After giving the Eastern Conference its first top-ranked team of the season last week, the Boston Celtics have held on to the spot for Week 9's Athlon Sports Power Rankings.
The Celtics defeated New York, Atlanta and Indiana last week as part of their current 13-game winning streak.
The top four from last week all remain as the top four. in the same spots. Dallas, winner of nine of its last 10, remains at No. 2. San Antonio, winners of nine in a row, still hold the third spot. Miami, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped by Dallas on Monday, is still No. 4.
The Lakers and Jazz flipped the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, L.A. moving into the five-spot as winners of eight of its last nine games.
The Orlando Magic, who had been a top-five team a majority of the season, fall out of the top 10 for the first time this season. However, after a major overhaul of the Orlando roster due to trades last weekend, the Magic will have to get their chemistry together before making the push back up to Eastern Conference elite.
And there's no time like the present for the new-look Magic to get started.
They are currently mired in a three-game losing streak and losers of seven of their last eight. Orlando's schedule this week is probably the toughest schedule any team has had this season in relation to the Athlon Sports Power Rankings — and last week was no cake walk, either.
After losing to Denver, upstart Philadelphia and No. 10 Atlanta, the Magic get Orlando Tuesday night, San Antonio Thursday and Boston on Christmas Day. As the Magic begin to develop a chemistry with this roster they can at least take solace in the fact that all three of this week's games are at home where they have won nine of their 16 games.
Christmas Day is certainly where the marquee matchups of the week are. But before we get to the NBA's big day there are also two games on Wednesday that are intriguing. No. 8 Oklahoma City Thunder travel to Madison Square Garden to take on a Knicks team that was riding high this time last week.
The No. 12 Knicks faced Boston, Miami and Cleveland, and what was an eight-game winning streak before Boston has turned into a three-game skid entering the OKC game. It is not going to get any easier for New York as the next 10 games are a gauntlet — OKC, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Indiana, San Antonio, Phoenix, Lakers, Portland and Utah.
Also on Wednesday, the Spurs play host to No. 9 Denver. The two teams met on Dec. 16 as the Nuggets fell 113-112 at home.
Back to Christmas Day. There are five games on the NBA schedule, all televised on ABC/ESPN.
No. 7 Chicago, which is down Joakim Noah (hand) and a concussed Taj Gibson, travels to Madison Square Garden to tip off the day. The Knicks, behind 16 3-pointers, won the first meeting in Chicago 120-112 on Nov. 4.
Boston travels to Orlando in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics are the hottest team in the league, while Orlando's roster readjustment issues have been addressed.
Miami travels to the Lakers for the third game of the day. This was the one everyone was waiting for when the schedules were announced. Many people, myself included, thought the Lakers would barely have a blemish on their record when they reached this game. And many others, myself not included, thought Miami would be well on its way to surpassing 72 wins by Christmas Day.
Neither has happened. The Lakers are 21-7 going into the Dec. 21 game with Milwaukee. They have really put it together over the month of December, answering a four-game losing streak by winning eight of their last nine.
The Heat were in the same boat — why aren't they running roughshod over everyone? It took some time for the roster to mesh, but they entered December 10-8 and will go to Phoenix Dec. 23 at 21-9.
Denver, which has no trouble scoring as evidenced in its average of 117.2 over the last five games, will travel to Oklahoma City for the second-to-last Christmas Day game. The Thunder are averaging 107.2 points per game over their last six outings.
Closing out the NBA's Christmas festivities are Portland, which enters the week as the eighth-best team in the Western Conference, going against Golden State, which couldn't even claim to be eighth-best in the Eastern Conference. The two teams just met on Dec. 18 with the Trail Blazers winning 96-95.
Finally, on Dec. 27, the Thunder play host to Dallas for their second meeting of the year. Dallas won the first meeting 111-103 on Nov. 24. OKC begins this week off a 113-110 loss to Phoenix, which snapped a five-game winning streak for the Thunder.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter to send any comments or questions
In the Milwaukee Bucks' 10 wins this season there has been a consistent formula.
At least one player has 15 points, five rebounds and five assists or blocks. Brandon Jennings leads the team with six of these games, Andrew Bogut and John Salmons each have two, and Ersan Ilyasova has chipped in with one. In Monday's win that snapped Dallas' 12-game winning streak, Jennings had his fourth double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 assists, and he grabbed five rebounds.
Of note on ending the Mavs' streak, it is the fifth time in Bucks history that they have ended a run of at least 12 wins. The most famous instance came when Milwaukee ended the Lakers' NBA-record 33-game winning streak on Jan. 9, 1972. The Bucks also ended 12-plus game streaks by the Celtics (1973, 12), 76ers (1983, 14) and Spurs (2007, 13).
ATLANTA: Josh Smith is seventh in the NBA in blocks per game (2.19), and third in total blocks (57). He already has five games with five or more blocks — the Hawks are 5-0 in those games — after recording just four such games last season. Atlanta is 13-3 this season when he records multiple blocks in a game.
CHARLOTTE: The Bobcats enter Wednesday's game with Memphis with a franchise record of 197-319 through 516 games. Charlotte is four shy of reaching 200. Of the seven expansion teams since 1988, the Bobcats have a chance to be the second-fastest to 200 wins, behind only the Magic, who reached the mark in their 460th game.
CHICAGO: Derrick Rose is currently the only player in the NBA who is averaging 25 points and eight assists per games this season. Last season, Rose was the first Bull to average at least 20 points and six assists since 1991-92, when Michael Jordan (30.1 and 6.1) and Scottie Pippen (21 and 7) each posted those averages.
CLEVELAND: The Cavaliers rank No. 1 in the NBA in bench scoring, averaging 43 points per game. Cleveland's bench has outscored its opponents in all but eight games this season. On the year, the Cavs bench has outscored their opponents 43-32.9 per game.
DETROIT: Pistons rookie center/forward Greg Monroe started his first career NBA game in Minnesota Dec. 10 and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds. The last time a Pistons rookie grabbed 15 rebounds was Nov. 15, 1995 when Theo Ratliff pulled down 15 against Seattle.
INDIANA: In his first 16 games of the 2010-11 season, Mike Dunleavy blocked just six shots and no more than one in any outing. In the last six games, however, Dunleavy has rejected nine shots and blocked two in four of the last six games.
MIAMI: The Heat are in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, their longest of the season. It's the longest streak for the franchise since winning nine straight from March 20-April 7, 2010. Miami has won all nine by double digits, besting its previous streak of six straight double-digit wins that came Feb. 11-Feb. 23, 1999. The last NBA team to record nine straight double-digit wins was Cleveland (Nov. 22-Dec. 9, 2008). The Heat's current streak of 10-plus-point wins is one shy of the NBA record. That record is held by Houston (2007-08), New Jersey (2003-04) and Washington (1946-47).
NEW JERSEY: Anthony Morrow had made a 3-pointer in 21 straight games before Tuesday night. The sharphsooter played just 33 seconds in New Jersey's loss to Philadelphia and did not get a shot off. He strained his hamstring and will reportedly be out 2-3 weeks. Only two other Nets have ever had a streak of at least 20 games in which they made a 3-point field goal (Jason Kidd and Kerry Kittles).
PHILADELPHIA: Despite a record of 9-15, the Sixers have actually scored 12 more points than the opposition this season and have 55 more field goals made but 103 fewer free throws made. Philadelphia, Indiana and Houston are currently the only teams with losing records that have a positive scoring margin.
TORONTO: Through 25 games, the Raptors' offense ranks eighth in the league in scoring (102.4) while shooting .465 (965-of-2,076) from the field. Fast-break points have played a major part of Toronto’s offense, as they rank first in the league at 19.8 points, accounting for 19.3 per cent of Raptor points.
WASHINGTON: Through the first 23 games of the season, JaVale McGee is averaging career highs in points (10.1), rebounds (8.5) and blocks per game (2.3). McGee has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in nine games this season and has blocked at least one shot in 21 of 23 games played. The third-year center has posted seven double-doubles on the season. McGee ranks second in the NBA in games with four or more blocks with six.