Spurs stay hot despite injuries
It was one year ago today.
The New York Knicks were 8-15 and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. And with his team trailing the New Jersey Nets, Mike D'Antoni turned to Jeremy Lin, who had averaged less than nine minutes in 38 career games until that point.
The rest, they say, is history. Lin led the Knicks' comeback against the Nets, which led to a seven-game winning streak that turned their season around. He averaged 18.5 points and 7.7 assists over 26 games and, oh yeah, became an international sensation along the way.
The chances of something of that scale ever happening again are pretty slim. But the one-year anniversary of the birth of Linsanity is a reminder that things can change quickly in this league, that you never know what the next game will bring, and that the Ivy League might be worth scouting.
• Last week: What becomes of the Celtics?
• This time last year: The search for No. 4 - Linsanity was born at MSG, Kevin Garnett hit 3-pointers in three straight games, Kevin Love stepped on Luis Scola's face, and Blake Griffin did this to Kendrick Perkins.
Hero Team of the Week: Boston (3-0) - The Celtics followed up last Sunday's win over the Heat with three more.
Zero Team of the Week: Washington (0-4) - Other losses were more understandable, but the Wizards began their week by getting beat by the Kings at home. It was Sacramento's only win in their last eight games.
Plus-minus Stud: J.R. Smith (NYK) was a plus-78 in three games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) was a minus-70 in four games last week.
High jumps of the week: Cleveland (+2), L.A. Lakers (+2), Philadelphia (+2), Toronto (+2)
Free falls of the week: New Orleans (-4), Atlanta (-2), Memphis (-2), Washington (-2)
East vs. West: The West is 164-116 (.586) against the East in inter-conference games this season and was 10-6 last week.
Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. New Orleans, 2. Washington, 3. Cleveland
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Atlanta, 2. Chicago, 3. New York
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league is averaging 94.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.5 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, contact him via twitter.
San Antonio (38-11)|
Pace: 96.7 (5), OffRtg: 106.7 (4), DefRtg: 97.8 (4), NetRtg: +8.8 (2)
While it's great that the Spurs have been able to extend their winning streak to 10 games despite injuries to Tim Duncan (who went down again on Saturday) and Manu Ginobili (who couldn't finish Wednesday's game against Charlotte), their health will eventually become a serious concern. The annual rodeo trip, nine games split by the All-Star break, begins in Minnesota on Wednesday.
Last week: 1|
Oklahoma City (35-12)|
Pace: 95.6 (8), OffRtg: 110.0 (1), DefRtg: 100.3 (8), NetRtg: +9.6 (1)
What a week for Russell Westbrook. He recovered from his road-trip shooting struggles, but threw an in-game tantrum in Thursday's win over the Grizzlies and followed it up with a bizarre postgame interview. Then he lost a one-on-one duel to Kyrie Irving on Saturday. The Thunder are 3-4 in their last seven games, allowing a brutal 110 points per 100 possessions in the four losses.
Last week: 2|
Pace: 93.2 (22), OffRtg: 109.1 (2), DefRtg: 101.5 (11), NetRtg: +7.6 (3)
The Heat are now 0-5 against the Knicks, Pacers and Bulls, getting outscored by an average of 14 points in the five games. But as they've done all season, they did just enough (holding on to beat the Raptors on Sunday) to stay ahead of New York and send Erik Spoelstra to the All-Star Game. Now, does Spoelstra give Rajon Rondo's starting spot to Kyrie Irving or Chris Bosh?
Last week: 3|
Pace: 97.5 (2), OffRtg: 105.8 (6), DefRtg: 102.3 (13), NetRtg: +3.6 (6)
Danilo Gallinari has averaged 20.3 points on 50 percent shooting as the Nuggets have won six straight. They're one of four teams that ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency since Jan. 1, but their home-heavy stretch of schedule comes to an end this week. After they host the Bucks and Bulls, they set off on a four-game trip through the East leading into the break.
Last week: 5|
L.A. Clippers (34-15)|
Pace: 94.2 (15), OffRtg: 106.4 (5), DefRtg: 99.2 (5), NetRtg: +7.1 (4)
It seemed like the Clippers were a little more likeable this season. But then Matt Barnes attacked Greg Stiemsma's neck on Wednesday and Caron Butler was mean to poor Jonas Valanciunas on Friday. And now there's a report that they want to trade for Kevin Garnett! The Clips are 5-5 without Chris Paul after ugly losses in Toronto and Boston. And yes, it's fair to wonder how bad his injury is.
Last week: 4|
Pace: 92.2 (26), OffRtg: 100.5 (18), DefRtg: 97.3 (3), NetRtg: +3.2 (7)
Considering all the players they were missing and that it was the second night of a road back-to-back, the Bulls win in Atlanta on Saturday was one of the more impressive victories for any team this season. Things aren't getting any easier before the break though. They play their final five pre-break games against the Pacers, Nuggets, Jazz, Spurs and Celtics, with four of the five on the road.
Last week: 7|
New York (30-15)|
Pace: 92.8 (24), OffRtg: 109.0 (3), DefRtg: 102.5 (16), NetRtg: +6.5 (5)
Amar'e Stoudemire is maybe playing better now than he did all of last season. And most encouraging is that the Knicks have been ridiculously good offensively, scoring over 118 points per 100 possessions, with Stoudemire on the floor with both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. Their schedule remains pretty easy until the break, especially if Chris Paul isn't back by Sunday.
Last week: 8|
Pace: 91.9 (28), OffRtg: 100.0 (24), DefRtg: 97.1 (2), NetRtg: +2.8 (9)
Only time will tell if the Grizzlies made the right move by trading Rudy Gay. But with the way Lionel Hollins was quick to criticize it after having already bemoaned the use of analytics, it's hard to imagine him on the Memphis bench beyond this season. And you have to wonder if the Grizz will now struggle with chemistry, even if they're not a much different team on paper.
Last week: 6|
Golden State (30-17)|
Pace: 96.3 (7), OffRtg: 104.5 (9), DefRtg: 101.9 (12), NetRtg: +2.7 (10)
The Warriors got a relatively easy, four-game week to work Andrew Bogut back into the rotation and deal with minor injuries to Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Carl Landry. Klay Thompson stepped up offensively, averaging 23.8 points on 51 percent shooting in the four games. But now they've got a big, four-games-in-five-nights trip through Houston, OKC, Memphis and Dallas.
Last week: 9|
Pace: 92.2 (27), OffRtg: 99.2 (28), DefRtg: 96.3 (1), NetRtg: +2.9 (8)
The only thing between the Pacers and a very impressive week was a missed call. They shut down the Heat (again) on Friday, but that missed call kept them from being just the fourth team to win in Denver this season. The Pacers themselves have won 13 straight at home and host the Bulls in another big game on Monday to start their storm-created back-to-back-to-back set.
Last week: 11|
Pace: 90.5 (30), OffRtg: 104.4 (10), DefRtg: 103.6 (20), NetRtg: +0.8 (13)
The Nets have survived this tough stretch of schedule they're going through, but they haven't exactly impressed. And that's basically been the story of the Brooklyn Nets thus far. Solid, but not spectacular. The good news is that they don't play the Heat, who trounced them on Wednesday, again in the regular season. The bad news is that there's probably no avoiding Miami in the playoffs.
Last week: 10|
Pace: 97.0 (4), OffRtg: 100.4 (20), DefRtg: 100.6 (9), NetRtg: -0.3 (16)
The Bucks beat the teams they were supposed to last week, but couldn't put four quarters together against either the Bulls or Knicks. They got outscored 55-37 in the first half against Chicago and 49-33 in the second half in New York. How about Mike Dunleavy for the 3-point contest? He has shot 30-for-57 from downtown under Jim Boylan and now ranks third in the league at 44.8 percent.
Last week: 12|
Pace: 98.7 (1), OffRtg: 105.4 (8), DefRtg: 103.5 (19), NetRtg: +1.9 (12)
The Rockets have won their last five games not played against the Nuggets, but have struggled to keep up with Denver in two fast-paced games over the last 12 days. They did win big in a big game in Utah on Monday and they've got Chandler Parsons (averaging 18.3 points on 61 percent shooting over the last four games) back in a rhythm after some early-January struggles.
Last week: 14|
Pace: 93.8 (16), OffRtg: 103.3 (12), DefRtg: 104.7 (23), NetRtg: -1.4 (18)
Utah's big week couldn't have had a worse start. But they recovered from that shellacking at the hands of the Rockets and held the Blazers at bay by splitting their home-and-home over the weekend. The Jazz are 12-8 since losing Mo Williams to thumb surgery, but now they've lost Earl Watson to a leg injury. So 34-year-old Jamaal Tinsley is the only point guard they've got for the time being.
Last week: 13|
Pace: 93.5 (20), OffRtg: 100.0 (22), DefRtg: 99.9 (6), NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
The loss of Jared Sullinger to back surgery was another major blow, because his presence in the paint and work on the glass might have been a key to keeping the Celtics' offense from falling off the rails. But Boston is 4-0 since Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, mostly because their defense is still great. They've allowed just 93 points per 100 possessions in the four games.
Last week: 16|
L.A. Lakers (22-26)|
Pace: 97.2 (3), OffRtg: 105.5 (7), DefRtg: 103.1 (17), NetRtg: +2.4 (11)
They dropped the ball in Phoenix on Wednesday, but the Lakers have won five of their last six games. The defense has been strong and the offense has been balanced, with seven guys averaging double figures over that stretch. But the status of Dwight Howard's should is obviously a concern as their road trip gets tougher this week, with visits to the Nets, Celtics, Bobcats and Heat.
Last week: 18|
Pace: 93.6 (18), OffRtg: 101.7 (16), DefRtg: 100.9 (10), NetRtg: +0.8 (14)
Every team probably wants to avoid the Bulls in the playoffs, but Atlanta is surely at the top of the list after being held to a total of 134 points in its last two meetings with Chicago. They're still six games over .500, but, with seven guys on non-rookie, expiring deals of various sizes, the Hawks are also one of the most fascinating teams to watch as the trade deadline approaches.
Last week: 15|
Pace: 93.5 (19), OffRtg: 101.9 (14), DefRtg: 103.8 (21), NetRtg: -2.0 (19)
The re-signing of J.J. Hickson (for one year) certainly seemed like a placeholder move for a team in transition that drafted a center in the Lottery. But the Blazers are a playoff contender in part because Hickson is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging a double-double and shooting 56 percent. Hickson totaled 47 points and 26 boards in the Blazers' two wins last week.
Last week: 17|
Pace: 92.9 (23), OffRtg: 100.9 (17), DefRtg: 103.3 (18), NetRtg: -2.4 (22)
The Pistons might have made out best in the three-team trade that went down on Wednesday. Long-term, they got more flexible financially. Short-term, Jose Calderon should give their first-unit offense a boost, give them a better shot at the playoffs, and aid the development of both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Calderon could make his debut on Monday in New York.
Last week: 19|
Pace: 96.7 (6), OffRtg: 101.9 (13), DefRtg: 104.2 (22), NetRtg: -2.3 (21)
The absence of Chris Kaman (concussion) has allowed Bernard James to get some run over the last 10 days. The 27-year-old veteran/rookie has 27 points and 22 rebounds in 71 minutes over the last five games, and is also a plus-22 in that time. And yes, this is what the Mavs' season has come to. We're now at the point where a few minutes from Bernard James is kind of interesting.
Last week: 20|
Pace: 93.3 (21), OffRtg: 99.5 (27), DefRtg: 102.5 (15), NetRtg: -3.0 (23)
Congratulations to the Sixers, who have won two straight games for the first time since November. We won't ruin the moment by mentioning who the two opponents were (Washington and Sacramento) or who the opponent will be (Orlando) when the streak reaches three on Monday. OK, we will ruin it a bit by mentioning the opponents, but any win is a good win when you're 20-26.
Last week: 23|
Pace: 94.6 (12), OffRtg: 100.2 (21), DefRtg: 102.3 (14), NetRtg: -2.2 (20)
After six straight losses (featuring some pretty awful defense), the Wolves badly needed a win against New Orleans on Saturday. They basically had it by the end of the (33-14) first quarter, allowing the struggling Ricky Rubio to let loose a little bit. Minnesota's two most efficient offensive games of the season have come against the Hornets, whom they play one more time in mid-March.
Last week: 22|
Pace: 95.1 (9), OffRtg: 99.7 (25), DefRtg: 106.9 (28), NetRtg: -7.3 (28)
If you missed the end of Saturday's OKC-Cleveland game, you missed yet another Kyrie Irving Show. You can watch the best of it here, check out some more of Irving's fourth-quarter clutchness here, and get a full rundown of Kyrie wizardry here. The Cavs have won the last six games in which Irving has scored 30 or more points, which he has done five times in the last nine games.
Last week: 25|
Pace: 92.5 (25), OffRtg: 103.7 (11), DefRtg: 105.0 (25), NetRtg: -1.3 (17)
The Rudy Gay era in Toronto is off to a solid start, with a win over the Clippers and a competitive game against the Heat. Gay probably gives the Raps an outside shot at the playoffs, though it would help if they had won more than two of the 10 games they played before they got him. If the postseason is the goal, Wednesday's game against the Celtics is obviously a big one.
Last week: 26|
New Orleans (15-33)|
Pace: 91.1 (29), OffRtg: 101.7 (15), DefRtg: 106.9 (27), NetRtg: -5.2 (25)
After a great start (a win in Memphis) to their five-game trip, things got progressively worse for the Hornets. They lost close games to the Lakers and Jazz, came up empty in the fourth quarter against the Nuggets, and then got destroyed by the Wolves. Greivis Vasquez has cooled off quite a bit, shooting 33 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from 3-point range over the last six games.
Last week: 21|
Pace: 94.4 (14), OffRtg: 94.5 (30), DefRtg: 100.1 (7), NetRtg: -5.6 (27)
The Wizards went 0-4 last week, but still managed to climb two more spots to No. 7 in defensive efficiency. Since the league started counting turnovers in 1977 (35 seasons), only four teams have finished in the top 10 in defensive efficiency and won less than 30 percent of their games. The last was the 2002-03 Nuggets, who ranked eighth defensively and went 17-65 (.207).
Last week: 24|
Pace: 95.0 (10), OffRtg: 99.6 (26), DefRtg: 104.8 (24), NetRtg: -5.2 (26)
After he scored 27 points in the Suns' win over the Lakers on Wednesday, Michael Beasley said he's "back to the Beast." And then he shot 2-for-13 against Dallas. But overall, Beasley is averaging 15.8 points on 46 percent shooting since he re-entered the rotation 10 games ago. The Suns are 4-6 and have actually played better defense (DefRtg: 102.0) in that stretch.
Last week: 28|
Pace: 95.0 (11), OffRtg: 100.0 (23), DefRtg: 108.2 (29), NetRtg: -8.2 (29)
Not only is Isaiah Thomas a Pizza Guy, but he's also somewhat of a barometer for the Kings' success. Thomas had 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting (including the game-winner) to go along with seven assists and just one turnover in Monday's win in Washington. But then he shot just 12-for-41 in losses in Boston, Philly and New York. He has shot 49 percent in wins this season.
Last week: 27|
Pace: 94.5 (13), OffRtg: 98.5 (29), DefRtg: 108.2 (30), NetRtg: -9.7 (30)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was easily the most fun thing about the Bobcats this season, so it was tough to see him taken off the floor in a stretcher (with what was eventually diagnosed as a concussion) on Saturday in Houston. Ironically, the Bobcats have been relatively good (minus-5 in 475 minutes) with MKG and Jeffrey Taylor (the guy who knocked him out) on the floor together.
Last week: 29|
Pace: 93.8 (17), OffRtg: 100.5 (19), DefRtg: 105.2 (26), NetRtg: -4.8 (24)
The Magic have lost nine straight and are now 1-12 without Glen Davis, who is out for the season after breaking his foot on Wednesday. Jameer Nelson (they're 1-9 without him) and Arron Afflalo (0-4 without him) are also banged up. And it might be time again to mention how bad they've been defensively, allowing a league-worst 112.6 points per 100 possessions in 2013.
Last week: 30|