By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jan 20, 2014 10:24 AM
What goes around comes around. And in a season in which we've seeemingly been dealt bad injury news every week, things are finally looking up.
On Tuesday, Marc Gasol returned from a seven-week absence, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned from a six-week absence, and Tyson Chandler got back into action. On Wednesday, Greg Oden played his first game in over four years (and was able to come back and play again three days later). On Friday, Rajon Rondo played his first game of the season. And on Saturday, Devin Harris did the same.
We also learned that Nerlens Noel is making progress, and that point guards Deron Williams, Pablo Prigioni and Patrick Beverley will all be ready to play this week.
We still need to get a few more Western Conference point guards back on the floor, but we'll take what we can get right now.
We reach the midway point of the season on Tuesday, so it's appropriate that the Indiana Pacers are back at the top of the rankings. They've been the most consistent team in the league thus far and rank as the best defensive team of the last 37 years (since the league started tracking turnovers), allowing an amazing 10.3 points per 100 possessions less than the league average.
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• This time last year: Clear big three at midway point -- Russell Westbrook denied Rocky the Mountain Lion, Marco Belinelli hit one his wild game-winners, Lou Williams tore his ACL, and the Suns fired Alvin Gentry.
• Plus-minus Studs: LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum (POR) were both a plus-65 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: Khris Middleton (MIL) was a minus-58 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Portland (3-0) -- The Blazers' perfect week featured back-to-back wins in San Antonio and Dallas, by a total of 25 points.
• Zero Team of the Week: Milwaukee (0-4) -- This team is brutal.
• High jumps of the week: Memphis (+5), Charlotte, Portland, Washington (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Atlanta (-5), New Orleans (-5), Golden State (-4)
• East vs. West: The West is 140-70 (.667) against the East in inter-conference games and was 10-6 last week (3-0 against Milwaukee).
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. New Orleans, 3. Sacramento
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Miami, 2. Chicago, 3. Atlanta
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
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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 96.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.9 points scored per 100 possessions.
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NBA.com'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.
|1|| Indiana (32-7) |
Pace: 95.0 (21), OffRtg: 102.9 (16), DefRtg: 92.6 (1), NetRtg: +10.2 (1)
The league has gotten better offensively week by week, but not against the Pacers, who have allowed a paltry 89.2 points per 100 possessions over the last month. With Lance Stephenson taking his All-Star campaign to the floor and Paul George finding the energy to do this, they've become a juggernaut again. But they have still lost four of their last six on the road, where they'll spend the next eight days.
This week: @ GSW, @ PHX, @ SAC, @ DEN
|Last week: 3|
|2|| Portland (31-9) |
Pace: 97.9 (10), OffRtg: 110.6 (1), DefRtg: 104.8 (20), NetRtg: +5.8 (5)
The Blazers are in the midst of a stretch where they're playing eight straight games against the top 11 teams in the West. So far, so good, as their four-game trip began with big back-to-back wins in San Antonio and Dallas. Their defense is an issue, but their No. 1 offense has been remarkably consistent, scoring at least 111 points per 100 possessions in Games 11-20, Games 21-30, and Games 31-40.
This week: @ HOU, @ OKC, vs. DEN, vs. MIN
|Last week: 6|
|3|| San Antonio (32-9) |
Pace: 96.8 (15), OffRtg: 108.2 (3), DefRtg: 99.2 (4), NetRtg: +9.0 (2)
The Spurs were 26-0 in games they led after the third quarter ... until they lost to the Blazers on Friday. They're still undefeated when they take a lead into the fourth quarter with Gregg Popovich still on the bench. Danny Green is out with a broken hand, so they're now down two starters. But they still have the West's best record and still have Kawhi Leonard to try to slow down Kevin Durant on Wednesday.
This week: vs. OKC, @ ATL, @ MIA
|Last week: 1|
|4|| Oklahoma City (31-10) |
Pace: 98.7 (6), OffRtg: 106.5 (7), DefRtg: 98.5 (3), NetRtg: +8.0 (3)
The Thunder had lost five of their last eight games and were down 14 at halftime in Houston on Thursday. Things turned around pretty dramatically after that, as they shut down the Rockets in the second half, out-gunned the Warriors on Friday, and dropped the Kings on Sunday. Now, they have momentum for their most important back-to-back of the season, facing the two teams ahead of them in the standings.
This week: vs. POR, @ SAS, @ BOS, @ PHI
|Last week: 5|
|5|| Miami (29-11) |
Pace: 94.7 (24), OffRtg: 109.0 (2), DefRtg: 101.8 (9), NetRtg: +7.1 (4)
Greg Oden's return adds some intrigue to a Heat season that's otherwise biding time until May. The last couple of weeks have also stressed the importance of Shane Battier, who is still a vital piece to the champs' positionless identity. They've allowed almost eight fewer points per 100 possessions with Battier and LeBron James on the floor together (99.2) than they have with just James (106.9).
This week: @ ATL, vs. BOS, vs. LAL, vs. SAS
|Last week: 4|
|6|| Golden State (26-16) |
Pace: 99.1 (4), OffRtg: 104.0 (12), DefRtg: 99.6 (5), NetRtg: +4.4 (8)
After losses to the Nuggets and Thunder (in which they allowed 250 points) last week, the Warriors are 6-13 against fellow West teams over .500, the worst mark among the group. Two of them - the Blazers and Clippers - will visit during a five-game homestand that begins Monday. In his first two games, Jordan Crawford kept the offense afloat with Stephen Curry on the bench, shooting 7-for-10.
This week: vs. IND, vs. MIN, vs. POR
|Last week: 2|
|7|| L.A. Clippers (28-14) |
Pace: 98.3 (7), OffRtg: 106.8 (6), DefRtg: 101.0 (7), NetRtg: +5.8 (6)
Thanks to a ridiculous comeback against the Mavs on Wednesday and the Knicks' hospitality on Friday, the Clippers' only losses without Chris Paul are at San Antonio and Indiana. There's no shame in that. Their Paul-less starting lineups -- with Darren Collison at the point and either Jamal Crawford or J.J. Redick at the two -- have scored 114.0 points per 100 possessions in 177 minutes together.
This week: @ DET, @ CHA, @ CHI, @ TOR
|Last week: 7|
|8|| Houston (27-15) |
Pace: 98.1 (8), OffRtg: 107.1 (4), DefRtg: 102.2 (10), NetRtg: +5.0 (7)
Thursday's Jekyll-and-Hyde performance against the Thunder -- in which the Rockets scored 73 points in the first half and 19 in the second - was one for the ages. But inconsistency has actually been a bigger issue on defense than on offense, so Patrick Beverley's return (on Monday) from a 14-game absence is big. Houston has allowed less than a point per possession with Beverley on the floor.
This week: vs. POR, vs. SAC, vs. MEM, @ MEM
|Last week: 9|
|9|| Toronto (20-19) |
Pace: 94.7 (23), OffRtg: 103.4 (15), DefRtg: 100.0 (6), NetRtg: +3.4 (9)
Some of shine came off the Raptors last week, as they lost to both the Celtics and Lakers, who have been two of the worst teams in the league over the last month. Is Kyle Lowry an All-Star? Whether he is or not, he could be in New Orleans for the 3-point contest or Skills Challenge. Over the last 12 games, he's shot 39-for-78 (50 percent) from beyond the arc and has an assist/turnover ratio of 4.7.
This week: @ CHA, vs. DAL, @ PHI, vs. LAC
|Last week: 8|
|10|| Memphis (20-19) |
Pace: 92.5 (30), OffRtg: 102.5 (18), DefRtg: 104.0 (19), NetRtg: -1.5 (16)
The Grizzlies' 10-game dalliance with being an offensive juggernaut is over, but they've still won five straight, allowing just 90.3 points per 100 possessions in three games with Marc Gasol back in the lineup. The Courtney Lee trade has worked out well, with Lee shooting 52 percent and the Grizz a plus-18.8 per 100 possessions in 148 minutes with Lee and Mike Conley on the floor together.
This week: vs. NOP, @ HOU, vs. HOU
|Last week: 15|
|11|| Dallas (24-18) |
Pace: 97.0 (13), OffRtg: 107.0 (5), DefRtg: 105.4 (23), NetRtg: +1.6 (12)
Same 'ol story for the Mavs. Their offense has been great, but they gave up 23 points in 4:36 to manufacture an epic collapse against the Clippers on Wednesday, and then got smoked by the Blazers on Saturday. The D has been particularly bad with Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis on the floor together, so Devin Harris, who played his first game of the season on Saturday, can only help.
This week: @ CLE, @ TOR, @ BKN, vs. DET
|Last week: 10|
|12|| Phoenix (23-17) |
Pace: 98.0 (9), OffRtg: 105.7 (8), DefRtg: 102.6 (13), NetRtg: +3.1 (10)
Want to have some fun? Watch Leandro Barbosa's eight buckets from Monday's loss in New York (in which he scored 14 points in the fourth quarter) or his six buckets from Sunday's win against Denver. After a slow first few games, the Brazilian Blur is back to his old self, finding paths to the rim that few other players can see. Sixteen of his 20 field goals have come in the restricted area.
This week: vs. IND, vs. WAS, @ CLE
|Last week: 11|
|13|| Minnesota (19-21) |
Pace: 99.9 (2), OffRtg: 104.9 (10), DefRtg: 102.2 (11), NetRtg: +2.7 (11)
In the 30 years since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams, only one team - the 2008-09 Suns - has ranked in the top 10 in NetRtg and failed to qualify. The Wolves aren't far behind Phoenix for 10th, but seem to be at a real crossroads, coming off a three-game losing streak, struggling to get stops against decent offensive teams, and leaving for a four-game trip that starts Tuesday.
This week: @ UTA, @ GSW, @ POR
|Last week: 14|
|14|| Denver (20-20) |
Pace: 98.9 (5), OffRtg: 104.9 (11), DefRtg: 103.6 (16), NetRtg: +1.2 (13)
Update: The Nuggets are bad again. They won at Golden State on Wednesday, thanks to J.J. Hickson's where-did-that-come-from steal on Stephen Curry. But they also lost to the Jazz and Cavs last week, before really hurting their playoff chances with a loss in Phoenix on Sunday. Not that it was ever very good, but their defense was just awful, allowing 116 or more points in all four games.
This week: @ POR, vs. IND, @ SAC
|Last week: 12|
|15|| Washington (19-20) |
Pace: 95.2 (19), OffRtg: 101.3 (21), DefRtg: 102.9 (14), NetRtg: -1.7 (17)
The Wizards won three straight (including Wednesday's thrashing of the Heat) to reach .500 for the third time this season, but then blew a 10-point, second-half lead to the Pistons and haven't been over .500 since they were 2-1 at the start of the 2009-10 season. If they're truly the Wolves of the East, we'll know it this week, when they play the Sixers and Celtics with another chance to get back there.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. BOS, @ PHX, @ UTA
|Last week: 19|
|16|| Chicago (19-20) |
Pace: 93.2 (28), OffRtg: 97.4 (28), DefRtg: 97.5 (2), NetRtg: -0.0 (15)
Luol Deng is gone, but Thibs still gonna Thibs. Jimmy Butler played more than 60 minutes in Wednesday's triple-OT win in Orlando and Joakim Noah was on the floor until the 4:20 mark of the fourth quarter of Saturday's blowout of the Sixers, a game the Bulls led by 27 after three. They've won their last seven games not against the Wizards and could soon be over .500, with a top-four seed.
This week: vs. LAL, @ CLE, vs. LAC, @ CHA
|Last week: 16|
|17|| Brooklyn (16-22) |
Pace: 93.7 (27), OffRtg: 102.6 (17), DefRtg: 105.8 (26), NetRtg: -3.2 (20)
On Monday against the Knicks, Deron Williams will return (from a five-game absence) to a team that has found an identity (and success) playing only one big at a time, with Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko and Mirza Teletovic at the forward spots. Johnson and Pierce have been carrying the offense and center Kevin Garnett is among the leaders in on-court DefRtg over the last 40 days.
This week: @ NYK, vs. ORL, vs. DAL, @ BOS
|Last week: 17|
|18|| Atlanta (20-19) |
Pace: 97.0 (14), OffRtg: 103.6 (14), DefRtg: 102.5 (12), NetRtg: +1.1 (14)
The Hawks traveled a long way to get their butts kicked by the Nets, but at least they came home with Kyle Korver's streak intact, which was clearly a priority in garbage time. They've lost five of their last seven, but the London game was just their fourth double-digit loss of the season and their first since Thanksgiving. More might be coming with a rough schedule over the next eight days.
This week: vs. MIA, @ ORL, vs. SAS, @ MIL
|Last week: 13|
|19|| Charlotte (17-25) |
Pace: 95.0 (22), OffRtg: 97.7 (27), DefRtg: 101.0 (8), NetRtg: -3.3 (21)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's return has stabilized the Bobcats' defense somewhat and Al Jefferson -- as he was brought in to do - has been carrying the load offensively, averaging 26.2 points on 57 percent shooting over the last five games. But with their playoff hopes slipping away, the Cats will be without Kemba Walker for a couple of weeks. He suffered a sprained left ankle in Saturday's OT loss to Miami.
This week: vs. TOR, vs. LAC, @ NYK, vs. CHI
|Last week: 23|
|20|| New York (15-25) |
Pace: 92.7 (29), OffRtg: 101.8 (19), DefRtg: 105.7 (24), NetRtg: -3.9 (23)
The Knicks had the lowest turnover rate in the league for the second straight season, but have committed more turnovers than their opponent in four straight games. More disturbing is that their defense fell off upon Tyson Chandler's return. They play six home games against teams with a cumulative record of .374 over the next 11 days, but are banged up and are 7-13 at Madison Square Garden.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. PHI, vs. CHA, vs. LAL
|Last week: 18|
|21|| Sacramento (14-25) |
Pace: 97.1 (12), OffRtg: 103.6 (13), DefRtg: 106.1 (28), NetRtg: -2.5 (19)
DeMarcus Cousins (31 points in Indiana), Rudy Gay (33 in Minnesota), and Isaiah Thomas (38 in Oklahoma City) all had huge games last week, but the Kings are 1-3 on their road trip, in part because they've been nothing out of the two guard position. Marcus Thornton has started the last seven games, shooting 8-for-32 and scoring 23 points ... total. Ben McLemore hasn't produced off the bench either.
This week: @ NOP, @ HOU, vs. IND, vs. DEN
|Last week: 21|
|22|| Cleveland (15-25) |
Pace: 96.2 (17), OffRtg: 98.4 (25), DefRtg: 103.9 (17), NetRtg: -5.5 (26)
Luol Deng has yet to turn the Cavs' defense around, but they had some big offensive nights on their 3-2 trip out West. Deng led the way with 18.4 points per game, hitting eight of his 16 threes, and Cleveland's new starting lineup has scored over 118 points per 100 possessions in 78 minutes together. They now have a favorable five-game homestand that just might put them in playoff position.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. CHI, vs. MIL, vs. PHX
|Last week: 24|
|23|| Utah (14-28) |
Pace: 94.0 (25), OffRtg: 99.4 (23), DefRtg: 107.5 (30), NetRtg: -8.1 (28)
With Alec Burks averaging 18.8 points on 52 percent shooting, the Jazz have survived Gordon Hayward's five-game absence, picking up easy wins over the Nuggets and Pistons last week and giving the Spurs a scare on Wednesday. They've been a top-10 offense in January and have won five of their last six games at EnergySolutions Arena, where they'll play 11 of their next 15.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. WAS
|Last week: 25|
|24|| Detroit (17-23) |
Pace: 97.1 (11), OffRtg: 101.5 (20), DefRtg: 104.8 (21), NetRtg: -3.4 (22)
The Pistons clearly don't do well with multiple days off. Earlier this month, they came off five days of rest and lost -- at home -- by 26 to the Grizzlies. On Friday, they came off another five days of rest and lost -- at home -- by 21 to the Jazz. But the last two times they've played the second night of a back-to-back, they've beaten the Suns and the Wizards (on the road). This team is so weird.
This week: @ MIL, vs. NOP, @ DAL
|Last week: 22|
|25|| New Orleans (15-24) |
Pace: 95.1 (20), OffRtg: 105.1 (9), DefRtg: 107.2 (29), NetRtg: -2.1 (18)
The Pelicans have a budding star in Anthony Davis and imported some high-priced talent last summer, but they may just finish with the worst record in the West. They're only ahead of the Kings and Jazz in the win column and have played much worse than both over the last month. Though they've played some good teams close, their eight-game losing streak has included five losses at home.
This week: @ MEM, vs. SAC, @ DET, vs. ORL
|Last week: 20|
|26|| L.A. Lakers (16-25) |
Pace: 99.7 (3), OffRtg: 101.1 (22), DefRtg: 106.0 (27), NetRtg: -4.9 (25)
It was a fascinating week in Swaggyland. Nick Young got ejected and suspended, voiced his displeasure about the lack of support he got from his teammates, totaled 57 points (on just 29 shots) in the two full games he played, and basically buried the Raptors down the stretch of what was the Lakers' best win in over a month. He gets to go one-on-one against LeBron James again on Thursday.
This week: @ CHI, @ MIA, @ ORL, @ NYK
|Last week: 28|
|27|| Philadelphia (13-27) |
Pace: 102.4 (1), OffRtg: 97.0 (29), DefRtg: 105.7 (25), NetRtg: -8.7 (29)
Appropriately, the Sixers' only win in the last two weeks came in the final seconds, while their six losses have been by an average of 18.2 points. They have the point differential of an 8-32 team, so those preseason projections weren't that far off. Thaddeus Young's game-winner against Charlotte was the only three he's hit in his last 15 attempts. He's come back to earth after that strong stretch he had.
This week: @ WAS, @ NYK, vs. TOR, vs. OKC
|Last week: 27|
|28|| Orlando (11-30) |
Pace: 96.2 (16), OffRtg: 98.2 (26), DefRtg: 104.0 (18), NetRtg: -5.8 (27)
It wasn't pretty (not that you expected it to be), but the Magic's 10-game losing streak came to an end against the Celtics on Sunday. That concluded a week that featured three overtimes against the Bulls, more of Big Baby's drool and another ridiculous highlight from Victor Oladipo. In 46 minutes of playing time in that Chicago game, Maurice Harkless attempted one field goal and two free throws.
This week: @ BKN, vs. ATL, vs. LAL, @ NOP
|Last week: 29|
|29|| Boston (14-28) |
Pace: 95.9 (18), OffRtg: 98.8 (24), DefRtg: 103.4 (15), NetRtg: -4.6 (24)
Rajon Rondo looked pretty good in his first two games back, had a very Rondo-esque first bucket, and even had two assists to his nemesis, Kris Humphries. But he couldn't help the Celtics avoid losing two games, featuring some brutal offense down the stretch, to two bad teams. They face good teams this week, but you know Rondo will be up for games against the champs and his former teammates.
This week: @ MIA, @ WAS, vs. OKC, vs. BKN
|Last week: 26|
|30|| Milwaukee (7-33) |
Pace: 93.8 (26), OffRtg: 95.6 (30), DefRtg: 105.4 (22), NetRtg: -9.8 (30)
With Orlando's win on Sunday, the Bucks are the only winless team in 2014 and seemingly have a stranglehold on the top odds in the Lottery. But at this time last year, there were five teams with fewer wins than the 14-26 Magic, who went 6-36 the rest of the way and finished the season with the league's worst record. The Bucks and Magic still play three more times this season.
This week: vs. DET, @ CLE, vs. ATL
|Last week: 30|
|Howard Over Lopez|
Dwight Howard goes hard at Robin Lopez and throws it down over him with two hands.
|Howard Attacks the Rack|
Dwight Howard blows by Robin Lopez and slams down the wrap around dunk.
|Dwight Works the Post|
Dwight Howard goes to work down low, fakes out the defender and makes the bucket plus the foul.
|Bobcats vs. Heat: Game 2|
LeBron James finishes with 32 points, eight assists and six boards to help lift Miami over the Bobcats in Game 2, 101-97.
|Walker's Big Three|
Kemba Walker drains a big three-pointer late in the fourth quarter to bring the Bobcats within one point.