By Chris Mannix
November 23, 2009
NBA Power Rankings
11 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 13
Yet another sign of Brandon Jennings' basketball maturity: Playing back-to-back games for the third time this season, Jennings led the Bucks in scoring both nights, the second time he has accomplished the feat. With the Bucks down five at the half in Memphis on Saturday, Jennings scored 24 (of his 26 points) in the second half to lead Milwaukee to its seventh win in eight games.
12 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 11
With Tracy McGrady lurking like a ticking time bomb, the Rockets continue to quietly get it done. Houston split last week with wins over Minnesota and Sacramento and narrow losses to Phoenix and Atlanta. More important for the months ahead, Luis Scola has emerged as an increasingly consistent low-post option, averaging 15.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in his last five games.
13 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 18
Utah Jazz (7-6)
There is nothing like a little home cooking around the holidays. The Jazz took care of Toronto and Detroit in Utah and snapped a decade-long losing streak in San Antonio with a win last week. They can unpack their bags for a while. They don't leave Salt Lake City, where they were 33-8 last season and are 4-2 this year, until they travel to Minnesota on Dec. 5.
14 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 15
Defense is one of the hallmarks of a mature team, and the Thunder have been playing it. After giving up 103.1 points last season, Oklahoma City is eighth in the NBA in scoring defense (95.9 points) this season. In the Thunder's seven wins, opponents have scored 88.3 points and shot 41.4 percent.
15 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 12
Tough times usually mean a team needs big efforts from its best player, but the Spurs might want a little less from theirs. After posting its first losing record through 10 games in the Tim Duncan era, San Antonio has to figure out why the team struggles when Duncan doesn't. The Spurs are 0-4 in games Duncan scores 20-plus points.
16 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 14
A 19-point pasting at Denver led to a rare Vinny Del Negro public tongue-lashing of his team. It also underscored the bigger problem: When the Bulls don't run, they don't score. Chicago's half-court offense was anemic in back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Nuggets. "You can definitely tell when we stop moving," Derrick Rose told the Chicago Tribune. "Everybody just stands around, looking at whoever has the ball. Our whole offense depends on our defense because we have to get out and run."
17 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 16
There's a familiar refrain echoing in Toronto. When the effort is there, they win. When it's not, they get hammered. The Raptors have dropped four of their last five games, and aside from Chris Bosh -- who has led the team in scoring in all but two games -- the overall effort has been uneven. "We just have to finish games and play all 48 [minutes]," Jose Calderon told reporters. "I know it sounds like I'm saying the same thing, but this is what it is."
18 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 19
The goodwill generated during a five-game winning streak was officially erased right around the time the Bobcats pulled ahead by 21 points in their blowout of suddenly reeling Indiana on Sunday. "They shut us down on offense and just kicked our tails when we were on the defensive end," coach Jim O'Brien said after the Pacers' third consecutive loss.
19 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 20
It doesn't speak well for chemistry when your coach likens the team to "five different guys [going] five separate ways." Nor does getting outrebounded by Memphis 48-28 in an ugly home loss. At least Elton Brand looks like he is getting it together. With Marreese Speights sidelined, Brand has scored at least 18 points in each of the last three games.
20 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 25
Jeff Bower has to be feeling pretty good about himself right now. Not only have the Hornets won three of their last four, but his rookie draft picks have played a big part in it. Darren Collison, an afterthought under Byron Scott after being selected 21st last June, has scored in double figures seven straight games, while Marcus Thornton (43rd pick) is averaging nearly 17 points under Bower.
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