By Chris Mannix
January 18, 2010
NBA Power Rankings
11 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 7
Phoenix Suns (24-17)
The Suns' minus-2.3 rebounding differential -- worst among playoff teams -- has Alvin Gentry thinking change. Gentry increased Robin Lopez's minutes significantly last week while Channing Frye has taken a seat. Lopez could get his first start of the season on Monday when the Suns play Memphis, which leads the NBA in points in the paint.
12 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 15
Leaving Zach Randolph off the All-Star roster would border on criminal. Randolph leads the Grizz in scoring (20.5) and rebounding (11.5) and is one of two players (with Toronto's Chris Bosh) averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Want more? Z-Bo leads the NBA in offensive rebounding (career-high 4.5), the highest average since Elton Brand (5.0) in 2001-02.
13 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 11
Is there such a thing as a moral victory? If it weren't for two one-point losses, to San Antonio and Dallas, the Thunder would have come away with a 4-0 week. Oklahoma City has been resilient on the road all season; its 10 wins are two more than it had away from home all last season.
14 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 14
It's time to recognize Amir Johnson's role in the Raptors' recent turnaround. The scrappy forward has been a Swiss Army knife player, chipping in solid defense (he helped hold Dirk Nowitzki to 19 points Sunday) and second-chance buckets. "Everything he gets is hustle," coach Jay Triano said. "Roll hard to the basket and if they don't collapse, he's going to finish the play; if they do collapse, he's going to get somebody on the weak side open for a jump shot."
15 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 13
The Hornets have been getting the job done at home (they've won 13 of their last 14 games in New Orleans) and on the road (winners of four of six) recently. And they have been doing it despite getting dominated on the boards. New Orleans has been outrebounded by 6.4 per game over the last five games.
16 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 10
You would think scoring at least 31 points in three straight first quarters last week would make Rick Adelman happy. Not so much. "It's really defensively that we have to put the energy into," Adelman told the Houston Chronicle. "Sometimes, we've shot the ball really well to start, but if you look at the game, we're not playing the way we need to play. We're making shots, but as soon as the shots stop falling, then we're in trouble."
17 Miami Heat
Last Week: 18
Miami Heat (20-19)
Michael Beasley said his lack of production in the fourth quarter this season has to do with Dwyane Wade taking over. His coach thinks it might be a lack of focus. "He's in good condition; he's in great condition. ... It's just learning how to mentally condition yourself, how long a game is and to prepare yourself and stay focused for the entire time," Erik Spoelstra said.
18 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 19
Don't look now, but the Bobcats are back at .500 after a 3-9 start. More efficient offense at point guard has helped. Raymond Felton's scoring (12.6 points) is down from last season, but his shooting percentage has improved from 40.8 percent to 46.2 percent.
19 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 23
Chicago Bulls (18-20)
Vinny Del Negro Watch, Week 7: After the Bulls looked listless in three consecutive losses, they have rattled off four straight wins, including a 13-point victory at Boston. A stiff test awaits, though: Chicago closes the month with seven road games in a row.
20 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 20
Brandon Jennings' production has steadily declined, from 22.1 points in November to 11.6 points in January. He is shooting 28.4 percent this month. And his coach isn't exactly sure why. "Some teams, after he got off to the hot start, tried to get the ball out of his hands a little bit earlier in some sets and things like that," Scott Skiles said. "But nobody's done anything to prevent him from getting where he wants to get on the floor and getting his looks."
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