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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: LA Clippers rise, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets fall

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Kawhi Leonard's play has the Clippers climbing the ladder [NBA.com illustrations]

There was a lot of movement in the top-10 this week and one familiar team has re-entered that threshold after a two-week absence.

How far did the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics fall after a rough week? Where did the LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors move to following an undefeated week?

Take a look and see where your favourite team landed in this week's power rankings!

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10. Dallas Mavericks

Last week's ranking: 12th

Record: 27-15

Last week: 3-0 (win at GSW, win at SAC, win vs. POR)

This week: vs. LAC, at POR, at UTA

Coming into this week the Mavericks had hit a bit of a rough patch losing three of their last four games, causing them to fall out of the top-10 in our power rankings.

They responded well with three wins and even though it wasn't against the most remarkable teams, it's important to win the games you're supposed to.

Luka Doncic set another record - which seems to be a reoccuring theme nearly every time he takes the floor - becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record at least 20 points, 15 assists and 15 rebounds in a game.

Doncic had a triple-double of 25 points, 17 assists and 15 rebounds in the Mavericks win over the Kings - his 20th triple-double of the season, which leads the NBA.

9. Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking: 10th

Record: 28-14

Last week: 3-0 (win at OKC, win vs. WAS, win at MIN)

This week: at ATL, vs. PHI, at NYK, at SAS

It doesn't seem to matter who the Raptors put out on the floor because they find ways to win games anyway.

Toronto finally had their roster return to full strength this week, so it's no coincidence they had a perfect 3-0 record. While Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell returned at the back end of last week, Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet were back in action for the first time this week.

All four of the aforementioned players have picked up right where they left off prior to their injuries, putting together impressive outings in their first games back.

Powell has now scored 20-plus points in all four games since his return, Gasol went for 20 points on six 3-pointers in his second game back against the Wizards and VanVleet, who was supposed to play limited minutes in his first game back against the Timberwolves, ended up going off for a game-high 29 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists.

It's next man up mentality with the Raptors as they find themselves in third place in the East despite all their injuries.

8. Boston Celtics

Last week's ranking: 4th

Record: 27-14

Last week: 1-3 (win vs. CHI, loss vs. DET, loss at MIL, loss vs. PHX)

This week: vs. LAL, vs. MEM, at ORL, at NOP

The Celtics have struggled as of late, dropping six of their last 10 games.

Their troubles continued this week, losing three consecutive games including a pair of home losses to teams under .500.

Kemba Walker scored 40 points in their game against the first-place Bucks, but the Celtics' comeback came up short. Without Walker and Jaylen Brown in the lineup against the Suns, the Celtics nearly completed another comeback behind a heroic performance from Marcus Smart, but again, came up short.

Smart buried a franchise-record 11 3-pointers for a career-high 37 points in the loss to the Suns, going 11-for-22 from long range.

They'll have to turn things around as soon as possible, as their long-time rival Lakers are coming to town to kick off this next week.

7. Houston Rockets

Last week's ranking: 3rd

Record: 26-15

Last week: 0-3 (loss at MEM, loss vs. POR, loss vs. LAL)

This week: vs. OKC, vs. DEN, at MIN, at DEN

Just as the Rockets seemed to be piecing things together, they've dropped four of their last five contests including three-straight losses this week.

While the blame typically falls on All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, he's been terrific during this stretch averaging 32.5 points, 8.5 assists and 7.0 rebounds shooting 53.2% from the field.

The troubles have come from the NBA's best scorer, as James Harden hasn't been able to get much of anything to fall from 3-point range. Over that very same stretch of games, Harden is shooting 20-for-74 from 3 for an ugly 27.0%.

As he always does, Harden has still found ways to score over 30 points in three of those five contests, but his inefficiency has put the Rockets in a tough spot. They'll need their leading scorer to find his stroke sooner rather than later, as they have three big matchups coming up this week.

6. Miami Heat

Last week's ranking: 7th

Record: 29-13

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. SAS, win at OKC, loss at SAS)

This week: at SAC, vs. WAS, vs. LAC

The Heat picked up two quality wins this week including a strong performance on the road against a tough Thunder team.

They were once again sparked from undrafted rookie Kendrick Nunn, who scored a team-high 33 points in Miami's win over the Spurs, then followed that performance with a team-high 22 points in the win over Oklahoma City.

Alongside potential All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, Nunn has provided a consistent scoring punch for this surprising team. His 16.0 points per game ranks second among all rookies, only trailing Rookie of the Year favourite Ja Morant.

5. Denver Nuggets

Last week's ranking: 8th

Record: 29-13

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. CHA, win at GSW, loss vs. IND)

This week: at MIN, at HOU, at NOP, vs. HOU

One of the main reasons the Nuggets were a favourite to come out of the Western Conference heading into this season was because of their depth.

This roster is loaded with talent and even the 11th and 12th man off the bench can find a way to contribute to help this team win. They've already been without Paul Millsap (knee contusion) and they lost Jamal Murray this week to an ankle injury. Despite missing two key players, Denver still put together a quality 2-1 week.

Against the Hornets, it was a 15-point, 15-rebound double-double from Mason Plumlee and a 19-point outburst off the bench from rookie Michael Porter Jr. In the tightly contested win over the Warriors, Malik Beasley - whose playing time has diminished compared to last season - stepped up when his number was called on, going for a season-high 27 points.

Nikola Jokic has ramped up his play and the role players around him have followed suit. WIth Murray and Millsap out for the time-being, we'll see just how consistent those role players and reserves can be in trying to keep this team toward the top of the West.

4. Utah Jazz

Last week's ranking: 5th

Record: 29-13

Last week: 2-1 (win at BKN, loss at NOP, win vs. SAC)

This week: vs. IND, at GSW, vs. DAL

The Jazz's 10-game win streak came to an end at the hands of an overtime loss to the Pelicans, but they've still won 11 of their last 12 games and are 16-2 in their last 18 games.

They remain one of the hottest teams in the NBA and are clicking after a slow start to the season. Donovan Mitchell scored a career-high-tying 46 points in the team's sole loss to the Pelicans. Joe Ingles has been a maestro on the offensive end, dishing out assists and burying 3-pointers. Rudy Gobert went for monster double-doubles in all three contests this week, all while averaging nearly three blocks per game.

And on top of all of that, Mike Conley Jr. returned to the lineup following a 20-game absence in the team's win over the Kings. Conley came off the bench and only played 15 minutes as head coach Quin Snyder tries to ease him back into things to avoid re-aggravating that nagging hamstring, but the hopes are that he'll add another scorer and playmaker to a thriving roster.

3. LA Clippers

Last week's ranking: 6th

Record: 30-13

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. CLE, win vs. ORL, win at NOP)

This week: at DAL, at ATL, at MIA, at ORL

No Paul George, no problem.

The Clippers have been without their All-Star wing in five-consecutive games but have gone 4-1 in those contests. You can thank Kawhi Leonard for that, as he's amidst one of the best scoring stretches of his career.

Leonard has posted five-straight games of 30-plus points, averaging 36.0 points while shooting 55.8% from the field and 42.9% from 3.

Between Leonard and the bench duo of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams, the Clippers have managed to continue to churn out wins until George is healthy enough to return from his hamstring injury.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Last week's ranking: 2nd

Record: 34-8

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. CLE, loss vs. ORL, win at HOU)

This week: at BOS, at NYK, at BKN, at PHI

It appears Anthony Davis' injury is more serious than originally expected as the Lakers have been without their star forward for five consecutive games.

The team has continued to find ways to win without their Defensive Player of the Year and MVP candidate, going 4-1 in that five-game stretch.

You can thank LeBron James for that, as the 35-year-old's production has increased during his team's time of need. James has scored 30-plus points in four of those five contests while averaging 11.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds.

He matched his career-high of 19 assists in the Lakers sole loss of the week to the Magic, but responded with 31 points and 12 assists in a win over the Rockets. James is making a strong case for the league's MVP and somehow continues to get better with age.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week's ranking: 1st

Record: 38-6

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. NYK, win vs. BOS, win at BKN)

This week: vs. CHI, at CHA

Can anyone stop the Bucks?

Let me answer that for you - no.

Milwaukee rolled again this week, going a perfect 3-0. They handled their toughest matchup of the week against the Celtics and dominated both the Knicks and Nets in a fashion you would expect.

Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to put on for the best team in the league, averaging 32.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists over the past three games. He's making a runaway break with the league MVP trophy for the second year in a row and it doesn't appear that anything will stop that.

His teammates are stepping up as well, as Donte DiVincenzo had a career-high 19 points against the Celtics, Khris Middleton is playing at an All-Star level, Brook Lopez is swatting everything away at the rim and George Hill remains the league's most efficient 3-point shooter.

The Bucks only have two games this week, as their contest against the Hornets will be in Paris.

Rest of the NBA

11. Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons has taken his play to another level without All-Star Joel Embiid in the lineup. He's been far more aggressive, averaging 19.2 points per game since Embiid's injury.

He's attempting more shots per game, crashing the glass harder to start the break and get out in transition, and his field goal percentage has increased as a product of those things.

12. Indiana Pacers

13. Oklahoma City Thunder

14. Memphis Grizzlies

We're only halfway through his first NBA season and 20-year-old guard Ja Morant is already become must-see-TV.

The Rookie of the Year favourite is putting on a show every time he takes the floor and has this young Grizzlies squad out-performing their expectations, sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference.

He posted 26 points and eight assists in a win over the Rockets, which included a number of clutch plays down the stretch to give his team their sixth-consecutive win. Memphis has now won seven games in a row.

15. Phoenix Suns

16. Orlando Magic

Remember when everyone labeled Markelle Fultz as a bust just two years after being selected No. 1 overall? Well those preconceived notions have been proved wrong, as the 21-year-old guard is thriving in Orlando this season.

His latest accomplishment - dropping his second-career triple-double to knock off the top-seeded Lakers in Los Angeles, scoring a couple clutch buckets down the stretch of the game to put away LeBron James and co.

17. Portland Trail Blazers

18. San Antonio Spurs

19. New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans had another solid 2-1 week highlighted by a career-performance from Brandon Ingram.

Ingram scored a career-high 49 points and knocked down a game-winner in a thrilling overtime game to snap the Jazz's 10-game win streak, making a strong push to make the All-Star team.

The Pelicans are just 4.5 games back from the No. 8 seed in the West and have Zion Williamson set to return this upcoming week against the Spurs.

20. Brooklyn Nets

21. Sacramento Kings

22. Chicago Bulls

23. Charlotte Hornets

24. Detroit Pistons

25. Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns returned to the lineup after a 15-game absence but the Timberwolves still couldn't snap their losing streak. Minnesota has lost five games in a row, but Andrew Wiggins did record his first career triple-double in the team's loss to the Raptors.

26. Washington Wizards

27. Atlanta Hawks

28. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are still struggling this season but received a bit of good news to close the week.

Two-time MVP Stephen Curry, who has been out since Oct. 30 with a fractured left hand, is "targeting" a Mar. 1 return, according to The Athletic's Marcus Thompson II.

Curry has missed 40 games this season after suffering a fractured hand in the fourth game of the season, but a Mar. 1 return would put him in place to play 22 games to close the season.

29. Cleveland Cavaliers

30. New York Knicks

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