Nets claim the top spot behind a dominant December run

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The NBA completed a tremendous slate of games on Christmas Day as the schedule progresses toward the start of a new year with 2022 drawing to a close.

The past week of action saw some teams continue to put together some impressive runs, while others are still looking to gain traction. With still much of the season left to play, it will be worth watching if these teams can keep it up.

To make further sense of it all, Rookie Wire took a look at the NBA and ranked each team from worst to first. We come back each week and provide our latest assessment of the best teams and those that are rising.

Detroit Pistons (8-27)

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 28

The Pistons have lost five straight and are only 3-9 during the month of December. Jaden Ivey continues to be a bright spot for the team in the early going, though. He put up a career-high 30 points on Tuesday in a loss to the Jazz. He is one of four rookies this season with a 30-point game.

Charlotte Hornets (9-24)

cbb39d406efdc65f2d3042fa058c9e91

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 30

Charlotte snapped an eight-game losing streak on Monday with a win over Sacramento. The team has won two out of its last three games and appears to be trending upward. However, the worst 5 o’clock news dump of all time came on Friday when it was reported the team is working on a new contract for Miles Bridges. He will likely serve a lengthy suspension by the NBA once a new deal is agreed upon.

Washington Wizards (13-21)

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 29

The Wizards got back into the win column on Tuesday by snapping a 10-game losing streak versus the Suns. They have the worst record in the NBA in December but have managed to win two of their last three games. The team returns to action Tuesday against Philadelphia.

Houston Rockets (9-23)

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 25

The Rockets had been on a good run, winning four of six games, but have since dropped five straight. Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. produced a career-high 24 points and 10 rebounds during their last time out, though. He is one of three rookies with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a game this season.

For more coverage on the Rockets, visit Rockets Wire

San Antonio Spurs (10-22)

b5a81801b5b48755b83f1886f00287cb

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 27

Since winning three straight, the Spurs have lost four out of their last five games. They lost by 20 points their last time out on Friday to the Magic and will return on Monday with the Jazz. In other words, their tanking efforts appear to be back on track.

Chicago Bulls (14-18)

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 26

The Bulls have won three straight entering play on Monday as they begin a four-game homestand. Certainly, one of the big highlights of the week was the game-winning putback by Ayo Dosunmu to beat the Hawks on Monday. With a lengthy stay at home upcoming, we’ll see if the Bulls can string together some more wins.

For more coverage on the Bulls, visit Bulls Wire

Oklahoma City Thunder (14-19)

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Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 23

Since losing five straight, the Thunder have won three out of their last four games. The team is coming off a loss to the Pelicans in overtime on Friday as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander dropped a career-high 44 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. They wrap up a seven-game homestand on Tuesday with the Spurs.

See also  Suns top seed, plenty left to decide

For more coverage on the Thunder, visit Thunder Wire

Orlando Magic (13-21)

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Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 24

The Magic continue to roll of late, winning eight out of their last nine games. The team is 8-4 during the month of December and has the eighth-best defense in the NBA over that stretch. They continue a home-heavy stretch with four out of their next five games in Orlando before beginning a five-game West Coast trip. Next up: LeBron James and the Lakers on Tuesday.

Los Angeles Lakers (13-20)

30b8d8a15a7101134f1196a40f1efed8

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 18

The Lakers dropped their fourth straight game on Sunday to the Mavericks. LeBron James surpassed Kobe Bryant for the most appearances on Christmas Day (17) in the contest, recording 38 points, six rebounds and five assists in the loss. They continue a five-game road trip on Tuesday in Orlando.

For more coverage on LeBron and the Lakers, visit LeBron Wire

Toronto Raptors (15-18)

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 22

The Raptors snapped their six-game losing streak and the Knicks’ eight-game winning streak on Wednesday as Pascal Siakam erupted for a career-high 52 points in the win. He became only the fourth player in team history to score 50 points in a game. They have 10 out of their next 11 games in Toronto so we’ll see if they can get back on track.

Miami Heat (16-17)

038d57b254cb4eeb954da9d1e14e0394

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 19

Miami has followed up a four-game win streak by dropping two straight. They managed to tie it up against the Pacers on Friday after trailing by 12 points in the fourth quarter, but Tyrese Haliburton proved to be too much after hitting a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to win. The Heat are back in action on Monday with the Timberwolves.

Indiana Pacers (17-16)

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Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 21

The Pacers have won their last two games after knocking off the Heat on Friday. Tyrese Haliburton erupted for a career-high 43 points behind a team-record 10 3-pointers, including the game-winning shot with just over four seconds left. He is one of five players in the NBA this season with 10 3s in a game.

Minnesota Timberwolves (16-17)

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Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 17

The Timberwolves are 5-6 in December and have been in the middle of the pack in offense (13th) and defense (18th). Anthony Edwards dropped his sixth 30-point game of the season in their last time out on Friday in a loss to the Celtics. Edwards tied Al Jefferson and Isaiah Rider for the sixth-most 30-point games in Timberwolves history with 19.

New York Knicks (18-16)

0c5eb3d13a8a02b4764efd0d98bd3b47

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 16

Since winning a season-high eight in a row, New York has dropped three straight after losing to the Sixers on Christmas Day. Julius Randle looks to be rounding back into form from his All-Star campaign two years ago after dropping 35 points on Sunday. He is averaging 26.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists over his last five games.

Atlanta Hawks (17-16)

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 20

Trae Young dominated the headlines over the last week as it was reported the two-time All-Star may want out of Atlanta at some point in the future. While those rumors have dominated social media, the Hawks have won three out of their last four games. So far, those rumors have not caused a distraction. That usually doesn’t last long, though.

See also  Paul George: Scouting report and accolades

Sacramento Kings (17-14)

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 14

Domantas Sabonis balled out a bit on Wednesday with his second triple-double of the season to lead the Kings to a win over the Lakers. The group returns to action on Tuesday with the Nuggets to continue a home-heavy slate. They have eight of their next 10 at home.

Golden State Warriors (16-18)

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Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 12

The Warriors are 3-7 over their last 10 games and will be without Stephen Curry for at least the next two weeks. However, the group responded on a national stage and dropped the Grizzlies on Christmas Day as Jordan Poole had 32 points. The team had some embarrassing losses last week, but beating one of the top teams in the West by 14 points is certainly a nice step forward for the group.

For more coverage on the Warriors, visit Warriors Wire

Dallas Mavericks (18-16)

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 15

Luka Doncic put up his second career 50-point game in a win on Friday. Christian Wood recorded 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists on Christmas Day in a win over the Lakers and the team unveiled a sparkling statue of Dirk Nowitzki outside of American Airlines Center. To sum up: Dallas had a pretty solid week.

Utah Jazz (19-16)

f3eb71b92f301199df98e46e83000df1

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 11

Utah took care of the teams it needed to last week (Detroit and Washington) and will be looking to keep it going Monday with the Spurs. They will be tested some with the Warriors, Kings and Heat later this week so we’ll see if the Jazz can keep things going.

Portland Trail Blazers (17-16)

5e5736190e7c1144e8c77c7d45a6105c

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 10

Portland has lost four of its last five games with its lone win coming against Houston. The encouraging news is the team is second in offense in December (117.9 points per 100 possessions) behind the strong play of Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and others.

Los Angeles Clippers (19-15)

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Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 13

Despite losing to the Sixers on Friday, the Clippers have won five out of their last seven games. They are in the midst of a five-game East Coast road trip and have six of their next seven overall on the road. L.A. is 8-8 on the road thus far and will be looking to improve upon that record Monday in Detroit.

Phoenix Suns (19-15)

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Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 8

The Suns got Devin Booker back after three games on Sunday due to a groin strain, but the All-Star left after just four minutes due to the same injury. Landry Shamet dropped 31 points in the overtime loss to the Nuggets to match a career high. Phoenix continues a five-game road trip on Tuesday in Memphis.

New Orleans Pelicans (20-12)

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Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 6

The Pelicans enter Monday having won two straight games since dropping four in a row recently. The group last defeated Oklahoma City on Friday as Trey Murphy III led the way with 23 points. The team has also gotten some strong play of late from CJ McCollum, who is averaging 28.6 points, 8.2 assists and six rebounds over his last five games.

See also  Nets’ Ben Simmons ruled out for Saturday’s game against the New York Knicks

Denver Nuggets (21-11)

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Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 9

The Nuggets posted only their second win in eight tries on Christmas Day over the Suns. Nikola Jokic had 41 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists, while Aaron Gordon added 28 points and 13 rebounds as the Nuggets stayed atop the Western Conference. Oh, and Gordon also did this in a one-point game in overtime:

Philadelphia 76ers (20-12)

34c9b4d0c5565872b528534a5f92f28d

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 7

The Sixers posted their eighth straight win over the Knicks on Christmas Day as Joel Embiid had 35 points and James Harden added 29 points and 13 assists. Embiid is on a tear on offense and Harden is back to dropping some eye-popping triple-doubles to lead the way. Philadelphia is 8-2 in December and ranks fourth in offense and fifth in defense over that span.

For more coverage on the 76ers, visit Sixers Wire

Cleveland Cavaliers (22-12)

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 4

Behind an All-Star campaign from Donovan Mitchell, and the top-ranked defense in the NBA, the Cavaliers have won five out of their last six games. They posted some impressive wins over Dallas (twice) and Milwaukee in that span and are just two games back from the Celtics in first place. Cleveland is establishing itself as a top-tier team in the East.

Memphis Grizzlies (20-12)

dd6b0842bc06322141f6757e7f1b99b4

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 2

Memphis has lost three of four games since winning seven straight. They lost to the Warriors on Christmas Day without Stephen Curry as Jordan Poole had 32 points. However, Ja Morant is continuing to perform at an All-Star level and the team recently got Desmond Bane back after missing a month. The Grizzlies should still be viewed as one of the top teams in the West.

Milwaukee Bucks (22-11)

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Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 1

The Bucks have lost three in a row to the top teams in the East — Cleveland, Brooklyn and Boston. They have struggled with Khris Middleton out of the lineup as the former All-Star is dealing with a knee injury. However, the team is still viewed as one of the favorites to emerge from the conference so its recent skid isn’t too worrisome. At least, for now.

Boston Celtics (24-10)

436f7bae16a90561bbe1077b07919272

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 3

On a national Christmas Day stage, the Celtics proved to once again be dominant after posting a 139-118 win over the Bucks. They have reclaimed first place in the East as the group looks to be back on track after losing five of six games. Boston is healthy and is arguably the team to beat as defending conference champs.

For more coverage on the Celtics, visit Celtics Wire

Brooklyn Nets (21-12)

b0a8ffbfe198836d53d9bcc90b98169c

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Last Rank: 5

The Nets continue to play like one of the top teams in the NBA of late and have won 12 out of their last 13 games. They are up to fourth in the East behind their eight-game win streak as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons are performing like one of the best trios in the league. Brooklyn has the top offense in the league in December and is showing no signs of slowing down. In other words: The Nets are (finally) who we thought they are.

For more coverage on the Nets, visit Nets Wire

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire



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