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Chicago ascends to highest ranking so far
The San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics still hold down the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in this week's Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings, but they did hit some snags over the last week.
San Antonio, the fifth-highest scoring team in the NBA (104.1 ppg) was held to a season-low 72 points in a loss to New Orleans last week, ending an eight-game winning streak. The Spurs bounced back with a 113-102 victory over Golden State Monday night.
Meanwhile, Boston saw a five-game winning streak snapped by lowly Washington. The Celtics rebounded with a get-well game against even lowlier Cleveland on Tuesday night.
The Bulls have ascended to their highest ranking of the year, taking the third spot as winners of two of three last week. Take away Charlotte (two losses to this month) and Chicago has won its other eight contests since Jan. 8.
But the wins are producing scores similar to those of the Central Division foes the Bulls have a monster lead on; they have not scored over 100 since a 111-91 win over Tornoto Jan. 4. That was the back end of back-to-back 100-point outputs to start the year, but none have come since. However, despite scoring 92.6 points per game in its last 12 outings, Chicago is still 8-4 in that time.
Miami and Orlando round out the top five. The Heat ended a four-game skid with a 120-point outburst against Toronto on Jan. 22. Orlando, on the other hand, posted three wins last week and then fell to Detroit at home Monday night. Since Miami is 2.5 games better in the standing, it gets the bump over Orlando.
New Orleans has had a resurgence, re-entering the top 10 last week and moving to No. 7 as winners of its last nine games — one better than the 8-0 start the Hornets had to the 2010-11 campaign.
Oklahoma City, Dallas and Atlanta round out the top 10 this week.
As for games between teams in the top 10 this week, there are about as few as there have been at any other point in the season. There are just four this week, but three of those four should be pretty good contests.
Orlando travels to Chicago Friday night. The Bulls will be suiting up after three days rest, while Orlando will be in the middle of a Central Division run — Detroit, Indiana, Chicago and Cleveland all in succession. The Magic won the first meeting 107-78 on Dec. 1 in Chicago.
Atlanta and Dallas will meet for the second time this year as well. The Mavs won the first game on Nov. 20, which kickstarted a 12-game winning streak. An injured Caron Butler and Dirk Nowitzki Dallas team is much different than the one the Hawks saw before Thanksgiving. Dallas has won just four of 12 games this calendar year. Atlanta, in the same stretch, has won eight of 10.
The NBA schedule makers give us a doubleheader of goodness on the first Sunday since September where there is no meaningful NFL game — unless of course you are part of the winning Pro Bowl team.
Miami and Oklahoma City tip off at 1 p.m. Eastern followed by Boston at the Lakers at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. In a clash of possible NBA Finals matchups — not that OKC is really going to get that far, but the Thunder are exciting — we will see the Eastern Conference's top two seeds (as of Wednesday morning) go up against the Western Conference's Nos. 2 and 4 seeds (as of Wednesday morning).
This will be the first meeting between Boston and L.A. this season, a rematch of the two of the last three NBA Finals. This will also be the first meeting between Miami and OKC.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter