Monday's Spurs-Magic matchup was the best-played game of the season. Dwight Howard was magnificent, attacking Tim Duncan with his expanded arsenal of low-post moves for 26 points (on 11-of-16 from the field and 4-of-7 at the free-throw line) to go with 18 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. But the reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year was ultimately helpless against San Antonio's offensive juggernaut, which registered 25 assists against only nine turnovers and shot 63.2 percent (12-for-19) from three-point range en route to a 106-97 home victory. The game was closer than the final score indicated -- the teams were separated by no more than six points until there were 31 seconds left.
With their 11th consecutive victory, the Spurs served notice that they belong at the top of this week's Power Rankings, another sign that the NBA's best reside in the Western Conference right now. The Spurs are followed closely by the Lakers, who have rolled to four straight wins after a two-game losing skid, and the Hornets, who acquired Jarrett Jack from Toronto in a trade that improved their backcourt and moved them under the luxury-tax threshold.
Overall, the West holds seven of the first 10 slots in this week's rankings. That makes for brutal competition within the conference -- San Antonio is the third team from the West to occupy the top spot in three weeks. And with games at home against Dallas and at New Orleans this week, the Spurs' stay in the penthouse may be equally brief.
(All stats and records are through Nov. 22.)
NBA Power Rankings