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NBA Power Rankings: Cavs Separating Themselves from the Pack

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NBA Power Rankings: Cavs Separating Themselves from the Pack
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In the Eastern Conference, the struggles of the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic have opened the door for the Cleveland Cavaliers to take advantage.

The Cavs are riding an eight-game winning streak and now hold a solid 5.5-game lead over second place Orlando.

Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets have both found their rhythm and continue to battle it out for the coveted top spot.

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (38-11, Last Week: 1)

LeBron James had 23 points Sunday night against the Clippers...in the first quarter.

The King finished with 32 points and 11 assists, cruising to a 114-89 win, Cleveland's eighth consecutive victory.

 

2. Los Angeles Lakers (37-11, Last Week: 3)

Thanks to a hobbled Kobe Bryant's late-game heroics yet again, the Lakers were able to steal huge a game from the Celtics Sunday in Boston.

The defending champs have now won four straight and look to finish their season-long eight-game road trip with a W in Memphis on Monday night.

 

3. Denver Nuggets (30-14, Last Week: 2)

It's been No Melo-No Problem for the Nuggets lately as they continued their dominant stretch by taking down the Spurs rather easily in San Antonio Sunday afternoon.

They've improved to 9-1 in their last 10 games and could get Anthony back as early as Monday for the matchup with Sacramento.

 

4. Atlanta Hawks (30-16, Last Week: 4)

Atlanta just completed its first regular season sweep of the Celtics since the 1998-99 season. 

Jamal Crawford, averaging 17.7 points per game off the bench, has been the acquisition of the season and appears to be the front runner for the Sixth Man of the Year award.

 

5. Orlando Magic (32-16, Last Week: 7)

The Magic have looked much better lately, having won three straight games. Two of those wins came at the hands of the Celtics and Hawks and are the kinds of games Orlando is going to need to start winning down the stretch.

 

6. Utah Jazz (28-18, Last Week: 8)

The Jazz have been quietly rolling along and now sit in fourth place in the Western Conference.

They'll face three tough tests at home this week, with games against the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, and Nuggets.

 

7. Dallas Mavericks (30-17, Last Week: 6)

Dallas has been playing up-and-down basketball lately as they continue to struggle in their home games.

The Mavs are just 14-8 at home, but 16-9 on the road this season.

 

8. Boston Celtics (29-16, Last Week: 5)

Boston has fallen all the way to fourth place in the East, just 4.5 games ahead of the surging Raptors.

Remember back at the beginning of the season when Boston was dominating teams, looking almost unbeatable?

They've fallen a long way since.

 

9. Toronto Raptors (26-22, Last Week: 19)

Chris Bosh is having the best season of his career, and it couldn't be coming at a better time.

He's playing for a max contract this summer and his averages of 24-11 certainly make him look like a franchise cornerstone.

Oh, and the Raptors are playing their best basketball of the season.

 

10. Portland Trail Blazers (28-21, Last Week: 10)

Portland is one of a slew of teams fighting it out near the bottom of the Western playoff picture.

They got a major boost from Andre Miller's 52-point explosion in defeating the Mavericks in Dallas Saturday night.

How low on the list of "Players you'd think would score 50 points in a game" was Andre Miller? He may not have even been in my top 50.

 

11. Charlotte Bobcats (24-22, Last Week: 12)

Gerald Wallace was named to his first All-Star team last week, and he couldn't be more deserving. 

Wallace has been instrumental in Charlotte's surge in the standings this season and is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds per game.

 

12. San Antonio Spurs (27-19, Last Week: 11)

The Spurs are struggling a bit, and there's no guarantee the four-time champs will even make the playoffs with all the teams fighting for spots.

The Richard Jefferson acquisition has been somewhat irrelevant as Jefferson is averaging just 12 points in 31 minutes per game this season.

 

13. New Orleans Hornets (26-21, Last Week: 13)

Bad news for New Orleans as Chris Paul is now expected to miss one to two months following arthroscopic knee surgery.

Lots of the burden will now fall on rookie point guard Darren Collison to try and pick up the slack.

He got off to a good start Sunday, dishing out a Paul-like 18 assists in the Hornets' OT win at Memphis.

 

14. Memphis Grizzlies (25-21, Last Week: 9)

The Grizz have lost two in a row, but it's not time to panic.

It's not going to get any easier for them, though. Their next five games: vs. Lakers, at Cavaliers, vs. Rockets, at Timberwolves, vs. Hawks.

 

15. Phoenix Suns (28-21, Last Week: 15)

With trade rumors swirling, Amar'e Stoudemire turned in his best effort of the season in Sunday's OT win at Houston with 36 points and 11 rebounds.

It'll be very interesting to see what kind of value teams will be willing to give up for Stoudemire, especially considering there's no guarantee he'll return as a free agent this summer.

 

16. Chicago Bulls (23-22, Last Week: 17)

The Bulls' current five-game winning streak is about as impressive as it gets.

They've beaten Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and New Orleans, all on the road.

Derrick Rose has been leading the charge, and he finished January with averages of 23 points and 6.4 assists per game.

 

17. Oklahoma City Thunder (26-21, Last Week: 16)

Kevin Durant erupted for 45 points and 11 rebounds in a win over the Warriors Sunday evening.

The 21-year-old is now second in the league in scoring (29.6 ppg), just one-tenth of a point behind Carmelo Anthony.

 

18. Houston Rockets (25-22, Last Week: 18)

The Rockets have fallen to 11th in the West after losing at home to Phoenix Sunday.

Daryl Morey will soon have to make his toughest decision as Rockets' GM: to trade T-Mac, or not to trade T-Mac?

 

19. Miami Heat (24-23, Last Week: 14)

Miami has now been passed by both Charlotte and Chicago and sits in eighth place out East.

Unless the roster changes, I'm not sure how eager Dwyane Wade will be to stay with the Heat this summer.

 

20. Milwaukee Bucks (20-25, Last Week: 22)

The Bucks are hanging around just outside the current playoff picture.

With Toronto, Charlotte, and Chicago all surging, Miami may be the only team Milwaukee has a legitimate chance of catching.

 

21. Los Angeles Clippers (20-27, Last Week: 20)

The Clips have lost four in a row and their slim playoff hopes may have gone down the drain.

They actually lost back-to-back games to the Nets and T'Wolves. 

Ugh.

 

22. New York Knicks (18-29, Last Week: 21)

David Lee is another member of the 2010 free agent class and could be a huge under-the-radar steal for some lucky team.

Lee has been on fire and is averaging 19.6 points and 11.5 rebounds per game this season.

 

23. Washington Wizards (16-30, Last Week: 28)

The Wizards claim that Antawn Jamison is the only "untouchable" player on their roster, despite several different trade rumors involving his name.

If he will be traded, his 21-point, 23-rebound effort Saturday against New York won't hurt his value.

 

24. Sacramento Kings (16-30, Last Week: 23)

The Kings have tanked since Kevin Martin came back, and he would seem like a player certainly capable of being dealt before the Feb. 18 deadline.

Martin is averaging 22 points per game and is shooting a stellar 40 percent from beyond the arc.

 

25. Philadelphia 76ers (16-31, Last Week: 25)

Another player on the trading block, Andre Iguodala, certainly didn't help his stock with his January performance.

Iggy averaged just over 13 points per game for the month while shooting a hair over 40 percent from the field.

 

26. Indiana Pacers (16-32, Last Week: 24)

Danny Granger, after winning last season's Most Improved Player award, is having a down year.

Granger is averaging 22.4 points (down from 25.8 last season), while shooting just 40 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range.

 

27. Detroit Pistons (15-31, Last Week: 26)

The Pistons have dropped five straight, and just the Nets are saving them from being the Eastern Conference's worst team.

Looks like spending $80 million on perimeter players wasn't Joe Dumars' greatest idea ever.

 

28. Golden State Warriors (13-33, Last Week: 27)

Stephen Curry just finished a great January during which he averaged 19 points and shooting a ridiculous 49 percent from beyond the arc.

While he likely won't win, he should get strong consideration for Rookie of the Year should his performance continue to improve.

 

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (11-38, Last Week: 29)

The T'Wolves have actually won two games in a row and are closing in on the Warriors for 14th in the conference!

Kevin Love has quietly turned into a solid player down low and is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds per game this season in 29 games so far.

 

30. New Jersey Nets (4-42, Last Week: 30)

Second-year big man Brook Lopez is going for 19 points and nine rebounds per game and could be battling it out with players like Aaron Brooks for the Most Improved Player award.

The Nets were also able to snap an 11-game losing streak with a big win over the Clippers last week as they continue their quest to not be the worst team of all-time. 

Fun.

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