Winners of five straight games, the Heat leap all the way up to No. 2 overall in this week's updated NBA Power Rankings.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo has missed each of the Bucks' last two games due to a sore back. It's the first time this year he's missed consecutive contests and just the fourth time since his rookie season. Giannis has never missed three games in a row in his career and is expected to suit up for Monday's game in Chicago. In addition, Eric Bledsoe (right fibula avulsion fracture) will return from a two-week absence on Monday night.
2. Miami Heat
The Heat, who are currently riding a five-game winning streak, were 3-0 last week with all three wins coming against quality opponents. Miami bested the surging Jazz on Monday and then beat the Pacers and Sixers on back-to-back nights this past weekend. The Heat will look to run their streak to six on Monday night when they travel to DC to take on the shorthanded Wizards.
3. Denver Nuggets
Michael Porter Jr. made his first career start on Sunday, replacing Gary Harris (bruised left shin), and made the most of his opportunity. Porter scored a career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting with six rebounds, one assist and one 3-pointer in 26 minutes. The Nuggets have incredible depth, but it seems likely they will do everything possible to get MPJ more minutes going forward.
4. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers had lost four games in a row before notching two wins in back-to-back games this weekend over the Blazers and Mavs. LeBron James, who leads the league in assists this season, dished out his 9,000th career assist on Sunday night. He is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top-10 in both career points and dimes.
5. LA Clippers
The Clippers have lost two of their last three games, and haven't won consecutive contests since December 13th, but they did make a strong statement in their Christmas Day victory over the Lakers. Kawhi and company are now 2-0 vs. LeBron and his Lakers this season.
6. Boston Celtics
Prior to a loss to the Raptors on Saturday, the Celtics were riding a five-game winning streak. During that five-game stretch, Jaylen Brown was averaging 26.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.4 treys, while shooting 60.3% from the floor and 47.2% from downtown.
7. Utah Jazz
Despite playing without starting PG Mike Conley, the Jazz have won seven of their last eight games, including a very impressive win over the Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Donovan Mitchell has been facilitating the offense with Conley on the shelf, and he led the way in the win over LA, racking up 30 points, seven boards, nine dimes, and four triples. Joe Ingles stayed hot as well, tallying 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five 3-pointers.
8. Toronto Raptors
When the Raptors lost the Celtics in Toronto on Christmas Day, it was notable because it snapped an NBA-record 34-game winning streak at home vs. Atlantic Division opponents. The Raptors' last home loss to an Atlantic team had been a 111-109 defeat to the Knicks on Nov. 10, 2015. However, the Raps would go on to beat the C's in Boston on Saturday night.
9. Houston Rockets
James Harden dominated the Nets on Saturday, tallying 44 points on 17-of-27 shooting, to go along with ten rebounds, six assists, three blocks and one steal in 39 minutes. However, he apparently injured himself in the process, as Harden (right toe sprain) was ruled out of Sunday's game against the Pelicans. Harden is listed as questionable for Tuesday vs. Denver, as is Clint Capela (right heel).
10. Philadelphia 76ers
The good news: The Sixers have been dominant at home, posting a 16-2 record in Philly. The bad news: They are just 7-10 on the road, including two straight losses in Florida this weekend (losing by one point to the Magic on Friday and by one point in overtime to the Heat on Saturday).
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11. Dallas Mavericks
Luka Doncic took a nasty fall courtesy of a hard foul from Dwight Howard on Sunday night and retreated to the locker room shortly thereafter. However, he was able to play in the second half, even though he looked less than 100%. In addition, Tim Hardaway Jr. tweaked his hamstring during the first quarter and did not return. Fortunately, coach Rick Carlisle said after the game the team was optimistic it was nothing serious.
12. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have lost three of their last four games, with Malcolm Brogdon sitting each of Indiana's past three due to a left hamstring injury. The Pacers' next game is on New Year's Eve vs. the Sixers.
13. Oklahoma City Thunder
In the Paul George trade, OKC got the Clippers' first-round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026. And two first-round picks via Miami (2021 and 2023). And the right to swap first-round picks with LA in 2023 and 2025. And Danilo Gallinari. And, arguably most importantly, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is already establishing himself as a stud.
14. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have lost two in a row and still have two games left on their current road trip (Monday in Minnesota and Thursday vs. the Mavs in Dallas) before returning home to take on the Raptors on Saturday. Discouragingly, we still don't have a target date for Kyrie Irving's return. Coach Kenny Atkinson did tell reporters that surgery is not being considered for Irving's shoulder issue, but Kyrie has not yet been cleared for contact.
15. Orlando Magic
The Magic won their first two games last week before losing to the Bucks in Milwaukee. However, Orlando plays five of their next six games at home, with the only road contest coming in Washington against the struggling Wizards.
16. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have alternated wins and losses for the last for three weeks, going 5-4 over that nine-game stretch. They have received extremely efficient offensive contributions from DeMar DeRozan of late. Over San Antonio's last four games, DD is averaging 25.0 points while shooting 71.4% from the field and 87% from the charity stripe.
17. Portland Trail Blazers
I was singing the Blazers praises in last Monday's Power Rankings, as they were riding a four-game winning streak at the time. However, Portland lost all three games they played this past week and find themselves five games below .500. They host the Suns on Monday, but then embark on a five-game East Coast road trip. When they finally return home on January 11th, they have to take on the Bucks.
18. Chicago Bulls
After shooting 21.2% from downtown in October, and 31.2% from 3-point range in November, Lauri Markkanen has converted over 40% of his triple tries in December. After posting a True Shooting percentage south of 50% over the first six weeks of the season, Markkanen's TS% in December currently sits at 64.6%
19. Memphis Grizzlies
Dillon Brooks scored 20 points Sunday vs. the Hornets. Thus, it's certainly no surprise that the Grizzlies won. Remarkably, Memphis is 8-0 this season when Brooks scores at least 20 points. They are 2-14 when he scores fewer than 15 points.
20. Charlotte Hornets
We know about Devonte' Graham's 3-point prowess (he's made multiple 3-pointers in 13 straight games), but his passing has also been incredibly impressive. Graham has dished out double-digit assists in each of the three games the Hornets played last week.
21. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans have finally found their groove and are riding a four-game winning streak. Derrick Favors strong play is a major reason for the Pels turnaround. Over New Orleans' last five games, Favors is averaging 10.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 0.8 steals.
22. Phoenix Suns
The Suns finally snapped an eight-game losing streak Saturday night by beating the Kings in Sacramento. Devin Booker poured in a game-high 32 points with ten assists, while Kelly Oubre scored 20 points, ripped down a career-high 16 rebounds and handed out five dimes. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Deandre Ayton (right ankle sprain) will likely miss another game, as he is listed as questionable for Monday's game vs. the Blazers.
23. Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin (sore left knee) has not been at full strength all season, and it showed on Saturday, when he shot just 3-of-16 from the field for 12 points with two rebounds, two assists, and no defensive stats. He is listed as doubtful for Monday's game vs. the Jazz.
24. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have lost seven straight games and are dealing with some drama inside their locker room. Dewayne Dedmon, who signed a three-year, $41MM contract over the summer, has fallen out of the rotation completely. Over the weekend, he confirmed he wants to be moved. "I would like to be traded," Dedmon told Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. "I haven't been playing, so I would like to go somewhere where my talents are appreciated."
25. Minnesota Timberwolves
The sputtering Wolves have lost 12 of their last 13 games, and both Karl-Anthony Towns (left knee sprain) and Andrew Wiggins (illness) are listed as questionable to play on Monday against the Nets. Wiggins did not participate in Monday's morning shootaround it sounds like KAT will miss another game as well.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have won four of their last five games and wrap up a three-game road trip Monday in Toronto. They then begin a four-game homestand when they host the Hornets on Thursday.
27. New York Knicks
The Knicks won four of the 22 games they played under coach David Fizdale this season before he was fired. The Knicks have won five of the first 11 games they've played under interim head coach Mike Miller. However, it is important to note that the five wins have come against Golden State, Sacramento, Atlanta, Brooklyn and Washington. The Nets are the only team in that grouping with a winning record.
28. Golden State Warriors
Don't look now, but the Warriors have won four of their last five games. D'Angelo Russell has been crucial to their recent success. Over his last six appearances, Russell is averaging 27.8 points, 3.3 boards, 5.7 assists and 4.7 treys.
29. Washington Wizards
One benefit of being an injury-plagued team is that it allows an organization to bring in fresh blood. It appears the Wizards may have unearthed a solid rotation player in Gary Payton II. Starting place of Bradley Beal (leg) on Saturday, Payton II tallied 15 points, six rebounds, two assists, six steals and two 3-pointers. In his three games for the Wiz, he's averaging 4.3 steals, to go along with 11.7 points, 1.7 treys, 7.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 31.8 minutes, while shooting 56% from the floor and 62.5% from downtown.
30. Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young injured his right ankle on Friday vs. the Bucks and did not travel to Chicago for Saturday's game against the Bulls. He's also been ruled out of Monday's game in Orlando. As a result, John Collins has served as the focal point of the Hawks offense. On Saturday, he scored a season-high 34 points and added eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, three blocks and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes.