With Phoenix’s win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday night they moved to 12-3 which is the best record in the Western Conference and have a ½ game lead over the L.A. Lakers in the Pacific division. Denver and Portland each have a three game winning streak and are tied atop the Northwest division. The Trail Blazer’s record is 12-5, while the Nuggets have played two less games and are 11-4. Dallas has created a bit of separation in the Southwest division opening up a three game lead over San Antonio. The Mavericks record is 11-4, while the Spurs have finally gotten over .500 at 7-6 after winning their last three games. Oklahoma and Houston are the only other teams in the West with a winning record as both stand at 8-7. Here is a brief look at my power rankings for the top three teams in the Western Conference.
The Lakers had a fairly quiet week with only two games on their schedule. Last Sunday they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 101-85 in a game where they jumped out to a 23 point lead at halftime and then cruised in the second half to a 16 point win. This game was a star studded affair as several celeberaties were court side attending the game after the American Music Awards. Kobe Bryant did not disappoint the crowd as he completed a couple of circus shots, including one from behind the glass and a left handed 13 foot bank shot en route to his game high 26 points. This was the Lakers 11th straight win over the Thunder. On Tuesday night they took care of the Knicks 100-90 handing New York their 12th loss of the season. Bryant led the way with 34 points. Paul Gasol added 11 points and 16 rebounds along with Andrew Bynum’s 17 points and 8 rebounds. Through 14 games Bryant is the leading scorer averaging 30.1 points per game, Bynum is averaging 10.8 rebounds per game, and Lamar Odom leads in assists with 4.8 per game. Next up for the Lakers are the Warriors on Saturday night in Golden State, and then back home against the Nets on Sunday night and the Hornets on Tuesday, December 1st.
Despite having the best record in the league and standing toe to toe with the Lakers through the early part of the season, there are six teams with lower odds to win the Western Conference. Time will tell whether or not they can maintain this pace through the better part of the season. Last Sunday they crushed the Pistons 117- 91 by outscoring Detroit 29-16 in the second quarter. Amar’e Stoudemire led the scoring with 21 points and Steve Nash added 20 points and 9 assists in the win. On Wednesday night they took care of the Grizzlies 126-111 for their 12th win of the season. They blew the game wide open in the third quarter opening up a 21 point lead. Stoudemire led the way again with 28 points and Nash added 11 points and 16 assists in the winning effort. Through 15 games Stoudemire is the leading scorer averaging 20.4 points per game, Grant Hill is the leading rebounder with 7.2 per game, and Nash leads in assists with 11.9 per game. Next up for the Suns are the Timberwolves tonight, the Raptors on Sunday, the Knicks on Tuesday, and the Cavaliers on Wednesday, December 2nd all on the road.
The Nuggets made my top three by winning three straight games after an ugly loss to the L.A. Clippers last Friday night. In the 99-106 loss, the Nuggets made a valiant effort to close a 15 point deficit at the end of the 3rd quarter by outscoring the Clippers 26-18 in the 4th, but it wasn’t enough. On Saturday they quickly rebounded with a 112-93 win over the Bulls. Carmelo Anthony’s 30 points and 11 rebounds led the way. On Tuesday they beat the Nets 101-87, keeping New Jersey winless on the season. Once again Anthony led the way with 27 points in a game that was never close. On Wednesday they made it three in a row, beating the Timberwolves 124-111. Seven Nuggets scored in double figures as they opened up a 20 point lead at the half. Through 15 games Anthony leads in points per game with 29.7, Nene leads in rebounds with 9.1 per game, and Chauncey Billups leads in assists with 5.9 per game. Next up for the Nuggets are the Knicks tonight, the Timberwolves on Sunday, the Warriors on Tuesday, and the Heat on Thursday, December 3rd all at home.