NBA Power Rankings: Bucks stay on top, Knicks vault up to third Durant out for Suns’ home debut after tweaking ankle in warm ups Police end investigation into Morant, gun without charges; he will remain away from team Watch Pau Gasol tear up as his number is retired by Lakers (next to Kobe’s) USA Basketball headed to Abu Dhabi for World Cup tune-up games

The Bucks hold the top spot on the NBC Sports NBA Power Rankings this week, but the news is just below them, with the Nuggets climbing to second and the Knicks to third.

1. Bucks (47-18, #1 last week) Milwaukee’s 16-game winning streak was snapped when his top three defensemen led Philadelphia to 48 points in the fourth quarter. The Bucks have bounced back from that bad 12 minutes with a couple of wins since then, and with Boston trailing Milwaukee, Milwaukee has 2.5 games to spare for the top seed in the East. This is important because it puts them on the opposite side of the grid from the Celtics and 66ers, who will have to go through each other before going head-to-head. Giannis Antetokounmpo and company. The Bucks are happy to let them beat each other. The three-game trip starts Saturday at Golden State against Stephen Curry and friends.

Nuggets small icon 2. Nuggets (46-19, LV 3). The Nuggets have won four games in a row and 8 out of 9. What should give Nuggets fans the most hope ahead of the playoffs is that they are the league’s best 30-4 at home. The team’s big problem in the playoffs is defensive, but over the past 15 games, Denver’s defensive rating of 112 is the eighth best in the NBA. . Starting Friday in San Antonio, Denver has 6 of 7 on the way, but the schedule is relatively mild for most of this week.

Little nyx icon 3. Knicks (39-28, LV 6) In memory of how much Jalen Brunson means for this team, the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak was snapped by the Hornets chasing Wembanyama because he was out. While there’s still time for things to go awry, something Knicks fans are all too familiar with, this team appears to be destined for a 4/5 game against the Cavaliers, and the goal for the rest of the journey should be to get home court. for this series. . Another sign of how much Brunson has meant to the team is that New York is fifth in offense in the league this season, though this is partly due to Julius Randle goes away and wins games with strikes like this.

small icon 4. Celtics (45-21, LV 2) The Celtics have lost three games in a row and 4 of 5, and the question is whether this is a structural problem or if they are just a little tired of the regular season. I think the latter, but this slight slump puts them 2.5 games behind the Bucks and looking at the No. 2 seed, which is a much harder path through the playoffs. As things stand, they’ll get a beatable but physically tough Miami team in the first round, win it and probably Philadelphia in the second round, with Milwaukee waiting at the end of the road. This is a glove. Starting Saturday, the Celtics are going on a six-game road trip.

Small icon 5. 76ers (43-22, LV 4). Can the 76ers make it to the second seed? Philadelphia is Gond 5-3 after the All-Star break, and the Celtics are struggling a little, with just one game left from Boston, which means a second-round series. If the 66ers are going to reach the Conference Finals or beyond this season, they will need James Harden it showed up in the fourth quarter against Milwaukee.

Little cavaliers icon 6. Cavaliers (41-26, LW 7). The Cavaliers have the best defense in the league this season (defense rating of 109.5), but it has dropped a bit recently, to 112.1 in the last 10 games (that’s still ninth in the league this stretch). The Clevelands seem to be poised for a playoff showdown with New York in the first round, and the Cavs have a chance to be the best player in the series – Donovan Mitchell If he had 40 burgers against the Celtics on Monday, he could break the Knicks defense and be the key to winning this series. Two big games against a desperate Miami team this Wednesday and Friday.

Little kings icon 7. Kings (38-26, DX 8). Back during the Summer League in Las Vegas, some noisy (perhaps drunk) Kings fans chanted “40 wins” and talked about the playoffs, which caused laughter in the NBA world. Now no one is laughing – the Kings are about to explode from this optimistic forecast, as they made Vegas over/under in wins. The Kings climbed to second in the West while continuing to play well (winning 6 of 7) while the Grizzlies ran into numerous problems and fell back. Things are going so well that their Thursday night game against the red-hot Knicks has been moved to late game on the TNT slot – the nation will take another look at the Kings.

small sun icon 8. Sans (36-29, LW 9). Phoenix 3-0 Kevin Duran entered the roster with a +13.5 net rating in those games – they looked like contenders, albeit with some flaws. They performed well when needed, such as against the Mavericks. Devin Booker and Durant combined for 73 points. The Suns finished in fourth place, three games behind the Kings and Grizzlies in the losing column. Although Sacramento isn’t back in the pack, there’s a chance the Suns can catch the stumbling Grizzlies and take third place. The Suns will play the Kings on Saturday and then have a brutal showdown with the Warriors and Bucks on Monday and Tuesday.

Little grizzly icon 9. Grizzlies (38-26, HB 5) I am Morant remains “away from the team” after flashing a gun on social media, with no return date set. There are bigger problems in the game and it’s more important for Morant to find the right path for himself, but they miss him on the court as they slide down the West standings. A loss Brandon Clark until the end of the season and the playoffs on a torn Achilles is another big hit, he is a key part of their rotation. Most likely, he was out until some point in the second half of next season (and it is possible to miss all this).

Small Mavericks Icon 10. Mavericks (34-32, LV 10). Dallas is 3-3 after the All-Star break, with a top five offense and a bottom 10 defense, making them dangerous but inconsistent. Despite Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving having already four games in which both scored 30+, they play together 3-5. The Mavs are tied with the Warriors for fifth and sixth in the West and it’s hard to see them moving up, the Suns (2.5 games ahead) will be hard to catch up and while Memphis is trailing five games with 16. going requires a lot. Dallas is on the road in 11 of the next 14 games.

Small warrior icon 11. Warriors (34-32, LW 12). Signs the Warriors are turning the tide: They have the best defense in the NBA in the past seven games. They also brought Stephen Curry back into the rotation, although this is an adjustment. “I think Steph is a really unique player to play with because most of the dominant players have the ball all the time and Steph doesn’t play half the time,” said Steve Kerr. “And so you must be ready not only to catch and shoot when he penetrates and kicks you, but you must recognize what he is doing. Go put a screen on him, duck, be ready to use him with or without the ball.”

Small heating icon 12. Heat (35-31, DW 11). Eric Spoelstra stunned some minutes Bam Adebayo And Jimmy Butlerto keep one of them on the floor so the team doesn’t stretch out during the game. However, there are rotation questions that need to be answered: Kyle Lowry is nearing a return, should he start or should he steady Gabe Vincent save a job? Max Strus knocked down triples and played well in the starting lineup with Kevin Love out, does he save the job? After back-to-back wins against the Hawks last week, Miami is well-positioned for the No. 7 seed, and they could now try to catch up with the Nets for a top-six spot, but it will take 2.5 games to make up for 2.5 games. a warm hand and a little help. After a couple of games against the Cavaliers, the schedule softened.

small web icon 13. Grids (37-28, LW 14). Teaming with Devin Booker (and Deandre Ayton demanding touch) Mikal Bridges was not on display offensively in Phoenix. He gets his chance in Brooklyn and seizes it – he averages over 30 points per game in his last four, and the Nets have won three of them (including a 28-point comeback against the Celtics). Brooklyn is a playoff team and they have a 2.5 game lead over Miami with 17 games (and the Nets have a tiebreak) if the Nets can play about .500 balls the rest of the way they have a good chance of staying in the top six and avoiding the playoffs.

14. Timberwolves (34-33, LV 17). Nothing is locked down, but last weekend’s Los Angeles win helped the Timberwolves in pre-game positioning – if you’re stuck in a game, you want to be the 7/8 seed, so you only need one win. for advancement. At the moment, Minnesota has seven seeds and looks like it will have 7/8 seeds left. Minnesota 4-5 since arrival Mike Conley and I’ll try to add to that the games against the Hawks and the Nets (the two teams themselves are fighting for a playoff spot) this week.

Small hawk icon 15. Hawks (32-33, LW 16). Atlanta ranks 1-3 in the Queen Snyder era, although that’s unfair as he will never have the opportunity to make meaningful changes to the system in 60+ games in a season. They throw a few more three-pointers in a game, and Dejont Murray went for 41 against the Trail Blazers, but nothing changed. It was interesting to see owner Tony Ressler go on a media tour to debunk the idea of ​​possession interference (with his son working in the team’s front office), leading to frustration and mid-season changes in the front office and coaching staff. Time will tell, but Snyder has a contract that gives him leverage.

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