NBA Power Rankings: The Phoenix Suns rise; Kevin Durant returns ahead of a massive East battle

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Let the battle for the Eastern Conference begin in the NBA.

With Kevin Durant back after missing nearly two months with a hamstring injury, the star-studded Brooklyn Nets are getting whole again — just in time for an epic matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night (7 ET on ESPN).

In the West, the battle for the No. 1 seed is heating up, despite the recent struggles of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. Don’t look now, but Devin BookerChris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have won 11 of their past 13 games, including last week’s overtime decision over the NBA-best Utah Jazz. The LA Clippers are keeping pace, as well, with five straight wins heading into a three-game road trip.

Here’s where our panel sees all 30 NBA teams ahead of Week 17.

Donovan Mitchell became the first Utah player since Karl Malone to score at least 35 points in three straight games, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Jazz’s wins this week over the Trail Blazers and Kings, which extended the franchise-record home winning streak to 24 games, marked the first contests this season that Utah won with Mitchell taking at least 25 shots from the floor. The Jazz were previously 0-5 in such games.

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