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Happy Holidays from the schedule makers

Power Rankings: Week 8

POSTED: Dec 22, 2014 11:45 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Thomas Robinson has presented the Blazers with some solid fill-in performances of late.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

And not just because we get to spend time with our loved ones, exchange gifts and be thankful for what we have. It's also because we're getting a lot of great basketball packed into a couple of weeks.

In seven days last week, we had nine games between the top 10 teams in the Western Conference, the nine teams currently over .500 and the surging Thunder. We had two triple-overtime classics involving the Spurs. We had the Warriors going down to the wire against the Grizzlies and Thunder (after a ridiculously entertaining first half). And we had the Pelicans staking claim to a playoff spot with impressive road wins in Houston and Oklahoma City.

In the next seven days (even though nobody plays on Wednesday), we have 10 more games between those top 10 teams in the West. We also have the red-hot Hawks playing two of them -- Dallas and the Clippers -- on Monday and Tuesday, and the East-leading Raptors playing the healthy (we think) Bulls and Clippers. Oh, and if the Kings want to make a "We're not done yet" statement with DeMarcus Cousins back, they can prove themselves against the Warriors and Suns this week.

Maybe all this action will help us sort out the top of the rankings, which somehow have the Spurs falling to 12th, even though they continue to play close games against good teams with all five starters out.

* * *

• Last week: Change could be in the air as trade season arrives
• This time last year: East teams emerging from their slumber? -- The Lakers announced that Kobe Bryant was out six weeks after suffering a fracture in his left knee, but that was the end of his season. Brook Lopez was also lost for the season with a broken right foot, LeBron James flattened Ben McLemore, Damian Lillard hit another game-winner, and Andrea Bargnani took one of the dumbest shots you'll ever see.

• Plus-minus stud: Damian Lillard (POR) was a plus-72 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Tim Hardaway Jr. (NYK) was a minus-52 in four games last week.

• Nice Team of the Week: Atlanta (3-0) -- The Hawks passed their first three tests with flying (get it?) colors, beating the Bulls, Cavs and Rockets, with the last two wins coming on the road and without Jeff Teague.
• Naughty Team of the Week: Orlando (0-4) -- The Jazz and Sixers had combined for nine wins through Thursday, but both won in Orlando over the weekend.

• High jumps of the week: Atlanta (+8), Boston, (+3), Chicago (+3), Phialdelphia (+3), Utah (+3)
• Free falls of the week: San Antonio (-7), Houston (-5), Orlando (-5)

• East vs. West: The West is 101-55 (0.647) against the East in interconference games and was 12-10 last week. The Warriors (8-0) are the only team that doesn't have at least one win and one loss against the opposite conference.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Utah, 3. Denver
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Washington, 2. Toronto, 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)
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 95.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.5 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 (22-3)
Pace: 100.5 (1), OffRtg: 107.5 (5), DefRtg: 95.9 (1), NetRtg: +11.6 (1)
The Warriors are surviving without Andrew Bogut, but need to keep Stephen Curry in bubble wrap. They've only lost three games, but are somehow worse with Curry off the floor this season (-8.9 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (-5.0) after getting outscored by 23 in his nine minutes on the bench in Tuesday's loss in Memphis.
This week: vs. SAC, @ LAL, @ LAC, vs. MIN


Last week: 4

Portland (22-6)
Pace: 96.1 (12), OffRtg: 106.4 (8), DefRtg: 99.3 (3), NetRtg: +7.2 (5)
The Blazers will be without Robin Lopez (broken hand) for a while, but their depth has come up big as they've extended their winning streak to five games. Thomas Robinson put up 15 and 16 against the Bucks, Dorell Wright emerged from DNP-land to hit four threes in San Antonio, and Joel Freeland helped hold Anthony Davis to 3-for-14 on Saturday.
This week: @ HOU, @ OKC, vs. PHI, vs. NYK


Last week: 2

Memphis (21-6)
Pace: 93.9 (27), OffRtg: 106.2 (9), DefRtg: 101.2 (8), NetRtg: +5.0 (9)
The Grizz ended the Warriors' 16-game winning streak on Tuesday and won in San Antonio for the first time in 11 tries on Wednesday, but playing three overtime games (and six total overtimes) in six days clearly wore them out. Their defense wasn't up to their standards and they shot 3-for-29 from 3-point range in weekend losses to the Bulls and Cavs.
This week: vs. UTA, vs. HOU, @ MIA


Last week: 12

Atlanta (19-7)
Pace: 95.7 (14), OffRtg: 106.8 (7), DefRtg: 100.6 (7), NetRtg: +6.2 (6)
Someone needs to figure out what the Hawks ate for Thanksgiving, because they've been a totally different (defensive) team since then. Their only loss came at the buzzer, and after wins against the Bulls, in Cleveland and in Houston, you can throw the weak-schedule thing out the window. Maybe Spurs fans can adopt Spurs East for a while.
This week: @ DAL, vs. LAC, vs. MIL, @ MIL


Last week: 8

Chicago (17-9)
Pace: 95.7 (15), OffRtg: 105.6 (10), DefRtg: 101.5 (9), NetRtg: +4.0 (10)
The Bulls have had their top six guys (starters plus Taj Gibson) healthy just three times and have played the fewest home games in the East. But they've racked up 12 road wins, highlighted by Friday's impressive victory in Memphis, where Gibson's absence provided an opportunity for Nikola Mirotic, who scored a career-high 27 points, hitting all six of his threes.
This week: vs. TOR, @ WAS, vs. LAL, vs. NOP


Last week: 7

Dallas (20-8)
Pace: 96.2 (11), OffRtg: 113.3 (1), DefRtg: 104.8 (21), NetRtg: +8.5 (3)
Monta Ellis wasn't bothered by the addition of Rajon Rondo, scoring 38 points in the Mavs' first win over a top seven team in the West on Saturday. But time will tell if the Mavs can maintain their spacing with the two on the floor and how big of a defensive upgrade a re-engaged Rondo is over Jameer Nelson. The Mavs rank 26th defensively in December.
This week: vs. ATL, @ PHX, vs. LAL, vs. OKC


Last week: 6

L.A. Clippers (19-8)
Pace: 96.3 (10), OffRtg: 110.5 (3), DefRtg: 103.2 (16), NetRtg: +7.3 (4)
The Clippers haven't taken care of business against a relatively easy schedule over the last couple of weeks. Six of their last eight games have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they've twice allowed 38 or more fourth-quarter points to below-average offensive teams in that stretch. Now comes a pretty tough week, in terms of opponents and travel.
This week: @ SAS, @ ATL, vs. GSW, vs. TOR


Last week: 3

Houston (19-7)
Pace: 97.2 (8), OffRtg: 101.7 (21), DefRtg: 97.7 (2), NetRtg: +4.0 (11)
Even with Dwight Howard back and James Harden continuing to hit clutch threes, the Rockets are struggling to score consistently as turnovers and 3-point shooting are the biggest problems. New addition Corey Brewer, who has a higher turnover rate than any of Houston's guards and has shot 20 percent from beyond the arc, obviously isn't the final answer.
This week: vs. POR, @ MEM, @ SAS


Last week: 10

Cleveland (16-10)
Pace: 94.4 (24), OffRtg: 107.9 (4), DefRtg: 105.4 (23), NetRtg: +2.5 (12)
The 'C' in Cavs does not stand for consistent. They shared the ball well in wins over the Hornets and Grizzlies (62 assists total), but got thumped by the Hawks in between. Mike Miller hit seven threes in his first start, but shot 0-for-1 in his second. You never know what you're going to get from Dion Waiters, and the Cleveland defense is far from reliable.
This week: vs. MIN, @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. DET


Last week: 11

Toronto (22-6)
Pace: 95.3 (18), OffRtg: 111.6 (2), DefRtg: 103.0 (13), NetRtg: +8.6 (2)
The Raptors are 9-3 without DeMar DeRozan, though none of the victories could really be looked at as a quality win. James Johnson's throwdown on Andre Drummond, however, was a quality dunk. Johnson has shot 59 percent in the 12 games, and the Raptors have been at their best, especially offensively, with Johnson on the floor.
This week: @ CHI, @ LAC, @ DEN


Last week: 9

Washington (19-7)
Pace: 95.7 (16), OffRtg: 104.7 (13), DefRtg: 99.7 (5), NetRtg: +5.0 (8)
John Wall leads the league in time of possession and has accounted for 42 percent of the assists on the team that ranks second in assist rate. When he has an off night, though, the Wizards are in trouble. There's been fewer of those off nights this season, but one popped up Sunday against Phoenix, ending Washington's six-game win streak.
This week: vs. CHI, @ NYK, vs. BOS


Last week: 5

San Antonio (17-11)
Pace: 95.0 (21), OffRtg: 104.8 (12), DefRtg: 99.3 (4), NetRtg: +5.5 (7)
We'll never count out the Spurs, especially when they remain a top-five defense and competitive no matter who takes the floor or how much zone they're playing. But the losses are starting to pile up. Wednesday's loss to the Grizzlies, in which they threw two passes away in the final seconds and shot 13-for-27 from the free throw line, was particularly brutal.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. OKC, @ NOP, vs. HOU


Last week: 15

New Orleans (14-13)
Pace: 95.1 (20), OffRtg: 107.2 (6), DefRtg: 107.5 (26), NetRtg: -0.3 (15)
For a team that's a game over .500, the Pelicans haven't played a lot of close games. Only the Sixers (10 vs. 11) have played fewer games that were within five points in the last five minutes. But a 34-point fourth quarter in Houston on Thursday and six straight stops in Oklahoma City on Sunday have them holding on to eighth place in the West.
This week: @ IND, vs. SAS, @ CHI


Last week: 13

Oklahoma City (13-15)
Pace: 95.3 (17), OffRtg: 100.6 (23), DefRtg: 99.9 (6), NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
Kevin Durant got hurt again, Russell Westbrook shot like Kobe, and the Thunder's run to the top eight in the West was halted by losses to the Warriors and Pelicans. The bigger issue has actually been on defense, where they've allowed 109 points per 100 possessions in their last three games after allowing just 94 during their seven-game winning streak.
This week: vs. POR, @ SAS, vs. CHA, @ DAL


Last week: 14

Milwaukee (14-14)
Pace: 96.4 (9), OffRtg: 102.0 (19), DefRtg: 102.9 (12), NetRtg: -0.8 (18)
The Bucks have been better on both ends of the floor with Jabari Parker off the court than with him on the court, and they played well in 3 1/2 West Coast games after he was injured in Phoenix on Monday. But an ACL tear means that Parker's development is on pause, and we probably won't see him back at full strength until the 2016-17 season.
This week: vs. CHA, @ ATL, vs. ATL


Last week: 16

Phoenix (15-14)
Pace: 98.3 (6), OffRtg: 105.3 (11), DefRtg: 103.5 (17), NetRtg: +1.8 (13)
The Suns have followed a six-game losing streak with a three-game winning streak on a trip East, capping it with Sunday's impressive win in Washington. And fortunately, they don't play on a Monday again until Jan. 19. Each of the last two Mondays, they've lost at the buzzer on 3-pointers (from Blake Griffin and Khris Middleton) that had no business going in.
This week: vs. DAL, @ SAC, @ LAL


Last week: 18

Denver (12-15)
Pace: 98.7 (4), OffRtg: 101.9 (20), DefRtg: 104.3 (18), NetRtg: -2.4 (19)
The Nuggets should be more fun than this. They've scored just 94 points per 100 possessions over their last nine games. Nate Robinson's 20 points in 16 minutes in Friday's win over the Clippers made the week somewhat enjoyable, but Saturday's win over Indiana was another ugly slog. And now Danilo Gallinari needs another knee surgery.
This week: @ CHA, @ BKN, vs. MIN, vs. TOR


Last week: 17

Sacramento (12-15)
Pace: 96.0 (13), OffRtg: 103.6 (15), DefRtg: 104.4 (20), NetRtg: -0.8 (17)
Not only did DeMarcus Cousins total 56 points and 25 rebounds in his first two games back, but he helped Rudy Gay get back on track as well. Gay was looking like his old (inefficient) self while Cousins was out, but shot 17-for-30 against the Bucks and Lakers. The Kings are a plus-18.4 points per 100 possessions with the pair on the floor.
This week: @ GSW, vs. PHX, vs. NYK


Last week: 19

Miami (13-15)
Pace: 91.7 (30), OffRtg: 103.5 (17), DefRtg: 106.6 (25), NetRtg: -3.1 (21)
The Heat are in the middle of their longest homestand of the season (seven games), but can't take advantage of it without Chris Bosh, even with Mario Chalmers (25 points and 15 assists in two games as a starter over the weekend) finally awaking from his slumber. Bosh could return from his calf injury to welcome back LeBron James on Thursday.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. CLE, vs. MEM


Last week: 21

Brooklyn (11-15)
Pace: 94.3 (25), OffRtg: 100.2 (24), DefRtg: 103.1 (14), NetRtg: -2.9 (20)
The inclusion of Mason Plumlee is reportedly a sticking point in a potential deal of Deron Williams to Sacramento, and he's proving why with Brook Lopez out. Plumlee has averaged 16.6 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks as a starter in the last seven games, providing a much-needed dose of athleticism on a very slow-footed roster.
This week: vs. DEN, @ BOS, vs. IND


Last week: 24

Boston (10-15)
Pace: 100.0 (2), OffRtg: 102.9 (18), DefRtg: 103.2 (15), NetRtg: -0.3 (16)
A day after trading Rajon Rondo, the Celtics became a playoff team. And then they returned to Lotteryville by losing to the Heat without Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Marcus Smart's first start. With the rebuild now in full effect, Kelly Olynyk is looking more like a building block, having averaged 19.8 points in just 28.6 minutes off the bench last week.
This week: @ ORL, vs. BKN, @ WAS


Last week: 23

Charlotte (8-19)
Pace: 94.1 (26), OffRtg: 99.4 (25), DefRtg: 105.3 (22), NetRtg: -5.9 (25)
The Hornets could be on a three-game winning streak if they didn't get so iso-happy at the end of Wednesday's loss to the Suns. But last week was their best stretch of offense they've put together all season, with Kemba Walker (the guy who got too iso-happy) averaging 25.3 points on 51 percent shooting and Marvin Williams finally making some threes.
This week: vs. DEN, @ MIL, @ OKC, vs. ORL


Last week: 26

Utah (8-20)
Pace: 92.5 (28), OffRtg: 104.1 (14), DefRtg: 109.7 (28), NetRtg: -5.6 (24)
The Jazz put together their first winning streak since February with a pair of wins in Florida, but couldn't extend it to three games in Charlotte because their defense stinks. It's particularly bad when Enes Kanter is defending a pick-and-roll. He doesn't hedge hard all the time, but when he does, it's an invitation for a straight-line drive into the paint.
This week: @ MEM, vs. PHI


Last week: 25

Indiana (9-19)
Pace: 95.0 (22), OffRtg: 97.0 (29), DefRtg: 101.7 (10), NetRtg: -4.7 (22)
The Pacers actually have won four of their last five first quarters, thanks, in part, to early production from Roy Hibbert and David West. But they had been struggling to close before holding on to win in Minnesota on Sunday. After a slow start, C.J. Miles has averaged 21.0 points and shot 22-for-56 (39 percent) from 3-point range in his last six healthy games.
This week: vs. NOP, @ DET, @ BKN


Last week: 20

Orlando (10-20)
Pace: 94.6 (23), OffRtg: 98.9 (26), DefRtg: 104.3 (19), NetRtg: -5.5 (23)
The Magic had navigated a road-heavy schedule, and the eighth spot in the East was theirs for the taking. But then they went and lost to the Celtics, Jazz and Sixers last week. After his team allowed Boston and Utah to each shoot better than 50 percent, coach Jacque Vaughn benched Evan Fournier and Channing Frye, which hurt the offense against Philly.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. CLE, @ CHA


Last week: 22

L.A. Lakers (8-19)
Pace: 97.7 (7), OffRtg: 103.6 (16), DefRtg: 110.4 (30), NetRtg: -6.9 (26)
Kobe Bryant has shot 40 percent or better in just two of his 10 December games. Fifty-six of the 71 shots he took (in just three games) last week were contested, and just 19 (27 percent) of them went into the basket. His usage rate is up, his assist rate is down, and there's a lot of blood on that shot chart. So, yeah, Byron Scott should consider giving Bryant a rest.
This week: vs. GSW, @ CHI, @ DAL, vs. PHX


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (3-23)
Pace: 99.5 (3), OffRtg: 91.4 (30), DefRtg: 102.6 (11), NetRtg: -11.2 (29)
We're three weeks in and the Sixers still have a top-five defense in December, holding their opponents under a point per possession. Nerlens Noel now has a shot at Rookie of the Year and is starting to come around offensively, scoring 19 points in Monday's loss to the Celtics (check out this lefty floater) and 13 in Sunday's win in Orlando.
This week: @ MIA, @ POR, @ UTA


Last week: 28

Detroit (5-23)
Pace: 95.1 (19), OffRtg: 97.6 (28), DefRtg: 105.8 (24), NetRtg: -8.2 (28)
The Pistons' defense is still awful, Brandon Jennings is still erratic, and Josh Smith still can't shoot, but a couple of their 21-year-olds had solid weeks. When he wasn't getting dunked on, Andre Drummond grabbed 68 rebounds and blocked nine shots in four games. And Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot 12-for-25 from 3-point range in the last three.
This week: vs. IND, @ CLE


Last week: 29

New York (5-25)
Pace: 92.2 (29), OffRtg: 101.2 (22), DefRtg: 108.3 (27), NetRtg: -7.0 (27)
Most team presidents would stay quiet as their team was losing 15 of 16 games. But Phil Jackson is not most team presidents and took to Twitter to defend trading Tyson Chandler and to take shots at Charles Barkley. Jackson wasn't given much to work with when he was hired, but players he added or re-signed have played more than half of the team's minutes.
This week: vs. WAS, @ SAC, @ POR


Last week: 27

Minnesota (5-21)
Pace: 98.4 (5), OffRtg: 98.6 (27), DefRtg: 109.8 (29), NetRtg: -11.2 (30)
The continued absence of Ricky Rubio has the Wolves really threatening the Lakers for the Worst Defense in the League title. And as the worst shooting team in December, they've already fallen behind the Sixers in NetRtg. Swapping Corey Brewer for Troy Daniels should help the offense if Flip Saunders allows Daniels to shoot behind the 3-point line.
This week: @ CLE, @ DEN, @ GSW