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NBA Power Rankings: Toronto Raptors Making A Strong Case For Top Team In Eastern Conference

NBA Power Rankings: Toronto Raptors Making A Strong Case For Top Team In Eastern Conference

There are several teams that will look to make a serious run at winning the championship. While the Warriors are still unquestionably the favorite to capture the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the third time in four years. But there are several other contenders like the Cavs, Raptors, Celtics, Rockets and Spurs. Then you have the Timberwolves, Wizards, Pistons and Thunder just on the outside.

On the other hand, the Hawks along with the Magic, Grizzlies and Kings appear to be on their way to a high lottery pick.

Here is the eighth edition of my power rankings.

1. Golden State Warriors (32-8), no movement

The Warriors have won four straight and six of seven. Steph Curry, who exploded for 45 points in three quarters against the Clippers (Jan. 6), has scored 144 points -- the most ever by a player after missing 10+ games -- while shooting 58.4% from the floor and 53.8% from beyond the arc in four games since coming back from injury. Golden State has won 10 straight away from Oracle Arena, improving to an NBA-best 17-3 on the road where the Dubs have outscored their opponents by a league-best 10.1 points a game.

2. Toronto Raptors (27-10), no movement

The Raptors are currently on their fourth winning streak of at least four games. Jonas Valanciunas has not played in more than 25 minutes in any of his last six games, still he has produced three double-doubles during this stretch. Toronto has scored a league-best 19.3 points off of opponents turnovers.

3. Boston Celtics (33-10), +2 spots

The Eastern Conference leaders have run off six straight victories and are 7-1 in their last eight. Jayson Tatum, who made key plays at the end of the Saturday’s 87-85 victory over the Nets, set a season-high with six blocks while also coming up three steals and 14 points. Boston is off until Thursday when they travel across the pond to play Philadelphia in London.

4. Houston Rockets (27-11), -1 spot

The Rockets have lost seven of nine. Eric Gordon has scored in double-figures in 19 straight games, including eight games of 20 or more points. Houston is 1-2 without James Harden, who is expected to be re-evaluated next week though it is possible that he will be out six weeks with the Grade 2 left hamstring strain.

5. San Antonio Spurs (27-14), -1 spot

The Spurs have dropped three of five. Manu Ginobili has scored 20-plus points in each of his last two games, becoming the first player in his 40s to score at least 15 points in back-to-back games since Michael Jordan in 2002-03. Kawhi Leonard, who has played in just eight games this year, is currently dealing with a partial tear in his left shoulder.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers (26-13), no movement

The Cavaliers have lost five of eight. Kyle Korver is tied with Paul Pierce for the fourth most 3-pointers in NBA history with 2,143. Cleveland is 2-0 with Isaiah Thomas, who has scored 36 points and dished out seven assists, in games that he has been in the lineup.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves (25-16), no movement

The Timberwolves are 3-3 in their last six. Andrew Wiggins, who has struggled with his shot at times this season, has topped the 20-point mark in four of his last seven games. Minnesota has held its opponents to under 100 points in each of their last five contests, marking the first time the team has done so since November 2012, and is 12-4 this season when accomplishing the feat.

8. Washington Wizards (23-17), +1 spot

The Wiz had their season-high four-game winning streak snapped by the Bucks on Saturday. Bradley Beal has scored 20 or more points in seven straight games, producing 26.2 points a game during this stretch. Washington is 4-2 in the second game of back-to-backs.

9. Detroit Pistons (21-17), -1 spot

The Pistons snapped a two-game losing streak with a win over the Rockets on Saturday, improving their record to 13-11 against teams with a .500 or better record. Veteran journeyman Dwight Buycks, who has been with the team for the past six games, scored a career-high 16 points and is averaging 13.0 points over his last three contests. Detroit is sixth in the league in scoring defense (101.6) though just 11th in defensive rating (104.6), and is 10-13 when allowing 100 or more points.

10. Miami Heat (22-17), +2 spots

The Heat are on a season-high five-game winning streak. James Johnson had 13 points and 11 rebounds in win over the Jazz (Sunday) for his third double-double of the season, which is one less than his career-high of four double-doubles that he posted last season. Miami outscored Utah 29-27 in the fourth quarter to improve to 2-14 when trailing after three quarters.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (22-18), -1 spot

The Thunder have lost three of five. Russell Westbrook’s 14 triple-doubles are the fifth-most by a player having played 40 or fewer games. Paul George and Russell Westbrook rank first and second in steals per game with 2.4 and 2.0 thefts per game, respectively.

12. Milwaukee Bucks (21-18), +1 spot

The Bucks are 6-4 in their last 10. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has topped the 20 point plateau in 28 straight games, is averaging 26.8 points and 9.2 boards over his last seven games. Milwaukee is 5-3 in the second game of back-to-backs.

13. Portland Trail Blazers (21-18), +2 spots

The Trail Blazers have won two in a row and five of seven. Shabazz Napier is averaging 18.2 points along with 5.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds in his five starts this season while filling in for Damian Lillard. Portland is 3-2 in games that Lillard has missed.

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14. Denver Nuggets (21-18), no movement

The Nuggets have lost three of five. Trey Lyles, who has scored in double-figures in 11 consecutive games, is averaging 17.1 points along with 9.0 rebounds while shooting 551% from the field in his 10 contests. Denver, which turned the ball over a season-high 26 times in loss to Sacramento on Saturday, has committed fewer turnovers in just 12 games and are 9-3 in those contests.

15. Indiana Pacers (20-19), -1 spot

The Pacers ended a season-high five game losing streak with a victory over the Bulls on Saturday. Domantas Sabonis has scored 20 points on consecutive games for the first time this year as he tallied a season-high 24 points against the Bucks (Jan. 3) and followed that up with 22 against the Bulls (Jan. 6). Indiana has $5.8 million in cap room and an open roster spot after waiving Damien Wilkins on Sunday.

16. Philadelphia 76ers (19-19), +2 spots

The 76ers are on a four-game winning streak, the team’s second-longest this season. Joel Embiid has tallied at least 20 points, nine rebounds and one blocked shot in each of his last five appearances. Philadelphia’s lone game this week comes against Boston in London on Thursday.

17. New Orleans Pelicans (19-19), -1 spot

The Pelicans have lost three of four. DeMarcus Cousins recorded his fifth straight double-double, with 23 and 15 rebounds on Saturday against Minnesota, and his 29th of the season -- which is the second most in the league behind Karl-Anthony Towns’ 33. New Orleans is 2-13 when out-rebounded.

18. Los Angeles Clippers (17-21), -1 spot

The Clippers, 6-4 in their last 10 games, are just two games out of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Blake Griffin, who scored 20 or more points in his first four games after returning from a sprained left MCL, becomes the fifth current player that is out indefinitely after leaving Saturday’s game with a concussion. Los Angeles has given up 117.7 points, which is over 11 points more than its season average (106.5), and is the 27th most since the start of the New Year.

19. New York Knicks (19-21), -2 spots

The Knicks earned their second win in their last 10 games with Sunday’s victory over the Mavericks. Courtney Lee, who made four free throws in the last 17 seconds to seal the win over Dallas (Sunday), needs to make his next free throw attempt to tie Chris Duhon’s franchise record of 43 straight makes from the charity stripe. Kyle O’Quinn has posted two double-doubles in his last three games to give him four on the season, which is the second most ever in his career.

20. Chicago Bulls (14-26), no movement

The Bulls are 11-9 in their last 20 games, giving them the eighth-most wins in the league since Dec. 1. Kris Dunn, who poured in a career-best 32 points on Friday, has been held to under double-figures in two of his last three games and four times overall since Dec. 1. Chicago, 23rd in scoring defense (107.9), has given up at least 124 points in each its last four games.

21. Phoenix Suns (16-26), +1 spot

The Suns are 7-5 in their last 12. Dragan Bender, who has scored in double-figures in only six of his 42 games, poured in 17 of his career-high 20 points in the second half in Sunday’s win over the Thunder. Phoenix, 3-16 in games decided by 10 points or more, posted its largest margin of victory in its 114-100 win over OKC.

22. Brooklyn Nets (15-24), -2 spots

The Nets are 3-2 in their last five. Jahlil Okafor, who has played in just three games since being acquired by the Nets, scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds in 13 minutes against the Celtics (Sat.) for his second double-figure scoring effort for the team. Brooklyn has been on three winning streaks but has yet to put together three straight wins this season.

23. Charlotte Hornets (15-23), +2 spots

The Hornets have won two straight, marking their first winning streak since Thanksgiving, and four of six overall. Jeremy Lamb, who is having a career year, has scored in double-figures in four straight games which is his longest such stretch since the end of November.

24. Dallas Mavericks (13-28), -1 spot

The Mavericks have lost their last three games by a combined three games, they are 4-7 in games decided by three or less points this season. Harrison Barnes, who has been pretty efficient in his last four games, is averaging 22.5 points while shooting 52.1% from the field during this stretch. Ron Harper became just the third player in franchise history to have his number retired (Sunday), joining Brad Davis and Rolando Blackman.

25. Los Angeles Lakers (12-27), -4 spots

The Lakers snapped a nine-game losing streak with a 132-113 victory over the Hawks on Sunday. Brandon Ingram, who recorded his fourth double-double of the campaign on Friday, has reached the 20-point plateau in the last two games (against the Hornets and Hawks) as he has made 64.0% (16-of-25) of his shots. Los Angeles tied a franchise record with 42 fastbreak points in the win over Atlanta.

26. Utah Jazz (16-24), -5 spots

The Jazz have lost 13 of their last 16. Donovan Mitchell has scored in double-figures in seven straight games, topping the 20-point mark in four times. Utah, which blew a six-point lead late in its loss to Miami on Sunday, is 5-8 in clutch situations -- the five wins and 13 opportunities are the fewest in the league.

27. Sacramento Kings (12-25), -3 spots

The Kings have lost five of seven. Vince Carter, who is averaging 4.0 points in 15.4 minutes over 23 games, has scored double-figures in two of his last three appearances. Sacramento, which scored a NBA season-high 40 points off of 26 Denver turnovers, averages 14.8 points off turnovers for the season which ranks 26th in the league.

28. Memphis Grizzlies (12-27), no movement

The Grizzlies have lost four of six. Tyreke Evans, the team’s leading scorer at 19.7 points a game, has 12 games of 25-plus points. Memphis is an NBA-worst 1-12 against Eastern Conference squads.

29. Atlanta Hawks (10-29), -2 spots

The Hawks, the worst road team in the league (3-18), have lost their first three games on their current five-game road swing. Dennis Schroder has scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games. Atlanta has the fewest wins in the league when trailing after three quarters (1-24).

30. Orlando Magic (12-28), no movement

The Magic have lost four in a row, marking the third-longest losing streak this season. Aaron Gordon has had an up-and-down five games since returning from injury, although he is averaging 23.8 points along with 8.4 rebounds during this stretch. Orlando, tied for the second-fewest road wins and second lowest road winning percentage at 5-13, begins a three-game road trip at Dallas on Tuesday.