20. Toronto Raptors (9-15)
Last week — Lost at Indiana, lost to New York, lost to Denver, won at Detroit
With Jose Calderon (foot) out of the lineup, Jerryd Bayless choked in his first Raptors start, but then dropped 31 points, five boards and seven assists in his second.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (8-15)
Last week — Beat Cleveland, lost to Boston, beat New Orleans
In the last five games, Elton Brand is averaging 14.2 points and 11.2 rebounds.
18. Houston Rockets (9-14)
Last week — Beat Detroit, lost at Milwaukee, beat Cleveland
Aaron Brooks (ankle) has been upgraded to day-to-day and could return this week, when the Rockets have the Kings (twice), Thunder and Grizzlies on the schedule.
17. Memphis Grizzlies (10-14)
Last week — Lost at Utah, won at Phoenix, won at L.A. Clippers
As much grief as the Grizzlies got for Mike Conley’s $45 million extension, he’s been good for 15.3 points, 7.2 assists and 2.1 steals per game, and the team is only two games out of a playoff spot.
16. Indiana Pacers (11-11)
Last week — Beat Toronto, lost at Milwaukee, beat Charlotte, lost at Atlanta
Jim O’Brien’s improved defense has some tough tests ahead this week, facing Derrick Rose and the Bulls, Kobe and the Lakers, and Pierce and the Celtics.
15. Phoenix Suns (11-12)
Last week — Lost at Portland, lost to Memphis, lost to Portland
When was the last time the Suns went three games in a row failing to score 100 points? This current three-game skid has them finishing in the 90′s every night, and in a directly related story, Jason Richardson has averaged 6.0 points while shooting 21% from the field and going 0-for-12 beyond the arc.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (12-12)
Last week — Beat Phoenix, beat Orlando, won at Phoenix, lost at San Antonio
Four-game win streak was snapped by the Spurs.
13. New Orleans Hornets (14-9)
Last week — Beat Detroit, lost to Oklahoma City, lost at Philadelphia
Back on Nov. 5, the Hornets beat Miami in a game that seemed to confirm Chris Paul’s squad would be dangerous in the West this year. The rematch is on Monday, but it seems like two completely different teams will be on the court. The Hornets have lost eight of their last 11 games.
12. Denver Nuggets (14-9)
Last week — Lost at Charlotte, lost at Boston, won at Toronto, lost at New York
When he gets the time and opportunity, Ty Lawson proves he’s either Denver’s point guard of the future or a great trade chip in a few months.
11. Atlanta Hawks (16-9)
Last week — Won at Orlando, beat New Jersey, lost at San Antonio, beat Indiana
Making up for Joe Johnson’s absence, Jamal Crawford has scored 24.6 ppg in the last three.