Road trip sinks the Heat
A week ago, the Miami Heat looked like they might hold on to the No. 1 spot in the Power Rankings all season. Then they flew west and promptly dropped three straight games.
It hasn't helped that Dwyane Wade isn't 100 percent healthy, but if we look at the league as a whole, we see that the Heat aren't alone when it comes to road woes.
The 9-4 Spurs are 0-4 on the road, while the 9-5 Lakers and 7-5 Blazers are each 1-4. In all, 12 of the 30 teams (three in the East and nine in the West) have winning records at home and losing records away.
Through Sunday, home teams are 118-65. That 0.645 winning percentage is the fifth highest in NBA history and the highest since the 1990-91 season. Blame the condensed schedule.
Over the previous four seasons, about 31 percent of road games came as the second night of a back-to-back. Thus far this season, about 40 percent of road games have been the second night of a back-to-back or the third night of a back-to-back-to-back set.
It's early and the home-road discrepancy may change, but in three of the last four seasons, home teams were stronger after the first month. So be prepared for your team to take a dip in the standings (and the rankings) when it hits the road for a long stretch.
• Last week: Sixers Rise and Jazz Surprise
• This time last year: Spurs clear leader at the midway point - The Clippers beat the Heat and Lakers, the Timberwolves got called for five technical fouls in the span of 10 seconds, Dirk Nowitzki returned from a nine-game absence, and the Jazz did this.
Hero Team of the Week: Houston (3-1) - The Rockets beat Portland, and their only loss was in overtime in San Antonio, where the Spurs are now 9-0.
Zero Team of the Week: Boston (0-3) - The Celtics played three good teams (Dallas, Chicago and Indiana), but two of the three games were at home. Through three weeks, they sit in 10th place in the East.
Plus-minus Stud: Vince Carter (DAL) was a plus-76 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: John Salmons (MIL) was a minus-59 in four games last week.
High jumps of the week: Dallas (+5), L.A. Clippers (+5), Three teams (+4)
Free falls of the week: Portland (-7), Boston (-6), Denver (-6)
East vs. West: The West is 31-24 (.564) against the East in inter-conference games this season and was 15-10 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 is averaging 94.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 99.8 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.
Pace: 91.5 (26), Off: 102.7 (9), Def: 91.7 (2)
The abbreviated preseason is certainly to blame for some of the ugly basketball we've seen this season, but so are the Bulls. Chicago has been the opponent in four of the six games where a team has scored less than 70 points, with three of those four taking place in the last eight days. The Grizzlies may be next.
Oklahoma City (11-2)|
Pace: 94.3 (14), Off: 106.5 (2), Def: 101.4 (19)
The Thunder have the No. 2 offense in the league, even though their starting lineup is scoring just 96 points per 100 possessions. When Kevin Durant and James Harden are on the floor together, they're scoring 118. But the starters have been excellent defensively, a big change from last season.
San Antonio (9-4)|
Pace: 94.2 (15), Off: 105.3 (5), Def: 101.2 (18)
At 6-2 since his injury, the Spurs can seemingly get by without Manu Ginobili ... unless they're playing on the road, where they're now 0-4 and play seven of their next nine. If they're going to eventually pick up a win away from the AT&T Center, Tuesday in Miami or Wednesday in Orlando would be a nice time to do it.
Pace: 95.8 (6), Off: 106.4 (3), Def: 89.4 (1)
The Sixers have won eight out of nine, with the only loss coming on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back when they were clearly out of gas. But Indiana has been the best team they faced in that stretch and was missing Danny Granger and George Hill. This week, they've got the Nuggets and Heat.
Pace: 98.5 (2), Off: 103.7 (7), Def: 96.3 (7)
After Dwyane Wade's early-season game-winners, are the Heat back to being a bad team in close games? They shot 6-for-25 in clutch time against the Warriors and Clippers. Eight of their next nine games are at home, but Wade is hobbled again and they face the Spurs, Lakers and Sixers this week.
L.A. Lakers (9-5)|
Pace: 93.6 (19), Off: 100.7 (13), Def: 96.0 (6)
The Lakers defense, which had been so good in their five-game winning streak, struggled against the Clippers on Saturday, fouling too much and giving up 17 offensive boards. Kobe Bryant's 40-plus streak is at four games, with a couple of marquee matchups (vs. Dallas and at Miami) coming up this week.
Pace: 91.9 (25), Off: 106.8 (1), Def: 101.7 (22)
Whether Dwight Howard was scoring 13 points and shooting 3-for-12 from the line (in Portland) or scoring 45 and shooting 21-for-39 (at Golden State), the Magic offense was dominant last week. Hedo Turkoglu, shooting 47 percent from 3-point range, is having the most efficient scoring season of his career.
L.A. Clippers (6-3)|
Pace: 93.0 (22), Off: 105.1 (6), Def: 102.6 (24)
Rebounding has been a problem for the Clippers, but they answered the bell against the second-best rebounding team in the league on Saturday. In a wildly intense game, they grabbed 17 offensive boards and held their own against the Lakers on the defensive glass. Chris Paul is day-to-day with a hammy issue.
Pace: 94.8 (13), Off: 99.1 (17), Def: 94.9 (4)
Since their awful start, the Mavs have won seven of their last eight, and it looks like they might be able to play top-10 defense without Tyson Chandler. They spend the next few days in L.A., where Wednesday's game against the Clippers will test that defense more than Monday's against Mr. 40-plus and the Lakers.
Pace: 96.6 (3), Off: 102.0 (10), Def: 98.5 (10)
The Blazers have dropped three straight and have four games (against mostly weak opponents) remaining on their six-game trip. The good news is that Nicolas Batum broke out with a huge game in Houston on Saturday. But Raymond Felton's 0-for-6 put him at 6-for-40 from 3-point range this season.
Pace: 93.8 (18), Off: 98.4 (20), Def: 94.0 (3)
Though they lost Monday's big matchup in Philly, the Pacers look legit. They've owned the Celtics defensively in two games thus far (89 points allowed per 100 possessions) and face them again next week. But that's one of eight road games in a 17-day stretch where they're only at home (where they're 5-0) twice.
Pace: 98.8 (1), Off: 105.5 (4), Def: 99.7 (14)
Playing a fast pace at a high altitude, the Nuggets should have a major home-court advantage. They beat the Heat, but also lost to the Hornets and Jazz at the Pepsi Center last week. And their defense has been pretty awful over the last five games, allowing 52 percent shooting and 113 points per 100 possessions.
Pace: 92.6 (23), Off: 103.3 (8), Def: 95.9 (5)
Eventually, the Hawks will probably struggle without Al Horford, but they're 2-0 since he was ruled out for the next 3-4 months. Maybe Ivan Johnson, who won the game for them on Saturday, can keep them afloat. After this quote, Charles Barkley needs to challenge Johnson to a game of "Who He Play For?"
Pace: 93.9 (17), Off: 100.3 (14), Def: 99.6 (13)
Considering how awful the Jazz were at the end of last season and how weak (and home-heavy) their early schedule was, it was easy to be skeptical about their 7-4 start. But Sunday's win in Denver was pretty convincing. The home-heaviness continues with seven of their next eight at EnergySolutions Arena.
Pace: 93.4 (20), Off: 101.2 (12), Def: 103.5 (25)
The Rockets' schedule eased up a bit and, more importantly, they got Kyle Lowry back. The result was a 3-1 week, with Lowry averaging 21.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists in the four games. Just two of their next 12 games (both against the Spurs) are against teams with a winning record.
Pace: 95.4 (9), Off: 97.0 (24), Def: 99.2 (11)
With Tony Allen being a complete pest (five steals), the Grizzlies' defense looked terrific in Thursday's win over the Knicks. And with a second straight big game from Rudy Gay, the offense was strong in Saturday's win over the Hornets. But the Grizz haven't been consistent enough on either end of the floor.
New York (6-6)|
Pace: 96.4 (5), Off: 97.4 (23), Def: 98.1 (8)
Just as important as getting Carmelo Anthony back from his ankle injury is getting Amar'e Stoudemire back in rhythm. Stoudemire hasn't been the same player with Tyson Chandler on the floor and shot 23-for-65 (35 percent) last week. It would probably help if he had a real point guard passing him the ball.
Pace: 90.9 (28), Off: 100.0 (15), Def: 100.2 (16)
The Celtics' offense has been downright ugly (91 points scored per 100 possessions) as they've dropped four straight. The ugliness starts with Paul Pierce, who shot 13-for-46 over the four games. The Cs have owned the paint in previous seasons, but are getting outscored there by 9.3 points per game.
Pace: 94.9 (12), Off: 97.7 (22), Def: 100.3 (17)
The Bucks showed some life offensively and got a quality win over the Spurs this week. They're the team most likely to capitalize on Al Horford's injury, but before they get a head-to-head shot at the Hawks next Monday, they've got a rough week ahead, featuring visits to Philly, New York and Miami.
Pace: 95.6 (7), Off: 99.0 (18), Def: 99.5 (12)
Both No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving (17 points and five assists per game) and No. 4 pick Tristan Thompson (51 percent shooting) have played pretty well thus far. But interestingly, the two have spent just 11 minutes on the floor together through 11 games. Chemistry building between the two Cleveland rookies will have to wait.
Pace: 93.2 (21), Off: 101.4 (11), Def: 101.5 (21)
From 1-3 in Week 1, to 3-1 in Week 2, and now 0-4 in Week 3, the Suns' season has been a roller coaster ride. But with Steve Nash banged up, their defense looking porous, and their road trip continuing through Chicago, New York, Boston and Dallas, it may be awhile before we see the next upswing.
Pace: 95.6 (8), Off: 98.3 (21), Def: 98.4 (9)
The fact that the Wolves are the No. 1 road defensive team (allowing 94 points per 100 possessions in five games) is tempered by the quality of opponents that they've played away from the Target Center. But the Wolves of the past could never have held five opponents to such low numbers, no matter who they were.
Golden State (4-8)|
Pace: 94.1 (16), Off: 100.0 (16), Def: 104.8 (26)
The Warriors aren't playing at a fast pace anymore, but they're still pretty poor defensively, especially with Kwame Brown out for three months. Sunday's win in Detroit was just the fourth time this season that they've held their opponent under a point per possession. Of course, they're 4-0 in those games.
Pace: 96.5 (4), Off: 93.8 (28), Def: 105.7 (27)
Instead of Keith Smart, maybe the Kings should have hired Norman Dale, who would have forced his players to pass the ball four times before shooting. With both the league's lowest assist rate and worst field goal percentage, that might be a good strategy for Smart to consider going forward.
Pace: 91.3 (27), Off: 95.0 (26), Def: 99.8 (15)
If you're a Raptors fan, the joy of seeing your team improve defensively has got to outweigh the pain of offensive regression. Of course, Saturday's 64-point performance in Chicago was still pretty brutal. At least DeMar DeRozan finally made a three after missing 11 straight to erase a hot start.
New Orleans (3-9)|
Pace: 90.9 (29), Off: 96.5 (25), Def: 101.5 (20)
The Hornets got a nice win in Denver on Wednesday, but that's their only victory in the last 10 games. With Trevor Ariza out and Al-Farouq Aminu not quite ready for primetime, they've started a bruising, 760-pound frontline of DaJuan Summers, Chris Kaman and Emeka Okafor for the last two games.
Pace: 89.9 (30), Off: 93.7 (29), Def: 106.9 (29)
The Pistons' original starting lineup, with Rodney Stuckey at the point, is a plus-15 in 102 minutes together. Their new starting lineup, with Brandon Knight in place of Stuckey, is a minus-67 in 103 minutes on the floor. Let's see how long Lawrence Frank, with a pair stat-heads on his staff, sticks with it.
New Jersey (3-10)|
Pace: 92.1 (24), Off: 98.9 (19), Def: 109.9 (30)
The Nets have gone three-happy, attempted 30-plus shots from 3-point range in four of their last six games. With Anthony Morrow, the second best 3-point shooter in NBA history, making 25 of his last 46 threes, the offense has picked up. But on the other end, Nets opponents are shooting 51 percent in January.
Pace: 95.3 (11), Off: 94.9 (27), Def: 106.2 (28)
Kemba Walker got his first career start on Saturday and promptly dropped 23 points in a win over the Warriors. A more pleasant surprise has been Most Improved candidate Byron Mullens, who has already scored more than four times as many points as he scored in his first two seasons combined.
Pace: 95.3 (10), Off: 88.3 (30), Def: 102.0 (23)
The Wizards got off the schneid against the Raptors, but weren't exactly competitive against the Bulls and Sixers (twice) after that. John Wall was one rebound and one assist shy of his second career triple-double in Saturday's loss to Philly, which began a five-game homestand against tough teams.