NBA Power Rankings: Streaking Bucks back on top; new-look Lakers making moves; struggling Heat take a tumble


Giannis goes out, doesn’t matter. The Bucks’ win streak now sits at 14 games after Jrue Holiday’s 33 points powered Milwaukee past Phoenix on Sunday. With Jae Crowder playing and Bobby Portis back, the Bucks just need their MVP candidate to complete the puzzle. — 43-17

Boston closed out a 3-1 week with an impressive road win over the 76ers on Saturday. Their only loss came against the Bucks, without Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Brown has looked great since returning from a facial fracture donning a sleek, black mask, averaging 28 points in two games on 5-for-9 3-point shooting. — 44-17

The Nuggets were rolling before a dud loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday, and they eked out one of the best games of the year on Sunday against the Clippers to get back in the win column. Aaron Gordon made his return to the lineup against L.A. after a five-game absence, a welcome sight for Denver. 2 43-19

The Sixers beat the Rockets, Cavs and Grizzlies this week to run their winning streak to five games before Saturday’s loss to the Celtics — which was milliseconds away from going to overtime on Joel Embiid’s miraculous heave from three-quarters court. He and James Harden combined to average nearly 55 points, 18 rebounds and 15 assists per game this week. — 39-20

Xavier Tillman proclaimed the Grizzlies have their “swagger back” after a 2-1 week that ended with a throttling of the first-place Nuggets. Six players scored in double-figures in the win, which came after losing a late lead to the 76ers on Thursday. 2 36-23

Things just keep on rolling for the Knicks, who won four games this week to make it five in a row overall. Julius Randle has been on fire of late, averaging 29.3 points on 51/42/94 shooting splits for the week. 3 35-27

The Kings picked up their best win of what has been a very impressive season, launching multiple late comebacks in the second-highest scoring game in NBA history against the Clippers. They finished off the Thunder on Sunday to make it a 3-1 week, as things are clicking for Sacramento. 1 35-25

The Cavs went into the break hot, but lost to the Nuggets and Hawks on the other side before Sunday’s win over the Raptors. Donovan Mitchell put up 30 points per game for the week on 42 percent 3-point shooting. 5 39-25

The Russell Westbrook era is off to an 0-2 start, though both games were extremely eventful overtime affairs. They lost the second-highest scoring NBA game of all time against the Kings, then failed to pull out one of the most entertaining finishes of the year in Denver on Sunday. Westbrook has averaged 17 points and nine assists in his two games with the Clippers. 3 33-30

In what could be the last week before the dawn of the Kevin Durant era, the Suns beat the Kings and Thunder with losses to the Clippers and Bucks. Buyout acquisition Terrence Ross is already paying dividends, putting up 10.7 points, four rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes per game so far. 2 33-29

After a brief honeymoon period, the reality of having a roster full of new faces may be catching up to Jacque Vaughn and the Nets, who lost three games this week. One constant is Mikal Bridges, who averaged 22.3 points for the week on 45 percent 3-point shooting, including a career-high 45 points in Brooklyn’s win over Miami in their last game before the break. 3 34-26

The Lakers have emerged from the All-Star break on a mission, winning their last three games overall, including a 27-point comeback against the Mavericks on Sunday. The new pieces look great, and they’ve won their last two largely without D’Angelo Russell. Something could be brewing here. 12 29-32

The Warriors went 3-2 this week, not bad at all considering Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins missed all but one game and Draymond Green didn’t suit up for the last two. Klay Thompson has carried the offense with pre-injury form, averaging 37 points with 18 total 3-pointers in his last two games. 4 31-30

The not-so-smooth start for the Luka Doncic-Kyrie Irving era in Dallas continued with a 27-point blown lead in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers. The Mavs are now 1-3 when both stars play, but they have a net rating of plus-4.6 when they’re on the floor together. 3 32-30

It was a strong week for the Jazz, who beat the Pacers, Thunder and Spurs while losing to the Grizzlies. Lauri Markkanen followed up his first All-Star appearance with a 43-point effort in a thrilling overtime win over OKC. 4 31-31

OK then, who woke up the Hornets? They won all four games this week as the normally porous defense turned things up by allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions. 13 19-43

An eventful week for the Hawks, who parted ways with Nate McMillan and will soon welcome Quin Snyder into the fold. In the meantime, they’ve won both of their games under interim head coach Joe Prunty, with Trae Young dropping 34 points — including the game-winning basket — against the Nets on Sunday. 4 31-30

Wins over the Magic, Pelicans and Pistons brought Toronto’s overall streak to four games, but they finished off the week with a blowout loss to the Cavs. Jakob Poeltl has been productive since making his return north of the border, and winning has followed. 2 30-32

Four straight losses prompted Jimmy Butler to publicly convey a newfound sense of urgency for the Heat. They allowed 119 points per 100 possessions this week while scoring just 106. 9 32-29

Things aren’t looking great for the Pelicans, who have lost three in a row and are still without Zion Williamson. The offense has been absolutely dreadful despite CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram being relatively healthy, as New Orleans put up just 104 points per 100 possessions for the week. 4 30-31

The Wizards lost to the Warriors, Knicks and Bulls this week, with wins over the Blazers and Wolves. Kristaps Porzingis, Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma led the way offensively, as usual, with each averaging over 20 points per game. — 28-32

The Wolves started off the week with a win over the Mavs, but then lost three straight to the Wizards, Hornets and very short-handed Warriors. Anthony Edwards averaged 31.7 points in the first three games before putting up just 12 in the loss to Golden State on Sunday. 7 31-32

Trail Blazers
Well, that’s one way to end a week. Damian Lillard dropped a career-high 71 points and 13 3-pointers in a win over the Rockets on Sunday, putting an exclamation mark an otherwise mediocre 2-2 week for Portland. It was the first time any player in NBA history has scored at least 70 points in fewer than 40 minutes. Let’s put the team stuff aside for just a second and honor this man. Goodness. — 29-31

The Pacers beat the Bulls and Magic this week, with losses to the Jazz and Celtics. Myles Turner missed a game, but had an otherwise impressive week, averaging 27 points and nine rebounds on 55 percent 3-point shooting, including a career-high-tying 40-point outburst against Boston. 2 27-35

Orlando went 2-2 this week with wins over the Bulls and Pistons and losses to the Raptors and Pacers. Franz Wagner and Markelle Fultz led the team with 17.3 points per game apiece. — 25-36

The bad news is Chicago lost its first three games this week. The good news is they beat the Nets and Wizards to close things out, and Chicago is now 2-0 with an average winning margin of 32 points in the Patrick Beverley era. 4 28-33

OKC lost four games this week, the last two coming without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander due to an ankle injury. Feel-good story Isaiah Joe went off for a career-high 28 points in a valiant effort against Phoenix on Friday. 9 28-32

An 0-3 week for the Pistons included some interesting lineup experimentation with their plethora of bigs. Newcomer James Wiseman averaged 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in almost 23 minutes per game. 1 15-46

It’s a strange existence where every loss is actually seen as a positive for the ultimate future of the franchise, but maybe, like, one win would be nice. Sixteen in a row with no signs of slowing. At least Malaki Branham is getting his reps, averaging 19.3 points this week on 57/42/100 shooting splits. 1 14-47

There’s losing, and then there’s THIS. The Rockets have given up 25 3-pointers and 113 points to just two players — Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson — in their last two games. It’s hard to overstate how bad things have gotten in Houston. 2 13-47

Francis McGee

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