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Across the board, a big week ahead out West

Power Rankings Week 18

POSTED: Mar 11, 2013 10:44 AM ET

By John Schuhmann,


Marc Gasol (left), Zach Randolph and the Grizz take on the Clips this week.

Last week was a big one in the Eastern Conference. Sunday's game in Miami was the feature and was maybe the Heat's biggest statement of the season. But before that, we saw the Celtics beat the Pacers and Hawks to continue their ascent up the standings. And we saw the Nets also handle Atlanta to solidify their position as the fourth seed.

This week, the most important games are out west. And it starts with the two top teams in the conference meeting Monday in San Antonio. After that, we get two big games for the Grizzlies, as they visit the Clippers on Wednesday and the Nuggets on Friday.

It's also a critical week for the Jazz, who need to quickly recover from their recent struggles and hope the Lakers have another slump in them over the final five and a half weeks.

Last week: Parker injury throws a curve in West race
This time last year: For movers, shakers, this is the week -- Dwyane Wade hit a ridiculous shot to beat the Pacers, Jordan Farmar hit a three to beat the Clippers, Andrew Bynum came up big in the clutch against the Celtics, teams 7-13 in the West were all within one game in the loss column, and Gerald Green did this.

Hero Team of the Week: Oklahoma City (4-0) -- OKC beat the Lakers, Knicks and Celtics, who went 9-0 in their other games last week.
Zero Team of the Week: Charlotte (0-4) -- The Cats have lost 10 straight games by an average of 21.5 points. Last week featured blowouts at the hands of great teams like the Blazers and Wizards.

Plus-minus Studs: Raymond Felton (NYK), LeBron James (MIA) & Ty Lawson (DEN) were all a plus-60 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: Kemba Walker (CHA) was a minus-73 in four games last week.

High jumps of the week: Dallas (+3), Denver (+3), Milwaukee (+3)
Free falls of the week: Chicago (-4), Utah (-3), ATL, DET, HOU, IND (-2)

East vs. West: The West is 218-159 (.578) against the East in interconference games this season and was 14-9 last week.

Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Phoenix, 2. Golden State, 3. New Orleans
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. New York, 2. Orlando, 3. Indiana

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) - Click here
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
The league is averaging 94.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.8 points scored per 100 possessions.'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 or contact him via twitter.


Last week: 1

Miami (47-14)
Pace: 93.1 (23), OffRtg: 110.5 (2), DefRtg: 101.2 (9), NetRtg: +9.2 (2)
The Heat got their win over the Bulls, got their win over the Knicks, and now got their win over the Pacers. They've beat every team in the league, so the only thing left to do is see how far they can take this streak. After they host the Hawks on Tuesday, they play nine of their next 11 games away from AmericanAirlines Arena. Remember when they were just a .500 team on the road? Ancient history.
This week: vs. ATL, @ PHI, @ MIL, @ TOR


Last week: 3

Oklahoma City (47-16)
Pace: 96.2 (8), OffRtg: 110.7 (1), DefRtg: 99.5 (6), NetRtg: +11.2 (1)
After a 10-game tear, Russell Westbrook's scoring has cooled off a bit. But the Thunder have still won five straight, including four over playoff teams, and can take back first place in the Western Conference with a win in San Antonio on Monday. Westbrook shot a combined 12-for-39 in the first two games against the Spurs, but he won't have to worry about defending Tony Parker this time.
This week: @ SAS, vs. UTA, vs. ORL, @ DAL


Last week: 2

San Antonio (48-15)
Pace: 96.5 (7), OffRtg: 107.5 (4), DefRtg: 98.3 (3), NetRtg: +9.2 (3)
Some guy was on NBA TV Friday evening, talking about the Spurs' improved defense and how it makes them a more legit title contender. Then they promptly made him look silly by giving up 136 points at home to the Blazers. But really, they are better defensively, and no team has defended the Thunder's No. 1 offense better this season. They'll need to defend it well again on Monday.
This week: vs. OKC, @ MIN, vs. DAL, vs. CLE


Last week: 7

Denver (42-22)
Pace: 97.7 (2), OffRtg: 107.4 (5), DefRtg: 102.3 (12), NetRtg: +5.1 (7)
The Nuggets have won eight straight and have the league's second best record (25-7) in 2013. Ty Lawson (22.3 points on 51 percent shooting) has been the star of the streak, but 3-point accuracy from Danilo Gallinari (13-for-24) and Wilson Chandler (14-for-24) has been critical as well. Denver has scored 114 points per 100 possessions with the two former Knicks on the floor together.
This week: @ PHX, vs. NYK, vs. MEM


Last week: 4

L.A. Clippers (45-20)
Pace: 94.2 (16), OffRtg: 107.0 (7), DefRtg: 100.3 (8), NetRtg: +6.7 (4)
There's an Alicia Keys concert scheduled for Monday night at Staples Center, but it may have to be postponed if investigators haven't cleared the crime scene in time. DeAndre Jordan is a bad man and Brandon Knight paid the price for walking down the wrong street in Lob City. The Clips, having won the first two meetings, host the Grizz in a big game for third place in the West on Wednesday.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. NYK


Last week: 6

Memphis (42-19)
Pace: 91.7 (28), OffRtg: 101.2 (19), DefRtg: 97.2 (2), NetRtg: +4.0 (8)
The Grizz have won 12 of their last 13 games, mostly beating up on bad teams. And now is when they really get tested, because stretches of four games in five nights don't get much tougher than the one they've got this week. So, while Ed Davis has played well (24 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks in the last two games), it would sure be nice to get Zach Randolph and/or Darrell Arthur back.
This week: @ POR, @ LAC, @ DEN, @ UTA


Last week: 5

Indiana (39-24)
Pace: 92.5 (26), OffRtg: 101.1 (20), DefRtg: 95.6 (1), NetRtg: +5.5 (5)
There's a clear weakness in Indiana's No. 1 defense: players cutting to the rim in the final seconds of games. First, there was Chase Budinger. Then came Jeff Green. The Pacers have played much better than the Knicks over the last couple of months, but are now back to two games in the loss column behind New York for the 2 seed in the East. And they don't exactly have the Heat's number anymore.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. LAL, @ PHI


Last week: 9

New York (38-22)
Pace: 92.7 (25), OffRtg: 108.1 (3), DefRtg: 102.8 (14), NetRtg: +5.4 (6)
Does Amar'e Stoudemire's latest injury really affect the Knicks' long-term outlook? He looked better than he did at any point last season and played well offensively, but the Knicks were already a great offensive team without him. Carmelo Anthony's knee injury and their up-and-down 3-point shooting are obviously bigger concerns. The good news is that their defense looks better than it has since November.
This week: @ GSW, @ DEN, @ POR, @ LAC


Last week: 11

Boston (34-28)
Pace: 93.7 (19), OffRtg: 100.2 (22), DefRtg: 99.2 (5), NetRtg: +0.9 (12)
The Celtics have become the cardiac kids of the NBA. Nine of their last 11 wins have come by eight points or less, including Wednesday's crazy victory in Indiana, in which they scored the final 11 points of the game. The run was capped by Doc Rivers' brilliant play call and Jeff Green's great catch and finish for the game-winner. Their next three games should be the easiest week ever.
This week: @ CHA, vs. TOR, vs. CHA


Last week: 8

Houston (34-30)
Pace: 98.8 (1), OffRtg: 107.4 (6), DefRtg: 104.7 (23), NetRtg: +2.7 (9)
The Rockets gave a couple of very winnable games away last week and need every W they can get right now. But they're home for nine of their next 10 games and have just three back-to-backs remaining on their schedule. Chandler Parsons is kind of on fire, shooting 59 percent from the field and 30-for-50 from 3-point range over his last seven games. Defense, of course, is still an issue.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. MIN, vs. GSW


Last week: 12

L.A. Lakers (33-31)
Pace: 97.0 (4), OffRtg: 105.7 (8), DefRtg: 103.7 (18), NetRtg: +2.0 (10)
The Lakers are finally a playoff team, mostly because they're winning the close games they were losing in the first half of the season. But their offense is now starting to reach its potential. They've scored 110.5 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash combining to shoot 52 percent from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range. #Vino
This week: @ ORL, @ ATL, @ IND, vs. SAC


Last week: 14

Brooklyn (37-26)
Pace: 90.8 (30), OffRtg: 103.1 (13), DefRtg: 102.8 (15), NetRtg: +0.4 (14)
If Deron Williams can play (consistently) like an All-Star again, the Nets have a good shot at holding on to the 4 seed in the East. But it will take more than wins over Washington, Charlotte and Atlanta for us to believe they can get higher than that. Williams has averaged 23.1 points on 47 percent shooting over 10 games since the All-Star break, highlighted by his 11 threes in Friday's win over the Wiz.
This week: @ PHI, vs. NOH, vs. ATL


Last week: 16

Milwaukee (32-29)
Pace: 97.4 (3), OffRtg: 100.7 (21), DefRtg: 101.4 (11), NetRtg: -0.7 (16)
The Bucks have won six of their last seven, thanks to improved offense that has been sparked by increased ball movement. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis have combined to average 18.3 assists in that stretch and have assisted on 25 of J.J. Redick's 33 field goals as a Buck. Milwaukee has scored a potent 115 points per 100 possessions in 65 minutes with the three on the floor together.
This week: vs. DAL, @ WAS, vs. MIA, vs. ORL


Last week: 10

Chicago (35-28)
Pace: 91.8 (27), OffRtg: 99.7 (24), DefRtg: 98.9 (4), NetRtg: +0.8 (13)
The Bulls are 7-11 since Feb. 1 with an anemic offense and poor (by their standards) defense. But much of that is due to a brutal schedule. Things start to ease up this week, but they still play four of their next seven games against playoff teams, still have more road games than home games remaining, and still don't have their point guard. They don't have their other point guard (Kirk Hinrich) either.
This week: @ SAC, @ GSW


Last week: 13

Atlanta (34-28)
Pace: 94.2 (15), OffRtg: 102.4 (16), DefRtg: 101.4 (10), NetRtg: +1.1 (11)
Josh Smith had a couple of chances to win Friday's game in Boston at the end of regulation, but committed an awful turnover with 26 seconds left and missed a shot at the buzzer. That may have cost the Hawks two games against teams they''re competing with for playoff position, because after the OT loss, they looked completely gassed back at home against the Nets on Saturday.
This week: @ MIA, vs. LAL, vs. PHX, @ BKN


Last week: 19

Dallas (29-33)
Pace: 96.8 (6), OffRtg: 102.9 (14), DefRtg: 103.8 (19), NetRtg: -0.9 (17)
While the rest of us are springing forward, Vince Carter keeps turning back the clock. He's averaged 16.0 points on 56 percent shooting (12-for-23 from 3-point range) over the last five games. The Mavs have won four of those five and are back to within four games of .500 (and shedding their beards). But this may be as close as they get, because 12 of their next 13 are against teams over .500.
This week: @ MIL, @ SAS, vs. CLE, vs. OKC


Last week: 17

Golden State (35-29)
Pace: 97.0 (5), OffRtg: 103.4 (9), DefRtg: 103.4 (17), NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
Home cooking hasn't exactly been a panacea for the struggling Warriors. They began their seven-game homestand with comeback wins over the Raptors and Kings, but came up empty down the stretch against the Rockets and Bucks. Their offense has now been held under a point per possession in five of their last six games. Sixth Man candidate Jarrett Jack has shot just 29 percent in that stretch.
This week: vs. NYK, vs. DET, vs. CHI, @ HOU


Last week: 15

Utah (32-31)
Pace: 93.9 (18), OffRtg: 103.2 (11), DefRtg: 104.4 (20), NetRtg: -1.1 (19)
Just a couple of days ago, Lakers/Jazz looked like a coin flip for the eighth spot in the West. The Jazz had lost six of their previous seven games, but four of the defeats had come by three points or less. Then they concluded their road trip by getting destroyed by the Melo-less Knicks, and their outlook changed quite a bit. The tiebreaker and a home-heavy schedule might not be enough to hold off L.A.
This week: vs. DET, @ OKC, vs. MEM


Last week: 18

Washington (20-41)
Pace: 94.4 (13), OffRtg: 96.0 (30), DefRtg: 99.6 (7), NetRtg: -3.5 (21)
The Wizards' have been better since John Wall's return, but they're still struggling offensively. They had been held to just 93 points per 100 possessions over their previous six games, so they needed Saturday's game against the Bobcats to let loose a little bit. Trevor Ariza, who had had 26 in that one, is kind of a barometer for his team's success. The Wiz are 10-3 when he shoots 50 percent or better.
This week: @ CLE, vs. MIL, vs. NOH, vs. PHX


Last week: 20

Portland (29-33)
Pace: 93.6 (20), OffRtg: 103.2 (12), DefRtg: 105.6 (25), NetRtg: -2.3 (20)
The Blazers' 136 points (79 in the second half) in San Antonio on Friday was maybe the most out-of-nowhere performance of the season. To prove it, they came back down to earth with Sunday's loss to the Hornets, even though Wesley Matthews hit three more clutch-time 3-pointers to give him a league-leading 15 for the season. He's got some more work to do to catch Mike James' 22 in 2005-06.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. NYK, vs. DET


Last week: 21

Toronto (25-39)
Pace: 93.0 (24), OffRtg: 103.3 (10), DefRtg: 104.4 (21), NetRtg: -1.1 (18)
It was another fascinating week in Raptorland. Dwane Casey's go-to guy Rudy Gay shot 0-for-6 in the clutch of Friday's OT loss to the Lakers (he's 7-for-26 in the clutch since arriving in Toronto), and then they won a close game without him on Sunday against the Cavs. The other good news is that Jonas Valanciunas has scored in double-figures in three straight games for the first time in his career.
This week: @ BOS, vs. CHA, vs, MIA


Last week: 22

Cleveland (21-42)
Pace: 95.0 (12), OffRtg: 101.8 (18), DefRtg: 106.8 (27), NetRtg: -4.9 (26)
Another week, another injury for Kyrie Irving, who suffered a left shoulder contusion on Sunday, just a few days after there was some discussion of shutting him down for the season if his right knee continued to bother him. We don't know the full extent of this ailment, but it's getting to be the time of year for precautionary shut-downs, and the Cavs are one of six teams with 41, 42 or 43 losses.
This week: vs. WAS, @ DAL, @ SAS


Last week: 25

Phoenix (22-41)
Pace: 95.2 (10), OffRtg: 98.2 (28), DefRtg: 104.6 (22), NetRtg: -6.4 (27)
The Suns got destroyed by the Raptors, gave up 121 points to the Kings, and lost Marcin Gortat for a month. But they beat another playoff team on Saturday, with Hamed Haddadi playing a big role off the bench and Kendall Marshall throwing this gorgeous assist to Jared Dudley. Even with the Sacramento loss, they've allowed less than a point per possession over their last seven games.
This week: vs. DEN, @ HOU, @ ATL, @ WAS


Last week: 24

New Orleans (22-42)
Pace: 91.0 (29), OffRtg: 102.8 (15), DefRtg: 107.1 (28), NetRtg: -4.3 (24)
The Hornets blew a 17-point, second-half lead to Orlando on Monday and a 21-point, second-half lead to the Lakers on Wednesday. So, for the sake of their psyche, they needed Sunday's nail-biting win over the Blazers, in which they got a couple of big rebounds from Anthony Davis and a couple of big shots from Ryan Anderson. Davis averaged 17.0 points and 12.5 boards in four games last week.
This week: @ BKN, @ WAS, @ MIN


Last week: 23

Detroit (23-42)
Pace: 93.2 (21), OffRtg: 100.2 (23), DefRtg: 104.9 (24), NetRtg: -4.7 (25)
If your coach ever yells at you for failing to help from the weak side on a pick-and-roll, just tell him or her the cautionary tale of poor Brandon Knight, a young guard who sacrificed his dignity on Sunday so that we could all learn a valuable lesson. Sorry coach, but some possessions just ain't worth it. Knight actually totaled 38 points in his previous two games against the Knicks and Mavs.
This week: @ UTA, @ GSW, @ POR


Last week: 26

Sacramento (22-43)
Pace: 96.0 (9), OffRtg: 101.9 (17), DefRtg: 108.9 (29), NetRtg: -6.9 (29)
DeMarcus Cousins had broken out of his slump. He had 22 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in a win over Phoenix on Friday and 24 points and 10 boards late in the third quarter of Sunday's game against Milwaukee. And then his behavior got in the way ... again. An elbow to the back of Mike Dunleavy's head resulted in Cousins' fourth ejection of the season. Will maturity ever come?
This week: vs. CHI, @ LAL


Last week: 29

Orlando (18-46)
Pace: 94.0 (17), OffRtg: 99.7 (25), DefRtg: 106.5 (26), NetRtg: -6.8 (28)
The Magic clearly should have scheduled more games against the Sixers, who have given them two of their four victories since mid-January. The Amway Center faithful surely hope that No. 5 comes on Tuesday, when that trade-demanding, coach-killing and candy-loving Dwight Howard comes to town for the first (and last?) time as a Laker. The reception he gets should be interesting.
This week: vs. LAL, @ OKC, @ MIL


Last week: 27

Minnesota (21-39)
Pace: 95.0 (11), OffRtg: 98.8 (26), DefRtg: 103.0 (16), NetRtg: -4.2 (22)
The Wolves have lost eight of their last nine games, and it ain't been pretty. Six of the eight losses have come by at least 15 points and they got absolutely thumped by both Denver and Dallas over the weekend. They now have the league's worst offense since the All-Star break, scoring a putrid 92 points per 100 possessions over 10 games. This has been the definition of a lost season.
This week: vs. SAS, @ IND, @ HOU, vs. NOH


Last week: 28

Philadelphia (23-39)
Pace: 93.2 (22), OffRtg: 98.5 (27), DefRtg: 102.7 (13), NetRtg: -4.2 (23)
Losing to the Magic by 14 points at home is embarrassing. Losing to the Magic for a second time in 13 days is just depressing. The Sixers have dropped 12 of their last 13 games overall, and even Jrue Holiday is struggling at this point, shooting 20-for-75 (27 percent) over the last five games. Philly is back home now, but has lost its six games to this week's opponents by an average of 14.2 points.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. MIA, vs. IND


Last week: 30

Charlotte (13-50)
Pace: 94.3 (14), OffRtg: 97.2 (29), DefRtg: 109.3 (30), NetRtg: -12.1 (30)
The Bobcats have their second double-digit losing streak of the season, are 6-45 since their 7-5 start. and are back at the bottom of the defensive rankings. Not only are they the worst team in the league at defending shots (30th in opponent effective field goal percentage), but they're the worst at rebounding them (30th in defensive rebounding percentage). That's a deadly combination.
This week: vs. BOS, @ TOR, @ BOS