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Power Rankings: Bucks retake No. 1; Clippers making run for home court

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Giannis throws down highlight-reel dunks, scores 26, in win (1:47)

Giannis Antetokounmpo hammers down highlight-reel dunks, scores 26 points in the Bucks' 127-105 rout of the Cavaliers. (1:47)

Well, that didn't take long. After wrestling No. 1 away from the Milwaukee Bucks last week, the Golden State Warriors returned to the runner-up spot following an up-and-down week that saw the defending champs briefly lose sole possession of the Western Conference lead.

Our panel (ESPN's Tim MacMahon and Andre' Snellings, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which are playing the best basketball and which are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Week 23 | 22 | 21 | 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Training camp | Free agency

1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 55-19

After enjoying an almost completely healthy season into the month of March, the Bucks have now lost two key rotation pieces for at least a few weeks: First, guard Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fascia tear), and earlier this past week, forward Nikola Mirotic, who fractured his left thumb. But Ersan Ilyasova, who lost some of his playing time when Milwaukee acquired Mirotic, has done well in his absence, shooting better than 50 percent from the field in 23 minutes a night the past three games. -- Herring


2. Golden State Warriors
Record: 50-23

And down the stretch the Warriors and Nuggets come for the top seed in the West. So who gets it? The Warriors enter the week with the seventh-easiest strength of schedule remaining (46 percent), while the Nuggets have the fourth most difficult (57.4 percent). With Golden State clinging to a half-game lead, Denver's April 2 visit to Oracle Arena could have huge implications. -- Spears


3. Houston Rockets
Record: 47-27

During their awful start, the Rockets consistently said they just hoped to peak going into the playoffs. That's what is happening, as Houston has the NBA's best record since the All-Star break. Eric Gordon has played his best ball of the season during that stretch, ranking second on the Rockets with 17.4 points per game and hitting 42.4 percent of his 3-point attempts. -- MacMahon


4. Denver Nuggets
Record: 49-23

The Nuggets have surged over the past two weeks to tie the Warriors in the loss column in the race for the West's No. 1 seed. Nikola Jokic has led the charge, leading the Nuggets in both points and assists in five straight games. The next week will be pivotal in deciding the Nuggets' seeding, as they have three straight games against playoff competition culminating in road games against the Rockets and Thunder. -- Snellings


5. Toronto Raptors
Record: 51-23

It's a fine time for a soft stretch in the schedule for the Raptors, who have lost six of their past 11 games and are fresh off getting beat by Jeremy Lamb's hand-in-his-face, half-court heave at the buzzer. Toronto gets to face the Bulls twice and the Knicks this week. -- MacMahon


6. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 47-26

Hawks rookie star Trae Young's last-second floater Saturday snapped the 76ers' six-game winning streak and dented Philadelphia's league-best record in clutch games (29-13). The Sixers had been winning, including recent victories over the Bucks and Celtics, with sensational offensive outings. But the Sixers have slipped defensively lately, allowing 115 points per 100 possessions in the past five games. -- MacMahon


7. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 45-27

The next update on injured Blazers guard CJ McCollum is expected Monday before they play the visiting Nets that night. McCollum has missed three games with a muscle strain in his left knee, but the Blazers won each of those contests by way of committee. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is averaging 21.3 points. 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists. -- Spears


8. LA Clippers
Record: 44-30

The Clippers continue to surge, having won five games in a row and 10 of their past 11 to move up into fifth place in the Western Conference. The Clippers still have an outside shot at home court in the first round of the playoffs, trailing the fourth seed Trail Blazers by only two games. The Clippers play three of their next four games against lottery teams, with a road game at the Bucks as their biggest challenge of the week. -- Snellings


9. Utah Jazz
Record: 43-30

Over the past three months, Utah has the league's fourth-best record (27-12) and ranks second in net rating (plus-7.3 points per 100 possessions). Donovan Mitchell, who got off to a slow start in his sophomore season, has played at a superstar level during that three-month stretch, averaging 26.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists. -- MacMahon


10. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 43-31

The Spurs are 35-8 when LaMarcus Aldridge scores at least 20 points and 8-1 when he scores 30. Hold him under 20? The Spurs are 7-22. He's shooting 56.3 from the floor in wins and 44 percent in losses. Want to guess where playoff foes' defensive game plans will focus? -- MacMahon


11. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 43-30

The Thunder's week bottomed out when they fell to the eighth seed in the West after a home loss to the Raptors, but they bounced back with a win in Toronto and currently sit six inside the West's 5-8 logjam. The Thunder play in Memphis on Monday, then have a five-game homestand that they need to dominate to secure more advantageous seeding. News of the week: Paul George showed signs that he's finding his shot, shooting 49 percent from the field in three games after having shot 36.2 percent in his previous seven outings. -- Snellings


12. Boston Celtics
Record: 43-31

The Celtics have lost four straight games, including a heartbreaker in which they gave up an 18-point fourth-quarter lead to the Hornets. The Celtics are now all but slotted into the four-five matchup in the postseason against the Pacers, with the only question as which team will have home-court advantage. The Celtics are a game back, but this Friday's home tilt with the Pacers is key in deciding the final seeding. -- Snellings


13. Indiana Pacers
Record: 45-29

Their dominant showing against Denver on Sunday aside, the Pacers have struggled mightily the past few weeks, going 4-6 over their past 10 games, while falling out of the No. 3 spot they'd held for most of the campaign. With Indiana likely locked into either the No. 4 (a position they hold with a two-game edge over the fifth-place Celtics) or No. 5 spot, the Pacers are almost certain to face Boston in the first round of the playoffs. All that's really left to be determined now is which team will earn home-court advantage. -- Herring


14. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 38-36

The Nets took advantage of the reprieve in their rough late-season schedule, defeating both the Lakers and the Kings on the road in hard-fought games to take a half-game lead over the Pistons for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn now finishes the season with eight straight games against playoff teams, starting off the week with the last two games of their seven-game road trip in Portland and Philadelphia. -- Snellings


15. Orlando Magic
Record: 35-38

The Magic have won four games in a row but still find themselves a game behind the Heat for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Magic have a daunting upcoming schedule, with five straight games against playoff opponents, including four straight on the road. All-Star Nikola Vucevic has to carry a heavy load, as each of those five opponents feature strong interior games with All-Star caliber opposing centers. -- Snellings


16. Miami Heat
Record: 36-37

The Heat have won four of their past five games, including wins in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, but they still cling to only a one-game lead over the Magic for No. 8 in the East. They have a huge home game against the Magic on Tuesday, then end the week against two lottery opponents as they attempt to end the Dwyane Wade retirement tour with a playoff berth. -- Snellings


17. Detroit Pistons
Record: 37-36

Assuming Detroit will still reach the playoffs, maybe the club's loss in Portland on Saturday wasn't as big a missed opportunity as it seemed. Yes, the Pistons blew a six-point lead on the Blazers with 4:28 remaining in the game, then went scoreless for the next four minutes and surrendered back-breaking 12-0 run that cost them a road victory. But that defeat and the loss to Golden State on Sunday leaves Detroit in seventh place. That's arguably an ideal position since it would likely lead to a first-round matchup with the Raptors, who coach Dwane Casey knows better than anyone, and whom the Pistons have beaten in all three matchups this season. By contrast, Detroit is 0-4 against the Bucks and 1-3 against the Sixers, who are in first and third place in the East, respectively. -- Herring


18. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 34-39

If the Hornets overcome the odds to make the playoffs, they will certainly recall Jeremy Lamb's miracle half-court prayer for the win on Sunday at Toronto. The Hornets are now two games behind the Miami Heat for that last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Making matters tougher for Charlotte, however, is having just three home games remaining in their final nine regular-season games, which include road games remaining at Toronto, Golden State, Utah and Detroit. -- Spears


19. Sacramento Kings
Record: 36-37

The Kings quietly had a feel-good story when they signed ex-Sacramento State guard Cody Demps to a 10-day contract on March 22. Demps is the first player in Sacramento State history to play in the NBA. Demps is also from the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove and was playing for the Kings' G League Stockton franchise when he was signed. -- Spears


20. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 33-40

Along with the play of Karl-Anthony Towns, rookie guard Josh Okogie has been bright spots in a tough season in Minnesota. The high-flying 6-foot-4, 211-pounder has averaged 16.8 points over the past four games. The former Georgia Tech standout was selected with the 20th pick in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft. -- Spears


21. Washington Wizards
Record: 30-44

After dropping four straight games, Washington will be eliminated from playoff contention with its next loss or Miami's next win. That outcome has seemed likely for months now, but it was clear that frustrated Wizards star Bradley Beal hadn't given up hope. Following Wednesday's 126-120 overtime loss in Chicago, Beal repeatedly said, "We just didn't want to win," criticizing his club for not playing hard enough against the young Bulls. It will be interesting to keep tabs on Beal's minutes -- he has played the most in the NBA this season -- over the final weeks, assuming they are eliminated. -- Herring


22. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 31-44

Anthony Davis since the All-Star break: 16.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 blocks in 21.1 minutes per game. His appearances in the fourth quarter have consisted of guarding the inbounds passer in the final seconds on a pair of occasions, which occurred in two of the three wins the Pelicans have had in the 11 games Davis has played since the break. -- MacMahon


23. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 32-41

It will be interesting to see the response that LeBron James gets in New Orleans on Sunday from the Pelicans fans. It's no secret that James was courting Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis to go to the Lakers, but the trade never happened. Davis' trade request from New Orleans was not consummated before the deadline, and the Lakers game will certainly reopen that wound. -- Spears


24. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 26-48

Trae Young has been on a tear for two months now, averaging almost 24 points while shooting better than 40 percent from deep. But he arguably provided the highlight of his rookie season, beating Jimmy Butler to the free throw line -- and getting there just before 7-footer Joel Embiid could contest -- to unleash a game-winning floater that sailed through the net with 0.1 left. Young's 3-point range gets most of the attention. But only four players -- Mike Conley, Lou Williams, D'Angelo Russell and Donovan Mitchell -- have made more floaters more than Young, according to data from Second Spectrum. -- Herring


25. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 29-44

Luka Doncic recorded his sixth triple-double of the season with his 23-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist line in three quarters of work during Saturday's stunning rout of the Warriors on the road. The only players to post more triple-doubles as rookies, per Elias Sports Bureau research, are Oscar Robertson, Ben Simmons and Magic Johnson. Robertson has been the only rookie to average at least as many points (21.0), rebounds (7.6) and assists (5.8) as Doncic. -- MacMahon


26. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 29-44

Chandler Parsons returned to Memphis after being temporarily banished from the team determined to prove that he can still be a quality rotation player. He has looked the part lately, averaging 13.3 points on 47.6 shooting, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the past four games. He's feeling as healthy as he has been during his Grizzlies tenure, with a blow-by drive for a two-handed dunk in Orlando serving as proof. -- MacMahon


27. Chicago Bulls
Record: 21-53

The team announced this week that rookie forward Chandler Hutchison would miss the rest of the season with a bone injury in his right foot -- one the Bulls in January initially listed as a two- to four-week ailment. Perhaps the odd thing about it was that Hutchison suffered the injury in the waning minutes of a January game against the Hawks, then played 41 minutes in the following contest against the Clippers -- likely making it worse. Then came the decision to sit him out, and now the choice to end his season. With Hutchison's case in mind, the Bulls (who've already shut down Wendell Carter Jr.) would be smart to also call it a season for Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr., both of whom have nagging injuries. -- Herring


28. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 19-55

No one will mistake the Cavaliers for the Warriors anytime soon, but Cleveland has been a respectable 8-12 since the NBA trade deadline. An enormous part of that stems from the vastly improved play of rookie Collin Sexton. Since Feb. 8, among shooters who've launched at least 100 triples over that span, only Toronto's Danny Green and the LA Clippers' Landry Shamet have a better mark from the perimeter than Sexton's 44.6 percent. -- Herring


29. Phoenix Suns
Record: 17-57

Suns forward Josh Jackson recently told The Undefeated that his franchise would welcome Duke forward Zion Williamson with open arms. Phoenix has finally aided its draft lottery chances of late with three straight losses after winning four of the previous seven. Williamson, Murray State guard Ja Morant or Duke guard RJ Barrett would each be a major addition for the young Suns. -- Spears


30. New York Knicks
Record: 14-60

The Knicks have lost 12 of 13 games to all but lock up the worst record in the NBA, a full three games "ahead" of the next-to-last-place Suns. The Knicks lost lottery rookie Kevin Knox to a sprained ankle on Sunday, a shame as Knox was playing some of his best ball as a pro. He had averaged 19.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 3s per game in the four games leading into Sunday, and is considered day-to-day to return moving forward. -- Snellings