The NBA season is in its first stretch of dog days, when results get strange. The grind of 82 games is hard, but the Milwaukee Bucks keep hanging tough.
The hoopla of the big Christmas Day slate is over, the New Year has come and gone and the reality of not quite being even halfway through the NBA schedule becomes a difficult reality for many teams. That makes keeping up with the Power Rankings a difficult task, because there are results that just make no sense.
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Such as the Atlanta Hawks beating the Orlando Magic, who blew out the Miami Heat, who put the clamps on the defending champion Toronto Raptors, who erased a 16-point deficit to blow out the Brooklyn Nets, who beat the Philadelphia 76ers by 20 a few weeks ago, who beat the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day.
There are several similar loops that can be constructed. But it’s the Bucks who keep fighting through. Of Milwaukee’s five losses this season, none have been to a team that is currently below the .500 mark. In fact, the “worst” loss of the campaign so far for the Bucks was that Christmas Day loss at Philadelphia, which only has a winning percentage of .622.
This can be a time of year when teams can take some bad losses. Just last week, we saw:
- The Houston Rockets lose by 15 at New Orleans.
- The Heat losing by 18 at Washington and later by 20 at Orlando.
- Orlando losing by eight at home to the NBA’s worst team, the Hawks.
- Philadelphia getting crushed on the road at Indiana
- On Saturday alone, the Clippers got waxed at home by Memphis, Indiana fell to the Hawks, Denver got hammered by the Wizards and the Mavericks lost at home to Charlotte.
Here are the 13 teams in the NBA that are currently above the break-even mark of .500 listed in inverse order of their losses to teams that are currently below the win-loss Mendoza line, plus their loss total.
- Milwaukee: 0/5
- Los Angeles Lakers: 0/7
- Toronto: 0/12
- Boston: 2/8 (Sacramento, Brooklyn)
- Utah: 3/12 (Sacramento, Memphis, Minnesota)
- LA Clippers: 4/12 (Phoenix, New Orleans, San Antonio, Memphis)
- Miami: 4/10 (Minnesota, Memphis, Washington, Orlando)
- Philadelphia: 4/14 (Phoenix, Orlando x2, Washington)
- Dallas: 5/13 (Portland, New York x 2, Sacramento, Charlotte
- Denver: 5/11 (New Orleans x2, Atlanta, Sacramento, Washington)
- Houston: 6 /11(Brooklyn, San Antonio, Sacramento, Detroit, Golden State, New Orleans)
- Oklahoma City: 6/15 (Washington, Portland x2, San Antonio, Sacramento, Memphis)
- Indiana: 7/14 (Detroit x3, Cleveland, Charlotte, New Orleans, Atlanta)
Interestingly enough, the three teams without one of those less than attractive defeats are the first-place team in the East, the first-place team in the West and the defending NBA champions. This is not a coincidence.
As for the Power Rankings themselves this week, the Minnesota Timberwolves were the big movers up the board, climbing up three spots after a 2-1 week (though to be fair, much of that upward momentum was caused by the rush of air from the teams plummeting below them).
Three teams fell three notches this week — the Detroit Pistons, Portland Trail Blazers and the ever-so-harmonious Cleveland Cavaliers.
But with the holidays over, it’s now time for the grind to go into full effect until All-Star Weekend arrives next month.
Now, for the countdown:
Atlanta Hawks 8-28
Last rank: 30th
Last week: Won at Orlando 101-93, lost at Boston 109-106, beat Indiana 116-111
This week: Monday vs. Denver, Wednesday vs. Houston, Friday at Washington
For the first time since the opening week of the season, the Atlanta Hawks won two games in a week, going 2-1 with a road win at Orlando and a surprising win at home over the Pacers. That 2-1 week comes on the heels of a stretch in which the Hawks lost 10 games in a row — twice — and were 2-20 over 22 games.
In Saturday’s win over the visiting Pacers, Atlanta erupted for 43 points in the first quarter and led by as much as 22 in the first 12 minutes before having to hang on to hold off Indiana. After giving up the lead twice early in the first quarter, Bruno Fernando‘s cut and dunk off a feed from Kevin Huerter gave the Hawks the lead for good with 9:49 left … not that it didn’t get interesting.
Huerter seems to have put his early-season injury woes behind him, averaging 20.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks in 37.4 minutes per game last week, shooting 47.9 percent overall and knocking down 39.1 percent on 7.7 3-point attempts per game. Huerter had a season-high 26 points with six boards, five dimes and two steals in the win over the Pacers.