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Power Rankings

NBA Power Rankings: Week 23

by Tommy Beer

The Warriors reclaim the No. 1 overall spot, while the Spurs climb back inside the top-10 in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.

Find Tommy Beer on Twitter: @TommyBeer

1. Golden State Warriors
Record: 47-21

The Warriors have righted the ship of late, thanks in large part to their improved defense. Golden State has won three of their last (including wins over Denver, Houston and Oklahoma City), and allowed just 103.0 points per game. The Warriors were 1-3 in their previous four contests and allowed 118.5 points per game during that stretch. 

2. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 52-18

Giannis Antetokounmpo exploded for a career-high 52 points on Sunday, to go along with the 16 rebounds and seven assists, but it wasn’t enough to power the Bucks past the Sixers. Even worse, Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon for six-to-eight weeks due to plantar fascia tear in his right foot. It’s a significant blow to the Bucks, as Brogdon was a crucial contributor. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, Milwaukee will sign Tim Frazier to supplement their backcourt depth. 

3. Denver Nuggets
Record: 46-22

Denver’s victory over the Pacers on Saturday was their 30th home win of the season. At 30-6, they have the best home record in the NBA. In that win over Indiana, Paul Millsap hit a game-winning layup and finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and three assists. Over the Nuggets last three games, Millsap is averaging 23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 64.3 percent from the field in 34.3 minutes leading the Nuggets to a 3-0 record.


4. Houston Rockets
Record: 44-26

James Harden had a rare off-night on Sunday, shooting just 8-of-24 from the floor for 20 points, but the Rockets still beat the Wolves by 15. Chris Paul caught fire, knocking down 6-of-7 3-point attempts en route to 25 points, seven rebounds and ten assists. Sunday was just the seventh game this season in which Harden has scored fewer than 25 points. He has scored 40-plus points 25 times. 

5. Toronto Raptors
Record: 49-21

The Raptors lost two of the three games they played last week, including an embarrassing 25-point loss to the Cavs in Cleveland. Kawhi Leonard (load management) did play in Sunday’s loss to the Pistons but has been ruled out of Monday's game vs. the Knicks. Kyle Lowry (left ankle sprain) has missed each of Toronto’s last two games and is expected to sit out Monday’s matchup with New York as well. Nonetheless, the Raps should be able to get off to a good start this week against the hapless Knicks. 

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6. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 45-25

The Sixers improved to a season-high 20 games over .500 with an impressive victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon. Joel Embiid carried Philadelphia to the win, as he dominated both ends of the floor and finished with 40 points, 15 rebounds, four 3-pointers, six assists and three steals in 36 minutes. However, the Sixers did announce that Embiid would be rested on Tuesday vs. the Hornets as a precaution.

7. Boston Celtics
Record: 43-27

The Celtics lost to the Clippers last Monday, but Kyrie Irving put Boston on his back and carried them to wins vs. the Kings and Hawks to close out the week. Irving hung a 30-point triple-double on Sacramento and then stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 30 points 11 rebounds, nine assists against Trae Young and the Hawks. Over Boston’s last four games, Kyrie is averaging 27.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 9.3 dimes, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 3.0 treys. 

8. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 42-27

Blazers fans probably didn’t sleep well Saturday night, as they watched C.J. McCollum crumble to the floor in pain in Portland’s loss to the Spurs. Many fans were likely nervously awaiting a Woj bomb that could potentially deliver devastating news. Fortunately, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted Sunday evening that McCollum has a popliteus strain in his left knee and will be re-examined in a week. As Woj explained, it was the best possible news for McCollum and Blazers, who avoided a serious injury.

9. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 41-29

Remarkably, the Spurs have won eight straight games, which is the league’s longest current winning streak, by far. (No one else in the NBA has won more than four in a row.) Once thought to be on the playoff bubble, the Spurs are now in sixth place in the Western Conference and, after beating Portland on Saturday, are just 1.5 games behind the Blazers for fourth. 

10. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 42-28

Russell Westbrook scored just seven points on 2-of-16 shooting in the Thunder’s loss to the Warriors on Sunday night. Worse yet, he also picked up his 16th technical foul of the season. Per league rules, Russ will be suspended for one game, which means he’ll miss Monday’s game vs. the Heat. Westbrook will be suspended another game if he gets hit with two more techs during the regular season. Dennis Schroder is expected to start at point guard on Monday night, with Raymond Felton backing him up. 

11. Utah Jazz
Record: 40-29

The Jazz went 3-0 last week, with all three wins coming at home. However, they embark on a four-game road trip this week. The caliber of the opponents certainly isn’t intimidating (Wizards, Knicks, Hawks and Bulls), but Utah will play all four games over six days. 

12. LA Clippers
Record: 41-30

Winners in seven of their last eight games, the Clippers have found all types of ways to win. On Sunday, they blew a double-digit lead in the final minute, but Lou Williams knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to save the day and deliver a win. The victory was Doc Rivers' 300th as Clippers coach. He is the seventh coach in NBA history with at least 300 regular-season wins with two or more teams.

13. Indiana Pacers
Record: 44-26

The Pacers loss to the Nuggets in Denver on Saturday was just the first contest of a tough four-game road trip. They play a back-to-back vs. the Blazers and Clippers on Monday and Tuesday, and then travel to Golden State on Thursday. After returning home to take on the Nuggets on Sunday, Indiana has to get right back on the road and head to OKC and Boston. 

14. Detroit Pistons
Record: 36-33

The streaking Pistons have won seven of their last nine and 14 of their last 18, and are playing their best basketball of the season behind phenomenal all-around performances from Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. In Sunday’s victory over the Raptors, Griffin poured in 25 points while Drummond scored 15 points and ripped down 17 rebounds. In the process, Detroit completed a season sweep of the Raptors. 

15. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 36-36

The Nets lost a heart-breaker in Los Angeles on Sunday night. The Clippers were up 10 points with just over a minute remaining before Brooklyn scored ten straight to tie the score with five seconds remaining. However, Lou Williams sunk a 3-point dagger as time expired to hand the Nets a loss. It’s been a wild month for the Nets. Since the All-Star break, Brooklyn ranks dead last in Offensive Rating (averaging just 104.6 points per 100 possessions), but second overall in Defensive Rating. 

Tommy Beer