NBA Power Rankings (Dec. 15): Streaking Celtics Regain Top Spot

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NBA Power Rankings (Dec. 15): Streaking Celtics Regain Top Spot
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Tough crowd?

The Lakers' streak-ending loss at Utah Saturday night ended up pushing them out of the top spot in the rankings for the first time in a few weeks.

On the other coast, the Celtics have semi-quietly won 11 straight games, and are once again looking like the team that was smothering and dominating their opponents earlier in the season.

1. Boston Celtics (20-4, Last Week: 3)

The Celtics could be marching into Orlando on Christmas Day sporting a 14-game winning streak, as their next three before then are all home games against Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Indiana.

Boston leads the league in opponents' PPG, giving up just 91.2 points per game to their opponents. 

2. Los Angeles Lakers (18-4, Last Week: 1)

Just three days after dominating the Jazz at home (and allowing just six fourth quarter points in the process), the Lakers had their 11-game win streak snapped in Utah.

Kobe Bryant's fractured index finger shouldn't keep him out of any games, but should be of some concern to the Lakers.

3. Orlando Magic (18-6, Last Week: 2)

After dropping both games of a tough road back-to-back in Utah and Phoenix, the defending Eastern Conference champs rebounded with a win over Indiana at home Monday night.

This game included, Orlando has won 12 of their past 15 games.

4. Atlanta Hawks (17-6, Last Week: 6)

After dipping a bit following their hot start to the season, the Hawks have now won four in a row.

Atlanta has been spreading the scoring load around all season long, as six different players have led them in scoring in at least one game apiece.

5. Dallas Mavericks (18-7, Last Week: 7)

Since a loss to those Hawks on December 5, the Mavs have a four-game winning streak of their own going.

Dirk Nowitzki is fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 27.3 points per game.

6. Denver Nuggets (18-7, Last Week: 4)

Carmelo Anthony has continued what he started last season in terms of becoming one of the best all-around players in the league.

Anthony is leading the NBA in scoring (30.3 ppg), while picking up six rebounds per, shooting 49 percent from the floor, and playing the best defense of his career.

The Nuggets are for real, and they're showing that last season's success was no fluke.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-7, Last Week: 5)

The Cavs are set to play through perhaps the easiest back-to-back a team has ever had to face.

They'll play the 2-22 Nets Tuesday night, before traveling to Philly for a date Wednesday night with the 76ers, who just snapped a 12-game losing streak.

8. Phoenix Suns (16-8, Last Week: 8)

Not an easy week for the Suns, as they had to play road games against the Lakers, Mavericks, and Nuggets, with a home game with the Magic mixed in.

They lost all three of those road games, and dropped to 8-8 on the road for the season.

At home, they're 8-0.

9. Utah Jazz (14-10, Last Week: 9)

Following three straight home wins over the mighty Spurs, Magic, and Lakers, the Jazz dropped what seemed like a gimme to Minnesota Monday night at Energy Solutions Arena.

They'll now take their act out onto the road for a while, where they'll play their next five games.

10. San Antonio Spurs (12-9, Last Week: 14)

With three consecutive double-digit victories, the Spurs are beginning to look like their dominant selves again.

They'll be tested Tuesday night when they try to become the first team to go into Phoenix and win a game this season.

11. Houston Rockets (13-10, Last Week: 11)

After a hot start, Trevor Ariza's offensive performance has dipped mightily in recent weeks.

For the season, Ariza is shooting a lowly 38 percent from the field, capped off by Sunday's 0-9 performance in Toronto.

He won't be making any shots in Houston's game Tuesday in Detroit, either, as he was suspended one game for apparently attempting to slug DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors.

12. Portland Trail Blazers (14-11, Last Week: 10)

The Blazers have struggled to stay consistent this season, and have now lost three of their past four games to fall into eighth place in the Western Conference.

It's not going to be getting any easier, either.

Portland's upcoming schedule: vs. Sacramento, vs. Phoenix, at Orlando, at Miami, at Dallas, at San Antonio, vs. Denver.

13. Miami Heat (11-11, Last Week: 12)

Michael Beasley has quietly been putting together a solid sophomore season in the NBA.

In 31 minutes a night, the 20-year-old Beasley is averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-11, Last Week: 13)

Kevin Durant has scored at least 25 points in nine straight games, and in 20 of OKC's 23 games this season.

Durant is averaging 28 points per game for the season...and just turned 21 in September.

Scary.

15. Milwaukee Bucks (11-11, Last Week: 15)

Remember Andrew Bogut?

He's turned into a pretty solid player for the Bucks, and this season is averaging 16 points, nine rebounds, and almost two blocks per game.

With the dearth of centers in the league, maybe picking him first overall in 2005 wasn't the worst idea.

16. Detroit Pistons (11-12, Last Week: 22)

The Pistons have now won five in a row, and have climbed back into the eastern playoff picture.

With Richard Hamilton back, look for them to start to find some consistency and continue to climb the standings.

17. Sacramento Kings (10-12, Last Week: 16)

The Kings weathered a four-game losing streak with a 20-point victory over Minnesota Saturday night.

While the playoffs this season may be a stretch, they're young enough and talented enough to be considered a rising power in the West.

18. Los Angeles Clippers (10-13, Last Week: 19)

After a week during which they played just one game, the Clips are now in the midst of a five-games-in-seven-days stretch.

Considering how competitive they are currently, it will be very interesting to see what kind of impact Blake Griffin will have once he returns from injury sometime soon.

19. New Orleans Hornets (10-13, Last Week: 18)

If CP3 can lead the Hornets back into respectability and the playoffs this season, he should be discussed as an MVP candidate.

Paul is enjoying another stellar season, averaging 21 points, 11 assists, and two steals per game.

Just imagine what kind of numbers he'd be capable of putting up if he were teamed with more consistent scorers.

20. Memphis Grizzlies (10-14, Last Week: 21)

With the addition of Zach Randolph (19ppg, 10rpg) and the emergence of Marc Gasol (14ppg, 10rpg), the Grizzlies suddenly have one of the league's most fearsome low post tandems.

Pair them with the outside scoring of Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo and suddenly Memphis is looking like a fairly well-built unit certainly capable of making some noise.

21. Toronto Raptors (11-15, Last Week: 20)

If the Raptors are unable to get their act together and make the playoffs in the top-heavy Eastern Conference, it's certainly not going to help their chances of keeping Chris Bosh.

22. Charlotte Bobcats (9-13, Last Week: 17)

My favorite NBA stat so far this season: 6'7" Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace is second in the NBA in rebounding this season (a hair behind Dwight Howard), averaging 12.2 per game.

23. New York Knicks (8-15, Last Week: 27)

Still waiting for 2010...however, the Knicks have enjoyed a nice little surge, having won their last four games.

If they're able to sneak into the playoffs with this roster, it may be Mike D'Antoni's finest coaching job to date.

24. Indiana Pacers (8-14, Last Week: 25)

During a recent three-game stretch, rookie Tyler Hansbrough caught fire and averaged 18 points and seven rebounds in about 24 minutes per game.

If he continues to produce in the limited time he sees the floor, he could prove to be quite the steal for Indy.

25. Chicago Bulls (8-14, Last Week: 24)

Vinny del Negro is looking like a dead man walking for the Bulls.

They've lost 10 of 12, and are perhaps the league's biggest disappointment so far this season.

26. Washington Wizards (7-15, Last Week: 23)

Center Brendan Haywood is the East's version of Erick Dampier so far this season.

Through the first 22 games of the season, Haywood is averaging 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game.

(FYI: Dampier is averaging eight points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.)

Why the comparison?

They're each having career-best years...in a contract year.

Hmm...

27. Golden State Warriors (7-17, Last Week: 26)

The Warriors lead the league in points per game, averaging 107 per.

The Warriors are last in the league in opponent's points per game, giving up 111 per.

How Warriors of them.

28. Philadelphia 76ers (6-18, Last Week: 29)

What's the real problem with the Sixers?

Bad coaching? Lack of talent? No cohesiveness?

It appears as though much of the reason for their recent 12-game losing streak was due to a pretty rough schedule.

During the streak, Philly lost to Memphis, Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, OKC, and Denver.

Not the easiest schedule to try and run through, I suppose.

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-21, Last Week: 28)

Two of Minnesota's four wins this season have come against the Jazz.

How, you ask?

I have no clue.

30. New Jersey Nets (2-22, Last Week: 30)

New Jersey may be in the middle of one of the worst seasons in NBA history, but Brook Lopez has gotten off to a phenomenal start in his second season.

Lopez is averaging 20 points, nine rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game, and, despite his team's miserable performance thus far, is certainly deserving of an All-Star nod.

 

 

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