Posted: Mon December 9, 2013 1:28PM; Updated: Mon December 9, 2013 1:23PM
Matt Dollinger
Matt Dollinger>NBA POWER RANKINGS

Rip City revival: Trail Blazers reach No. 1

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LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge (center) is one of three NBA players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images

There's an old saying in combat and sports that "the best defense is a good offense." Or maybe it's just something Nick Young once told Mike D'Antoni.

Either way, the saying proved true last week, as the NBA's best offense, owned by the Trail Blazers, outdueled the league's top defense, owned by the Pacers, in a clash that was arguably the best game of the season and served as the tiebreaker for the No. 1 spot in this week's Power Rankings.

Yes, the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that went 33-49 last season and made its biggest offseason splash by trading for Robin Lopez and signing Mo Williams, has climbed to the top.

How have the Blazers done it? Behind the league's most improved offense, which is putting up 109.4 points per 100 possessions, a 6.7-point increase from last season, according to NBA.com.

Consider the following developments through the first quarter of the season: LaMarcus Aldridge has thrown his hat in the ring for the title of best power forward in the league; Damian Lillard is averaging 20.8 points; Wesley Matthews is shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 49.1 percent from three-point range; and the team's bench has gone from wasteland to viable option. All of that production fueled the Blazers' 11-game winning streak in November and helped them take down the Pacers and Thunder in back-to-back games last week.

Portland isn't the only team on the rise this week. Brad Stevens' Butler Bulldogs, er Boston Celtics, continue their unlikely run through the Sweet 16, er December, with three straight wins, moving up seven spots to No. 16. The Mavericks have reached No. 7, their highest position of the season.

Here's where all 30 teams stand in this week's SI.com Power Rankings.

(Note: All statistics and records are through Dec. 8.)

NBA Power Rankings
 
1 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 6
Since: 3-1
Dallas guard Monta Ellis' game-winning, buzzer-beating fadeaway Saturday took a little air out of the Blazers' balloon, but Portland claims what it has rightfully earned this week: the No. 1 spot. The Blazers have now beaten the Pacers, Thunder and Spurs, proving their early success can't be chalked up to a hot hand or a soft schedule.
 
2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 4
Since: 3-1
As good as Paul George has been this season, Kevin Durant reminded everyone on Sunday why he's still the clear-cut No. 2 player in the NBA. Not only did Durant's Thunder clobber the Pacers by 24, but the four-time All-Star also bested George in points (36 to 32), rebounds (10 to five) and assists (five to zero). If that sample size isn't big enough for you, his season averages are all better, too.
 
3 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 1
Since: 2-2
All three of Indiana's losses have been on the road in the second half of a back-to-back, a familiar NBA kryptonite. George and the Pacers had nothing to be ashamed about for their loss in Portland, but the team absolutely rolled over in a 118-94 loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday. The Thunder shot a season-high 61 percent against the Pacers' league-leading defense.
 
4 Miami Heat
Last Week: 2
Since: 2-2
Miami Heat (16-5)
We're not sweating the Heat's second set of back-to-back losses since January. Why not? Each of Miami's five losses have come against sub-.500 teams (including three without Dwyane Wade), a sign the Heat have trouble getting up for lesser opponents, which is understandable for a team that has won back-to-back championships.
 
5 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 3
Since: 1-1
Losing three of five isn't the way you want to go into an 11-day stretch with six of seven on the road. Saturday's 111-100 loss to Indiana proved that San Antonio's defense (which ranks second in the league in points per possession) is susceptible to off nights. The Spurs are allowing 108 points per game in losses and only 89.1 in victories.
 
6 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 5
Since: 2-2
The secret to Houston's success? It might be Terrence Jones, who is thriving playing alongside Dwight Howard. The Rockets are 9-2 when he scores in double digits. The second-year power forward is averaging an impressive 15.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 51 percent.
 
7 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 10
Since: 3-0
The Mavericks are playing some of the best basketball in the league, but they're a center short of being considered a top-tier team. It might be worth calling Houston to see what the asking price is for Omer Asik, who would seem to be a perfect fit next to Dirk Nowitzki and the team's bevy of shooters.
 
8 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 7
Since: 1-2
The Clippers can't blame all of their recent woes on Willie Green, but it certainly hasn't helped that he's shot 10-of-35 from the field and 3-of-14 from three-point range in four starts (during which the Clippers are 1-3) since J.J. Redick went down with a broken hand. The Clippers are reportedly considering adding 35-year-old Stephen Jackson to help on the wing.
 
9 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 9
Since: 2-1
A date with the Warriors is an opposing guard's nightmare. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are not only two of the NBA's best shooters but their diverse games also make then even more difficult for which to prepare. Curry leads the NBA in points scored off pull-up jumpers, according to SportsVU, while Thompson leads the league in points off catch-and-shoot situations.
 
10 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 8
Since: 2-2
Back-to-back road losses to the Cavaliers and Celtics provided a sobering ending to the Nuggets' seven-game winning streak, but it also served as a reminder that Denver isn't going to win many games when the shots aren't falling. The Nuggets are 2-4 when hitting six three-pointers or fewer.
 
11 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 11
Since: 2-1
The Suns might have more staying power than we thought. They've won six of nine since a four-game losing streak and they rank in the top 10 in points per possession and net rating. Best of all, Phoenix plays with high energy on a nightly basis, an impressive feat for an inexperienced team playing under a first-year coach in Jeff Hornacek.
 
12 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 12
Since: 0-1
The Wolves' last six losses have come against the Heat, Thunder, Nuggets, Pacers, Rockets and Clippers, all of whom sit in the top 10 of our rankings. If it hadn't been for a faulty generator in Mexico City, the Spurs might have been on that list, too.
 
13 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 16
Since: 2-1
Coach Mike Budenholzer's quest to turn the Hawks into the Spurs of the East is off to a solid start. Atlanta ranks second with 24.4 assists per game. First place? You guessed it.
 
14 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 13
Since: 1-2
Dave Joerger hasn't done much to punch up the Grizzlies' offense in his first 19 games as coach, six of which have come without key cog Marc Gasol. Memphis ranks last in pace and is averaging fewer points per 100 possessions (100.0) than last season (101.7).
 
15 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 14
Since: 1-1
If you thought Kobe Bryant was going to drop 81 on the Raptors again in his season debut coming off Achilles surgery, you were sorely disappointed with his nine-point effort in Sunday's loss. Fear not, Lakers faithful, as Kobe is unlikely to stay down for long.
 
16 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 23
Since: 3-0
Break up the Celtics! No, seriously, Danny Ainge should probably break them up. At the current rate, coach Brad Stevens' ability to get his players to overachieve is going to carry Boston's meager roster into the playoffs. It's up to Ainge to dump some of the Celtics' better pieces in order to reach the much-desired lottery. Then again, that might not slow down Stevens either.
 
17 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 15
Since: 1-1
With Bradley Beal out, the Wizards have gotten an unlikely boost from veteran Trevor Ariza, who has suddenly turned into a dangerous three-point threat. Ariza, a career 33.3 percent three-point shooter, has made 14-of-20 from long range in his last three games to raise his season average to 43.8 percent (on 6.4 attempts, well above his career average of 2.3).
 
18 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 19
Since: 3-1
The Pistons won a season-high four consecutive games, including a road upset of the Heat, before Miami returned the favor with a victory in Detroit on Sunday. The Pistons should feel good about themselves, particularly their increasingly stingy defense, which is still finding its form after Josh Smith's arrival.
 
19 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 17
Since: 1-1
With Michael-Kidd Gilchrist out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand, second-year small forward Jeff Taylor stepped into the starting lineup and matched his career high with 20 points in Friday's victory over Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Bobcats rank third in defensive efficiency under new coach Steve Clifford after finishing 30th last season.
 
20 New Orleans Pelicans
Last Week: 18
Since: 1-2
Ryan Anderson has been unstoppable in 10 games since returning from a toe injury, averaging 21.7 points (his career high is 16.2 points) and hitting half of his three-point attempts (37-of-74). Coach Monty Williams deserves credit for finding creative ways to get the sharpshooter open looks.
 
21 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 20
Since: 1-2
Just like last season, coach Tom Thibodeau's bunch isn't going to roll over just because its superstar leader is sidelined. After a triple-overtime loss to the Pelicans, Chicago blew out Miami behind 50 percent shooting. The Bulls will never be an easy out as long as Thibs is on the bench.
 
22 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 26
Since: 2-1
Andrew Bynum has sparked a 3-1 stretch that included victories over the Clippers and Nuggets. The center has averaged 18 points and nine rebounds in those four games. He's beginning to show glimpses of his former self, which could give the Cavaliers a new look.
 
23 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 22
Since: 1-2
Leave it to the Raptors to trade their most high-profile player then spoil Kobe's return on the same night. While the salvage yard from Sacramento likely won't make Toronto better this season, general manager Masai Ujiri's ability to unload Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani only months apart should be commended.
 
24 New York Knicks
Last Week: 29
Since: 2-1
Just when the Knicks were starting to show signs of life, they suffered the most lopsided loss of the NBA season -- against a Celtics team supposedly in rebuilding mode, no less. New York dropped to 0-6 when wearing its alternate orange jerseys, so at least James Dolan has a scapegoat.
 
25 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 24
Since: 1-2
Brooklyn is hearing boos at home, where it is 2-6 and has suffered back-to-back lopsided losses to the Nuggets and Knicks. Things could be interesting as the Nets play 10 of their next 15 games at the Barclays Center, but as long as Deron Williams, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko are in street clothes, wins won't come easy.
 
26 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 26
Since: 0-4
Arron Afflalo is going to make some contender very happy if the Magic elect to sell high and trade the seventh-year swingman. Afflalo dropped a career-high 43 points in a double-overtime loss to the Sixers and is averaging a career-best 22.1 points while shooting 44.3 percent from three-point range. He's also capable of defending shooting guards and small forwards adequately, making his price tag ($7.5 million this season and each of the next two) that much more of a bargain.
 
27 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 25
Since: 0-2
Trading for Rudy Gay is a pretty big faux paus in the NBA these days, but I actually like the deal for Sacramento if I close my eyes and try to forget how much money he makes. The Kings are built to run. Allowing Isaiah Thomas to take the reins at point guard and letting high flyers Gay and Derrick Williams go wild at the forward positions should be fun to watch. As for the team's defense ...
 
28 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 28
Since: 1-2
Think the Grizzlies wished they had kept Tony Wroten? The 20-year-old is averaging 13.1 points overall and 19.6 when starting, which he's done in Philadelphia's last two games in place of the injured Michael Carter-Williams. To think that Memphis gave up on a first-round-pick -- who is two years younger than Carter-Williams -- after only one season.
 
29 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 27
Since: 1-3
Utah Jazz (4-18)
Starting guards Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward are both shooting under 40 percent and center Enes Kanter is struggling. But the Jazz's youngsters will be able to play through a lot of mistakes and slumps during a developmental year for the franchise.
 
30 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 30
Since: 1-3
Here's a little advice for Milwaukee, free of charge: The Bucks are 3-4 when starting John Henson, who is averaging 13.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in the first unit. Might be time to keep the 22-year-old there for good.
 
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