NBA Power Rankings Week 8: Lakers have most wins, but Bucks' blowouts keep them No. 1

The first week of December is starting to establish an elite duo at the top of what is becoming a top-heavy league.

The win streak of the Milwaukee Bucks didn't come close to being snapped this week, and they retain the top spot ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers. But here come the Boston Celtics surging right behind them to leap past the LA Clippers to round out the top four.

Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Andre' Snellings, Royce Young and Bobby Marks, and The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears) 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.

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1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 20-3
Week 7 ranking: 1

The Bucks aren't just sporting the longest winning streak in the NBA this season at 14 games and counting, but they are also lowering the boom on their opponents. They are fresh off a 28-point demolition of the Clippers that might not have even been that close, and their plus-13.6 scoring margin on the season is ahead of pace for the best such margin in NBA history of plus-12.3 from the 1971-72 Lakers. -- Snellings

This week: ORL, NO, @MEM, CLE

2. Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 21-3
Week 7 ranking: 2

The Lakers have won 11 straight road games and ended Sunday with a league-best 11-1 road record. After beating the Timberwolves on Sunday, Los Angeles will go on the road to play Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Indiana before a showdown in Milwaukee. The Lakers' only road loss was in the season opener against the Clippers on Oct. 22, and they have not lost a road game away from Staples Center. -- Spears

This week: @ORL, @MIA, @ATL

3. Boston Celtics
Record: 16-5
Week 7 ranking: 5

The wins over Miami and Denver last week further cemented the status of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as Boston's new Big Three, a trio that could also represent the Celtics in Chicago for the All-Star Game. The three players combined to average 72 points out of the team's 110 during those two games, and Brown had his breakout performance of the season, averaging 26 points (on 51.4% from the field and 50% from 3) and 5.5 rebounds and committing only two total turnovers. -- Marks

This week: CLE, @IND, PHI

4. LA Clippers
Record: 17-7
Week 7 ranking: 3

It's hard not to have some kind of a reaction to the Bucks' jarring 28-point win in what was supposed to be a marquee showdown. But it probably says more about the Bucks' general awesomeness than an issue with the Clippers. Doc Rivers said it best after the game: "It was Giannis' birthday, and we searched all over the city to find a gift and we couldn't find one, so we gave him this one. That's all I can come up with because we were awful." That's it for regular-season games between the Bucks and Clippers, though. If they're going to meet again, it will have to be in June. -- Young

This week: @IND, @TOR, @MIN, @CHI

5. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 16-7
Week 7 ranking: 8

Luka Doncic's streak of 19 games with at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists surpassed Michael Jordan as the longest such run since the NBA/ABA merger. Doncic's reaction to this basketball-reference.com search result: "I mean, I don't know, there's a lot of stats going on. I think it's too much stats. You can't compare nobody to Michael Jordan. He's one-of-a-kind. Those are just stats." -- MacMahon

This week: DET, MIA

6. Miami Heat
Record: 17-6
Week 7 ranking: 10

The Heat's win in Toronto -- an intense overtime victory featuring a Jimmy Butler takeover -- was the kind of statement they've been looking for since the opening week of the season. Which made it understandable that the Heat were run over by the Celtics 24 hours later in an unfortunate back-to-back. But they handled the Wizards and escaped the Bulls in overtime (with Tyler Herro hitting big shot after big shot after big shot ... after big shot), continuing their impressive trend of taking care of business against teams they're better than. -- Young

This week: ATL, LAL, @DAL

7. Toronto Raptors
Record: 15-7
Week 7 ranking: 7

The Raptors just completed a tough four-game stretch that saw them face the Jazz, Heat and Rockets at home before going on the road against the rival 76ers. They stumbled a bit during this stretch, especially defensively, but are still right in the mix with the five Eastern Conference teams vying for second behind the surging Bucks. The Raptors also got Kyle Lowry back, reintroducing another strong perimeter threat to a balanced unit that currently ranks 10th in offensive efficiency at 110.1 points per 100 possessions. -- Snellings

This week: @CHI, LAC, BKN

8. Denver Nuggets
Record: 14-7
Week 7 ranking: 4

It's the first real rough patch of the season for the Nuggets, who have lost four of five, with the lone win being a gimme against the Knicks. In litmus test games against the Lakers and Celtics, Denver looked a notch below and showed signs of tangible issues on offense. In these past five games, they are pretty much holding steady defensively. But offensively, they're scoring 104.8 points per 100 possessions, which for the season would rank just above the bottom five of the league. -- Young

This week: @PHI, POR, OKC, NY

9. Houston Rockets
Record: 15-7
Week 7 ranking: 6

Ben McLemore, a former lottery pick/reclamation project, has been a big bargain after the Rockets signed him to a partially guaranteed deal for the veterans minimum. McLemore, whose minutes are higher than anticipated thanks to serious injuries to Gerald Green and Eric Gordon, ranks second on the team behind James Harden in raw plus-minus (plus-144). He's in the midst of the best stretch of his career, averaging 22.5 points on 57.1% shooting from the floor over the past four games. -- MacMahon

This week: SAC, @CLE, @ORL, DET

10. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 17-7
Week 7 ranking: 9

The sight of Cleveland on the schedule Saturday night was exactly what the 76ers needed. On the heels of a six-point loss to the Wizards on Thursday, the Sixers went on to beat the Cavaliers by 47 points, setting a franchise record with a 41-point halftime lead. In Thursday's loss, however, the 76ers turned the ball over 21 times -- Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons committed a combined 15 turnovers -- and that led to 30 Washington points. Until the 76ers find consistency on the road (5-7 compared to a 12-0 record at home), their ceiling could be a second-round exit once again.-- Marks

This week: DEN, @BOS, NO, @BKN

11. Indiana Pacers
Record: 15-8
Week 7 ranking: 11

The Pacers have won eight of their past 10 games behind a balanced attack. Myles Turner (37 total blocks, T-8th in the NBA despite missing eight games) and Domantas Sabonis (9.5 defensive rebounds per game, seventh in the NBA) have led the defense to a top-10 defensive rating mark of 104.2 points per 100 possessions. Offensively, T.J. Warren averaged 20.4 points to lead the team during that 10-game stretch. -- Snellings

This week: LAC, BOS, @ATL, CHA

12. Utah Jazz
Record: 13-10
Week 7 ranking: 12

The Grizzlies are the only team that the Jazz have beaten over the past seven games. Fortunately for Utah, Memphis was on the schedule twice in that span. The Jazz's 126-112 win over the Grizzlies on Saturday was the start of a soft stretch of schedule, featuring seven straight opponents who are .500 or worse. -- MacMahon

This week: OKC, @MIN, GS

13. Brooklyn Nets
Record: 13-10
Week 7 ranking: 14

If there was a silver lining to Kyrie Irving's injury, it was that it came at the right time in the schedule. In the absence of Irving, Brooklyn has gone 9-3, including a 7-0 record against teams under .500. Besides taking advantage of the schedule, Brooklyn has patched up two deficiencies that plagued it early in the season: rebounding and sharing the ball. In the two wins at Atlanta and Charlotte, the Nets averaged 51 rebounds, including 16.5 offensive boards and 30.5 assists with a season-high 35 at Charlotte. Before both games, the Nets averaged 10.5 offensive rebounds with only 23.8 assists. -- Marks

This week: CHA, @TOR, PHI

14. Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 10-12
Week 7 ranking: 13

The Timberwolves have lost eight of their past 11 games, including four in a row, and now find themselves tied at 10-12 with Oklahoma City and Phoenix for seventh in the West. The Timberwolves lack a consistent team identity on either side of the ball, ranking 20th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (109.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) and 17th in offensive rating (108.0 points scored per 100 possessions). They are getting some strong individual contributions but have yet to put those together into a cohesive team attack. -- Snellings

This week: @PHX, UTAH, LAC

15. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 9-15
Week 7 ranking: 15

Rodney Hood suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon tear, another brutal injury for the already extremely short-handed Blazers to try to overcome. After winning three straight and celebrating a Player of the Week award for Carmelo Anthony, Portland has lost three of four, all by double digits. And Melo's triumphant comeback might have plateaued a bit to coincide with the Blazers' slide. His past four games: 13.3 points on 32% shooting (33% from 3). He played 10 games with the Rockets, averaging 13.4 points on 40.5% shooting (32.8% from 3), and Houston was 4-6. He's played 10 with the Blazers, averaging 15.9 on 40.8% shooting (35.9% from 3), and the Blazers are 4-6. -- Young

This week: NY, @DEN

16. Phoenix Suns
Record: 10-12
Week 7 ranking: 16

Devin Booker remains a big reason the Suns are still competitive despite injuries and center Deandre Ayton still serving a 25-game suspension. While it's still early, Booker is shooting over 50 percent from the field (51.2) and over 40 percent from 3-point range (41.5) for the first time in his career. Booker has also scored a combined 79 points in his past two games. -- Spears

This week: MIN, MEM, SA

17. Orlando Magic
Record: 11-11
Week 7 ranking: 18

The Magic took advantage of playing four straight games against teams with a combined .303 win percentage to run off a four-game winning streak. They will face a much sterner test moving forward, starting with three games against the Bucks, the Lakers and the Rockets, followed by a four-game road trip out West that includes stops in Utah, Denver and Portland. Their performance during this gauntlet will tell us a lot about where the Magic actually stand at this point in the season. -- Snellings

This week: @MIL, LAL, HOU, @NO

18. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 10-12
Week 7 ranking: 19

The Thunder have won four of their past five, and a big part of it has been their offensive improvement. Balance has been a big part of OKC's step forward offensively. In the bonkers overtime win against the Wolves, OKC had five 20-point scorers (the first time that's been done in the NBA since 2004), and in a quality road win over Portland, the Thunder had three more 20-point scorers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's closing instincts shined in both of those games, scoring 11 of OKC's 17 in overtime against Minnesota, and 14 in the fourth against the Blazers. -- Young

This week: @UTAH, @SAC, @DEN

19. San Antonio Spurs
Record: 9-14
Week 7 ranking: 20

San Antonio's first consecutive wins since October featured encouraging performances by young players who could be critical to the franchise's future. Lonnie Walker IV, last year's first-round pick who has yet to earn coach Gregg Popovich's trust, scored a career-high 28 points and defended James Harden as well as humanly possible in Tuesday's double-overtime victory. Dejounte Murray, who recently lost the starting point guard job, had 14 points and hit the winning jumper in Friday's OT win over the Kings. -- MacMahon

This week: CLE, PHX

20. Detroit Pistons
Record: 9-14
Week 7 ranking: 24

The Pistons have won three of their past four games to help right the ship after losing eight of the previous 10. Andre Drummond, who continues to lead the team, has maintained his 17.0 RPG average beyond the quarter pole of the NBA season. The last NBA player to average more than 17 rebounds for a full season was Dennis Rodman during the 1993-94 season. -- Snellings

This week: @NO, DAL, @HOU

21. Sacramento Kings
Record: 9-13
Week 7 ranking: 17

The Kings have to be the hardest team in the NBA to figure out. In the past five games, Sacramento beat two of the West's best teams (at Dallas and against Denver) but in between lost three games against teams with losing records in San Antonio, Portland and Chicago. While the Kings have won just nine of 22 games, keep in mind that starting power forward Marvin Bagley III (thumb) has yet to debut this season and starting point guard De'Aaron Fox (ankle) has been out since Nov. 8. -- Spears

This week: @HOU, OKC, NY, @GS

22. Washington Wizards
Record: 7-15
Week 7 ranking: 23

Their win over the 76ers really shouldn't be as surprising as it seemed, with the way they compete on a nightly basis and have the ability to score with anyone. Rui Hachimura had his most effective game of his young career in the win over the Sixers, showing more than enough signs of possible future stardom. But forget all of that and direct your attention to the human microwave that is Davis Bertans, who might be the best heat-check player in the league right now. -- Young

This week: @CHA, @MEM

23. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 9-16
Week 7 ranking: 21

Before a 12-point, 4-for-17 performance in Sunday's loss to Atlanta, Devonte' Graham was having a week to remember and was likely on the verge of being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. In the three games before Sunday, the guard averaged a team-high 25.7 points per game on 20 attempts, 45.9% from 3, and 10 assists per game. If there were an award for coach of the year of a team below .500, James Borrego would be a candidate. Before the loss to Atlanta, Charlotte was 8-5 against teams under .500. Borrego and his staff certainly deserve credit for the play of Graham and for balancing a roster with both youth and veterans on expiring contracts. -- Marks

This week: WSH, @BKN, @CHI, @IND

24. Chicago Bulls
Record: 8-16
Week 7 ranking: 26

After a dismal November, forward Lauri Markkanen has picked up his game in December. The 7-foot, 240-pounder has scored at least 20 in three of four games in December and is averaging 19.3 points and shooting 43.2% from 3-point range. He scored more than 20 points only once in November while averaging 11.9 points and shooting 33.3 percent from the field in 15 contests. -- Spears

This week: TOR, ATL, CHA, LAC

25. New Orleans Pelicans
Record: 6-17
Week 7 ranking: 22

The Pelicans have been outscored by 119 points during their eight-game losing streak. "We don't want to become the pincushion for the NBA," coach Alvin Gentry said after a 46-point blowout by the Mavs on Saturday, the most lopsided loss in franchise history. "And the way we're doing it right now, that's where we're headed. We'll be the pincushion for the NBA." -- MacMahon

This week: DET, @MIL, @PHI, ORL

26. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 6-16
Week 7 ranking: 25

Times are really rough for a rebuilding team when both of its prized rookies are sidelined by injuries. Point guard Ja Morant, the Rookie of the Year front-runner, is listed as week-to-week thanks to back spasms. Power forward Brandon Clarke, the No. 21 pick who has performed at an All-Rookie level, is also week-to-week with a sore left oblique. -- MacMahon

This week: @GS, @PHX, MIL, WSH

27. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 6-17
Week 7 ranking: 28

Vince Carter, 42, will play in his 1,500th career game on Tuesday at Miami in his 22nd season. Only four players in NBA history have appeared in 1,500 games, including Robert Parish (1,611), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560), Dirk Nowitzki (1,522) and John Stockton (1,504). With 59 regular-season games left, Carter could easily move up to third on the list but be just shy of Abdul-Jabbar in his final NBA season. -- Spears

This week: @MIA, @CHI, IND, LAL

28. Golden State Warriors
Record: 5-19
Week 7 ranking: 30

Rookie forward Eric Paschall has scored in double figures in 13 consecutive games, the longest streak for a Warriors rookie since Klay Thompson posted a 14-game double-figure scoring streak from April 4 to April 26, 2012. Paschall ended Sunday with the Warriors' second-best scoring average of 17.1 points per game and a rookie-best 393 points through 23 games. -- Spears

This week: MEM, NY, @UTAH, SAC

29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 5-17
Week 7 ranking: 27

Long losing streaks and the recent speculation on what the future holds for Kevin Love were to be expected from the Cavaliers this season. As for the play on the court, the Cavaliers are on a six-game losing streak, including a 47-point loss to Philadelphia on Saturday, and have gone 1-12 since Nov. 10. In those 13 games, eight of them at home, Cleveland had an average point differential of minus-16.8 overall, including minus-26.4 -- yes, that is not a misprint -- on the road. To say Cleveland has not been competitive on the road would be an understatement. As for the future of Love, the forward is under contract through the 2022-23 season with an average cap hit of $30M.-- Marks

This week: @BOS, HOU, @SA, @MIL

30. New York Knicks
Record: 4-19
Week 7 ranking: 29

We will see if there is any lasting effect of New York's one-point loss to the Pacers on Saturday night. One day after head coach David Fizdale was fired, interim head coach Mike Miller led the Knicks to their most complete performance of the season. Miller made no drastic lineup changes to a roster that had been blown out by a combined 81 points to Denver and Milwaukee in the previous two games. The difference is the Knicks competed on the defensive end of the court. New York had 11 steals, 37 defensive rebounds and 6 blocks, and held Indiana to 104 points, including a scoreless final five minutes. -- Marks

This week: @POR, @GS, @SAC, @DEN