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NBA Power Rankings, Week 2

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The small sample size of the NBA’s opening week usually provides an interesting look at the standings. The start of the 2021-22 season was no different.

The Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets, two teams that missed the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, are each off to 3-0 starts. (The latter spoiled the Brooklyn Nets‘ home opener on Sunday.) Meanwhile, New York Knicks‘ fans were already calling for a championship run after a season-opening double-overtime win over the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden.

In the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers finally notched their first win of the season, overcoming Ja Morant‘s 40-point outburst Sunday night. And behind Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors are off to a 3-0 start.

Which teams are rising and falling after the first week of NBA action? We’re running through all 30 teams.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (Tim Bontemps, Jamal Collier, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

1. Milwaukee Bucks
2021-22 record: 2-1
Previous ranking: 2

An opening-night win against the Nets reminded the league why the Bucks are the defending champs. Milwaukee made a statement to blitz Brooklyn to start the season behind 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists from Giannis Antetokounmpo. Injuries have depleted the Bucks‘ rotation early on, but Jrue Holiday and Rodney Hood both returned Saturday. Brook Lopez (back soreness) will miss at least Monday’s game against Indiana. — Collier

This week: @IND, MIN, SAS, UTA


2. Utah Jazz
2021-22 record: 2-0
Previous ranking: 5

Hassan Whiteside, the former maximum-contract big man who joined the Jazz for the minimum, is off to an encouraging start as Rudy Gobert‘s backup. He had a total of 14 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks in 34 minutes in the first two games, when Utah outscored its opponents by 19 points with Whiteside on the floor. — MacMahon

This week: DEN, @HOU, @CHI, @MIL


3. Denver Nuggets
2021-22 record: 2-0
Previous ranking: 7

Michael Malone has to be pleased with how his team has started the season without Jamal Murray. The Nuggets have not given up more than 98 points in their first two games, both wins over the Suns and Spurs. And reigning MVP Nikola Jokic has picked up where he left off, averaging 29.5 points and 14.5 rebounds. Michael Porter Jr. is off to a slow start with just 22 points and seven rebounds in two games, but it shouldn’t be long before he surpasses those numbers in a single game. — Youngmisuk

This week: CLE, @UTA, DAL, @MIN


4. Brooklyn Nets
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 1

It’s been a slow start to the season for Brooklyn, which not only is playing without Kyrie Irving but is treating the start of the season like an extension of the preseason. Head coach Steve Nash has said as much in how he’s handling his rotations, and James Harden said after Sunday’s loss to Charlotte that he’s still feeling his way into the season after a long offseason layoff recovering from a hamstring injury. — Bontemps

This week: WAS, MIA, IND, DET


5. Golden State Warriors
2021-22 record: 3-0
Previous ranking: 11

Everything is clicking early for Stephen Curry‘s group, which heads into the week with a 3-0 record. Curry continues to shine as he starts the quest toward his third MVP award. He had 45 points in Thursday’s win over the Clippers, and continues to give confidence to a deeper group that is getting contributions up and down the roster. Veterans Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Iguodala and Damion Lee have given Steve Kerr nice minutes off the bench and third-year guard Jordan Poole continues to elevate his game offensively. — Friedell

This week: @OKC, MEM, OKC


6. Miami Heat
2021-22 record: 1-1
Previous ranking: 6

The Heat started off strong with a demolition of the Bucks to open their season, but faded in an overtime loss to the Pacers on Saturday. The good news for Miami is that sharpshooter Tyler Herro appears to have found his stride again. He has 57 points combined over Miami’s first two games. — Friedell

This week: ORL, @BKN, CHA, @MEM


7. Philadelphia 76ers
2021-22 record: 2-1
Previous ranking: 9

Philadelphia was a horrid final five minutes against Brooklyn away from a 3-0 week to start the season. Things with the 76ers, even without Ben Simmons, remain in the same place they’ve always been: If Joel Embiid is healthy and available, Philadelphia will win lots of games. — Bontemps

This week: @NYK, DET, ATL


8. Los Angeles Lakers
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 3

What a night for Carmelo Anthony. The 19-year veteran moved up to No. 9 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in impressive fashion, scoring 28 points off the bench — including two free throws to ice it — to beat Memphis for L.A.’s first win of the season. “He didn’t crawl up to that milestone, he blew the doors off of it,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. — McMenamin

This week: @SAS, @OKC, CLE, HOU


9. Atlanta Hawks
2021-22 record: 1-1
Previous ranking: 8

It may be a small sample, but Cam Reddish has picked up where he left off during Atlanta’s postseason run. In four games in the last playoffs, Reddish shot 9-of-14 from 3-point range and averaged 12.5 points per game. To start this season, the third-year player is 6-for-9 from deep in two games and is averaging 19.5 points a night. — Lopez

This week: DET, @NOP, @WAS, @PHI


10. Chicago Bulls
2021-22 record: 3-0
Previous ranking: 19

The new-look Bulls couldn’t have asked for a better start. They are 3-0 for the first time since the 2016-17 season, which is also the last time they made the playoffs. Their offense has still had some clunky moments, but Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball have played exciting basketball. They’ve been feistier than expected defensively, led by Ball and Alex Caruso‘s constant pestering. The opening portion of their schedule was soft — they faced the Pistons twice, who are without Cade Cunningham, and the Pelicans, who are without Zion Williamson — so tougher opponents this week in the Knicks and Jazz should provide a better gauge on how good Chicago could really be. — Collier

This week: @TOR, NYK, UTA


11. New York Knicks
2021-22 record: 2-1
Previous ranking: 14

It’s only three games, but one trend to watch for the Knicks is diminishing minutes for Kemba Walker, who went from 36 in New York’s double-overtime win to 22 and 19, respectively, in a pair of games against Orlando. He and Derrick Rose will spend time alternating at the point all season. — Bontemps

This week: PHI, @CHI, @NOP


12. Phoenix Suns
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 4

Suns guard Chris Paul became the first player in NBA history with 20,000 career points and 10,000 career assists when he notched the points total against the Lakers on Friday night. (Paul became the 47th player in NBA history to hit 20,000 points, while he picked up his 10,000th assist last season.) — Lopez

This week: SAC, CLE


13. Dallas Mavericks
2021-22 record: 1-1
Previous ranking: 10

The Mavs’ offense sputtered for most of the first six quarters of the season as Jason Kidd tries to figure out how to lessen the load on Luka Doncic despite Dallas’ failure to add another playmaker this offseason. Dallas scored 58 points on 52.3% shooting in the second half of Saturday’s win in Toronto with a proven approach: spreading the floor and letting Doncic cook. — MacMahon

This week: HOU, SAS, @DEN, SAC


14. Charlotte Hornets
2021-22 record: 3-0
Previous ranking: 17

Charlotte couldn’t have asked for a better start — punctuating a 3-0 mark with a win over Kevin Durant and the Nets on Sunday. LaMelo Ball has 48 points, 13 assists, 12 rebounds and seven steals over the first three contests. The Hornets have an interesting showdown with Jimmy Butler and the Heat on Friday, a game that should be a nice measuring stick for what appears to be a young team on the rise. — Friedell

This week: BOS, @ORL, @MIA, POR


15. Memphis Grizzlies
2021-22 record: 2-1
Previous ranking: 16

Ja Morant has picked up where he left off in his brief but brilliant playoff debut, averaging 35 points and eight assists per game in the season’s first week. De’Anthony Melton has also impressed, seizing the opportunity to be Morant’s backcourt partner in the Memphis starting lineup by averaging 18.3 points while shooting 52.4% from the floor and 57.9% from 3-point range. — MacMahon

This week: @POR, @GSW, MIA


16. Washington Wizards
2021-22 record: 2-0
Previous ranking: 21

Don’t look now, but the Wizards are off to a 2-0 start. And Bradley Beal looks like he has veteran help around him. General manager Tommy Sheppard added depth. Spencer Dinwiddie scored 34 points and had nine assists to lead Washington to an overtime win over Indiana without an injured Beal (hip), while Kyle Kuzma has averaged 18.5 points and 13 rebounds through two games. The Wizards will look to stay undefeated with a road test in Brooklyn. — Youngmisuk

This week: @BKN, @BOS, ATL, BOS


17. Portland Trail Blazers
2021-22 record: 1-1
Previous ranking: 15

The Chauncey Billups era didn’t get off to the start the new head coach had envisioned with a season-opening loss to the Kings, but the Blazers bounced back with a 134-105 rout of the defending Western Conference champs. Norman Powell left that game with a left knee injury, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Powell has avoided serious injury. CJ McCollum is averaging 31 points through two games and might have to do even more while Powell is out. — Youngmisuk

This week: @LAC, MEM, LAC, @CHA


18. LA Clippers
2021-22 record: 0-2
Previous ranking: 12

Paul George is off to a hot start — including a 41-point performance against the Grizzlies on Saturday — but the Clippers are 0-2 after two hard-fought close losses to Memphis and Golden State. Eric Bledsoe has been better than expected and the Clippers are going to fight every night, but they hope these first two games aren’t indicative of how things will go until Kawhi Leonard returns. — Youngmisuk

This week: POR, CLE, @POR


19. Boston Celtics
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 13

Head coach Ime Udoka picked up the first victory of his career Sunday over the Rockets, but the bigger note from the win over Houston was Jaylen Brown‘s absence with tendinopathy in his left knee. Boston will be hoping Brown, who missed most of training camp after testing positive for COVID-19, can get back on the court quickly after his 46-point outburst in the season opener against the Knicks. — Bontemps

This week: @CHA, WAS, @WAS,


20. Minnesota Timberwolves
2021-22 record: 2-0
Previous ranking: 22

The Timberwolves are among the league’s unbeaten after the first week, taking care of business with a pair of home wins against less talented opponents — the Rockets and Pelicans, without Zion Williamson — behind some stingy defense. The competition gets stiffer in a hurry this week, with games against the Bucks and Nuggets. — Collier

This week: NOP, @MIL, DEN


21. Indiana Pacers
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 18

After dropping the first two games, the Pacers finally got their first win in overtime against the Heat to start 1-2. They have to be encouraged by the early performance of rookie Chris Duarte. He looks like he belongs after his first week, where he averaged 20.3 points per game while shooting 40.4% from the field (45.8% from 3). — Collier

This week: MIL, @TOR, @BKN, TOR


22. Toronto Raptors
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 20

If he hadn’t already, rookie Scottie Barnes officially arrived with his 25 points and 13 rebounds in Toronto’s blowout win over Boston on Friday. While the Raptors’ roster doesn’t have the high ceiling this season it has been accustomed to in recent years, it does allow Toronto to ensure Barnes gets every possible opportunity to develop. — Bontemps

This week: CHI, IND, ORL, @IND


23. Sacramento Kings
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 23

Outside of a few Tar Heel diehards convinced their guy was due, who had Harrison Barnes averaging 28.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game through the first three games of the season? His production has been impressive, but the Kings dropped two out of their first three to start things off. — McMenamin

This week: @PHX, @NOP, @DAL


24. San Antonio Spurs
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 25

San Antonio has had a balanced scoring punch to kick off the new season. Three different players have led the team in scoring in each of its three games — Devin Vassell (19 in the opener against Orlando), Keldon Johnson (27 against Denver on Friday) and Doug McDermott (25 against Milwaukee on Saturday). Johnson leads the team with 20.7 points per game and is one of six Spurs averaging at least 12 points a night. — Lopez

This week: LAL, @DAL, @MIL


25. Cleveland Cavaliers
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 26

After starting the season 0-2 with a pair of 11-point losses to upstarts Memphis and Charlotte, the Cavs got in the W column with an impressive win over last season’s surprise Eastern Conference finalist, Atlanta. Rookie Evan Mobley (17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks) is already showing signs of the promise that prompted Cleveland to take him No. 3. — McMenamin

This week: @DEN, @LAC, @LAL, @PHX


26. Houston Rockets
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 28

No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green was held to nine points in each of the Rockets’ first two games, but his explosive scoring ability was on display during his 30-point performance in Sunday’s loss to the Celtics. Green was 8-of-10 from 3 in that game, finishing one made 3 shy of tying the NBA rookie record. — MacMahon

This week: @DAL, UTA, @LAL


27. New Orleans Pelicans
2021-22 record: 0-3
Previous ranking: 24

In three losses, New Orleans’ bench struggled to provide its starters with a scoring punch. The bench unit has averaged a paltry 18.3 points per game, by far the worst mark in the league through the first week — and that included garbage time minutes in the team’s first two contests. — Lopez

This week: @MIN, ATL, SAC, NYK


28. Orlando Magic
2021-22 record: 1-2
Previous ranking: 29

The Magic earned a surprising win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday thanks in large part to an impressive performance from second-year guard Cole Anthony. The NYC native dropped 29 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists in a 110-104 win. With Markelle Fultz (ACL rehab) still out and rookie Jalen Suggs still trying to find a rhythm, Anthony has a chance to make his mark in the short-term. — Friedell

This week: @MIA, CHA, @TOR, @DET


29. Detroit Pistons
2021-22 record: 0-2
Previous ranking: 27

Without Cade Cunningham (ankle), the Pistons dropped their first two games of the season — both against the Bulls — looking competitive in the first game at home before getting blown out in the second in Chicago. However, Cunningham’s debut could be in sight. There’s a chance the No.1 overall pick could make his debut when the team returns home this weekend. — Collier

This week: @ATL, @PHI, ORL, @BKN


30. Oklahoma City Thunder
2021-22 record: 0-3
Previous ranking: 30

The rebuilding Thunder have lost 29 of their past 32 games dating to late March. Twenty-two of those losses came by double-digit margins, including all three games this season. Oklahoma City is starting four players who are 23 or younger. — MacMahon

This week: GSW, LAL, @GSW

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Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry hits winner at buzzer, admits shot needs to improve

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SAN FRANCISCO — As the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets sat with a tied score with just over five seconds left Friday night, Steve Kerr had a clear play in mind for their final offensive possession: “Get the ball to Steph and get out of the way.”

They executed it to a tee, as Stephen Curry drained the winning shot from 2 feet inside the 3-point arc as the buzzer went off. It was the first walk-off bucket of Curry’s professional career.

The celebration ensued as Golden State beat Houston 105-103. Multiple people within the Warriors organization called the moment a release of emotions that had built up over the past 24 hours following a disappointing loss to the shorthanded Indiana Pacers.

But despite the glorious moment, the team wasn’t ignorant to the fact that it still has a lot of work to do — Curry included. Despite his heroics, he said he knows he has a long way to go individually.

“I know I got to shoot the ball better,” Curry said. “I want to shoot it better, and I’m gonna shoot it better. … I obsess over the shooting numbers because that’s what I do and that’s what I work on. When you don’t reach those levels, it’s frustrating.”

Curry started the night 0-for-11 from the field before hitting a 3-point shot with just under two minutes left in the first half. He finished the night with 22 points on 6-of-21 shooting, including 4-of-13 from 3-point range.

His performance Friday night was an extension of the worst shooting slump in his career.

Curry is shooting 42 percent from the field, on pace to be the lowest in a season in his career. Since Christmas Day, he is shooting 37 percent from the field and has scored 30-plus points in just one of his past 11 games. Before Christmas, he was shooting 44 percent from the field, including 40 percent on 3s.

Curry said he pays attention to these numbers. He follows his shooting trends and knows exactly where his numbers are dipping.

“It’s the standard I hold myself to,” Curry said. “I know I can do it and sustain it. That’s the challenge, I guess, is to be aware of it, continue to be aggressive. Understand there is a lot of season left and it’s about peaking at the right time. But I do obsess over that stuff because it’s your craft.”

Curry said he doesn’t have a clear explanation as to why he is shooting poorly. There is a belief that the catalyst for his slump dates back to early December, when Curry was chasing Ray Allen’s all-time 3-point record. But that’s not all there is to it, according to Curry. What exactly it is, though, is more elusive than anything else.

“I’m just missing shots,” Curry said. “There’s no reason, other than you just miss shots.”

But that won’t keep him from chucking them up.

“That’s the deepest level of confidence that a player can have,” Kerr said. “Turning 0-for-10 or whatever into a night where he hits the game-winning shot … he lives by the motto ‘the next one is going in.’ He genuinely believes it.”

Said Curry: “There’s a reason I joked about it before, but the reason I can go 0-for-11 for one game and come back the next game and have a breakout kind of performance is because the work will show eventually.

“I obsess over it, but I don’t panic. If I did, I wouldn’t be shooting as much as I am.”

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Chicago Bulls’ Billy Donovan blasts Milwaukee Bucks’ Grayson Allen for ‘dangerous’ foul on Alex Caruso

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MILWAUKEE — Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants the NBA to consider further discipline for Milwaukee Bucks guard Grayson Allen after he was ejected in the third quarter of Milwaukee’s 94-90 victory for a Flagrant 2 foul on Bulls guard Alex Caruso.

Caruso went up for a layup on a fast break with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter, but Allen hooked Caruso’s right arm, turning Caruso in the air and sending him hard to the floor on his right wrist. Caruso said his wrist was “a little banged up” after the game, but X-rays came back negative.

“Dude just grabbed me out of the air,” Caruso said after Friday’s game. “It’s kind of bulls—. I don’t know what else you can do about it. I’m just glad that I didn’t have any major scary injuries right away.”

Caruso said his wrist continued to bother him in the second half, especially while shooting. He finished 1 of 6 from the field for 3 points in the second half, but said he did not think the injury would linger long-term.

Caruso added that Allen did not come to check on him following the play.

The foul particularly irked Donovan, who is normally mild-mannered and rarely singles out players. But following Friday’s game, Donovan called Allen’s actions dangerous and cited his history playing college basketball at Duke.

“For Alex to be in the air and for [Allen] to take him down like that, he could’ve ended his career,” Donovan said. “He has a history of this. That to me was really — it was really dangerous. I hope the league takes a hard look at something like that because that could have really, really seriously hurt him.”

This was the first time Allen has been called for a flagrant foul this season and the second such foul in his career — although he was tossed from a Summer League game in 2019 after committing two flagrant fouls within seconds of each other.

“I don’t think Grayson’s a dirty player,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “He’s been great with us all season long. Competing. Defending. Never really crossing the line. So I think we’re all disappointed to see him ejected for that foul.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer did not think there was any malicious intent, but he did not argue with the referees decision to assess a Flagrant 2.

“I think it’s a close call,” Budenholzer said. “They went with flagrant 2 and I’m not gonna disagree. It’s right on the border and that’s the direction they went. Just hope for Caruso to be healthy and fine coming out of it. Unfortunate for Grayson, unfortunate for us to have to finish without him. It’s a tough call, but that’s the way they went.”

It’s the first time in Allen’s NBA career that he has been ejected from a game.

“I know this is a physical game and there’s plays at the basket and there’s a lot of contact,” Donovan said, “but there’s a right way you can go up and have physicality when you do that. Not that way in my opinion.”

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Los Angeles Lakers’ Russell Westbrook ‘turned page’ after benching with strong game in win

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ORLANDO — Russell Westbrook made up for his unceremonious exit from Wednesday’s loss to Indiana by showing up ready to play in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 116-105 win over the Magic on Friday, starting their six-game road trip off right.

“My job as a player, as a professional, is to do my job, continue to find ways to be able to help impact winning,” Westbrook said after finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals. “That’s all I was thinking about and turned the page to do and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who made the decision to sit Westbrook for the last four minutes of the loss to the Pacers as the point guard was struggling through a 5-for-17 shooting night and failing to execute defensively, was effusive in his praise Friday.

“Russ played a really good basketball game,” Vogel said. “He came in very focused and played efficient offensively and brought a pure energy to the game. He just wanted to impose his will, play his part and played a hell of a game.”

The Lakers fell down by 10 to the cellar-dwelling Magic (8-39), but took control in the third with a 21-4 run to begin the quarter.

Westbrook, who shot 8-for-17, extended his streak to 10 straight games without scoring 20 or more points — the first time that’s happened to him since 2009, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information — but he made a difference with the nature of those points.

“His attacks are great,” said LeBron James, who scored 29 points, extending his streak to 16 straight games with 25 points or more. “Thought he did a great job of getting to the paint, either for his shot or spraying out [to shooters]. And guys just played off of his energy and effort tonight.”

Carmelo Anthony, who scored 23 points off the bench, credited Westbrook for playing with “more of a controlled pace.” Westbrook said his paint touches — either by drives or cutting off-ball to receive feeds near the hoop — are a clear way to help the Lakers, who are back at .500 (23-23) with the win.

“Just getting in the paint and finding ways to be able to make an impact by doing that,” he said. “Constantly putting pressure on the defense, which is something that I’m good at, that I think I can make an impact with this team and find ways to give guys easy shots.”

For the team and its fans, it was refreshing to hear Westbrook’s postgame comments focus on the ins and outs of the actual game and not center on his overall fit or where the Lakers’ season is going, as has happened so often since he came to L.A.

“Russ is a high-character guy,” Vogel said. “We knew we were going to respond. We communicated afterwards to make sure that we understood what was going on — we’re just coaching to win the game. And to turn the page on to Orlando. And he did a great job maintaining that focus and we’re all committed to this group getting the job done. We still believe in what we can be. It’s been bumpy throughout the course of the year. But we’re committed.”

L.A. continues its longest road trip of the season Sunday in Miami and then goes to Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Atlanta.

“We started it off right with a win tonight,” Westbrook said. “Get to Miami and figure out a way we can come out of there with a win as well.

“But it’s a big trip for us. A good bonding and togetherness trip for our group and finding ways to be able to come together and come out with some wins and create some rhythm, some confidence in our group that we can be the team that we all know that we should be.”

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