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It's getting ugly at the bottom

Power Rankings, Week 18

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
POSTED: Mar 3, 2014 11:28 AM ET

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The Bulls went 4-0 last week and jumped six spots in the rankings.

Ranking NBA teams from 1-30 can be difficult some weeks. Sometimes, so many teams are playing well that it's difficult to sort out the top 10.

This week, there's just not enough room in the bottom five to fit all the teams that are awful. Eight teams went without a win last week, seven haven't won more than one game since the All-Star break, and six have been outscored by at least five points per 100 possessions over the last month.

Basically, there are 12 teams that are really bad right now, and that list doesn't include the 24-37 Cavaliers. Some have been decimated by injuries, some have seemingly let go of the rope, and the Sixers are in a class by themselves, with the least NBA-caliber talent that we've seen on a roster in a long time.

The other 18 teams can obviously take advantage. But the top spots in our rankings are reserved for those with quality wins. The Heat are 3-0 since the All-Star break against teams with winning records. The Spurs, after knocking off the Mavs on Sunday, are 3-1. So are the Bulls, who take the week's biggest leap.

* * *

• Last week: Heat and Rockets roll through a slow deadline

• This time last year: Parker injury throws a curve in West race -- Stephen Curry went for 54 at MSG, Tony Parker went down with a sprained ankle, Serge Ibaka hit Blake Griffin (really hard) with a low blow, Monta Ellis hit one of the most ridiculous buzzer-beating game-winners you've ever seen, and Kobe Bryant posterized Josh Smith.

• Plus-minus Studs: Mike Dunleavy (CHI) was a plus-73 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus Dud: Eric Gordon (NOP) was a minus-88 in four games last week.


• Hero Team of the Week: Chicago (4-0) -- The Bulls crushed the Warriors at home and came back from 16 down to beat the Mavs on the road.
• Zero Team of the Week: Philadelphia (0-4) -- With eight winless teams last week, the competition for this spot was stiff. But the Sixers distinguished themselves by losing to the Bucks (by 20) and the Magic (twice).

• High jumps of the week: Chicago (+6), Utah (+6), L.A. Lakers (+4), Orlando (+4)
• Free falls of the week: New York (-8), Dallas (-6), New York (-5)

• East vs. West: The West is 216-128 (.628) against the East in inter-conference games and was 11-8 last week (3-0 against the Pistons).

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. Sacramento, 3. New Orleans
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Indiana, 2. Miami, 3. Chicago
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 96.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.4 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

Last week: 1

Miami (42-14)
Pace: 94.4 (23), OffRtg: 110.1 (1), DefRtg: 102.5 (13), NetRtg: +7.6 (2)
The Heat's seven-game winning streak began with four tough road games, but they had last week off, playing only the Knicks and Magic at home. Now they'll be tested again, playing six games in 10 days against teams that are a combined 49-21 over the last month. The three road games this week should be particularly intriguing. They've lost six of their last seven regular season games in Chicago.
This week: vs. CHA, @ HOU, @ SAS, @ CHI

2

Last week: 5

San Antonio (43-16)
Pace: 96.6 (14), OffRtg: 107.3 (7), DefRtg: 100.6 (5), NetRtg: +6.7 (5)
The Spurs are whole for the first time in two months and in time to face the champs on Thursday. They're also home for most of the next two weeks, so it will be interesting to see if Gregg Popovich gives his regular starting lineup a chance to find a rhythm. It was terrific last season, but has struggled this year, especially offensively. Kawhi Leonard has looked pretty good in his first three games back.
This week: @ CLE, vs. MIA, vs. ORL

3

Last week: 3

Indiana (46-13)
Pace: 96.1 (16), OffRtg: 102.7 (17), DefRtg: 94.4 (1), NetRtg: +8.3 (1)
The Pacers have won five straight, but haven't exactly been dominant, edging the Bucks, Celtics and Jazz by just 13 points total. And with no garbage time against bad teams, Lance Stephenson was forced to log over 41 minutes three times in four nights. Evan Turner brought his inconsistency with him from Philadelphia, but the Indiana offense has been good with him and Stephenson on the floor together.
This week: vs. GSW, @ CHA, @ HOU, @ DAL

4

Last week: 6

L.A. Clippers (41-20)
Pace: 98.1 (8), OffRtg: 109.0 (2), DefRtg: 102.0 (8), NetRtg: +7.0 (4)
The Clippers' improved defensive numbers since Chris Paul's return are skewed by games against the Sixers and Pelicans in which they held two bad teams under 80 points. But they held Houston under a point per possession on Wednesday, keeping James Harden from getting all the way to the basket (with Matt Barnes doing most of the work). Only three of his 16 shots came in the restricted area.
This week: @ PHX, @ LAL, vs. ATL

5

Last week: 2

Houston (40-19)
Pace: 98.4 (6), OffRtg: 108.0 (5), DefRtg: 102.2 (10), NetRtg: +5.8 (6)
The Jordan Hamilton trade seemed minor, but the third-year forward has already found a spot in the Rockets' rotation, averaged 13.7 points (hitting seven threes) in three games last week, and started Saturday's win over Detroit with Chandler Parsons under the weather. Can Hamilton defend? Houston plays four games against LeBron James, Paul George and Kevin Durant in the next two weeks.
This week: vs. MIA, @ ORL, vs. IND, vs. POR

6

Last week: 4

Oklahoma City (45-15)
Pace: 97.7 (11), OffRtg: 107.6 (6), DefRtg: 100.2 (4), NetRtg: +7.4 (3)
Russell Westbrook looked great on Sunday, scoring 26 points (in just 25 minutes) on 10-for-12 shooting against the Bobcats. But the Thunder's own defense, which looked pretty awful over the previous four games, is the concern with Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha both out until some time in April. Scott Brooks went big, with Perry Jones replacing Sefolosha in the starting lineup, against Charlotte.
This week: vs. PHI, @ PHX, @ LAL

7

Last week: 13

Chicago (33-26)
Pace: 93.1 (28), OffRtg: 98.9 (27), DefRtg: 97.8 (2), NetRtg: +1.1 (13)
For the first 2 1/2 months of the season, the Bulls had better numbers with Joakim Noah off the floor. But since Jan. 17, they've outscored their opponents by 9.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and been outscored by 14.7 with him on the bench. Leading the team with 6.4 assists per game over those 17 games, his presence has given them a bigger boost on offense than defense.
This week: @ BKN, @ DET, vs. MEM, vs. MIA

8

Last week: 11

Portland (41-18)
Pace: 97.9 (9), OffRtg: 108.9 (3), DefRtg: 104.8 (20), NetRtg: +4.1 (8)
The Blazers played their best defense of the season in LaMarcus Aldridge's absence and held another team (Denver) under a point per possession upon his return on Saturday. Their winning streak should reach seven games with home games against the Lakers and Hawks, but their March schedule is jam packed, with 15 games (11 on the road) in 26 days, starting Friday in Dallas.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. ATL, @ DAL, @ HOU

9

Last week: 7

Phoenix (35-24)
Pace: 98.2 (7), OffRtg: 106.8 (8), DefRtg: 103.5 (14), NetRtg: +3.3 (10)
The Suns ended their three-game slide with big offensive games against the Pelicans and Hawks. Goran Dragic recovered from a sprained ankle to put up a career-high 40 points against New Orleans. Most of their March schedule is against the Eastern Conference (against which they're 13-8), but their next four games (Clippers twice, Thunder and Warriors) are a critical stretch.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. OKC, @ GSW

10

Last week: 9

Memphis (33-25)
Pace: 92.2 (30), OffRtg: 102.6 (18), DefRtg: 102.5 (12), NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
When Tony Allen hurt his hand in early January, he was supposed to miss 2-3 weeks. He missed more than six, but something magical happened in that time, because Allen has shot 10-for-14 from outside the restricted area since his return, after shooting 29 percent from there through his first 27 games. The Grizz are knocking on the playoff door, but play 15 of their last 24 games on the road.
This week: @ WAS, @ BKN, @ CHI, vs. CHA

11

Last week: 10

Golden State (36-24)
Pace: 98.7 (5), OffRtg: 104.0 (12), DefRtg: 99.3 (3), NetRtg: +4.7 (7)
In games that haven't required a passport, Jermaine O'Neal has been pretty good. The early returns on Steve Blake are more mixed. He have the Warriors good minutes in Monday's win in Detroit, but they've scored less than a point per possession with him on the floor. They're just 2-2 on their six-game trip through the East, having been unable to score in Chicago or get stops in Toronto.
This week: @ IND, @ BOS, vs. ATL, vs. PHX

12

Last week: 14

Washington (31-28)
Pace: 95.9 (19), OffRtg: 102.5 (20), DefRtg: 102.1 (9), NetRtg: +0.4 (14)
The Wizards lost their first six games without Nene (who's out until April), but have won their last four, including three last week. Trevor Booker has started in his place, but other guys have picked up the scoring, not that their offense was great with Nene on the floor in the first place. Their no-Nene defense and their six-game winning streak will be tested against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol on Monday.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. UTA, @ MIL

13

Last week: 12

Toronto (33-26)
Pace: 94.5 (22), OffRtg: 104.8 (10), DefRtg: 101.1 (7), NetRtg: +3.7 (9)
With help from the extra 15 minutes played in Thursday's loss to the Wizards and with just one 3-pointer, DeMar DeRozan has scored 30-plus in three straight games for the first time in his career. He was huge (12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and that one three) in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win over Golden State and is one of seven players who is averaging at least five points in all four quarters.
This week: vs. SAC, @ MIN

14

Last week: 8

Dallas (36-25)
Pace: 96.3 (15), OffRtg: 108.5 (4), DefRtg: 105.6 (22), NetRtg: +2.8 (11)
Vince Carter has scored 15-plus in five straight games (shooting 18-for-35 from 3-point range) and the Mavs had a nice little run against bad teams. But their defense helped the Knicks make things interesting on Monday and couldn't stop the #fullsquad Spurs on Sunday. It's now allowed almost 113 points per 100 possessions in 19 games against the top nine teams in the West.
This week: @ DEN, vs. POR, vs. IND

15

Last week: 16

Minnesota (29-29)
Pace: 99.7 (3), OffRtg: 104.9 (9), DefRtg: 102.4 (11), NetRtg: +2.5 (12)
The Wolves aren't dead yet. Playing some of their best defense of the season and with Kevin Love putting up ridiculous numbers (including four games of seven or more assists), they've won five of their last six to get back to .500. Now, they play five of their next seven against teams (Denver, New York, Detroit, Milwaukee and Sacramento) who are a combined 7-27 since the All-Star break.
This week: @ DEN, vs. NYK, vs. DET, vs. TOR

16

Last week: 15

Brooklyn (28-29)
Pace: 94.1 (26), OffRtg: 103.0 (16), DefRtg: 104.7 (19), NetRtg: -1.7 (17)
The Marcus Thornton trade paid off on Saturday, when Thornton scored 25 points to help the Nets finish their post-break trip at 4-2 and remain within shouting distance of a top-four seed. Now they're home for seven of their next 10 games, a stretch which includes games against the three teams ahead of them in the standings. They failed to crack 80 points in their first two games against the Bulls.
This week: vs. CHI, vs. MEM, @ BOS, vs. SAC

17

Last week: 17

Charlotte (27-32)
Pace: 95.4 (21), OffRtg: 99.0 (26), DefRtg: 101.0 (6), NetRtg: -2.0 (18)
The Bobcats are 0-2 in this six-day stretch against the four best teams in the league, but Sunday's loss in Oklahoma City was another example of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist holding his own against of the league's best scorers. He was the primary defender on Kevin Durant as KD shot 8-for-24, with 17 of the 24 shots being contested. Next up for MKG: LeBron James and Paul George.
This week: @ MIA, vs. IND, vs. CLE, @ MEM

18

Last week: 20

Cleveland (24-37)
Pace: 95.4 (20), OffRtg: 99.8 (24), DefRtg: 104.6 (18), NetRtg: -4.8 (25)
The Cavs had some interesting swings from half to half and quarter to quarter last week. On Tuesday, they took the lead against Toronto with a plus-7 third, but got outscored 31-24 in the fourth. On Wednesday, they dropped 42 points in the fourth to win in Oklahoma City. After a tight first half on Friday, they blew out the Jazz. And they turned an 11-point halftime lead into a 14-point loss in Memphis on Saturday.
This week: vs. SAS, @ CHA, vs. NYK

19

Last week: 18

Atlanta (26-32)
Pace: 97.2 (12), OffRtg: 104.0 (11), DefRtg: 104.1 (16), NetRtg: -0.1 (16)
They're not getting blown out on a regular basis like the Sixers, haven't obviously let go of the rope like the Knicks, and could get Paul Millsap back soon. But the Hawks have lost 11 of their last 12 games and continue a tough road trip this week. Amazingly, they still have a 3 1/2 game lead for the final playoff spot in the East, with only Cleveland looking like it has any shot to challenge them.
This week: @ POR, @ GSW, @ LAC

20

Last week: 26

Utah (21-38)
Pace: 93.7 (27), OffRtg: 100.3 (23), DefRtg: 107.2 (30), NetRtg: -6.9 (28)
After playing an awful game in Cleveland on Friday, the Jazz came a few inches from taking the Pacers to overtime two nights later. Their young five played another eight minutes together on Sunday, but gave up 26 points in those eight minutes. Gordon Hayward seems to have broken out of his slump, though, averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists over the last three games.
This week: @ MIL, @ WAS, @ NYK, @ PHI

21

Last week: 25

Orlando (19-43)
Pace: 96.0 (18), OffRtg: 99.2 (25), DefRtg: 104.3 (17), NetRtg: -5.1 (27)
Two games against the Sixers helped the Magic get within one of last season's win total. They outscored Philly 60-35 in the two fourth quarters and are a plus-50 in the fourth over their last 11 games. For the season, only the Pacers have improved more from the first half to the second half of games than the Magic, who have been outscored 9.4 points in the first half and just 0.6 in the second half.
This week: vs. HOU, @ SAS

22

Last week: 21

Detroit (23-36)
Pace: 97.7 (10), OffRtg: 102.6 (19), DefRtg: 105.9 (23), NetRtg: -3.3 (22)
Brandon Jennings has shot 30 percent over the last eight games, but that's the least of the Pistons' problems, because their defense is getting scorched every night. They've allowed over 110 points per 100 possessions in each of their seven games since the All-Star break. If there's any good news in Detroit it's that Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey have given the bench some life.
This week: vs. NYK, vs. CHI, @ MIN, @ BOS

23

Last week: 27

L.A. Lakers (20-39)
Pace: 99.9 (2), OffRtg: 101.3 (22), DefRtg: 106.1 (24), NetRtg: -4.8 (26)
If there's one Laker who's happy to be playing five games this week, it's Jordan Farmar, who shot 12-for-16 from 3-point range in the last two (and 24-for-40 in February) and scored a career-high 30 points against the Kings on Friday. The Lakers rank third in 3-point percentage (MarShon Brooks is 8-for-9 in his first five games), which makes them a dangerous spoiler on their good nights.
This week: @ POR, vs. NOP, vs. LAC, @ DEN, vs. OKC

24

Last week: 22

Sacramento (20-39)
Pace: 97.0 (13), OffRtg: 103.7 (14), DefRtg: 106.5 (25), NetRtg: -2.7 (20)
Well, DeMarcus Cousins got himself suspended again. It wasn't for the tantrum he threw (which he did get fined for and which put him one technical foul away from another suspension), but for the gut-punch to Patrick Beverley that went mostly unnoticed until the NBA handed down its ruling. As our Scott Howard-Cooper pointed out, Cousins' USA Basketball stock certainly took a hit as well.
This week: vs. NOP, @ MIL, @ TOR, @ BKN

25

Last week: 24

Denver (25-33)
Pace: 99.6 (4), OffRtg: 102.5 (21), DefRtg: 104.8 (20), NetRtg: -2.3 (19)
The Nuggets' only two wins in their last 12 games were against the Bucks. Since they're not allowed to play Milwaukee again, they'll have to figure out how to beat somebody else. They've been awful both offensively and defensively with the league's second worst point differential over the last month. With Ty Lawson out, Kenneth Faried has been only guy doing much of anything on a consistent basis.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. DAL, vs. LAL, @ NOP

26

Last week: 28

Boston (20-40)
Pace: 96.0 (17), OffRtg: 98.8 (28), DefRtg: 103.5 (15), NetRtg: -4.8 (24)
Rajon Rondo has recorded double-digit assists in every Celtics post-break game that wasn't played on his birthday. Despite his AWOL controversy, the Cs showed signs of life -- almost knocking off the Pacers -- upon returning home from another winless trip out West. They're playing a stretch with seven of eight games at home, where Rondo has shot 51 percent (15-for-33 from 3-point range).
This week: vs. GSW, vs. BKN, vs. DET

27

Last week: 19

New Orleans (23-36)
Pace: 94.4 (24), OffRtg: 104.0 (13), DefRtg: 106.9 (26), NetRtg: -2.9 (21)
Remember when the Pelicans were the team you gravitated to in the middle of a heavy League Pass night early in the season? With all their injuries and an awful defense, not even Anthony Davis makes them all that appealing these days. They're the only team other than the Sixers without a win since the All-Star break, but do play the Kings and Lakers this week, followed by six straight home games.
This week: @ SAC, @ LAL, vs. MIL, vs. DEN

28

Last week: 23

New York (21-39)
Pace: 92.9 (29), OffRtg: 103.6 (15), DefRtg: 107.0 (29), NetRtg: -3.4 (23)
The Knicks have actually been decent offensively over the last month, but their defense has been so, so bad. It was never any good and they obviously have a bunch of bad defenders on the roster, but they just don't care anymore. Their opponents have shot a mightily efficient 42 percent from 3-point range since Feb. 1. The first team to get a stop will likely win Monday's showdown in Detroit.
This week: @ DET, @ MIN, vs. UTA, @ CLE

29

Last week: 29

Milwaukee (11-47)
Pace: 94.3 (25), OffRtg: 97.7 (29), DefRtg: 107.0 (28), NetRtg: -9.3 (29)
What a week for the Bucks! They won a game by double-figures for just the third time on Monday (they led the Sixers by as many as 35) and scored 30 points in two different quarters against the league's best defense on Thursday. This week could be even better, as the next three games provide them with a real opportunity to go on a winning streak for the first time since last March.
This week: vs. UTA, vs. SAC, @ NOP, vs. WAS

30

Last week: 30

Philadelphia (15-45)
Pace: 102.6 (1), OffRtg: 96.0 (30), DefRtg: 106.9 (27), NetRtg: -10.9 (30)
The possibility of the Sixers ending the season on a 36-game losing streak became a lot more realistic last week when they couldn't beat the Bucks at home or the Magic (who were missing their best player) in two tries. Saturday's game against the Jazz might be a winnable game if Philly had more than two legit NBA rotation-caliber players on its roster. Henry Sims played 31 minutes on Sunday.
This week: @ OKC, vs. UTA
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