NBA Power Rankings (January 28-February 9)
(All stats through Sunday’s games)
(Last week’s rank and change are in parentheses)
1. Indiana Pacers (1, NC): The Pacers have lost two of their last three, but remain in no danger of giving up their huge lead in the Central Division. They hold an insurmountable 12-game lead over the Chicago Bulls.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (4, +2): Who needs Russell Westbrook when you’ve got MVP frontrunner Kevin Durant at the helms of the offense? During the Thunder’s current seven-game winning streak, the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week averaged 39.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.5 steals, and 3.2 three-pointers per game – all while shooting 61 percent from the field. The Thunder are 12-5 since Westbrook underwent surgery on his knee.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (3, NC): The Blazers really struggled this past week, going 2-3 with all three losses coming on the road. It’s going to be a battle to the finish with OKC for Northwest Division supremacy, but to come out on top, the Blazers will need to get more consistency from starters Damian Lillard and Nic Batum. During the last five games, the duo has combined to score 11.2 points on 35.9 percent shooting.
4. San Antonio Spurs (2, -2): Injuries may finally be catching up to the ageless Spurs. They are now without starters Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, and it’s showing on the court. In Sunday’s rematch of last year’s NBA Finals, the Spurs got plastered by the Heat, 113-101. They allowed Miami to shoot 58.1 percent from the field, the highest percentage the Spurs defense has permitted all season. Coach Pop always gets the best out of his players, so it’s not something to be too concerned about, but it’ll be important for San Antonio to be healthy come April if they want to compete in the Western Conference Playoffs.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (7, +2): With Chris Paul nearing a return (he’s shooting for the All-Star Game in February), an already red-hot Clippers team will only get better. Blake Griffin is really coming into his own, proving to all the doubters that he can flourish without CP3 throwing lobs to him every game. Darren Collison, even while nursing a toe injury, has done a fine job filling in for Paul, averaging 13.6 points, 6.2 assists and 1.7 steals in 11 games. The Clippers are 12-3 in the month of January.
6. Miami Heat (6, NC): After losing three-straight games from Jan. 9-15, the Heat have righted the ship, winning five of their last six. Dwyane Wade returned Sunday after a four-game absence. It was somewhat of a surprise that he came off the bench, but Coach Spoelstra will do anything necessary to keep Wade’s knees healthy. Without a healthy Wade, the Heat won’t stand much of a chance in the playoffs.
7. Golden State Warriors (5, -2): Stephen Curry is just an insanely good basketball player and his outstanding play gives the Warriors a shot to make it deep into the playoffs. In his last five games the 25-year-old point guard is averaging 32.0 points, 10.2 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 4.4 treys, while still managing to shoot 53 percent from the field. The Warriors go as Curry goes, so as long as he keeps this up they’ll remain a serious contender.
8. Houston Rockets (8, NC): It hasn’t been James Harden or Dwight Howard leading the charge for the Rockets lately – it’s been third-year pro, Chandler Parsons. The Rockets’ starting small forward exploded for 31 points and 10 board vs. the Blazers this past Monday, and followed it up with a 34-point, 10-three-pointer performance against the Grizzlies on Friday. The Rockets are starting to look like they might have a “Big Three” in Houston.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (16, +7): Memphis has come out of nowhere, winning seven of their last eight games to get two games above .500 for the first time since Nov. 20, when they were 7-5. It’s no coincidence that this streak coincides with the return of center Marc Gasol from a knee injury. Gasol hasn’t been filling up the box scores, but his presence in the middle has brought the Grizzlies’ defense back to the forefront. Memphis is allowing its opponents to score just 86.2 points per game since Gasol’s return.
10. Dallas Mavericks (9, -1): Dallas has struggled of late, losing four of their last seven games. Dallas no occupies the 8th seed in the West, but will need to fend of the Grizzlies (two games back) and the Nuggets (2.5 games back to keep claim to the final playoff spot in the conference. Getting Devin Harris back from a toe injury will be a welcome boost for the Mavs. Harris has averaged 7.8 points and 3.2 assists in the five games since his return, but 14.0 points and 5.5 dimes over his last two.