Did you ever think you'd be seeing win-or-go-home NBA games in the first week of December? Say what you will about the , but the intensity has certainly been there, and will only increase as we get closer to handing the NBA Cup to one lucky team.
That being said, we're still here to think about the season as a whole, and the Minnesota Timberwolves were the most dominant team in the league this week, riding three straight wins to the No. 1 spot in the Power Rankings. They dethroned the Orlando Magic, who lost for the first time in nine games and fell to No. 4 -- tough break. Another team on the rise is the New York Knicks, who also had an undefeated week to earn a spot in the top 10.
On the other side were the Houston Rockets, who remain winless on the road this season after three more losses this week. They plummeted all the way to No. 22, dropping 13 spots -- but if trends continue, we'll likely see them back near the top half once they get some home games under their belt. The biggest risers this week were the Chicago Bulls, pulling off two unlikely wins with their main scorers sidelined. They jumped 10 spots to No. 17, which tells you how bad things had gotten in recent weeks.
Happy December, and here are this week's NBA Power Rankings.
*Please keep in mind that our NBA Power Rankings are based on weekly performance (Tuesday to Monday), not the whole season.
|The Wolves had a strong week, picking up an impressive win over the Thunder before taking care of business against the Jazz and Hornets. Their hallmark stingy defense returned, allowing just under 106 points per 100 possessions in the three wins, while Karl-Anthony Towns led the way offensively with over 24 points per game on 50% 3-point shooting.
|The Celtics handily took care of the Bulls, then beat the 76ers without Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. But Boston fell victim to Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers in Monday's In-Season Tournament quarterfinal, to eliminate them from Cup contention. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined to average 52 points per game for the week, while the Celtics continue to miss the presence of Kristaps Porzingis.
|OKC lost a close one to the Wolves to start the week, but bounced back by smashing the Lakers and regrouping after a late 30-0(!) run from the Mavericks for a second-straight win. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was brilliant, as usual, averaging 27 points, seven assists and three steals on 57/38/95 splits. He's good.
|The run at the top was brief but glorious, as Orlando falls from the No. 1 spot after the Nets put an end to their nine-game winning streak with a 28-point blowout. Franz Wagner kept up his excellent play with 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game this week on 55/58/89 shooting splits.
|The Nuggets picked up big wins over the Rockets and Suns to start the week, but lost to the Kings in a back-to-back on Saturday. Jamal Murray's return was short-lived, as he's missed Denver's last two games with an ankle sprain after scoring 16 points against Houston, his first game back from an 11-game absence.
|The Bucks beat the Heat and the Hawks this week, but dropped an overtime game to the Bulls without Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan -- not ideal. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard combined to average over 55 points per game, while Malik Beasley continued his excellent season with 17 points and six rebounds per game this week on 43% 3-point shooting.
|The Kings alternated wins (Warriors, Nuggets) and losses (Clippers, Pelicans) this week, but overall the effort was strong. They erased a 24-point deficit in a heated matchup with Golden State to win their In-Season Tournament group, but lost in the quarterfinal on Monday to New Orleans. De'Aaron Fox, the Western Conference Player of the Week, averaged 31 points and 8 assists in the four games, dishing out a career-high 16 dimes in the win over Denver.
|Phoenix saw its seven-game winning streak snapped in a loss to the Raptors, and they followed that up with another defeat at the hands of the Nuggets. They bounced back to beat the Grizzlies on Saturday to end the week on a high note. Devin Booker struggled mightily in the two games he played, shooting just 33% from the field, while Kevin Durant averaged 29 points and seven assists for the week.
|The Knicks beat the Hornets, Pistons and Raptors this week with a net rating of plus-14 (that's good!), as the defense and offense were both clicking against a few struggling teams. Jalen Brunson averaged 25 points and eight assists for the week, shooting 48% from 3-point range.
|The Pelicans had a good week, beating the short-handed 76ers, Spurs and Kings with a loss to the suddenly frisky Bulls. The big win came on Monday, as New Orleans advanced to the In-Season Tournament semis with the win over Sacramento. CJ McCollum returned to action after dealing with a collapsed lung and made an immediate impact, averaging 19 points and seven assists in three games.
|The Pacers lost a wild one to the Heat to start the week, but then returned the favor by posting the highest field goal percentage ever against the Miami franchise in Saturday's win -- and they did it without Tyrese Haliburton. Of course, Haliburton returned for Indiana's In-Season Tournament quarterfinal win against the Celtics on Monday, and the joy on their faces showed that this wasn't viewed as any old regular-season game.
|Tough week for the 76ers, who lost to the Pelicans and Celtics without the services of reigning MVP Joel Embiid. They were also without Tyrese Maxey for the Boston game, but they fought valiantly as seven players scored in double-figures, led by 26 from veteran point guard Patrick Beverley.
|The Lakers handily beat the Pistons and Rockets this week, with a blowout loss to the Thunder in between. They put up just 105 points per 100 possessions in the two games that weren't against the Pistons, underscoring the issues that have plagued them all season. Anthony Davis led the way with monster averages of 29 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks for the week.
|The Cavs beat the Hawks and the Pistons this week, but had a home slip-up against the Blazers on Thursday. Donovan Mitchell led the way offensively with 28 points per game for the week, but the team struggled to put points on the board in its last two games despite strong defense.
|The Nets beat the Raptors and dethroned the red-hot Magic, but unfortunately had a one-point loss to the Hornets in between. Mikal Bridges scored 26 of his 42 points in the first quarter in the win over Orlando, putting that one to bed early.
|The Clippers bounced back nicely from an embarrassing loss to Denver last week, beating the Kings and splitting with the Warriors. The win over Golden State ended the week on a high note, as they erased a 22-point deficit and won it on Paul George's late 3-pointer -- their first lead of the game. Kawhi Leonard is heating up, averaging 26 points on 63% shooting this week, while James Harden averaged 22 points and seven assists per game on 48% 3-point shooting.
|The Bulls appeared to hit rock bottom in a blowout loss to the Celtics on Tuesday in which Boston employed the Hack-a-Drummond strategy with a 30-point lead in an attempt to increase their In-Season Tournament point differential. Inspiration comes from odd places, however, as -- in the very next game -- Chicago rallied without Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan to beat the Bucks in overtime. The Bulls carried the momentum into Saturday's win over New Orleans with DeRozan playing, but LaVine still out. Maybe this is how the season turns around.
|Dallas beat the Rockets to start the week, but things quickly went south with a home loss to the Grizzlies as Luka Doncic missed the game for the birth of his first child. Doncic returned on Saturday and became the first player since Oscar Robertson to put up a 36-18-15 line as the Mavs went on a jaw-dropping, late 30-0 run against OKC. Unfortunately for Dallas and Doncic, they still lost the game.
|The Heat gave up a whole lot of points this week, 133 per 100 possessions to be exact, but they managed to come away with one win out of three. The low point was allowing the Pacers to shoot 66% from the field (the highest-ever against the franchise) without Tyrese Haliburton on the court. Jimmy Butler missed the loss to the Bucks, but scored 35 points per game in the other two on 50% shooting.
|Ask Steve Kerr and he'll tell you his team is playing better, but the Warriors still went 1-2 this week, watching 20-plus point leads evaporate in losses to the Kings and Clippers. The win, also against the Clippers, required a solid effort from the role players, who are performing better of late. Andrew Wiggins had his best game of the season in Sacramento, putting up 29 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-18 shooting, but then he slammed his finger in a car door and missed the next two games. Sums up Golden State's season thus far.
|The Raptors lost to the Nets and Knicks this week, but had a solid win over the Suns in between. Scottie Barnes led an unintimidating offensive attack, averaging 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists on 41% 3-point shooting. Pascal Siakam added 20 points per game, but continues to struggle from beyond the arc, going a dismal 1 for 13 this week.
|So, the whole road thing is starting to become a bit concerning, as the Rockets dropped three more games away from the friendly confines this week to the Mavericks, Nuggets and Lakers. The normally stout defense was especially porous, allowing over 125 points per 100 possessions. Alperen Sengun led the team with 25 points and 10 rebounds per game.
|Defense continues to be optional for the Hawks, who allowed 125 points per 100 possessions in a 1-2 week. Their only win came against the Spurs, with losses to the Cavs and Bucks. Trae Young averaged 30 points and 12 assists for the week, but shot just 30% from 3-point range and 43% from the field. Dejounte Murray added 22 per game on 50/53/100 splits, however, again, offense is not Atlanta's issue.
|The Blazers defense is suddenly looking quite impressive, allowing just 107 points per 100 possessions this week in a win over the Cavs and an overtime loss to the Jazz. The offense hasn't been great, but the return of Malcolm Brogdon has helped, as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year averaged 18 points and seven assists in the two games on 50% 3-point shooting. Shaedon Sharpe put up 27 points and 7.5 rebounds per game on 47% from behind the arc.
|The Grizzlies won consecutive games for the first time all season with victories over the Jazz and Mavericks to start the week, before falling to the Suns on Saturday. The defense finally showed up, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions in the three games. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. led the way offensively, combining to average 45 points per game.
|Without LaMelo Ball, the Hornets lost to the Knicks and Timberwolves this week, with a one-point win over the Nets in between. Terry Rozier has wasted no time filling in as the team's leading scorer and playmaker, putting up 24 points and eight assists per game this week on 53% 3-point shooting.
|The Jazz avoided a third straight loss with Lauri Markkanen out of the lineup, beating the Blazers in overtime on Saturday. Before that, they had lost to the Grizzlies and Wolves. As expected, the offense struggled mightily without their leading scorer, as they put up just 101 points per 100 possessions in the three games.
|Make it 14 straight losses for the Spurs, who fell to the Hawks and Pelicans this week. They had a legit chance to win the Atlanta game, but Trae Young took over late to dash San Antonio's hopes of a much-needed win. Jeremy Sochan found his offense, averaging 23 points on 71% 3-point shooting in the two games, while Keldon Johnson added 16.5 points per game on 55/50/86 splits.
|The Wizards lost consecutive games in Orlando this week, allowing a combined 269 points, bringing to mind Kyle Kuzma's apt assessment that the team couldn't guard a stop sign. Kuzma averaged 25 points on 50% shooting in the two games, while Jordan Poole shot just 33% from the field en route to 16.5 points per game.
|The Pistons flirted with a potential victory against the Knicks this week, but wound up with three more losses to bring the league-worst streak to 17 games, with no end in sight. Cade Cunningham's efficiency is improving, as he averaged 23 points on 47% 3-point shooting for the week. More good news: Bojan Bogdanovic made his season debut against the Cavs on Saturday, putting up 22 points in 27 minutes.