The NBA Power Rankings creep into Week 7 and the theme of the week is "winning streaks." The New York Knicks (recently stopped at eight games), Miami Heat (10 games), Boston Celtics (11 games), Chicago Bulls (seven games), and Dallas Mavericks (recently-ended 12-gamer) have all torn through the competition without much remorse. Each of these teams has surged in the rankings recently.
The Knicks are probably the most surprisingly team this season. Though Amare Stoudemire is generally regarded as one of the top power forwards in the league, many people who watch a lot of sports (but don't often play them) thought STAT's game would suffer heavily in the absence of the Steve Nash Effect (wherein players in his vicinity are granted magical Canadian powers by his abundance of chest hair). But, Amare seems to have figured stuff out. He averaged 33.8 points and 10.8 rebounds during the Knicks' victory march. Landry Fields, a highly-regarded second-round pick (though a second-round pick nonetheless) has emerged as probably the third-best rookie behind Blake Griffin and John Wall. Fields chugged through the team's eight-game win streak with 10.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. Not huge numbers, but for an unheralded newb, it's pretty fancy.
The Celtics seem to have forgotten (as they do every year) that they're old guys. Shaquille O'Neal is averaging 11.2 points and 6.4 rebounds for the season, with a couple of double-doubles during their win streak. Little, tiny Rajon Rondo continues to run the team flawlessly, tossing out a ridiculous 13 dimes a game during the Celtics' recent win grab -- and that's below his season average of 13.7! Kevin Garnett, he of the endless and childish on-court jibba-jabba and broken knees, has had double-doubles in seven of Boston's last 11 games, with a couple more games being oh-so-close. All three of the Big Three have been playing like they're on a mission to teach those whippersnappers a thing or two about respecting their elders, dad-gum! Though the Heat are starting to play like they're paid, they'll have a tough, green road to pass through on their way to an Eastern Conference title.
On the subject of Eastern Conference teams getting their acts together, the Chicago Bulls are pretty swell. Derrick Rose has been awe-inspiring all season, averaging 24.7 points and 8.3 assists, but the Bulls have gotten nice contributions from the nigh-forgotten Luol Deng (16.3 points, 5.3 rebounds over the last seven games) and Kyle Korver (11.6 PPG). Also, there's the not-insignificant factor of Carlos Boozer finally returning to the lineup and playing like Boozer is known to play when not injured (kind of rare). He's got 20.1 points and 10.3 boards a game over the most recent seven.
As for the cellar dwellers: the Minnesota Timberwolves can't seem to string together any wins, despite Michael Beasley and Kevin Love providing an excellent one-two punch offensively. Love leads the league in rebounds with 15.6 a game, even though he's a fairly short and stocky white guy, and SuperCool Beas, though his play has dropped off a little this past week, is still throwing down 21 points a game. The problem with the T-Pups, though, is that those are the only two players from who the team is getting consistent contributions. They have two faux point guards in Luke Ridnour and recently-returned Jonny Flynn and no one except also-recently-returned Martell Webster who can hit shots with any regularity. It will be a long year in Minny, much like every year since Garnett went bye-bye.
And in local news, the Phoenix Suns recently snapped their three-game losing streak and Jason Richardson's cold streak with a 128-122 win over those very same Timberpuppies. The Suns have looked pretty terrible recently (having failed to reach 100 points in any of their last three losses), but Robin Lopez came back to the lineup on Wednesday and gave 12 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes -- his strongest contribution since an 18-point, 14-rebound explosion way back on October 29. Having RoLo back -- and looking like he's got some extra spring in his step -- is a nice seven-foot, springy-haired Christmas present for Phoenix. Richardson followed up three games of single-digit scoring with a 24-point first half domination against Minnesota. He was pretty quiet in the second half and cooled down significantly, but still remains a good omen since the team's scoring tends to go as J-Rich's scoring goes. He also pulled down eight boards, helping Phoenix to out-rebound the top rebounding team in the league.
And now, onto the rankings:
SBNation.com | NBA Power Rankings, Week 7: Heat, Celtics, Spurs Still Cream of the Crop
Things have settled down in both the Eastern and Western conferences as only six NBA teams made moves in SB Nation's power rankings. Meanwhile Boston and San Antonio sit atop the heap.
ESPN.com | NBA Basketball Power Rankings
For the first time in six weeks, there is no change at the top of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.
SI.com | Miami Heat on tear, but Celtics are tops
Miami has made a predicable leap in the Power Rankings, but, after the Mavericks' loss Monday to Milwaukee, the new team at the top is the Celtics, who, among their many impressive accomplishments so far, have defeated the Heat twice.
NBA.com | The top teams are going streaking
How do the Dallas Mavericks not take the top spot in the Power Rankings after 12 straight wins? Because the Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs are playing just as well as the Mavs are.
NBA FanHouse | NBA Power Rankings: Celtics Go Streaking
The Mavericks had their 12-game winning streak snapped by the Bucks on Monday, leaving the Celtics with the league's longest active streak with 10 straight wins. As a result, Boston finds itself back at the top of our rankings.
FOXSports.com | NBA Power Rankings - Top 30 NBA Basketball Teams
This has been a pretty good stretch of basketball. Even with the Mavericks' 12-game winning streak getting stopped in upset fashion Monday night, three teams are riding streaks of at least eight straight victories and all of them — the Knicks, Heat and Celtics — play each other this week. The Heat aren't just hitting stride, they're hitting the accelerator and blowing teams out, while the Lakers are hoping to add another big piece to their mix and get things back on track.
DimeMag.com | Dime NBA Power Ranking: Mavs, Celtics, Heat cited for streaking
Ranking the NBA from worst to first ...