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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: The Toronto Raptors climb the ladder, Utah Jazz enter the top-10

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The Raptors are on the rise and the Jazz enter the top-10 [NBA Canada Illustrations]

Here is a look at the NBA Power Rankings through Week 21 of the 2018-19 NBA season.

Let's make one thing clear: These power rankings are a snapshot of where things stand now, not necessarily how they'll look at the end of the season. We're all about giving credit where it's due and, likewise, holding teams accountable for speed bumps encountered along the way.

All records and stats are through games played Sunday, March 3.

10. Indiana Pacers

Last week : 6th

Current record : 41-23

Last week : 1-3 (loss at Pistons, loss at Mavericks, win vs. Timberwolves, loss vs. Magic)

This week : vs. Bulls, at Bucks, at 76ers

Prior to this past week, the Pacers had held their ground since losing their star guard Victor Oladipo. They lost their first four contests after the injury but rattled off six consecutive wins to bounce back. They went 2-0 in the week following the All-Star break but hit a slight bump in the road going 1-3 last week.

Indiana has been stellar defensively all season, ranking second in the league with a defensive rating of 105.1. In their four games last week they abandoned that strong suit as they owned a 118.8 defensive rating - showing why they lost three of their four games against beatable oppoenents.

They still hold the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, a spot that many believed they would give up as soon as the Oladipo injury occurred, but they'll have to get back to their ways on the defensive end if they will continue to be successful.

They'll finish this upcoming week against two of the best teams in the East with the game at Philadelphia potentially deciding their place in the standings at the moment.

9. Utah Jazz

Last week : 11th

Current record : 36-26

Last week : 3-0 (win vs. Clippers, win at Nuggets, win vs. Bucks)

This week : vs. Pelicans, at Pelicans, at Grizzlies

Here come the Utah Jazz.

For a team that had high expectations after a solid outing last season, they started off slower than expected. At this point in the season they're looking more like the team everyone expected them to be, and a lot of that has to do with the level that Donovan Mitchell has elevated his game to.

He scored a career-high 46 points versus the league's best team, the Milwaukee Bucks, to come away with a massive home win for his squad.

In the five games after the All-Star break, Mitchell is averaging 33.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game shooting 45.9 percent from the field and an insane 43.9 percent from 3-point land.

He gets the wheels turning on offence to back one of the NBA's best defences - they have a defensive rating of 105.6, good for third-best in the league. Utah has shot up to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference but they are only 2.5 games back from the No. 3 seed Portland Trail Blazers.

It's safe to say that no opposing team will be hoping to draw the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.

8. Denver Nuggets

Last week : 7th

Current record : 42-20

Last week : 1-2 (win vs. Thunder, loss vs. Jazz, loss vs. Pelicans)

This week : at Spurs, at Lakers, at Warriors

It was a disappointing week for a team that has been so solid all season.

They started things off strong with a quality win over the Oklahoma City Thunder but hit a two-game skid to close the week.

Nikola Jokic was great in the game versus OKC, lighting up the box score with a near-triple-double of 36 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds to add to his MVP resume he has put together this season.

The Nuggets were the most injured team through more than half of the season but they have finally started to get healthy. Will Barton had a huge game against the Thunder as well and seems to be finding his rythym on the court despite only playing in 23 games this season.

Gary Harris has been on and off the floor all year long but finally has rid the injury report of his name and Isaiah Thomas has scored in double-figures in four of his six games since returning from injury.

Add these three to the mix of guards and wings like Monte Morris, Torrey Craig and Malik Beasley, all of whom were excellent in stepping up when called upon, and the Nuggets seem to have one of the deepest teams in the league as we hit the home stretch of the NBA season.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week : 4th

Current record : 39-24

Last week : 1-3 (loss at Nuggets, loss vs. 76ers, loss at Spurs, win vs. Grizzlies)

This week : at Timberwolves, at Blazers, at Clippers

MVP-candidate Paul George missed three of Oklahoma City's four games this past week, and the team struggled without one of its two superstars.

The Thunder went 1-3 in the past week, snapping their four-game losing streak to end the stretch with a four-point win over the Grizzlies.

With George due to return to action soon it was important that the team closed the week by getting back in the win column before embarking on a four-game road trip. Russell Westbrook assured that when he took over late in the fourth quarter to beat Memphis.

OKC begins the week by travelling to Minnesota before taking on Portland, the LA Clippers and Utah on the road - all teams that are still in the Western Conference playoff picture and look to continue to move up the standings.

6. Houston Rockets

Last week : 9th

Current record : 38-25

Last week : 4-0 (win vs. Hawks, win at Hornets, win vs. Heat, win at Celtics)

This week: at Raptors, vs. 76ers, at Mavericks

The Rockets were flawless this week, walking through three Southeast Division teams then holding off a late push by the Celtics to pick up a key road win.

We could talk about James Harden and just how insane he has been all season but you hear about that all the time. Instead, lets cover the Rockets' other players that have stepped up this past week.

Chris Paul looks back to his old self just at the right time with 19 games remaining in their regular season. This past week, he posted 16.5 points, 8.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game - all higher than his averages for this season.

Eric Gordon had himself a career-game in Boston scoring 32 points on eight made 3-pointers, the most he's converted in a game in his 10 years in the league.

Kenneth Faried injured his hip flexor against the Hornets last Wednesday, but has been a walking double-double since joining the Rockets. And lastly, Clint Capela is finally back in the lineup after a 15-game absence and even though he stated he's only at '50 to 60 percent', you would not have been able to tell after his 23-point, 17-rebound double-double in Charlotte.

This team was one game away from reaching The Finals a season ago and with the way this roster has been competing around the play of James Harden is encouraging heading into the final stretch.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

Last week : 5th

Current record : 40-23

Last week : 2-1 (win at Pelicans, win at Thunder, loss vs. Warriors)

This week : vs. Magic, at Bulls, at Rockets, vs. Pacers

While All-Star centre Joel Embiid remained sidelined with knee soreness, the Sixers managed to get wins over the Pelicans and Thunder before suffering a close loss to the defending-champion Warriors to close the week.

The acquisition of Tobias Harris has paid dividends for Philadelphia; over the past week, he led the team with 27.0 points per game, while Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler and Mike Scott made big contributions on the offensive end.

While JJ Redick shot 26.3 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from deep over the three-game slate, his shooting woes should solve themselves.

Embiid's impending return along with an expected bounce back to the norm for Redick makes the Sixers one of the most dangerous multidimensional teams in the league.

4. Portland Trail Blazers

Last week : 8th

Current record : 39-24

Last week : 3-1 (win at Cavaliers, win at Celtics, loss at Raptors, win at Hornets)

This week : at Grizzlies, vs. Thunder, vs. Suns

The Blazers are winners of six of their last seven games and are currently 5-1 on what was an intimidating seven-game road trip on the East Coast.

The past week saw Portland take care of business in Cleveland before holding off an Eastern Conference contender in Boston; it took a game-winning jump shot from Kawhi Leonard for the Raptors to get past the Blazers, who responded by getting a big road win over a scrappy Hornets team to close the week.

Portland's three-game schedule in the upcoming week includes an opportunity to earn a statement win over OKC, who has won the first three meetings between the two teams.

3. Golden State Warriors

Last week : 1st

Current record : 44-19

Last week : 2-2 (win at Hornets, loss at Heat, loss at Magic, win at 76ers)

This week : vs. Celtics, vs. Nuggets, vs. Suns

It was a strange week for the Warriors who lost to the Heat on an unbelievable last second buzzer beater by Dwyane Wade then dropped their next game to the Magic.

They bounced back with a win over a playoff-calibre team in the 76ers, as Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry rose to the occasion in the absence of sharpshooter Klay Thompson.

There is not much to write home about at this point of the season for Golden State, who seems to be on cruise control to get ready for yet another NBA Finals push.

They sit somewhat comfortably in first place, 1.5 games ahead of the Nuggets with a big matchup against the conference's second place team this week. The season series is split at one game apiece, so a win would give them a great chance of holding any tiebreaker over the team that has been challenging them for the No. 1 seed all season.

They also have an always-intense interconference matchup against the struggling Celtics to get their week started in the right direction.

The Warriors might rank third in these power rankings, but everyone knows the crown is theirs until someone de-thrones them from their two-year reign.

2. Toronto Raptors

Last week : 3rd

Current record : 46-18

Last week : 2-1 (win vs. Celtics, win vs. Blazers, loss at Pistons)

This week : vs. Rockets, at Pelicans, at Heat

The Raptors were *this* close to a perfect 3-0 week but missed their final six field goal attempts in overtime to fall to the Pistons on the road.

They were without Kawhi Leonard in that game, so they receive a pass and still move up in these power rankings for just how great they were earlier in the week.

Calling it a statement win over the Celtics would not do it justice for just how bad they rolled their divisional-foe. They destroyed Boston by 23 but led by as much as 31 points in the game.

They followed that up by fending off the Trail Blazers, one of the hottest teams in the NBA, on a buzzer beater from Kawhi Leonard who seems to get more and more clutch as the season goes on.

He scored 38 points on the night, including 15 points in the fourth quarter alone to lead his team to victory.

The addition of Marc Gasol has already paid off as the big man has slid into the starting lineup just eight games into his Raptors' career. He's been great as a defensive anchor and rim protector and arguably even better as a passer and playmaker on the offensive end.

Kyle Lowry seems to have overcome his nagging back injury earlier in the season as he sparked the second quarter run to blow open the Celtics' game, had a 19-point, 10-rebound double-double versus the Blazers then capped off the week with a season-high 35 points in a loss to the Pistons.

The Raptors are looking like one of the scariest teams in the NBA at the moment and have all the tools to make a deep run this postseason.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week : 1st

Current record : 48-15

Last week : 3-1 (win at Bulls, win at Kings, win at Lakers, loss at Jazz)

This week : at Suns, vs. Pacers, vs. Hornets, at Spurs

The Bucks' 3-1 week was highlighted by a road win over Lakers in which they became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Milwaukee, who will close out its four-game Western Conference road trip this week, has been historically dominant throughout the regular season.

A road loss to the Jazz won't slide the Bucks out of the top spot, as they have consistently asserted their dominance and continued to add to their roster.

Reports surfaced late in the week that Milwaukee will add veteran Pau Gasol to a second unit that has benefitted from the contributions of Ersan Ilyasova, Pat Connaughton and deadline addition Nikola Mirotic.

With Eric Bledsoe earning a contract extension, Khris Middleton riding the momentum of his first All-Star selection and Giannis Antetokounmpo playing at an MVP level, Milwaukee looks scarier and scarier as the postseason approaches.

Rest of the NBA

11. Boston Celtics

12. LA Clippers

13. San Antonio Spurs

14. Brooklyn Nets

15. Sacramento Kings

16. Detroit Pistons

17. Orlando Magic

18. Los Angeles Lakers

19. Charlotte Hornets

20. Miami Heat

21. Minnesota Timberwolves

22. New Orleans Pelicans

23. Dallas Mavericks

24. Washington Wizards

25. Chicago Bulls

26. Memphis Grizzlies

27. Atlanta Hawks

28. Phoenix Suns

29. Cleveland Cavaliers

30. New York Knicks

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