1.) Warriors (55-14) Previous rank: 3
After losing three games in a row the previous week, the Warriors got back on track in Week 21 with three wins over the 76ers, Magic and Bucks by a combined 57 points. Draymond Green had 20 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, six blocks and four steals vs. the 76ers, joining Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to reach those totals in a single game. The Warriors have a 2.0 game lead over the Spurs with 13 games remaining, and it sounds like Kevin Durant (knee) is on track to be ready for the postseason — he was getting up some jump shots at Saturday’s practice.
2.) Spurs (53-16) Previous rank: 1
The Spurs finished 2-2 in Week 21 with wins over the Kings and Hawks with two losses to the Blazers and Grizzlies. They are now a full 2.0 games behind the Warriors for the top seed in the West, but at least they got some great news on the health of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge — Leonard was cleared of his concussion early in the week and LMA returned after a heart scare sidelined him for two games. Speaking of Kawhi, he now has 25 games with 30+ points this year, the most in a season by a Spur since David Robinson had 36 in 1994-95 (h/t @AirlessJordan).
3.) Cavaliers (46-23) Previous rank: 5
The Cavaliers welcomed back Kevin Love (knee) in Week 21 and picked up three wins over the Pistons, Jazz and Lakers. They did lose to the Clippers by 30 points, but Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were all resting. With a 2.5 game cushion over the Celtics for the top seed in the East, more rest days should be coming for the big three. LeBron won’t get much MVP consideration with Russell Westbrook and James Harden getting all the headlines, but he has 10 triple-doubles on the year and now has nine seasons with at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, and 500 assists, two more than any other player per Statmuse.
4.) Rockets (48-22) Previous rank: 2
The Rockets beat the Lakers by 39 points in Week 21, lost to the Pelicans by 16 points and then ended their week with a close win over the Nuggets in Denver. James Harden has triple-doubled in four straight games and his MVP case is rock solid, as he became just the second player in NBA history with 2000+ points, 500+ rebounds and 750+ assists in a season, joining Oscar Robertson (h/t @jkubatko). With 12 games remaining, it appears the Rockets are locked in as the No. 3 seed — they are 5.5 games behind the Spurs and 5.0 games ahead of the Jazz.
5.) Celtics (44-26) Previous rank: 7
The Celtics took care of business early in Week 21 with two wins over the Nets and Wolves, but fell flat against the 76ers by blowing a 13-point lead on Sunday. The good news is that they are still only 2.5 games behind the Cavaliers in the East and they are expected to get Isaiah Thomas back from his knee bruise in a massive showdown vs. the Wizards on Monday — they have a 1.5 game cushion over Washington.
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6.) Wizards (42-27) Previous rank: 4
They had the best record in the NBA since January entering Week 21, but that changed with the Wizards losing three games to the Wolves, Hornets and Mavericks with one win over the Bulls. The Wizards are No. 3 in the East right now and are 1.5 games behind the Celtics (No. 2) and 1.5 games ahead of the Raptors (No. 4). Unfortunately, the Wizards have one of the toughest schedules going forward with nine out of their last 13 games on the road.
7.) Jazz (43-27) Previous rank: 6
The Jazz won their first two games of the week against the Clippers and Pistons before losing two road games to the Cavaliers and Bulls. Rudy Gobert is my choice for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, as he is first in the defensive Real Plus-Minus standings and is on pace to have more win shares in a season than any center since Dwight Howard in 2010-11 (h/t ESPN’s Tim MacMahon). Oh, and did I mention that he’s also averaging career-highs in points (13.1), rebounds (12.6), blocks (a league-best 2.5), field goal percentage (.654) and free throw percentage (.664)… Stud.
8.) Thunder (40-29) Previous rank: 9
The Thunder are currently on a five-game winning streak which includes wins over the Nets, Raptors and Kings in Week 21. Russell Westbrook needs seven more triple-doubles in his last 13 games to match Oscar Robertson’s record for triple-doubles in a season (41), and he is the first player with 700+ field goals made, 700+ rebounds and 700+ assists since Wilt Chamberlain in 1967-68 (h/t @jkubatko).
9.) Raptors (41-29) Previous rank: 10
The Raptors finished 3-1 in Week 21 with wins over the Mavericks, Pistons and Pacers with a loss to the Thunder. The Raptors have secured a .500 record for the fourth season in a row which is a franchise record, and they are just get 1.5 games behind the Wizards for the No. 3 seed in the East. Kyle Lowry (elbow) is still on schedule and could return for the final couple weeks of the season, meaning Toronto should be at full strength once the playoffs begin.
10.) Clippers (41-29) Previous rank: 8
After dropping their first three games of Week 21 to the Jazz, Bucks and Nuggets, the Clippers took out their anger on a Cavaliers team that was resting all of their studs — the Clippers won by 30 points and held Cleveland to 31 points at the half. The Clippers are the No. 5 seed in the West right now, but with the Rockets all but out of reach, they could finish anywhere from No. 4 to No. 7 in the West — they trail the Jazz (No. 4) by two games and have a 0.5 game cushion over the Thunder (No. 6) and a 1.0 game cushion over the Grizzlies (No. 7).
11.) Heat (34-36) Previous rank: 11
The Heat won their first two games of the week against the Wolves and Pelicans by a combined 26 points before losing to the Blazers on Sunday. The Heat are tied with the Pistons for the No. 8 seed in the East, but they are also only 3.5 games behind the Hawks (No. 5) and 1.5 games behind the Pacers (No. 6). For a team that started 11-30 this season, to be 34-35 right now is borderline insane.
12.) Grizzlies (40-30) Previous rank: 13
After suffering their worst five-game stretch of the season, the Grizzlies won four straight games in Week 21 against the Bucks, Bulls, Hawks and Spurs. Chandler Parsons will have season-ending surgery, but to be real, the Grizzlies are probably better off without him — their offensive rating with Vince Carter in the starting lineup is 119.7 compared to 102.7 with Parsons. The Grizzlies also give up 4.1 points less per 100 possession when Carter is on the floor (h/t @peteredmiston).
13.) Bucks (34-35) Previous rank: 14
Milwaukee opened their week with a 20-point loss to the Grizzlies and then beat both the Lakers and Clippers on the road before getting dismantled by the Warriors in Oracle Arena. Incredibly, the Bucks are 12-6 since Jabari Parker (knee) went down and Khris Middleton deserves a ton of credit for saving their season. The Bucks are clinging onto the No. 7 with 0.5 game cushion over the Pistons and Heat, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is on pace to become the first player to ever be in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
14.) Blazers (32-37) Previous rank: 18
The Blazers lost their first game of the week to the Pelicans by 23 points, but then responded with three straight road wins over the Spurs, Hawks and Heat. They are within striking distance of the Nuggets, trailing them by a single game for the No. 8 seed. They have won five out of their last six road games and their schedule going forward is very favorable, as 10 of their last 13 games are at home. Damian Lillard scored 49 points with nine triples vs. the Heat on Sunday, the most points by a player with 21 or less FGAs since Amare Stoudemire in 2008 (h/t Blazers PR).
15.) Pacers (35-34) Previous rank: 16
The Pacers are so hard to figure out this season. After falling to the Knicks early in the week, they held a team meeting and responded with a 21-point win over the Hornets. Three days later, the Pacers fell to the Raptors by 25 points. Incredibly, they have alternated wins with losses in 13 straight games, and while they are currently the No. 6 seed in the East, the Bulls (No. 10) are only 2.5 games behind them.