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Power Rankings

NBA Power Rankings: Week 19

by Tommy Beer

The Warriors, Bucks and Raptors maintain their stranglehold on the top three spots in the updated NBA Power Rankings.

Follow Tommy Beer on Twitter: @TommyBeer

1. Golden State Warriors
Record: 41-16
The Warriors have won 16 of 18, and have scored at least 100 points in their last 28 games. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all scored 20 or more points in each of Golden State’s final three games prior to the All-Star break. It’s the first time this terrific trio has accomplished this feat. KD was named MVP of the All-Star Game on Sunday night, which means he is one of only six players in league history with at least one regular season MVP, two Finals MVPs and two All-Star MVPs (Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James are the other five).

2. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 43-14
The Bucks victory over the Pacers in Indiana on Wednesday was their 20th road win of the season. With two months still left in the 2018-19 campaign, they have already exceeded last season’s road win total of 19. Milwaukee has also won 14 of their last 16 games overall, with 13 of those 14 wins coming by double digits.

3. Toronto Raptors
Record: 43-16
The Raptors are undefeated in February (6-0) and have registered five winning streaks of five or more games this season. Toronto is also 16–6 (.727) against teams from the Western Conference, which is the best record for any team versus the West this season.


4. Denver Nuggets
Record: 39-18
The Nuggets had lost three of four heading into their final game before the break, but a overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to beat the Kings on Wednesday night. They play in Dallas on Friday, but then host four straight games at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets have won six consecutive games at home and are 25-4 in Denver, which is the best home record in the NBA.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 37-20
After stumbling out of the gates and losing each of their first four contests back in October, OKC went 37-15 over their next 52 games. However, the Thunder entered the All-Star break on a sour note, as they lost to a Pelicans team playing with Anthony Davis (shoulder) in the second half. After the break, OKC has their work cut out for them. Eighteen of Oklahoma City’s final 25 games are against teams that would qualify for the postseason if the season ended today. Of the seven opponents that are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, only two have no hope of reaching the playoffs (both against Memphis).

6. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 37-21
At 37-21, the Sixers are more than 15 games above .500 at the All-Star break for the first time since the 2000-2001 campaign. That season, Allen Iverson carried Philadelphia all the way to the NBA Finals, before they got stomped by Shaq and Kobe and the juggernaut Lakers. (As an aside, Aaron McKie was the second-leading scorer and Philly in assists that season - which shows just how incredible it was that Iverson could take that squad to the Finals.)

 

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7. Boston Celtics
Record: 37-21
Kyrie Irving (strained right knee) missed the Celtics final two games heading into the All-Star break but looked healthy on Sunday night. He logged 25 minutes in the All-Star game, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting, nine rebounds and six assists. Kyrie should be ready to rock for the C's first game after the break, which is Thursday in Milwaukee.

8. Houston Rockets
Record: 33-24
Just how often is James Harden launching 3-pointers during his incredible scoring surge? Consider this: In the entire decade of the 1980s (from 1979-81 thru 1988-89), an NBA player attempted more than ten 3-pointers in a single game a grand total of 21 times. Remarkably, Harden has attempted more than ten 3-pointers in 29 consecutive contests (while averaging 15.8 3PT's per game).

9. Indiana Pacers
Record: 38-20
The Pacers are 18 games above .500 due in large part to their defensive excellence this season. They rank in the top five in several key defensive categories: second in points allowed (102.8), third in steals, fourth in turnovers forced, and fifth in opponents field-goal percentage. Indiana is 18-1 this season when limiting opponents to 97 or fewer points.

10. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 34-23
The Blazers face an absolutely brutal stretch of their schedule coming out of the All-Star break. Portland embarks on a seven-game, East Coast road trip beginning Thursday in Brooklyn. The eventually return home on March 7th to take on the Thunder and then the Suns, before heading back on the road for three more games away from home.

11. Utah Jazz
Record: 32-25
According to NBA.com, Rudy Gobert is on pace to become the first player to average at least 15 points, ten rebounds and two blocks on 60 percent shooting since Dwight Howard did so in the 2009-10 season. Gobert is also first in the NBA in real defensive plus-minus (5.4), first in effective field goal percentage (.653), first in true shooting percentage (.674), and third in total win shares (9.8).

12. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 33-26
While the Spurs may have to fight to qualify for the postseason in the stacked Western Conference, it seems very likely that San Antonio will once again finish above .500 this season. Amazingly, it would be the 22nd straight winning season, dating back to when Tim Duncan joined the club in 1997.

13. Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 32-27
Despite trading away two-way stud Tobias Harris, the Clippers are still winning games and have a chance to sneak into the playoffs. They are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference, one game ahead of the Kings and three games in front of the Lakers.

14. Sacramento Kings
Record: 30-27
The Kings have been one of the NBA’s more pleasant surprises over the first half of the season. This is the first time Sacramento has notched 30 wins before the All-Star break since 2004-05.

15. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 30-29
D’Angelo Russell represented Brooklyn on Sunday night, as he was the first Net to participate in the All-Star game since Joe Johnson in 2013-14. Russell is also the second-youngest All-Star in franchise history, behind only Buck Williams. DAR closed out the first half of the season on fire, averaging: 28.5 points, 9.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 three-pointers in his final four games.

16. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 28-29
The Lakers, at 28-29, are currently in tenth place in the Western Conference. Heading into this year, L.A. fans did not envision their favorite team being three games behind the Clippers and two games behind the Kings at this point in the season. In fact, this is the latest in a season a team with LeBron James on the roster has been under .500 since King James’ rookie year in Cleveland back in 2004.

17. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 27-30
Despite being losing four of their last five prior to the All-Star break and finding themselves three games under .500, the Hornets are in first place in the Southeast Division. They also begin the second half of the season with a favorable schedule. Charlotte plays four in a row and seven of their next eight games at home.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 27-30
Although they have the same record as Hornets, the Timberwolves find themselves in last place in the Northwest Division, a full 12 games behind the first-place Nuggets, and five games in back of the fourth-place Jazz.

19. Detroit Pistons
Record: 26-30
The Pistons had won four in a row before falling to the Celtics in Boston in their final game before the break. Still, thanks to their solid play in February, Detroit is currently tied with the Heat for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.

20. Miami Heat
Record: 26-30
Heat fans received some encouraging news last week when coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters that Goran Dragic (right knee surgery) is "making a lot of progress" and is expected to return shortly after the All-Star break. Coach Spo declined to provide a specific target date for Dragic, but there's a chance he could be back for their first game on Feb. 21. We should have an update on his status after Miami’s first practice this week. When Dragic is cleared to return, the question facing the Heat’s coaching staff is whether or not Justise Winslow will remain in the starting lineup.

21. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 26-31
It was assumed that these would be the final two months of Dirk Nowitzki’s storied career. However, on Saturday, Dirk said he hasn't decided if he will retire at the end of the 2018-19 season. "It’s been humbling, even though I haven’t said this will be it," Nowitzki said. "I’m going to wait and see the last couple of weeks, how my body feels and if I continue to see improvement and I’m still having fun, we’ll see." Dirk currently ranks seventh on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He needs 110 points to pass Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) for sixth place.

22. Orlando Magic
Record: 27-32
While Magic fans are hoping to get a glimpse of Markelle Fultz (shoulder) before the end of the season, both Fultz and president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said the young point guard is still without a targeted return date. "As to the timetable, you guys have heard me say this to the point where you probably don’t want to hear me say it again, but I will anyway. We’re going to do it right. We are not going to do it fast,” said Weltman. “It’s our job organizationally, from the performance directors to the coaches to all of us to put him in a position to succeed. And however long that takes, that’s how long it’ll take."

23. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 26-33
After injuring himself in the Pels final contest before the break, it was unknown if Anthony Davis (bruised left shoulder) would suit up on Sunday night. AD ended up playing just five first-half minutes in the All-Star Game, making 2-of-2 shots for five points with one rebound. Davis said afterward that his goal was to play limited minutes and avoid aggravating his injury. We should have an update on his status early this week. With a new GM in place, it wouldn't be shocking if New Orleans decided to shut him down.

24. Washington Wizards
Record: 24-34
Despite being ten games under .500 with 24 contests remaining, the Wizards are still within shouting distance of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In fact, they are just 3.5 games behind the seventh-seeded Hornets.

25. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 19-39
Trae Young averaged 18.7 points and 7.2 assists in January and was named the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month. He became the first rookie to average at least 18.0 points and 7.0 assists in 10-plus games in any month since John Wall in March of 2011. Young has been even more productive in February, averaging 19.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

26. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 23-36
With Marc Gasol traded from Memphis to Toronto, that means that only two active NBA players have played more seasons with just one franchise than Mike Conley: Dirk Nowitzki with the Mavericks and Udonis Haslem with the Heat.

27. Chicago Bulls
Record: 14-44
Coming into this month, Lauri Markkanen had never posted double-doubles in four straight games. However, he’s tallied a dub-dub in each of Chicago last five contests and is averaging a monstrous 24.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.8 treys during this five-game stretch.

28. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 12-46
Jordan Clarkson is averaging a career-high 16.8 points per game this season, which ranks third among all NBA bench players. Clarkson has 49 double-digit scoring performances as a reserve, which ties him with Lou Williams for most in the league.

29. New York Knicks
Record: 11-47
Kevin Knox has been alarmingly inefficient offensively over the last month. During the Knicks last 15 games, Knox is shooting just 32.3 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from 3-point territory. He has scored only 179 points on 198 field goal attempts. To put that in context, Malik Beasley has scored 245 points on 167 field goal attempts.

30. Phoenix Suns
Record: 11-48
The Clippers crushed the Suns on Wednesday, 134-107. It was Phoenix's 15th straight loss (their last win came back on January 12th), which tied the franchise record for consecutive defeats (set last season). The Suns will look to snap the streak Thursday in Cleveland vs. the Cavs.

Tommy Beer