By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Feb 10, 2014 10:43 AM
Four more days and the break is here. A lot of teams (and players) can use it.
At the top of the list are the Detroit Pistons, who just fired their coach and need to regroup. They're followed by a couple of West teams -- Denver and Memphis -- with banged up point guards, who are fighting for a playoff spot. And speaking of playoff spots, there are probably a dozen other teams that could use the time to step back, figure out how high they can get in the standings, and how they can get there.
In that regard, the break is also a time for teams to intensify trade talks. And with a number of teams planning for the future and several more that are seemingly one piece away from truly contending for a title, their could be a flurry of activity on that front.
But there are still 28 more games to be played before we get to New Orleans. And those games count. In particular, there are some key matchups between the five teams that are in the mix for the third and fourth seeds in the East. One of those five will have to face the Heat or Pacers in the first round.
* * *
• Last week: New commissioner in NBA, but same No. 1 on this list
• This time last year: Spurs, Nuggets thrive in 'dog days' -- The Pacers swept the only back-to-back-to-back set any team had last season, but got Reggie Miller'd by Amir Johnson and Rudy Gay. The Spurs won the race to 40 wins, the Heat's winning streak was at five games (22 more to go), and a bunch of Mavericks vowed not to shave their beards until they reached .500 (which they wouldn't do for another nine weeks).
• Plus-minus Studs: Vince Carter (DAL) was a plus-81 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: Evan Turner (PHI) was a minus-72 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Orlando (3-1) -- Who would have ever thought we'd see this team in this space? One-point wins over Oklahoma City and Indiana will do the trick.
• Zero Team of the Week: Philadelphia (0-4) -- Before trailing the Clippers by as many as 56 points, the Sixers lost to the Celtics and Lakers at home.
• High jumps of the week: Dallas (+5), Houston (+4), Orlando (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Memphis (-5), Philadelphia (-5), Denver (-3)
• East vs. West: The West is 187-104 (.643) against the East in inter-conference games and was 18-15 last week (in which Minnesota was the only team not to play against the opposite conference).
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. Sacramento, 3. L.A. Lakers
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Miami, 2. Chicago, 3. Detroit
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 103.1 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 (41-12) |
Pace: 97.4 (11), OffRtg: 107.7 (5), DefRtg: 99.4 (3), NetRtg: +8.3 (2)
The Thunder's defensive numbers have slipped a bit over the last few weeks and Kevin Durant really fell asleep on the Magic's game-winning fast break on Friday. But OKC out-grinded the surging Grizzlies in an ugly game on Monday and Durant played a huge role in shutting down Carmelo Anthony on Sunday. It was only Durant's second win in 13 head-to-head meetings with Anthony, which is weird.
This week: @ POR, @ LAL
|Last week: 1|
|2|| Indiana (39-11) |
Pace: 95.8 (18), OffRtg: 102.4 (18), DefRtg: 94.0 (1), NetRtg: +8.4 (1)
Sunday's game in Orlando was rather strange. The Pacers lost for just the fifth time when they had at least a day of rest prior, they lost for the first time to a team with no shot at the playoffs, and the best second-half team in the league (by an incredibly wide margin) got outscored 50-40 after halftime. What wasn't strange was that it was their bench that blew most of their 17-point, third-quarter lead.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. DAL
|Last week: 2|
|3|| Houston (34-17) |
Pace: 98.0 (7), OffRtg: 107.6 (6), DefRtg: 102.2 (10), NetRtg: +5.4 (6)
The Rockets' five-game winning streak has included wins over the Spurs, Mavs and Suns. They're now 12-10 against the other eight West teams over .500 and only the Thunder have been better in games within that group. Dwight Howard (26.2) and James Harden (24.3) have combined to average over 50 points per game over the streak and Jeremy Lin has provided some punch off the bench.
This week: @ MIN, vs. WAS
|Last week: 7|
|4|| Miami (35-14) |
Pace: 94.5 (24), OffRtg: 109.4 (1), DefRtg: 103.0 (14), NetRtg: +6.4 (5)
It's been noted often that LeBron James hasn't defended at his normal level this season, and another thing that has popped up is his turnovers. He's had 12 in his last two games and his turnover rate is the highest of his career. But enough nitpicking, because the slow-motion, behind-the-backboard replay of this dunk against the Clippers was one of the highlights of last week.
This week: @ PHX, @ GSW
|Last week: 3|
|5|| San Antonio (37-14) |
Pace: 96.3 (15), OffRtg: 107.4 (7), DefRtg: 100.2 (5), NetRtg: +7.3 (3)
The Spurs have been so snakebit by injuries, two of their healthiest guys broke their nose in Thursday's loss in Brooklyn, and one of those noses was already broken! Considering what they've been going through, it's amazing they've won four of their last five games. Patty Mills has averaged 18.2 points in just 22.2 minutes in that stretch, dropping 32 on the Bobcats' top-10 defense on Saturday.
This week: @ DET, @ BOS
|Last week: 8|
|6|| L.A. Clippers (36-18) |
Pace: 97.9 (9), OffRtg: 108.5 (3), DefRtg: 101.8 (8), NetRtg: +6.7 (4)
Upon Chris Paul's return, the Clippers' offense scored 46 points in the first quarter on Sunday and could be (scary thought) even better when J.J. Redick gets back. But the thing to watch will be L.A.'s defense, which suffered some slippage and allowed 106.0 points per 100 possessions in the 18 games Paul missed with his shoulder injury. And look, they play the league's No. 2 offense on Wednesday.
This week: vs. POR
|Last week: 4|
|7|| Phoenix (30-20) |
Pace: 98.2 (6), OffRtg: 106.8 (8), DefRtg: 103.1 (15), NetRtg: +3.6 (8)
Right now, the Suns are one of a few West playoff teams that don't have a reliable defense (see Wednesday's loss in Houston). But if they can use their assets to trade for an interior defender and get Eric Bledsoe back after the break, they will be very dangerous, because their offense has been red hot over the last few weeks, especially with Goran Dragic and Channing Frye on the floor.
This week: vs. MIA
|Last week: 6|
|8|| Portland (36-15) |
Pace: 97.9 (8), OffRtg: 108.9 (2), DefRtg: 105.3 (22), NetRtg: +3.6 (9)
Before breaking out against the undermanned Wolves on Saturday, the Blazers were going through, by far, their worst offensive stretch of the season. It was inevitable given their reliance on jump shots and you would hope it would get them to buckle down defensively. But Wednesday's win in New York was really the only game in which they've been able to put together two halves of strong D.
This week: vs. OKC, @ LAC
|Last week: 10|
|9|| Dallas (31-21) |
Pace: 96.4 (14), OffRtg: 108.4 (4), DefRtg: 105.5 (23), NetRtg: +3.0 (11)
The Mavs have won five straight, but their offense has been off the charts for a month now. Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 24.6 points with an effective field goal percentage of 56.2 percent over that stretch. Vince Carter, meanwhile, is a plus-89 over the five-game streak, which included an important win in Memphis. Dallas is now three games up on the Grizz, already holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.
This week: @ CHA, @ IND
|Last week: 14|
|10|| Memphis (27-23) |
Pace: 92.1 (30), OffRtg: 102.1 (20), DefRtg: 102.4 (11), NetRtg: -0.3 (15)
The Grizz played some ugly basketball last week, scoring 83 or fewer points in three of their four games (including one that went to overtime), shooting 15-for-58 from 3-point range, and attempting a single free throw (the fewest in NBA history) in Saturday's win in Atlanta. As well as they had been playing, they're not the same without Mike Conley, who could be back from his sprained ankle this week.
This week: vs. WAS, @ ORL
|Last week: 5|
|11|| Golden State (30-21) |
Pace: 98.8 (5), OffRtg: 103.7 (15), DefRtg: 99.7 (4), NetRtg: +4.0 (7)
Without David Lee and Andrew Bogut, the Warriors are no longer a #fullsquad. Healthy or not, they've been rather mediocre over the last month, going 5-7. Andre Iguodala still ranks as one of the most improved jump shooters in the league, but has shot just 9-for-50 from outside the paint over the 12 games. He's got to step up without Lee, but has scored in double-digits just 13 times as a Warrior.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. MIA
|Last week: 9|
|12|| Toronto (26-24) |
Pace: 94.7 (22), OffRtg: 104.2 (12), DefRtg: 101.1 (7), NetRtg: +3.0 (10)
The Raptors' defense suffered some slippage on their five-game trip out West (the Kings and Clippers went to the line a total of 105 times on Wednesday and Friday), but they'll be home for eight of their next 10 games. That stretch includes four games against the Hawks, Wizards and Bulls, giving them an opportunity to grab a stronger hold of the third spot in the East ... or lose their grip on it altogether.
This week: vs. NOP, vs. ATL
|Last week: 11|
|13|| Washington (25-25) |
Pace: 95.9 (17), OffRtg: 101.3 (21), DefRtg: 102.0 (9), NetRtg: -0.7 (16)
After impressive wins over the Thunder and Blazers, the Wizards had a real shot at a 5-0 homestand. But they shot 0-for-11 in the second overtime against the Spurs on Wednesday and somehow allowed the Cavs to score 115 points on Friday. So they're once again looking to get over .500, with a tough back-to-back before the break. They're 4-19 when they shoot less than 36 percent from 3-point range.
This week: @MEM, @ HOU
|Last week: 13|
|14|| Atlanta (25-24) |
Pace: 97.4 (12), OffRtg: 103.9 (13), DefRtg: 102.4 (12), NetRtg: +1.4 (13)
The Hawks have a top-10 defense since Al Horford's injury, but have also had some stinkers offensively (see Saturday vs. Memphis). Nobody misses Horford more than Jeff Teague, who has shot 7-for-41 from 3-point range over his last 16 games. The Atlanta offense has been over 10 points per 100 possessions better with Teague off the floor (109.9) than it's been with him on (99.2) over that stretch.
This week: @ CHI, @ TOR
|Last week: 12|
|15|| Brooklyn (23-26) |
Pace: 94.0 (26), OffRtg: 103.0 (17), DefRtg: 104.7 (19), NetRtg: -1.7 (19)
After Friday's shellacking in Detroit, the Nets are 2-9 on the second night of back-to-backs. Only the Bucks (2-13) have been worse and Brooklyn still has three more back-to-backs this month. Jason Kidd would be smart to sit Kevin Garnett against Charlotte on Wednesday so that he's rested in Chicago on Thursday. The Nets are a plus-9.8 points per 100 possessions with KG on the floor since Jan. 1.
This week: vs. CHA, @ CHI
|Last week: 16|
|16|| Chicago (25-25) |
Pace: 93.1 (28), OffRtg: 97.3 (28), DefRtg: 98.1 (2), NetRtg: -0.8 (17)
The Bulls' offense was anemic (scoring just 94.2 points per 100 possessions) on their six-game trip. Joakim Noah lost his cool in Sacramento and Carlos Boozer got injured in the locker room at Golden State. But they picked up three wins to remain at .500, with two big games this week. They're 11-7 since the Luol Deng trade, though they've been outscored by eight points over the 18 games.
This week: vs. ATL, vs. BKN
|Last week: 17|
|17|| Minnesota (24-27) |
Pace: 99.6 (3), OffRtg: 104.7 (9), DefRtg: 102.7 (13), NetRtg: +1.9 (12)
The Wolves have lost five of their last six, though they hung around with both the Thunder and Blazers without Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic (and Kevin Martin in the Portland game). Love's absence has forced Ricky Rubio to be more aggressive. He had double-digit field goal attempts in three straight games for the first time this season, though he was just 7-for-18 in the restricted area.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. DEN
|Last week: 15|
|18|| New Orleans (22-28) |
Pace: 94.7 (23), OffRtg: 104.4 (10), DefRtg: 105.8 (25), NetRtg: -1.4 (18)
The Pelicans' defense has been much improved (allowing less than a point per possession) as they've made a little charge toward .500 with six wins in their last nine games. But when they're scoring 28 points in a half (like they did in Brooklyn on Sunday), they're clearly missing Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson. That game began a stretch where they're playing nine of 11 on the road.
This week: @ TOR, @ MIL
|Last week: 21|
|19|| Charlotte (22-29) |
Pace: 95.3 (21), OffRtg: 98.4 (27), DefRtg: 101.0 (6), NetRtg: -2.6 (23)
After a 3-1 trip out West, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said he'd like to continue playing at a faster pace. Charlotte is 11-6 in their 17 fastest paced games of the season, though with only slightly better offensive and defensive numbers than they have overall. Al Jefferson continues to carry the offensive load, but more amazing is that he's a part of the league's best defensive lineup (minimum 100 minutes).
This week: vs. DAL, @ BKN
|Last week: 20|
|20|| New York (20-31) |
Pace: 92.9 (29), OffRtg: 103.8 (14), DefRtg: 105.7 (24), NetRtg: -1.9 (20)
Coach Mike Woodson certainly isn't blameless in regard to the Knicks' woes, but their three biggest issues - Tyson Chandler's health, Raymond Felton's regression and the presence of the ill-fitting Andrea Bargnani - have mostly been out of his control. Felton's play of late has really made it clear how important it is to have an above-average point guard, even if you have one of the league's most potent scorers.
This week: vs. SAC
|Last week: 19|
|21|| Denver (24-25) |
Pace: 99.7 (2), OffRtg: 104.3 (11), DefRtg: 104.0 (17), NetRtg: +0.3 (14)
Ty Lawson got hurt again in Saturday's loss in Detroit and the Denver offense obviously isn't very good without a point guard. But more concerning is the defense that has allowed almost 109 points per 100 possessions over the last four weeks. It's not that JaVale McGee is a huge difference maker, but if he was healthy, J.J. Hickson wouldn't rank second on the team in minutes and the D would be better.
This week: @ IND, @ MIN
|Last week: 18|
|22|| Detroit (21-29) |
Pace: 97.6 (10), OffRtg: 102.3 (19), DefRtg: 104.8 (20), NetRtg: -2.5 (21)
It's weird that Mo Cheeks got fired after two straight wins over decent teams and with his team finally playing well at home, but Wednesday's loss in Orlando was clearly the low point of the season and the Pistons need to try something new. Since Chuck Daly left in 1992, this franchise has had 12 different coaches and only one (Flip Saunders) lasted three full seasons. He was fired with a 176-70 record.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. CLE
|Last week: 23|
|23|| Orlando (16-37) |
Pace: 96.2 (16), OffRtg: 98.8 (25), DefRtg: 104.2 (18), NetRtg: -5.4 (26)
All of a sudden, the Magic have won three straight games and are one of four teams (Denver, Portland and Toronto are the others) to have beat both the Pacers and Thunder. Let's not hand Michael Carter-Williams the Rookie of the Year trophy just yet. Victor Oladipo has averaged 19.0 points on 60 percent shooting over the three games and made the big play setting up Tobias Harris' game-winner.
This week: vs. MEM
|Last week: 27|
|24|| Utah (17-33) |
Pace: 93.5 (27), OffRtg: 99.6 (23), DefRtg: 107.8 (30), NetRtg: -8.2 (28)
As much as we want to see Utah's young five develop together, their starting lineup, with veterans Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams at the forward spots, has been pretty good. In fact, it has scored over 125 points per 100 possessions in 91 minutes over its last five games. Williams hadn't scored 20 points in any game through January, but had 23, 21 and 23 in his first three February games.
This week: @ LAL, vs. PHI
|Last week: 22|
|25|| Boston (18-34) |
Pace: 95.8 (19), OffRtg: 98.5 (26), DefRtg: 103.3 (16), NetRtg: -4.8 (25)
Jared Sullinger still needs to cut down on the threes, but he's had a nice little run of late, averaging 21.2 points and 13.4 rebounds over the last five games. The Celtics won three straight against some bad teams, but are just 2-7 with Rajon Rondo in the lineup. He played more than 36 minutes in Sunday's loss to Dallas (and came two rebounds shy of a triple-double), but will sit Monday in Milwaukee.
This week: @ MIL, vs. SAS
|Last week: 26|
|26|| Sacramento (17-34) |
Pace: 96.7 (13), OffRtg: 103.7 (16), DefRtg: 106.3 (27), NetRtg: -2.6 (22)
The Kings got two nice home wins to start last week, destroying one of the league's best rebounding teams (Chicago) on the boards and getting to the line 51 times against another top-10 defense (Toronto). But after losses in Boston and Washington in which they shot 36 percent, they have the West's worst record and have lost six straight on the road, where they will spend much of the next month.
This week: @ CLE, @ NYK
|Last week: 24|
|27|| L.A. Lakers (18-33) |
Pace: 99.6 (4), OffRtg: 101.2 (22), DefRtg: 105.8 (26), NetRtg: -4.6 (24)
The Lakers are still pretty awful, but they were worth watching last week, with Steve Nash's return and their super short-handed win against the Cavs. All that rest Chris Kaman got on the bench in Cleveland paid off as he totaled 44 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks against the Sixers and Bulls. And this move by Nash was more fun to watch than that LeBron slow-mo linked above.
This week: vs. UTA, vs. OKC
|Last week: 29|
|28|| Cleveland (18-33) |
Pace: 95.7 (20), OffRtg: 98.9 (24), DefRtg: 105.3 (21), NetRtg: -6.4 (27)
Was Chris Grant's firing a wake-up call for the Cavs? Wednesday's loss to the Lakers was the lowest point any team has hit this season, but they've responded with two wins over teams - Washington and Memphis - who've otherwise played well of late. Dion Waiters, who has reportedly been at the center of the team's locker room issues - scored 42 points and was a plus-23 in the two games.
This week: vs. SAC, @ DET
|Last week: 28|
|29|| Milwaukee (9-41) |
Pace: 94.3 (25), OffRtg: 96.4 (30), DefRtg: 106.4 (29), NetRtg: -10.0 (30)
Larry Drew doesn't have to worry about getting fired after winning two straight games, because the Bucks haven't won two straight all season. After beating the Knicks on Monday, they were within three with two minutes to go in Denver, but couldn't get the stops they needed. They were also competitive with the Rockets on Saturday, but have been mostly awful defensively over the last several weeks.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. NOP
|Last week: 30|
|30|| Philadelphia (15-37) |
Pace: 102.5 (1), OffRtg: 96.7 (29), DefRtg: 106.4 (28), NetRtg: -9.7 (29)
Which is worse: losing to the depleted Lakers by 14 or to the Clippers by 45? Whichever it is, the Sixers are 3-16 since the last time they were out West (and won four straight), scoring at a rate (don't let the fast pace fool you) that the Grizzlies would be ashamed of. And if they keep this up, they've got a legit shot of finishing last in last in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
This week: @ GSW, @ UTA
|Last week: 25|
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Count down the top five plays from Thursday night's action from Orlando's Summer League games.
|Daily Zap: July 10|
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|Block of the Night - Jamaal Franklin|
Jamaal Franklin gets the big block on Chris Kramer's layup attempt.