NBA Power Rankings: Antonio McDyess’ tip keeps Spurs on top

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Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, where the Heat and Mavericks are hot, but are they really better than the Spurs and Celtics

1. Spurs (42-8, Last Week #1). They are on the annual rodeo road trip (a rodeo kicks them out of their arena for a couple weeks) and early on they got a quality win over the Lakers because Antonio McDyess wanted a rebound more than Lamar Odom. They are starting to get more out of Tiago Splitter, which is good for Tim Duncan.

2. Celtics (38-12, LW #2). They are 1-1 so far in tests against the best last week. They beat Orlando Sunday but lost to Dallas two nights before. This week the Lakers and Heat are on the schedule. Our thoughts are still with Marquis Daniels.

3. Heat (37-14, LW #3). Six wins in a row including one nice one against Orlando. This week is revenge week, taking on teams that beat them before, and that started with a win over the Clippers Sunday. Indiana and Boston fit the bill this week.

4. Mavericks (35-15, LW #7). Eight wins in a row and they get Peja Stojakovic back Monday night. (How much a guy who couldn’t get off the bench in New Orleans and Toronto really helps them remains to be seen.) The Mavs, when healthy, have played very well against the league’s elite, including a win this week against Boston.

5. Bulls (34-15, LW #4). They slip one spot because the Mavericks are winners of 8 in a row, but the Bulls are still 8-2 in their last 10 and playing well. People are not mentioning them among the contenders in the East, it might be time.

6. Lakers (35-16, LW #6). The Lakers are out on their annual Grammys road trip (preparations for the Grammys kicks them out of their arena for a couple weeks). They started it with a win in New Orleans and this trip could mold them into contenders, especially if Pau Gasol is more aggressive.

7. Thunder (33-17, LW #9). They knocked off the Hornets, Suns and Jazz last week, a sign that they are knocking on the door of the elite teams in the West again. Do they play enough defense to walk through that door?

8. Magic (32-20, LW #5). It’s too early to panic, but they are 5-5 in their last 10 games. For all the moves and potential of this roster, are they really there with the Celtics Heat and Bulls?

9. Hawks (33-18, LW #10). They are 9-11 this season against teams over .500, and 10 of their next 15 are against those teams.

10. Hornets (32-20, LW #8). With Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza out the Hornets defense will suffer. Just more pressure on Chris Paul to carry the team.

11. Nuggets (30-21, LW #11). We tried to say this for months — if Josh Kronke and Masai Ujiri waiting too long they would lose leverage in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. We’re at that point now.

12. Jazz (30-22, LW #12). Deron Williams is back but Raja Bell hit the nail on the head saying they are just not a good pick-and-roll defensive team.

13. Blazers (27-24, LW #13). This week pretty much summed up the Blazers this season – they beat the Spurs (behind a huge night from LaMarcus Aldridge) but then lost to Indiana and Denver. They almost gave Cleveland a win. You never know what this team will do on a given night.

14. Grizzlies (27-25, LW #15). Zach Randolph should have been an All-Star, but I see little chance of David Stern adding him as the extra player he can add on.

15. Knicks (26-24, LW #14). They gave Timofey Mozgov the start Sunday and he is back in the rotation, but this team is still not the same inside on defense without Ronny Turiaf. A big who can protect the rim has to be an offseason priority.

16. Sixers (23-27, LW #16). How much would you pay to keep Thaddeus Young with the team this summer? He’s a restricted free agent that should draw some interest.

17. Suns (23-25, LW #17). Two Steve Nash questions. Is he the guy David Stern adds to the West All-Stars? (He’s the smart bet.) Shouldn’t the Suns be listening to offers for him?

18. Warriors (22-27, LW #22). Um, they are actually playing some defense in the Bay Area lately. Don’t tell anyone.

19. Pacers (21-27, LW #25). They have won four in a row and interim coach Frank Vogel has them playing loose and aggressive. They are attacking. But the Raptors, Cavs and Nets were three of those wins, games they should have won anyway. They had a nice win against Portland, but games at Miami and at Milwaukee this week are better tests.

20. Bobcats (21-29, LW #18). Brutal stretch for a team trying to stay in the East playoff hunt (they are currently one game out of the 8 seed) — Celtics, Hawks, Lakers and Bulls on the schedule in the next week and a half.

21. Bucks (19-30, LW #19). They have lost four in a row. They are looking a little demoralized and mixing in some bad defensive games to go with the usually horrific offensive production.

22. Rockets (24-28, LW #21). Kevin Martin is putting up a lot of points, but he’s shooting just 40.1 percent in the last 10. The best player on this team of late has been Luis Scola.

23. Pistons (19-32, LW #23). Our “Free Rip Hamilton” campaign got him active for one game. But that entire situation is still just screwed up.

24. Clippers (19-31, LW #20). They are out on their Grammy trip (like the Lakers) and the road has not been kind to the Clips (six losses in a row away from Staples). The good news is they get to come back to Staples for two games in February. The bad news: Those two games are the Lakers and Celtics.

25. Nets (15-37, LW #26). Anthony Morrow and Devin Harris make a nice back court.

26. Kings (12-35, LW #24). The Kings are in the middle of a tough stretch of games, but even in the losses they are playing teams hard.

27. Wizards (13-37, LW #27). John Wall got into the All-Star Rookie Challenge… hey, we’re looking for positives and that is one.

28. Raptors (14-37, LW #29). They ended their 13-game losing streak against the Timberwolves, so guess who they jump in the rankings?

29. Timberwolves (11-39, LW #28). Kevin Love is a deserving All-Star, despite this team’s record. As for those three-way Carmelo Anthony trade rumors with the Wolves, not even Kahn would make that bad a trade for Minny.

30. Cavaliers (8-43, LW #30). They will set the record for futility tonight in Dallas, it will be 25 losses in a row. Mark you calendars now — they host the winless-on-the-road Wizards Sunday in a game we will watch, just like we gawk at car accidents.

Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis lead way, Bulls blow out Kyrie-less Celtics 108-85

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CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis are starting to draw attention for their play together instead of their fight with each other.

Mirotic scored 24 points, Portis added a career-high 23 and the Chicago Bulls blew out Boston 108-85 on Monday night with Celtics star Kyrie Irving sidelined because of a bruised left quadriceps.

Owners of the NBA’s worst record, the Bulls (6-20) built an 18-point lead in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference leaders. And when Boston cut it to 12 in the fourth, the Bulls simply pulled away for their third straight win.

Leading the way were two players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons before the season started.

Their fight at practice left Mirotic with facial fractures, causing him to miss the first 23 games. Portis served an eight-game suspension.

But the two have played well together the past two games.

“We need to give the credit to (coach Fred Hoiberg),” Mirotic said. “Fred is the one who is making us play. He’s the guy who is calling the plays for us and putting us in the right spots to play.”

As for the fight?

“Man, that situation’s over,” Portis said. “Everybody’s talking about that. But that doesn’t matter anymore. We’re just trying to win games.”

Mirotic made his first start of the season with leading scorer Lauri Markkanen sidelined because of back spasms and shot 9 of 14 with eight rebounds. Through three games, the 6-foot-10 forward is averaging 16.3 points.

Portis shot 10 of 15 and nailed all three 3-pointers.

Al Horford scored 15 for Boston (23-6). Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier added 13 points apiece in the Celtics’ most lopsided loss of the season.

“Sometimes you get your butt kicked. It was simple as that,” coach Brad Stevens said. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did. They played with more presence than we did. They played more competitive than we did. They played with more authority than we did. You’re not going to win many games when you play like that.”

 

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.