The top teams in the league are not infallible, evidenced by theÂCelticsÂ losing back-to-back games to theÂMagic, theÂBucksÂ falling by 41 to the Grizzlies and the Pelicans going winless last week.
The association feels very even, with just five games separating first place from 11th in the West and Bostonâs recent skid slowing down the runaway No. 1 seed. This week is a big one around the NBA with 10 teams participating in the leagueâs Christmas showcase. After injuries to key players likeÂStephen CurryÂ andÂAnthony DavisÂ and a slew of upsets, see how all 30 teams stack up.
1. Boston Celtics
Previous ranking: 1
The loss to the Warriors really unraveled the Celtics, who proceeded to lose three of their next four after beginning the season an NBA-best 21â5. Falling to theÂClippersÂ after the Golden State game is excusable, though it coincided with an off shooting night by Jayson Tatum. And an overtime win against the Lakers the next night, spurred by 44 from Tatum, was an impressive bounceback. But back in Boston over the weekend, the Câs lost to theÂMagicÂ twice and dropped to second place in the conference ahead of a marquee playoff rematch against first-place Milwaukee on Christmas at TD Garden.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Previous ranking: 2
Milwaukee endured an embarrassing beatdown last week and handed out two of its own. It began with a 17-point home win over Golden State, followed by a 41-point defeat in Memphis. In Jrue Holidayâs absence,ÂGiannis AntetokounmpoÂ andÂKhris MiddletonÂ combined for just 22 points on 6-for-25 shooting, and the Bucksâ No. 2 defense let up a season-high point total to theÂGrizzlies. Back in Milwaukee a few days later, with Holiday back in the lineup and Antetokounmpo and Middleton out, theÂBucksÂ beat theÂJazzÂ by 26 and capitalized on Bostonâs bad week to take hold of the No. 1 seed.
3. Memphis Grizzlies
Previous ranking: 4
The Grizzliesâ seven-game winning streak was snapped in Oklahoma City withÂJa MorantÂ in the locker room for the second half after an early ejection. Before that, Memphis rose to the top of the West last week after a 25-point victory over the Hawks and a 41-point win against the Bucks in which Morant finished with a triple double and led all scorers with 25 points. Eight Grizzlies players scored in double figures in the blowout. Memphis, which has yet to have its full starting five active for a single game so far, has a difficult week ahead with nationally televised road games against Denver, Phoenix and Golden State.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Previous ranking: 5
Cleveland lost to the worst team it played last week but otherwise handled itself well. On the road against theÂSpurs, theÂCavaliersÂ lost by one, and they responded by beating theÂMavericks,ÂPacersÂ andÂMavericks, again, in overtime.ÂDonovan MitchellÂ was the engine of the offense, and he finished with 41 against Indiana, but Clevelandâs top-ranked defense deserves the credit for holding Dallas under 100 points twice to complete the season sweep.
5. New Orleans Pelicans
Previous ranking: 3
The Pelicansâ stay atop the conference was short-lived. They dropped three in a row last weekâtheir longest skid of the seasonâimmediately after a season-best seven-game winning streak. New Orleans went up to Salt Lake City, dropped two games to the Jazz, and then lost to the Suns after scoring back-to-back wins the previous week against its budding rival. The Pelicans have the pending return ofÂBrandon IngramÂ (toe) to look forward to, and their schedule eases up after they host the Bucks on Monday.
6. Phoenix Suns
Previous ranking: 6
TheÂSunsÂ were moving in the wrong direction at the beginning of last week. They had lost four in a row and left their two-game set in New Orleans defeated. And that was before a 14-point loss to the Rockets withoutÂDevin Booker. Two nights later, he returned against the Clippers to stop the bleedingâPhoenix won by 16 on the road. Next he put together a monster 58-point outing against the Pelicans and led a furious second-half comeback. Heâll look to keep it going when the Suns play theÂLakers,ÂWizardsÂ andÂGrizzliesÂ this week before their Christmas game in Denver.
7. Denver Nuggets
Previous ranking: 7
What a week for Nikola JokiÄ. The back-to-back MVP put an exclamation mark on it Sunday with a 40-point, 27-rebound, 11-assist triple double to beat the Hornets. And that followed a 43-point, 14-rebound effort to get by the Wizards a few days earlier. Denverâs only loss came on the road to the LakersâJokiÄ had only 25 and 11 in that contest. The Nuggets are steadily gaining on the top three teams in the West and are only one game out of first.
8. Brooklyn Nets
Previous ranking: 9
No team is more clutch than theÂNets, who are 12â3 in clutch situations and picked up two more tight wins last week. Brooklyn beat the Wizards by 12, sunk the Raptors on aÂKyrie IrvingÂ game-winning three and got past theÂPistonsÂ behindÂKevin Durantâs 43 points. Those three victories stretched the Netsâ winning streak to six games and concluded an undefeated four-game road trip. Brooklyn is on national television twice this week at the Barclays Center against Golden State and Milwaukee.
9. Sacramento Kings
Previous ranking: 10
TheÂKingsÂ wrapped up their six-game East Coast road trip with back-to-back wins to break even. They went 2â1 last week and followed up a 20-point loss to the 76ers with consecutive wins against the Raptors and Pistons.ÂDeâAaron Fox led the team in scoring both games with 27 and 24 points, respectively, andÂDomantas SabonisÂ filled up the stat sheet, too. Sacramento returns to the Golden 1 Center this week for a trio of home games against the Hornets, Lakers and Wizards.
10. Dallas Mavericks
Previous ranking: 8
Both Mavericks losses last week came against the Cavaliersâthe first was by 15 points, the second by one in overtime.ÂKemba Walker, playing in his third game with Dallas, went for a game-high 32 points in Cleveland, but it wasnât enough withÂLuka DonÄiÄÂ out. In the teamâs two wins at home against the Thunder and Trail Blazers, DonÄiÄ went for 38 and 33 points, respectively, but he still relinquished his scoring title lead toÂJoel Embiidâfor now.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Previous ranking: 13
Portland picked up three double-digit wins last week, powered by the duo ofÂDamian LillardÂ andÂAnfernee Simons. Lillard scored 38 to beat the Timberwolves and 37 a few days later in a win in San Antonio. Over the weekend it was Simons who led the way with 32 to get past the Rockets. The Trail Blazers lost to the Mavericks for the second time in as many meetings, as they were unable to mount a second-half comeback after letting up 72 first-half points.
12. Philadelphia 76ers
Previous ranking: 14
TheÂ76ersÂ had just two games last week and won both to extend their winning streak to four overall and six in a row at home. Embiidâs scoring tear continued with 31 points in a 20-point victory against the Kings and 34 more for the leagueâs top scorer to beat the Warriors by 12. Philadelphia is 4â1 sinceÂJames Hardenâs return, and heâs dished 59 assists during that stretch. The Sixers have three more contests at home this week, against the Raptors, Pistons and Clippers, before they head to Madison Square Garden to play on Christmas.
13. Los Angeles Clippers
Previous ranking: 15
Kawhi LeonardÂ is beginning to resemble the player he was pre-injury. The Clippers won all three games he played in last week, and he scored a season-high 31 points against the Wizards, went for 25 points versus the Celtics and finished with 19 against the Timberwolves. L.A. lost by double digits to the Suns without Leonard (rest) orÂPaul GeorgeÂ (knee), who also missed the Washington game. Itâs been rare to have both stars available this season, though things are still looking up in Tinseltown with four wins in five games, including one by 20 points against Boston.
14. New York Knicks
Previous ranking: 18
TheÂKnicksÂ parlayed their improved defense with stellar play fromÂJulius RandleÂ into a seven-game winning streak that has them firmly among the top six teams in the East. They added three more to the count last weekâback-to-back in Chicago and another in Indiana. New York is 10â6 on the road this season and has won its last six away from Madison Square Garden. The Knicks return home for four games this week against tough teams, culminating in a visit from the 76ers on Christmas.
15. Utah Jazz
Previous ranking: 16
The Jazz slayed the giant last week. The Pelicans had won seven in a row and climbed to the top seed in the conference ahead of a two-game set in Salt Lake City. Utah beat New Orleans, twice, first by 21 points and then by three in overtime to complete the season sweep. The Jazz didnât have anything left for the Bucks a few nights later and lost by 26 on the road. After Will Hardyâs team hit a wall at the end of November it appears to have stabilized in December.
16. Golden State Warriors
Previous ranking: 11
Sundayâs win against the Raptors was the first for the Warriors withoutÂSteph CurryÂ this season. It will also have to serve as the blueprint for the defending champions, with the two-time MVP sidelined for a few weeks by a shoulder injury.ÂJordan PooleÂ scored a career-high 43 points to lift Golden State to its third road win of the season and put an end to a three-game losing streak. The Dubs are on national television this week against both New York teams and again for a highly anticipated matchup with the Grizzlies back in San Francisco.
17. Atlanta Hawks
Previous ranking: 12
The Hawksâ poor play outside of the Peach State continued last week with a pair of blowout losses. They lost to the Grizzlies by 25 without Trae Young and then by 11 to the Magic a few nights later with him back in the lineup. Young went for 31 in a double-digit win versus the Hornets over the weekend to prevent a third straight loss. Clint Capela, who will reportedly miss 1â2 weeks with a calf strain, joined Dejounte Murray (ankle) and John Collins (ankle) on the injury report. Three home games against sub-.500 teams await the Hawks this week.
18. Miami Heat
Previous ranking: 24
The Heat went 4â0 across their road trip and are now above .500 for the first time this year. Miami was just 3â9 in away games before it beat the Pacers, Thunder, Rockets and Spurs on the road last week. Tyler Herro stepped up with 35 and 41 points to get past OKC and Houston on back-to-back nights. The Heat are now on the cusp of a top-six seed in the East and are getting healthier, despite listing every player on their roster on the injury report in an apparent jab to the league following a fine.
19. Indiana Pacers
Previous ranking: 17
Indianaâs sole win last week was against Golden State, which completed the season sweep. The Pacers dropped their other three games to the Heat, Cavaliers and Knicksâall by six points or fewerâand now have a losing record for the first time since early November. Itâs poor timing given the schedule ahead for the team. This week brings road games against the Celtics and Heat, and the rest of the slate through New Yearâs is unforgiving.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous ranking: 20
Minnesota split its last four games, dropping the first two and winning a pair over the weekend. The Trail Blazers bested the Timberwolves by 21, and then came an 11-point loss to the Clippers. They bounced with a two-point win against the Thunder and a 24-point victory over the Bulls, their best offensive showing of the season. Anthony Edwards scored 37 of his teamâs 150 points and added 11 assists in his best game of the year. Next up is a two-game set at home with the Mavericks, then a trip to play the Celtics.
21. Los Angeles Lakers
Previous ranking: 22
The news thatÂAnthony DavisÂ is set to miss at least a month with a foot injury comes at a time when heâs been playing his best and has the Lakers on the rise. He scored 37 in a crushing overtime loss to the Celtics and left early the next game against Denver.ÂLeBron JamesÂ stepped up in his absence and led the team to wins over the Nuggets and Wizards. L.A., which will have to try to stay afloat without its All-Star forward, has three games this week before it draws Dallas on Christmas.
22. Toronto Raptors
Previous ranking: 19
Up until last week, the Raptors hadnât won or lost more than two games in a row. Now theyâre on a five-game skid with nine of their next 10 games against teams with winning records. Torontoâs losses last week all came at home, where they had previously been tough to beat this year. Despite Fred VanVleet scoring 39 in consecutive games, the Kings beat the Raptors by one and the Nets did so by three. And on Sunday, the Warriors left Toronto with a 16-point win, a rare road victory for the defending champions.
23. Chicago Bulls
Previous ranking: 21
After suffering a second consecutive overtime loss last week, the Bulls were on the receiving ends of back-to-back blowouts courtesy of the Knicks and Timberwolves by 23 and 24 points, respectively. The offense cratered against New York, finishing with just 91 points, and the defense didnât show up in Minnesota, letting up a season-high 150. Chicago was moving toward a .500 record before it matched a season-high four-game losing streak, and now it has three straight road games ahead.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous ranking: 24
A win over the weekend against the first-place Grizzlies halted the Thunderâs slide down the standings. Prior to that game, OKC had dropped five in a row, including losses last week to the Mavericks, Heat and Timberwolvesâthe latter two both by just two points. The upset against Memphis came without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. All three of Oklahoma Cityâs games this week are at home, where it is 7â7 on the year.
25. Orlando Magic
Previous ranking: 27
Orlando more than doubled its win total in the last two weeks alone. After beginning the season 5â20, the Magic have won their last six. Their last two wins came at the expense of the Celtics, and they beat the Hawks prior to that, scoring a season-high 135 points in the process. Franz and Moritz Wagner and Paolo Banchero each led the team in scoring across those three victories, which separated Orlando a bit from Detroit and Charlotte at the bottom of the East.
26. Washington Wizards
Previous ranking: 25
Washington tacked four additional losses onto its losing streak last week to stretch it to 10 in a row. Most of the damage was done on the road, though the Nets did down the Wizards by 12 points in the nationâs capital. Out West, Washington lost to the Nuggets by 13, the Clippers by nine and the Lakers by two in the gameâs waning seconds. The Wizards, who have a trio of 20-plus points per game scorers, are winless so far in December, and their road trip continues this week.
27. Houston Rockets
Previous ranking: 26
The short list of teams the Rockets have beaten this season is a whoâs who of the NBAâs best. Just last week, Houston defeated Phoenix, again, days after a win against Milwaukee. Jalen Greenâs 26 points lifted his team to a 14-point win over the Devin Bookerâless Suns, which marked the second time all season the Rockets won back-to-back games. They closed out the week with losses to the Heat and Trail Blazers, and their seven-game homestand continues against the Spurs, Magic and Mavericks in the coming days.
28. San Antonio Spurs
Previous ranking: 28
The Spurs matched their longest winning streak of the season last week when they outlasted the Cavaliers at home for their third win in a row. Portland beat San Antonio by 16 two nights later to put an end to that run, and Miami did so by 10 over the weekend to start yet another losing streak for the Spurs. Their string of victories created a bit of distance between them and the absolute worst teams in the league, though theyâre still firmly in range for a top pick.
29. Detroit Pistons
Previous ranking: 29
The Pistons officially lost Cade Cunningham for the season when their second-year guard underwent successful shin surgery last week. Reinforcements arenât coming for Detroit, which beat the Hornetsâthe only team behind it in the conferenceâin overtime on the road and lost to the Kings and Nets back in Michigan. The play of rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren has been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season for the Pistons.
30. Charlotte Hornets
Previous ranking: 30
LaMelo Ball returned to the Hornetsâ lineup this week, but the losing did not stop. Ball delivered 23 points and 11 assists in an overtime loss to the Pistons in his first game back in a month. He scored 27 the following game against the Hawks, another defeat, and then Charlotte came up just short against Denver despite his season-best 31 points. At long last, the starting five is healthy, but the Hornets still have the worst record and offensive rating in the NBA and an eight-game losing streak to worry about.