The NBA’s first Rivals Week ended up pitting many of the league’s top teams against one another.
Lakers-Celtics, a historic matchup that dates back decades, and Grizzlies-Warriors, a budding beef between two of the best teams in the West, both delivered, while Joel Embiid got a crack at Nikola Jokić in a battle of MVP candidates.
Boston stumbled while Philadelphia kept on winning, and Memphis finally ended its lengthy losing streak. Meanwhile, a few teams in the league’s expansive middle class, including the Timberwolves and Clippers, made their move up the standings with a string of impressive performances. Further down the standings, the Pelicans’ plummet continued.
All-Star starters have been announced, and the break is less than three weeks away with the trade deadline looming large. Here’s how the league stacks up 1–30 as January comes to a close.
1. Boston Celtics
Previous ranking: 1
Boston endured its second three-game losing streak of the season last week, and it might’ve stretched to four had it not been for a missed call that the NBA’s official referee Twitter account apologized for. The Celtics lost to the Magic for the third time this year and dropped a tight game against the Heat, without Jaylen Brown, on back-to-back nights on the road. Back at TD Garden, the Knicks outlasted in overtime the C’s, who turned around and defeated the Lakers in the extra period over the weekend after a missed foul call left the game tied when the buzzer sounded. Boston was without Marcus Smart (ankle) for the entire week, and Robert Williams III (knee, ankle) and Malcolm Brogdon (personal) missed two games.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Previous ranking: 4
The hottest team in the NBA built on its winning streak last week with a pair of home wins against playoff teams. Tyrese Maxey provided a spark with 27 points off the bench in a high-scoring, four-point victory. Embiid took over with Jokić’s Nuggets in town and exploded for 47 points and 18 rebounds in a six-point win, the seventh in a row for the 76ers. Despite its recent play, Philadelphia has been unable to gain much ground on Boston for the No. 1 seed—but it has three games in a row against sub-.500 teams to look forward to in the coming days.
3. Denver Nuggets
Previous ranking: 2
The Nuggets had an inauspicious road trip last week and have now lost three of their last four. In his return from a two-game absence, Jokić (hamstring) capped off a triple double against the Pelicans with a game-winner. That same ailment kept him out the next night in Milwaukee when his team lost by eight and failed to crack 100 points for the third consecutive game. Saturday night in Philadelphia, back-to-back MVP runner-up Embiid outplayed Jokić, the back-to-back MVP, in a seven-point loss for Denver.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Previous ranking: 7
Giannis Antetokounmpo put a 50-point exclamation mark on the Bucks’ best week of basketball in well over a month. Milwaukee put up a season-high 150 points in a 20-point road win in Detroit, beat a Jokić-less Denver team by eight at home, sunk Indiana on the road by 10 and blew out New Orleans by 25 back in Wisconsin. Antetokounmpo scored more points with each passing game, culminating Sunday in his second 50-point outing of the season. The Bucks have now drawn even with the 76ers for second place in the conference.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
Previous ranking: 3
Memphis halted its slide Sunday with a victory over the Pacers. After a trying road trip snowballed into a five-game losing streak, the Grizzlies righted the ship behind Ja Morant’s triple double and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s dominant outing. Before that, they lost to the Timberwolves, Warriors and Kings last week. Sacramento blew them out by 33 and the Golden State game was lost on a game-winner. Steven Adams (PCL) missed all four games, and Bane (knee) was out for the last two. Even after that skid, the Grizzlies remain in second place in the West.
6. Brooklyn Nets
Previous ranking: 5
Brooklyn let up at least 130 points in back-to-back losses in Philadelphia and at home against Detroit last week. Seth Curry went for a season-high 32 points against the 76ers, his former team, and Kyrie Irving poured on 40 versus the Pistons, but the Nets still fell short. At Barclays Center over the weekend, though, they got up for the league’s rivalry week to beat the Knicks for the ninth time in a row. They host the shorthanded Lakers on Monday and then head to Boston on Wednesday for the first time since their playoff sweep last April.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers
Previous ranking: 6
The Cavaliers’ road struggles are real. At 10–16, they have the worst record in away games of the top-six teams in the East after adding two losses and one win to their tally. Cleveland lost to the Knicks by two at Madison Square Garden, beat the Rockets by 18 and lost to the Thunder by 12. Donovan Mitchell (groin) returned from a two-game absence for Sunday’s dominant home win over the Clippers but played limited minutes as Cedi Osman led the way with 29 points.
8. Sacramento Kings
Previous ranking: 8
Sacramento began last week by blowing Memphis out by 33 points. It was all downhill from there. Two days after that complete showing against one of the two teams ahead of them in the conference, the Kings fell flat in an 18-point home loss to the Raptors, who have struggled on the road. They began a run of seven straight away games on Saturday with a 13-point loss to the Timberwolves, who they face again Monday.
9. Miami Heat
Previous ranking: 9
The Heat beat the Celtics last week without Jimmy Butler (back) and then lost to the Hornets with him back in the lineup. Miami tied the season series with Boston, 2–2, after it outlasted its 2022 Eastern Conference finals foe at home behind 30 points and 15 boards from Bam Adebayo. Next up was a five-point win over Orlando, powered by 29 from Butler. Then Charlotte halted the Heat’s three-game winning streak. That game in North Carolina kick-started a four-game road trip for Miami that continues Tuesday in Cleveland.
10. New York Knicks
Previous ranking: 12
The Knicks knocked off the Cavaliers and Celtics last week, two teams that they’re behind in the standings. But pitted against their crosstown rival Nets, they fell flat and dropped their ninth consecutive game in the series. Julius Randle went for 36 against Cleveland and 37 to beat Boston, but he was stymied against Brooklyn as his outside shot was not falling. New York is on the cusp of a top-six seed in the conference with four home games ahead.
11. Los Angeles Clippers
Previous ranking: 13
The Clippers’ season-best winning streak ended at five games Sunday in Cleveland with their stars on the bench. Before that, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard traded turns leading the team in scoring—George had 27 in a win against the Lakers and 35 in a blowout of the Spurs while Leonard’s 32 led the way over the Hawks. This recent run of wins catapulted L.A. to the No. 4 seed, though its hold is precarious with just two games separating it from 11th place.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous ranking: 16
A road loss to the lowly Rockets was a blemish on an otherwise positive week for the Timberwolves. Minnesota dropped the second leg of a two-game set with Houston, which had lost its last 13, in Rudy Gobert’s return. The T-Wolves bounced back with three wins in a row against playoff teams to move into the top six in the West. They won by nine in New Orleans, 11 at home against the Grizzlies and seven versus the Kings as Anthony Edwards led the team in scoring in each game.
13. Golden State Warriors
Previous ranking: 17
The Warriors have now won both rematches of last year’s second-round series with the Grizzlies. Even though Stephen Curry was ejected late in the game for throwing his mouthguard in frustration after Jordan Poole heaved an ill-advised shot, Golden State prevailed as Poole redeemed himself with a game-winning layup. Curry led the way again a few nights later in a win over the Raptors with 35 points to get the Dubs back up above .500.
14. Dallas Mavericks
Previous ranking: 11
Dallas missed Luka Dončić dearly last week. The league’s second-leading scorer went for 41 points and 15 rebounds in a one-point loss to the Wizards. Dončić left early the following game against the Suns with a toe injury after just three minutes played, and Spencer Dinwiddie stepped up to score 36 points in a gutsy road win. He nearly matched that output over the weekend with 35 against Utah, but it wasn’t enough with Dončić still sidelined for the eight-point defeat. The Mavericks, 3–7 over their last 10, currently hold a play-in spot in the West.
15. Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous ranking: 15
The Thunder had a light week and split their only two games on the docket. First up was a visit from the Hawks, who left Paycom Center with a five-point victory in a high-scoring affair. A few nights later, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander followed up his 36-point showing with 35 in a win over the Mitchell-less Cavaliers. Oklahoma City is outside of the play-in picture but just one game out of the No. 6 seed with two contests ahead this week against Houston, the worst team in the league.
16. Atlanta Hawks
Previous ranking: 14
Just when things were looking up for the Hawks, they lost three of four to fall back to .500 with a five-game road trip looming. They began last week with an 11-point loss to the Bulls and rebounded a few nights later in a shootout with the Thunder. Then the Clippers left Atlanta over the weekend with a seven-point win despite Trae Young’s second game in a row with at least 30 points and 10 assists.
17. New Orleans Pelicans
Previous ranking: 10
The Pelicans’ plunge continued last week as they added four more losses to double their losing streak to eight games. After losses to the Nuggets, Timberwolves, Magic and Bucks, they’re now just one game above .500 with a tough schedule ahead and Zion Williamson (hamstring) still sidelined. New Orleans got reinforcements in the form of Brandon Ingram (toe), but his shooting was off in his first action since late November and he played in only two games while CJ McCollum (thumb) also sat on the road against Milwaukee.
18. Phoenix Suns
Previous ranking: 19
Phoenix unleashed a three-point barrage on Charlotte last Tuesday in a 31-point victory, their fourth in a row. The streak stopped there as the Mavericks got the best of the Suns a few days later in a tight game that Dončić left after three minutes. Over the weekend, the Spurs erased a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime but Phoenix, led by 31 points and 11 dimes by Chris Paul, ran away in overtime and won by 10. The Suns have now won five of six to regain a winning record.
19. Utah Jazz
Previous ranking: 21
The Jazz got back to .500 last week with two wins to one loss. Utah defeated Charlotte by 18 and Dallas by eight in Salt Lake City. As usual, Lauri Markkanen led the way in the scoring department with 25 and 29 points, respectively. Wedged in between those victories was a 10-point loss in Portland in which Damian Lillard exploded for 60 points. The Jazz currently hold the final play-in spot in the West and have four games left on their homestand before they hit the road again.
20. Los Angeles Lakers
Previous ranking: 18
There’s a lot going on in Los Angeles. Anthony Davis is back, LeBron James is nearing the all-time scoring record and the first trade domino fell last week when Rui Hachimura was acquired from the Wizards. But time is running out for the Lakers to start winning, which makes a controversial loss to the Celtics hurt even more. Los Angeles beat the Spurs a few days prior in Davis’s return to the court and lost to the Clippers earlier in the week despite 46 points from James, his second-most this season. L.A. will be without James (ankle) and Davis (foot) Monday when its road trip continues in Brooklyn.
21. Washington Wizards
Previous ranking: 24
The Wizards won all three games last week to extend their streak to five in a row and inch up in the East. Kyle Kuzma hit a free throw in the final seconds in Dallas to lift Washington to a one-point win. He led all scorers with 33 points the next night in a five-point victory in Houston, and then Daniel Gafford’s 21 points and 12 rebounds propelled the Wizards to a 10-point win over New Orleans. Kristaps Porzingis (ankle) is set to return Monday after three missed games.
22. Portland Trail Blazers
Previous ranking: 22
Lillard lifted the Trail Blazers to back-to-back wins to begin the week, totaling nearly 100 points in two games. He scored 37 in a 20-point blowout against the Spurs and then set a new season high with 60, including nine made threes, to beat the Jazz by 10. Lillard added 30 more Saturday versus the Raptors, but it wasn’t enough as Portland still fell by 18. The Blazers have one more game at the Moda Center on Monday to wrap up their six-game homestand.
23. Chicago Bulls
Previous ranking: 23
Chicago won its first game back stateside following its trip to Paris as DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević powered the Bulls to an 11-point victory at home against the Hawks. They lost their next two away from the United Center to the Pacers and Hornets and got back in the win column Saturday in Orlando, which concluded their three-game road trip. Zach LaVine and DeRozan each finished with 32 in the 19-point victory over the Magic. The Bulls, on the cusp of the final play-in spot, begin a four-game home stand Tuesday.
24. Indiana Pacers
Previous ranking: 20
After a 1–3 week, the Pacers have just one win in their last 10 and fell to 2–10 this season without Tyrese Haliburton (knee), who last played Jan. 11. Rookie Bennedict Mathurin scored 26 in a victory over the Bulls, which put a stop to a seven-game skid. But the losing continued the next night against the Magic, then the Bucks a few days later and then the Grizzlies got the best of them Sunday, and ended their own losing streak in the process. Indiana is now out of the play-in tournament and is hurtling toward a lottery pick as long as Haliburton is sidelined.
25. Toronto Raptors
Previous ranking: 25
Toronto has held up well on its road trip so far. The Raptors have struggled mightily outside of Canada this season, but they began their run of seven away games in a row with an 18-point win over the Kings in Sacramento. They lost by 12 to the Warriors a few nights later and then beat the Trail Blazers by 18 behind 27 points and 13 boards from Precious Achiuwa. Forward O.G. Anunoby, who injured his wrist against Golden State, missed the Portland game and is out again Monday in Phoenix.
26. Orlando Magic
Previous ranking: 26
The Magic clinched the season series with the Celtics, 3–1, after a 15-point win Monday against the NBA’s top team. Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr. led the way in that contest, which was also Jonathan Isaac’s first game in more than two years. Orlando kept it going with a six-point win over Indiana a few nights later and then dropped two in a row over the weekend to Miami on the road and Chicago at home. Up next is a two-game set in Philadelphia.
27. Charlotte Hornets
Previous ranking: 28
Charlotte lost back-to-back games to close out a four-game road trip and responded by winning two in a row at home. Monday in Salt Lake City, the Hornets lost by 18 to the Jazz and then by 31 to the Suns the next night in Phoenix. Back at Spectrum Center, they beat the Bulls by 15 and then defeated the Heat by five over the weekend for the first time this season. Terry Rozier led the team in scoring in each game and LaMelo Ball returned from a three-game absence against Chicago to post a double double. With Gordon Hayward also back, Steve Clifford’s starting five is finally healthy.
28. Detroit Pistons
Previous ranking: 29
The Pistons began their week by allowing 49 first-quarter points to the Bucks in a game they went on to lose by 20. Detroit, which ranks second-to-last in defensive rating, had no answer for Milwaukee’s outside shooting and lost to its Central Division foe for the third time this year. The Pistons bounced back on the road in Brooklyn with an upset win over the Nets, spurred by the play of Saddiq Bey. They returned home to Michigan and dropped a tight game against the Rockets.
29. San Antonio Spurs
Previous ranking: 27
The Spurs dropped all four games last week by at least nine points. A fruitless three-game road trip began Monday in Portland with a 20-point blowout, then San Antonio headed to Los Angeles, where it lost to the Lakers by nine and the Clippers by 38. It took a fourth-quarter comeback to force overtime against the Suns, but the Spurs still fell by 10 at home. Keldon Johnson was San Antonio’s top scorer in each game, which included 34 points against Phoenix, and rookie Jeremy Sochan went for a career-best 30 in that game as well.
30. Houston Rockets
Previous ranking: 30
Despite picking up two wins last week, the Rockets still own the worst record in the NBA. They beat the Timberwolves at home behind Jalen Green’s career-best 42 points to end their 13-game losing streak. It was their first win since Dec. 26 and first win at home since Dec. 13. Houston lost its next two at home to Washington and Cleveland and then downed Detroit—without Green (calf), Alperen Sengun (illness) and Kevin Porter Jr. (foot)—over the weekend on the road.