Photo via RICHARD LAUTENS / TORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES
We have reached the end of NBA all-star weekend, a weekend that provided a great show that included a thrilling dunk contest and all-star game. The all-star weekend is a weekend that marks a mental halfway point of the season as we separate what happens before all-star weekend and afterward. As the season enters the stretch run, let’s look at where the rankings stand.
10. Houston Rockets (34-20)
Previous Ranking: NR
The Rockets have been the Robin Hood of the NBA in the recent week, taking wins from the rich and giving them to the poor. They defeated the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, but lost by 36 points to the 12th place Phoenix Suns. They also had a loss to the Utah Jazz on a buzzer beater. They have transitioned into playing 6’5 PJ Tucker at center and it has had some mixed results so far. It will be interesting to see how much success they will have with that going forward.
9. Miami Heat (35-19)
Previous Ranking: 7
The Heat went on the road for their west coast road trip and sputtered before the all-star break as they lost four of the last five games. This included consecutive loses to the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers. They finish the month of February against some of the worst teams in the NBA such as the Cleveland Cavaliers twice, the Atlanta Hawks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. This will allow them to regain some momentum after limping into all-star weekend.
8. Philadelphia 76ers (34-21)
Previous Ranking: 10
Ever since the 76ers acquired bench help in Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, the 76ers offense has been much more efficent. Role player Furkan Korkmaz has been a tear, scoring 34 and 31 points against the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies respectively. The 76ers were impressive in their last game in a 110-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. All eyes will be on them this Saturday as they head to Milwaukee, a team they destroyed on Christmas Day, for the Saturday Night ABC matchup.
7. Los Angeles Clippers (37-18)
Previous Ranking: 4
The Clippers, like the Heat, limped into all-star weekend as they lost three of the last four games, including a 27-point loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Superstar Kawhi Leonard won the newly named Kobe Bryant Award for NBA All-Star MVP and Clippers fans hope he can play like one the rest of the season as the Clippers look for their first ever conference finals appearance.
6. Utah Jazz (36-18)
Previous Ranking: 9
The Jazz are a very streaky team this season. In the past 13 games, the Jazz have won four in a row, lost five in a row and then before the all-star break, they won four in a row. Wins include the Heat, Dallas Mavericks and beat the Rockets on a Bojan Bogdanovic buzzer beater in one of the craziest games of the season. The Jazz will play five home games after the all-star break, hoping to extend the streak and gain better positioning in the Western Conference Playoffs race.
5. Boston Celtics (38-16)
Previous Ranking: 5
The Celtics have taken of business to start the month, but in their last three games, they were put to the test before the all-star weekend. They won at Oklahoma City, lost at Houston then defeated the Clippers in double overtime. They entered the weekend with momentum and will head to LA next Sunday to play the Lakers.
4. Denver Nuggets (38-17)
Previous Ranking: 6
Despite constantly getting struck by the injury bug, the Nuggets keep winning. They were on a four game winning streak that included a win at Utah when they only had seven players available to play. However, Denver missed a golden opportunity to gain ground on the number one seed when they lost in overtime at home to the Lakers. Despite injuries, the Nuggets had chances to win but failed to capitalize. It will be intriguing to see how well the Nuggets play when the Nuggets are fully healthy as the playoffs approach.
3. Toronto Raptors (40-15)
Previous Ranking: 2
Before last Wednesday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets 101-91, the Raptors had an incredible winning streak that lasted 15 games. While they did not beat a team in this stretch that is a top four seed in either conference, to have that run of consistency is impressive. What’s also impressive is they had six different players lead their team in scoring in a game in that stretch. Their schedule starts to get tougher as their next five games include games against the Bucks and Nuggets.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (41-12)
Previous Ranking: 3
The Lakers had an impressive victory the Wednesday before all-star weekend as they won in overtime at Denver. While the Nuggets had chances to win, the two superstars Anthony Davis and LeBron James put on world-class performances to help their team win. What’s most impressive about this team is they have won 17 consecutive games on the road against Western Conference teams. They will face quality opponents in the Memphis Grizzlies and Celtics after the break.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (46-8)
Previous Ranking: 1
The Bucks continue to be an unstoppable force as they have consistently proven to be the best team in the NBA. Even though they lost their last game before the all-star break, it was without Giannis in a game where they were clearly resting players. Even counting that loss, the Bucks have lost only twice since January 8th and continue to dominate the league. They look to assert this even further as they will face the Raptors and 76ers in the coming weeks.