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NBA Highs & Lows: Celtics Reign, Spurs Wane

Pelicans Newcomers in Weekly Power Rankings

The Boston Celtics continue to be the class of the NBA, but there’s plenty of jockeying for position after that. With that in mind, here’s a weekly stab at the hottest and coldest teams in the NBA, complete with plenty of information you can use to guide your sports bets.

Check our NBA picks, stats, injury reports and NBA predictions. There’s plenty of NBA betting to consider.

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics attempts a three-point basket
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images North America / AFP

Top Five

1. Celtics

Another week and a few more blowouts for the best team in the league, although it ended with a rare defeat at home against Miami.

Prior to the 120-116 overtime setback against the Heat, the Celtics won five straight while averaging 130.2 points. They’re on pace to absolutely shatter most major team scoring and shooting records, and there are a lot of good teams in that history.

Boston can also win ugly, as evidenced by its 103-92 victory at Brooklyn on Sunday with Marcus Smart out and one player recording more than two assists.

Even though we’ve been scoring the ball at a high clip, record-breaking numbers, defensively we can’t let that rope slip,” said Jaylen Brown, who had 34 points and 10 rebounds. “So tonight was a great game.”

The defense was the Celtics’ calling card last season. If it can rediscover its dominant form on that end of the floor (Robert Williams’ pending return will help) to go along with what’s easily the best offensive attack in the league, they’ll make a push at 65 wins.

  • +400 NBA Championship Odds

2. Bucks

Unlike the Celtics, the Bucks have had that dominant defensive game all season. That is, until the Los Angeles Lakers came to town for a marquee matchup Friday night and hung 133 on the hosts.

Perhaps that was a bit of a wake-up call, as Milwaukee rebounded by holding Charlotte to 96 points in a road win on Saturday night. Sure, it was the Hornets, but the Bucks won this one without Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was out with knee soreness on the latter half of a back-to-back.

Khris Middleton is back and scored 17 points in his first game of the season Friday against the Lakers. If he can find his groove over the next few weeks and if Antetokounmpo can stay healthy, the Bucks will cruise into 2023 on the Celtics’ heels. A road-heavy portion of the schedule, including a visit to Boston on Christmas, is looming.

  • +550 NBA Championship Odds

3. Suns

They picked on the woebegone San Antonio Spurs in a 38-point road win Sunday night, which kept Phoenix atop a crowded Western Conference.

Deandre Ayton has been superb of late, taking some of the pressure off of Devin Booker, and the Suns have scored over 120 points in four straight games. They’re now 13 games into Chris Paul’s absence and still atop the West. As long as that’s the case, they’ll give the veteran point guard all the time he needs and should be in great shape after the New Year.

  • +900 NBA Championship Odds

4. Pelicans

It’s a debut week in the top five for this loaded squad from the Big Easy, which is challenging the Suns even without Brandon Ingram in the lineup. He has a toe injury and has missed four in a row. The fact that the Pelicans have won all four of those, including an impressive 15-point win over Denver on Sunday, speaks volumes.

Zion Williamson scored 25 points in the defeat of the Nuggets and is averaging 23.6 points as he rounds into form. Others have been stepping up, as evidenced by Jose Alvarado’s career-high 38 points vs Denver.

This team is special,” Alvarado told reporters. “It’s more than just teammates to us. We’re all brothers and we all want to see each other win. When someone’s hot, they’re going to give you the ball, and that’s what they did.”

Only two teams – Phoenix and Boston – have a better point differential than New Orleans (+7.0). Many an NBA betting expert is catching on, as the Pelicans have been moving up the odds sheet.

  • +2500 NBA Championship Odds

5. Grizzlies

Cleveland, Denver, Sacramento or even a 13-11 Golden State team could’ve been a good fit here. We’ll go with the Grizzlies, who have won four of their last five as they continue to operate without Desmond Bane.

They have the superstar in Ja Morant, who had a get-on-my-back-boys moment in the third quarter at Detroit on Sunday, scoring 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Bane is a perfect complementary piece, and when his rehabilitation from a toe injury is complete, this team – which also dominates the interior behind rebounding specialist Steven Adams and blocked shots king Jaren Jackson Jr. – will take off. 

  • +2000 NBA Championship Odds
Dillon Brooks #24 of the Memphis Grizzlies goes to the basket during the second half
Justin Ford / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

Bottom Five

26. Pistons

One of many young, talented teams just trying to figure some things out, the Pistons have made some tiny strides of late. They had back-to-back wins on the road two weeks ago and also topped Luka Doncic last week.

Throw in a bunch of single-digit losses and a handful of injuries to key players and you have the general sense that this squad will be playing spoiler down the stretch.

  • +100000 NBA Championship Odds

27. Hornets

The worst-shooting team in the league (44.2%) and one of its most injured, the Hornets have also shown signs of a turnaround. They’ve won three of their last five and the losses were to the Celtics and Bucks.

If LaMelo Ball comes back and doesn’t stub a toe walking onto the court, Charlotte will be a competitive unit in the second half.

  • +50000 NBA Championship Odds

28. Rockets

Here come the home games! This young team has been tested with more road dates than anyone except Denver (both have played 15), but it hosts Philadelphia on Monday to begin a stretch in which eight of nine are in Houston.

The Rockets have won their last two at home and they just recently picked up an impressive win at Phoenix, rallying from 16 down to stun the Suns. Things are looking up in H-Town.

  • +100000 NBA Championship Odds

29. Magic

Just when there were some signs of life in Orlando a few weeks ago, the team went on an eight-game losing streak – five of them by double digits.

The lowest-scoring team in the East (107.8) ranks last in the NBA in assists (21.2) while turning the ball over more often than anyone in its conference (16.6). That’s not a great recipe for success.

Rookie Paolo Banchero is the real deal, though. He’s averaging 21.8 points, tops among first-year players.

  • +100000 NBA Championship Odds
Paolo Banchero #5 of the Orlando Magic shoots
Julio Aguilar / Getty Images North America / Getty Images via AFP

30. Spurs

If it wasn’t Gregg Popovich sitting in that seat, it would be scalding hot. The Spurs have disintegrated in spectacular fashion, losing 11 in a row by an average of 19.5 points. They are last in the NBA in opponents scoring (121.3), opponents’ field-goal percentage (50.8) and opponents’ 3-point percentage (39.9)

Popovich has actually missed the last two games due to a medical procedure and is expected to come back Thursday against Houston. Maybe he’ll have figured something out while away, but right now it’s hard to bet online in favor of the Spurs.

  • +100000 NBA Championship Odds

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