The Spurs are the hottest team in the league, winners of 11 straight. The Thunder have won five in a row, including one on the road over the Celtics with Kevin Durant in street clothes. But it's the Lakers who find themselves back at the top of this week's rankings, based on their own five-game winning streak, along with a return to playing at a level of dominance we have yet to see from any other team this season.
- 1. Lakers (13-2) | Prev.: 4
L.A. hasn't played anyone who would necessarily be considered good this past week before Tuesday's win over Chicago, but they've beaten their opponents by an average of greater than 15 points per game. A benefit of crushing the weaker teams was pointed out by Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, when he mentioned that the win over Golden State was the fifth time already this season that Kobe Bryant has played fewer than 32 minutes. Last season at this time, it hadn't happened once.
- 2. Spurs (12-1) | Prev.: 2
San Antonio has every right to the top spot this week, after winning their 11th straight in impressive fashion over the Orlando Magic on Monday. The only issue is that it's tough to envision anyone beating the Lakers when they're firing on all cylinders as they have this past week, and it's going to be another 17 games before the Spurs have the chance to prove otherwise: they don't get to play L.A. this season until December 28.
- 3. Thunder (10-4) | Prev.: 10
We told you in last week's rankings how the Thunder's win over Utah might have been something to build on, and as it turns out, we were right. That win was the first in a streak of five straight, which even managed to stay intact while Kevin Durant was sidelined with an ankle injury for the team's wins in Boston and Milwaukee.
- 4. Celtics (10-4) | Prev.: 1
After two straight losses, and playing without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics played angry and dropped a world of hurt on the reeling Atlanta Hawks -- a game that was aptly dubbed a "ridiculous rout" by our own Chris Tomasson, who was in attendance. Nate Robinson has filled in admirably in Rondo's absence, posting averages of 19 points and six assists (although he had 10 against the Hawks) in his two starts.
- 5. Jazz (10-5) | Prev.: 3
Paul Millsap is off to a great start this season for the Jazz, yet somehow, his name is nowhere to be found on the All-Star ballot. But if Utah fans want something more serious to focus their outrage upon, they need not look any further than the team's rebounding rate: it's 28th in the league overall, and just 29th on the defensive end -- ahead of only the woefully undersized Phoenix Suns.
- 6. Hornets (11-2) | Prev.: 6
After a lackluster win in Sacramento on Sunday, the Hornets went to L.A. on Monday night and found a way to lose to the Clippers. New Orleans is solid and is sure to be better than expected, but watching these last two games gave a more realistic glimpse of the team we're likely to see over the course of the season, as opposed to the one that started out hot, and pulled out wins in 11 of its first 12 games.
- 7. Magic (9-4) | Prev.: 7
It seemed like the Magic were primed to knock off the Spurs on Monday, but San Antonio had a counter for everything Orlando did, including holding them to just two points over the games final three and a half minutes. The Magic's next game should turn out a little better, as they'll get the reeling Miami Heat at home, with a better-than-average shot at avenging the 26-point loss they suffered in the second game of the season.
- 8. Mavericks (9-4) | Prev.: 5
After dropping two straight, the Mavs got back on track (like everyone else seemingly does) against the Atlanta Hawks. That even went for Caron Butler, who's largely looked terrible this season while fighting off back spasms but managed to go for 13 points on 5 of 11 shooting, and grab five rebounds in 23 minutes of action. Believe it or not, that's actually a noticeable improvement over the combined output of 17 points on 5 of 17 shooting he was able to produce over his previous two games, which came in a total of 53 minutes on the court. (Oh, and Dirk Nowitzki is pretty good, too. He only had 42 and 12 in Tuesday's win over the Pistons.)
- 9. Nuggets (8-6) | Prev.: 14
Carmelo Anthony recently told us that he's not losing any sleep over his uncertain future, and he's certainly not playing like it's an issue, either. Over his last two games, Anthony has combined for 67 points and 17 rebounds, while leading his team to wins over the Nets and the Warriors.
- 10. Bulls (7-5) | Prev.: 11
Chicago's record isn't all that great yet, but something tells me that will change as the season rolls on. The Bulls were impressive in their loss Tuesday at Staples, outrebounding the Lakers on the night, while showing a high level of activity on the defensive end of the floor that forced L.A. into just 39.5 percent shooting. There aren't a lot of teams that can move the ball to the open shooters (and then have them knock down those shots) the way the Lakers can, so if the Bulls can bring this kind of effort night in and night out, they're going to be extremely tough to deal with.
- 11. Heat (8-6) | Prev.: 9
Although we're just 14 games into the Miami experiment, it's still jarring to look at the standings and see that this team is just 5-5 over its last 10 games. Erick Dampier was signed in hopes of providing some help inside while Udonis Haslem recovers, but until Dwyane Wade's wrist heals and LeBron James realizes the need to take over at times, the team is likely to experience its fair share of disappointment. The question isn't whether or not Pat Riley can save this year's Heat they way he saved the 2006 version. The question is, will he see this team as talented enough to even bother trying.
- 12. Trail Blazers (8-4) | Prev.: 8
First it was Brandon Roy, then it was Greg Oden. Saying that the Blazers can't seem to catch a break in the injury department is an understatement, but at least they managed to put together a couple of wins in the past week with Roy sidelined.
- 13. Suns (7-7) | Prev.: 8
The Suns have said repeatedly that there's no way they're trading Steve Nash this season, and if you saw any of the team's win in Houston on Monday, you know the reason why. After dropping two straight by an average of 17 points while Nash was sidelined with a groin injury, Steve returned to score an efficient 24 points and hand out nine assists in leading his team to a much-needed victory, which brought the team back up to .500 on the season.
- 14. Hawks (8-7) | Prev.: 12
After the Celtics became the latest team to thrash the Hawks -- who are now just 2-7 over their last nine games -- Hawks head coach Larry Drew was left searching for answers. He even went as far as to insinuate that the team might be more interested in activities away from the game, saying "I don't know what we're doing the night before the game. But something is going on that is not allowing us to play with energy or passion. I'm going to find out what it is." He'd better, or the first-year coach may not last the season.
- 15. Pacers (7-6) | Prev.: 18
After moving the ball exceptionally well offensively and forcing Dwyane Wade into plenty of contested shots in a stunning 93-77 road win over the Heat on Monday, was there any doubt the Pacers would absolutely destroy an undermanned Cavs team at home the following night? No. No there wasn't.
- 16. Knicks (7-8) | Prev.: 27
It was a pretty good week for the Knicks -- the team is on a four-game winning streak, and Amar'e Stoudemire was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his efforts. Everyone on the team is probably feeling pretty good about themselves ... except maybe Timofey Mozgov, who is no doubt still having nightmares about the traumatization that was put upon him by the Clippers' Blake Griffin.
- 17. Warriors (7-7) | Prev.: 13
The current edition of the Warriors doesn't quite put up points the way Don Nelson's teams did, but lately, they've been getting outscored just as badly. Golden State has dropped five of its last six, with the losses coming by an average of 17.6 points per game.
- 18. Raptors (5-9) | Prev.: 28
Toronto's won three straight, including a thrilling Sunday afternoon affair over the Boston Celtics. The play of Andrea Bargnani is the reason for the Raptors' recent resurgence, as the versatile big man has averaged over 28 points per game on 58-plus-percent shooting during the streak.
- 19. Grizzlies (5-9) | Prev.: 23
And just like that, the weekend win over the Heat no longer seems all that impressive.
- 20. Nets (5-9) | Prev.: 19
After a tough West coast roadie where the Nets were largely competitive, they came home and snapped a three-game losing streak by knocking off the Hawks in OT, behind a season-high 32 points from Brook Lopez.
- 21. Wizards (5-8) | Prev.: 22
Crazy win for the Wizards on Tuesday, as they got 25 second-half points from John Wall in his first game back after missing the last four with a foot injury. Not only was Elton Brand of the Sixers ejected for flagrantly fouling Javale McGee in the fourth, but with Washington trailing by three late, Wall was fouled way, way beyond the three-point line as he was into his shooting motion, which gave him three free-throw attempts to tie it. The rookie made all three, and Washington ended up winning in OT.
- 22. Pistons (5-9) | Prev.: 20
Detroit pulled out an OT win over Washington on Sunday, thanks in large part to 27 points from Rip Hamilton, 12 of which came in the extra session. Against Dallas on Tuesday, however, Hamilton managed just five points on 1 of 7 shooting, and the Pistons fell to the Mavs in a close one on the road. (Of course, Dirk Nowitzki's 42 points might have had more to do with that than Rip's lack of production. Maybe.)
- 23. Cavaliers (5-8) | Prev.: 16
Three straight losses now for Cleveland, as the reality of their talent situation has recently begun to catch up with the effort.
- 24. Bucks (5-8) | Prev.: 17
While Andrew Bogut works his way back to 100 percent, the Bucks find themselves in the middle of a three-game losing streak.
- 25. Bobcats (5-9) | Prev.: 21
It was a historic Saturday night in Charlotte, as Stephen Jackson recorded the first triple-double in franchise history when he posted 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in a win over the Suns.
- 26. Kings (4-9) | Prev.: 25
One win in the team's last nine games has Beno Udrih feeling a bit frustrated. He had this to say after the Kings' loss to the Jazz on Monday: "This is draining us. We get nothing off pick and rolls. We don't set screens to free cutters. We get nothing easy. Basically, everything is one-on-one, and there is too much standing around. It's like, 'Keep working. Keep working hard in practice,' but you can't keep going and going and not make some adjustments."
- 27. Timberwolves (4-11) | Prev.: 26
Kevin Love's rebounding has calmed down considerably since the night he grabbed 31 of 'em against the Knicks. He's "only" managed to average 12.8 in the five games since then.
- 28. Rockets (3-10) | Prev.: 24
Despite the injuries to Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming, the Rockets really shouldn't be this bad. But four straight losses has them at a dismal 3-10 on the season.
- 29. Sixers (3-11) | Prev.: 29
The demolition of the Spectrum, the arena the Sixers called home until 1996, began with a wrecking ball on Tuesday. The front office may or may not have gotten any bright ideas.
- 30. Clippers (2-13) | Prev.: 30
Your weekly Blake Griffin video of destruction is below, featuring a knowing glance on the sly from Amar'e Stoudemire: