Miami makes big move to 13th; Suns cling to top spot
Posted: Tuesday December 26, 2006 12:05PM; Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2006 6:18PM
The Grinch came and stole Christmas for a slew of NBA teams last week, as serious injuries hit the Rockets (Yao Ming), Nets (Nenad Krstic), Hawks (Josh Smith) and Celtics (Paul Pierce). Not surprisingly, those teams all fell in this week's Power Rankings. Remember, this is a weekly snapshot of how teams are playing at a given time, so injuries naturally are going to affect a team's standing. Here then is our take on how the 30 teams stack up as we get set to close out 2006 and ring in 2007.
This week's high riser: Heat (No. 13 from No. 25) This week's big drop: Celtics (No. 27 from No. 20)
It took an OT loss to the Wizards on Friday night to finally snap their franchise-record 15-game win streak, the NBA's longest in six years. But can Steve Nash & Co. keep it going this week in tough road games at Dallas (Thursday) and Detroit (Sunday)?
They're breathing a sigh of relief that Dirk Nowitzki's ankle sprain wasn't more serious. Meanwhile, they had won six straight through Monday, and Devean George is starting to contribute for their already deep bench.
Friday's home blowout loss to the Rockets should be a reminder to them that they're not invincible. In fact, four of their seven losses this season had come against Western rivals Dallas, Utah, Houston and the Lakers.
Who needs Ben Wallace? The Pistons' D has been key to their strong play of late (four straight victories, and eight of 11 overall) as they have found a way to make stops without Big Ben. They entered the week ranked in the NBA's top five in points allowed (92.9), field-goal-percentage defense (.442) and blocks (5.8).
Mehmet Okur is their unsung hero. The 6-11 center helped them beat Memphis last week on a last-second three-pointer, the second time this season he's won a game with a late three-ball. He's shooting better than 42 percent from beyond the arc.
Just days after lighting up the Lakers for an NBA season-high 60 points, Gilbert Arenas pumped in 54 as the Wizards won at Phoenix to end the Suns' run. Earlier this season they snapped the Mavs' 12-game win streak, proving once again that it takes a streaky team to cool off a streaky team.
Who needs Ben Wallace? Let's just say the Bulls aren't about to exchange him like some ill-fitting Christmas gift. Big Ben has hauled down 10 or more boards in seven of his past nine games (including an NBA season-high 27 vs. the Bucks on Dec. 15) to help them remain one of the NBA's hottest clubs.
LeBron James turns 22 on Friday. For his birthday, he would no doubt like to see more consistent offensive production from his teammates. The King had to outscore Orlando 19-18 by himself in the fourth quarter Saturday for them to avoid a fifth loss in seven games.
Speaking of precocious youths, 21-year-old Dwight Howard (12.7 rebounds per game) is on pace to become the youngest player to lead the league in rebounding. Dolph Schayes was 22 when he pulled down 16.4 for Syracuse in 1950-51.
Phil Jackson's Hall of Fame nomination appears to be coming at a fitting time. Despite all the injuries (Lamar Odom, Chris Mihm, et al.), the Lakers have managed to stay afloat in the ultracompetitive West. If they can keep it up, this might turn out to be one of the Zen Master's better coaching efforts in his career.