Posted: Fri February 8, 2013 12:42PM; Updated: Fri February 8, 2013 3:06PM
Matt Dollinger

Pacers, Celtics headline East revival in Power Rankings

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Paul George grabs a rebound
A fantastic two-way player, Paul George has taken his game to new heights this season.
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The Western Conference continues to hold three of the top four spots in the Power Rankings, but there's a revival going on in the East.

Two of the biggest risers this week are the Pacers (No. 6) and Celtics (No. 13), who both enjoyed 4-0 weeks despite playing without key players. Indiana is knocking on the door of the NBA's elite even though Danny Granger is still a few weeks away from returning, while Boston, essentially left for dead after losing Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger for the season, is playing its best basketball of the season.

But they're not the only East teams overcoming the odds. The Wizards -- yes, the Wizards! -- rise five spots to No. 21 after beating two division leaders, and the Cavaliers are right behind at No. 22 after another solid week from Kyrie Irving and company. Both teams have been cellar dwellers for the majority of the season, but have been rejuvenated by the the return of their star point guards and are now performing much better than their meager records would indicate.

For the second straight week, the Spurs retain the top spot, but there are plenty of other teams on the move. Here's where all 30 teams stand in this week's Power Rankings.

(Note: All statistics and records are through Feb. 7.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 1
Since: 2-0
Are you not entertained? For another week, the Spurs are the class of the NBA. San Antonio has won 11 consecutive games, but it'll be put to the test on its annual Rodeo Trip, which spans nine games this season. (The road trip will be broken up by All-Star weekend.) The Spurs started that trip off right with a win over the Timberwolves, but games against the Nets, Bulls, Clippers and Warriors -- not to mention games on back-to-back nights, a known kryptonite of Gregg Popovich's -- will likely end the Spurs' winning streak before they finally return home on Feb. 27.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 2
Since: 2-1
Oklahoma City's offense continues its torrid pace, but it's the defense that is under the microscope. The Thunder allowed their second-most points of the season (115) in a loss to the Cavaliers last week, falling to 9-10 when opponents score 100 points or more. That means Kevin Durant and Co. are an astonishing 28-2 when holding opponents to a double-digit total. It doesn't hurt that the Thunder lead the league in scoring and point differential, either.
3 Miami Heat
Last Week: 3
Since: 3-1
Miami Heat (32-14)
LeBron James continues to pick the NBA apart, shooting a career-best 55.6 percent from the field. As a whole, Miami has been incredibly efficient with its shots, leading the league with a 49 shooting percentage and holding opponents to the sixth-worst mark (43.8). If LeBron and the Heat are shooting around 50 percent, it's going to be tough, if not impossible, to keep up with them.
4 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 5
Since: 3-0
The Spurs own the league's longest winning streak, but the Nuggets are the NBA's hottest team. Denver has won eight straight, averaging an incredible 115 points over that stretch. Denver's offense has been particularly electric thanks to Danilo Gallinari, who struggled for the first two months of the season but averaged 19.3 points on 46.9 percent shooting in January. Much like the Spurs, the Nuggets face a daunting upcoming stretch, playing six of their next seven away from Denver, where they are 22-3.
5 New York Knicks
Last Week: 6
Since: 3-1
The Knicks finished a dominant 5-0 homestand last week only to follow it up with a letdown loss to the Wizards. While the poor effort was likely maddening to Mike Woodson, there have been few players steadier this season than his starting center, Tyson Chandler, who ripped off three straight 20-rebound games last week. Chandler has pulled down at least seven rebounds in 43 of 47 games and is leading the NBA in field-goal percentage. On a team loaded with perimeter talent, Chandler's ability to dominate the paint on both ends is a rare commodity.
6 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 11
Since: 4-0
Much like their rising star, Paul George, the Pacers keep getting better as the season progresses. Indiana has won five in a row, including four straight by double digits last week. The Pacers also extended their home winning streak to 15 games, the franchise's longest in more than 10 years. Leading the way is the first-time All-Star George, who has taken his game to new offensive heights (career-best 17.6 points) while continuing to be a lockdown defender, leading the league in defensive win shares (3.8). Outside of LeBron, George might be the best two-way player in the NBA right now, at the age of 22 no less.
7 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 4
Since: 1-3
The Clippers are not an elite team without Chris Paul, going 3-6 in his recent absence. Los Angeles has one of the deepest rosters in the league -- particularly in the backcourt -- but no group of guards can replace Paul's production and presence. The franchise point guard practiced with the team on Thursday and could return from his knee injury Friday night in Miami.
8 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 8
Since: 1-2
Injuries have made us forget how good Andrew Bogut can be. Before missing most of last season, Bogut averaged 12.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and a league-leading 2.6 blocks in 2010-11, and he's slowly rounding back into shape. Golden State is making sure to bring him back slowly -- he's still not playing in back-to-back games -- and rightfully so. There aren't many centers in the league as talented as Bogut, and he makes the team's defense much more formidable when at full strength.
9 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 7
Since: 1-2
A 1-3 post-trade start hasn't exactly validated the Grizzlies' gamble of parting with Rudy Gay. Lionel Hollins is giving Gay's old spot in the lineup to Tayshaun Prince, but it's unclear who is going to fill the void left by him on offense. Jerryd Bayless was the first to raise his hand, averaging 19.5 points since Gay was dealt. But, as the record shows, replacing Gay with Bayless won't be that simple.
10 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 10
Since: 2-1
Would the Nets be better off with Dwight Howard over Brook Lopez? It's tough to go against the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but Lopez is doing his best to make that a tough question. He leads all centers with 18.9 points per game and ranks fourth at the position in blocks. Furthermore, his 25.3 Player Efficiency Rating is fourth in the league, well ahead of Howard's 19.7 mark. If you're looking for another tiebreaker, the Lakers' record doesn't help Howard's case, either.
11 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 9
Since: 1-3
The Bulls have been doing an admirable job with Derrick Rose out, but they can only do so much when the injury bug begins to infect their other key players. Joakim Noah missed three games recently with plantar fasciitis, and Carlos Boozer is dealing with a sore right hamstring. Throw in backcourt players Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli battling injuries and you have a team that's being held together by Tom Thibodeau's grit and Nate Robinson's improvisations. Fear not, Bulls fans, Rose is nearing his return.
12 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 13
Since: 2-1
Houston ranks second in scoring, but it unleashed an offensive performance for the ages even by its standards last week, dropping 140 points on Golden State, including a record-tying 23 three-pointers. You can't blame the Warriors for feeling helpless and intentionally fouling the Rockets to try to prevent history. The Rockets are on a ridiculous tear right now, averaging 115.9 points in their last seven games. It appears some teams are tired of trying to guard them.
13 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 17
Since: 4-0
The worse the Celtics get, the better they play. With their dismantling of the Lakers on Thursday, the C's improved to 6-0 since Rajon Rondo was lost for the season and 4-0 since Jared Sullinger suffered the same fate. With Boston's unlikely resurgence, it's starting to look like we can put the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade rumors to rest. The only place those two appear to be going is the playoffs.
14 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 14
Since: 3-1
Utah Jazz (28-22)
He ranks fifth in three-pointers made and eighth in three-point percentage, but Randy Foye was left out of the Three-Point Shootout competition at All-Star weekend. Foye's production, however, hasn't gone unnoticed in Utah. On a team low on perimeter players, Foye has given the Jazz more than they could have asked for after signing in late July, averaging 11.9 points and turning into Utah's best outside shooter. He won't get the chance to bask in the limelight in Houston next week, but Foye has been a huge part of Utah's success.
15 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 12
Since: 1-2
The Hawks have struggled against the East's elite of late, losing to the Pacers, Bulls, Knicks and Nets in the past three weeks. A deteriorating defense has been the biggest reason for their struggles. Atlanta hasn't held an opponent to 90 points or fewer in more than a month after doing it seven times the month before. With a middling offense (16th in points per game and efficiency), the Hawks need their defense to step up some nights, especially in rock 'em, sock 'em conference games.
16 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 16
Since: 2-2
Try to explain this one: The Blazers committed 28 turnovers, the most by any team in a single game this season, against the Wolves last week, yet found a way to win. In fact, it marked the first time they've won with that many turnovers since 1989. Two nights later, Portland patched up the holes and committed a season-low six turnovers against the Mavericks -- only to lose.
17 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 15
Since: 1-3
What has gotten into Samuel Dalembert? The center had the best game of his 11-year career on Wednesday, making 17-of-21 shots for a career-high 35 points in a loss at Denver. The next night in Utah, he had four steals after totaling only three all season. Both of these outlier efforts came in losses, but, at a minimum, Dalembert did the Bucks a solid by raising his trade value. The 31-year-old with an expiring contract is one of the likeliest players to move before the deadline.
18 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 19
Since: 2-1
Nothing says "commitment" like unkempt facial hair, right? The 21-28 Mavericks have decided to take the "playoff beard" to a new level by sporting ".500 beards," which they claim will remain until the team reaches the break-even point. As our own Ben Golliver notes, the earliest that could happen is Feb. 26, meaning we might not recognize Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo and the other Mavs who are neglecting their razors. Things could get hairy if Dallas suffers a losing streak of any kind anytime soon. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
19 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 20
Since: 2-1
The 76ers have been thin on the frontline all season thanks to Andrew Bynum's absence. Now they'll have to deal with depth issues on the wing, too. Forward Thaddeus Young is expected miss at least three weeks with a hamstring strain, and shooting guard Jason Richardson is facing season-ending knee surgery. We all know Nick Young won't mind stepping up on offense and taking a few extra shots, but the losses could set Philadelphia back on defense, which has been its calling card all season.
20 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 18
Since: 3-1
Pau Gasol sidelined for at least six weeks. Kobe Bryant openly questioning Dwight Howard's manhood. Howard openly questioning Kobe's medical background. A 21-point loss to the Celtics. Should I keep going? Once again, Laker Land is chaotic. If it wasn't already crystal clear how Howard feels about the team's current state of affairs, look no further than the disgruntled center taking off his jersey while sitting on the bench as the buzzer sounded in Thursday's loss.
21 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 26
Since: 2-2
With John Wall in the lineup, the Wizards are capable of beating the best, as demonstrated by their back-to-back wins over division leaders in the Clippers and Knicks. They're also capable of the same dry spells they suffered before he returned, as demonstrated by the four losses preceding the wins. But no one is underestimating the Wizards anymore. Why? Too many teams have already made that mistake, including the Heat, Thunder and Nuggets.
22 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 27
Since: 2-1
The Cavaliers are reaping the benefits of the Grizzlies' salary dump, most notably with Marreese Speights. Since coming to Cleveland, Speights has averaged 14.7 points on 52.9 shooting and 7.3 rebounds in just 24.5 minutes per game. The Cavs inherited a big man with a very reasonable deal (two-year, $8.7 million contract) and have gone 4-2 since acquiring him. He becomes Cleveland's third promising big man -- along with Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson -- who is 25 or younger.
23 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 21
Since: 1-3
The Wolves had high hopes this season, but have only been met with disappointment through an injury-plagued campaign. Minnesota is now 6½ games out of the playoff picture and would need to leapfrog teams such as the Rockets, Lakers and Blazers to claim the No. 8 seed, which seems unlikely. The roster was plenty intriguing on paper, but the on-the-floor product hasn't materialized thanks to one injury after another.
24 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 21
Since: 1-3
The Pistons average the seventh-fewest assists in the league, but they're hoping the addition of Jose Calderon can alleviate some of those woes. Calderon owns the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league and averages almost as many assists as Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey combined. Detroit dropped its first two games with Calderon in the lineup, but it could start to see some dividends once the newcomer becomes more familiar with his teammates' tendencies.
25 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 23
Since: 1-2
You won't hear his name in the discussion of the league's best point guards, but very few can match Greivis Vasquez's production. He's averaging 13.9 points along with 9.4 assists, the third most in the league, and is one of two players to record at least five games of 20 points, 10 assists and five rebounds this season. The other is LeBron James. With Vasquez on his rookie deal through 2013-14, the third-year guard represents one of the best values in the NBA.
26 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 24
Since: 1-2
Rudy Gay appears to have come to Toronto with an Ontario-sized chip on his shoulder. Gay averaged 24.7 points in his first three games as a Raptor after averaging just 17.2 with the Grizzlies. He's also shooting a Kobe-like 21 times per game, which might be just a little bit more than the Raptors had in mind. Andrea Bargnani played his first game in nearly two months Wednesday, meaning Tornto should be able to diversify on offense once he regains his form.
27 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 25
Since: 1-3
Phoenix Suns (17-33)
The Suns have somewhat steadied their ship to go 4-5 under Lindsey Hunter, but Michael Beasley remains a problem. The fifth-year forward avoided a trip to jail on Jan. 25 after being cited for numerous violations in a traffic stop. On the court, Beasley hasn't done a lot of good, averaging career lows in points, rebounds and field-goal percentage, but the Suns deemed the incident minor enough to not punish him. When your Player Efficiency Rating (career-low 11.1) is 250th in the league, you've got dig deep for nice things to say.
28 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 28
Since: 0-3
DeMarcus Cousins continues to find ways to outdo himself, registering his league-leading third ejection of the season after berating a referee at halftime of a game in Utah. The Kings insist Cousins is off limits in trade talks, but in reality, they might be doing other teams a favor. Cousins is as talented as they come, demonstrated by his 17.2 points and 10 rebounds per game, but he's also as frustrating as they come, proved by his NBA-high 12 technical fouls.
29 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 29
Since: 0-4
Remember when the Magic were within reach of the playoff race in mid-December, winning four straight to move a game within .500? Since then, Orlando has gone 2-22. The Magic have lost 11 straight and managed just 61 points against the Sixers last week. Injuries have simply decimated the Magic, leaving them well short of being a competitive team on a nightly basis.
30 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 30
Since: 0-3
There's a heated battle breaking out for dead last in the Power Rankings, but the Bobcats maintain their stranglehold for another week despite the best (or is it worst?) efforts from the Magic and Kings. Charlotte recently wrapped up an 0-5 road trip and hasn't won away from home in more than a month. To make matters worse, rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a scary concussion after sustaining a blow to the head on a breakaway last week.
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