NBA Power Rankings: Clutch Kyrie Irving leads Mavericks into top five, Thunder take top spot from Nuggets


This week OKC proved it’s much more than the Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Show, going to OT with the red-hot Rockets and blowing the Suns off the court without the services of its MVP candidate. Of course, SGA returned on Sunday to hit the game-winner against the Knicks with a “did you miss me?” grin. The Thunder are back in the No. 1 seed out West. 4 52-22

The Celtics can still beat teams that aren’t based in Atlanta, apparently, after wins against the Pelicans and Hornets to close out the week. These are all tune-up games for Boston, which has already clinched the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and Joe Mazzulla admitted to experimenting a bit with his defense in the losses to the Hawks. Sure, why not? — 59-16

The Wolves were on their way to the No. 1 spot in this week’s Power Rankings after Friday’s huge win in Denver, but a home loss to the Bulls on Sunday spoiled the parade. The defense continues to be elite, while the offense understandably struggles at times without Karl-Anthony Towns. Dropping out of the top three seems highly unlikely for Minnesota at this point, and the No. 1 seed is still very much in play. — 51-23

This week once again proved how valuable that Jamal Murray is to the championship formula, as he’s now missed five straight games with a knee issue. You just don’t see Denver lose consecutive home games very often, even if it is to the Suns and Timberwolves. They got back on track on Sunday against the Cavs, but the losses were enough to drop them from the top spot in the standings and (perhaps more importantly) this week’s Power Rankings. 3 52-23

The Mavs chose an excellent time to become one of the hottest teams in basketball, picking up consecutive monumental road wins over the Kings, then ending the Rockets’ 11-game winning streak to make it seven in a row overall for Dallas. Kyrie Irving was once again the closer extraordinaire, averaging 12 points in the fourth quarter during the three wins on 63% shooting. There isn’t a top seed in the West that wants any part of Dallas in the postseason. 5 45-29

After eking out a controversial win in Philadelphia, the Clippers took care of the Magic and Hornets on the road to establish what could hesitantly be called the smallest modicum of momentum. James Harden was awful in terms of efficiency, but the Clippers defense is creeping back toward respectable after being horrendous for the better part of two months. 9 47-27

Apparently the Bucks don’t like playing against teams without their stars, as they fell to the Lakers sans LeBron James and the Brandon Ingram-less Pelicans to start the week. They turned the trend around by beating the Hawks without Trae Young on Saturday, but it’s still somewhat concerning as it pertains to effort and focus under Doc Rivers. 3 47-27

Phoenix went two-for-three in massive Western Conference matchups against the Nuggets, Thunder and Pelicans. Devin Booker tied Wilt Chamberlain’s record (always a good thing), scoring 50-plus points in his third straight game against New Orleans — a feat difficult to fathom. 4 44-31

The Pelicans missed Brandon Ingram in an absolute gauntlet of a week, beating the Bucks with losses to the Thunder, Celtics and Suns (all games were at home, at least). Zion Williamson averaged 28 points for the week, but the team’s net rating curiously fell by nearly 19 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. Meanwhile the Pelicans thrived in CJ McCollum’s minutes, mustering just 92 points per 100 possessions with him on the bench. 3 45-30

The Magic lost home games to the Warriors and Clippers this week before getting back on track against the Grizzlies and Blazers. Despite the losses, Orlando is still well-positioned to fight for a top-three seed in the East — which still sounds kind of weird to say out loud. 1 44-31

Jalen Brunson must be wondering what a man needs to do to get his team a win. He scored a career-high 61 points in Friday’s overtime loss to the Spurs (one off of Carmelo Anthony’s franchise record), then put up 30 more in a one-point loss to the Thunder on Sunday. The Knicks are still essentially tied for the No. 3 spot in the East, and within striking distance of the No. 2 Bucks, though time is running out. 4 44-30

Indiana and Miami are in a dogfight for the No. 6 spot — now tied in the loss column — so going 2-1 this week was critical to keep pace. Tyrese Haliburton is officially out of his slump, averaging 20 points and nine assists this week on 39% 3-point shooting. 1 43-33

The Lakers have now won six of their last seven games but still sit in the No. 9 spot, just one game ahead of the Warriors in the loss column. The crown jewel of last week came in Milwaukee without LeBron James, with Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Davis each logging at least 29 points in the overtime win. James made sure to remind everyone just how much they missed him with a career-high-tying nine 3-pointers in a 40-point effort against the Nets on Sunday. 3 42-33

Not a good week for the Kings, who found out that Kevin Huerter is out for the year and Malik Monk will miss at least a month while losing consecutive crucial home matchups with the Mavericks. Sacramento is trending downward with the teams below them (the Lakers and Warriors) playing well. Stay tuned. 6 43-31

The anguish on Steph Curry’s face was evident when Draymond Green got ejected less than four minutes into Wednesday’s crucial game (aren’t they all, these days) against the Magic, but they were able to persevere. They not only won that game, but have rattled off four in a row to create the slightest amount of breathing room over the Rockets for the 10th and final West Play-In spot. Coincidentally, Golden State now sits just one game behind the Lakers in the loss column for the ninth spot. 4 40-34

The Cavs lost to the Hornets and Nuggets this week, but also beat the 76ers in Donovan Mitchell’s return from a six-game absence. He was evidently a bit rusty, averaging 12.5 points on 28% shooting in two games. Sitting in third in the East, Cleveland is tied with the Knicks in the loss column and three back of the Bucks. 2 45-30

Miami kept up with the Pacers by winning two of three games this week (one of them by a franchise-record 60 points), and are tied with Indiana in the loss column as they battle for the crucial No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference. Bam Adebayo and Terry Rozier each averaged over 21 points for the week, while combining for 10 assists per game. 4 41-33

Well, the Rockets screwed up and lost a game, but they’re still well within striking distance of the final Play-In spot after that pivotal 11-game winning streak brought them back from the postseason graveyard. Jalen Green continues to build momentum toward next season, averaging 28 points, eight rebounds and six assists this week on 41% 3-point shooting. 1 38-36

Hope is a waking dream, and for Philadelphia that dream consists of the intimidating silhouette of Joel Embiid — reportedly set to make his return this week. They need the big man badly, as they’ve gone 14-27 without their beloved MVP and might not even make it out of the Play-In if he’s not somewhere near top form. 1 40-35

If only the Hawks could play the Celtics every game, am I right? Atlanta picked up its second victory over the juggernaut in four days, then won a crucial matchup with the Bulls on Monday to gain important ground in the battle to host the 9-10 Play-In game out East. Dejounte Murray continues to do it all with Trae Young sidelined, averaging 28 points, eight assists and seven rebounds this week on 37% 3-point shooting. — 35-40

Chicago’s bid to host the 9-10 Play-In game took a hit with a crucial loss to the Hawks on Monday (and that other loss to the Nets didn’t exactly help, either). They did make amends with a big win in Minnesota on Sunday, as DeMar DeRozan put up 27 points and eight assists. — 36-40

Cam Thomas is just a bucket getter, you say? In addition to his nearly 30 points per game this week, he also averaged five assists, including games of six and seven dimes. He helped Brooklyn pick up wins this week over the Wizards and Bulls, with losses to the Lakers and Pacers. 1 29-47

Victor Wembanyama etched his name next to Shaquille O’Neal — the last rookie to rack up a 40-20 game before Friday’s exploits in a thrilling overtime win over the Knicks. Speaking of winning, perhaps the most encouraging Wemby stat (and there are plenty) is that four of the six highest-scoring games of his career have resulted in San Antonio wins. These aren’t empty calories, people. 3 18-57

Things didn’t go great for the Jazz on the court this week, with losses to the Spurs, Rockets and Kings. Nobody could blame them if their minds were elsewhere, however, with general manager Justin Zanik set to undergo kidney transplant surgery. 2 29-46

The Grizzlies get a puncher’s chance of picking up a win when, like, any of their best players actually take the floor. Submitted for evidence: Jaren Jackson Jr. put up 40 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks in Memphis’ win over the Pistons on Monday. Brandon Clarke has been a sight for sore eyes, averaging 11 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench in his first action in over a year. 1 25-50

Brandon Miller dropped 31 points, including a career-high seven 3-pointers in Charlotte’s stunning win over Cleveland to start the week. That generated enough optimism to get them through the next three losses, plus the news that LaMelo Ball won’t return this season (in case anyone was somehow still holding out hope). 2 18-57

The Pistons won an all-important battle with the Wizards to gain significant ground in the race to avoid the NBA’s worst record. Cade Cunningham has been excellent of late, averaging 34 points, six assists and four rebounds in three games this week on 47/47/91 shooting splits — looking very much like the former No. 1 overall pick that he is. 2 13-62

The Wizards miraculously won three games in a row last week and then they were like, “wait a sec, what are we doing?” They returned to their old ways this week, including home losses to the Nets and Pistons. Jordan Poole continued his uptick as the season winds to a close, averaging 22 points and seven assists per game. 3 14-61

Trail Blazers
It takes some heart to lose by literally 60 points one game, then turn around and put up a hard-fought effort against a top-tier playoff team the next time out. So, kudos to the Blazers, whose anemic offense only generated 98 points per 100 possessions this week. 2 19-56

Unlucky No. 13 came this week for the Raptors, as they haven’t won a game in almost a month. RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley are both close to returning to the lineup, which should give them a much better chance of snapping the ignominious streak. — 23-51

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