Hornets take top spot; Utah jumps eight

From 19 to 11 to 1.

That's the jump the New Orleans Hornets have made in the Athlon Sports NBA Power Rankings over the first three weeks of the season.

New Orleans takes over the top spot this week from the now-No. 4 Los Angeles Lakers, who not only killed my prediction they probably would not lose until a Christmas Day tilt with Miami but went out and lost their last two entering tonight's game at Milwaukee. The Lakers lost to Denver and Phoenix to drop the four spots.

The Hornets got wins over the Clippers and Trail Blazers by 19 and 20 to move to 8-0 going into a home and home with Dallas. The Mavericks ended New Orleans' undefeated run with a 98-95 home win Monday, and the Hornets get a chance to avenge their only defeat Wednesday.

Boston moves up from 3 to 2, while the Spurs go from 6 to 3.

Boston once again dismantled Miami and won a road overtime game against Memphis. It is the third OT win this year for the Celtics, who suit up for a four-game, six-day stretch that begins Wednesday with Washington and has Oklahoma City at home along with Toronto and Atlanta on the road in a back to back.

San Antonio has not necessarily had the toughest slate to get to the No. 3 spot with wins over Charlotte, the Clippers, Sixers and Oklahoma City over the last week. But four wins in seven days is impressive. This next week will be a bit more of a challenge with home games against Chicago, Cleveland and Orlando to go along with a Friday road game at Utah.

Dallas moved from 8 to 5 with wins over Boston, Memphis, Philly and New Orleans over the last week. The Mavs travel to the Big Easy tonight to complete the home and home. It doesn't get any easier with games against Chicago and at Atlanta.

It was said here last week that Utah would either skyrocket up the rankings or remain around the middle of the pack. Needless to say, the Jazz shot up the list.

With five straight double-digit comeback victories, Utah went from 14 to 6. After four games in five days, the Jazz get five in eight days. It started with a 115-108 loss against visiting Oklahoma City Monday night — the first loss for Utah in five games — and continues with games against the Nets, Spurs, Trail Blazers and Kings over the next six days.

No. 7 Miami has also been idle since Saturday when it held off Toronto 109-100. The Heat should be able to get back on track if they can run with Phoenix on Wednesday before games against Charlotte, Memphis and Indiana.

Orlando ended a miserable week by finally defending its home court. The Magic fell from 5 to 8 after losing home games to Utah and Toronto and then escaping New Jersey with a one-point win. The Magic returned home Monday to defeat Memphis 89-73, and get Phoenix, Indiana and San Antonio over the next week.

The Suns moved from 12 to 9 with wins over Sacramento, the Lakers and Denver. Phoenix now has to travel to Miami, Orlando, Charlotte and Houston between Wednesday and Monday.

Denver bounced back from a 144-113 drubbing to Indiana — a team that had posted just 30 points in the two quarters before the blowout — to hand the Lakers their first loss. However, the Nuggets followed the Lakers win with their 12th straight loss in Phoenix on Monday to drop from 9 to 10. It should be a good week for Denver, though. It has games against the Knicks, Trail Blazers, Nets and Warriors over the next week.

Chicago begins its annual circus trip — a trip that the Bulls are 10-61 on since 1999-00, which included an 0-32 run at one point — tonight in San Antonio. Wins over Golden State and Washington moved the Bulls from 16 to 11 as they begin the seven-game, 12-day road trip.

The Hawks had the biggest fall of upper echelon teams, going from 6 to 13 after seeing a 6-0 start turn into 6-4 before getting back in the win column with a 111-105 home victory against Minnesota. The Hawks have a light week with games at Indiana tonight and home contests against Dallas and Boston on Saturday and Monday.

Again, the Western Conference dominates the top half of this week's power rankings. They have nine of the top 15 spots and six within the top 10.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter

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