Sports

NBA power rankings: Warriors, Suns, Wizards vying for No. 1


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Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry (30) watches his teammates play during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

AP

* Through games played 11/17

1. Golden State Warriors (12-2)

Last week: 1

The Warriors are clearly the best team in the league right now. They slipped up in a 106-102 road loss to the Hornets, but they’ve won eight of their last nine with a 26-point victory over the Bulls at home and an 18-point victory over the Nets in Brooklyn. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry is again playing at an MVP level, averaging 28.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.6 assists.

2. Phoenix Suns (11-3)

Last week: 7

The Suns lost three of their first four games, but they’ve won 10 in a row since losing to the Kings on a buzzer beater Oct. 27. Deandre Ayton returned to the lineup to post 22 points and 12 rebounds against the Timberwolves on Monday after missing five games with a right leg contusion.

3. Washington Wizards (10-4)

Last week: 4

The Wizards continue to impress under first-year coach Wes Unseld Jr. They won five in a row with victories over the Grizzlies, Bucks, Cavaliers, Magic and Pelicans before losing to the Hornets. Bradley Beal is averaging 23.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists with strong support from Montrezl Harrell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Kuzma.

4. Chicago Bulls (10-5)

Last week: 2

The Bulls have taken a couple of losses to the Warriors and Trail Blazers, but this is still a good team with impressive recent victories over the Nets, Mavericks, Clippers and Lakers. DeMar DeRozan posted back-to-back 30-point games, dropping 35 on the Clippers and 38 on the Lakers. Zach Lavine, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball have been good, too, although Vucevic is out due to NBA health and safety protocols.

5. Brooklyn Nets (11-5)

Last week: 6

The Nets beat the Cavaliers on Wednesday, but they had a rough night in a 117-99 loss to the Warriors on Tuesday. James Harden scored 24 points, but Kevin Durant was held to 19 points on 6-of-19 shooting on a night when the Nets shot 38.6% from the field. Durant is averaging 28.9 ppg, his highest mark since averaging a career-high 32.0 ppg in 2013-14.

6. Miami Heat (10-5)

Last week: 5

Miami is getting back on track after losing three in a row to the Nuggets, Lakers and Clippers. The Heat earned another impressive win over the Jazz and an easy victory over the Thunder despite the absence of Jimmy Butler, who was out with a sprained ankle. Tyler Herro is on a role, averaging 24.4 ppg over the past five games.

7. Utah Jazz (9-5)

Last week: 3

Bojan Bogdanovic led Utah to a resounding win over a shorthanded 76ers squad, but the Jazz had lost four of its previous five games, including two losses to the Heat and an embarrassing loss to Orlando. Donovan Mitchell had a light night against Philadelphia after logging heavy minutes over the past couple of weeks.

8. Denver Nuggets (9-5)

Last week: 9

The Nuggets won five in a row before suffering a 111-101 loss to the Mavericks on Monday. They lost despite a monster effort from reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who had 35 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots. Jokic had back-to-back triple-doubles in wins over the Heat and Hawks.

9. Dallas Mavericks (9-5)

Last week: 12

Luka Doncic was held to 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting in last week’s loss to the Bulls. He bounced back to post a 32-point, 15-assist, 12-rebound triple-double in a win over the Spurs, but he missed Wednesday’s loss to the Suns due to left knee and ankle sprains. The Mavericks had won five of six before losing to the Suns, who they will face again Friday.

10. Los Angeles Clippers (9-5)

Last week: 11

The Clippers have won eight of nine behind Paul George, who is averaging 27.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists. That stretch includes three wins over the Timberwolves, one over OKC and one over the Spurs. Tougher games ahead vs. the Grizzlies and Mavericks (2).

11. Philadelphia 76ers (8-7)

Last week: 8

The 76ers looked good during their six-game winning streak despite the absence of Tobias Harris, who missed time after contracting COVID-19. Harris is back now, but Philadelphia has lost five in a row since All-Star center Joel Embiid entered NBA health and safety protocols after testing positive for the virus.

12. Charlotte Hornets (9-7)

Last week: 19

The Hornets vault seven spots this week after winning four in a row with wins over the Grizzlies, Knicks, Warriors and Wizards. Kelly Oubre Jr. erupted for 37 points in the win over Memphis. LaMelo Ball had a career-high 17 rebounds against the Knicks and 14 assists against the Wizards.

13. Cleveland Cavaliers (9-7)

Last week: 13

The Cavaliers dropped the second game of a back-to-back set against the Celtics and then lost to the Nets, but they had won six of seven with victories over the Hornets, Blazers, Raptors, Knicks, Pistons and Celtics. Wednesday marked the start of a tough stretch against the Nets, Warriors, Nets and Suns.

14. Los Angeles Lakers (8-8)

Last week: 10

The Lakers are coming off back-to-back losses to the Bulls and Bucks. They have gone 3-5 without LeBron James, who has been out since Nov. 2 with an abdominal strain. The Lakers hope to get the four-time MVP back in time for Friday’s game against the Celtics. They could string together some wins with upcoming games against the Pistons, Knicks, Pacers, Kings, Pistons and Kings.

15. New York Knicks (8-7)

Last week: 15

The Knicks have struggled since going 5-1 to start the season, losing three of their last four games and six of nine dating back to Nov. 1. Julius Randle is averaging 19.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists. RJ Barrett is shooting just 31.8% from 3-point range, down from 40.1% last season. Nerlens Noel, who is out with a sprained right knee, has only appeared in four games.

16. Portland Trail Blazers (8-8)

Last week: 23

Damian Lillard missed a game with an abdominal injury and Norman Powell is dealing with a left ankle sprain, but both were in the lineup in back-to-back wins over the Raptors and Bulls. Lillard had 24 points and eight assists in the win over Toronto. Powell came up big with 18 points in the win over Chicago. Lillard seems to be coming around, making 21 of 55 (.382) from 3-point range over his last six games.

17. Boston Celtics (7-8)

Last week: 17

The Celtics have been up and down under first-year coach Ime Udoka. In the past two weeks, they beat the Heat, lost to the Mavericks, beat the Raptors and Bucks, lost to the Cavaliers, beat the Cavaliers and then lost to the Hawks. Boston won’t be whole until Jaylen Brown, out since Nov. 4 with a right hamstring strain, returns to the lineup. Brown is averaging 25.6 ppg.

18. Memphis Grizzlies (7-7)

Last week: 16

The Grizzlies lost three in a row to the Hornets, Suns and Pelicans before taking out their frustrations in a 34-point beating of the reeling Rockets. Ja Morant is averaging 25.9 points, 7.3 assists and 6.4 rebounds, but he needs more help. He should get some from Dillon Brooks, who returns last week after missing the start of the season while recovering from a broken hand.

19. Milwaukee Bucks (7-8)

Last week: 14

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo lit up the Lakers for 47 points on Wednesday, making 18 of 23 from the field and 3 of 4 from 3-point range to help the Bucks rebound from back-to-back losses to the Celtics and Hawks. Milwaukee has struggled over the first 15 games, but the Bucks have a chance to build some momentum with upcoming games against the Thunder, Magic, Magic and Pistons.

20. Atlanta Hawks (7-9)

Last week: 25

Here come the Hawks, who have won three in a row after going 4-9 to start the season. Trae Young nearly posted his first triple-double of the season in a 120-100 victory over the Bucks, finishing with 42 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. Young is shooting career highs of 44.6% from the field, 36.8% from 3-point range and 89.9% at the free-throw line.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-8)

Last week: 22

Oklahoma City has played pretty well since going 1-6 to start the season. The Thunder has won five of its last seven games with wins over the Lakers, Spurs, Pelicans, Kings and Rockets. The only losses OKC suffered during that stretch came against the Nets and Heat, two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

22. Toronto Raptors (7-8)

Last week: 18

The Raptors wen 6-3 to start the season, but they’ve really struggled since then, losing five of their last six games. The schedule has been difficult, but the Raptors couldn’t even beat Detroit. The Pistons are last in the league in scoring at 98.2 ppg, but they erupted for a season-high 127 points against the Raptors, who gave up 118 points against the Blazers 48 hours later.

23. Indiana Pacers (6-10)

Last week: 24

The Pacers picked up two quality wins over the Jazz and 76ers, but then they lost to the Knicks and Pistons. The Pacers will get another shot at Charlotte on Friday after suffering a 123-122 loss to the Hornets in the season opener. Malcolm Brogdon is averaging 22.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists, but he’s shooting a career-low 28.8% from 3-point range.

24. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-9)

Last week: 26

The Timberwolves managed to win a couple of games over the past week, beating the Lakers by 24 on the road and the Kings by 10 at home. Karl-Anthony Towns had one of his biggest games of the season with 35 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to the Suns. That came after Anthony Edwards scored 48 in a loss to the Warriors.

25. Sacramento Kings (6-9)

Last week: 21

There is renewed speculation that coach Luke Walton’s job could be in jeopardy after the Kings lost five of their last six games. They snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over the Pistons on Monday, but they turned around and lost to the Timberwolves on Wednesday, prompting a profanity-laced tirade from Tristan Thompson in a memorable postgame news conference.

26. San Antonio Spurs (4-10)

Last week: 20

The Spurs have lost four of their last five games, including three in a row to the Mavericks, Lakers and Clippers. They will wrap up a three-game road trip against the Timberwolves on Thursday before coming home to face the Suns, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards.

27. Detroit Pistons (4-10)

Last week: 28

The Pistons are showing a little resiliency after going 1-8 to start the season. They’ve won three of their last five with wins over the Rockets, Raptors and Pacers. No. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham had a career-high 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a loss to the Kings.

28. Orlando Magic (4-11)

Last week: 27

The Magic snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over the Knicks on Wednesday. The road ahead will be difficult with upcoming games against the Nets, Bucks, Bucks, Hornets, Bulls, Cavaliers, 76ers and Nuggets. Rookie Jalen Suggs (quadriceps) was questionable for Friday’s game against the Nets.

29. New Orleans Pelicans (2-14)

Last week: 30

Wins are few and far between for the Pelicans right now, but they got one in a 112-101 victory over the Grizzlies on Saturday. Nickeil Alexander-Walker had 21 points in the win, but he was held to four points on 1-of-6 shooting in a loss to the Wizards. Zion Williamson (foot) has been cleared for contact as he inches closer to his return.

30. Houston Rockets (1-14)

Last week: 29

It’s been 26 days since the Rockets beat the Thunder in their only victory of the season. They’ve lost 13 in a row since then. Christian Wood is averaging 16.1 points and 11.1 rebounds, but his 3-point shooting has dipped from 37.4% to 31.6%. Rookie Jalen Green is hitting just 27.9% from beyond the arc.

Jason Anderson is an award-winning sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee. He started his journalism career at The Bee more than 20 years ago and returned to cover the Sacramento Kings in September 2018.





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