By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jan 27, 2014 11:23 AM
That was a fun week.
Forget all that stuff about this stretch between New Year's and the All-Star break being the dog days of the season. We had some of the most entertaining basketball of the season over the last seven days.
Carmelo Anthony set franchise and Madison Square Garden records on Friday. Terrence Ross (Terrence Ross!) went for 51, tying the Raptors' franchise mark a night night. And five other guys went for 40-plus. We had 16 games between the 15 teams currently over .500, highlighted by the Thunder's impressive back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As usual, the league has gotten more efficient as the season has gone on. It's scored 104.7 points per 100 possessions in January, up from 103.7 in December and 101.6 in November.
Sorting out the rankings isn't much easier than it was back then, but it's good to see the Eastern Conference's top seven in a better place than it has been all season. By the All-Star break, all seven could be at .500 or better.
* * *
• Last week: Pacers making history at midway point
• This time last year: What becomes of the Celtics? -- Rajon Rondo tore his ACL and the Celtics beat the Heat without him. The Hornets announced that they would become the Pelicans, Marco Belinelli had another crazy game-winner, Kyrie Irving hit a bomb to beat the Raptors, and the Bobcats' 16-game home losing streak came to an end with this ridiculous possession.
• Plus-minus Studs: Greivis Vasquez (TOR) was a plus-56 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: Kyle Singler (DET) was a minus-62 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Oklahoma City (4-0) -- The Thunder's perfect week started with back-to-back wins over the Blazers and Spurs, earning them the top spot in the West.
• Zero Team of the Week: Detroit (0-4) -- A loss to the Bucks is like an automatic reservation for this space.
• High jumps of the week: Brooklyn (+6), Oklahoma City (+3), Seven teams (+2)
• Free falls of the week: Portland (-4), L.A. Lakers, Toronto, Washington (-3)
• East vs. West: The West is 154-81 (.655) against the East in inter-conference games and was 14-11 last week.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. Sacramento, 3. L.A. Lakers
• 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.
* * *
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 96.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.2 points scored per 100 possessions.
* * *
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|| Oklahoma City (35-10) |
Pace: 98.2 (6), OffRtg: 107.2 (5), DefRtg: 98.8 (3), NetRtg: +8.4 (3)
If Kevin Durant isn't dropping 40-plus, he's messing around and getting triple-doubles. More importantly, the Thunder have beat the Rockets, Warriors, Blazers and Spurs over the course of their seven-game winning streak, a stretch that has included three back-to-backs. They're 14-6 against the other nine West teams that are .500 or better, with the best defense in games played among the group
This week: vs. ATL, @ MIA, @ BKN, @ WAS
|Last week: 4|
|2|| Indiana (34-9) |
Pace: 95.6 (20), OffRtg: 102.7 (18), DefRtg: 93.9 (1), NetRtg: +8.8 (1)
The Pacers hit a bit of a speed bump upon heading west. After an impressive win at Golden State, they lost in Phoenix, needed Paul George's four-point-play and overtime to win in Sacramento (with the Kings missing DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay), and lost in Denver. Their bench units have been pretty anemic offensively during the trip, but get to play the Lakers' defense on Tuesday.
This week: @ LAL, vs. PHX, vs. BKN
|Last week: 1|
|3|| Miami (32-12) |
Pace: 94.6 (23), OffRtg: 109.5 (2), DefRtg: 102.4 (10), NetRtg: +7.1 (4)
With Durant and Anthony putting up huge numbers, it would be cool if the Heat gave LeBron James (whose career high of 56 came nine years ago) a night to see how many points he could score. Saturday's visit to New York would be a great time for it. Wednesday's game against vs. OKC will be a test, but the Heat have won six straight against the Thunder, going back to Game 2 of the 2012 Finals.
This week: vs. OKC, @ NYK
|Last week: 5|
|4|| San Antonio (33-11) |
Pace: 96.7 (15), OffRtg: 108.3 (3), DefRtg: 99.7 (4), NetRtg: +8.6 (2)
The Spurs are down another starter (Kawhi Leonard broke his hand Wednesday) and are now 1-10 in games against the other six teams over .600 after losses to the Blazers, Thunder and Heat over the last 10 days. The only win was against the Clippers in their first game after Chris Paul's shoulder injury. The last game they play against that group before the All-Star break is Tuesday in Houston.
This week: @ HOU, vs. CHI, vs. SAC
|Last week: 3|
|5|| L.A. Clippers (31-15) |
Pace: 97.7 (10), OffRtg: 107.9 (4), DefRtg: 101.9 (8), NetRtg: +6.0 (5)
Since Chris Paul's injury, the Clippers have ranked second in offensive efficiency. Blake Griffin (25.4 points and 4.9 assists per game) has been huge, but they've also been shooting the lights out. Four of the five guys who have attempted at least 20 threes in the 11 games have shot them at better than 40 percent. The defense hasn't been good, but Wednesday's loss in Charlotte was their only real hiccup.
This week: @ MIL, vs. WAS, @ GSW, vs. UTA
|Last week: 7|
|6|| Portland (33-12) |
Pace: 97.9 (8), OffRtg: 110.0 (1), DefRtg: 105.5 (23), NetRtg: +4.5 (7)
The Blazers have played seven games in 10 days in eight cities against the top 11 teams in the West, and still have to face the surging Grizzlies on Tuesday. Damian Lillard has struggled through this stretch, but LaMarcus Aldridge has been adding more variety to his offensive game. Only 53 percent of his shots over the seven games have been from mid-range, compared to 65 percent in his first 38 games.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. TOR
|Last week: 2|
|7|| Golden State (27-18) |
Pace: 99.1 (5), OffRtg: 104.2 (12), DefRtg: 99.8 (5), NetRtg: +4.4 (8)
The Warriors have had the fifth best defense in the league ... but not in the first quarter. In fact, they've had the league's second worst first-quarter defense since Christmas, allowing nine of their 16 opponents to score 30 points or more in the first 12 minutes. After doing that in four of their previous five games, they held the Blazers in check on Sunday and came away with a much-needed win.
This week: vs. WAS, vs. LAC, @ UTA
|Last week: 6|
|8|| Memphis (22-20) |
Pace: 92.4 (30), OffRtg: 102.5 (19), DefRtg: 103.5 (16), NetRtg: -0.9 (16)
The Grizzlies were 0-10 within the Southwest Division until they swept a home-and-home with the Rockets over the weekend. They're getting back to their identity, playing the league's third best defense in January with only three losses by a total of eight points. And with Courtney Lee averaging 16.9 points per game as a starter, it will be interesting to see what Tony Allen's role is when he returns.
This week: @ POR, @ SAC, @ MIN, vs. MIL
|Last week: 10|
|9|| Houston (29-17) |
Pace: 98.0 (7), OffRtg: 107.1 (1), DefRtg: 102.3 (9), NetRtg: +4.8 (6)
Patrick Beverley made an immediate impact upon his return to the Rockets' lineup. He was a plus-57 (no other Rocket was better than a plus-28) in wins over the Blazers and Kings early last week. But as Houston's offense came up empty in back-to-back losses to the Grizzlies over the weekend (even with Chandler Parsons hitting 10 second-half threes on Friday), Beverley shot just 4-for-22.
This week: vs. SAS, @ DAL, vs. CLE
|Last week: 8|
|10|| Phoenix (25-18) |
Pace: 97.9 (9), OffRtg: 106.0 (8), DefRtg: 102.4 (11), NetRtg: +3.6 (9)
When All-Star reserves are announced on Thursday, Goran Dragic probably doesn't make it in a crowded Western Conference backcourt. But he'd easily be an All-Star in the East, against whom the Suns are playing eight straight games. That should enable them to pad their record, especially since the stretch started with a win over the Pacers on Wednesday, but they're just 7-6 against the East.
This week: @ PHI, @ MIL, @ IND, vs. CHA
|Last week: 12|
|11|| Brooklyn (20-22) |
Pace: 93.5 (27), OffRtg: 103.1 (16), DefRtg: 105.1 (20), NetRtg: -2.0 (19)
Just like that, after surviving a couple of late-game scares from the Mavs and Celtics, the Nets are within two games of .500. It's amazing that Mirza Teletovic, who dropped 34 points on Dallas on Friday and is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range over the last month, couldn't get off the bench in a playoff series in which the Bulls didn't bother guarding Gerald Wallace or Reggie Evans.
This week: vs. TOR, vs. OKC, @ IND
|Last week: 17|
|12|| Toronto (22-21) |
Pace: 94.6 (24), OffRtg: 104.0 (13), DefRtg: 100.8 (6), NetRtg: +3.2 (10)
Thanks to Terrence Ross' out-of-nowhere 51 points against the Clips, the Raptors are one of four teams that rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency in January. But they face the team with January's best record in Brooklyn on Monday, with their division lead over the Nets down to just one game in the loss column. And they'll be without DeMar DeRozan, who sprained his foot on Saturday.
This week: @ BKN, vs. ORL, @ DEN, @ POR
|Last week: 9|
|13|| Dallas (26-20) |
Pace: 96.9 (14), OffRtg: 107.1 (6), DefRtg: 105.4 (21), NetRtg: +1.7 (12)
After blowing leads totaling 40 points in their two games, the Mavs don't have to worry about the Toronto Raptors anymore ... until The Finals. After playing a pretty brutal schedule over the last few weeks, Dallas is getting its first two-day break since Christmas. They're now tied in the loss column with ninth-place Memphis and could use a good push before the All-Star break.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. SAC
|Last week: 11|
|14|| Denver (22-21) |
Pace: 99.2 (4), OffRtg: 105.0 (11), DefRtg: 103.8 (17), NetRtg: +1.3 (13)
The Nuggets are still impossible to figure out. They ended a three-game losing streak by handling the Pacers pretty easily on Saturday. One thing's for sure: Even with Andre Miller quarantined and Darrell Arthur hurt, heir bench is pretty good. Evan Fournier, Timofey Mozgov and Nate Robinson have combined to averaged 34 points off the bench as they've won eight of their last 12 games.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. TOR
|Last week: 14|
|15|| Minnesota (21-22) |
Pace: 100.0 (2), OffRtg: 105.2 (10), DefRtg: 102.7 (13), NetRtg: +2.5 (11)
If Ricky Rubio earned some karma by playing ball with a little girl in Utah, it was enough to get the Wolves their first win by four points or less (three nights later) and for Rubio to get his first fourth-quarter basket in over five weeks, but not enough to get them back over .500 in Portland on Saturday. They've allowed over 110 points per 100 possessions in their 10 failed attempts to get over.
This week: @ CHI, vs. NOP, vs. MEM, @ ATL
|Last week: 13|
|16|| Chicago (22-21) |
Pace: 93.0 (28), OffRtg: 97.9 (28), DefRtg: 98.0 (2), NetRtg: -0.1 (15)
The Bulls are 10-3 in January, and who's their leading scorer this month? D.J. Augustin, who's averaging 16.0 points (with 27 or more in three of his last four games) and is shooting 42 percent from 3-point range as a Bull. Joakim Noah is also playing his best basketball of the season and Chicago has climbed all the way to fifth in the East, but starts a six-game trip through the West on Wednesday.
This week: vs. MIN, @ SAS, @ NOP
|Last week: 16|
|17|| Atlanta (23-20) |
Pace: 97.1 (13), OffRtg: 103.9 (15), DefRtg: 102.7 (12), NetRtg: +1.2 (14)
Fourteen games after losing Al Horford for the season, the Hawks still have the third best record in the East, with January wins over both of the teams ahead of them. With seven guys averaging double-figures over their last five games, their offense has had its most efficient stretch since Horford's injury. DeMarre Carroll has scored in double-figures in eight of his last nine games, shooting 55 percent.
This week: @ OKC, vs. DET, @ PHI, vs. MIN
|Last week: 18|
|18|| Washington (21-22) |
Pace: 95.6 (19), OffRtg: 101.4 (21), DefRtg: 102.7 (14), NetRtg: -1.3 (17)
The Wizards got a gritty win in Phoenix, but lost two more chances to get over .500 last week, one because Martell Webster didn't make Gerald Wallace change directions once as he drove more than 80 feet for the game-winner on Wednesday. After Saturday's loss in Utah, they're 4-10 against the West and now play seven of their next nine games against the conference's top nine.
This week: @ GSW, @ LAC, vs. OKC
|Last week: 15|
|19|| New York (17-27) |
Pace: 92.6 (29), OffRtg: 102.9 (17), DefRtg: 106.4 (27), NetRtg: -3.4 (22)
Friday night at MSG was historic, but in regard to the 2013-14 Knicks, Sunday's win over the Lakers was just as important. It was another big offensive game, and it came in the afternoon! The loss of Andrea Bargnani should help their spacing offensively, but they need Kenyon Martin back to stabilize their defense, which has allowed 115 points per 100 possessions over the last seven games.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. CLE, vs. MIA
|Last week: 20|
|20|| Charlotte (19-27) |
Pace: 94.9 (22), OffRtg: 98.1 (27), DefRtg: 101.5 (7), NetRtg: -3.4 (21)
Anthony's 62 points on Friday was the latest example of how much the Bobcats' defense, which ranks 28th in January, has fallen off. There has been some signs of life offensively. Not only has Al Jefferson scored 20-plus in nine straight games, but Josh McRoberts has shot 18-for-30 from 3-point range in the last seven. It's always fun to see Gerald Henderson jump (either for blocks or dunks).
This week: @ DEN, @ LAL, @ PHX
|Last week: 19|
|21|| Utah (15-29) |
Pace: 94.1 (25), OffRtg: 99.6 (23), DefRtg: 107.5 (30), NetRtg: -7.9 (28)
Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are the future of the Jazz, but had played just 19 minutes together before Saturday. The group played 12 minutes in a win over the Wizards, but gave up 35 points and was a minus-9 in that time. All four were in double-figures, with Kanter scoring 24 points off the bench. The Jazz are 1-18 when he starts.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. GSW, @ LAC
|Last week: 23|
|22|| Sacramento (15-28) |
Pace: 97.4 (11), OffRtg: 103.9 (14), DefRtg: 106.7 (28), NetRtg: -2.7 (20)
A night after Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins combined for 59 points, 19 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and four blocks in a road win, they both went down with injuries. It's not like this season is going anywhere or that the Kings necessarily have a bright future with their current core, but we need these guys healthy for late-night League Pass entertainment. Aaron Gray doesn't cut it.
This week: @ UTA, vs. MEM, @ DAL, @ SAS
|Last week: 21|
|23|| New Orleans (18-25) |
Pace: 94.9 (21), OffRtg: 105.3 (9), DefRtg: 107.0 (29), NetRtg: -1.7 (18)
The Pelicans have risen from the dead to win three of their last four games, with five different guards scoring in double figures in at least one of the three wins. That group includes Austin Rivers, who's starting to bring consistent production to his consistent playing time. Speaking of production, Anthony Davis registered 22 points, 19 rebounds, seven blocks and two steals in Sunday's win over Orlando.
This week: @ CLE, @ MIN, vs. CHI
|Last week: 25|
|24|| Cleveland (16-28) |
Pace: 95.7 (18), OffRtg: 98.5 (25), DefRtg: 104.1 (18), NetRtg: -5.6 (26)
The Cavs aren't exactly tearing up the standings with Luol Deng on board. And it doesn't help that they couldn't get the ball inbounds with a chance to tie against the Mavs on Monday or that they scored six points in the third quarter against the Suns on Sunday. They're in a four-team scrum for that eighth spot in the East and 1-3 against the rest of the scrum, with a big game in New York on Thursday.
This week: vs. NOP, @ NYK, @ HOU
|Last week: 22|
|25|| Detroit (17-27) |
Pace: 97.2 (12), OffRtg: 101.6 (20), DefRtg: 105.5 (24), NetRtg: -3.9 (23)
The Pistons are 3-11 since Christmas and the only team with a worse point differential in that time is the Bucks, who the Pistons lost to on Wednesday. After getting shut out in Monday's loss to the Clippers, Brandon Jennings averaged 28 points over the next three games. No matter, because his team's defense has been awful. Amazingly, they're still just a game out of a playoff spot.
This week: vs. ORL, @ ATL, vs. PHI
|Last week: 24|
|26|| Philadelphia (14-30) |
Pace: 102.1 (1), OffRtg: 97.2 (29), DefRtg: 105.7 (25), NetRtg: -8.5 (29)
The Sixers' win in New York on Wednesday was the only time their offense has cracked a point per possession in their last 12 games (which says a lot about the Knicks' defense). Though one or two guys will put up decent (pace-enhanced) lines every night, their starting lineup has scored less than 96 points per 100 possessions in that stretch and their bench units have been even worse (92.2).
This week: vs. PHX, @ BOS, vs. ATL, @ DET
|Last week: 27|
|27|| Boston (15-31) |
Pace: 95.7 (17), OffRtg: 98.4 (26), DefRtg: 103.2 (15), NetRtg: -4.9 (24)
We got the full Jeff Green experience last week. He shot 8-for-16 from 3-point range (including this ridiculous heave) on his way to 39 points in Wednesday's win in D.C., and then shot 2-for-15 from beyond the arc in losses to the Thunder and Nets. This season was an opportunity for Green to put up All-Star numbers, but he's averaging less points and rebounds than he did in his second season.
This week: @ NYK, vs. PHI, vs. ORL
|Last week: 29|
|28|| Orlando (12-33) |
Pace: 96.3 (16), OffRtg: 98.6 (24), DefRtg: 104.4 (19), NetRtg: -5.7 (27)
To add more pain to the Bucks' train wreck of a season, Tobias Harris is starting to put up big numbers again. He had 28 points and 20 rebounds in Friday's win over the Lakers and has averaged 17.7 points (on 50 percent shooting) and 9.7 boards over his last 10 games. In the Rookie of the Year race, Michael Carter-Williams may have Victor Oladipo on numbers, but Oladipo's still got him on highlights.
This week: @ DET, @ TOR, vs. MIL, @ BOS
|Last week: 28|
|29|| L.A. Lakers (16-29) |
Pace: 99.4 (3), OffRtg: 101.3 (22), DefRtg: 106.2 (26), NetRtg: -4.9 (25)
Pau Gasol could be in the Lakers' future plans, but it would be fun to see him with a playoff team for the last two months of the season. He had a slow start and defense is always a issue, but he's averaged 20.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 blocks in 14 games since Dec. 31. Of course, finding a trade for Gasol's $19 million contract that works for the Lakers isn't easy.
This week: vs. IND, vs. CHA
|Last week: 26|
|30|| Milwaukee (8-35) |
Pace: 93.9 (26), OffRtg: 95.6 (30), DefRtg: 105.4 (22), NetRtg: -9.8 (30)
The Bucks need to have Caron Butler Bobblehead Night more often. The occasion elicited a 30-point performance from Butler and Milwaukee's only win in January. Two nights later, he shot 1-for-6 as the Bucks got smoked in Cleveland. Butler is having his worst shooting season in 10 years, while Ersan Ilyasova, O.J. Mayo and Gary Neal are all having the worst shooting seasons of their careers.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. PHX, @ ORL, @ MEM
|Last week: 30|
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