Portland dethrones Indiana as the top team in this week’s power rankings. Despite a loss to Minnesota, the Trail Blazers finished their recent road trip 3-1, including a dominating performance in Philadelphia. Ice-cold offense in the fourth quarter and Roy Hibbert foul trouble crippled the Pacers against the Heat in what had all the makings of an intense playoff game. Waiting is never fun, but we’ll have to be patient for the next rematch of the two teams which will be in March.
Check out this week's NBA Power Rankings and tell us in the comments section where you think your team should be ranked!
1. Portland Trail Blazers (20-5, Last Week: 1)
The exhausted Trail Blazers fell to the Timberwolves this week, but Rip City is still ripping teams to shreds. Portland is 11-0 against Eastern Conference teams. The high-scoring Trail Blazers (108.3 points a game, best in the NBA) have a clutch shooter in Damian Lillard, who hit two game-winning shots against the Pistons and Cavaliers in a span of three days.
2. Indiana Pacers (20-5, Last Week: 1)
A squad that usually dominates second halves couldn’t hold off the Pistons or Heat. Leading at the half, Detroit came out with four quick shots from Josh Smith who scored 30 points. Indiana didn’t get much help from Roy Hibbert (2-for-12) and Paul George (4-for-14). The Pacers had no answer to a surging Miami team that won after a 12-2 in the fourth.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-4, Last Week: 3)
Winners of seven straight, the Thunder is rolling with Kevin Durant shooting 57 percent during the win streak. Oklahoma City is off to its best start since 1993-94 when they were 21-3 after 24 games. Russell Westbrook has been helping out on the glass, reaching double-digit rebounds against the Magic and Nuggets.
4. Miami Heat (19-6, Last Week: 6)
The Heat know they must go through the Pacers to get to the Finals. In a rematch, of last year’s Eastern Conference final, Miami got the best of Indiana, rallying from behind on a 12-2 run to win. LeBron James blasting past Luis Scola for a power dunk was the icing on the cake.
5. San Antonio Spurs (20-5, Last Week: 6)
The Spurs have had a fairly easy schedule, posting a 16-3 record against the 19 teams they’ve faced who are currently at .500 or below. But things get tougher: San Antonio has matchups against the Suns and Warriors (back-to-back) on the road before heading home to host the Thunder.
6. Phoenix Suns (14-10, Last Week: 11)
The Suns are showing they are not playing for a lottery pick — they’re playing for a playoff spot. And they’re giving fans a show with their defense. Miles Plumlee and Eric Bledsoe each swatted DeMacus Cousins at home against the Kings, causing fans to go wild.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (18-9, Last Week: 9)
Chris Paul will do everything to get his team a W. That includes scoring 38 points on 17 shots to go along with 15 assists against the Wizards. It’s his highest scoring games since he dropped 42 against the Warriors in early November. Jamal Crawford has provided steady offense with 15 and 17-point performances taking over starting shooting guard responsibilities in place of J.J. Reddick.
8. Dallas Mavericks (15-10, Last Week: 8)
The Mavs are 6-4 in their last 10, including two in a row against the Bucks and Grizzlies. Those teams aren't going to give many teams a challenge (at least right now), and Dallas is making short work of sub-.500 teams — it's 11-1 so far this season. But the Mavericks are having a hard time against teams with a winning record. They're only 4-9 against the league's better teams.
9. Denver Nuggets (14-10, Last Week: 7)
Nate Robinson, Jordan Hamilton, Andre Miller, Darrell Arthur, and Timofey Mozgov have been one of the best lineups in the league, outscoring opponents by more than 20 points. But home court advantage hasn’t given them a huge lift this season. The Nuggets are 7-4 at the Pepsi Center.
10. Houston Rockets (17-9, Last Week: 7)
The inconsistencies near the rim are confusing. Houston outscored Portland 66-36 in the paint and lost, then was outscored in the paint 66-40 and beat Golden State. Strange, but true. The Rockets face a dominating low post when they travel to Indiana on Friday.
11. Golden State Warriors (14-12, Last Week: 10)
Andre Iguodala returns from a hamstring injury after the Warriors gave up 115 to the Bobcats last week.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13, Last Week: 13)
The Timberwolves took advantage of a tired Trail Blazers team that had played four games in five nights, defeating Portland 120-109.
13. Atlanta Hawks (14-12, Last Week: 12)
The Hawks shot 60 percent from the field overall and made 15 three-pointers against the Knicks last week and still managed to lose.
14. New Orleans Pelicans (13-14, Last Week: 19)
Austin Rivers had the hot hand in a loss against the Nuggets, scoring 17 points in 22 minutes while the team is 3-3 without big man Anthony Davis.
15. Detroit Pistons (13-14, Last Week: 17)
A bright spot in Motown: Josh Smith scored a combined 61 points against the Trail Blazer (loss) and Pacers (win).
16. Los Angeles Lakers (12-13, Last Week: 14)
Kobe’s back, but his production is low and turnovers are high. Through fives games, he’s scoring 12.4 points per game and has 30 turnovers.
17. Boston Celtics (12-15, Last Week: 18)
Rajon Rondo has been cleared to practice, but may not see game action until the start of the new year to help sustain the team’s top spot in the Atlantic division.
18. Toronto Raptors (9-14, Last Week: 22)
After sending Rudy Gay to the Kings, the Raptors have won three out of four games for the first time this season.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-15, Last Week: 23)
The Cavs almost got one past the Trail Blazers. But Portland’s Damian Lillard wasn’t having it and sank a three just before the game clock expired.
20. Brooklyn Nets (9-16, Last Week: 25)
Not long ago the Nets were tanking due to injuries and coaching messes. Now? They have four wins in five games.
21. Charlotte Bobcats (12-14, Last Week: 16)
A Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injury and 29 percent three-point shooting is the reason why the Bobcats are right where they are.
22. Washington Wizards (11-13, Last Week: 13)
You never know what Wizards team you’ll get on any given night, but against the Knicks you got a winning squad to end a four-game losing streak.
23. Memphis Grizzlies (10-15, Last Week: 15)
A string of five losses (one win in the last eight games) makes Memphis look far from the Grizzlies of past.
24. Chicago Bulls (9-15, Last Week: 20)
Once a dominant team at home, the Bulls are 6-5 at the United Center this season and continue to buckle under pressure without star Derrick Rose.
25. Sacramento Kings (7-17, Last Week: 24)
Rudy Gay was in rhythm with DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas, scoring a combined 50 points and shooting over 55 percent in his first two games with the Kings.
26. Utah Jazz (7-21, Last Week: 29)
A two-game win streak pulled the Jazz out of the bottom of the league. Gordon Hayward’s 30-point, 13-rebound performance versus the Nuggets gives them hope.
27. Orlando Magic (8-18, Last Week: 26)
Orlando is looking for some magic to turn around their season. They have nine losses in the last 11 games.
28. Philadelphia 76ers (7-19, Last Week: 27)
With seven consecutive losses, the Sixers have been exactly what how people thought they would be—bad.
29. New York Knicks (8-17, Last Week: 28)
It took the Knicks two overtimes to beat the Bucks, two nights after Washington handed New York its 17th loss.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (5-20, Last Week: 30)
The struggles in Milwaukee continue. They can barely score more than 89 points a game.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak