By Chris Mannix
February 08, 2010

The Cavs retain the top spot and the Lakers remain locked in at No. 2, but for the second week in a row the most stunning jump belongs to the Utah Jazz.

Jerry Sloan's crew has won eight straight and nine of its last 10 to creep within two games of Denver in the Northwest Division and 6½ games of the Lakers in the conference. Remarkably, the Jazz continue to roll along despite playing the second-toughest schedule (their opponents have a .518 winning percentage) in the league this season.

All of which makes Utah's showdown with Los Angeles on Wednesday that much more compelling. A possible conference-finals preview? Stranger things have happened.

(All stats and records are through Feb. 7.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 1
For the second year in a row, the Cavs are the focal point of trade rumors. And for the second year in a row, they have to be wondering why. Cleveland has won 11 in a row and is off to the second-best start in franchise history. As LeBron James marches toward his second straight MVP, he also dominates the league in plus/minus ratio (+440) and plus/minus ratio per game (+8.6).
2 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 2
Should the Lakers sit Kobe Bryant? He'd probably try to play in traction, but his nagging injuries (finger, ankle) undoubtedly contributed to a numbers nosedive in January. Bryant averaged 23.7 points on 41.3 percent shooting last month, down from 31.3 points on 47.9 percent shooting in December.
3 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 6
Utah Jazz (31-18)
Further proof that the streaking Jazz -- winners of eight straight -- need Carlos Boozer: In games Boozer scores 20-plus points, Utah is 19-3. When he doesn't, it is 9-15. Boozer (calf) missed home victories against Dallas and Portland last week but returned for Saturday's win over the shorthanded Nuggets.
4 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 4
Orlando Magic (34-17)
Remember when J.J. Redick's NBA career was supposed to last as long as Trajon Langdon's? Redick's steadily improving play (he averaged a season-high 11.1 points in January and grabbed nearly twice as many boards than in December) is a big reason why the Magic has overcome the struggles of Vince Carter (8.7 points in January).
5 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 3
George Karl won't tell you his secret to beating the Lakers ("We kind of know how to beat them, what we have to do," he said), so we will: Own the three-point line. Denver's stifling D has held L.A. to 29.4 percent shooting in two games this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers' top-ranked three-point defense hasn't shown up against the Nuggets. In its two wins, Denver is connecting on 55.2 percent from long range.
6 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 5
Atlanta Hawks (32-17)
Most coaches loathe an excess of isolation plays. Then again, most coaches don't have weapons like Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford. The Hawks' improvement in closing out games is largely due to the fact that few teams can defend the two guards one-on-one. "That's what makes them great to me as a playoff team, because in the playoffs, your first and second option has been taken away if you've done any scouting," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Then it's got to come down to guys making plays, and they have guys that can make plays. That makes them really good."
7 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 9
Why are Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett playing in the All-Star Game? KG's gimpy knee has cost him 12 games, while Pierce has battled foot and knee injuries. With the Celtics' season hinging on the health of their thirtysomething stars, Garnett and Pierce should stay home.
8 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 10
Russell Westbrook's 19.7 points/9.7 assists averages through the first three games in February make Thunder coach Scott Brooks happy. His average of 1.7 turnovers in that span makes Brooks giddy. An under-control Westbrook -- he's tied for third among point guards with 3.2 turnovers per game -- is another formidable weapon in Oklahoma City's arsenal.
9 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 8
Here's a reason for the Spurs to smile: Manu Ginobili says he is feeling better. The injury-ravaged guard posted back-to-back 20-plus-point games last week and insists his body is holding up well. "I think in the long term, everything is going to come together, and I'm going to feel like I felt two seasons ago," Ginobili told the San Antonio Express-News.
10 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 14
Phoenix Suns (31-21)
How impressive has 36-year-old Steve Nash been this season? Only two 30-plus-year-old players in NBA history have bettered Nash's 18.1 points and 11.1 assists this season. One was ... Nash, in '06-07. The other: Magic Johnson.
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