Power Rankings: Lakers take over top spot
A road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas Day after 19 consecutive victories can be rationalized.
A fall-from-ahead road loss to the injury-plagued, drama-ridden Golden State Warriors cannot.
The Boston Celtics would have stayed at No. 1 in ESPN.com's NBA Power Rankings had they rebounded from their first defeat since a Nov. 14 home setback to Denver by turning a 14-point lead over the Warriors one night later into the expected victory. But Boston's seven straight weeks as our top-ranked team make it tough to buy the claims that the absence of Kendrick Perkins or the hangover from mourning the end of their franchise-record win streak prevented the Celts from finishing off an 8-22 team that didn't have Monta Ellis, Corey Maggette or Jamal Crawford.
The Lakers, then, return to the top spot in our weekly pulse take for the first time since the first regular-season edition of the rankings, thanks to a nice win in New Orleans and a steely fourth-quarter performance to take down the defending champs, offsetting (at least temporarily) L.A.'s concern over losing key reserve Jordan Farmar to a knee injury.
The combination of L.A.'s statement victory and a couple of scares at home for Cleveland unavoidably dropped the Cavs to No. 3, with Orlando threatening to move up, too, in a top five that suddenly is very fluid.
Also, check out John Hollinger's daily Power Rankings.
Tune in Tuesdays to "NBA Fastbreak" on ESPN to see this week's U.S. Army Power Rankings. Four wins and the Lakers' long-awaited return to the No. 1 slot earn them U.S. Army Team of the Week status.