thing clear: These power rankings are a snapshot of where things stand now, not necessarily how they'll look at the end of the season. We're all about giving credit where it's due and, likewise, holding teams accountable for speed bumps encountered along the way.

All records and stats are through games played Monday, March 25.

10. San Antonio Spurs

Last week : 6th

Current record : 43-31

Last week : 2-2 (win vs. Warriors, loss vs. Heat, loss at Rockets, win at Celtics)

This week : at Hornets, vs. Cavaliers, vs. Kings

The Spurs entered the week as the hottest team in the NBA, riding an eight game win streak.

They extended that streak with a high-quality win over the Warriors, but were brought back down to earth with consecutive losses to the Heat and Rockets.

LaMarcus Aldridge had one of his worst games of the season against Houston, but made up for it in a big way in a clutch bounce-back win in Boston to close out the week.

The All-Star forward went off for 48 points on 30 shots, unleashing havoc on the struggling Celtics by way of the midrange jumper.

Despite the hot streak, the Spurs are still in 8th place in the Western Conference. Only one game separates them from the No. 8 seed and the No. 5 seed, but they'll have to keep the wins coming if they want to completely avoid facing Golden State in the first round.

9. Utah Jazz

Last week : 10th

Current record : 43-30

Last week : 3-1 (win at Wizards, win at Knicks, loss at Hawks, win at Bulls)

This week : vs. Suns, vs. Lakers, vs. Wizards

The Jazz spent the entire week away from home as they went 3-1 on a road trip out East, taking care of business against three of four lottery-bound opponents.

Utah has won six of its last seven games, and while Rudy Gobert has anchored the defence, Donovan Mitchell's play on the offensive end has had a big role in the team's recent surge.

Since March 13, the second-year guard is averaging 24.7 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from deep.

In this same span, the Jazz have averaged 118.4 points per game while posting the league's second-best Offensive Rating (117.4) and Defensive Rating (100.1) for a ridiculous Net Rating of 17.3.

Utah has a favorable schedule as the year winds down and looks to move up in the West standings while building momentum for the playoffs.

8. Denver Nuggets

Last week : 8th

Current record : 49-23

Last week : 3-1 (win at Celtics, win at Wizards, win at Knicks, loss at Pacers)

This week : vs. Pistons, at Rockets, at Thunder, vs. Wizards

The Nuggets started the week with the challenge of winning on the road in Boston and succeeded with ease.

They handled the Wizards and the Knicks but didn't come to play to close out the week, suffering a 36-point loss to the Pacers, their worst loss of the season.

However, the Nuggets still find themselves in great shape to potentially finish with the Western Conference's best record. A mediocre 3-2 week for the Warriors has Denver closer to that top seed, just 0.5 games back from the defending champions.

According to tankathon.com, the Nuggets have the third hardest remaining schedule in the league while the Warriors have the sixth easiest schedule.

They'll be put to the test this week with road trips against two of the most talented teams in the West. They'll try and even out the season series against the Rockets, then travel to Oklahoma City to try and pull off a four-game sweep of their potential first round playoff matchup.

7. LA Clippers

Last week : 11th

Current record : 44-30

Last week : 3-0 (win vs. Pacers, win at Cavaliers, win at Knicks)

This week : at Timberwolves, at Bucks, vs. Cavaliers, vs. Grizzlies

The Clippers crack the top 10 after a perfect 3-0 week in which they moved up in the Western Conference standings.

LA has won nine of its last 10 games and enters this week on a five-game win streak - the longest current streak in the NBA.

Over this five-game stretch, Danilo Gallinari has averaged 24.8 points per game (on 51.9 percent shooting from the field and 40.6 percent shooting from 3-point range) while the reserve duo of Montrezl Harrell (20.8 ppg, 56.7 FG%) and Lou Williams (20.2 ppg, 5.2 apg) have had big moments offensively.

Canadian rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to look wise beyond his years as he is averaging 14.8 points and 6.6 assists over this same span.

Eight games remain for the Clippers, who continue jockeying for playoff positioning in the crowded West. Depending on who plays and who rests, LA's next big test could come this Thursday when they travel to Fiserv Forum to take on Milwaukee.

6. Toronto Raptors

Last week : 5th

Current record : 51-23

Last week : 2-2 (win vs. Knicks, win at Thunder, loss vs. Thunder, loss vs. Hornets)

This week : vs. Bulls, at Knicks, at Bulls

A hot start was spoiled by two rough losses to close out the week for the Raptors.

They dominated the Knicks then earned a gritty overtime road win in OKC. In their second matchup against the Thunder, 37 points from Kawhi Leonard wasn't enough to overcome a 28-point effort from Paul George and a triple-double from Russell Westbrook. Then, the Raptors lost to the Hornets in the least likely way possible by way of a half court heave from Jeremy Lamb.

MORE: Takeaways from the Raptors' stunning loss to Hornets

Even though Toronto went 2-2, Pascal Siakam added another fantastic week to his resume in hopes to be this season's Most Improved Player.

The budding fourth year forward averaged 25.0 points on 65.1 percent shooting from the field and 45.5 percent from three on the week - it doesn't get much more efficient than that. He grabbed 8.3 rebounds, dished out 4.5 assists and posted 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks over that stretch.

But it's more than the numbers that symbolizes his growth as a player this year - with Kyle Lowry out of the lineup, head coach Nick Nurse had called on Siakam to step up and defend Russell Westbrook in their matchups against the Thunder.

He also saw an uptick in possessions where he was the primary ball handler, often pushing the tempo on the break.

He's been one of, if not the , most consistent player for the Raptors all season and weeks like this past one show why he's more than deserving of that Most Improved trophy.

5. Portland Trail Blazers

Last week : 7th

Current record : 45-27

Last week : 3-0 (win vs. Pacers, win vs. Mavericks, win vs. Pistons)

This week : vs. Nets, at Bulls, at Hawks, at Pistons

The chatter surrounding Portland has seemingly died down, but the team has "quietly" won six of its last seven after a perfect 3-0 week.

Concerns rose after CJ McCollum went down with a scary knee injury in a loss to San Antonio, but collective relief was felt across the franchise as reports indicated it was not as bad as it looked.

In his backcourt-mates' absence, Damian Lillard has averaged 30.3 points per game while shooting 54 percent from the field and 51 percent from beyond the arc.

As they await the return of their prolific 2-guard, the Blazers look to continue their winning ways ahead of the postseason

4. Golden State Warriors

Last week : 1st

Current record : 50-23

Last week : 3-2 (loss at Spurs, win at Timberwolves, win vs. Pacers, loss vs. Mavericks, win vs. Pistons)

This week : at Grizzlies, at Timberwolves, vs. Hornets

It was a busy week for the Warriors, who played five games in seven days.

They were served a tough loss in San Antonio and were routed at home by the Mavericks but picked up wins in their three other games to give themselves a 0.5-game lead on the Nuggets for the No. 1 seed in the West.

At this point in the season, the Warriors' health is the only thing that matters. If this team can remain healthy, they'll surely make another run through the playoffs in hopes to win a third consecutive NBA championship.

DeMarcus Cousins returned to the lineup for the final three games of the week after missing two games with an ankle injury. Stephen Curry rested through the Mavericks game but was back in action with no issues against the Pistons.

You'll probably see more guys resting if the Warriors can give themselves more room to breathe at the top of the West standings and with an easier schedule this upcoming week, they have just the perfect opportunity to create that space.

3. Houston Rockets

Last week : 4th

Current record : 47-27

Last week : 3-1 (win at Hawks, loss at Grizzlies, win vs. Spurs, win at Pelicans)

This week: at Bucks, vs. Nuggets, vs. Kings

What else can be said about James Harden at this point? This guy is a machine.

He scored 57 points in the Rockets' frustrating overtime loss to the Grizzlies. How did the reigning MVP respond? By going for 61 in a close win over the Spurs, one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

And if 61 points doesn't move the needle for you, it was a personal 13-0 run from Harden in the fourth quarter that led Houston to that victory versus San Antonio.

It's become a two (or three) man race for this season's Most Valuable Player and the NBA gods have gifted us with a Harden versus Giannis Antetokounmpo matchup to start the Rockets' week.

Houston has won eight of their last 10 and with the way that Harden has been playing, combined with the stage that will be set between the top-two MVP candidates this season, expect a show from The Beard.

2. Philadelphia 76ers

Last week : 3rd

Current record : 47-26

Last week : 2-1 (win at Hornets, win vs. Celtics, loss at Hawks)

This week : at Magic, vs. Nets, at Timberwolves

Although it ended with a loss to the Hawks in the final seconds on Saturday, the Sixers' week was highlighted by a statement win over the Celtics on Wednesday.

Philly, who appears to have firmly cemented itself into the East's third seed, beat Boston for just the third time in their last 13 meetings (regular season and postseason). The big moves the team has made during this season are paying off - led by 37 points and 22 rebounds from self-described unstoppable post threat Joel Embiid, the Sixers' insanely talented starting lineup combined to score 110 points against the C's.

Conversely, their bench scored just eight points on the night. A deep playoff run from Philly could very well hinge on the contributions of its reserves.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week : 2nd

Current record : 55-19

Last week : 3-1 (win vs. Lakers, loss at Cavaliers, win vs. Heat, win vs. Cavaliers)

This week : vs. Rockets, vs. Clippers, at Hawks

The Bucks week began with a win over the Lakers, ended with a blowout home win over the Cavs and included a five-point loss in Cleveland while Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out.

In short, it was business as usual for the owner's of the league's best record.

Milwaukee earned its three wins this week by an average margin of 21.7 points, sustaining its year-long dominance on both ends of the floor ahead of a tough week that features tests against Houston, the LA Clippers and a youthful Atlanta team.

The overarching concern, however, is the number of injuries that are beginning to pile up for this team - each has come at an inopportune time.

Malcolm Brogdon, Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol will all be sidelined for an extended period of time and each could very well miss the beginning of the playoffs.

While Giannis, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe should be enough to get this Bucks team past an eighth seed, the absence of the aforementioned three could make a first-round series much more of a struggle than it needs to be. Being worn down in later rounds could be the biggest obstacle in the way of this team making a deep run.

Rest of the NBA

11. Brooklyn Nets

12. Boston Celtics

13. Miami Heat

14. Oklahoma City Thunder

15. Indiana Pacers

16. Detroit Pistons

17. Orlando Magic

18. Charlotte Hornets

19. Sacramento Kings

20. Atlanta Hawks

21. Washington Wizards

22. Minnesota Timberwolves

23. Memphis Grizzlies

24. Los Angeles Lakers

25. New Orleans Pelicans

26. Dallas Mavericks

27. Chicago Bulls

28. Cleveland Cavaliers

29. Phoenix Suns

30. New York Knicks

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