In his historic game 2 performance, the diminutive Isaiah Thomas put the Boston Celtics on his back, scoring 29 points during the 4th quarter and overtime. (Keith Allison/Flickr)
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Did they just “flip the switch?” Following Cleveland’s middling post-All-Star break stretch, Loren and Aaron begin by discussing the Cavaliers’ dominant first two games against the Raptors. Also on tap: Diminutive Celtics star Isaiah Thomas’ historic Game 2 performance in what figures to be a long, competitive series with the Wizards and what to look for the remainder of the intriguing, intrastate battle between the Spurs and Rockets.
Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod
With brilliant play since the All-Star break and a little help from his friends, Damian Lillard has led the Trail Blazers into sole possession of the Western Conference’s eighth seed (James Schumacher/Flickr).
With fewer than 10 games remaining on each team’s regular-season schedule, valuable playoff seeding is still up for grabs all over the NBA standings. Some teams, like the Celtics, Blazers and Raptors, look like they’re hitting their stride at just the right moment, building momentum that they hope will continue through the playoffs. Others, like the Hawks and Cavaliers, are just hoping that they can stop the bleeding before it’s too late. As always, the result is much debate and movement in the penultimate regular-season edition of our power rankings.
Biggest Jumps: Portland Trail Blazers (+8), Toronto Raptors (+5), Denver Nuggets (+5), New Orleans Pelicans (+5)
Biggest Falls: Minnesota Timberwolves (-14), Detroit Pistons (-9), Atlanta Hawks (-7)
In his first season in Miami, Dion Waiters is playing an outsized role in the Heat’s active 10-game winning streak (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
Up is down and down is up in this tumultuous edition of the power rankings, which features the most movement of any edition so far, with mighty teams struggling and lowly teams rising up. The Cleveland Cavaliers, still the consensus pick to come out of the Eastern Conference, went just 7-8 in January, giving LeBron James his first losing month since his rookie year. The Toronto Raptors and the Houston Rockets, both in last edition‘s top five, have lost eight of 11 and eight of their last 14, respectively. Even the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors, who have occupied the No. 1 spot in our rankings every single edition except for our first, have dropped games since last edition to the Miami Heat and the Sacramento Kings.
On the other side, the Washington Wizards were just 13-16 before Christmas and have since gone 17-4, steadily climbing up the Eastern Conference standings to the third seed, and up our rankings to fourth. The Dallas Mavericks, at one point dead last in our rankings, have won six of their last seven games, their one loss coming to the Miami Heat. And finally, the twice-aforementioned Heat, unquestionably the NBA’s biggest story right now, were 11-30 and 29th in our previous power rankings, before rattling off 10 straight wins, a streak that is still active. These are some exciting times in the NBA.
Biggest Jumps: Miami Heat (+15), Washington Wizards (+8), Dallas Mavericks (+8)
Biggest Falls: Philadelphia 76ers (-8), Milwaukee Bucks (-8), Toronto Raptors (-8) Continue reading
23-year-old shooting guard Bradley Beal has nearly equaled his age in points per game, as the Wizards continue their stellar play (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).
While nine teams held the same ranking from our previous edition, six squads rose or dropped at least six spots. Leading the way among most improved from last edition, the Washington Wizards jumped from 22nd to 12th. Thanks to lethal 3-point shooting, the Rockets continued their ascent to fourth even as starting center Clint Capela will be sidelined for the next month at the very least. The Nuggets also impressed the panel, playing extremely well in their first stretch as a completely healthy unit. The returns of Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris have Denver fans feeling as high as their city’s altitude. The Lakers, however, continue their slide and can no longer use injury as the lone excuse for dropping 11 of their last 12 games. Since our second edition, which was published four weeks ago, the Lakers have dropped from 13th to 27th or seven spots every two weeks.
Biggest Jumps: Washington Wizards (+10), Denver Nuggets (+7), Dallas Mavericks (+6)
Biggest Falls: Los Angeles Lakers (-7), Portland Trail Blazers (-7), Detroit Pistons (-7) Continue reading
Now a member of an injury-ravaged Mavericks squad, Barnes is often expected to carry the bulk of his team’s scoring load (Matthew Addie/Creative Commons).
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This special Harrison Barnes-themed episode draws upon the perspectives of Dallas Mavericks fan Jason Gallagher, who currently serves as a multimedia editor at The Ringer, as well as Andy Liu of Warriors World, to try to determine Barnes’ ultimate potential in the NBA. After four years with the Golden State Warriors, including the final two that resulted in NBA Finals appearances, the 24-year-old forward signed a four-year max contract with the Dallas Mavericks. While Kevin Durant has taken his starting spot on the league’s most dominant team, Barnes has been tasked with carrying the injury-riddled Mavericks on his shoulders. So far, the individual results have been mixed, while the team has struggled badly. Without further ado, enjoy the show, and check out some excerpts from the episode if you’d like:
Jason Gallagher at 3:57-4:12: “They’re kind of playing in a nothing-to-lose sort of mentality at this point, and so I think that him learning to develop these skills of leading a team without the pressure of having to win games is good for a young player.”
6:17-6:44: “I really like Harrison on defense…and specifically Harrison when he plays the 4 he’s found a lot of success as well, especially on defense, in exploiting bigger players. He’s showing himself to be a versatile guy, and you really have to start thinking that way with Dirk [Nowitzki] on his last legs.” Continue reading
Marc Gasol and the Grizzlies are enjoying a six-game winning streak and a nine-slot jump in these power rankings below (Verse Photography/Creative Commons).
Our three panelists, Loren Lee Chen, Aaron Fischman and Joshua Fischman, independently ranked the league’s 30 teams from top to bottom. Their averaged rankings produced this 1-30 list and took into account all NBA regular-season games up until and including Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. There were no contests on Thursday, the 24th.
Biggest Jumps: New York Knicks (+10), New Orleans Pelicans (+10), Memphis Grizzlies (+9), Boston Celtics (+8)
Biggest Drops: Miami Heat (-7), Brooklyn Nets (-6), Portland Trail Blazers (-6), Oklahoma City Thunder (-6)
- Golden State Warriors (13-2, Previous Rank: 3) – The Warriors nab our top spot from the Clippers after rattling off nine straight wins, most in blowout fashion. Golden State scored 149 points in its last game, sinking the Lakers, one of only two teams that have beaten the Warriors this season, by 43. Klay Thompson has shot the lights out and averaged 27 points over the team’s past four games, and Draymond Green again looks like Defensive Player of the Year material. Continue reading
By Joshua and Aaron Fischman:
While Embiid is still a work in progress, he dazzled Philly fans on Wednesday night with his skills and swagger (Brent Burford/Creative Commons).
A slew of noteworthy player and team performances over the past two days make it difficult to be exhaustive, so we’ll present some developments that caught our attention. By including these, we are not arguing that they are more important than those we omitted. With the disclaimer over, let the notes begin:
Two former Nets stars drank from the fountain of youth, as Deron Williams dropped 25 and dished seven for the Mavs in an overtime loss to the Pacers and Joe Johnson poured in 29 for the Jazz on Tuesday night. With Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors sidelined with injury, Johnson and his teammates George Hill and Rodney Hood combined for 51 field-goal attempts.
Joel Embiid finally played in a regular-season NBA game and he did not disappoint, posting 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in just 22 minutes. His rookie teammate Dario Saric just managed 2-12 from the floor. While Embiid wasn’t the most efficient himself (6-16) and appeared out of control at times, he showcased an ability to shoot the 3 and provided much-needed optimism and excitement for the 76ers fan base. Unfortunately for the home fans, the Thunder outscored the 76ers by 12 in the final period and came away with the road victory. Continue reading
Holly Mackenzie interviews Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who is leading the league in drives to the basket this season (@stackmack/Instagram).
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Toronto will be hosting the NBA’s All-Star Weekend this season, and the timing could not be better. Just a tad more than 20 years since NBA basketball came to Toronto, the Raptors find themselves in second place in a competitive Eastern Conference. DeMar DeRozan is playing the most efficient basketball of his career, while his BFF, Kyle Lowry, is similarly turning in an All-Star-caliber season. We have the pleasure of being joined by the talented Holly MacKenzie, who expertly explains why life is so good in Toronto these days. Holly writes for Raptors.com, among many other outlets.
Some scintillating excerpts can be found below:
9:35-10:50: “Everything starts with [Kyle Lowry]. He does so much for them and the way that he plays, he’s such a competitive guy, it’s hard to not feed off of that… It’s cool to see his growth as a player, but also as a leader from when he came here to now. Seeing him know his teammates and learn how each guy can be motivated, watching him learn how to do that has been really cool to watch because you see the impact on the floor and you also see it within the locker room.”