Despite beating the Los Angeles Clippers in their only game last week, the 76ers remained at No. 10 in The Inquirer’s weekly NBA power rankings.
Milwaukee, which went 1-1 in the last week before the All-Star Game, remained No. 1 for the fifth consecutive week. The Bucks’ 118-111 loss at Indiana came without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who missed both games last week after the birth of his first child.
The loss to Indiana was Milwaukee’s first to a Central Division team. The Bucks are 11-1 in such games.
The Los Angeles Lakers moved from sixth to No. 2 after being Phoenix at home and winning, 120-116, in overtime at Denver. The Lakers are 23-5 on the road, the best in the NBA. They are 15-10 against teams with winning records.
LeBron James has averaged 34.9 minutes and has missed only two games, so it will be interesting if he can keep this pace and still be fresh for the playoffs.
Utah continues to be a streaky team. In their last 13 games, the Jazz won four in a row, lost five consecutive games, and now are on a four-game winning streak.
Houston will play small ball the rest of the season. The Rockets are 2-2 since trading center Clint Capela to Atlanta.
Here are the power rankings, with last week’s rankings in parentheses.
1. Milwaukee 46-8 (1)
2. Los Angeles Lakers 41-12 (6)
3. Utah 36-18 (7)
4. Denver 38-17 (4)
5. Toronto 40-15 (2)
6. Boston 38-16 (3)
7. Los Angeles Clippers 37-18 (5)
8. Houston 34-20 (8)
9. Miami 35-19 (9)
10. Sixers 34-21 (10)
It will be interesting to see if the Indiana Pacers can turn things around. The Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with that win over Giannis-less Milwaukee during the last game before the break. Five of the six games from that six-game losing streak were at home for the Pacers.
Indiana is still getting used to having Victor Oladipo in the lineup after he missed more than a year because of a ruptured tendon in his quadriceps. In the seven games he has participated in since his return, he is shooting just 24.4% from three-point range.
Portland’s chance to earn that final Western Conference playoff spot took a major blow when Damian Lillard suffered a groin injury in the Trail Blazers’ last game before the All-Star break, a 111-104 defeat at Memphis.
Not only did that give Memphis a four-game lead over Portland for that eighth spot, but it also means that Lillard will miss time when the Trail Blazers resume action. During his last 12 games, Lillard has averaged 37.9 points, and Portland was 7-5 in those games.
While so much of Memphis’ success has been attributed to rookie point guard Ja Morant, fellow first-year player Brandon Clarke has also enjoyed a strong season for the Grizzlies. The rookie forward from Gonzaga is averaging 12.3 points and is shooting 62.3% from the field and 42.0% from three-point range.
The Trail Blazers and Grizzlies have two more games left with each other, both at Portland. San Antonio is five games out of the final playoff spot, and New Orleans is 5.5 games out. The Pelicans are 5-5 with Zion Williamson in the lineup.
Brooklyn, which will visit the Sixers on Thursday, is going through a good stretch. The Nets have won two in a row and four of their last five. In those five games, Caris LeVert is averaging 24 points, hitting 12 of 24 threes.
11. Indiana 32-23 (13)
12. Dallas 33-22 (11)
13. Oklahoma City 33-22 (12)
14. Memphis 28-26 (14)
15. Brooklyn 25-28 (18)
16. San Antonio 23-31 (19)
17. New Orleans 23-32 (16)
18. Portland 25-31 (15)
19. Phoenix 22-33 (20)
20. Sacramento 21-33 (17)
Eight of the bottom 10 teams are from the Eastern Conference. Eleven of the Sixers’ final 27 games are against these eight bottom-dwellers.
The Washington Wizards are just three games behind Orlando for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Wizards have won five of their last seven games, and All-Star snub Bradley Beal has averaged 32.3 points in those games.
One team to watch to see if there is late-season improvement is Cleveland, which is 1-1 with newly acquired center Andre Drummond. He is averaging 16.4 points and 14.5 rebounds in the two games, a 41-point home loss to the Clippers and a 21-point home victory over Atlanta.
21. Orlando 24-31 (22)
22. Washington 20-33 (21)
23. Charlotte 18-36 (27)
24. Chicago 19-36 (23)
25. New York 17-38 (25)
26. Minnesota 16-37 (26)
27. Atlanta 15-41 (24)
28. Detroit 19-38 (28)
29. Cleveland 13-40 (30)