Sunday, Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook faced off against the heroes in a wild final series in which the Washington Wizards took advantage of an 8-0 run in the final 12 seconds of the game to beat the Brooklyn Nets.
Saturday night in Chicago, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers accomplished a similar feat against the Chicago Bulls. Lillard hit a deep 3 in the final 8.9 seconds to add another chapter to the Lady of the Time legend.
Thanks to two defeats against the defending champion, the Los Angeles Lakers, last week, the Los Angeles Clippers now have the best record in the league.
What does all this mean for the NBA’s first rankings in February?
Message: During the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim McMahon, Dave McMahon, Eric Woodyard, Royce Young and ESPN’s Om Youngmisuk) evaluates the 30 teams from top to bottom to assess which ones are currently playing their best basketball and which ones are most likely to win the title.
Previous Reviews : Week 1. Week 2. Week 3. Week 4. Week 5. Week 6.
1. LA Clippers
2020-21 Record : 16-5Previous review: 2
Last week began with six Clippers games, with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George quarantined for health and safety reasons and Patrick Beverley (knee) out of quarantine. While the Clippers won seven consecutive games in Atlanta, they brought back Leonard and George after missing just two games due to a contact issue. They have now started a new series. Tyronn Lue pushes the right buttons, Reggie Jackson goes after Beverly and the Clippers have chemistry. The next step is a big test against the network. -Youngomisuk
This week: KN, UNCLE, FOREST, BAG…
2. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 Record : 15-6Previous review: 1
Los Angeles’ valiant effort to not lose two games in a row all season ended with back-to-back defeats in Philadelphia and Detroit, but the Lakers fought back in Boston. It appears that having Anthony Davis on the team for a lineup makes a difference. After missing the game against the Pistons due to a quadruple bruise, Davis returned to help the defending champions get back on track against the Celtics with 27 points, 14 rebounds and two steals. — McManaman.
This week: @ATL, DEN, DET
3. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 Record : 15-6Previous review: 4
It took a 31-6 run to close out Sunday night’s game against the Pacers, but the 76ers finally have a win this season without Joel Embiid. More importantly, the Sixers have the best record in the Eastern Conference. No team in the East this season has been as close as Philadelphia. It remains to be seen how this formation will look in the qualifiers, but so far it looks good. — Good time.
This week: @CHA, POR, BKN
4. Utah Jazz
2020-21 Record : 15-5Previous review: 3
Bojan Bogdanovic’s 29-point performance was the highlight of Sunday’s loss against the Nuggets, who posted their best 11-game winning streak of the season in the NBA. Bogdanovic, who had a slow start after surgery on his wrist, had two of his best performances of the season in his last two games. — McMahon.
This week: DET, @ATL, @CHA, @IND
5. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 Record : 12-8Prior ranking: 8
The Nuggets are getting better and better after a bumpy start. They have won six of their last seven games and crushed the hottest team in the league by winning the Jazz’s last eleven games. Nikola Jokic, who just ended his career with 47 points against Utah, continues to build on his MVP record with 20 consecutive double-doubles to start the season, the second-longest streak in NBA history. -Youngomisuk
This week: DET, AL-AL, BAG
6. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 Record : 13-9Prior ranking: 7
At least Steve Nash isn’t pretending when he talks about the Nets defense this week: We still have a long way to go. Scoring 147 points in the reckoning with Kevin Durant and then 146 against the Wizards with James Harden seems like a good fit. Yeah, Brooklyn beat the Thunder 147-125. But an epic collapse in the final ten seconds against Washington cut the lead to five points, and Brooklyn somehow lost 149-146. StatMuse summed it up: Since trading Harden, the Nets have an offensive rating of 122.6, which is the best in the league and would be the best ever. They also have a defensive rating of 119.9, which is the worst in the league and would be the worst ever. — Young people
This week: LAKE, TOR, @PHI…
7. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 Record : 11-8
Previous Assessment : 5
Milwaukee led early in the week against Toronto, but then lost two games in a row to New Orleans and Charlotte. The Bucks are far from panicking, but Milwaukee is 11-for-8 in 19 games. Last season, they failed to get past eight defeats for the 54th game. — Woodyard.
This week: POR, IND, UNCLE
8. Boston Celtics
2020-21 Record : 10-8
Previous ranking : 6
The final ten minutes of Boston’s dramatic loss against the Lakers on Saturday night were overshadowed by concerns about Marcus Smart’s serious leg injury. And while the Celtics will undoubtedly miss him in their five West Coast games, starting Tuesday in San Francisco against the Warriors, the fact that the heart and soul of the team is only two or three weeks away with the calf strain is the best outcome to hope for from a realistic standpoint. — Good time.
This week: GSW, BAG, LAKE, PHX
9. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 Record : 11-9Prior ranking: 10
Domantas Sabonis continues to shine. In Wednesday’s win over the Hornets, he became the fifth player in NBA history with a 90 percent triple-double. Miles Turner, recovering from a broken right arm, remains Indy’s defensive anchor – he has six games with at least five blocks to his name this season. — Woodyard.
This week: MADAME, @MIL, NOP, UTA
10. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 Record : 10-8
Previous ranking : 9
After losing the first two games without Devin Booker, who was absent due to a hamstring injury on the left side, Phoenix came back with wins over Golden State and Dallas at the end of the week. The Suns beat the Mavericks on Saturday with a classic performance from Chris Paul. Paul finished the game with 29 points and 12 assists, doing the most damage in the fourth quarter. He scored 16 points and five assists in the final period alone. It’s only the third time in Paul’s career that he had at least 15 points and five assists in the fourth quarter, according to the ESPN Stats & Information survey. The last time was the 12th. November 2008 against the Lakers. — Lopez.
This week: VALLEY, TOP, DET, FOREST?
11. Portland Trail Blazers
2020-21 Record : 10-8
Previous ranking : 11
Saturday’s incredible victory over the Bulls, with two three-pointers in nine seconds, was a new chapter in the Lady of the Time legend. But losing a few starters and key players is what Lillard needs to do to stabilize the Blazers in rocky waters. He was the top scorer in the last eight games (34.0 points average) and with four games to go on a grueling six-game road trip, you can expect the same. — Young people
This week: MIL, WAS, PHIL, NYK…
12. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 Record : 8-6Previous review: 19
The NBA is back! Watch all the action from the 2020-21 season on ESPN, ABC and the ESPN application.
Wednesday, Feb. 3.
– Pacers v. Bucks, 7 p.m. on ESPN
– Suns v. Pelicans, 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.
All Eastern Times
Memphis has been doing it since the 7th. The month of January is no longer lost. The Grizzlies, who remained in the league for a week and a half due to health protocols, beat the Spurs on Saturday to extend their winning streak to six games. Yes. Morant has the two best scores in the last two games, with 10 dimes against the Suns from the Jan. 18 and 11 against the Spurs. — McMahon.
This week: ? AIR LOCK, BLIND, HO, HO, NOPE?
13. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 Record : 11-9Prior ranking: 13
San Antonio had its first carryover of the season last Monday against New Orleans, but after all the players’ tests came back negative, they returned to play Wednesday in a win over Boston. The Spurs welcomed back Derrick White for a rotation on Friday night. White has played just one game this season – New Year’s Day – because of two separate toe injuries. In the game against the Grizzlies, White led the Spurs with 18 points in just 22 minutes off the bench. — Lopez.
This week: MEM, MIN, @HOU
14. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 Record : 11-9Prior ranking: 15
The Warriors don’t have much to learn this week, though they finished 3-1. They beat the Timberwolves twice and the Pistons once, taking the lead against the two weakest teams in the league. They were also shut down by a Suns team that was struggling to find its stride. The good news for Steve Kerr is that newcomer James Wiseman has responded well after being dropped from the base earlier this week. Sage scored 25 points in Wednesday’s win over the Timberwolves, a career record. — Friedell.
This week: FOREST, @DAL
15. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 Record: 10-9
Previous ranking : 17
Trey Young scored 41 points – his 14th of the season – in Friday’s 116-100 victory over the Wizards. The 40-point game of his career. Only Rick Barry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Shaquille O’Neal have scored more than 40 points at age 22 or younger in NBA history, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The young man currently has 403 points in his career. He made 400 3’s in just 159 games, the lowest number in NBA history. He defeated Damian Lillard in four games. — Lopez.
This week: LAL, DAL, UTA, TOR
16. Houston Rockets
2020-21 Record : 9-9Previous review: 23
The Rockets have a 6-3 record since trading James Harden – despite missed games from John Wall, Christian Wood and Victor Oladipo – and rank second in the NBA in defensive rating (102.8) in that time. Wood continues to make a convincing case for the All-Star candidate; Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only other player this season averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds while hitting 55% from the floor. — McMahon.
This week: O.K.C., O.K.C., MEM, AIRLOCK…
17. Cleveland Riders
2020-21 Record : 9-11Previous review: 14
It was a rough week for the Cavs, 1-3. They lost 46 points to LeBron James on his return to Cleveland and missed games against the Knicks and Timberwolves, two teams the Cavs needed to beat to stay in the playoffs. They won over Detroit with another strong game from Collin Sexton – 29 out of 10 points on 14 shots, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for a goalie who should be All-Star. — McManaman.
This week: MINUS, MORE, MILLET
18. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 Record : 9-11Previous review: 24
Saturday’s win over Antetokounmpo and the Bucks salvaged a 2-2 week. Gordon Hayward had another good night with 27 points in 38 minutes. The Hornets haven’t found much consistency yet, but Terry Rozier has put down a good offensive punch this week, averaging 21 points in three games. Rozier sprained his right ankle in Saturday’s win and it’s doubtful he’ll be able to compete against the Heat on Monday. — Friedell.
This week: @MIA, PHI, UTA, WHAT?
19. New York Knicks
2020-21 Record : 9-12Previous review: 20
The fact that rookie Immanuel Quickley continues to produce – he scored 25 points in 27 minutes Sunday against one of his idols, Lou Williams – reminds us that this season is not about winning and losing in Gotham. And when it comes to training the team’s young players and culture, the Knicks should be pleased with the first month of their season. — Good time.
This week: ? CHI, CHI, POR, MIA?
20. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 Record : 8-12Previous review: 12
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The league’s worst shooting three-point team (32.8%) returns this season with the return of forward Maxi Kleber (47.1%) on Monday after missing 11 games due to COVID-19. The Mavs, who have lost eight of their last 10 games, could use all the help they can get right now. The Mavs are the first team since the Bulls in 2002 to record three consecutive losses. — McMahon.
This week: EW, @ATL, GSV
21. Record of the Toronto Raptors
2020-21 : 8-12Previous review: 16
Toronto continues to struggle with a litany of injuries, and now OG Anunoby will be out with a calf strain. Still, the Raptors have won six of their last ten games and are slowly coming out of the hole they dug earlier in the season. The question now is: Will Toronto remain a team that only makes the playoffs, or can they sell themselves to improve their game in the future? — Good time.
This week: ORL, BKN, ATL
22. Miami Heat
2020-21 Record : 7-12Previous review: 18
Miami finally found Jimmy Butler, who scored 30 points in Saturday’s win over the Kings, ending a five-game losing streak. The Heat are still struggling with a number of injuries – Goran Dragic (groin strain), Avery Bradley (knee contusion), Myers Leonard (shoulder strain), Mo Harkless (hip contusion) and Tyler Herro (health and safety protocols) – as they try to get their season back on track. — Friedell.
This week: CHA, WAS, @NYK
23. New Orleans Pelicans
2020-21 Record : 7-11
Previous rankings : 27
Thanks to a late start to the week, the Pelicans had 19 days between home games when they finally played in New Orleans on Wednesday after two weeks on the road. They started off on the right foot with a win over the Wizards and continued that momentum with the big win over the Bucks Friday, against whom the Pelicans set a franchise record of 21 3-pointers. Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball each hit seven three-pointers against Milwaukee, making them the fifth starting backfielders in NBA history to hit at least seven three-pointers in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. — Lopez.
This week: BAG, PHX, @IND, MEM
24. Oklahoma City Thunder
2020-21 Record : 8-10Previous review: 25
Among the quirks of the 2020-21 season: The Thunder, who historically have one of the worst home advantages in the league, have scored just 1-6 on their field this season. You’re 7-4 on the road. In their final home game, the Thunder sent Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and James Harden back into the building, while the Nets lost to OKC by 147 votes. — Young people
This week: WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, WHOA.
25. Sacramento Kings
2020-21 Record : 8-11Previous review: 26
The biggest joker for the Kings’ future is Marvin Bagley III. He scored 16 points this week, 12 in a win over Orlando, then just seven points and five boards in a win over Toronto while struggling with foul trouble and 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting in a one-point loss against Miami. If Bagley can strike consistently, Sacramento’s chances of success in the West will increase dramatically. — McManaman.
This week: ? NOP, FOREST, DEN, LAC ?
26. Chicago Bulls
2020-21 Record : 7-11
Previous rankings : 22
The Bulls were the last to experience Ladies Time. On Saturday, Chicago squandered a late lead and lost 123-122 to Portland after Damian Lillard hit a triple. Bulls striker Lauri Markkanen has scored 31 points this season, his best mark since 2019. — Woodyard.
This week: NYK, NYK, @ORL
27. Washington Wizards
2020-21 Record : 4-12Previous review: 29
On Sunday, the Wizards recorded their biggest win of the season. With six players back from health and safety protocols, the Wizards surprised the Nets by scoring eight points in the final eight seconds for just their fourth win of the season. Washington fought back from the KOVID-19 break, which followed four consecutive losses, to essentially play with half of his team. Bradley Beal, who continues to score, finally got a pass. Russell Westbrook had his star game as a Wizard on Sunday with 41 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. The Wizards hope this can change their season. -Youngomisuk
This week: POR, MIA, CHA
28. Orlando Magic
2020-21 Record : 8-13
Previous ranking : 21
The Magic have lost 11 of their 13 games and are still touring after Markelle Fultz suffered an ACL end-of-season injury a few weeks ago. Weeks 1 through 3 ended Sunday with new fireworks when Magic striker Aaron Gordon made a flagrant foul after making life difficult for Raptors’ guard Kyle Lowry. Gordon has a long memory, as Lowry sprained his arm on a strong bubble foul last season, forcing Gordon to miss the rest of his playing time with the Magic. Magic and the Raptors meet again on Tuesday. — Friedell.
This week: TOR, CHI
29. Minnesota Timber Wolves
2020-21 Record : 5-14Previous Classification : 28
Anthony Edwards has struggled to be effective this season – not unusual for a rookie – but there are signs he’s turning the corner. Sunday, he scored 25 points against the Warriors (5 of 8 from 3) and 23 against the Cavs (9 of 15). He scored in double figures in five consecutive games and leads all freshmen in scoring. It has been a difficult season for the Wolves in many ways, but if Edwards can show some positive signs of development, the game plan might just start working for Minnesota. — Young people
This week: UNCLE, AIRLOCK, OKC.
30. Pistons Detroit
2020-21 Record : 5-15Previous review: 30
Following Saturday’s defeat to the Warriors, the Pistons have lost 15 of their first 20 games for the sixth time in team history. Detroit is the only NBA team that hasn’t won back-to-back games this season. — Woodyard.
This week: DEN, UTA, PHX, LAL?
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