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Spurs, Cavs look stronger as Raptors, Clippers slip

Power Rankings: Week 3

POSTED: Nov 17, 2014 11:27 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Solid wins over two West contenders have put the champion Spurs back on track.

We knew the Sixers were bad. We knew they were really bad.

But bad enough to be losing a game by a score of 54-14? That's a high school score when a parochial powerhouse plays the smallest public school in the area. That's a football score between an SEC team and a 1-AA opponent.

Ah, but the Sixers weren't alone last week. Two nights later, the Wolves were down 26 points to those same Mavs. On the same night, the Hawks were losing 62-27 to the Cavs. Over the weekend, the Warriors held leads of 34 and 38 points against the Hornets and Lakers. At halftime on Tuesday, the Nuggets were losing 84-50 to the Blazers.

But the same Nuggets went up by 33 in Indiana on Friday. And those really bad Sixers had a chance to beat the 9-1 Rockets at the buzzer, just 24 hours after getting blasted by the Mavs.

Dallas, by the way, has led five of its 10 games by at least 25 points.

All these blowouts will skew some offensive and defensive numbers this early in the season. But it's clear that, despite Tuesday's loss to the Spurs, the Warriors are the best team in the league right now. The Rockets, however, will get chances to prove their record isn't schedule-aided with games against the Grizzlies and Mavs this week.

* * *

• Last week: Kings keep surprising, keep climbing up the charts
• This time last year: West clearly has the East's number -- Derrick Rose hit six 3s and the Bulls handed the Pacers their first loss. Mario Chalmers threw an elbow at Dirk Nowitzki, Omer Asik asked for a trade, Andre Iguodala beat the Thunder at the buzzer, and Joe Johnson did the same to the Suns.

• Plus-minus stud: Klay Thompson (GSW) was a plus-67 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Wesley Johnson (LAL) was a minus-80 in four games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Indiana (3-1) -- Road wins over the Heat and Bulls will allow us to overlook a home loss to the Nuggets.
• Zero Team of the Week: Minnesota (0-3) -- Not even the Lakers have given up 130-plus points in two straight games.

• High jumps of the week: Indiana (+7), Dallas (+5), Milwaukee (+5)
• Free falls of the week: Miami (-6), Minnesota (-6), L.A. Clippers (-4), Toronto (-4)

• East vs. West: The West is 27-16 (0.628) against the East in interconference games and was 11-8 last week. The Clippers, Kings and Wizards have yet to play any interconference games.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Minnesota, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Oklahoma City
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Houston, 2. L.A. Clippers, 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)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)

The league has averaged 96.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.0 points scored per 100 possessions through Sunday.

* * *'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: 1

Golden State (8-2)
Pace: 102.2 (1), OffRtg: 107.1 (7), DefRtg: 95.5 (3), NetRtg: +11.5 (1)
The Warriors couldn't stop Tony Parker and the Spurs on Tuesday, but their last three games have come with their lowest turnover totals (11, 15 and 16) and three of their four highest fast break-point totals (30, 27 and 26), helping them vault into the top 10 on offense (playing the Lakers helps in that regard). And they're still waiting on David Lee.
This week: vs. UTA, @ OKC


Last week: 2

Houston (9-1)
Pace: 96.9 (9), OffRtg: 101.7 (20), DefRtg: 91.5 (1), NetRtg: +10.2 (3)
The Rockets are 9-1, but scored a total of 157 points against the Sixers and Thunder over the weekend, needing a technical foul to help them escape with a home win against what may be the worst team we've seen in a long time. James Harden has shot 29 percent from outside the restricted area, but got the game-winners both nights.
This week: @ MEM, vs. LAL, vs. DAL


Last week: 3

Memphis (9-1)
Pace: 93.5 (24), OffRtg: 103.5 (17), DefRtg: 97.3 (4), NetRtg: +6.2 (7)
Five years later, Courtney Lee finally converted that game-winning alley-oop. The Grizz are now 3-0 in games they've trailed by 10 or more points, but needing a 26-point comeback to beat the Kings or a Zach Randolph put-back to beat the Lakers isn't a great sign. Monday's game against the Rockets, who've played a similarly weak schedule, could be telling.
This week: vs. HOU, @ TOR, vs. BOS, vs. LAC


Last week: 6

Portland (7-3)
Pace: 95.8 (17), OffRtg: 109.1 (4), DefRtg: 100.5 (7), NetRtg: +8.7 (4)
With Damian Lillard shooting the way he was early, the Blazers might not have survived a three-game absence from Nicolas Batum and a missed game from LaMarcus Aldridge. But Lillard was on fire last week, shooting 14-for-20 from 3-point range as the Blazers got three wins against teams -- Charlotte, Denver and Brooklyn -- that are trying to figure things out.
This week: vs. NOP, vs. CHI, @ BOS


Last week: 9

San Antonio (5-4)
Pace: 95.1 (22), OffRtg: 99.0 (23), DefRtg: 98.7 (5), NetRtg: +0.3 (15)
The Spurs righted the ship a little bit with impressive, back-to-back road wins over the Clippers and Warriors. But something's wrong when Tony Parker is their best 3-point shooter, and it may be time to start worrying about Tiago Splitter, a vital cog who has been able to play just 10 minutes this season, dealing with some unexplained pain in his right calf.
This week: vs. PHI, @ CLE, @ MIN, vs. BKN


Last week: 11

Dallas (7-3)
Pace: 95.9 (16), OffRtg: 115.0 (1), DefRtg: 103.6 (18), NetRtg: +11.4 (2)
Coming back from 24 down against the Kings on Tuesday was a nice way for the Mavs to solve their third-quarter issues, though they proceeded to give up 73 second-half points to the Wolves on Saturday. Dirk Nowitzki has shot an amazing 56 percent from outside the paint and their centers -- Tyson Chandler and Brandan Wright -- have shot 73 percent inside it.
This week: @ CHA, @ WAS, vs. LAL, @ HOU


Last week: 10

Chicago (7-3)
Pace: 95.7 (19), OffRtg: 106.0 (9), DefRtg: 101.0 (10), NetRtg: +5.1 (8)
Given the drama surrounding Derrick Rose's words and injury updates, it's a good time for the Bulls to hit the road for two weeks. With or without Rose, this is actually a good offensive team, with Jimmy Butler averaging 21.3 points on an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent, which is more reason for Tom Thibodeau to play him 40 minutes a night.
This week: @ LAC, @ SAC, @ POR


Last week: 4

Toronto (8-2)
Pace: 96.6 (11), OffRtg: 109.0 (5), DefRtg: 100.5 (8), NetRtg: +8.4 (5)
The Raptors weren't ready for primetime, losing to the Bulls in a rare TNT appearance. But their depth continues to show its value, with their reserves holding the team's best on-court numbers for the second straight season. Both James Johnson and Lou Williams have fit in well and the bench basically won Tuesday's game against the Magic.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. MIL, @ CLE


Last week: 5

L.A. Clippers (5-3)
Pace: 97.5 (8), OffRtg: 106.1 (8), DefRtg: 104.6 (21), NetRtg: +1.5 (12)
Chris Paul often paces himself during the course of a game or over the course of a season. But it may be time for him to take the bull by the horns to get his team through its early-season struggles. He went for 32 points (his highest total since last December) and nine assist in Saturday's win over Phoenix. The Clips finally leave the state of California on Tuesday.
This week: vs. CHI, @ ORL, @ MIA, @ MEM


Last week: 13

Cleveland (5-3)
Pace: 95.6 (20), OffRtg: 110.7 (2), DefRtg: 108.3 (26), NetRtg: +2.4 (10)
The Cavs seem to be past their ball-movement issues of two weeks ago, assisting on 2/3 of their buckets and scoring about 125 points per 100 possessions in wins over the Pelicans, Celtics and Hawks. The marquee game of the week is Wednesday's visit from the Spurs, but the more important ones are Friday and Saturday against the Wizards and Raptors.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. SAS, @ WAS, vs. TOR


Last week: 8

Sacramento (6-4)
Pace: 96.9 (10), OffRtg: 103.8 (14), DefRtg: 102.8 (15), NetRtg: +1.0 (14)
A win over the champs is a nice way to rebound from blowing leads of 24 and 26 in Dallas and Memphis. The Kings probably wouldn't be blowing leads if DeMarcus Cousins could avoid foul trouble and stay on the floor. They're a plus-14.5 per 48 minutes with him in the game (much better on both ends) and a minus-20.0 with him on the bench.
This week: vs. NOP, vs. CHI, @ MIN


Last week: 12

Washington (7-2)
Pace: 95.5 (21), OffRtg: 102.7 (18), DefRtg: 99.4 (6), NetRtg: +3.3 (9)
The Wizards are still lacking a quality win and their offense still has its limitations, but they're getting a little bit of (much-needed) life from their bench. Rasual Butler, who beat out a bunch of younger guys for the final roster spot, has shot 15-for-20 in the last three games. Their top-10 defense faces the league's two best offenses on Wednesday and Friday.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. CLE, @ MIL


Last week: 7

Miami (5-5)
Pace: 93.4 (26), OffRtg: 105.2 (12), DefRtg: 103.4 (17), NetRtg: +1.7 (11)
Breaking news: When Dwyane Wade is hurt and Chris Bosh is shooting poorly, the Heat are a bad team. Wade has missed the last two games with a strained left hamstring and Bosh has shot 12-for-49 over the last three. Luol Deng (10-for-33) hasn't shot much better than Bosh and Josh McRoberts has been even less healthy than Wade.
This week: @ BKN, vs. LAC, @ ORL, vs. CHA


Last week: 16

New Orleans (5-3)
Pace: 96.2 (14), OffRtg: 109.2 (3), DefRtg: 102.8 (14), NetRtg: +6.4 (6)
The Pelicans have climbed into the top five in offensive efficiency by scoring 117 points per 100 possessions over their last five games (facing terrible defenses in their last three). Ryan Anderson has been ready to launch, averaging more shots per minute (20.0 per 36) than Carmelo Anthony (19.8). He went 8-for-12 from 3-point range in Cleveland.
This week: @ POR, @ SAC, @ DEN, @ UTA


Last week: 18

Atlanta (5-4)
Pace: 95.8 (18), OffRtg: 103.8 (13), DefRtg: 105.1 (23), NetRtg: -1.2 (18)
Because Al Horford still isn't 100 percent, the Hawks' defense is suffering and Pero Antic has been on the floor down the stretch of some close games. But Horford's jumper is fine, and he's already back among the league's best mid-range shooters at 32-for-58 (55 percent) between the paint and 3-point line. Only Dirk Nowitzki has been better at a high volume.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. DET


Last week: 14

Phoenix (5-5)
Pace: 98.3 (6), OffRtg: 103.8 (15), DefRtg: 104.5 (20), NetRtg: -0.7 (17)
The Suns are one of five teams with three wins in games they trailed by 10 points or more, like Wednesday against Brooklyn. They're also one of two teams with three losses in games they led by 10 points or more, like Friday against Charlotte. When Gerald Green is taking more than 20 shots per 36 minutes, the results from quarter to quarter can be volatile.
This week: @ BOS, @ DET, @ PHI, @ IND


Last week: 22

Milwaukee (5-5)
Pace: 96.3 (13), OffRtg: 94.9 (28), DefRtg: 94.7 (2), NetRtg: +0.2 (16)
Every game that passes, the Bucks' defense looks more legit. Larry Sanders has held shooters well below their numbers inside of six feet, while Giannis Antetokounmpo has held them well below their numbers from outside of 15 feet. Dwyane Wade or no Dwyane Wade, Sunday's win in Miami was big, and more Eastern Conference tests come this week.
This week: vs. NYK, @ BKN, @ TOR, vs. WAS


Last week: 15

Brooklyn (4-5)
Pace: 96.5 (12), OffRtg: 105.6 (11), DefRtg: 104.3 (19), NetRtg: +1.3 (13)
Joe Johnson thought the Nets had issues at 4-2. His team proved him right, going 0-3 out West, shooting 4-for-35 from 3-point range at Golden State and Portland. But Johnson was a part of the problem, isolating far too much down the stretch in Phoenix. He dribbled at least twice before each of his last nine shots in that game.
This week: vs. MIA, vs. MIL, @ OKC, @ SAS


Last week: 17

Boston (3-5)
Pace: 98.8 (4), OffRtg: 107.9 (6), DefRtg: 109.7 (27), NetRtg: -1.8 (19)
After Cleveland, the Celtics have the league's most improved offense, which has been particularly good when floor-spacers Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk have played together. But they've allowed their opponents to score 60-plus points in the second half of their last three games (four overall) and have blown leads of 15-plus in the last two.
This week: vs. PHX, @ PHI, @ MEM, vs. POR


Last week: 19

Charlotte (4-6)
Pace: 94.6 (23), OffRtg: 98.1 (26), DefRtg: 102.7 (13), NetRtg: -4.5 (22)
Lance Stephenson is getting a little more comfortable, the Hornets' offense showed some signs of life in Portland and Phoenix, and they came a defensive rebound or two (against the Blazers) from picking up two impressive road wins. Cody Zeller is starting to get more playing time at the four than Marvin Williams, who has yet to find his shot.
This week: vs. DAL, @ IND, vs. ORL, @ MIA


Last week: 28

Indiana (4-7)
Pace: 92.8 (28), OffRtg: 97.5 (27), DefRtg: 100.6 (9), NetRtg: -3.0 (20)
The Pacers aren't that bad. Roy Hibbert continues to be the best rim protector in the league and they looked rather comfortable offensively against the Bulls' defense on Saturday. Of course, when you see guys like Solomon Hill, Donald Sloan and Lavoy Allen play well, you wonder if they could have been of use last season, when things went downhill.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. PHX


Last week: 20

Utah (4-7)
Pace: 92.6 (29), OffRtg: 105.9 (10), DefRtg: 110.4 (28), NetRtg: -4.5 (23)
Trey Burke's heroics in New York salvaged a 2-3 trip, but it could have been 3-2 if the Jazz scored more than nine points in the fourth quarter in Atlanta. The offense has been pretty poor whenever Gordon Hayward has sat down, but the defense has been a bigger issue. According to SportVU, only the Lakers have been worse at defending pick-and-rolls.
This week: vs. OKC, @ GSW, vs. NOP


Last week: 26

Orlando (4-7)
Pace: 96.1 (15), OffRtg: 99.0 (24), DefRtg: 102.3 (12), NetRtg: -3.3 (21)
Don't count the Magic out of playoff contention just yet. They played both Toronto and Washington tough on the road last week, have beat the teams they're supposed to, and just got Victor Oladipo back. Two things were really noticeable in Toronto. 1. The starting frontline can do damage with its size alone. 2. The bench will be the reason for a lot of their losses.
This week: @ DET, vs. LAC, @ CHA, vs. MIA


Last week: 23

Oklahoma City (3-8)
Pace: 93.0 (27), OffRtg: 94.3 (29), DefRtg: 101.2 (11), NetRtg: -6.9 (27)
I think we've learned that Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka can't carry an offense by themselves. When Anthony Morrow is shooting 11-for-16 (like he did in Boston on Wednesday), things looked good. But nobody has shot or scored consistently enough for this team to survive. Their last-possession execution in Houston looked kind of familiar, though.
This week: @ UTA, @ DEN, vs. BKN, vs. GSW


Last week: 24

Detroit (3-7)
Pace: 93.4 (25), OffRtg: 98.2 (25), DefRtg: 102.9 (16), NetRtg: -4.7 (24)
Nine of the Pistons' 10 games have been within five points in the last five minutes, and their offense has been pretty awful in those situations, shooting 30 percent from the field, 4-for-22 from 3-point range, and 12-for-24 from the line. Down four in Chicago with two-plus minutes left and 14 seconds on the shot clock, Josh Smith decided to take this shot.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. PHX, @ ATL


Last week: 25

New York (3-8)
Pace: 91.8 (30), OffRtg: 101.9 (19), DefRtg: 107.3 (24), NetRtg: -5.4 (25)
Derek Fisher was pretty excited about his team's seventh straight loss on Friday, maybe because he knew the Nuggets were coming to town on Sunday, or maybe because Carmelo Anthony showed some aggression on his way to 46 points. His 11 attempts in the restricted area were as many as he had in his previous three games combined.
This week: @ MIL, @ MIN, vs. PHI


Last week: 21

Minnesota (2-7)
Pace: 98.5 (5), OffRtg: 100.6 (22), DefRtg: 110.9 (29), NetRtg: -10.3 (28)
As it did when he tore his ACL three seasons ago, the Wolves' defense has suffered from Ricky Rubio's absence in their offense. Witness the 270 points they allowed to the Pelicans and Mavs over the weekend. According to SportVU, Minnesota has contested just 21 percent of its opponents' jump shots, the lowest rate in the league.
This week: vs. NYK, vs. SAS, vs. SAC


Last week: 29

Denver (2-7)
Pace: 100.4 (3), OffRtg: 101.1 (21), DefRtg: 107.3 (25), NetRtg: -6.2 (26)
The Nuggets are undefeated when they have the lead at halftime, which would be great if they weren't allowing an average of 59 points in the first 24 minutes. The same team that went 47:22 without making a shot outside the paint two years ago is the one that went 11:59 of a quarter (against a bottom-10 defense) without making a single field goal on Sunday.
This week: @ CLE, vs. OKC, vs. NOP, @ LAL


Last week: 27

L.A. Lakers (1-9)
Pace: 97.9 (7), OffRtg: 103.6 (16), DefRtg: 114.7 (30), NetRtg: -11.9 (29)
It must be so much fun to play against the Lakers' defense. Really, it's a shame Kobe Bryant won't get to ever shoot against his own team as he guns for Michael Jordan's spot on the all-time scoring list. At the pace he's currently going (27.3 points per game), he'll pass MJ in Game 22, which is against the Magic on Dec. 12. Shoot, Kobe, shoot.
This week: @ ATL, @ HOU, @ DAL, vs. DEN


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (0-9)
Pace: 100.6 (2), OffRtg: 90.0 (30), DefRtg: 104.7 (22), NetRtg: -14.7 (30)
When the Sixers win their first of three straight championships in 2019 and Sam Hinkie is being heralded as a genius who gamed the system, we'll look back and laugh at the first two games that Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel played together, the one they were losing 78-29 and the one they lost because Brett Brown kicked the basketball.
This week: @ SAS, vs. BOS, vs. PHX, @ NYK