The Boston Celtics find themselves in the top spot this week after beating the Miami Heat for the second time this season -- this time on the road. The Los Angeles Lakers, meanwhile, are no longer invincible, dropping two straight. San Antonio and Utah also spiked, while the Knicks and Grizzlies experienced a downward slide.
- 1. Celtics (8-2) | Prev.: 2
Boston has been on the closest thing to a bye week the NBA offers, with the team playing (and winning) just two games in a stretch of eight days. Jermaine O'Neal is going to be out for a bit with a knee injury, but Shaquille O'Neal is back in the lineup, and Delonte West is finally eligible to play after completing his suspension. And with only two decent opponents ahead out of the team's next seven, the East's best team just might build themselves a little cushion near the top of the conference standings.
- 2. Spurs (8-1) | Prev.: 6
Seven straight wins for the Spurs have them up top out West, and the last one, in which the team outscored the Thunder by 18 in the second half on the road to get the win, was impressive. Things get tougher in a hurry, with the Bulls, Jazz, Magic, Mavericks and Hornets on tap over the next seven games.
- 3. Jazz (7-4) | Prev.: 14
Yes, the Jazz finally lost a game where they trailed in the second half, falling to the Thunder at home after a ridiculous stretch of comeback road victories. But they played well against OKC, and honestly, the prior week's accomplishment was so impressive they deserve this spot more than the teams below.
- 4. Lakers (9-2) | Prev.: 1
After two consecutive losses -- one legit on the road in Denver, and one a bit more fluky at home to the Suns -- L.A. got right in Milwaukee on Tuesday. Theo Ratliff is out 4-6 weeks after undergoing knee surgery, and the team is said to be looking at a roster move to add some frontcourt depth. But really, why bother? Anyone L.A. brings in will hardly see the floor, and Thanksgiving is only a week or so away, which is when Andrew Bynum is expected to slowly begin making his way back into the Lakers' rotation.
- 5. Mavericks (7-2) | Prev.: 7
The Mavs have themselves a nice little four-game winning streak going, which includes wins over the Celtics and the previously unbeaten Hornets. In that New Orleans game, Dallas outscored New Orleans by 10 in the final period, which included holding the Hornets scoreless for a pivotal five-minute stretch late. Dallas is fifth in the league in defensive efficiency, and while I believe that is here to stay, we have to remember not to get crazy with stats so early in the season -- after all, Milwaukee is No. 1 in this category, and they just allowed 118 points in a home loss to the Lakers.
- 6. Hornets (8-1) | Prev.: 3
New Orleans finally dropped one after opening the season with eight straight wins, and it was one they were winning for most of the night. The Hornets play a style of ball that's dangerous to most teams, and the fast start should be taken seriously with quality wins over San Antonio, Denver and Miami. But based on the makeup of the roster, it appears that the sample size is simply too small right now to consider New Orleans as truly one of the league's elite.
- 7. Magic (7-3) | Prev.: 4
Orlando hasn't looked great lately, becoming Utah's second comeback victim before suffering a bad home loss at the hands of the depleted Toronto Raptors. Stan Van Gundy lamented his team's defense after that one, but the offense should be a greater concern long-term. The team struggles to get good looks at times, and often seems stagnant -- which may explain why as a team, the Magic are just 27th in the league in assists per game.
- 8. Suns (6-4) | Prev.: 16
The Suns have a couple of nice wins in their last two outings, one in L.A. against the Lakers, and a grittier, come-from-behind home win over the Nuggets on Monday. These were big, considering the back-to-back the team faces this week in Miami and Orlando. Robin Lopez is sidelined due to a knee sprain, so the team made a roster move and added Earl Barron, a seven-footer that produced nicely in Mike D'Antoni's similar system in New York near the end of last season.
- 9. Heat (6-4) | Prev.: 5
Miami has struggled to find cohesiveness through the team's first 10 games of the season, and it shows. Of the team's six wins, only the home thrashing of the Magic in the season's third game could be considered impressive. Carlos Arroyo is a liability in the starting lineup on both ends of the floor, and Chris Bosh has been slow to adapt to his new surroundings. At least the Heat finally moved Joel Anthony to the bench in favor of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, which should prove to be a huge step in the right direction.
- 10. Thunder (6-4) | Prev.: 11
The win over the Jazz in their last outing could be something to build on for a Thunder team that has struggled to find itself early this season. Serge Ibaka started in place of the injured Jeff Green, and had a career night with 22 points and 11 rebounds. If he's capable of that against a front line like Utah's, that could be huge for the team as the season rolls on.
- 11. Bulls (6-3) | Prev.: 13
The Bulls have won four straight, which is more important than normal this early in the season, considering the upcoming schedule. Chicago is one game into its annual Circus Road Trip, with the next five games coming against the Spurs, Mavericks, Lakers, Suns and Nuggets.
- 12. Hawks (8-4) | Prev.: 8
The word "fraud" isn't one you want to throw around lightly when discussing NBA teams, mainly because their fans tend to get a little upset. But it certainly applies to this Hawks team early, after opening the season with six straight wins against the league's weaker teams, and then promptly losing four straight to much stiffer competition.
- 13. Warriors (7-4) | Prev.: 9
The Chris Cohan era is officially over, and there was much rejoicing. The sale of the Warriors was made official this week, and the new ownership is understandably excited. Meanwhile, on the court, the team maintained its perfect record at home, even if they nearly allowed the Pistons to erase a 30-point deficit.
- 14. Nuggets (6-5) | Prev.: 10
Not much has gone Denver's way over the last week, but they do have a 2-2 record to show for it. After getting absolutely crushed by the Pacers -- giving up an almost perfect, 54-point quarter in the process -- the Nuggets somehow managed to hand the Lakers their first loss of the season. Things then went south again in Phoenix, where the team blew a 15-point lead in a loss to the Suns, before heading home and holding on to hand the Knicks their sixth straight loss on Tuesday.
- 15. Trail Blazers (7-5) | Prev.: 12
The state of Brandon Roy's arthritic knee was just the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of health problems the Blazers have had to deal with this season.
- 16. Cavaliers (5-5) | Prev.: 18
Byron Scott continues to get the most of this team (still hovering at the .500 mark), despite the overall lack of talent and absence of one star player. We'll see how long it lasts, especially considering the fact that the numbers aren't anything to get excited about: Cleveland ranks 23rd and 26th respectively in defensive and offensive efficiency on the season.
- 17. Bucks (5-6) | Prev.: 22
Against the Lakers on Tuesday, Milwaukee did a lot of things right: they won the rebounding battle, kept their turnovers low, forced Kobe Bryant into a heavy-usage performance and held a halftime lead. Now, if they had only defended a little (especially beyond the three-point arc, where the Lakers shot 62.5 percent) instead of giving up 118 points, they might have had a fighting chance.
- 18. Pacers (4-5) | Prev.: 23
After a decent start to the season, Josh McRoberts is now giving Indiana virtually nothing offensively. Through his first four games, McRoberts was a combined 17 of 29 from the field. But through his last five, he's shooting a dismal 4 for 18, with a points per game average of exactly two. Yes, it's Josh McRoberts, and I know, what do I expect? Nothing, really. But it's the Pacers, and we need to talk about something.
- 19. Nets (4-6) | Prev.: 25
This "no layup" thing that Avery Johnson is trying to instill in his team is getting ridiculous. First it was Terrence Williams taking out LeBron James, and most recently, it was Devin Harris literally tackling Blake Griffin on a breakaway before he could get a shot up. The dirty play earned Harris a flagrant-two foul and an ejection, but since the Nets were playing the Clippers, they managed to win without him.
- 20. Pistons (4-7) | Prev.: 21
After the latest turmoil between Tayshaun Prince and head coach John Kuester, one wonders who will be the first man out of Detroit before the season's end.
- 21. Bobcats (4-7) | Prev.: 27
Charlotte has won three of its last four, but more impressive than that is the fact that they were able to hold Kevin Love to just nine rebounds during Monday's win over the Timberwolves.
- 22. Wizards (3-6) | Prev.: 26
John Wall was out Tuesday with a sprained foot, which allowed Gilbert Arenas to make his first start as a Wizard since before his suspension last season. Arenas made the most of the opportunity, posting an efficient line of 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while helping his team to a home win over the Raptors.
- 23. Grizzlies (4-8) | Prev.: 15
Reeling from a 17-point loss in which they managed to score only 72 points, the Grizzlies held the dreaded players-only meeting afterward on Monday night in Orlando. Did it help? Too soon to tell, but they were much more competitive in their next outing, losing by just a single point to the Blazers.
- 24. Rockets (3-7) | Prev.: 24
After a slow start to the season, Houston had put together three wins in four games before losing a close one to the Bulls on Tuesday. Brad Miller is filling in nicely for Yao Ming, and Kyle Lowry is doing the same for Aaron Brooks ... at least defensively.
- 25. Kings (3-6) | Prev.: 19
Bill Walton returning to the airwaves in a part-time capacity for Sacramento is probably the most exciting thing that will happen surrounding the team all season.
- 26. Timberwolves (3-9) | Prev.: 30
Lost in all the well-deserved attention showered upon Kevin Love for his 31-point, 31-rebound effort against the Knicks is the fact that Michael Beasley is becoming a star offensively, averaging 32.5 points over his last four games.
- 27. Knicks (3-8) | Prev.: 17
Six straight losses now for New York, and it's safe to say Amar'e Stoudemire isn't used to being on such a bad team. He voiced his thoughts on the matter after the Knicks lost to the Rockets on Sunday.
- 28. Raptors (2-9) | Prev.: 28
Wait, how did these guys beat Orlando again?
- 29. Sixers (2-9) | Prev.: 20
Andre Iguodala is continuing to have problems with that Achilles' injury, which means the Sixers are going to be one of the worst teams in the league until he can get right.
- 30. Clippers (1-10) | Prev.: 28
Injuries have the Clippers back in the familiar realm of truly terrible. But hey, at least this was fun: