Perhaps not surprisingly, none other than the Nets have streaked up to No. 4 in the ESPN Power Rankings, released Monday.
“The hottest team in the league has won nine straight, 13 of its past 14 and continues to play with a lot of confidence,” wrote ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “Kevin Durant is playing like an MVP and coach Jacque Vaughn has simplified the messaging for a team that is getting contributions up and down the roster. Everything is clicking right now in Brooklyn.”
- The Nets are 20-6 after Vaughn begged them to put basketball first, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
- The Knicks can’t afford to let their “gut-wrenching” loss to the Mavericks become a season-long nightmare, per Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post.
- Guard/forward RJ Barrett could miss up to a week with a lacerated finger suffered in the loss to Dallas, per Peter Botte of the Post.
- That will bring the Knicks’ list of players who have yet to miss a game due to injury this season to three, per Botte — power forward Julius Randle, center Isaiah Hartenstein and guard Immanuel Quickley.
The Bucks have dropped to third in the ESPN rankings, courtesy of some serious struggles during the holidays.
“The Bucks have hit their first extended downturn of the season, losing three in a row — and four of their past six — to match their longest losing streak in the past two seasons (also three straight in late October this season),” wrote Jamal Collier of ESPN. “The struggles have come on both ends of the floor: Their defense has a bottom-five rating during that span while their offense ranks 22nd.”