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Pacers rise above early parity

Power Rankings Week 2

POSTED: Nov 11, 2013 11:26 AM ET

By John Schuhmann,


The Indiana Pacers are off to the first 7-0 start in franchise history.

Whether it's true parity, good teams needing time to figure things out, or bad teams not knowing that they're bad yet, the strange results of Week 1 did not go away in Week 2. We saw the Celtics beat the Heat, the Lakers knock off the Rockets, and the Suns and Magic continue to win games they're not supposed to.

It all makes for another interesting (and confusing) week of Power Rankings. More importantly, it makes for a very unclear landscape among the teams that we thought would contend for a championship. Really, there's not a team in the league that hasn't shown concerning flaws, whether it be an inability to defend, an inability to score, or an inability to bring effort every night.

To that point, only two teams - Oklahoma City and San Antonio - rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, the standard for title contenders. The Thunder are on the fringe of both top 10s and the Spurs wouldn't be in the top 10 offensively if they didn't happen to run into the Knicks' Chandler-less defense on Sunday.

So we continue to wait and see, knowing that we can't truly evaluate teams until they have about 20 games under their belt. For now, we'll enjoy not knowing what's going to happen on any given night.

* * *

• Last week: Surprise! Sixers are No. 1

• This time last year: No. 1 Knicks about to be tested - The Lakers replaced Mike Brown with Mike D'Antoni (not Phil Jackson) and the Knicks (4-0) were the only unbeaten team in the league. Chase Budinger beat the Pacers with this sweet cut to the basket, but then tore his meniscus less than 24 hours later. DeMarcus Cousins was suspended two games for confronting Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott and Roy Hibbert was shooting 38 percent with 11 free throw attempts in seven games.

• Plus-minus Stud: J.J. Redick (LAC) was a plus-60 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: Derrick Favors (UTA) was a minus-83 in four games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Indiana (4-0) -- Playing four games in five nights, the Pacers stayed unbeaten by shutting down two (assumed) title contenders (Chicago and Brooklyn), another team we expect to make the playoffs (Detroit) and a one more playoff hopeful (Toronto) that's off to an otherwise strong start.
• Zero Team of the Week: Utah (0-4) -- Four losses by an average of 18.5 points. Painful.

• High jumps of the week: Boston (+13), Phoenix (+10), Atlanta (+6)
• Free falls of the week: New York (-11), Philadelphia (-10), Brooklyn (-7)

• East vs. West: The West is 14-10 (.583) against the East in interconference games, but the East was 8-7 last week (4-0 against the Jazz).

* * *

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 97.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 100.7 points scored per 100 possessions.

* * *'s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have 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: 2

Indiana (7-0)
Pace: 95.0 (25), OffRtg: 100.4 (16), DefRtg: 89.2 (1), NetRtg: +11.2 (1)
Wins over the Bulls and Nets - both on the second night of back-to-backs - were the Pacers' best offensive games of the season, thanks to their work on the glass (28 total offensive boards) and in taking care of the ball (28 total turnovers). They're out for the No. 1 seed in the East and playing like it. And in case you were wondering, their first game against the Heat is Dec. 10 in Indy. Cancel any plans.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. MIL, @ CHI


Last week: 7

San Antonio (6-1)
Pace: 97.6 (15), OffRtg: 102.5 (9), DefRtg: 93.8 (3), NetRtg: +8.6 (3)
Look who's back at the top of the Western Conference standings already. The Spurs keep rolling along, even though Gregg Popovich has tinkered with the starting lineup that was so successful last season. He brought Kawhi Leonard off the bench on Sunday and -gasp - took Tim Duncan off the floor when the Suns needed a three in the closing seconds on Wednesday. No regrets, apparently.
This week: @ PHI, vs. WAS, @ UTA


Last week: 8

Oklahoma City (5-1)
Pace: 99.6 (11), OffRtg: 102.1 (10), DefRtg: 98.4 (9), NetRtg: +3.7 (7)
The early returns on the Thunder's new bench are positive. OKC is a plus-14 with neither Kevin Durant nor Russell Westbrook on the floor, and that includes just minimal garbage time. Jeremy Lamb's numbers haven't been consistent, but he hit a huge three in the final minutes of regulation against the Wizards on Sunday. Of course, the starting lineup has been pretty awful offensively again.
This week: @ POR, vs. BKN


Last week: 5

Miami (4-3)
Pace: 95.4 (21), OffRtg: 110.5 (1), DefRtg: 105.4 (28), NetRtg: +5.2 (4)
The second half of Friday's win over the Clippers was the latest example of how the Heat have the ability to play like the best defensive team in the league on any given night. It's also a reason why their defensive inconsistency (see Saturday vs. Boston) can be so maddening. It's probably not a coincidence that the defense was sharpest on the same night that Dwyane Wade looked his best.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. DAL, @ CHA


Last week: 4

Minnesota (5-2)
Pace: 102.8 (1), OffRtg: 100.0 (18), DefRtg: 96.6 (6), NetRtg: +3.3 (11)
Kevin Love outlet passes and Corey Brewer leak-outs go together like peas and carrots. Brewer has 12 more fast break points than any other player in the league, with Love assisting on six of those buckets and additional free throws (like the ones resulting from this ridiculous pass). If only Ricky Rubio could shoot, the Wolves might have a top-10 offense to match their surprisingly good D.
This week: @ LAC, vs. CLE, @ DEN, vs. BOS


Last week: 16

Phoenix (5-2)
Pace: 98.9 (13), OffRtg: 101.7 (12), DefRtg: 96.7 (7), NetRtg: +5.0 (5)
It's time to figure out which Morris is which, because Markieff - No. 11 in your program - had a break-out week, averaging 22.8 points (on 70 percent shooting) and 8.0 rebounds off the bench. Brother Marcus wasn't too bad either, averaging 11.5 points and shooting 8-for-13 from 3-point range. All seven of the Suns' games have been within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter.
This week: @ POR, vs. BKN


Last week: 6

L.A. Clippers (4-3)
Pace: 99.8 (10), OffRtg: 110.0 (2), DefRtg: 106.6 (29), NetRtg: +3.4 (10)
Saturday's win in Houston was the Clips' best defensive game of the season. They still rank 29th on that end of the floor, but it should be acknowledged that they've played a pretty tough schedule, with games against Golden State, Miami and Houston (twice) already. And the marquee matchups don't stop, with seven of their next eight games against the Wolves, Thunder, Nets, Grizzlies and Bulls.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. OKC, vs. BKN


Last week: 3

Houston (4-3)
Pace: 101.1 (6), OffRtg: 105.6 (5), DefRtg: 101.3 (13), NetRtg: +4.2 (6)
The Rockets have looked great in games against teams not from Los Angeles, when Dwight Howard hasn't been shooting free throws, and when their guards and forwards weren't getting lost defensively. But three games against the Clippers and Lakers exposed some serious flaws. They don't play either again until January, but the defensive issues will need to be cleaned up in the meantime.
This week: vs. TOR, @ PHI, @ NYK, vs. DEN


Last week: 11

Portland (4-2)
Pace: 95.8 (20), OffRtg: 107.7 (3), DefRtg: 104.5 (26), NetRtg: +3.1 (12)
The bad news is that Damian Lillard's field goal percentage has gone down every game this season. The good news is that the Blazers' other shooters (Wesley Matthews in particular) have picked up the slack and that Lillard will have a hard time shooting worse than 1-for-15 against the Pistons on Monday. How in the world do you shoot 6-for-26 in two games against the Kings' defense, anyway?
This week: vs. DET, vs. PHX, @ BOS, @ TOR


Last week: 10

Golden State (4-3)
Pace: 102.4 (4), OffRtg: 101.6 (13), DefRtg: 92.7 (2), NetRtg: +8.9 (2)
Not surprisingly, the Warriors' offense disappeared when Stephen Curry missed Friday's game in San Antonio. While the starting lineup has scored 119.6 points per 100 possessions, all other Golden State lineups have scored just 92.8. So yeah, at this point, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are missed. But if they were still Warriors, this pass would never have happened. Advantage Iguodala.
This week: vs. DET, vs. OKC, vs. UTA


Last week: 1

Philadelphia (4-3)
Pace: 102.5 (3), OffRtg: 100.1 (17), DefRtg: 101.4 (14), NetRtg: -1.4 (18)
As the Sixers make their inevitable slide down the standings, we go back to focusing on the development of their young players. That includes Evan Turner, who is a brand new player this season, mostly because he's getting to the basket more and finishing better when he gets there. His game-tying drive at the end of the first overtime on Saturday in Cleveland was a tough bucket.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. HOU, @ ATL, @ NOP


Last week: 13

Dallas (4-3)
Pace: 101.2 (5), OffRtg: 106.2 (4), DefRtg: 102.7 (17), NetRtg: +3.5 (9)
It's still too early to know what to make of the Mavs. Last week, they won an offensive game, lost ugly, lost an offensive game, and won ugly. The ups and downs of Monta Ellis - 19-for-33 on Tuesday and Wednesday, 15-for-38 on Friday and Saturday - make them more unpredictable. You do have to like that he leads the league in drives per game and that he has a career-high free throw rate.
This week: vs. WAS, @ MIA, @ ORL


Last week: 9

Chicago (2-3)
Pace: 96.1 (19), OffRtg: 95.7 (27), DefRtg: 96.5 (5), NetRtg: -0.8 (16)
Wednesday's game in Indiana painted a clear picture of where the two Central Division contenders stand early in the season. The Pacers hit the ground running, while the Bulls are struggling to get out of the gate. Things should start to fall into place once Derrick Rose (1-for-25 on pull-up jumpers) finds a rhythm, but Joakim Noah's early struggles (10-for-24 in the paint) are also a concern.
This week: vs. CLE, @ TOR, vs. IND


Last week: 20

Atlanta (3-3)
Pace: 100.4 (8), OffRtg: 104.0 (6), DefRtg: 103.7 (24), NetRtg: +0.3 (14)
They both missed shots to tie in Denver on Thursday, but Al Horford and Paul Millsap were a problem for opponents last week, averaging a combined 45.0 points (on 55 percent shooting), 19.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 5.0 steals and 4.7 blocks in their three games. The Hawks have outscored their opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions in 141 minutes with the two on the floor together.
This week: @ CHA, vs. NYK, vs. PHI, @ NYK


Last week: 12

Orlando (3-4)
Pace: 99.9 (9), OffRtg: 98.9 (20), DefRtg: 95.3 (4), NetRtg: +3.5 (8)
If the Magic are really a top-10 defensive team, we need to include them among the Eastern Conference squads in the hunt for a low playoff seed. It's early, but they've held their last five opponents - including the Pelicans, Nets, Clippers and Hawks - to just 92.3 points per 100 possessions (and just 26 percent from 3-point range). Their execution of the game plan against L.A. was particularly impressive.
This week: @ BOS, vs. MIL, vs. DAL


Last week: 17

Memphis (3-3)
Pace: 95.4 (22), OffRtg: 100.7 (14), DefRtg: 103.4 (21), NetRtg: -2.7 (20)
The Grizzlies finally looked like one of the best teams in the Western Conference on Saturday, beating the Warriors comfortably with a 54-18 advantage in the paint. But Dave Joerger shortened his rotation to get that win, playing Quincy Pondexter and Ed Davis less than six minutes combined. So they still have some things to figure out as they play five of their next six games on the road.
This week: @ IND, vs. TOR, @ LAL, @ SAC


Last week: 30

Boston (3-4)
Pace: 95.3 (23), OffRtg: 96.6 (25), DefRtg: 100.4 (10), NetRtg: -3.8 (22)
The Celtics had been outscored (by an average of 9.3 points) in every fourth quarter until Saturday in Miami, when Jeff Green's miraculous shot gave them the win and a 31-28 edge in fourth-quarter scoring. Green is 12-for-25 from 3-point range and two of the misses were from the backcourt. The Cs have won three straight and could make it more with a soft-ish three-game homestand this week.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. CHA, vs. POR, @ MIN


Last week: 18

Detroit (2-3)
Pace: 96.9 (16), OffRtg: 102.1 (11), DefRtg: 103.7 (23), NetRtg: -1.6 (19)
Interestingly, defense has been the problem with the Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond frontcourt. The Pistons have allowed over 114 points per 100 possessions in 111 minutes with the three on the floor together. And the Pacers - 7-0, but a below-average offensive team - scored 59 points in just 21 minutes against the trio on Tuesday. Detroit faces two top-10 offenses out West.
This week: @ POR, @ GSW, @ SAC, @ LAL


Last week: 23

New Orleans (3-4)
Pace: 94.8 (26), OffRtg: 100.6 (15), DefRtg: 100.6 (11), NetRtg: +0.0 (15)
The Lakers got a first-hand look at the Anthony Davis Show - 32 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks - on Friday. The most important aspect of Davis' evolution is that his defense (and not just his shot-blocking) has improved. The most fun part may be that he ranks eighth in fast break points, running the floor like no other big. Maybe he can catch some of Kevin Love's outlet passes in the All-Star game.
This week: @ LAL, @ UTA, vs. PHI


Last week: 25

Washington (2-4)
Pace: 99.5 (12), OffRtg: 102.5 (8), DefRtg: 103.3 (20), NetRtg: -0.8 (17)
The last two games illustrated the importance of Nene to the Wizards. He beasted his way to their final nine points of regulation in Friday's OT win over the Nets, and they collapsed when he was ejected from Sunday's OT loss in Oklahoma City. The Wiz have outscored their opponents by 8.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and have been outscored by 7.3 with him off.
This week: @ DAL, @ SAS, vs. CLE


Last week: 14

Brooklyn (2-4)
Pace: 96.8 (17), OffRtg: 98.6 (21), DefRtg: 101.9 (16), NetRtg: -3.3 (21)
The Nets are the only team to score a point per possession against Indiana, but the Brooklyn offense has been otherwise uninspiring. They're waiting for Deron Williams to get back his lift and for Andrei Kirilenko to get healthy, but Kevin Garnett has been a serious disappointment thus far. Not only is he shooting 32 percent, but his team has allowed 107.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor.
This week: @ SAC, @ PHX, @ LAC


Last week: 22

Cleveland (3-4)
Pace: 97.7 (14), OffRtg: 93.8 (29), DefRtg: 98.1 (8), NetRtg: -4.3 (24)
After scoring 79 points (getting outscored 63-33 over the second and third quarters) in Philly and then outlasting the Sixers in double-OT a night later, the Cavs are 3-0 at home and 0-4 on the road. They've been pretty brutal offensively no matter where they're playing, but one of those Kyrie Irving game-winners had to go in eventually. In seven games, he's already attempted 22 shots in clutch time.
This week: @ CHI, @ MIN, vs. CHA, @ WAS


Last week: 27

Charlotte (3-3)
Pace: 94.1 (27), OffRtg: 95.8 (26), DefRtg: 101.6 (15), NetRtg: -5.7 (26)
As Anthony Davis establishes himself as an All-Star, the guy picked after him is establishing himself as the next great perimeter defender. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said this week that he's trying to emulate Andre Iguodala and did a decent don't-call-me-Iggy imitation in a couple of matchups with Carmelo Anthony last week. Anthony shot 11-for-29 with MKG on the floor, getting blocked by him four times.
This week: vs. ATL, @ BOS, @ CLE, vs. MIA


Last week: 21

Toronto (3-4)
Pace: 92.6 (30), OffRtg: 103.7 (7), DefRtg: 100.9 (12), NetRtg: +2.9 (13)
It was not a good week for Dwane Casey. On Tuesday, he went small for 30 minutes, even though his team was destroying the Bosh-less Miami defense (40 points in 18 minutes) when they played big. And on Wednesday in Charlotte, his decision not to foul down two with only a 1.9-second difference between the clocks was downright silly. Public service announcement: Rebounds take time!
This week: @ HOU, @ MEM, vs. CHI, vs. POR


Last week: 19

L.A. Lakers (3-5)
Pace: 102.8 (2), OffRtg: 94.6 (28), DefRtg: 103.7 (22), NetRtg: -9.1 (28)
While we waited for Kobe Bryant to return, the hope was that we'd see a return to form for both Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. But Gasol has shot 36 percent (he went 4-for-22 in a Houston-New Orleans back-to-back last week) and Nash has to see a back specialist on Monday. The rest of the Lakers' misfits just might earn permanent Jekyll-and-Hyde-Team-of-the-Week status.
This week: vs. NOP, @ DEN, vs. MEM, vs. DET


Last week: 15

New York (2-4)
Pace: 95.0 (24), OffRtg: 97.9 (23), DefRtg: 102.9 (18), NetRtg: -5.1 (25)
It was a bit of a delayed reaction, but the Knicks' defense felt the effects of Tyson Chandler's injury in giving up 120 points to the Spurs on Sunday, not that they were much better defensively earlier in the week. Things probably won't get better anytime soon, because their next four games are against top-11 offenses ... and then they play the Pacers. J.R. gonna be J.R., though.
This week: @ ATL, vs. HOU, vs. ATL


Last week: 26

Milwaukee (2-3)
Pace: 93.9 (28), OffRtg: 99.2 (19), DefRtg: 103.0 (19), NetRtg: -3.8 (23)
With O.J. Mayo (13-for-23) and Gary Neal (10-for-18) leading the way, the Bucks are shooting 44 percent from 3-point range. But they haven't done much else well and have been the worst defensive rebounding team in the league. Caron Butler's offensive rebound got them a win over the Cavs, but they're still banged up and facing a tough schedule this week. Things get easier later in the month.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ IND, vs. OKC


Last week: 24

Sacramento (1-5)
Pace: 93.5 (29), OffRtg: 98.4 (22), DefRtg: 107.6 (30), NetRtg: -9.1 (29)
Since their opening-night victory over the Nuggets, the Kings have lost five straight, allowing over 111 points per 100 possessions during the streak. All five games have been against very good offensive teams, and they'll get a break in that regard this week. They'll also get a lineup change, because their starters have been awful on both ends of the floor, getting outscored by 23 points per 48 minutes.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. DET, vs. MEM


Last week: 29

Denver (1-4)
Pace: 101.0 (7), OffRtg: 97.2 (24), DefRtg: 104.4 (25), NetRtg: -7.1 (27)
Ty Lawson (22.6 points per game) looks to be getting comfortable in Brian Shaw's system and Andre Miller has been reliable off the bench, but the Nuggets' rotation has been a crapshoot beyond their point guards. Shaw's new starting lineup (with Jordan Hamilton and Kenneth Faried at the forward spots) has been a disaster defensively and the coach is upset with the effort he's seeing.
This week: @ UTA, vs. LAL, vs. MIN, @ HOU


Last week: 28

Utah (0-7)
Pace: 96.2 (18), OffRtg: 90.7 (30), DefRtg: 105.3 (27), NetRtg: -14.6 (30)
When they're getting smashed by the Raptors, it's time to wonder when the Jazz will win a game, and also worry about the sanity of their players and the job security of Tyrone Corbin. They have a couple of opportunities to get off the schneid early this week, but things could get hairy after that. They're shooting a brutal 23.6 percent from 3-point range, including an unfathomable 3-for-30 from the corners.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. NOP, vs. SAS, @ GSW