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Monday, November 28, 2022

Cavaliers and Wizards Bringing Back the Spirit of ’76; Hawks Can’t Recapture the Magic; And the Week 4 NBA Power Rankings

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are leading the Cavaliers to a dream season. Meanwhile, John Wall is posting career-high numbers for Washington Wizards while Kawhi Leonard helped lead Toronto Raptors to its first win of the year against Boston Celtics in Week 4 NBA Power Rankings

The “wizards vs cavaliers” is a matchup of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are 2-0 against the Wizards, and they will be looking to continue their winning streak at home this time around.

The Eastern Conference standings have flipped on their heads. The Washington Wizards are in first position in the Eastern Conference, while the Cleveland Cavaliers are in fourth place, a game behind. What the hell is going on here in the name of the bicentennial? No, honestly, it’s been a long time since Washington and Cleveland shared the Eastern Conference’s rarefied air. A very long period has passed. When that occurred the previous time, the NBA still had a rival league to cope with.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks, last year’s playoff darlings, have lost their luster. Trae Young and his teammates are on the NBA’s second-longest losing skid and are far closer to the Eastern Conference bottom than the play-in group. In the meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors have resurrected their glory days from three years ago, and the Los Angeles Clippers are still figuring things out. And, as early-season NBA Power Rankings results are prone to do, there’s a lot of shakin’ going on. Exactly one team is in the same position this week as they were seven days ago.

The Wizards and Cavaliers are atop the NBA East standings. Seriously?

Cleveland Cavaliers legend Bingo Smith (7) helped them past the Washington Bullets in the 1976 NBA Playoffs, the only time both teams finished in the top four in the Eastern Conference In the 1976 NBA Playoffs, Cleveland Cavaliers icon Bingo Smith (7) assisted them in defeating the Washington Bullets, the only time both teams finished in the top four in the Eastern Conference. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport

The Wizards have spent more than four decades alternating between mediocre and dreadful. They haven’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since 2017. Washington hasn’t made it to the conference finals in its current incarnation; the franchise’s only deep run into the playoffs was in 1979, when it reached the NBA Finals. Back in the day, they were still known as the Bullets.

The Cavaliers, on the other hand? When Cleveland last reached the playoffs, LeBron James was still wearing the wine and gold. The Cavaliers haven’t made the playoffs without James wearing the No. 23 jersey since 1998.

In the East’s highest tier, the Wizards and Cavaliers? Once upon a time, 46 years ago, it occurred.

1975–76 was the year. Cleveland has yet to make the playoffs in its sixth NBA season. Washington was coming off a humiliating NBA Finals sweep at the hands of the Warriors, who were the underdogs. The Cavaliers won the Central Division by a game over the Bullets, and the two teams met in a thrilling conference semifinal series.

Dick Snyder banked in a floater (not a common play at the time) to send the Cavs to the Eastern Conference Finals, and Cleveland won the series. Since then, they’ve played four times in the playoffs, each time in the first round.

While the Cavs and Wiz are still a long way from finishing in the top half of the East, it’s worth noting that they haven’t done so in a long time.

The Clippers and Mavericks are still working out some kinks.

Last week, the Dallas Mavericks won two of three games and jumped eight points in the NBA Power Rankings, the biggest jump of the week. Dallas’ metrics continue to be perplexing, but the objective of the exercise is to figure out how to win. Despite their statistical profile indicating that they are a sub-.500 club, the Mavs are 8–4, tied for third place in the Western Conference with the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Since their 1–4 start, the Clippers have won seven consecutive games. Reggie Jackson is on fire, and the team’s current winning streak is tied with the Warriors and Phoenix Suns for the longest in the NBA. Los Angeles has surged six positions to enter the top five for the first time. All of this happened in the presence of Kawhi Leonard.

In Atlanta, Nate McMillan’s temporary magic has worn off.

Last season, the Atlanta Hawks swept the NBA. After dismissing coach Lloyd Pierce, interim coach Nate McMillan guided the team to a scorching 27–11 record that put them into the Eastern Conference playoffs as the fifth seed. After that, they blasted out the New York Knicks in five games and upset the Philadelphia 76ers on the road in Game 7 to make their first appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals since 2015.

Hawks management did the unthinkable and granted McMillan the position on a long-term basis. The enchantment had gone in an instant. Atlanta is 4–9 and has dropped seven positions in the NBA power rankings after losing six consecutive games.

The Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings have both had bad luck recently. It’s always a terrible omen when you’re in the company of the Kings, since they’re a club that hasn’t figured out anything in 15 years.

After Week 4, here are the NBA Power Rankings.

Two new clubs have entered the NBA Power Rankings’ top five. Aside from the Clippers, the Chicago Bulls have returned following another outstanding fourth-quarter effort in a victory against the Brooklyn Nets. The Portland Trail Blazers (still playing better than their 6–7 record as the anti-Mavericks) and the COVID- and drama-riddled Philadelphia 76ers (who have dropped four in a row) fell out of the top group.

The complete NBA Power Rankings are as follows:

Playing ping-pong for the sake of ping-pong balls: The Orlando Magic (3–10, 28th last week) are ranked 30th. The Pistons (3–9, 30th) are ranked 29th. The Pelicans of New Orleans (2–12, 27th) are ranked 28th. Houston Rockets (1–11, 26th) are ranked 27th. Oklahoma City Thunder (5–6, 29th) are ranked 26th.

Trying your luck at the lottery: The Los Angeles Lakers (7–6, 22nd) are ranked 25th. Minnesota Timberwolves (4–8, 21st) are ranked 24th. The Memphis Grizzlies (6–7, 24th) are the 23rd team in the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks (4–9, 15th) are ranked 22nd. Sacramento Kings (5–8, 14th) are ranked 21st.

The Milwaukee Bucks (6–7, 23rd) are living on a play-in basis. Hornets of Charlotte (7–7, 20th) San Antonio Spurs (4–8, 16th) are ranked number 18 in the NBA. The Mavericks (8–4, 25th) are ranked 17th in the NBA. Indiana Pacers (6–8, 19th) 16. Indiana Pacers (6–8, 19th)

15. Toronto Raptors (7–7, 8th) are at the bottom of the bracket. The Cleveland Cavaliers (9–5, 18th) are the 14th best team in the NBA. The Boston Celtics (6–7, 17th) are ranked 13th. The Brooklyn Nets (9–4, 13th) are in 12th place. The New York Knicks (7–6, 6th) are ranked 11th.

Philadelphia 76ers (8–6, 4th) are a sneaky contender. The Nuggets (8–4, 12th) are ranked ninth. The Phoenix Suns (8–3, 10th) are ranked eighth. The Portland Trail Blazers (6–7, 5th) are ranked seventh. The Washington Wizards (9–3, 9th) are ranked sixth.

Here are the top five: The Los Angeles Clippers (8–4, 11th) are ranked fifth. The Chicago Bulls (8–4, 7th) are ranked fourth. 3. Miami Heat (first place, 8–5) 2. Utah Jazz (8–5, second place) The Golden State Warriors (11–1, 3rd) are the team to beat.

Basketball Reference and Cleaning the Glass provided NBA statistics.

RELATED: Stephen Curry has Golden State steamrolling once again, but the Warriors’ starting five is being outplayed by the NBA’s Most Odd Team

The “wizards fan” is the most exciting team in the NBA this year. But, they are not without their flaws. The Cavs and Wizards have brought back the spirit of ’76 by playing hard-fought games that are worth watching.

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