The Bucks maintain the top spot, the Rockets climb into the top five, and the Celtics tumble out of the top 10 in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.
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1. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks were riding a seven-game winning streak heading into Saturday night’s showdown with the Jazz. And, despite playing without Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fasciitis) and Eric Bledsoe (back), Milwaukee built a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. However, they couldn’t hold on, as Donovan Mitchell went nuclear. Nonetheless, the loss certainly can’t be pinned on Giannis Antetokounmpo, who played point guard and tallied 43 points (on 15-for-26 shooting), 14 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, one block and two 3-pointers in just 32 minutes.
2. Golden State Warriors
Despite some recent stumbles, the Warriors are still sitting atop the Western Conference. And now they may get some additional reinforcements up front. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Golden State has emerged as the favorites to sign center Andrew Bogut. Per Chris Hayes of Yahoo, the Warriors will sign Bogut for the remainder of the season after he receives a letter of clearance from his Australian team.
3. Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard (load management) sat out again on Sunday. He’s played in only 46 of the Raptors 64 games thus far this season. "They're just doing the right precautions to make sure I'm healthy down the road," said Leonard about his days off. "I only played nine games last year so the boost is like 200 percent or something like that. It's all about the body. I know what the bigger picture is."
4. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets had been making a run at Golden State for the top seed in the Western Conference, but then lost two straight games to close out the week. Both contests were played in Denver, and it was the first time they’ve dropped consecutive home games since early November. Saturday's loss to the Pelicans was particularly perplexing. The Nuggets led New Orleans (who were playing without Anthony Davis) by 19 points in the second quarter but inexplicably ended up losing 120-112.
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5. Houston Rockets
The Rockets began their current five-game winning streak with a victory over the Warriors in Golden State and kept it alive with another impressive victory over the Celtics in Boston on Sunday. The Rockets have now surged into fifth place in the crowded West and are just a game behind the third-seeded Blazers. However, there’s no rest of the weary, as Houston travels to Toronto to take on the Raptors Tuesday night.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid (sore left knee) has missed each of the five games the Sixers have played since the All-Star break. Philly is 3-2 in those contests, as Ben Simmons has done his best to keep the Sixers afloat. He’s averaging 20.0 points (on 55 percent shooting), 10.8 boards, 7.6 assists and 1.4 steals during this stretch. Fortunately, Embiid said over the weekend that he has been making progress in his rehab and is planning on returning to action this week. He returned to practice on Monday.
7. Portland Trail Blazers
Rodney Hood hadn’t given Portland much since the Blazers traded for him last month. Coming into the weekend, he was averaging just 3.2 points and 0.8 assists while shooting a putrid 21.9 percent from the floor and 25 percent from the free-throw stripe in 20.2 minutes over his previous five contests. However, he finally broke out of a nasty slump on Sunday afternoon, when he exploded for 27 points, three 3-pointers, one rebound, two assists and two steals over 24 minutes in a 118-108 win over Charlotte. Portland has now won six of their last seven.
8. Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell has had plenty of special moments since being drafted by Utah in June of 2017, but few compare to his performance on Saturday night in Salt Lake City. With the Jazz down 17 in the fourth quarter, Mitchell took over, scoring 17 points himself in the final eight minutes of the game. He would finish with a career-high 46 points to go along with three rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block and five 3-pointers. Utah is climbing the West’s playoff standings and can make up some ground this week. They have a home-and-home with New Orleans on Monday and Wednesday, and then take on the Grizzlies Friday night.
9. Oklahoma City Thunder
One of the reasons Russell Westbrook is one of the best players on the planet is because of his fearlessness. Russ, who is often criticized for his shot selection, was 3-for-13 from the floor over the first three quarters of Sunday's game vs. Memphis. OKC was down 13 points with seven minutes left. That’s when Westbrook began to take over. He scored 12 of his 22 points in the final frame and was 4-of-7 from the field to power the Thunder to a 99-95 victory.
10. Indiana Pacers
Indiana went 1-3 last week. Domantas Sabonis sprained his left ankle on Monday night and missed the following three games. However, when speaking with reporters on Saturday, coach Nate McMillan said Sabonis has progressed to light workouts. Fortunately, the Pacers don’t play until Tuesday. We can expect an update on Sabonis’ status by Monday evening.
11. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs badly needed the home cooking they got this week. San Antonio went 1-7 on their daunting eight-game “Rodeo road trip.” However, the Spurs have won both games they’ve played since returning to Texas, including an impressive win over OKC on Saturday. On Monday they face a stiff test when they host the Nuggets.
12. Boston Celtics
The Celtics have lost five of six, and gloom and doom seem to be surrounding Boston at the moment. Interestingly, over the Celtics last 17 games, Boston is 6-0 without Kyrie Irving in the lineup, but just 3-8 with Kyrie in the lineup. There is obviously still plenty of time to right the ship, but the C’s are most definitely trending in the wrong direction.
13. LA Clippers
L.A. has traded their leading scorer two years in a row. In 2018, they shipped Blake Griffin to Detroit, and last month they traded Tobias Harris to Philadelphia. Despite shuffling players in and out of the lineup, the Clippers still find ways to win. They won three of the four games they played last week and now find themselves in seventh place out West.
14. Detroit Pistons
After fighting off the Raptors in overtime on Sunday, the Pistons are now sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Detroit is playing its best basketball of the season. They’ve won none of their last 11 games, including five straight at home. The Pistons are back at .500 for the first time since the day after Christmas.
15. Sacramento Kings
Losers of three straight and five of their last six games, the Kings have hit a rough patch. However, they get a chance to snap that losing streak on Monday when they host the hapless Knicks, who will be playing on the back end of a back-to-back. In fact, two of their next three games are against New York.