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Lakers coming up small in big games

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jan 31 2011 9:43AM

Things will likely change before the end of the season, but right now, it looks like we've got a Big Five in the Power Rankings. They're the teams with the five best records in the league and they've held the top five spots for three weeks now.

The Big Five have played a total of 13 games against each other, with only the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs yet to meet (both meetings are in March). The Boston Celtics have made the most of those head-to-head matchups, going 6-1 against the other four team. They're the only one of the group to have defeated each of the others, with their only loss coming without Kevin Garnett, to the Chicago Bulls.

The Los Angeles Lakers, on the other hand, are 1-4 against the Big Five, with one loss against each of the other four. And they've lost their two biggest games of the season (Christmas vs. Miami and Sunday vs. Boston) by a combined 29 points.

What does it all mean? It means the Lakers have some work to do. But ultimately, we're not going to really know how these teams stack up until May or June.

• Last week: West continues to dominate, Spurs remain on top
• This time last year: Team of the Month went under the radar - The Cavs had won eight straight, the Lakers beat the Celtics on this shot by Kobe Bryant, the Hawks completed a season sweep of Boston, Chris Paul injured his knee, and Andre Miller dropped 52 points on the Mavs.

Hero Team of the Week: Chicago (3-0) - With their star suffering from two stomach ulcers, the Bulls have won five straight, none more important than Friday's victory over the Magic.
Zero Team of the Week: Toronto (0-4) - It's tough for a team to earn this distinction two weeks in a row, but with a 16-point loss in Minnesota, the Raptors did.

High jumps of the week: Five teams (+2)
Free falls of the week: Atlanta (-3), Four teams (-2)

East vs. West: The West is 159-116 (.578) against the East in inter-conference games this season, and was 11-9 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 94.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.1 points scored per 100 possessions.

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.

1 San Antonio (40-7)
Pace: 95.3 (13), Off: 109.3 (3), Def: 100.6 (7)
After Tim Duncan hurt his left knee in the second quarter of Monday's win at Golden State, you'd think Gregg Popovich would sit him for the rest of the season. But Duncan was back after halftime. The Spurs haven't lost a home game since November, but won't play another one until after the All-Star break.
Previous: 1

2 Boston (36-11)
Pace: 92.9 (22), Off: 106.0 (10), Def: 97.9 (2)
After splitting a pair of ugly games in Portland and Phoenix, the Celtics' offense looked pretty under the bright lights of Staples Center, the first of four straight big Sunday games. They host the Magic this Sunday and the Heat the Sunday after that. Then three or four of them head back to L.A. for the All-Star Game.
Previous: 2

3 Chicago (33-14)
Pace: 94.3 (17), Off: 103.2 (18), Def: 96.3 (1)
Kurt Thomas exploded for 22 points in Monday's win over the Bucks, the first time since February 2005 that the 38-year-old has scored 20-plus. The Bulls are now tied with the Heat for second in the East and have won 18 of their last 20 at home. They play 11 of their next 14 on the road, starting with a West Coast trip this week.
Previous: 5

4 Miami (33-14)
Pace: 93.2 (21), Off: 108.3 (4), Def: 99.5 (4)
Between Gogglegate, injuries and returns, playing time issues, trash talk from Kevin Durant and three games (in four days) that each came down to the final seconds, it was an eventful week around the Heat. Wait, is it ever not an eventful week around the Heat? Next up are rematches against the Magic and Clippers.
Previous: 4

5 L.A. Lakers (33-15)
Pace: 94.6 (16), Off: 109.3 (2), Def: 102.1 (8)
Friday's loss to the Kings would have been excusable if the Lakers came back and beat the Celtics on Sunday. Kobe Bryant has shot 52 percent over the last 13 games, but in taking 56 shots in the two losses over the weekend, he either didn't have enough help (Ron Artest shot 2-for-14) or wasn't looking for it.
Previous: 3

6 Orlando (31-17)
Pace: 94.0 (18), Off: 106.7 (9), Def: 99.8 (5)
Dwight Howard scored 40 points for just the third time in his career (including postseason) on Friday, but his teammates shot just 18-for-58 in an crucial loss in Chicago. Ryan Anderson had just nine points in that one, but has had 20-plus in four of the last seven games. He played in just 10 of the Magic's first 28.
Previous: 6

7 New Orleans (31-18)
Pace: 91.4 (29), Off: 103.3 (16), Def: 99.1 (3)
The Hornets are the latest victim of the NBA.com jinx, as their 10-game losing streak came to an end with a pair of narrow losses after we pointed out how great they've been in close games. Sunday's loss in Phoenix was one of the wildest finishes you'll ever see, capped by a controversial non-call.
Previous: 7

8 Dallas (31-15)
Pace: 92.1 (26), Off: 105.8 (11), Def: 102.4 (9)
Tyson Chandler has been the key to the Mavs' defensive improvement, but he's picked up his offensive production of late, averaging 18.3 points on 22-for-33 shooting and 29-for-31 from the line as Dallas has won four straight. J.J. Barea also went off for 44 points in back-to-back games last week.
Previous: 10

9 Denver (28-19)
Pace: 98.2 (3), Off: 109.7 (1), Def: 106.4 (22)
Wednesday's win over the Pistons was the Nuggets' first victory in Detroit since 1995. And fittingly, it ended with a flurry of threes from Chauncey Billups. Carmelo Anthony arrives in New Jersey on Monday still wearing a Nuggets jersey and having shot just 36 percent in the first four games of this road trip.
Previous: 11

10 Oklahoma City (30-17)
Pace: 95.7 (12), Off: 107.4 (7), Def: 105.0 (16)
Kevin Durant's 87 points on 54 percent shooting against the Wolves and Wizards were sandwiched by 55 points on 37 percent shooting against the Hornets and Heat. He's shooting 37 percent (22-for-60) in three games against New Orleans, who the Thunder face for the final time on Wednesday at home.
Previous: 9

11 Atlanta (30-18)
Pace: 92.5 (24), Off: 104.6 (14), Def: 102.9 (12)
Joe Johnson is starting to earn that contract (at least more than he was before), scoring 26-plus in nine of the Hawks' 13 games in January. Perhaps he should have shot more than Josh Smith in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Smith was 1-for-6 (0-for-3 from 3-point range) in a fourth quarter that the Hawks lost 34-15.
Previous: 8

12 Utah (28-20)
Pace: 93.5 (19), Off: 105.7 (12), Def: 105.8 (18)
The Jazz didn't need Deron Williams (strained right wrist) to beat Minnesota and end a six-game losing streak on Friday, but they were certainly missing him Sunday at Golden State. Only one team in the West (Minnesota) has a worse record than Utah (7-11) since Christmas.
Previous: 12

13 Portland (25-22)
Pace: 91.4 (28), Off: 103.6 (15), Def: 103.4 (14)
The Blazers went 0-2 on the floor (shooting 38 percent) and 2-0 on MRIs (LaMarcus Aldridge's hip and Nicolas Batum's knee) last week. That's easily a net positive, but they've got the Grizzlies on their heels and a tough back-to-back (home against San Antonio, at Denver) on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Previous: 13

14 Phoenix (22-24)
Pace: 97.0 (6), Off: 107.6 (6), Def: 108.6 (28)
It wasn't quite "There's no place like home," but Channing Frye's "I'm sick of this losing crap" after Wednesday's loss to the Bobcats were the magic words for a team that had lost three straight. The Suns responded with big wins over the Celtics and Hornets, with Marcin Gortat scoring a career high in each.
Previous: 14

15 New York (25-22)
Pace: 98.9 (2), Off: 107.8 (5), Def: 106.0 (19)
Thursday's win over the Heat was the Knicks' second signature win of the month, and they did it by scoring 22 fewer points than they allowed in their win over the Spurs. Sunday's win over Detroit was their most efficient offensive game of the season and the first time in 12 games that they outrebounded their opponent.
Previous: 15

16 Memphis (24-24)
Pace: 95.1 (15), Off: 102.7 (21), Def: 102.8 (11)
The Grizzlies lost O.J. Mayo for 10 games and lost to the Nets again, but with three wins last week, including a 21-point comeback in Philadelphia, they're at .500 for the first time since they were 4-4. Rudy Gay had the game-winner in Toronto and Zach Randolph extended his double-double streak to 14 games.
Previous: 16

17 Philadelphia (21-26)
Pace: 93.5 (20), Off: 103.3 (17), Def: 103.1 (13)
If the Sixers were just .500 in close games (instead of 3-11), they would be 25-22 and tied for sixth in the East with the Knicks, who they happen to play twice this week. It also would have been nice if they didn't commit 13 turnovers and blow a 21-point lead over the last 15 minutes against Memphis on Friday.
Previous: 17

18 Houston (22-27)
Pace: 97.4 (5), Off: 106.9 (8), Def: 107.2 (24)
Chuck Hayes for Player of the Week! He held Blake Griffin to 5-for-16 shooting in Wednesday's win over the Clippers and then tied a career high with 16 points the next night in Dallas. On the other end of the spectrum is Aaron Brooks, who has shot 25-for-94 (27 percent) over the last eight games.
Previous: 19

19 L.A. Clippers (18-28)
Pace: 95.2 (14), Off: 103.0 (20), Def: 106.8 (23)
After four losses (two back in November), the Clippers got their first win without Eric Gordon (out a month with an injured wrist) on Saturday against Charlotte. Randy Foye, Gordon's replacement in the starting lineup, has increased his scoring in each of the last five games, dropping a season-high 21 in the win.
Previous: 18

20 Charlotte (20-26)
Pace: 92.6 (23), Off: 100.6 (24), Def: 103.5 (15)
Paul Silas wanted to get three wins on this six-game trip and he got them right away, with some help from Kwame Brown, who recorded two double-doubles last week and is averaging 9.2 points and 8.7 rebounds as a starter. The Cats and Stephen Jackson also got a little help from the glass at Oracle Arena.
Previous: 22

21 Milwaukee (19-26)
Pace: 92.3 (25), Off: 98.7 (29), Def: 100.0 (6)
The Bucks continue to get a little more offensive, getting 20-plus games from six different guys last week and shooting 43 percent from 3-point range in three straight wins. With Brandon Jennings back and their next six games against bottom-10 defensive teams, they should continue to trend up.
Previous: 21

22 Golden State (20-27)
Pace: 97.5 (4), Off: 105.4 (13), Def: 108.5 (27)
Sunday was the first time in his career that Monta Ellis had played at least 30 minutes and scored fewer than seven points, but the Warriors managed to beat the Jazz and end a four-game losing streak anyway. Somehow, they've held Utah to two of its three lowest point totals of the season.
Previous: 20

23 Detroit (17-31)
Pace: 91.2 (30), Off: 102.4 (22), Def: 107.7 (25)
Austin Daye is much better at clutch threes than clutch alley-oop dunks. And that missed dunk in Miami was the difference between an encouraging 2-2 week and a three-game losing streak that has taken some of the luster off the Pistons' improvement with Tracy McGrady at point guard.
Previous: 23

24 Indiana (17-27)
Pace: 96.8 (7), Off: 100.5 (25), Def: 102.6 (10)
Jim O'Brien is out after 3 1/2 seasons with the Pacers, and as Frank Vogel takes over, we note that mid-season coaching changes result in an increase in offensive efficiency more often than not. With games against the Raptors and Cavs to start, Vogel gets to ease into his new gig.
Previous: 24

25 New Jersey (14-34)
Pace: 91.8 (27), Off: 99.2 (28), Def: 106.0 (20)
Thanks to a 4-1 homestand, the Nets were the first team to exceed last season's win total. But then they got spanked in Indiana and Milwaukee. They're allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions on the road, where they've lost 21 of their last 22 games, as opposed to 101.6 at home.
Previous: 26

26 Sacramento (12-33)
Pace: 96.3 (8), Off: 100.0 (26), Def: 105.1 (17)
Last week was easily the Kings' best of the season, with wins over three West playoff teams. Tyreke Evans (26 points, six rebounds and six assists) was the catalyst in Portland, and DeMarcus Cousins (52 points, 22 rebounds, nine assists) carried the load against the Lakers and Hornets.
Previous: 28

27 Washington (13-33)
Pace: 96.1 (9), Off: 99.6 (27), Def: 106.3 (21)
The Wizards were a bucket from getting their first road win in Oklahoma City on Friday, but ultimately it was a week where they allowed their four opponents to score 114.8 points per 100 possessions. Nick Young's Shot/Assist ratio of 11.1 is highest (by far) of guards who have attempted at least 100 shots.
Previous: 25

28 Minnesota (11-36)
Pace: 100.2 (1), Off: 102.1 (23), Def: 108.0 (26)
The Wolves took their losing streak to six games with 31 fouls against the Rockets and 47 total turnovers against the Thunder and Jazz, as well as a couple of crucial missed free throws vs. OKC. Then they ended the streak with their best defensive game of the season on Saturday against the Raptors.
Previous: 29

29 Toronto (13-35)
Pace: 95.9 (11), Off: 103.1 (19), Def: 109.7 (30)
In losing 11 straight, the Raptors have allowed some big games from big guys, including Marreese Speights, who had this to say about scoring against the Toronto zone: "It was kind of easy." It hasn't been easy for Andrea Bargnani, who has shot 36 percent over the last nine and has missed his last 10 threes.
Previous: 27

30 Cleveland (8-39)
Pace: 96.1 (10), Off: 97.1 (30), Def: 109.2 (29)
The streak almost came to an end on Monday in New Jersey, but the Cavs blew a seven-point lead in the fourth and Daniel Gibson missed the game-winner at the buzzer. Now, their only chance at avoiding an 0-for-January comes Monday in Miami. In 10 games as a starting center, J.J. Hickson is averaging 13.0 boards.
Previous: 30
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