With the All-Star break a month away, teams are jockeying for position to end the first half of the season on a good note. The Warriors, on the heels of the Clippers in the Pacific Division, came close to setting a franchise record of 11 straight wins before the Nets halted their mission. Both the Pacers and Trail Blazers had some surprising post-holiday losses to drop them in the rankings, but still remain two of the best teams in the league.
Check out this week's NBA Power Rankings and tell us in the comments section where you think your team should be ranked!
1. Golden State Warriors (24-14, Last Week: 11)
Hitting 15 three pointers in a win against Miami — and Andre Iguodala’s buzzer beating heroics versus the Hawks the following night — drive the Warriors to the top spot. The Warriors, winners of 10 straight, had their streak snapped by the Nets, but they’re playing their best basketball of the season.
2. Miami Heat (27-8, Last Week: 4)
Dwyane Wade’s knee problems didn’t keep him out of the lineup for the Heat’s weekend back-to-back games (Magic and Raptors). Miami continues to monitor the guard’s nagging knee pain, which has limited him in the first half of the season. The next six teams Miami faces are all under .500. Five of those matchups will happen on the road.
3. Indiana Pacers (28-7, Last Week: 2)
Good news first: Danny Granger has had a quiet return, but in his last four games he’s scored in double figures. Bad news: The typically dominating Pacers were outplayed by the Raptors last week, losing by double digits, then they almost blew a big fourth-quarter lead against a Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers team. But no need to press the panic button. It's just fatigue: four of Indiana's seven losses have come on the second night of a back-to-back.
4. Portland Trail Blazers (27-9, Last Week: 1)
They’ve lost the last four of six, with three of those losses coming at the hands of the Pelicans, 76ers and Kings. In the last two losses, Portland gave up 46 points off of 34 turnovers. That’s surprising for the upstart Trail Blazers, who’ve knocked off OKC and Spurs. Portland will look to string some wins together against the Celtics and Cavs next
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (27-8, Last Week: 3)
The team is relying heavily on Kevin Durant with floor general Russell Westbrook out until the All-Star Break, just as it did in last year’s playoffs. KD is averaging 35 points per game since Westbrook was sidelined, exploding for two 48-point games. Great performances from Durant, but his hot hand couldn’t hold off the Jazz, who slipped past the Thunder on Tuesday, 112-101.
6. San Antonio Spurs (28-8, Last Week: 5)
Two blowouts wins against the Nets and Clippers (San Antonio held the Chris Paul-less Clippers to 35 points in the first half) and a loss to the Knicks (that featured a strong 32-point showing from Marco Bellinelli) sums up how the Spurs said goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014. But news of Tiago Splitter’s shoulder injury that will keep out of the lineup for 3-5 weeks didn’t make for a happy new year.
7. Phoenix Suns (21-13, Last Week: 6)
The Suns are 2-2 with Eric Bledsoe out, nursing a knee sprain. Add a road trip that features five games in seven days that has the Suns traveling through the frigid midwest and east (sub-zero temperatures — burrrr!) and the Suns are dealing with a lot. They’ve signed guard Leandro Barbosa, who last played with Phoenix during the 2009-10 season, to a 10-day contract to help with point guard duties.
8. Houston Rockets (23-13, Last Week: 10)
James Harden has scored in double-digits in the fourth quarter in each of the last five games. He and big man Dwight Howard accounted for nine of Houston’s 12 steals against the Lakers. Losses to OKC and Sacramento and a down-to-the-wire win versus New York (by the way, Jeremy Lin is 4-0 against his old squad) makes the Rockets one of the most unpredictable teams in the league.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (25-13, Last Week: 7)
Losing Chris Paul for 3-5 weeks with a dislocated shoulder is a major blow. Since Paul joined L.A., the Clippers are 12-10 when he’s out of the lineup. And that 35-point first half against the Spurs last week was cringe-worthy (Clippers allowed 70 points in the first two quarters. Eek!). Like OKC, who’s also without its starting point guard, it’s time for the Clippers to step up while their leader recovers.
10. Toronto Raptors (17-17, Last Week: 18)
They almost edged the Heat and had their most impressive win of the season— snagging a victory at home against the Pacers—to ring in 2014. Fun to watch, but this team may not be equipped for the long haul into the playoffs. But with this weakened East Conference, who knows? With only two postseason berths in the last eight seasons, the Raptors, who now own the Atlantic division, could make some noise.
11. Atlanta Hawks (19-17, Last Week: 13)
The Hawks took advantage of an exhausted Pacers squad, while Kyle Korver’s three-point hot streak continues. He’s made a trey in 104 consecutive games.
12. Washington Wizards (16-17, Last Week: 22)
Despite inconsistencies, the Wizards have the fourth best three-point percentage (38.9 percent) in the league.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-18, Last Week: 12)
The T-Wolves don’t fair well in close games. They are 0-10 in games decided by four points or less.
14. Chicago Bulls (15-18, Last Week: 24)
Chicago has three straight victories and a schedule next week that could get them above .500. But they will miss Luol Deng, who was traded to the Cavs earlier this week.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (15-19, Last Week: 14)
Tyreke Evans’s game-winning shot gave the Pelicans a sweet victory over the Trail Blazers last week.
16. Dallas Mavericks (20-16, Last Week: 8)
It hasn’t been a happy new year for Dirk Nowitzki, who was 3-of-14 from the field twice in 2014—against Washington and San Antonio.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (15-19, Last Week: 23)
Memphis has trouble getting past strong teams in the West. They are 0-3 against the Spurs this season.
18. Denver Nuggets (17-17, Last Week: 9)
Wins over the Grizzlies and Lakers (the Nuggets scored 137 points in L.A.) stopped an ugly eight game losing streak.
19. New York Knicks (12-22, Last Week: 29)
A 2-1 road trip that featured wins over the Spurs and Mavs and breakout games for Iman Shumpert (53 combined points against Spurs and Rockets) give the Knicks something to smile about.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (15-21, Last Week: 21)
Charlotte reverted back to its old ways—losing five in a row before picking up a win Sacramento. But the Bobcats couldn’t put the Wizards away at home.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (12-23, Last Week: 28)
The 76ers outscored the Trail Blazers 64-40 in the paint when they beat the number one team in the west, but then dropped their last two contests.
22. Brooklyn Nets (14-21, Last Week: 20)
If the playoffs started today, the Nets would grab the eighth seed in the east with confidence. They beat the Thunder and Warriors during their current four-game win streak.
23. Boston Celtics (13-23, Last Week: 17)
Six losses in a row drop the Celtics to second place in an extremely weak Atlantic Division.
24. Detroit Pistons (14-22, Last Week: 15)
Teams are beating up on the Pistons, losers of six straight. Memphis pummeled them by 32 points, while the Wizards defeated them by 24.
25. Utah Jazz (12-25, Last Week: 26)
The Jazz rank 24th in field goal percentage, but they were able to shoot 58 percent in a win against OKC.
26. Los Angeles Lakers (14-22, Last Week: 16)
L.A. continues to plummet. No Kobe until after the All-Star break and one win in the last 10 games.
27. Orlando Magic (10-25, Last Week: 26)
In their last three losses, the Magic has given up over 100 points per game.
28 .Sacramento Kings (11-22, Last Week: 25)
Sacramento watched Charlotte shoot 64.3 percent on its home court over the weekend before upsetting the Trail Blazers.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-23, Last Week: 19)
Kyrie Irving is out, but they have Luol Deng who gives them a solid all-purpose wing.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (7-27, Last Week: 30)
With six losses in the last seven games and a locker room meltdown, the Bucks remain at the bottom of the list.
Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports