Updated: November 17, 2014, 5:13 PM ET

Power Rankings: Rockets blast off


By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
Monday, Nov. 17

It wasn't an easy decision given the way they struggled against outmanned Philadelphia and injury-ravaged Oklahoma City, but the Houston Rockets have nosed into the top spot in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.

Golden State's home loss to San Antonio, in a real statement opportunity, created an opening for the Rockets, whose 3-0 week nudged them past Memphis for the No. 1 ranking heading into Monday night's Rockets at Grizzlies showdown opposite Steelers at Titans.

Other notable movers include the Spurs (back to up to No. 4 from No. 7), Damian Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers (No. 9 to No. 5), LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 14 to No. 6) and, conversely, Miami's slide from No. 5 to No. 15 in the wake of three poor performances.

A more detailed look at this week's order can be found on Stein Line Live. And you can comment below on this week's 1-to-30 ladder, which, as always, was assembled with the ever-supporting dishing we get from ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau.

Rk(LW)TeamRec
1(2)
Rockets
9-1
Maybe that 69-65 slugfest with short-handed OKC -- just the 11th time in the shot-clock era that the winning team scored 69 points or fewer -- was by design to save as much offense as the Rockets could for Monday's visit to Memphis. They will surely need every last point against the stingy Grizz.
2(3)
Grizzlies
9-1
A flashy start is new ground for the Grizz, who somehow find themselves over .500 after 10 games for just the third time in the club's two-decade history. Now Memphis hosts Houston having won 19 in a row at home, after the Courtney Lee-capped comeback from 26 down to Sacramento saved that streak.
3(1)
Warriors
8-2
Surely the Dubs were disappointed that they failed to handle San Antonio when the Spurs were (A) on the road and (B) on the second night of a back-to-back. But they can console themselves with the knowledge that they're off to the club's best start in 39 years despite missing David Lee for all but seven minutes so far.
4(7)
Spurs
5-4
Cannot tell a lie: There was some second-guessing by the committee (of one) after dropping the Spurs only to No. 7 amid just the fifth sub-.500 start through five games for any reigning champ since the NBA/ABA merger in '76-77. A road sweep of the Warriors and Clips then quickly took care of that.
5(9)
Trail Blazers
7-3
Of all the crazy scores we saw in what turned out to be Blowout Week, let's make sure we note that Portland's 84-50 halftime lead over Denver triggered the madness. I'd guess that the Blazers, mind you, are undoubtedly prouder of their top-10 D and exceeding-expectations bench crew.
6(14)
Cavaliers
5-3
A slew of home games and a softening schedule, as expected, have given the Cavs an opportunity to speed up the pace offensively and figure some things out. But D is by no means the only concern; LeBron, Kyrie and K-Love are all playing a ton judging by the league's minutes per game leaders.
7(6)
Bulls
7-3
On top of all the inevitable Derrick Rose panic, as well as multiple minutes restrictions on various regulars for Tom Thibodeau to deal with, Chicago has been outrebounded in seven of its first 10 games after it happened just once in the first nine games last season. Obviously not very Bulls-like.
8(4)
Raptors
8-2
Disappointment of the Week, for most Raps fans, had to be the home loss to Chicago in a rare TNT appearance. The bigger letdown for us, though, was hearing Charles Barkley pronounce Jonas Valanciunas' name right on the first try on the postgame show. Already miss VAL-SU-EEE-NU-ON-SAUCE.
9(12)
Wizards
7-2
The Wiz know they have to be a more ruthless home team if they really hope to win the Southeast Division and make some playoff noise. And a 4-0 start at home isn't as good as it sounds when it features four narrow W's over East bottom-feeders. The good news? Bradley Beal should be back soon.
10(13)
Mavericks
7-3
The routs of Philly and Sota that followed Dallas' big comeback against Sacramento were such a layup drill that the Mavs best not dwell on how good the end results look. They're still 0-3 against playoff teams from last season ... with the first official Parsons Bowl looming Saturday night in Houston.
11(8)
Clippers
5-3
All the Steve Ballmer money in the world can't fix the Clips' issues at small forward, which have reached the point -- thanks to salary-cap restrictions -- that Doc Rivers is starting sixth man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford there now. They'd love to join the Corey Brewer chase but lack the trade assets.
12(10)
Kings
6-4
How do you rebound from two massive blown leads and a profane putdown from Kendrick Perkins? Can't do much better than finally finding a way to beat San Antonio -- despite shooting 0-for-12 on 3-pointers -- and then quickly coming to terms on a favorable contract extension with Rudy Gay.
13(15)
Pelicans
5-3
You expect logic-defying stat lines from Mr. Davis by now. But what we saw when the Pels hosted the defenseless Timberwolves went beyond even Davis' checks-every-box brilliance; New Orleans is the first team in NBA history to shoot 65 percent from the field and drain 15 3s in the same game.
14(11)
Suns
5-5
Maybe a long trip is what the Suns need to locate some consistency after what's been a choppy start. There are winnable games to come at Boston, Detroit, Philly and Indy, but confidence isn't the highest after a fall-from-ahead home loss to Charlotte and ups and downs for their backcourt stars.
15(5)
Heat
5-5
Saw the Heat in person a week ago and they were openly giddy about how D-Wade had already completed as many back-to-back sets this season (three) as he did all of last season. Since then? Three deflating defeats, two nights off for Wade and a steep tumble back to Earth for Chris Bosh.
16(18)
Hawks
5-4
The Hawks quietly assembled a useful little four-game winning streak until the Cavs hit them with a 9-for-9 haymaker from the 3-point line in the first quarter Saturday night. That's the most 3s without a miss for one team in a single quarter since the NBA ushered in the 3-point shot in 1979-80.
17(21)
Bucks
5-5
A rejuvenated Brandon Knight. A top-two defense. The precocious combo of Giannis and Jabari. And wins over Memphis and Miami (in Miami!) already. Jason Kidd brings all that back to Brooklyn for Wednesday night's reunion with the Nets after an eventful first 10 games as Bucks coach.
18(27)
Pacers
4-7
Quite a response Frank Vogel is getting from the skeletal Pacers roster. You have to pardon the home no-show against Denver when a group missing Paul George, David West, George Hill, Rodney Stuckey and not one but two CJs (Miles and Watson) scratches out road wins over Miami and Chicago.
19(17)
Hornets
4-6
A still-misfiring Lance Stephenson, shooting .375 from the floor, returns to Indiana for the first time Wednesday night. Which happens to be the same night his old team will be confronting the emotions of the 10-year anniversary of The Malice at the Palace. Who authorized this schedule?
20(19)
Jazz
4-7
Twenty-one days into the season, Utah has already won two games on buzzer-beaters: Gordon Hayward's tough fallaway to beat LeBron's Cavs at home and Trey Burke's l-o-n-g 2 from the corner Friday night at MSG. The Jazz, over the previous nine seasons, managed just three buzzer-beaters.
21(16)
Nets
4-5
Couldn't have the Nets higher than No. 16 last week because the combined record of their first six foes is a mere 18-39. Things inevitably got harder on a three-game swing out West. Especially after Joe Johnson branded the team "selfish" and with Brook Lopez struggling to earn fourth-quarter run.
22(22)
Celtics
3-5
Perhaps it's a little easier for Celts fans to take knowing LeBron had to score a season-high 41 to spark an epic Cavs comeback or perhaps not. Until Friday night's collapse, Boston hadn't lost a game at home after entering the fourth quarter with a lead of 17 or more since March 1988 against Philly.
23(20)
Thunder
3-8
It is factually correct, I suppose, to point out that the Thunder didn't taste their eighth L last season until Jan. 7, when they were sitting at a tidy 27-8 as opposed to the current 3-8. Yet you'd also have to say, given all the injuries so far, that they're matching gritty Indy's effort on the scrappiness scale.
24(23)
Knicks
3-8
No longer must the Knicks hear about how well the post-Melo Nuggets are doing. Not after Melo & Co. halted a seven-game skid by routing helpless Denver. Friday's Utah heartbreaker and Sunday's rebound in a MSG matinee were the first two games to date that Team Triangle cracked 100 points.
25(24)
Magic
4-7
Tough to get too giddy with the speedy comeback of Victor Oladipo, or even the surprising production coming from Evan Fournier, when prized rookie forward Aaron Gordon exits with a broken foot almost as soon as Oladipo re-emerges. We will thus continue to focus on Nikola Vucevic.
26(26)
Pistons
3-7
Can't check Twitter these days without hearing about Brandon Jennings' gaudy PER of 23.6. The Pistons, of course, were hoping such numbers would be found next to Andre Drummond's name after a Team USA summer, but AD's PER is a mere 12.0 and prompted this inquest from Zach Lowe.
27(28)
Nuggets
2-7
Firing coaches midstream -- and paying more than one at a time -- is not the Nuggets' norm. Which should work in Brian Shaw's favor amid Denver's alarming start. Shaw, though, seems to know -- judging by his candid comments to the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla -- that he can't stay safe if this continues.
28(25)
Timberwolves
2-7
About those recent comments where we said Minnesota should be fun to watch and/or win more than Vegas oddsmakers forecast ... scratch 'em from the record. An uber-efficient Kevin Martin is suddenly the only thing going for the Wolves, who flat-out surrendered on D in New Orleans and Dallas.
29(29)
Lakers
1-9
If you think the committee can't find a silver lining to a 1-9 start, think again. Despite what you've heard, Kobe is actually fifth all-time in most misses once you add in errant FTs. That takes him to 15,030 career misses, behind Wilt (16,621), Mailman (16,083), Elvin Hayes (15,939) and Kareem (15,062).
30(30)
76ers
0-9
Update from our predictive pals at numberFire: Philly is no longer favored in any of its remaining 73 games this season despite finding a way to stay as close as 88-87 with the Rockets in Houston. In related news, our friends at HoopsHype.com have started a campaign to call 'em the Six-and-76ers.

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