Welcome to Week 8's installation of SB Nation Bay Area's NBA Power Rankings. This week saw no changes in the Top 6, a switcheroo, and the debut of the New York Knickerbockers. This coming week will feature some big games, including Lakers-Heat on Christmas, Mavs-Thunder on Monday, 12/27, and Lakers-Spurs, Heat-Knicks on Tuesday, 12/28. Here's a look at the NBA's Top 10 after eight weeks of games:
1. San Antonio Spurs (25-3 overall record, 10-0 last 10 games, 1st in West) - The Spurs extended their winning streak to ten games with wins @ Denver (+1), vs. Memphis (+6, OT), vs. Phoenix (+8), and vs. Denver (+6). San Antonio once again edges the red (green?)-hot Celtics due to a better record on the road (9-1 vs. Boston's 10-3) and a better performance in cross-conference play (8-0 vs. the East, Boston is 4-2 vs. the West). Next up? @ Orlando, vs. Washington, vs. LA Lakers. Last Week: 1.
2. Boston Celtics (23-4, 10-0 last 10, 1st in East) - If they can knock off the Magic in Orlando on Christmas Day, the Celtics, who are on a 14-game winning streak, will have successfully celebrated both Thanksgiving and X-Mas since their last loss (11/21 @ Toronto). In the past week, Boston was busy asserting its dominance of the E-Conf with wins over the contending Hawks, the current 7-seed Pacers, and the 76ers. Next up? @ Orlando, @ Indiana, @ Detroit. Last Week: 2
3. Dallas Mavericks (23-5, 9-1 last 10, 2nd in West) - The Mavs are streaking again with four consecutive wins. This past week they notched two big road wins against tough E-Conf opponents - @ Miami and @ Orlando. Next up? @ Oklahoma City, vs. Toronto. Last Week: 3
4. Los Angeles Lakers (21-8, 8-2 last 10, 3rd in West) - Kobe and Co. went 6-1 during their seven-game road trip, notching five wins against E-Conf opponents. Following up that week of travel with a home date against the Brandon Jennings-less Bucks SHOULD have been a walk in the park, but the Lakers, whose losses this year have been head-scratchers at times (vs. Indiana, @ Memphis, @ Houston), once again showed their mercurial ways and got crushed. Kobe was ejected in the fourth quarter and the Lakers shot only .538 from the FT line - not exactly the kind of momentum they want to be carrying into their Christmas Day showdown with the Heat. Next up? vs. Miami, @ San Antonio, @ New Orleans. Last Week: 4
5. Miami Heat (21-9, 9-1 last 10, 2nd in East) - While the Mavs were able to hand the Heat their first loss in December and ended Miami's 12-game winning streak, the Heat seem to be firing on all cylinders as they head into their Christmas Day date in LA. As a bonus, Mike Miller has returned to the court, so now you can at least refer to Miami as the Big 3.5. Next up? @ Phoenix, @ LA Lakers, vs. New York. Last Week: 5
6. Utah Jazz (21-9, 6-4 last 10, 4th in West) - I contemplated moving the Jazz up ahead of the Heat, in most part because the Jazz are doing better against the East (11-1; .917) than the Heat are (15-4; .789), but given that Utah has been up and down and that their two most recent road wins against E-Conf opponents came against the lowly Bucks and the even lowlier Cavs, I couldn't make the move with confidence. Next up? vs. Portland, @ LA Clippers. Last Week: 6
7. Chicago Bulls (18-9, 9-1 last 10, 3rd in East) - No Noah? No problem. So far, the Bulls have not missed a step without their sparkplug big, who is out another 7-9 weeks recovering from thumb surgery. Carlos Boozer has done just fine since his return as he is averaging 24 ppg and 10.3 rpg in his last six games. Next up? @ New York, @ Detroit, vs. Milwaukee. Last Week: 8
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (20-10, 7-3 last 10, 5th in West) - More of the same for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Co. as the Thunder continue to rack up the road wins (10) evenly with the home wins (10). I moved them down a notch based more on the tenacity of the Bulls than any shortcoming of OKC's. This coming week will bring two big home dates with some of the Western Conference's finest. Next up? vs. Denver, vs. Dallas, vs. New Jersey. Last Week: 7
9. Atlanta Hawks (19-12, 6-4 last 10, 4th in East) - Moving up a spot this week are the Hawks, who got Joe Johnson back and helped their own cause by taking down the Magic, last week's #9, on Monday. While his shooting has been poor, Johnson is averaging 17.5 ppg, 6.8 apg, & 5 rpg in his four games since returning from elbow surgery. In the Hawks' last game, a 14-point win over the Cavs, Johnson seemed to get his shooting stroke back as he scored 23 on .529 shooting from the field. Look out, East. Next up? @ New Orleans, @ Milwaukee, vs. Golden State. Last Week: 10
10. New York Knicks (17-12, 7-3 last 10, 5th in East) - The Knicks make their debut in the power rankings thanks in part to the recent woes of the plummeting Magic (4-game losing streak) and the poor road play of the Nuggets (4-9). Of course, New York didn't earn this spot based solely on the faults of others. In fact, the Knicks were already heating up in December with an eight-game winning streak that put them seven games above .500 on Dec. 12. While they proceeded to lose the next three games, two of those losses were to Boston and Miami, and the Knicks then bounced back nicely by beating the Thunder 112-98 on Wednesday. Aside from Amare Stoudemire's monster 26.4 ppg / 9.3 rpg averages, most impressive this season has been the breakout of sixth year vet Raymond Felton, who is thriving in Mike D'Antoni's offense to the tune of career highs in points (18.2) and assists (9.1, good for 5th in the NBA), and a solid .455 FG%. We'll see if That's Amare and Felton can keep the ball rolling with some tough games coming up. Next up? vs. Chicago, @ Miami, @ Orlando. Last Week: NR
Dropped Out: Orlando Magic.
The next 10: Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers