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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets pushing for top spots

There was a good amount of movement among the top-10 in this week's power rankings.

The Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets continue to push their way up the ladder, awaiting for the downfall of the re-occuring top-two teams while the Boston Celtics are quietly creeping up, riding a seven-game win streak.

A new team enters the top-10 while teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs take a slide.

Look and see where your favourite NBA team landed in this week's rankings!

10. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: 12th

Record: 32-21

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. CLE, win vs. DET, loss vs. BOS)

This week: vs. SAS, at NOP

The Thunder dropped a tough one to the Celtics to close out the week but still crack the top-10 by virtue of the Pacers, Mavericks and 76ers failing to play well enough to take this spot.

OKC made a statement at the trade deadline, electing not to make any moves to stay competitive this season. In the offseason, many believed this team would be heavy sellers at the deadline, but the Thunder have been one of the best teams in the NBA after the first two months of season.

They're 14-6 since the start of the New Year and are equally as close (eight games) to the No. 1 seed as they are to missing the playoffs.

Their core of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Dennis Schroder continue to string together wins and you can't imagine any team in the West wanting to have to play this hard-playing group in the first round of the playoffs.

9. Houston Rockets

Last week's ranking: 9th

Record: 33-20

Last week: 2-2 (win vs. CHA, win at LAL, loss at PHX, loss vs. UTA)

This week: vs. BOS

The Rockets are trying to break basketball again.

In trading centre Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in a four-team trade that returned Robert Covington, head coach Mike D'Antoni is going all small-ball, all the time. Houston debuted this new scheme against the monsterous Lakers and Anthony Davis, and it worked.

Going with a starting five of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Eric Gordon, Danuel House and PJ Tucker, no player stood taller than 6'6. With Covington coming off of the bench, the tallest player that stepped foot on the court for the Rockets was 6'7.

Spreading things out, playing pace-and-space basketball with a lot of 3s, Houston was able to defeat the Lakers despite allowing 62 points in the paint. They were blown out by the Suns the following night without Westbrook - a key piece to the strategy - in the lineup and they put themselves in a position to defeat the Jazz and All-Star centre Rudy Gobert, but a ridiculous game-winner spoiled their second win under their new scheme.

Nonetheless, the Rockets have proved that this small-ball scheme has a chance. They've faced two of their toughest tests already in Davis and Gobert and nearly came away with two wins. Houston will be one of the most intreguing teams to watch moving forward because of this strategy, and they'll have fair matchup against an undersized Celtics squad before the All-Star break.

8. Miami Heat

Last week's ranking: 7th

Record: 34-18

Last week: 1-3 (win vs. PHI, loss at LAC, loss at SAC, loss at POR)

This week: at GSW, at UTA

The Heat had a rough week in the win-loss columns, but on paper, this team just got better.

At the trade deadline, Miami was able to acquire one of the most highly-touted trade pieces in veteran forward Andre Iguodala. In trading for Iguodala, they also ended up with veteran 3-and-D forward Jae Crowder, giving themselves two hard-nosed, experienced players to try and make a championship push.

Their first game didn't go as planned with Iguodala and Crowder in the lineup, acting as the most recent victims in the Damian Lillard flamethrowing league tour, but they both played valuable minutes.

In Iguodala's first contest since last year's NBA Finals, he gave 23 gritty minutes, stepping up to try and shut down Lillard. As for Crowder, he had a strong showing of 18 points and 11 rebounds to go with five 3s, two steals and a block. This mid-season acquisitions should make things interesting in the Eastern Conference, especially come playoff time.

7. Utah Jazz

Last week's ranking: 8th

Record: 34-18

Last week: 2-1 (loss vs. DEN, win vs. POR, win at HOU)

This week: at DAL, vs. MIA

The Jazz had the most exhilarating week possible. Three games decided by one play each, resulting in a 2-1 record.

They started their week by falling at the hands of a Nikola Jokic game-winner. Then, it was a controversial goaltending no-call that helped them sneak away with a victory over the Trail Blazers. Lastly, it was a prayer of a game-winner from Bojan Bogdanovic to beat the Rockets. One of the craziest game-winners of the NBA season so far.

Utah entered this week on a four-game losing streak. That extended to five with the loss to the Nuggets and two plays over the next two games was the underlying difference between a seven-game losing streak or a two-game winning streak.

The Jazz came out on the more favourable end for them, staying in the hunt for a top seed in the West just 2.0 games back of the No. 2 seed.

6. LA Clippers

Last week's ranking: 3rd

Record: 37-16

Last week: 3-1 (win vs. SAS, win vs. MIA, loss at MIN, win at CLE)

This week: at PHI, at BOS

The Clippers picked up three wins but did suffer an ugly loss to the Timberwolves, resulting in a drop in this week's power rankings.

Kawhi Leonard's streak of nine-consecutive games scoring 30+ points was finally snapped in the Clippers' win over his former Spurs, and he only scored 14 points in the team's win over the Heat. Without Leonard in the lineup, LA was able to bounce back from the loss to Minnesota by steam-rolling the Cavaliers behind 25 points from Lou Williams.

Star forward Paul George is still looking to get comfortable since returning from a lingering hamstring injury, averaging just 19.0 points over the last six games. The Clippers also just played their first game with newly acquired forward Marcus Morris in the lineup - a piece that should help take this team to another level in contending for an NBA title.

LA hasn't completely figured everything out yet this season, yet this still own a quality record of 37-16 sitting in third place in the West. With Morris in the fold and George working his way back to full strength, this Clippers team should be scary after the All-Star break.

5. Boston Celtics

Last week's ranking: 6th

Record: 37-15

Last week: 4-0 (win at ATL, win vs. ORL, win vs. ATL, win at OKC)

This week: at HOU, vs. LAC

The Celtics have caught fire, winning seven games in a row including four-consecutive wins this week.

Even playing short-handed for the majority of the week with guys like Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis missing various games, the team has had no trouble rattling off victories.

Jayson Tatum has been the constant throughout this win streak, really taking his game to another level over Boston's hot streak. He's averaging 27.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game shooting 47.8% from the field and 50.0% from 3 over his last six games.

Finally getting most of their regular rotation players back in the lineup in a win over the Thunder to close the week, the Celtics will face two more tough Western Conference road tests ahead of the All-Star break, taking on the Rockets and Clippers.

4. Denver Nuggets

Last week's ranking: 4th

Record: 37-16

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. POR, win at UTA, win at PHX)

This week: vs. LAL

The Nuggets are surging over the past few weeks, winning five of their last six games and seven of their last 10.

All-Star centre Nikola Jokic is really hitting his stride after a slower start to the season, averaging 24.8 points, 10.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game since the start of the New Year. He was absolutely sensational in Denver's win over the Jazz this week, exploding for a triple-double of 30 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists capped off with a game-winning fadeaway jumper.

To add to Jokic and the team's success, the Nuggets had Jamal Murray return to the lineup from an ankle injury, exploding on the scene scoring 20 points, 31 points and 36 points in their three wins, respectively.

3. Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking: 5th

Record: 39-14

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

This week: vs. MIN, at BKN

The Raptors have not lost a game since Jan. 12. Let that sink in.

They've gone nearly an entire month without a loss, extending their win streak to a franchise-best 14 games after three more wins this week. They earned two tough, hard-fought wins over an Eastern Conference contender in the Pacers and finished off the week with another close win over the Nets, another playoff team in the East.

The craziest part is that they've still found ways to rattle off W's despite injuries to key players. Starting centre Marc Gasol missed this entire week and Serge Ibaka filled in and stepped up, as he always does. Sixth man Norman Powell also missed the whole week, but undrafted rookie Terence Davis filled that role and more. When Kyle Lowry was forced to miss the game against Brooklyn, Davis stepped into the starting lineup along Fred VanVleet and the backcourt combined for 49 points.

No matter who head coach Nick Nurse inserts into the lineup, they step up, do their job and keep the winning coming for the defending champions that now find themselves in second place in the East.

2. Los Angeles Lakers

Last week's ranking: 2nd

Record: 39-13

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

This week: at DEN

The Lakers one loss came at the hands of the Rockets new small-ball strategy but took care of business aside of that.

In the loss, All-Star forward LeBron James sent a nice reminder to all NBA fans that he simply is just not human. At 35 years old, he's still able to throw down ridiculous dunks like this one on a fast break, defying the laws of gravity while laughing in Father Time's face.

He went off for 36 points in the team's win over the Spurs, dished out 15 dimes in the loss to the Rockets and hit a dagger 3-pointer to put away the fiesty young Warriors, further advancing his pursuit on Giannis Antetokounmpo for this season's MVP award.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week's ranking: 1st

Record: 45-7

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

This week: vs. SAC, at IND

Another perfect week from the Bucks. At this point you shouldn't be surprised, because more often than not this season, that has been the case.

MVP frontrunner Giannis Antetokounmpo was utterly ridiculous this week averaging 29.3 points, 18.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists over three games, shooting 52.5% from the field. He had 34 points and 17 rebounds against the Pelicans, then topped his own performance with a jaw-dropping 36 points and 20 rebounds in a win over the 76ers.

That marked his fifth-consecutive game of 30+ points, 15+ rebounds, and 5+ assists, joining Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain as the only two players in NBA history to accomplish that feat. The Bucks are rolling with no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Rest of the NBA

11. Dallas Mavericks

12. Philadelphia 76ers

Reserve forward Furkan Korkmaz has really come into his own during this stretch of the season, scoring a career-high 34 points versus Memphis then going off for 31 points against Chicago.

The 76ers snapped their four-game losing streak with a convincing home win over the Grizzlies, then added to that with another home win over the Bulls.

Winning at home has never been an issue for this Philly team, though. It's their 9-19 road record that has them much further down in the Eastern Conference standings than anticipated. They've lost five-consecutive games on the road and that'll surely be their No. 1 area to improve following the All-Star break, with their next road game coming at the Milwaukee Bucks.

13. Indiana Pacers

14. Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard still has not cooled off.

He went for 21 points and nine assists against the Nuggets, 26 points and 10 assists in a win over the Spurs, then left it all on the court in a controversial loss to the Jazz going off for 42 points and six assists. He closed the week with another 33-point outburst, leading the Blazers to a win over the Heat.

Lillard has been a man on a mission as of late, trying to carry the Trail Blazers into the playoffs. They currently sit 2.5 games out of the No. 8 seed in the West with two huge matchups coming up this week against the Grizzlies and Pelicans - two other teams in that cluster for the last playoff spot.

15. Memphis Grizzlies

16. New Orleans Pelicans

17. Brooklyn Nets

18. Sacramento Kings

19. Orlando Magic

20. Washington Wizards

Last week, Bradley Beal got a shoutout in our power rankings for shaking off his All-Star snub, looking to lead his Wizards into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

He helped that cause this week with a game-winner against the Mavericks, scoring 29 points with eight assists in the win.

The Wizards are now just 3.0 games out of the No. 8 seed in the East.

21. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have made the playoffs 22 seasons in a row, tying the all-time record for American professional sports. Even getting out to a slow start this season - just as they did last year - the expectation is that this team will turn things around and find themselves in the postseason yet again.

We're past the midway point of the season and the Spurs own a 22-30 record, four games back from the No. 8 seed in the West. After dropping four-consecutive games this past week, they're in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997. While it's not quite time to hit the panic button with 30 games remaining in their season, San Antonio will have to act fast if they're going to make a push at that last playoff spot.

22. Phoenix Suns

23. New York Knicks

The Knicks jump up to their highest spot in the power rankings this season after rattling off four-consecutive wins.

Their four-game win streak matches the franchise's best over the last six (!) seasons. Yes, you read that right. The Knicks have not won more than four games in a row in the past six seasons.

Point guard Elfrid Payton has sparked the win streak, going for a triple-double in the team's win over the Cavaliers, averaging 14.0 points, 10.0 assists, 8.0 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game over the past week.

24. Chicago Bulls

25. Detroit Pistons

26. Charlotte Hornets

27. Atlanta Hawks

Wins come few and far between for the Hawks but All-Star point guard Trae Young is still having a phenomenal season. Young scored 48 points to go with 13 assists in Atlanta's double-overtime win over the Knicks, joining elite company in NBA history. His three 45-point, 10-assist games before turning 22 years old is the most in NBA history - more than Michael Jordan (2) and Isiah Thomas (1).

He also joined LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the only players in NBA history to have 10 (!) 40-point games before turning 22.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves

29. Golden State Warriors

30. Cleveland Cavaliers

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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