DeRozan sinks game-winner for the second night in a row.
DeMar DeRozan hit a game-winning 3-pointer from the corner as the Bulls won 120-119. (0:54)
The Chicago Bulls ended their season with fireworks. They started with some.
The NBA's leader in fourth-quarter scoring was at it again this past week, knocking down wild, buzzer-beating 3-pointers in back-to-back fashion to stun the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards.
The Bulls have won seven straight and are now in the lead of the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks have been on a six-game win streak, taking advantage of a softer stretch in their schedule.
The longest active run in the Western Conference is by the Memphis Grizzlies, who have won four in a row, including close victories over the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
The league's streaking teams check in this week in our latest breakdown.
Our panel (Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing.
1. The Golden State Warriors had a 28-7 record.
The previous ranking was 1
The Warriors did it without Draymond Green, who was out because of COVID-19 protocols, and it made for an even more impressive win over the Jazz. Steve Kerr's team is on the verge of getting Klay Thompson back after dealing with a variety of coronaviruses. Through the first 212 months of the season, the Warriors are the best team.
2. The Phoenix Suns had a 28-8 record.
The previous ranking was 2.
The poster was delivered over Mason Plumlee. Smith has made the most of his time since he was forced into action because of health and safety protocols hitting Phoenix. Smith is shooting 56.1% from the field in the past four games while not hitting 30 minutes in any of them.
3. The Chicago Bulls had a 24-10 record.
The previous ranking was 6.
Good luck stopping DeMar. During the seven-game winning streak that has vaulted the Bulls into first place in the Eastern Conference, DeRozan is averaging 28.4 points, 6.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 48.6%. He became the first player in NBA history to hit buzzer- beaters on back-to-back nights against the Pacers and Wizards, and it was a small peak into how good he has been in clutch. In clutch situations, the Bulls are 11/6 and they are shooting 55.6% from the field and 96.2% from the free throw line.
4. The Utah Jazz had a 26-10 record.
The previous ranking was 4.
The Jazz had no choice but to play small ball in the loss to the Warriors because backup center Hassan Whiteside was out with a concussion. It didn't go well. Utah scored 10 points in Rudy Gobert's 35 minutes and lost the game by seven. Utah's five most frequently used centerless lineups are minus-15 in 40 minutes, as Rudy Gay gave the Jazz the flexibility to tinker with small-ball lineups.
5. The Milwaukee Bucks had a 25-13 record.
The previous ranking was 5.
Jrue Holiday has been slowed by injuries this season, but he has started to get back to normal. During Milwaukee's six-game winning streak, he is averaging 21.5 points and 7.2 assists per game, shooting 60.2% from the floor and 45.8% from 3.
6. The Brooklyn Nets had a 23-11 record.
The previous ranking was 3.
Will he make his debut this week? He could play as soon as Wednesday. The Nets have a couple of games on their schedule over the next couple of weeks, beginning with Friday's game against the defending champion Milwaukee.
7. The Miami Heat had a 23-14 record.
The previous ranking was 7.
Miami had a five-game winning streak snapped on Sunday in Sacramento, the start of a West Coast swing that includes tough games against the Warriors on Monday and the Suns on Saturday. Jimmy Butler is leading the way for his team and is in the midst of a good run. Over the past four games, he has averaged 25 points, 6.5 rebound and 6.8 assists.
8. The Memphis Grizzlies had a 23-14 record.
The previous ranking was 9.
Ja Morant is in the middle of a scoring run. He has scored at least 30 points in three straight games for the first time in franchise history. Morant has averaged 34.7 points during that time, shooting 55.7% from the floor and 80% from 3-point range. Morant is shooting 40% from the 3-point range.
9. Philadelphia 76ers had a 19-16 record.
The previous ranking was 10.
It's been a crazy season in Philadelphia, but the 76ers have three straight wins to end the year, and are trying to climb back to the top of the East.
10. The Cleveland Cavaliers had a 21-16 record.
The previous ranking was 8.
Kevin Love was the subject of a lot of the talk coming into the season, as he was seen as a fit for Cleveland at this stage of his career. He has been crucial to the resurgence. His 20-point, eight-rebound and four-assist performance in a win over Indiana on Sunday was his fifth straight 20-point game, his longest such streak since he was his teammate.
11. The Denver Nuggets had a record of 18-16.
The previous ranking was 11.
The Nuggets have won three straight games despite having a game postponed because of COVID-19 issues. Over the past four games, Jokic has averaged 25.0 points and 18.2 rebound. The Nuggets would be on a four-game winning streak if they hadn't blown a 17-point fourth-quarter lead. Not bad for a team without Michael Porter Jr.
12. The LA Clippers had a 19-18 record.
The previous ranking was 12.
The Clippers were routed by the Nets at home last Monday, a day after learning that Paul George would be out for at least a month with a torn elbow ligament. The Clippers lost at Toronto on New Year's Eve, but coach Ty Lue and center Ivica Zubac entered health and safety protocols. The Clippers were forced to play at Brooklyn on a back-to-back, and learned before they left the hotel that they had to enter protocols. The Clippers pulled out their biggest and most unlikely win of the season over the uninspired Nets team. The Clippers are still above.500. Eric Bledsoe is playing his best basketball of the season, and Terance Mann and Amir Coffey are developing.
13. The Charlotte Hornets had a 19-18 record.
The previous ranking was 13
On Wednesday, January 5.
The Warriors are at the Mavs.
The Jazz play the Nuggets at 10.
All times Eastern.
The Charlotte Hornets had a three-game winning streak snapped in a loss to the Suns on Sunday. The good news for the Hornets is that LaMelo Ball is playing well, he is averaging 18.2 points, 6.2 rebound and 6.4 assists over his past five games. The Hornets have a pair of tough home games against the Bucks at the end of the week.
14. The Los Angeles Lakers had a 19-19 record.
The previous ranking was 14.
Russell had nine turnovers in the win over the Wolves. He had 20 points, including a big jumper to put L.A. up six with less than five minutes remaining. After seven turnovers in the first half, the team was helped by Russell Westbrook cutting his turnovers to two in the second half. James said that it resulted in the team being able to get shots. "What has hurt us this year is when we turn the ball over a lot, and not able to set our defense, where we're really good in half court, have teams run it out on us."
15. The Washington Wizards have a record of 18-18.
The previous ranking was 15.
The Wizards have a long injury report, with six players, including Spencer Dinwiddie and Montrezl Harrell, in health and safety protocols. Washington started the season with a 10-3 record. DeMar DeRozan hit a 3-point buzzer beater to beat the Bulls on Saturday, and Washington looked like it was going to beat them. The Wizards play 12 of 14 games at home. They could make some noise if they get closer to the whole.
16. The Dallas Mavericks have a record of 18-18.
The previous ranking was 17
The Mavericks went 5-5 during Luka Doncic's absence due to the performance of the fill-in starting point guard, Jalen Brunson. In the 10 games, he averaged 21.0 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 51.3% from the floor and 37.5% from 3-point range. In a road win over the Oklahoma City, Doncic and Brunson recorded 12 points and seven assists, as well as a steal, in the starting lineup.
17. The Boston Celtics had a record of 18-19.
The previous ranking was 16.
The Celtics almost got off to a disastrous start in the year of 2022, only for Jaylen Brown's first 50-point game to save them. After a brutal December schedule, it gets easier in January, and Boston should get Jayson Tatum back from health and safety protocols this week.
18. The Toronto Raptors had a 16-17 record.
The previous ranking was 19
Despite a season full of injuries and issues, the Raptors have pulled themselves back to within a game of.500 after Sunday's win over the Knicks. Toronto will try to move even further up the table with the return of its best lineup of Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes.
19. The Minnesota Timberwolves had a 16-20 record.
The previous ranking was 20.
Karl- Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell are nearing the end of their stays in health and safety protocols and should be added to Minnesota's lineup this week. They are both likely to miss Monday's game against the Clippers, but Chris Finch said a return for Wednesday's game against the Oklahoma City is realistic.
20. The Atlanta Hawks had a 16-19 record.
The previous ranking was 18.
Trae Young averaged 30.5 points and 10.0 assists per game in December, the third time in his career that he has averaged 30 and 10 over a month. He averaged 31.7 and 11.5 in January 2020 and followed that up with 31.3 and 10 in the next month. That's the fourth-most calendar months in NBA history, with an average of 30 points and 10 assists, trailing Oscar Robertson (19), Tiny Archibald (six) and Russell Westbrook (four).
21. The New York Knicks had a 17-20 record.
The previous ranking was 21.
The play-in spots in the East have New York out of them. Kemba Walker is out with a knee injury, and Julius Randle is in health and safety protocols. The Eastern Conference is more difficult than at any point this century, and the Knicks need to get themselves straightened out quickly.
22. The San Antonio Spurs had a 14-21 record.
The previous ranking was 22.
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The past six games, San Antonio's 3-point defense has been very good. Opponents have failed to make more than 10 3s against the Spurs, while shooting 27.3% from deep. San Antonio's six consecutive games of holding an opponent to 10 or fewer 3s is the longest such streak by any team this season, and it's tied for the second-longest streak by any team in the past three campaigns. Utah had a streak of seven that started with two games at the end of the 2020-21 campaign and five to begin this season.
23. The Kings record was 16-22.
The previous ranking was 26.
Jimmy Butler's layup attempt to force overtime at the buzzer on Sunday bounced twice off the rim before missing, giving Sacramento a quality win to cap a 3-1 week that included a buzzer-beating winner from Chimezie Metu.
24. The Pacers had a 14-23 record.
The previous ranking was 23.
The Pacers have dropped four games in a row and are 1-11 in games decided by four or fewer points this season.
25. The Portland Trail blazers had a 13-22 record.
The previous ranking was 24.
Portland's season continues to spiral. On New Year's Eve, the Blazers fell to the Lakers by 33 points. Portland has lost 11 of the past 13 games. Damian Lillard will have to continue to shoulder a lot of the load with Jusuf Nurkic, Dennis Smith Jr., and other injured players.
26. The New Orleans Pelicans had a 13-23 record.
The previous ranking was 25.
Herbert Jones has a block in 14 consecutive games, which is a franchise record. He is second in blocks (34), behind Evan Mobley, and leads all rookies in steals (43). Jones is the only rookies to average at least one block and one steal per game.
27. The Oklahoma City Thunder had a 13-23 record.
The previous ranking was 27.
Josh Giddey became the youngest NBA player to record a triple-double in 84 days when he put up 17 points, 13 rebound and 14 assists in the loss to the Mavericks. Giddey tied an NBA record for most assists by a teenager, matching the records of James and LaVine. Giddey has given out double-digit assists in four of his past six games.
28. The Houston Rockets had a 10-27 record.
The previous ranking was 28.
A lot has gone wrong recently for the Houston Astros, who have lost seven in a row and have had issues with two of their core players. The bright spot is that the No. 2 overall draft pick has scored in bunches since returning from a strained left hamstring. Green has averaged 22.3 points in four games since returning to the lineup.
29. The Magic's record was 7-30.
The previous ranking was 29
The Celtics defeated the Magic in overtime on Sunday night. Over the past five games, they have given up an average of 116.4 points. Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac can't come back soon enough, but they can't cure what ails this young group.
30. The Detroit Pistons had a 6-28 record.
The previous ranking was 30.
Some improved play from Saddiq Bey has been a source of encouragement for Pistons fans. After a slow start in his sophomore season, he is currently averaging 20.6 points and 7.5 rebound in his past 10 games, and is starting to look like the player from his strong freshman season.