By Chris Mannix
December 21, 2009
NBA Power Rankings
11 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 11
The good news for the Blazers? Seven players tied for the team lead in assists in last week's loss to Orlando. The bad news? They led the team with one. Still, Portland took three out of four last week thanks in large part to new starting center Joel Pryzbilla, who led the team in rebounds in each contest and has pulled down double-digit boards in his last six games.
12 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 13
Gregg Popovich's message to his troops last week: consistency. After watching his team squander big leads and struggle to put away weaker opponents, Popovich wants to see the Spurs ratchet up their performance. "The real bottom line is we're still an inconsistent team, and we have a long way to go," Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News. "We give away quarters, and we have to dig down. It's great to see we have character, and we're going to keep fighting, but that's not going to be good enough against the big boys."
13 Miami Heat
Last Week: 14
Miami Heat (13-12)
Dwyane Wade has been campaigning for more help all season. Pat Riley would like to see Wade help himself a little more. The Heat president called out Wade last week for being out of shape and said he would like to see his franchise player be more efficient on the floor. "He's not there right now," Riley said. "We'll address what it is we can do to help you maintain that lean, mean scoring machine you were a year ago."
14 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 12
It's gut-check time in Oklahoma City. The Thunder dropped four of its last five games and will face its toughest back-to-back test of the season this week: road dates with the Lakers and Suns. They will need to take better care of the ball. Kevin Durant (3.5 turnovers per game) and Russell Westbrook (3.3) have been coughing it up an awful lot this season.
15 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 21
The Clips warmed up on their road trip with wins over Minnesota and Philly, but now it's time for the big boys. L.A. closes a six-game trip at San Antonio, Houston and Phoenix before returning home to face the Celtics. L.A.'s twin-tower frontcourt continues to produce. Chris Kaman (24 points) led the team in scoring against Philadelphia while Marcus Camby pulled down 22 rebounds.
16 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 17
Memphis needs a shooter. Any shooter. The Grizz have dominated inside, averaging a league-high 51.0 points in the paint. But they have been positively anemic from the perimeter, ranking 29th in the league in both three-point attempts (11.4) and makes (3.6) per game.
17 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 18
The Hornets continue to try and claw their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture with wins over Detroit and Denver last week, with Chris Paul exploding for 30 points and 19 assists against the Chauncey Billups-less Nuggets. They will have a good shot at finishing the year strong: Their four remaining games are against Golden State, Chicago, Houston and Miami.
18 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 19
Suddenly, the Kings are having some trouble scoring. The NBA's fifth-best offense (104.0 points per game) has failed to score 100 points in three of the last four games. Can't blame Omri Casspi, though. The rookie was inserted in the starting lineup against Washington and has scored a combined 54 points in his last three games.
19 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 15
A five-game winning streak to open the month has nearly been erased by the current four-game losing streak. Ball movement continues to be an issue; Detroit has recorded 20-plus assist performances just eight times this season and is 5-3 in those games. When they have dished out less than 20 -- which they have done 19 times this season -- they are 6-13.
20 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 16
Memo to the NBA: When you feel the need to fine a player $7,500 for a congratulatory Tweet after a game -- as Brandon Jennings did last week -- you are being neurotic. The Bucks took their lumps in a winless week but can take some solace in that they lost to Los Angeles and Cleveland by a combined four points.
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