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Conferences split top 10 for third straight week
Dallas resumes the top spot in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings this week after Boston had held the No. 1 ranking for the last two weeks. The Celtics, who saw their 14-game winning streak snapped on Christmas by the Orlando Magic, go down to the No. 2 spot.
Dallas, which had been on top the two weeks before the Celtics took over, has won five in a row and nine of its last 10.
San Antonio and New York dominate the key games this week between top 10 teams in the Athlon Sports Power Rankings.
The No. 2 Spurs play host to the No. 6 Lakers on Dec. 28, travel to No. 1 Dallas on Dec. 30 and play host to No. 7 Oklahoma City on Jan. 1.
San Antonio had its 10-game winning streak snapped by Orlando on Dec. 23. This will be the first meeting this season between the Lakers and Spurs, the second with Dallas (the Mavs won 103-94 in Dallas on Nov. 26) and the second with Oklahoma City (the Spurs won 117-104 in Oklahoma City on Nov. 14).
The No. 10 Knicks will get a chance to avenge their loss to Miami when the two meet Dec. 28. Miami won the Dec. 17 outing in New York, 113-91, holding the Knicks under 100 points for the first time since Nov. 27. New York has since gone 2-1 with wins over Oklahoma City and Chicago in its last two games.
No. 4 Miami, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped by Dallas on Dec. 20, has scored victories over Phoenix and Lakers since then.
The Knicks will then head to Central Florida on Dec. 30 to take on an Orlando Magic team that has won its last three after a four-game skid. The ninth-ranked Magic got those wins against San Antonio, Boston and New Jersey. This will be the first meeting of the year between the Knicks and Magic.
There are a few fringe matchups of teams within Athlon's top 10 this week against teams in the 11-15 spots.
No. 13 Denver plays both of the teams just behind it in the power poll. The Nuggets play host to No. 14 Portland Dec. 28 and play host to No. 15 Houston on Jan. 3.
Meanwhile, Portland, which enters the Denver game 6-4 in its last 10 outings, will return home Dec. 30 to play host to No. 5 Utah. Portland is 10-3 at home this season. The Jazz handed the Blazers one of those three losses when they won the first meeting at the Rose Garden (103-94 on Nov. 20), but Portland just defeated Utah at its place Dec. 27 (96-91).
Other fringe games see the erratic New Orleans Hornets, ranked 11th, playing host to the Lakers Dec. 29 and then traveling to Boston Dec. 31. It's the first time the Hornets will clash with L.A. and Boston this year in games involving three teams that started the season equally hot.
The No. 12 Atlanta Hawks, winners of three of the last four, travel to Oklahoma City Dec. 31.
After having the upper hand for the first seven weeks of the season with a majority of its teams in the Athlon Sports Power Rankings top 10, the Western Conference has seen the Eastern Conference make a push the last three weeks. The conferences each have five of their teams in the top 10 for the third week in a row. The Western Conference had seven in the top 10 three times in the first seven weeks and six the other four weeks before the split.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter