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NBA Power Rankings: Week 8

Monday, December 4, 2017

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1. Houston Rockets
2017-18 record: 18-4
The Rockets have been frighteningly dominant over the last month. Houston has won 13 of their last 14 games, including seven in a row. Incredibly, they’ve won each of those seven contests by at least 14 points. They have also won six straight road games, all by 15 points or more. The Rockets aren’t just beating opponents; they’re embarrassing them.


2. Boston Celtics
2017-18 record: 20-4
The C’s victory over the Suns on Saturday was their 20th this season. Here’s some encouraging news for Celtics fans, courtesy of Elias Sports research: This was the 15th time Boston has been the first NBA team to reach 20 wins. The Celtics went to the NBA Finals in 13 of the 14 previous instances, winning the championship ten times.


3. Golden State Warriors
2017-18 record: 18-6
The Warriors exceptional offense grabs most of the headlines, but their defense is just as important to their sustained success. Golden State had prevented their opponents from shooting 50 percent from the field in 36 consecutive games (16 last season and 20 this season), before allowing the Kings to shoot 53.2 percent from the floor last Monday.


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4. Cleveland Cavaliers
2017-18 record: 16-7
Cleveland has put their slow start in the rearview mirror. The Cavs have reeled off 11 straight wins and are all of a sudden back in second place in the Eastern Conference. The James Gang has an excellent opportunity to extend the streak to at least 13, as they play the lowly Bulls on Monday night and then host the Kings on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, it’s LeBron that has led the way. James, the NBA’s leading scorer in the fourth quarter, has shot 50 percent or better in 21 of the Cavs 23 games this season and is averaging 28.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 9.0 assists, while shooting 58.7 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from downtown over the Cavs last six contests.


5. Toronto Raptors
2017-18 record: 14-7
Per, Toronto is the only team in the league in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. In addition, the Raps will have an opportunity to feast on weak opponents in December. 11 of the 13 teams Toronto plays this month currently have losing records.


6. San Antonio Spurs
2017-18 record: 15-8
The Spurs were playing without LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol (in the second half) on Sunday, and still almost beat the Thunder in OKC. Aldridge and Gasol are fully expected to return to the lineup Monday vs. Detroit. The crucial question in San Antonio is when the Spurs will get Kawhi Leonard (quad) back. Encouragingly, late last week, coach Gregg Popovich said Kawhi is entering "the last steps" of his rehab.


7. Detroit Pistons
2017-18 record: 14-8
The Pistons have been a pleasant surprise this season, but have lost two straight as they enter one of the more difficult stretches of their season. 11 of Detroit’s 15 opponents in the month of December have a winning record.


8. Philadelphia 76ers
2017-18 record: 13-9
The triumvirate of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Robert Covington draw most of the attention and praise in Philly, but Dario Saric has been balling as well of late. Over the Sixers last three games, Saric is averaging 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 treys per contest.


9. Minnesota Timberwolves
2017-18 record: 14-10
Minnesota is 6-0 at home (and 11-4 overall) vs. Western Conference opponents this season. The Wolves haven't compiled a winning record vs. the West since going 30-22 in 2004-05.


10. Milwaukee Bucks
2017-18 record: 12-9
The Bucks are a season-best three games over .500 at 12-9. Giannis Antetokounmpo stuffed the stat sheet in their latest win on Saturday, finishing with 33 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. It was Antetokounmpo’s sixth game this season with at least 25 points, ten boards and five dimes. LeBron James is the only other player in the league with more than five such games.


11. Denver Nuggets
2017-18 record: 13-9
Nikola Jokic (left ankle) will not play Monday vs. the Mavericks, but Denver hopes to have Jokic back in the lineup by the end of the week. Mason Plumlee, who 12 points, six boards and six dimes in 31 minutes on Saturday, will try to hold down the fort while Jokic is sidelined.


12. Portland Trail Blazers
2017-18 record: 13-10
Portland ranks third in the NBA in defensive rating this season, allowing 100.3 points per 100 possessions. In 2016-17, the Trail Blazers ranked 21st and allowed 107.8 points per 100 possessions.


13. Washington Wizards
2017-18 record: 12-10
Washington is 9-1 this season and 52-9 (.850) over the last three years when holding opponents under 100 points, the seventh-best winning percentage in the league. The Wizards embark on a five-game road trip beginning Monday in Utah. It is their first of two five-game road expeditions this season.


14. New Orleans Pelicans
2017-18 record: 12-11
Pelicans fans and Anthony Davis (left pelvis) fantasy owners remain on pins and needles as we anxiously await word on the severity of The Brow’s latest injury. AD has been ruled out vs. the Warriors on Monday, but that’s all we know at the moment.


15. Oklahoma City Thunder
2017-18 record: 10-12
Russell Westbrook has recorded a triple-double in 67 of the 183 games he’s appeared in since the start of the 2015-16 season. To put that in context, Michael Jordan had 28 triple-doubles in 1,072 career games. Kobe Bryant had 21 in 1,346 games.

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