Miami and Oklahoma City both suffered their first defeat of the 2011-12 NBA season on Monday night, yet each team has already shown that they are championship contenders by dominating the competition for most of their games thus far.

Here’s a rundown of what else is going on in the NBA:

Team on the Rise: Minnesota Timberwolves

After narrow losses to Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and Miami to start the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated defending NBA champion Dallas and perennial power San Antonio on back-to-back nights. Forward Kevin Love, who dropped 25 pounds in the off-season, has looked like an all-star, averaging 25.4 points and 15.2 rebounds. European rookie Ricky Rubio has made spectacular passes on his way to an average of 6.4 assists  per game, good for ninth-best in the Western Conference.

Team on the Decline: New Jersey Nets

The New Jersey Nets have lost five games in a row after a season-opening victory over the still winless Washington Wizards. While the Wizards are battling opponents into the closing minutes, the Nets five losses have been by an average  of 19.8 points per game. If nothing else, this swoon may stir up the Dwight Howard-to-the-Nets trade rumors, as New Jersey may soon be desperate to make a change to improve its team.

Player on the Rise: Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers

Prior to this season, Spencer Hawes was primarily a reserve for Philadelphia, but he has played significant minutes in all four of the team’s games. Hawes fell one point shy of recording double-doubles in each of the 76ers’ first four contests. He is averaging 12 points and 12.5 rebounds per game.

Player on the Decline: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Second-year forward DeMarcus Cousins ran into issues with the coaching staff of the Kings over the weekend, with a report surfacing that Cousins allegedly got into a shouting match with Kings coach Paul Westphal and issued a demand to be traded. Cousins was then asked to stay away from the team’s game with New Orleans on Sunday.  Saturday, Cousins scored just nine points in a 114-92 loss to the Knicks, who played without Amar’e Stoudemire.

Coach on the Hot Seat: Flip Saunders, Washington Wizards

Coach Flip Saunders was ejected from Monday night’s Wizards -Celtics game less than two minutes into the action for arguing a no-call on Rashard Lewis. Saunders may be showing his frustration with more than the officiating. He can’t feel comfortable with the play of his Washington team, which has lost all five of its games this year and heads into a stretch when they’ll face Orlando, New York and Chicago among its next five contests.

This Week’s Bizarre Stat: 294 Days

The Minnesota Timberwolves went 294 days between victories before beating Dallas and San Antonio in back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday.

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