By Chris Mannix
November 30, 2009
NBA Power Rankings
11 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 15
Look out: the Spurs are starting to get in rhythm. After a slow start free-agent signee Antonio McDyess is starting to find his legs -- as well as some chemistry with frontcourt mate Tim Duncan. McDyess' 15-point, 14-rebound effort complemented TD's 21-point, 12-board effort in a win over Houston last week. Big tests against Boston and Denver loom this week.
12 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 13
Utah Jazz (9-7)
Sparking Utah's recent run has been off-guard Wesley Matthews? An undrafted free agent out of Marquette, Matthews cracked the starting lineup on Nov. 13 and the Jazz are 6-2 since. "Every night he has a tough matchup," Carlos Boozer told the Salt Lake Tribune of a player whose value goes beyond the 7.6 points he has averaged as a starter. "[He does] a great job of being physical with their offensive player, making them work hard."
13 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 14
Another sign of the Thunder's rapid maturation: they are winning despite a rash of injuries. With Nenad Krstic, Nick Collison, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Ollie and Kyle Weaver on the sidelines, OKC won by double digits in Utah and wiped out Milwaukee at home. Of slight concern is the long range shooting of Kevin Durant, who has made just 24.3 percent of his three-pointers this season.
14 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 12
Tough home losses to Dallas and San Antonio is no way to get packing for a four-game road trip, but the Rockets rebounded nicely with a win at OKC on Sunday. December should test their mettle: Houston plays seven of the next nine games on the road and has only four home games before Christmas. "We have to win on the road; it's as simple as that," said Rick Adelman. "Losing those two at home hurt. We have to go on the road and find ways to turn it back around again."
15 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 22
Are the Kings for real? The jury remains out. On the one hand Sacto has played surprising .500 ball and is in the thick of the playoff race out West. On the other hand, they have played a weak schedule (combined winning percentage of opponents: 47.6) and have one road win. They will be tested in December: road dates with Phoenix, New Orleans and San Antonio are on the schedule early next month.
16 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 11
Talk about a reality check: the once white-hot Bucks dropped four straight last week. Super rookie Brandon Jennings has come back to earth, too, connecting on 29 percent of his shots during the four-game skid. Injuries are starting to take their toll. Starters Andrew Bogut and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are out indefinitely while Michael Redd is in and out of the lineup with lingering knee problems.
17 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 24
Mike Dunleavy's 600th win as a head coach might have been the Clips' most important of the season. After blowing a 20-point lead to Memphis, L.A. rallied to pull out a 10-point victory to quiet those rumors Dunleavy was on his way out. Having Eric Gordon back didn't hurt: Gordon led the Clippers in scoring (29 points) for the first time since returning to the lineup last week.
18 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 25
Stephen Jackson isn't shooting the lights out (40.4 percent) but his presence is certainly being felt. The Bobcats are shooting 48.6 percent with Jackson in the lineup, up from the putrid 39.4 percent they were shooting prior to his arrival, and have won four straight over presumed playoff contenders Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Indiana.
19 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 18
Remember Mike Dunleavy Jr.? Pacers fans were starting to forget about him, too. Indy's top scorer returned to the lineup for the first time since last February and chipped in with 13 points in 16 minutes against Dallas. Count Jim O'Brien as one of the many ecstatic to have Dunleavy back. "Michael personifies the type of movement we want," O'Brien told reporters. "It doesn't have to do with blinding speed. It has to be purposeful movement, which is what he's very, very good at."
20 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 16
With Byron Scott and Lawrence Frank out, Vinny Del Negro is officially on the clock. Chicago has been bit by the injury bug (Tyrus Thomas, Kirk Hinrich) but a 1-5 road trip -- and with four losses by an average of 19.3 points -- isn't acceptable for a team that expects to be in the playoffs. With GM Gar Forman accompanying the team on most road trips, and VDN having one-year left on his contract after this season, and with Bernie Bickerstaff available to take over -- it warrants watching.
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