NBA Power Rankings, Week 21: Milwaukee Bucks win a Finals rematch, LeBron James and Jayson Tatum ...

Which NBA teams are making the biggest moves after an action-packed weekend?

On Saturday, theMiami Heattoppled thePhiladelphia 76ersin a matchup of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.James Hardendidn't suit up -- he was held out in the second leg of a back-to-back -- but the Heat limitedJoel Embiidto 26.7% shooting to hand the Sixers their first loss since the All-Star break.


Saturday's finale witnessed a historic performance that theLos Angeles Lakershope can spark their stretch run.LeBron Jamespoured in 56 points -- his most as a Laker -- to fuel a comeback win over theGolden State Warriors. It was just the Lakers' second win over the past nine games as they cling to the Western Conference's No. 9 seed.

The points kept coming on Sunday, as theBoston Celtics'Jayson Tatumdropped 54 onKevin Durant,Kyrie Irvingand theBrooklyn Nets. Boston has won 14 of its past 16 games. And in a Finals rematch, theMilwaukee Bucksgot 44 points fromKhris Middletonto outduel thePhoenix Suns.

Who's rising and falling with five weeks remaining in the regular season?

Note:Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.





1. Phoenix Suns

2021-22 record: 51-13

Previous ranking: 1

In Friday's 115-114 win over theNew York Knicks,Cameron Johnsonhad a career night. After never making more than five 3-pointers in any game in his career, Johnson made six in the fourth quarter alone (including the game-winner). He finished with a career-high 38 points and a career-high nine triples. Also in the fourth quarter, Johnson scored 21 points -- the same total the Knicks had as a team. -- Lopez



2.Miami Heat

2021-22 record: 43-22

Previous ranking: 4

The Heat have now won 11 of their last 13 -- and they pulled off one of their better wins of the season on Thursday over Durant and the Nets. Playing withoutJimmy Butler,Kyle LowryandP.J. Tucker,Bam Adebayopoured in 30 points and 11 rebounds to carry his team across the finish line.-- Friedell



3.Memphis Grizzlies

2021-22 record: 44-22

Previous ranking: 2

The Grizzlies' grip on second place in the West didn't last long. Memphis slipped back into third, mere percentage points behind the Warriors, with a loss to the last-placeHouston Rocketson Sunday night. The Grizzlies have dropped four of the last seven games, including a couple of losses to sub-.500 teams.Ja Morantis averaging 35.3 points per game during that stretch -- breaking the franchise's single-game scoring record twice -- but only two other Grizzlies have averaged double-figure scoring totals.-- MacMahon



4.Milwaukee Bucks

2021-22 record: 40-25

Previous ranking: 8

Sure, the Bucks have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the NBA, butGiannis Antetokounmposaid Sunday he thinks the schedule can play to their advantage. "It's good that we're learning to play close games and it's good that we have a ton of tough teams moving forward," Antetokounmpo said after Sunday's win against the Suns. "It can only make us better in my opinion." Milwaukee has won four games in a row, including victories over Miami, Chicago and Phoenix.-- Collier



5.Philadelphia 76ers

2021-22 record: 39-24

Previous ranking: 5

Philadelphia is 4-0 with Harden in the lineup, but beginning with Saturday's loss in Miami (which Harden sat out on the second night of a back-to-back) things will get tougher in the games ahead. Even though Thursday's game against Brooklyn won't includeBen Simmons, who is still working through back issues as he continues to ramp up his activity level, seeing Harden against his old team will provide more than enough drama.-- Bontemps



6.Golden State Warriors

2021-22 record: 43-21

Previous ranking: 3

The roughest stretch of the season continues for a frustrated group that is now 2-8 in its last 10 games after James dropped 56 points on them during Saturday's loss. Golden State needsDraymond Greento come back -- but they also needKlay Thompsonto find his rhythm andAndrew Wigginsto reemerge as the difference-maker he was earlier in the season.-- Friedell



7.Utah Jazz

2021-22 record: 40-23

Previous ranking: 7

Bojan Bogdanovicbroke the franchise record by draining 11 3-pointers during his 35-point performance in Sunday's win over theOklahoma City Thunder. He had been in a bit of a funk before that, shooting just 32% from 3-point range in the previous 11 games. It was only the second time that someone other thanDonovan Mitchellled the Jazz in scoring in the 11 games since Mitchell returned from a concussion.-- MacMahon



8.Boston Celtics

2021-22 record: 39-27

Previous ranking: 10

The one thing that could be held against Boston as it turned its season around over the past few weeks was the lack of elite competition. By beating the Grizzlies and Nets (finally with Durant and Irving on the court together) this week, that critique no longer applies. The Celtics have to be seen as a legitimate East contender at this point, behind the combination of Tatum's continued ascension and the league's best defense.-- Bontemps



9.Chicago Bulls

2021-22 record: 39-25

Previous ranking: 6

The Bulls have dropped four games in a row -- matching their longest losing streak of the season -- as they continue to struggle against the top teams in each conference. The Bulls begin the week as the No. 4 seed in the East but are 0-8 against the three teams -- the Heat, Bucks and Sixers -- ahead of them. They begin the week with a matchup in Philly.-- Collier



10.Dallas Mavericks


2021-22 record:39-25

Previous ranking: 9

Dorian Finney-Smith's performance down the stretch of Saturday's comeback win over theSacramento Kingsprovided a glimpse into why the Mavericks were glad to give him a four-year, $55 million contract extension. Finney-Smith hit a pair of clutch 3s in the final 74 seconds -- including the game-winner with 3.8 seconds remaining -- and held Kings star centerDomantas Sabonisscoreless as his primary defender in the fourth quarter. Finney-Smith, an All-Defensive candidate, has averaged 14.3 points while shooting 60.7% from the floor and 54.8% on 3s during Dallas' current 6-1 run.-- MacMahon



11.Denver Nuggets

2021-22 record: 38-26

Previous ranking: 12

The Nuggets have won 10 of their last 12, and their last two wins have come despite added obstacles. WithoutNikola Jokic, the Nuggets took care of Houston withDeMarcus Cousinsdelivering a throwback performance of 31 points and nine rebounds. Then on Sunday, coach Michael Malone got ejected in the third quarter, but Jokic took care of the Pelicans in overtime with 46 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 blocks and 3 steals. According to the NBA, Jokic is the only player to put up those kind of numbers since blocks and steals were tracked starting in 1973-74.-- Youngmisuk



12.Cleveland Cavaliers

2021-22 record: 37-27

Previous ranking: 11

Cleveland's renaissance season continues to regress. The Cavs beat the Raptors on Sunday to stop their slide -- during which they had lost six out of seven games -- but lost a major piece in doing so. CenterJarrett Allenleft the game with a reportedly fractured finger that will sideline him indefinitely. For a team that is already missingCaris LeVertand is currently sixth in the East, the upcoming stretch will be critical to their chances of avoiding the play-in tournament.-- McMenamin



13.Minnesota Timberwolves

2021-22 record: 36-29

Previous ranking: 15

The Timberwolves have won four consecutive games to keep pace in what is becoming an increasingly packed playoff picture in the Western Conference. Minnesota has a grip on the No.7 seed, which would give them two chances to win one home game to qualify for the playoffs. The Wolves trail the Nuggets by two games for the No. 6 seed but are only two games ahead of the red-hotLA Clippersat No. 8.-- Collier



14. LA Clippers

2021-22 record: 34-32

Previous ranking: 16

The Clippers were flying high last week after perhaps their sweetest win of the season, a 132-111 thrashing of the Lakers on Thursday. But they followed that up with their most disappointing loss in a month, 116-93 to the struggling Knicks at home on Sunday. Still, the Clippers have shown that they are going to be a fixture in the playoff race. And on Saturday,Paul Georgewas shooting right-handed before practice. In the few times that he has been seen during the portion that the media is allowed to see practices and shootarounds, George was previously seen only shooting with his left hand due to the torn ligament in his right elbow. George still has a ways to go before a potential return, but this was a positive sign.-- Youngmisuk



15.Toronto Raptors

2021-22 record: 34-30

Previous ranking: 14

It's now three losses in a row for the Raptors, who have fallen three games behind sixth-place Cleveland and have an uphill climb to escape from the play-in tournament. Much of this is out of Toronto's control, given the injuries toFred VanVleet(knee) andOG Anunoby(finger), but if the Raptors don't get into the top six at the end of the season, they'll likely look back to this week as when things began to slip away.-- Bontemps



16. Brooklyn Nets

2021-22 record: 32-33

Previous ranking: 13

Even Durant's return from injury hasn't been enough to turn around the struggling Nets, who have lost 17 of 20 after Sunday's defeat to Tatumand the Celtics. Brooklyn is now ninth in the East, a half game behindCharlotte Hornets-- which it faces in an important road game on Tuesday. Simmons'debut remains at least a few weeks away as he deals with a back injury. And on top of all that, the Nets see old teammate Harden and the Sixers in Philadelphia on Thursday.-- Friedell



17.Atlanta Hawks

2021-22 record: 31-32

Previous ranking: 17

Atlanta holds the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference standings and are virtually tied with Charlotte and Brooklyn, sitting ahead of them at 32-33 while the Hawks are 31-32. The Hawks are hitting their stride at the right time, though, as they try to vault themselves higher into the playoff race. Atlanta has won five of their last seven games -- they also have the second-easiest schedule remaining.-- Lopez



18. Los Angeles Lakers

2021-22 record: 28-35

Previous ranking: 19

James became the first player in league history with a 50-point game on his résumé both before the age of 21 and after the age of 35 with his 56-point masterpiece in Saturday's win over the Warriors. "Hopefully this is the win that changes that momentum," coach Frank Vogel said of his team's recent struggles being put on pause by James' night.-- McMenamin



19. Charlotte Hornets

2021-22 record: 32-33

Previous ranking: 18

With seven of their next nine games at home, the Hornets will have a chance to move up in the East's play-in tournament mix. Charlotte enters Monday in a three-way tie with Atlanta and Brooklyn for eighth place in the East.-- Bontemps



20.New Orleans Pelicans

2021-22 record: 27-37


Previous ranking: 21

The Pelicans are 4-1 since the All-Star break, with the only loss coming Sunday in overtime against Denver. Since the break,Brandon Ingramhas excelled, averaging 29.4 points, 7.2 assists and 5.6 rebounds on 58.5% shooting. Even with giving up 138 points to Denver, the Pelicans still have a 101.4 defensive rating since the break, the best in the NBA. Their net rating of 19.3 since the break is also best in the league in that short stretch.-- Lopez



21.Washington Wizards

2021-22 record: 29-34

Previous ranking: 20

It was a great week for the Wizards regardless of what happened in the win-loss column. First,Bradley Bealtold reporters that "it's fair" to say that he is leaning toward re-signing with Washington this offseason. Then,Kristaps Porzingismade his long-awaited Wizards debut, scoring 25 points in 21 minutes to help beat the Pacers. Washington has lost 13 of its last 19 overall but have won two of its last three heading into a four-game west swing.-- Youngmisuk



22.Portland Trail Blazers

2021-22 record: 25-38

Previous ranking: 22

The Blazers' four-game winning streak entering the All-Star break has been replaced by a four-game slide. Portland's defense has allowed 120 or more points in all four losses, and key players are sitting out games with injuries.Justise Winslow(Achilles) has missed three straight games andAnfernee Simons(quad) andEric Bledsoe(Achilles) will not play on Monday.-- Youngmisuk



23.New York Knicks

2021-22 record: 26-38

Previous ranking: 24

New York got a desperately needed win Sunday night against the Clippers after a pair of tough losses to the 76ers was followed by an absolute backbreaker at the hands ofCam Johnsonand the Suns Friday night. Either way, with a 5 1/2-game gap between the Knicks and the play-in tournament, the final 18 games are going to be about looking ahead to next year as opposed to trying for a second straight trip to the playoffs.-- Bontemps



24.San Antonio Spurs

2021-22 record: 24-40

Previous ranking: 23

San Antonio has dropped four in a row with a chance for Gregg Popovich to tie the all-time regular season coaching wins mark. Popovich should have a chance to tie and break the record soon; the Spurs have their next seven games at home, starting with the Lakers on Monday.-- Lopez



25.Sacramento Kings

2021-22 record: 24-42

Previous ranking: 25

Sacramento couldn't protect a 19-point lead and wasted a 44-point effort fromDe'Aaron Foxin a 114-113 loss to theLuka Doncic-less Mavericks on Saturday. With the sixth-worse record in the league, the Kings will be looking for some lottery luck in the next couple months.-- McMenamin



26.Indiana Pacers

2021-22 record: 22-44

Previous ranking: 26

The Pacers have put the ball in the hands of second-year guardTyrese Haliburtonsince acquiring him at the trade deadline, which has led to an uptick in his offensive production. Haliburton has scored 20 or more points in six of his first nine games since joining the Pacers while still maintaining his threat as a passer, averaging over 9.0 assists per game.-- Collier



27.Oklahoma City Thunder

2021-22 record: 20-44

Previous ranking: 27

Shai Gilgeous-Alexanderis shining despite injuries sidelining the rest of the Thunder's regular starting lineup as well as some key reserves. Gilgeous-Alexander has 33.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in six games since the All-Star break, while shooting 56.6% from the floor. It's a matter of time before the 23-year-old makes an All-Star appearance, and he's likely to still be the Thunder's centerpiece once the long-term rebuilding project starts paying dividends.-- MacMahon



28.Detroit Pistons

2021-22 record: 17-47

Previous ranking: 28

The Pistons will be going for their third consecutive victory on Monday, which would mark the first time since the 2018-19 season Detroit has won three in a row. Overall, the Pistons are playing much better recently, winning five of the past seven games while rookieCade Cunninghamis averaging 20.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists during that span.-- Collier



29.Orlando Magic

2021-22 record: 16-49

Previous ranking: 30

Markelle Fultzmade his season debut after missing the past year because of an ACL injury, and Orlando actually picked up two wins -- which makes this one of their most productive weeks of the season. Over his first three contests, Fultz is averaging 9.0 points and 3.7 assists over 16.7 minutes per game.-- Friedell



30.Houston Rockets

2021-22 record: 16-48

Previous ranking: 29

Jalen Green's rookie season is following a pattern similar to 2020 No. 1 overall pickAnthony Edwards-- a rough first half followed by significant improvement. Green has averaged 18.1 points on 46.7% shooting in 14 games since the start of February. He's scored at least 20 points in five of the last seven games, including his 24-point performance Sunday, when the Rockets snapped a 12-game losing streak with an upset over the Grizzlies.-- MacMahon

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