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Rocket boost

Houston thriving despite Yao's extended absence

Posted: Monday January 15, 2007 2:13PM; Updated: Monday January 15, 2007 3:44PM
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Injuries to big-name players come up every season, but this year has been especially brutal. Shaquille O'Neal. Yao Ming. Lamar Odom. Paul Pierce. Chris Paul. Michael Redd. Those are just a handful of the big names currently out of commission.

That's why the ability of teams like the Rockets and Lakers to continue playing at a high level is an interesting development. Assuming those teams improve when their missing stars return, it's not inconceivable that they could challenge the Mavs, Suns and Spurs in the West before it's all said and done. We'll find out over the next few months. For now, however, they'll have to settle for cracking a top five spot in this week's Power Rankings.

This week's high riser: Rockets (No. 4 from No. 11)
This week's big drop: Bucks (No. 30 from No. 15)

NBA Power Rankings
Rank LW Team
1 1 Not just the Dirk Show: Over a recent 10-game span, Dirk Nowitzki led them in scoring just one time. But when they need the German Bird to take over, as he did when scoring 43 points against Indiana last week, he has usually delivered.
2 2 Boris Diaw is doing his best to keep up with Steve Nash, Amaré Stoudemire and Shawn Marion. The French forward nearly had a triple double last Saturday (19-9-11) as Phoenix beat the Magic to make it nine straight and 25 of 27 overall.
3 6 They showed their championship pride with four straight wins through Sunday after that rare three-game skid. But the loss of Matt Bonner (left knee, two to six weeks) won't help, especially with Francisco Elson (shoulder) also still on the shelf.
4 11 Thanks to Tracy McGrady's reemergence as a scoring force, they have managed to defy those of us who predicted a bumpier road without the injured Yao Ming. But can they keep it up this week at Dallas (Tuesday) and against the Suns (Wednesday)?
5 5 Forget David Beckham. The brightest star in L.A.'s galaxy is still Kobe Bryant, who continues to bend it like an MVP. But like the Rockets, the Lakers face a tough week with a back-to-back at San Antonio (Wednesday) and Dallas.
6 8 They're starting to figure out how to win on the road. Saturday's victory over the Clippers in L.A. (without Larry Hughes, left quad injury) was their fifth in their last seven away from home and improved their season road mark to 8-10.
7 12 For all the talk about the Wizards and Heat, it's these streaky young guns who currently reside atop the Southeast Division. They recently had a five-game win streak, which followed earlier runs of four and six games.
8 3 Maybe it's a coincidence (or his sore shoulder), but Gilbert Arenas has not been shooting well since hosting that $1 million birthday bash for himself last week. Partly as a result, the Wizards had dropped three of four at week's end.
9 7 They gave up 119 points at home to the Heat in Saturday's loss, their third straight and fourth in five games overall. With a four-game Eastern road trip starting Monday at D.C., they had better regain their energy soon.
10 10 What an odd time for Marko Jaric to ask to be traded. Doesn't he realize that Minnesota had won six of its first seven January games? Besides, it's not like the weather anywhere else in the country is better than the Twin Cities' these days.

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