Suns are regaining the top spot from jazz; Lakers drop drastically; Bulls move into the top 3

Health and safety protocols have set the league's power structure in motion

USA About: Lakers Publish: 12/23/2021 Edit: 12/23/2021 Author: Gardener

SunsThe Bulls had postponed three games in the past eight days, but they looked fine in the two they played and beat the Lakers and Rockets. DeMar DeRozan was a welcome sight to Chicago and picked up where he left off with an average of 32 points and six assists at 52 percent shooting on the two wins. An already exhausted squad was further hampered by injuries to Alex Caruso and Derrick Jones Jr., but players like Javonte Green and Alfonzo McKinnie filled the minutes. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, Durant entered the logs ahead of the next game, a loss to Magic before the team's next two competitions were graciously postponed. Perhaps due in part to Durant's recent strain, the Nets have decided to allow Kyrie Irving to play part-time once he's off the logs and in game shape. So we'll see how this affects the team. The Grizzlies started the week with a win over the Kings, scooping 11 wins in 12 games, but left the next two to the Blazers and Thunder. The OKC loss was particularly tough given that they had beaten it by 73 points a few weeks earlier and because Ja Morant had returned, "injured" by comments from Memphis fans telling him he should have stayed on the sidelines . Morant had 16 points and eight assists in their first game in almost a month, while Dillon Brooks led the team this week with 26.3 points per game. The team's top scorer averaged 21 points and six assists in the last two games of the week, while Terance Mann and Eric Bledsoe fell off the line-up along with Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard in their win over Sacramento. In the last two Clippers games, Serge Ibaka exceeded the 20-minute mark for the first time since the beginning of December with an average of 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. A loss to the Suns put the Wizards' skid to four games before beating back to beating jazz in Utah for one of their biggest wins of the season. The next game against the Nets has been postponed, so Washington hopes it can take the momentum to return to the early season victories. It starts with Bradley Beal looking like himself after averaging 31.5 points and six assists in the last two games at 57 percent shooting. Anthony Davis is out for at least a month with a knee injury and Isaiah Thomas, who was out of the league a week ago, played for them over 26 minutes per game in the three losses. It seems like the Lakers couldn't have won lately without herculean performances from LeBron James, and that's a huge challenge for a soon-to-be-37-year-old with a few permanent injuries. Kemba Walker made a triumphant return to rotation in the last two games of the week, averaging 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists on 40 percent 3-point shooting at least six weeks after an ankle surgery. Evan Fournier broke out of his season low on a grand scale this week, scoring 25.7 points per game on 41 percent 3-point shooting. The Kings managed to win a multiplayer game on logs this week and beat the Spurs along with losses against the Grizzlies, Warriors and Clippers. This week was all about Tyrese Haliburton, who averaged 23.5 points, 11.3 assists and shot 50 percent from the 3-point line when Sacramento's lone offensive creator was sidelined with De'Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes also filled it from afar, but it was hard for them and Haliburton to keep the performance at over 38 minutes per game each.

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