Rank (Last Wk) Team Rec. Comment

1 (3) acers: 31-11 Viva Las Least: We've seen enough from Pacers, halfway in, to guarantee that there will not be another 11-19 finish this season. This promotion is their reward for making the oft-bashed East a bit legit.

2 (2) 28-9 Sacto's automatic promotion was denied when injuries took all the meaning out of Friday's Laker rout. More damning than the fact it seems like Kings play every game at home is the slip from No. 1 in the league to No. 23 in defensive field-goal percentage.

3 (4) 26-12 Top spot had Wolves' name all over it after the back-to-back wins at Hornets and Spurs. Couldn't do it, though, after that Houston performance.

4 (5) istons: 28-13 Detroit deserves to be even higher, because 12 wins in a row -- like we said with San Antonio's recent 13-gamer -- is 12 wins in a row no matter who the opposition is. Problem is, how do you put Pistons any higher with the way top three are rolling?

5 (1) 27-14 A four-spot drop is the Power Rankings equivalent of a loud Popovich scolding. Spurs deserve it, too, after defense that can't lose (16-0) when opponents are held below 80 disappaears for a week.

6 (8) 24-16 Even accounting for failure to land 'Sheed and latest Nellie-Cubes saga, it was a fine week. Even defensively ... in flashes.

7 (6) 25-12 The on-court performance has actually picked up; kudos to Kareem (Rush) and Slava. But the gloomy forecasts for Shaq, Kobe and Mailman easily could have warranted a steeper drop.

8 (7) 21-17 Brooklyn Nets. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Of course, with seven of next eight games on the road -- starting at Dallas and San Antonio, back-to-back -- Nets have more pressing questions to answer.

9 (12) 23-16 For all the talk about what Yao can't do, wouldn't you want him on your team? Rhetorical question, because there's only one answer.

10 (9) 24-18 5-7 stretch after a 19-11 start is a tad alarming ... until you remember that Nuggets still haven't lost three in a row ... and that Nuggets -- yes, Nuggets -- have made it past the 41-game pole as a top-10 squad.

11 (13) 21-18 Who's the muppet who said the winning would stop now that Harpring has been shelved for the season? Doh.

12 (15) 21-18 Every Midwest team belongs in top-10 range when every Midwest team is at least three games over .500. And the best might be forthcoming for Grizz, who play 24 of their final 43 games at home.

13 (11) 23-17 No longer is anyone worrying about how Mash will handle re-meshing with a team that now plays at Baron's pace. Question is: How soon can Mash get back and keep Hornets from slipping further?

14 (14) 22-18 No shame losing that home win streak to scorching Pistons. Bucks generally still beating the teams they can reasonably expect to beat, at 17-9 vs. East foes.

15 (10) :spnics: 19-19 Seattle fans think we have it in for Supes. Only thing that really bugs us about Supes is how they go into a tailspin every team we move them up the ladder.

16 (17) 20-18 Up one by default ... because Raps won't be able to say they're one of East's (six) teams over .500 for much longer if Vince sits much longer.

17 (22) 18-24 Fact that Isiah reportedly offered job to Willis Reed before Wilkens suggests that, yes, Zeke will someday be a coach/GM. In the interim, have to say that Interim Coach Wilkens has exceeded (my) expectations so far.

18 (18) 16-21 Those familiar late-game struggles have resurfaced, and there's worse news: Lots of road games (18 out of 25) beckon after Friday.

19 (16) 20-23 C's have played more games than anyone else. Means they have less time than anyone to start playing better (and switch back to black sneaks) at home (10-13).

20 (20) :sixers: 18-22 Big Dog starting to score. Now if Sixers can get AI and Big Dog scoring simultaneously, that should secure a playoff berth.

21 (26) 15-26 Can't see Suns going much higher, but the ball is moving more without Steph ... and they're no longer looking like West's biggest underachievers.

22 (19) 16-23 Scratch that. Murphy's ailments AND Van Exel's knee are both suddenly bigger issues than NVE's relationship with Coach Muss.

23 (21) :blazers: 16-22 Here's your Biggest Disappointment Out West. Which is why it says here that Allen will ultimately be convinced that he has to trade 'Sheed before Feb. 19, unless the owner (who rebuffed Dallas) wants to punt on the rest of the season.

24 (25) 13-27 Ankle injury, like Cavs' road woes, doesn't change our belief: East coaches will vote LeBron in as an All-Star because they all already agree that Rookie Game isn't suitable for his game.

25 (23) 16-25 Maybe things will pick up now that six-game trip out West (1-5) is history. Or maybe not.

26 (29) 12-29 Credit where credit is due: We dogged Hawks for dogging the week before, and then they rebounded to humble Spurs and us (OK, not us ... but definitely the Spurs).

27 (24) 12-28 Dare we say Bulls already have Biggest Disappointment in the East sewn up, because at least Orlando has the Grant Hill alibi.

8 (28) 11-28 Commemorated Lenny Wilkens Week by defeating Sonics in a rematch of yesteryear's Finals. More importantly, after 38 games of shooting less than 50 percent, Wiz has finally done that, too, avoiding sole possession of the NBA record by one game.

29 (27) 10-31 After eight straight road losses, Magic has chance to lose 15th home game -- matching last season's total -- against Milwaukee on Monday. Good seats still available.