The Golden State Warriors hold a firm grip on top spot in this week’s Power Rankings. James Harden and the surging Houston Rockets make a big move up the ladder as do the Utah Jazz. The Washington Wizards also make a sizable leap up the Rankings just in time for Christmas. The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks are just two of the teams to slide down the rankings.
1. Golden State Warriors (25-4)
Week 8 Ranking: 1st
Steve Kerr channeled his inner Gregg Popovich after the Warriors 13 comfortable win over an undermanned Knicks team saying “We are probably lucky we played a team without a couple of it’s best players. We looked tired and disinterested, We didn’t look sharp”. Intentional or not it worked, the Warriors came out Sunday and smoked the Blazers by 45 points. The Warriors have now scored 130 points or more five times this season. This week sees a three-game road trip for the Warriors, culminating in a finals rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas Day.
2. Houston Rockets (21-8)
Week 8 Ranking: 4th
With another stellar week, the Rockets continue to climb up the Power Rankings Ladder. The Rockets week started with a comfortable home victory against the Sacramento Kings. James Harden showed his growth and versatility on the offensive end only attempting seven field goals, which was the lowest of any Rocket starter, and instead influenced the game with 14 assists and 11 rebounds. The Rockets finished the week with a narrow two-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs after the game was in their keeping, however, on the back of ten straight wins, the Rockets still deserve the second spot.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-6)
Week 8 Ranking: 2nd
After the Memphis Grizzlies rested Marc Gasol for their trip to Cleveland the Cavs rested the big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love for their return trip to FedExForum Stadium the next day. This would be the only loss for the week as the Cavs took care of the Lakers at home before a tough overtime win in Milwaukee where LeBron James overtook Moses Malone for 8th on the all-time scoring list. This wasn’t the highlight of the night for LeBron as he sank a clutch game-winning three to give the Cavs the win. The Bucks will return to Cleveland for the second game of their back-to-back as Matthew Dellavedova will receive his championship ring. This marks the start of a three-game homestand culminating in a finals rematch against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.
4. San Antonio Spurs (22-5)
Week 8 Ranking: 3rd
The Spurs haven’t done much wrong to fall to fourth in rankings. They’ve won five straight games after Coach Pop called his players out after a 95-91 loss to the Chicago Bulls. After an 113-100 over the New Orleans Pelicans, number 21 was hoisted high into the rafters as an emotional ceremony began. Tim Duncan, known for always wearing Jeans wore a full suit and said “I’ve won a lot of bets tonight” referring to his attire and the fact he spoke for more than 30 seconds. The Spurs will now play the Clippers and Blazers on the road, before returning home on Christmas Day to play the Chicago Bulls.
5. Toronto Raptors (19-8)
Week 8 Ranking: 5th
The Raptors hold their place in the Rankings and continue to prove that they’re the second-best team in the East. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and quickly solidifying the fact that they are the best backcourt in the league behind Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. A six-game Western Conference road trip now begins for the Raptors. This week sees the first three matches of that road trip with games against the Jazz, Blazers, and Warriors. We’ll get a better sense of how good the Raptors actually are after these games.
6. Utah Jazz (18-11)
Week 8 Ranking: 9th
The league's best defensive team has made a bolt up the Power Rankings after consecutive 20 points victories against the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Jazz followed with maybe their most impressive victory of the season, a 82-73 road victory over the Grizzlies. Rudy Gobert who scored 21 points on 9-9 shooting from the field, had 12 rebounds and three blocks came out post match and announced himself as the best center in the NBA. With their franchise star Gordon Hayward having a career year it’s a good time to be the Utah Jazz.
7. L.A. Clippers (21-8)
Week 8 Ranking: 6th
Even as the Clippers are sitting with an impressive 21-8 it already seems they’re destined for failure. Clippers star forward Blake Griffin has undergone minor knee surgery on his right knee and will miss 3-6 weeks. Griffin missed 47 regular season games last season and whilst the Clippers went 31-16 during this time, It seems something always goes wrong for this franchise. The Clippers will now play back-to-back home games against the Spurs and Mavericks before an all L.A. contest against the Lakers at Staples Center on Christmas Day.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (16-12)
Week 8 Ranking: 7th
It’s been a poor week for the Thunder as they lost consecutive road games to the Blazers and the Jazz. Their 109-89 loss to the Jazz marked the fourth straight game the Thunder had been kept to under 100 points. A bounce back victory against the Suns was short lived as they dropped their next game at home to the Atlanta Hawks despite Russell Westbrook’s 46 point effort. The Thunder risk falling further down the Power Rankings ladder as they face four road games in their next five matches. The Thunder’s only match on their home floor this week comes on Christmas Day against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
9. Memphis Grizzlies (18-12)
Week 8 Ranking: 8th
The Grizzlies have really struggled on the offensive end as of late. The Griz have now dropped four of their last five games and have only scored 100 points in one of those games, which was an overtime loss to the Celtics. The Grizzlies have now dropped three straight games on their home floor. The silver-lining for the Grizzlies is that they’ve started six players throughout the season that has spent time in the D-league recently. The looming road game against the Pistons feels like a must win to regain some momentum.
10. Boston Celtics (16-12)
Week 8 Ranking: 12th
The Boston Celtics ended their three-game skid with a three-game winning streak this week, a good home win against the Hornets gave the Celtics momentum into a three-game road trip, It’s been a successful one so far for the Celtics as an 112-109 overtime victory over the Grizzlies showed their toughness. After only 31 points in the first half, the Celtics finished the game with 112 points helped by the heart and soul of the team Isaiah Thomas scoring a career-high 44 points making all 17 of his free throws. A testing week is on the horizon for the Celtics as they face the Pacers and Thunder before playing at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks.
11. Milwaukee Bucks (13-13)
Week 8 Ranking: 14th
Consecutive humiliations of the Chicago Bulls sees the Bucks jolt up our Power Rankings. I was critical of the Bucks last week, saying the Bucks needed to show some more interest on the defensive end. They brought that in spades in their two games over the Bulls, only allowing a combined 166 points in their two games while scoring 203 of their own. An overtime loss to the Cavs also showed promise that the Bucks are heading the right direction with Jabari Parker and Giannis Antentokopo combined for 55 points. The Bucks now play their return game against Cleveland before another set of consecutive games, this time against the Washington Wizards.
12. Charlotte Hornets (16-13)
Week 8 Ranking: 13th
It’s been a mixed week for the Hornets as their two-game skid turned into a four-game skid with losses against the Wizards and Celtics. Things didn’t look good as the Hornets entered Atlanta, with losses in their first four games of a five-game road trip and a 1-10 record in Phillips Arena things were bleak. A 31-20 second quarter sealed the deal for the Hornets as they scored the victory 107-99, thanks to 19 points from Marco Belinelli off the bench. After a win against the Lakers, the Hornets will be aiming to keep this momentum going as they host the Bulls before embarking on a two-game road trip against the Magic and Nets.
13. Indiana Pacers (15-15)
Week 8 Ranking: 16th
The Pacers continue to sit in the middle of the back and it continues to reflect in our Power Rankings. It was an above average week for the Pacers as they scored two good wins over the Pistons and Wizards as Paul George scored 27 and 26 points respectively. The Pacers chances rest solely on George’s shoulders. George has scored 25 plus points in eight games this season, The Pacers have won seven of those eight. When George has scored 24 points or less the Pacers are 5-10. It’s a quiet week for the Pacers with a home game against the Celtics before a two-game road trip against the Bulls and Wizards.
14. Washington Wizards (12-15)
Week 8 Ranking: 19th
The Wizards appear to finally be clicking. After rumours all throughout the preseason that John Wall and Bradley Beal don’t like each other the Wizards have faced plenty of trials and tribulations to get to this point, but find themselves in a log-jam that is the Eastern Conference playoff race. Wall has put up double-digit assists numbers in five of his last six games and has added at least 18 points in all of those games. Bradley Beal who hasn’t averaged more than 18 points in a season in his career to date has already had five 30 point games this season. The Wizards have the talent to be a better than .500 team, time will tell If they can actually get it done.
15. Chicago Bulls (14-13)
Week 8 Ranking: 10th
The Bulls were flat out pathetic in a three-game stretch this week. To say their questionable offensive backcourt of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade showed cracks would be the understatement of the season. After holding a 22 point lead early in the second quarter against a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had one road win to their name, the Bulls managed to lose 99-94 after scoring 38 first quarter points. Things somehow got worse for the Bulls as they lost by 11 points to the Bucks in the first of their two games in two days. The Bulls then hosted the Bucks the very next day looking for revenge and scored 69 points. The Bucks finished with a laughable 95-69 victory. The Bulls regained their winning record with a much-needed blowout victory over the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls will play the Wizards and Hornets before facing the San Antonio Spurs on Christmas Day.
16. New York Knicks (15-13)
Week 8 Ranking: 11th
The Knicks started their week at 14-10 and had just won two road games. After three straight losses to end their road trip that 14-10 record must look like a distant memory for the Knicks. The Knicks dropped a game they would’ve expected to win in overtime against the Phoenix Suns before consecutive double-digit defeats against the Warriors and Nuggets. The Knicks returned to Madison Square Garden with an 118-111 victory over the Pacers as Carmelo Anthony scored a game-high 35 points. The Knicks have been questionable at best away from home, holding a 5-9 road record. The Knicks will now play two straight home games before embarking on a three-game road trip.
17. Atlanta Hawks (14-14)
Week 8 Ranking: 17th
A very strange week for the Atlanta Hawks as they traded wins and losses. It was how they did it that showed promise and frustration for Hawks fans. The Hawks went 0-2 at home, with losses against the Orlando Magic, as they gave up 131 points and an eight-point loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Away from home, the Hawks were 2-0 beating two playoff teams. Their best win since there 9-2 start came up north with a 125-121 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Dwight Howard led the way for the Hawks shooting 10-13 from the field with 27 points and 15 rebounds. The Hawks also collected a road win over the Thunder. The Hawks will now play the Timberwolves twice this week in a two-game road stretch that includes a game up in the thin air against the Denver Nuggets.
18. Denver Nuggets (12-17)
Week 8 Ranking: 21st
The Nuggets had a very successful week at home, with three straight wins. The Knicks came to town In what former Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony called a “must win” for the Knicks. Kenneth Faried and Co had other ideas as the Nuggets outscored the Knicks 127-114. This was only the Nuggets second highest total of the week as they disposed of the Blazers 132-120. The Nuggets only loss for the week came on Wednesday against the Clippers at Staples Center, The Clippers shot 54 percent from the field and J.J. Redick poured in seven threes. The Nuggets will return home and attempt to extend their home winning streak to four games before again playing the Clippers at Staples Center.
19. Detroit Pistons (14-16)
Week 8 Ranking: 15th
With the notion that they couldn’t any worse after going down to the 76’ers 97-79 at home the Pistons did the job away from home against the Mavs. This was the only highlight for the Pistons in week nine as they would go on to lose three straight games by double-digits. After the Pistons lost 105-90 at home against the Pacers, a players-only meeting was called. Talk was cheap as the Pistons got humiliated by the struggling Chicago Bulls only two days later. The Pistons allowed the Bulls, who are the worst three-point shooting team in the league to shot 60 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Pistons now have three straight home games against the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Bucks. Something tells me we won’t be seeing the Pistons in the top 20 next week.
20. Portland Trail Blazers (13-16)
Week 8 Ranking: 18th
It’s getting harder and harder to believe this is the same team that made it all the way to the Western Conference Semifinals last season before going down to the Golden State Warriors. I have huge faith in Damian Lillard, however, it’s evident the Blazers have some big problems, and this isn’t just a slump. This Blazers team cannot play defense, allowing 393 points in their last three games, against the Nuggets, Warriors, and Kings. DeMarcus Cousins exploited the lack of defense with 55 points in the King's 126-121 victory over the Blazers. The Blazers now have four straight home games and will need to figure their defense out or risk falling from the playoff race.
21. Orlando Magic (13-17) '
Week 8 Ranking: 20th
A stat that no one is talking about. Probably because it’s the Orlando Magic, is the fact that during a stretch in November the Magic allowed only 100 points once in 11 games and had one of the best defenses in the NBA. Since that time the Magic have allowed 100 points in all nine of their games. During the 11 game stretch that they had top 3 defense in the league, the Magic went 5-6. Since they’ve allowed 100 or more points in nine straight game their record is 4-5. Work that one out. The Magic now face the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, a three-game home stand then awaits.
22. Miami Heat (9-19)
Week 8 Ranking: 25th
The Miami Heat’s climb up the ranking isn’t as much to do as them improving as it is with teams around them falling down. The Heat had a week at home as part of their six-game home stand. It started out with a good quality win beating the Pacers 95-89. Hassan Whiteside showed why he was worth his max contract, scoring 26 points, 22 rebounds, and two blocks. With youngster Justice Winslow the Heat have good future talent to build around. The Heat will play the last of their six-game homestand against the struggling L.A. Lakers before it’s on the road to take on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.
23. L.A. Lakers (11-19)
Week 8 Ranking: 22nd
Oh, how things can change. At the end of November, we were singing the Lakers praises at 10-10. The December hit and with it a 1-9 record. Granted the Lakers have been struck down with injury, but it seems the expected losing culture has returned for the post-Kobe Lakers. The Lakers are now on the Florida swing of their brutal seven-game road trip with games against the Heat and Magic before returning to Staples Center on Christmas Day against the Clippers.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-19)
Week 8 Ranking: 26th
After losing eight of nine games, this young Timberwolves team is again showing promise. The Wolves scored a character building road win against the Chicago Bulls, coming from 22 points down in the second quarter to score a 99-94 win. The Wolves then pushed the in-form Houston Rockets to the brink before going down 111-109 in overtime. Karl-Anthony Towns showed that he will be a future superstar in this league, scoring a career-high 44 points whilst also having 15 rebounds and five blocks. The Wolves followed this up with a strong win over the Suns. The Wolves have been devoid of marquee games for so long now have a Christmas Day appearance against the Oklahoma City Thunder to look forward to this week.
25. Sacramento Kings (10-17)
Week 8 Ranking: 24th
The Kings organization fined their superstar DeMarcus Cousins $50,000 for a locker room incident with a reporter. DeMarcus and the Kings appear to be on thin ice, however, Cousins did his basketball do the talking… for the most part, against the Blazers scoring 55 points as the Kings won 126-121. Again Cousins was in the middle of controversy as his mouthguard somehow escaped his mouth and landed at the feet of the Blazers bench, Cousins was kicked out of the game but on review, the call was reversed and Cousins was allowed to come back into the game. It’s a quiet week for the Kings with just two games against the Timberwolves and Sixers.
26. New Orleans Pelicans (9-20)
Week 8 Ranking: 28th
In what looked to be the best case scenario the Pelicans have finished week 9 with a 2-2 record. Road games against the Rockets and Spurs were never going to be an easy task and it proved as much with double-digit defeats in both. However, the Pelicans other two games this week, against the Pacers and Sixers proved to be double-digit wins. The Pelicans were too good for the 76’ers winning 108-93 as Anthony Davis had just another night at the office, scoring 31 points and collecting 16 rebounds. The Pelicans now start a six-game home stretch starting with games against the Thunder and Heat.
27. Dallas Mavericks (7-21)
Week 8 Ranking: 27th
There were some glimpses of hope for the Mavericks this week. A huge 20 point win over the Sacramento Kings installed a great deal of confidence and the Mavs took that newfound confidence to Salt Lake City, The Mavs trailed by 15 points late in the third term and looked all set to be a routine double-figure win for the Jazz. The Mavs had other ideas however as they rallied all the way back to tie the game at 100-100 with only seconds remaining before Rodney Hood hit the game winner as time expired to give the Jazz a three-point victory. The Mavs now play three straight road games before finishing the week at home against the Houston Rockets.
28. Philadelphia 76’ers (7-20)
Week 8 Ranking: 23rd
It’s been an eventful three weeks in the Power Rankings for the Philadelphia 76’ers. They finished week seven sitting at 28th, jumping all the way to 23rd and they’re now back in familiar territory. The Sixers spent the week at home with four straight home games. They went 1-3 during this stretch with their only win coming by a single point against the Brooklyn Nets. Joel Embiid scored a career-high 33 points and 10 rebounds to help lift the Sixers to victory. Big man Nerlens Noel has voiced his displeasure with his lack of playing time, big words from a man who is yet to prove himself to his coach and the league.
29. Phoenix Suns (8-20)
Week 8 Ranking; 29th
In an attempt to not repeat myself about the Phoenix Suns, I won’t mentioned by enjoyment watching fast-paced games or my love of future all-star Devin Booker…. He’s legit. The suns have now lost four straight games and things don’t get any easier with back-to-back road games against the Rockets and Spurs coming up. The last spot on the Power Rankings ladder looms if they don’t collect a win this week.
30. Brooklyn Nets (7-19)
Week 8 Ranking; 30th
The Nets cannot get off the bottom of the ladder for the third straight week. The Nets have allowed over 100 points in all 14 of their road games this season. On the positive side of things having Jeremy Lin back makes them look better offensively. My biggest issue with the Nets is other teams around this portion of the Rankings have good young players and are moving in a good direction. The same cannot be said for the Nets.