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NBA

NBA Power Rankings: The Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets are on the rise

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Who took the top spot this week? [NBA Getty Images]

Here is a look at the NBA Power Rankings through Week 11 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, December 30.

10. Los Angeles Clippers

Last week's ranking: 13

Overall record: 21-15

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. Kings, win at Lakers, loss vs. Spurs)

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This week: vs. 76ers, at Suns, vs. Magic

The Clippers started the week strong with two quality wins over two quality teams.

Their dynamic duo off the bench of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell combined for 46 points in the win over the Kings, then Williams followed that performance with 36 points in the Battle for the STAPLES Center versus the Lakers.

The performance of these two bench juggernauts have been a key component to the Clippers' success this season. They lead the NBA in bench scoring with 52.4 points per game coming from their second unit - Williams's 18.1 points per game average is the second most in the league, trailing only Derrick Rose while Harrell's 15.6 points per game is just outside the top-five in that category.

The Clippers have cooled off in the slightest since their hot start with a 4-6 record in their last 10 games but they still find themselves in the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference nearing the halfway point of the season.

9. Philadelphia 76ers

Last week's ranking: 7

Overall record: 23-14

Last week: 1-2 (loss at Celtics, win at Jazz, loss at Trail Blazers)

This week: at Clippers, at Suns, vs. Mavericks

The 76ers had a tough week that all started with a close overtime loss to the Celtics on Christmas Day. Another huge performance from Joel Embiid and a triple-double from Ben Simmons gave them a bounce-back win over the Utah Jazz, but their end to the week was one to forget suffering their worst loss of the season to the Trail Blazers.

At times, this looks like it could be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference - when Embiid, Simmons and Jimmy Butler are all clicking, they're hard to stop. But their lack of depth leaves this team with much to desire and it's not often enough that all three stars get going on the same night. This is surely a team that is built for the playoffs when you cut your bench to seven or eight players, but it will be fun to watch them the rest of this season as they try and figure things out in getting all three of their superstars on the same page.

8. Boston Celtics

Last week's rating: 8

Overall record: 21-14

Last week: 2-1 (win vs. 76ers, loss at Rockets, win at Grizzlies)

This week: at Spurs, vs. Timberwolves, vs. Mavericks

Kyrie Irving was downright ridiculous in the Celtics' Christmas Day victory over the 76ers. He had the hot hand all game long and stepped up when Boston needed him most, knocking down the game-tying shot in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime.

He came up huge again in helping the Celtics bounce back from their loss to the Rockets, leading Boston to a 19-point second half comeback in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Throughout Boston's early season struggles, Irving has been the consistent catalyst pushing this team through. He's having a career year but the Celtics are still just in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, under-performing to their preseason expectations.

They have a few tough Western Conference matchups this week to try and inch closer to retaining the top spot in the East.

MORE: Who deserves the All-Star start more, Irving or Lowry?

7. Houston Rockets

Last week's ranking : 10

Overall record: 20-15

Last week: 3-0 (win vs. Thunder, win vs. Celtics, win at Pelicans)

This week: vs. Grizzlies, at Warriors, at Trail Blazers

There is no team in the NBA as hot as the Rockets right now and there is no player in the NBA playing better than James Harden.

Harden has taken his game to another level over the past few weeks and his team's record reflects of it. They've won nine out of their last 10 games and have gone from out of the playoff picture in the West to the No. 5 seed. Just as it seemed like they might never get this season on track, the reigning MVP of the league has made sure his team did not let this year slip away from them.

Over their 9-1 streak, Harden is posting 39.4 points, 8.0 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. He's shooting 44.3 percent from the field, 40.7 percent from three and 89.1 percent from the free throw line on 12.9 free throw attempts per contest. This past week he scored 41 on Christmas versus the Thunder, 45 on National TV against the Celtics and 41 against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans. As long as this tear continues, this team will keep rising week-to-week in our rankings.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week's ranking: 4

Overall record: 22-13

Last week: 1-2 (loss at Rockets, win at Suns, loss at Mavericks)

This week: vs. Mavericks, at Lakers, at Trail Blazers, vs. Wizards

It was a rough week for the Thunder who lost three out of their last four, their worst stretch since going 0-4 to start the season.

James Harden's 41-point outing spoiled their Christmas Day and rookie phenom Luka Doncic gave them 25 points and seven assists in their loss to end the week. Their defence has still been tough, good for the second-best in the league in terms of defensive rating, but their offence is struggling. They rank 20th in the league in offensive rating and Russell Westbrook's shooting struggles could be paralleled with that.

Westbrook shot 6-for-20 on Christmas and 4-for-22 in Sunday's loss to the Mavericks. He's shooting the worst he has since the first two years of his career from 3-point range and 43.1 percent shooting from the field is nothing to write home about when averaging 19.0 shot attempts per game. Luckily for OKC, Paul George is having the best offensive season of his career to pick up the team on that end of the floor.

If Westbrook can get his shooting stroke figured out any time between now and the NBA Playoffs, look out for this team as a serious contender in the West.

5. Indiana Pacers

Last week's ranking : 6

Overall record: 24-12

Last week: 2-0 (win at Hawks, win vs. Pistons)

This week: vs. Hawks, at Bulls, at Raptors

The Pacers have been on a roll over the last month of the NBA season. They're 11-2 in their last 13 games and are getting it done by playing lockdown defence.

They passed the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best defence in the league in terms of defensive rating at 102.0 and their defensive stats across the board are just as impressive. They rank third in steals and 12th in blocks while holding their opponents to the second-worst field goal percentage per game. They also rank third in opponent free throws per game, keeping their number of fouls down despite playing such physical defence.

Myles Turner holds down the paint with a league-best 2.8 blocks per game while the rest of the team locks up the perimeter. Victor Oladipo has been fantastic when he's healthy and the Pacers found ways to win even when he was out. Now that he's back, this team will continue to climb the charts on these rankings.

4. Toronto Raptors

Last week's ranking : 5

Overall record: 27-11

Last week: 2-1 (win at Heat, loss at Magic, win vs. Bulls)

This week: vs. Jazz, at Spurs, at Bucks, vs. Pacers

It was an up-and-down week for the Raptors, who are a mediocre 6-4 over their last 10 games. They had a huge comeback win over the Miami Heat to start the week which was capped off by a Danny Green game-winner, but responded poorly to suffer their worst loss of the season in Orlando. Sunday's win over Chicago wasn't pretty, but solid defense and good rebounding got the job done for a team that is fighting through some injuries at the moment.

The biggest concern for this team is that their two best players, Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, have not played together since December 9th. Between Leonard sitting out back-to-backs and Lowry's back soreness, this team can't seem to get their stars to align. Luckily they're deep enough that they've still managed to win games without the two of them, and Jonas Valanciunas, but their health explains their decline in performance recently.

3. Golden State Warriors

Last week's ranking: 2

Overall record: 24-13

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

This week: at Suns, vs. Rockets, at Kings

The Warriors suffered a tough home loss against the Lakers on Christmas, then lost a rare second-straight game at Oracle Arena when Damian Lillard knocked down a game-winner on Thursday. They responded well by traveling to Portland and getting revenge on the Trail Blazers, but the 1-2 week dropped them a spot in these power rankings.

Needless to say, the Warriors are still in great shape as the favorites in the West. They had Klay Thompson finally find his stroke in Saturday's win, scoring 32 points while showing appreciation to his own hot hand.

All of their stars are finally healthy and it seems the debut of DeMarcus Cousins, who started practicing with the Santa Cruz Warriors two weeks back, will be sooner rather than later. They have a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals coming up this week when they take on the Rockets - a perfect opportunity for a statement win in trying to cool off one of the league's hottest teams.

2. Denver Nuggets

Last week's ranking: 1

Overall record : 23-11

Last week : 2-1 (loss at Spurs, win vs. Spurs, win at Suns)

This week: vs. Knicks, at Kings, vs. Hornets

The Nuggets first meeting with the Spurs was a close loss, but promising performances from Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley is encouraging going forward this season. In their final two wins of the week, it was the Jamal Murray show - he scored 31 in the second meeting with the Spurs then dropped 46 in a close win over the Suns.

It's truly amazing what the Nuggets have been able to do despite missing three key players (Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap) to injury. And that's not even counting Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr., who weren't expected to play up to this point in the season, but should eventually provide some depth for this team.

They've gotten extremely valuable minutes out of unexpected guys like Monte Morris, Torrey Craig and Malik Beasley and have relied on key bench players like Mason Plumlee and Juancho Hernangomez to step up Millsap's absence and fill that forward role. The Nuggets still hold down the top spot in the Western Conference.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Last week's ranking : 3

Overall record: 25-10

Last week: 3-0 (win at Knicks, win vs. Knicks, win vs. Nets)

This week: vs. Pistons, vs. Hawks, vs. Raptors

This was an easy choice to place the Bucks at the No. 1 spot.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has his team right where he wants them, showing the best record in the NBA through 11 weeks.

He did not disappoint in his first ever Christmas Day appearance, lighting up Madison Square Garden for 30 points and 14 rebounds. He followed that performance by destroying the Knicks again with 31 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists then posted a 31-10-10 triple-double in a win over the Nets. The Greek Freak has been absolutely unstoppable and would be most people's MVP selection thus far.

As for his team, the Bucks are 8-2 in their last 10 games after going a perfect 3-0 last week. In fact, Milwaukee has not lost back-to-back games all season. They're the only team in the NBA that ranks in the top-five in both offensive and defensive rating and that's obviously not just Giannis' work. Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez have all been great this season and their bench players like Pat Connaughton, Tony Snell, D.J. Wilson and George Hill have stepped up when called upon.

This team has been extremely impressive as we come toward the halfway point in the season and they'll surely be a threat to reach The Finals through the East.

Rest of the NBA

11. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers caught a tough break when LeBron James went down with a hamstring injury on Christmas Day. He's listed as day-to-day as of now, but the Lakers have already struggled without him. They dropped two in a row after the win on Christmas but avoided a three-game losing streak with a come-from-behind win over the Kings to close out the week.

To give you an idea of what life without LeBron might be like, Kyle Kuzma led the team in shot attempts in two out of the three games without James. He scored 33, 24 and 18 in those three games and has showed that he intends to be the go-to guy while the King gets his rest.

The Lakers will rely on Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to fill those minutes at forward for the time-being. Los Angeles and their young guns have an extremely tough test coming up this week as they'll host the Oklahoma City Thunder likely without LeBron.

12. Sacramento Kings

13. Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers started the week with a loss in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum's Christmas Day debut to the Jazz but they bounced back quickly. Portland went into Oracle Arena and came away with a huge win in overtime over the Warriors as Lillard, an Oakland native, stepped up in a big way in his home city.

In the Blazers' loss to the Warriors the next game, Lillard went for 40 points. Portland closed out the week on a back-to-back but seemed unphased as they annihilated the 76ers by 34 points in a 35-point outburst from McCollum. This past week just goes to show how dangerous this team can be when Lillard and McCollum are playing at this level.

14. San Antonio Spurs

15. Miami Heat

16. Memphis Grizzlies

17. Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic mania continues.

The stand-out rookie put together a fantastic week to help the Mavericks go 2-1. He posted a near-triple-double with 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds to knock off Anthony Davis and the Pelicans, then scored a career-high 34 points in a loss to the Pelicans two days later. Doncic closed the week with 25 points and seven assists in a massive win over the Thunder to keep the Mavericks within two games of the final playoff spot in the West.

Dallas has a league-worst 2-15 record on the road but trail only the Bucks for the best record at home (15-3). If Doncic and the Mavericks can figure out their woes away from Dallas, this team will be a tough out come playoff time.

18. Utah Jazz

19. Charlotte Hornets

20. Minnesota Timberwolves

21. Orlando Magic

22. Detroit Pistons

23. New Orleans Pelicans

24. Brooklyn Nets

25. Atlanta Hawks

26. Washington Wizards

Things continue to fall apart for the Wizards, who will be without their All-Star point guard John Wall for the remainder of the season. They went 1-2 this past week and have lost nine of their last 12 games. They have the third-worst defence and a bottom-10 offence in the league by offensive and defensive rating and they are not trending in the right direction.

Their sole bright spot has been Bradley Beal, who is having a career-year for the Wizards. He's posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals while shooting the second-best field goal percentage of his career. The Wizards might be having a rough season, but Beal is proving he has what it takes to be a perennial All-Star in this league.

27. Phoenix Suns

28. Chicago Bulls

29. New York Knicks

30. Cleveland Cavaliers

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