Ice-cold February cooling off several once-hot teams

Monday February 10th, 2014

Mike Woodson's Knicks are just 1-4 in February and sit two games behind the eighth-seeded Bobcats.
Jason DeCrow/AP

February has been a rude awakening for a couple of the NBA's January darlings.

Most notable are the Knicks -- aren't they always? -- who are off to a 1-4 start this month after a 10-6 January. Coach Mike Woodson's seat is now so hot it's being used to melt the snow around Madison Square Garden.

January's best team, the Grizzlies (12-3), are 2-3 this month. And the Wolves, who finished 8-7 last month, are just 1-4 so far.

But no team has felt February's wrath quite like the Sixers. After a respectable 6-11 January, the 76ers are 0-5 this month, including Sunday's 45-point shaming against the Clippers.

February hasn't been terrible for all, of course. All three Texas teams -- Houston (No. 4), San Antonio (No. 5) and Dallas (No. 8) -- moved up this week after solid stretches. The Nets (No. 12) continue to surge while their crosstown rivals steal the headlines for the wrong reasons.

The top three remains the same for the third consecutive week. Here's where all 30 teams stand in this week's Power Rankings.

NBA Power Rankings
1 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 1
Since: 3-1
In Sunday's showdown between the league's top two scorers, Kevin Durant not only scored 41 points but he also helped hold the Knicks' Carmelo Anthony to a season-low 15 points (on 5-of-19 shooting) and added 10 rebounds and nine assists.
2 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 2
Since: 3-1
One criticism of Indiana's roster is the lack of an elite point guard. George Hill might take exception to that, especially after dropping 37 points in an overtime victory over Portland on Friday. The Pacers' forgotten starter boasts the best assist-to-turnover ratio and true shooting percentage of the group.
3 Miami Heat
Last Week: 3
Since: 2-1
Miami Heat (35-14)
The Jazz are just the latest bottom-feeder to catch the Heat sleeping. Miami has also lost head-scratchers to the Knicks, Kings, Pistons, Celtics and 76ers.
4 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 5
Since: 2-0
If the Rockets beat Minnesota and Washington this week, they would enter the All-Star break on a seven-game winning streak. They'll be even happier if Omer Asik continues to impress off the bench ahead of the Feb. 20 trade deadline. The big man pulled down five rebounds in 11 minutes in Saturday's win over Milwaukee.
5 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 9
Since: 3-1
The Spurs started Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Corey Joseph and Nando De Colo in Friday night's nationally televised game against the Nets. Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw were back for Saturday's victory at Charlotte, where Patty Mills scored a career-high 32 points off the bench.
6 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 4
Since: 2-2
The Clippers' search for bench production continues with the arrival of Sasha Vujacic. But the second unit's deficiencies won't seem so glaring with the return of Chris Paul, who came back in time for the most lopsided win in franchise history.
7 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 7
Since: 2-2
A Heat-Thunder series would likely win the popular vote for most-desired Finals matchup. But Pacers-Blazers shouldn't be far behind after the teams split two of this season's best games.
8 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 12
Since: 4-0
The Mavs have won a season-best five in a row, but it's worth pointing out that none of the victories came against current playoff teams. Still, Dallas is playing impressive ball, led by the effective duo of Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki.
9 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 10
Since: 2-1
The Warriors' bouts with inconsistency continue. Last week, they scored 75 points in a loss to Charlotte before bouncing back with 102 in a win over Chicago. They allowed 87 points to the Bulls and then 122 in a loss to Phoenix. They've lost eight of 14 and haven't quite looked the same since their 10-game winning streak ended in early January.
10 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 6
Since: 1-3
The Grizzlies averaged only 83.4 points in four games last week, beating Atlanta 79-76 for their only victory. Marc Gasol is shooting just 43.2 percent in 14 games since returning from a knee injury, lowering his season mark to 44.6, easily a career low for the six-year veteran.
11 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 8
Since: 1-2
Phoenix Suns (30-20)
Player A is averaging 24.6 points and 9.1 assists while shooting 45.9 percent from the field and 40.4 from three-point range. Player B is averaging 20.4 points and 6.1 assists while shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep. Pretty similar, right? A is Golden State's Stephen Curry, and B is the Suns' Goran Dragic.
12 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 17
Since: 3-1
An effective small-ball lineup isn't the only silver lining from Brook Lopez's season-ending foot injury. Rookie Mason Plumlee has been a pleasant surprise, providing a spark off the bench all season and a career-high 22 points and 13 rebounds in Sunday's win over New Orleans. The victory raised Brooklyn to a solid 9-9 against the rugged Western Conference.
13 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 11
Since: 1-2
The Raptors went 2-3 on their Western road trip, closing with losses to the Kings and Clippers. They play eight of their next 10 at home, with only one of those games coming against a team more than a game above .500.
14 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 14
Since: 2-2
The Nuggets are averaging just 20.6 assists since losing Nate Robinson after averaging 25.2 in January. The search for a backup point guard continues. Will Denver make a move before the deadline? Bringing back Andre Miller doesn't sound like an option.
15 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 15
Since: 2-2
The fact that the most stubborn team in the league is nicknamed the "Bulls" is poetic justice. After defeating the Lakers on Sunday, Chicago is 19-20 since losing Derrick Rose to a season-ending knee injury and 11-7 since trading Luol Deng.
16 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 16
Since: 2-2
A sign of an improving defense: Washington has allowed fewer than 100 points in each of its last 14 victories. The Wizards rank ninth in points allowed per possession, on track for the second straight top 10 finish.
17 New Orleans Pelicans
Last Week: 19
Since: 2-2
The future is now for Anthony Davis, who made his first All-Star team as a replacement for Kobe Bryant. The Pelicans are 7-4 in their last 11 games, led by the 21-year-old's dominance on both ends.
18 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 13
Since: 0-3
The Hawks lost three games by a combined 12 points last week. Luckily for them, the Eastern Conference is a lot more forgiving than these Power Rankings.
19 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 21
Since: 1-1
The Bobcats' defense is beginning to show its claws again, holding the Warriors to just 75 points in an upset win. Charlotte is sixth in defensive efficiency under first-year coach Steve Clifford after ranking last in 2012-13 with largely the same roster.
20 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 18
Since: 1-3
The Wolves went 8-7 in January after yielding only 99.2 points per game, but their defense is currently offering less resistance than a cotton shirt in the dead of winter. They're surrendering 108 points during a 1-4 start to February.
21 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 22
Since: 2-2
Talk about a panic move. The Pistons fired Maurice Cheeks even though they were coming off back-to-back wins and had won four of their last six. At least the trigger-happy Pistons had the foresight to give the eighth head coach of president Joe Dumars' tenure just a two-year deal.
22 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 26
Since: 3-1
Victor Oladipo is mounting a midseason push for Rookie of the Year. The 21-year-old guard averaged 19 points on 60 percent shooting in consecutive victories over the Pistons, Thunder and Pacers last week as the Magic matched their season-high winning streak of three.
23 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 23
Since: 1-2
Utah Jazz (17-33)
In a season short on feel-good moments, the Jazz's upset of the two-time defending champion Heat might be their best highlight. Holding LeBron James to a season-low-tying 13 points (on 4-of-13 shooting) makes it that much more memorable.
24 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 25
Since: 2-1
Rajon Rondo has notched double-digit assists in each of his last three games, including 12 in a season-high 37 minutes in Sunday's loss to Dallas. The Celtics have already won more games in February (three) than they did in January (two).
25 New York Knicks
Last Week: 20
Since: 1-3
The Knicks are 1-4 in February and owner James Dolan might be getting ideas after seeing Maurice Cheeks and Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant lose their jobs last week. Mike Woodson will undoubtedly be the fall guy in New York, but that's only because Dolan can't fire his players.
26 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 27
Since: 2-2
The Kings began the week with home victories against Chicago and Toronto and ended it with road losses to Boston and Washington. The Western Conference's worst team is 11-16 at home and 6-18 on the road.
27 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 29
Since: 2-1
The return of 40-year-old Steve Nash injected some life into the Lakers (he had 19 points and five assists in Friday's victory over Philadelphia) ... before he left Sunday's loss to the Bulls with another leg injury. Fortunately, Nash's "gut feeling" is that the injury isn't serious.
28 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 28
Since: 2-2
Has firing Chris Grant scared the Cavaliers straight? On the heels of its general manager's firing, Cleveland won at Washington and rallied to beat the Grizzlies in overtime at home.
29 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 30
Since: 1-2
The Bucks beat the Knicks last week for their second victory of 2014. Also worth pointing out: It's February.
30 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 24
Since: 0-4
New rule: You lose by 45 points in your sixth straight loss, you go to the bottom of the Power Rankings.

(All stats and records are through Feb. 9.)

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