By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Nov 15 2010 9:03AM
At some point in March, we might start wishing the playoffs would get here already. Nothing beats the intensity and excitement of postseason basketball. But the last seven days around the league are a perfect example of why we love the 1,230-game journey that is the NBA regular season.
In the last seven days, we saw the Jazz play one of the best weeks of basketball any of us can remember, which included a wild finish in Miami that no one saw coming. We saw another intense battle between the Celtics and Heat and we saw Rajon Rondo dish out another 48 assists, yet have no choice but to shoot a three with the game on the line in Dallas.
We saw Kevin Love put up numbers that hadn't been seen in 28 years. We saw the Pacers hit 20 shots in a row and the Suns drop 22 threes on the Lakers. We saw career highs from Michael Beasley and Ruseell Westbrook and we got plenty of use out of the #LeaguePassAlert hashtag.
We saw the defending champs take their first (and second) loss. We saw some teams find their groove and others lose their way. And we saw the Hornets emerge as the only unbeaten team left in the NBA, thanks to a defense that has shut down every team they've faced.
All that in 49 games over seven days. And there are only 150 days and 1,088 games to go.
• Last week: Lakers, Celtics not holding anything back in early going
• This time last year: Hawks putting it together, while Lakers plummet - The Hawks were No. 1, the Nuggets got a big win over the Lakers, the Blazers had won six straight, Dwyane Wade thumped on Anderson Varejao, Brandon Jennings dropped a double-nickel on the Warriors, and the Kings had a better record than the Thunder.
Hero Team of the Week: Utah (4-0) - The Jazz earned this distinction before they even arrived in Charlotte for another comeback win over the Bobcats.
Zero Team of the Week: New York (0-4) - The records of the Knicks opponents when they faced them? 2-5, 5-2, 2-7 and 2-6.
High jumps of the week: Utah (+9), Milwaukee (+6), Charlotte (+5), Chicago (+5)
Free falls of the week: New York (-8), Sacramento (-6), Golden State (-4), Philadelphia (-5)
East vs. West: The West is 31-17 (.646) against the East in inter-conference games this season and was 15-9 last week.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
Off: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league averages 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.6 points scored per 100 possessions.
New Orleans (8-0)|
Pace: 93.4 (24), Off: 106.9 (7), Def: 95.3 (1)
And why shouldn't the Hornets be No. 1? They've beaten plenty of good teams and now have the best point differential in the league. Chris Paul is their star, but he averaged just 12.8 points last week and took just six shots in Saturday's win over Portland. The next test is a home-and-home with the Mavs this week.
Pace: 93.4 (25), Off: 105.4 (10), Def: 99.1 (6)
If Rondo could shoot, the Celtics might be No. 1 in the rankings this week. But of course, that last possession in Dallas wouldn't have been nearly as fascinating. Either way, you can't penalize a team much for losing by two on the road to a very good team on the second night of a back-to-back. The Cs remain strong.
San Antonio (8-1)|
Pace: 99.2 (6), Off: 108.2 (5), Def: 101.1 (8)
After the Red Rocket hit 7-for-7 on Sunday, the Spurs are shooting a ridiculous 44 percent from 3-point range. It's helped that Tony Parker has yet to attempt a shot from beyond the arc. The Spurs' only loss is to the undefeated Hornets, and the Spurs had a shot to tie the score in that game in the final minutes.
L.A. Lakers (8-2)|
Pace: 99.5 (5), Off: 112.6 (1), Def: 104.4 (14)
The Lakers must really love their coach. Phil Jackson said Thursday that his 8-0 team wasn't going to win 70 games and they validated his point by dropping two straight, allowing the Nuggets and Suns to score 122 points per 100 possessions. Visits to Milwaukee, Detroit and Minnesota will help the D recover.
Pace: 95.3 (17), Off: 103.8 (16), Def: 102.5 (9)
Utah's five straight comebacks were all about offense. Over the five games, they went from scoring 80.5 points per 100 possessions in the first half to 130.8 in the second half (including overtimes). The road trip for the ages has earned them 12 of their next 14 games at EnergySolutions Arena.
Pace: 93.3 (26), Off: 105.2 (11), Def: 97.1 (3)
The Mavs' improved defense, which Art Garcia profiled on Sunday, is definitely noteworthy. Their opponents are shooting a league-low 44.1 percent from inside the 3-point line. But one word of caution: At this time last year, Dallas was ranked fifth defensively, but regressed on that end as the season went on.
Pace: 93.7 (23), Off: 109.4 (3), Def: 97.8 (4)
Maybe we were too quick to pronounce the Heat a great defensive team. They allowed just 87.9 points per 100 possessions in their first five games, but have allowed 107.8 in their last five. Their offense has been much more consistent. They have as many losses as last season's Heat had in all of March and April.
Pace: 94.4 (20), Off: 105.2 (12), Def: 97.9 (5)
There doesn't seem to be as much panic in Orlando as there is in Miami, even though the Magic lost two straight regular-season games for the first time since January, and barely escaped with a win in New Jersey. Stan Van Gundy has promised again to keep his cool despite his team's recent defensive issues.
Pace: 94.2 (21), Off: 108.8 (4), Def: 104.6 (17)
After losing four straight, the Hawks will happily take a narrow win over the Timberwolves and the 39 free throws that came with it on Sunday, because they didn't shoot or defend particularly well. After five games in eight days, they have just two over the next seven.
Pace: 98.3 (9), Off: 107.8 (6), Def: 104.8 (18)
The Nuggets have been outrebounded in six straight games, but if it weren't for Tuesday's drubbing in Indiana, they would be ranked seventh defensively. Carmelo Anthony is likely a Nugget until at least Dec. 15, but there will be chatter this week, as both the New York and New Jersey media invade Denver.
Oklahoma City (5-4)|
Pace: 96.6 (15), Off: 104.0 (15), Def: 108.3 (27)
The Thunder offense has been inconsistent, but they are starting to move the ball a little better. At this point, their defense -- which ranked eighth last season -- is clearly the bigger concern. The good news is that Nick Collison, who statistically was their best defender last season, played his first game on Sunday. The bad news? They still lost to the Spurs.
Pace: 98.5 (8), Off: 105.4 (9), Def: 100.4 (7)
There are five teams ranked in the top 10 both offensively and defensively, and the Bulls are the one you'd have a tough time guessing. Thanks to an improved defense (93.2), they won three important home games last week. Important because the seven-game circus trip begins Tuesday in Houston.
Pace: 96.6 (14), Off: 110.8 (2), Def: 108.8 (29)
On Sunday in L.A., the Suns made 10 more threes than they attempted two nights earlier. The four other teams that have made at least 20 threes all won by at least 18, but Phoenix will take a win over the champs any way they can get it. The defense needs work, but offensively, they're comin' for that No. 1 spot.
Pace: 91.8 (29), Off: 106.8 (8), Def: 104.4 (15)
News of Brandon Roy's knee issues makes you think that the Blazers' season might be on the brink of collapse. They've been pretty bad defensively (107.7) since starting the season 3-0 and they're obviously not as good offensively if Roy is not healthy. Three tough games this week could put them under .500.
Pace: 93.7 (22), Off: 96.4 (28), Def: 95.4 (2)
After the Bucks' offense got going against the Knicks and after they exacted some revenge on the Hawks, Brandon Jennings scored 38 fewer points against the Warriors than he did a year ago. But the defense, as always, was stifling. The Bucks' 79 points on Saturday were the lowest by a winning team this season.
Golden State (6-4)|
Pace: 99.7 (4), Off: 102.0 (20), Def: 103.2 (10)
The Warriors' offense looked worn down at the end of their road trip where they played five games in seven days. They shot just 38 percent and got to the line just 17 times in losses in Chicago and Milwaukee. Well, at least Monta Ellis (19-for-36) was OK, despite that tough fall in New York.
Pace: 98.9 (7), Off: 102.8 (19), Def: 104.9 (19)
Another week, another tough overtime loss for the Grizz. They've struggled to stop the Mavs and Celtics the last two games, but overall, the defense is improved. Rudy Gay is earning that contract thus far, averaging 25.2 points on 52 percent shooting. He had a couple of big buckets to send the Boston game to OT.
Pace: 101.3 (2), Off: 104.6 (13), Def: 105.5 (22)
Missing Aaron Brooks for the last four games, the Houston defense has been much improved, allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions, as they've won three of the last four. Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, averaging 47 points between them in the four games, have carried the offensive load.
Pace: 98.1 (10), Off: 103.4 (17), Def: 103.3 (11)
After three awful offensive performances and three days off, the Pacers went ballistic on the Nuggets. Clearly, Jim O'Brien put them through a couple of GREAT practices on those off days. Or maybe that 20-for-20 string to start the third quarter was a fluke. Saturday's game in Cleveland was won with defense.
Pace: 94.8 (18), Off: 100.7 (25), Def: 105.8 (23)
It would be nice if the Cavs could stay relatively healthy, because how well they do post-Decision is one of the most fascinating stories in the league (and because I predicted them to make the playoffs). But Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao have combined to miss nine games already.
Pace: 90.9 (30), Off: 101.6 (22), Def: 103.4 (12)
Last season, no team had a more lopsided home-away discrepancy than the Bobcats, who won 18 more games at home than they did on the road. This season, they're 3-3 on the road and are the only team in the league searching for its first home win. That just might come Monday against the Timberwolves.
New Jersey (3-6)|
Pace: 92.0 (28), Off: 98.5 (26), Def: 105.1 (21)
Did the Nets take a big step forward with Saturday's one-point loss to the Magic? We'll find out soon enough, as they begin a four-game trip with a very winnable game against the Clippers. It would be nice if they could get Troy Murphy going. He has just 22 points in five games since returning from a back injury.
Pace: 92.9 (27), Off: 101.2 (23), Def: 106.8 (24)
The Pistons have won four of their last five. The improvement has been on both ends, but more so on offense, where they've had big games from four different guys. Charlie Villanueva's 30 points against the Clippers on Friday was just his second 30-point game as a Piston and the first since his first month in Detroit.
New York (3-7)|
Pace: 101.2 (3), Off: 101.1 (24), Def: 103.4 (13)
In losing five straight, the Knicks have regressed tremendously on both ends of the floor. And they haven't even played a tough or road-heavy schedule. Only three teams have taken a greater percentage of their shots from 3-point range, but only five have shot worse from there.
Pace: 96.0 (16), Off: 104.1 (14), Def: 109.5 (30)
Playing nine of their first 12 games against teams that missed the playoffs last season, this is the easy part of the Kings' schedule. But they've lost five straight and celebrated their status as the worst defensive team in the league by allowing the offensively deficient Pistons to shoot 54 percent.
Pace: 97.5 (12), Off: 101.7 (21), Def: 104.5 (16)
The Sixers' defense was bad with or without Andre Iguodala last week, allowing the Thunder, Mavs and Spurs to score 112.5 points per 100 possessions in their three losses. Now, if they can't stop the Cavs, Raptors (twice), Bucks and Wizards in their next five games, they'll know they have problems.
Pace: 102.9 (1), Off: 95.7 (30), Def: 107.1 (26)
What went somewhat unnoticed about Kevin Love's double-Winfield was that the Wolves erased a 21-point deficit in 10 minutes. Not only did they win two games this week, but they were also competitive on the road against the Lakers and Hawks. This team was awful until Tuesday. Look at them now!
Pace: 96.9 (13), Off: 102.9 (18), Def: 108.6 (28)
The Raptors' defense has been predictably atrocious, but scoring 210 points in Orlando and Miami on back-to-back nights is certainly encouraging. It might have been a breakout weekend for DeMar DeRozan, who scored 47 points by shooting 15-for-25 and getting to the line 23 times in the two games.
Pace: 98.0 (11), Off: 96.2 (29), Def: 105.0 (20)
Gilbert Arenas broke out for 30 points, hitting seven of his 10 threes, in Saturday's loss in Chicago, but John Wall's foot injury is obviously a concern. Along with a handful of winnable games coming up, Wall's first meeting with Rajon Rondo is Wednesday in Boston.
L.A. Clippers (1-9)|
Pace: 94.7 (19), Off: 96.7 (27), Def: 106.9 (25)
The Clippers will really have their status as the new worst team in the league tested this week, when they play the Nets, Timberwolves, Pacers and Knicks. Losing all four, especially if they blow four big leads, would be the bizarro version of the week the Jazz just had.
NBA.com's Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you've got an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail. You can also follow him on twitter.
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