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Race for West's eighth spot starting to heat up

Power Rankings: Week 13

POSTED: Jan 26, 2015 10:39 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Both the Thunder and Pelicans are kicking it into high gear as they chase the West's final playoff spot.

The second half of the season has already given us some devastating news (injuries to Kobe Bryant and Brandon Jennings) and amazing performances (Klay Thompson's 37-point third quarter and Hassan Whiteside's triple-double).

It's also given us the Cleveland Cavaliers we were expecting in the first half of the season, more wins for the Knicks in five days than they had in the previous two months, and a surprise return from Bubba Ray Dudley LaMarcus Aldridge.

And there's so much more to come, including more trades, an All-Star weekend that hopefully includes Stephen Curry and Kyle Korver going head-to-head in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, and a race for the last playoff spot in the West, featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and the Suns' three point guards.

* * *

• Last week: Hawks, Warriors stand tallest at season's halfway mark
• This time last year: Thunder emerge from tough week as No. 1 -- Carmelo Antony scored 62 points against the Bobcats and Terrence Ross dropped 51 on the Clippers. Caron Butler scored 30 points on Caron Butler Bobblehead Night, Gerald Wallace drove the length of the court to beat the Wizards, Kawhi Leonard broke his hand, and a little girl from Utah threw a couple of beautiful bounce passes to Ricky Rubio.

• Plus-minus stud: Klay Thompson (GSW) was a plus-88 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Jarrett Jack (BKN) was a minus-70 in three games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Golden State (4-0) -- The Warriors' perfect week included a record-breaking performance and another thumping of James Harden and the Rockets. But they ain't that good.
• Zero Team of the Week: Orlando (0-3) -- There were four teams with four losses by an average of 14 or more points last week, but the Magic lost to the Knicks and Pacers, allowing two awful offenses to score 30-plus points in four of eight quarters.

• High jumps of the week: Cleveland (+6), Boston (+4), L.A. Clippers (+3)
• Free falls of the week: Detroit (-4), Oklahoma City (-3), Orlando (-3)

• East vs. West: The West is 157-102 (0.606) against the East in interconference games after going 12-12 last week.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Utah, 3. New York
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Golden State, 2. Atlanta, 3. Portland
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 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.2 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

Atlanta (37-8)
Pace: 96.1 (17) OffRtg: 107.3 (5) DefRtg: 99.6 (4) NetRtg: +7.7 (2)
The Hawks' 16-game winning streak has built them a seven-game lead atop the Eastern Conference, and we'll find out Thursday how many All-Star selections that has earned them. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap have the standard stats, but Kyle Korver and Al Horford are the most important elements of their top-five offense and top-five defense, respectively.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. POR, vs. PHI


Last week: 2

Golden State (36-6)
Pace: 101.2 (1) OffRtg: 110.3 (3) DefRtg: 97.1 (1) NetRtg: +13.3 (1)
Klay Thompson's 37-point quarter was the latest example of how ridiculously good the Warriors are. Their NetRtg of plus-13.3 points per 100 possessions is at its highest mark since Week 1 and is matched by only the 1995-96 Bulls (also plus-13.3) in the last 38 years. Feb. 6 (when the Dubs and Hawks meet for the first time) can't come soon enough.
This week: vs. CHI, @ UTA, vs. PHX


Last week: 4

Memphis (31-12)
Pace: 94.2 (27) OffRtg: 105.0 (10) DefRtg: 101.6 (11) NetRtg: +3.5 (10)
The Grizzlies have won six of their last seven, are starting to play top-10 defense again, and are 27-7 with Zach Randolph. The Tony Allen-Courtney Lee combination on the wings has been successful this season (plus-9.2 points per 100 possessions), but Dave Joerger has been experimenting with Jeff Green in the starting lineup the last two games.
This week: vs. ORL, @ DAL, vs. DEN, vs. OKC


Last week: 7

L.A. Clippers (30-14)
Pace: 96.6 (13) OffRtg: 111.0 (1) DefRtg: 103.4 (14) NetRtg: +7.6 (3)
The Clippers are showing us just how good a team can be with no bench. Their starting lineup has played 250 more minutes than any other lineup in the league and continues to destroy everything in its path (it's been outscored in just three of its last 28 games). But their bench is just awful, especially with Jamal Crawford shooting 35 percent in January.
This week: vs. DEN, @ UTA, @ NOP, @ SAS


Last week: 3

San Antonio (29-17)
Pace: 95.5 (22) OffRtg: 104.2 (12) DefRtg: 99.9 (6) NetRtg: +4.3 (7)
The Spurs still have their hiccups (see Thursday's 23-point loss in Chicago), but they haven't had to play any overtimes this month and Tim Duncan's minutes are falling back toward the 30-per-game mark. They have four more games at home (where all but one of their losses have come in the final seconds of regulation or in OT) before the rodeo trip.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. LAC


Last week: 5

Dallas (30-15)
Pace: 96.8 (12) OffRtg: 110.8 (2) DefRtg: 103.4 (15) NetRtg: +7.4 (4)
The Mavs are now leaning on Dwight Powell (the 45th pick in last year's Draft) for back-up minutes at center. But he's no Tyson Chandler and his team has allowed more than 111 points per 100 possessions in his 116 minutes over the last six games. The Mavs did get their first road win against another West playoff team (Memphis) on Monday.
This week: vs. MEM, @ HOU, @ MIA, @ ORL


Last week: 6

Portland (32-13)
Pace: 96.8 (11) OffRtg: 104.9 (11) DefRtg: 99.4 (3) NetRtg: +5.5 (5)
The Blazers are still in third place in the West, but things might have gotten hairy had LaMarcus Aldridge not decided to put off surgery on his left thumb. They had lost five of their last six games before he led them to a big win over the Wizards on Saturday, their league-leading 13th victory after trailing by 10 or more points. No other team has more than eight.
This week: @ BKN, @ CLE, @ ATL, @ MIL


Last week: 10

Houston (31-14)
Pace: 98.5 (5) OffRtg: 103.6 (14) DefRtg: 99.6 (5) NetRtg: +4.0 (8)
There might be no avoiding the Warriors in the playoffs, but the Rockets should hope they can do it for as long as possible after losing all four regular season games by double-figures and getting under the Dubs' collective skin with James Harden's evaluation of how good they may or not be. Houston faces Dallas for just the second time on Wednesday.
This week: vs. DAL, @ BOS, @ DET


Last week: 8

Washington (30-15)
Pace: 95.7 (19) OffRtg: 103.9 (13) DefRtg: 100.1 (7) NetRtg: +3.7 (9)
The Wizards blew double-digit halftime leads against the Thunder and Blazers last week and would be on a three-game losing streak if Kenneth Faried could make his free throws. But their frontline continues to look strong, with Nene averaging 17.0 points on 66 percent shooting over the last five games and Kris Humphries going for 21 and 14 in Denver.
This week: @ LAL, @ PHX, vs. TOR


Last week: 11

Chicago (29-17)
Pace: 95.7 (20) OffRtg: 105.6 (8) DefRtg: 102.5 (12) NetRtg: +3.1 (11)
The Bulls have won their last five games against the West's top eight after victories over the Spurs and Mavs last week. But they've lost four straight against East's top eight after losses to the Cavs and Heat, in which they allowed 33 offensive rebounds and 34 second chance points. They head West this week, but play Cleveland again right before the break.
This week: @ GSW, @ LAL, @ PHX


Last week: 9

Phoenix (26-20)
Pace: 99.2 (2) OffRtg: 107.2 (6) DefRtg: 104.3 (20) NetRtg: +2.9 (12)
The Suns had all three point guards rolling for a while, but Goran Dragic shot 4-for-16 over the weekend. And after James Harden got 'em with the step-back and the Clippers got 'em with a 65-43 second half, they're facing more tough games before the All-Star break. Six of their eight remaining pre-break games are against teams with .600 records or better.
This week: vs. WAS, vs. CHI, @ GSW


Last week: 13

Toronto (29-15)
Pace: 95.9 (18) OffRtg: 108.9 (4) DefRtg: 104.4 (21) NetRtg: +4.5 (6)
Kyle Lowry broke out of his 3-point shooting slump (a 4-for-31 stretch) just in time to keep the Raptors from losing to the Sixers on Friday. Their new, three-guard starting lineup still has some ugly offensive numbers through four games, but DeMar DeRozan had one of his more efficient scoring games (25 points on 14 shots) in Sunday's win over the Pistons.
This week: @ IND, vs. SAC, @ BKN, @ WAS


Last week: 19

Cleveland (25-20)
Pace: 94.7 (24) OffRtg: 106.7 (7) DefRtg: 105.8 (25) NetRtg: +0.9 (14)
The Cavs may have turned a corner defensively, having allowed just 97 points per 100 possessions over their last four games. And their offense has been ridiculous in their seven games since LeBron James' return, scoring 117 (shooting 39 percent on threes). James' usage rate is up from 30.9 percent before his absence to 35.3 percent since he came back.
This week: @ DET, vs. POR, vs. SAC, @ MIN


Last week: 16

New Orleans (23-21)
Pace: 94.4 (25) OffRtg: 105.6 (9) DefRtg: 105.5 (24) NetRtg: +0.1 (16)
Jrue Holiday is out for a while and their ownership situation is a little messy, but the Pelicans' first three-game winning streak of the season has them within a game in the loss column of the eighth-place Suns. They play eight of their remaining nine pre-break games at home, where they're 6-1 since Christmas, with five wins against the West's top eight.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. DEN, vs. LAC


Last week: 12

Oklahoma City (22-22)
Pace: 97.2 (10) OffRtg: 101.6 (19) DefRtg: 101.2 (10) NetRtg: +0.5 (15)
Scott Brooks has finally started to stagger the minutes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, so that one of them is always on the floor with the second unit. But that hasn't kept Reggie Jackson and Dion Waiters from shooting a combined 33 percent over the last four games. The Thunder visited the land above .500 before losses to the Hawks and Cavs.
This week: vs. MIN, @ NYK, @ MEM


Last week: 17

Charlotte (19-26)
Pace: 95.0 (23) OffRtg: 98.1 (28) DefRtg: 101.0 (8) NetRtg: -2.9 (21)
The average score of the last six Hornets games has been 88-87, so it's understandable if they're not your go-to League Pass team. But they've won nine of their last 11 to move into eighth place in the East, even though Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson have played in just eight and four of those 11 games, respectively. Steve Clifford's coaching up the D again.
This week: @ SAS, @ DEN


Last week: 15

Milwaukee (22-22)
Pace: 96.3 (14) OffRtg: 101.2 (23) DefRtg: 99.2 (2) NetRtg: +2.0 (13)
The Bucks' new starting lineup (with Ersan Ilyasova back at the four) was a plus-14 in three games, but they're 1-3 since returning from London because their bench has lost its mojo (especially on defense). Now, with just two games separating sixth and seventh place, Tuesday's game in Miami is pretty important. Milwaukee won the first two meetings.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. POR


Last week: 14

Detroit (17-28)
Pace: 96.1 (16) OffRtg: 101.2 (22) DefRtg: 103.8 (17) NetRtg: -2.5 (18)
The Brandon Jennings Renaissance didn't even last as long as Linsanity before Jennings was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles, but the Pistons could still compete for a playoff spot with D.J. Augustin and a defense which ranks 10th since the excision of Josh Smith. Augustin had a huge game (35 points) in Toronto on Sunday, but the D wasn't so good.
This week: vs. CLE, @ PHI, vs. HOU


Last week: 18

Miami (20-24)
Pace: 91.7 (30) OffRtg: 101.9 (18) DefRtg: 104.2 (19) NetRtg: -2.3 (17)
The Heat remain on the brink of irrelevance, but Hassan Whiteside has quickly turned into one of the league's best stories and christened the ABC Sunday schedule with his triple-double in Chicago. Not only is he protecting the rim well, but he's finishing well on the other end. Only two players have shot better in the restricted area this month.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. DAL, @ BOS


Last week: 21

Utah (16-28)
Pace: 92.9 (28) OffRtg: 103.0 (15) DefRtg: 106.1 (27) NetRtg: -3.1 (23)
After allowing 110 points per 100 possessions in their first 25 games, the Jazz have allowed just 101 (seventh best in the league) over their last 19. They're 10-9 in that stretch after wins over the Bucks and Nets, with one more East opponent on Monday. But then they play five straight games against the West's top eight, a test for their new, Australian backcourt.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. LAC, vs. GSW


Last week: 25

Boston (15-27)
Pace: 99.1 (3) OffRtg: 101.3 (21) DefRtg: 103.8 (18) NetRtg: -2.5 (19)
Where did these Celtics come from? They almost came back from 23 points down against the Clippers, beat the Blazers on an Evan Turner three, won in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back, and became just the fifth team to go into Oracle Arena and not lose by double-digits. They're still just one game in the loss column out of eighth place.
This week: @ UTA, @ MIN, vs. HOU, vs. MIA


Last week: 20

Denver (18-26)
Pace: 98.6 (4) OffRtg: 102.1 (17) DefRtg: 105.2 (22) NetRtg: -3.1 (22)
Missed free throws (from Wilson Chandler against Boston and Kenneth Faried against Washington) are what the Nuggets will remember from narrow losses that extended their losing streak to six games, but the other end of the floor has been a bigger problem. They've allowed a league-worst 116.7 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter in January.
This week: @ LAC, @ NOP, @ MEM, vs. CHA


Last week: 22

Brooklyn (18-26)
Pace: 94.3 (26) OffRtg: 99.2 (25) DefRtg: 103.7 (16) NetRtg: -4.5 (25)
The Nets' last two games, in which they got thumped by the Clippers and Jazz, say as much about the Kings, who they beat on Wednesday, as they do about the Nets themselves. A slightly above average defense had them holding onto a playoff spot, but they've allowed 110 points per 100 possessions in their last seven games, with a rough week ahead.
This week: vs. POR, @ ATL, vs. TOR


Last week: 24

Sacramento (16-27)
Pace: 97.3 (8) OffRtg: 103.0 (16) DefRtg: 105.7 (25) NetRtg: -2.7 (20)
The Kings had been defending pretty well for a six-game stretch or so, holding both the Cavs and Mavs under a point per possession a couple of weeks ago. But they had lost four straight games that were within five points in the last five minutes and, then, Klay Thompson happened on Friday. They've lost six straight, shooting 26 percent from 3-point range.
This week: @ NYK, @ TOR, @ CLE, @ IND


Last week: 26

Indiana (16-30)
Pace: 95.7 (21) OffRtg: 97.8 (29) DefRtg: 101.1 (9) NetRtg: -3.3 (24)
The Pacers' seven-game losing streak (their third streak of six or more losses), during which they scored an anemic 91.6 points per 100 possessions, ended Sunday in Orlando, because Damjan Rudez scored more points in the fourth quarter (16) than he had in any other game this season. He hit four threes, but the lefty runner was particularly impressive.
This week: vs. TOR, vs. NYK, vs. SAC


Last week: 23

Orlando (15-32)
Pace: 96.2 (15) OffRtg: 99.5 (24) DefRtg: 105.3 (23) NetRtg: -5.8 (26)
It's unclear how the Magic managed to squeeze wins over the Bulls and Rockets in the middle of what would be a 12-game losing streak that has includes losses to the Nets, Hornets, Nuggets, Lakers, Knicks and Pacers. They allowed New York and Indiana, two bottom-five offenses, to score over 110 points per 100 possessions over the weekend.
This week: @ MEM, vs. MIL, vs. DAL


Last week: 27

L.A. Lakers (12-33)
Pace: 97.2 (9) OffRtg: 101.6 (20) DefRtg: 108.2 (29) NetRtg: -6.7 (27)
Kobe Bryant (torn rotator cuff) is probably done for the season (though he hasn't thrown in the towel as of Monday morning) and Nick Young has basically been the worst high-volume shooter in January. So get ready for some juicy notes about Jordan Clarkson and Robert Sacre in this space over the next 11 weeks. Or maybe we can rent it to advertisers.
This week: vs. WAS, vs. CHI, @ NYK


Last week: 30

New York (8-37)
Pace: 92.8 (29) OffRtg: 99.1 (26) DefRtg: 108.0 (28) NetRtg: -9.0 (28)
The Knicks went from a 16-game losing streak to a three-game winning streak, thanks, in part, to a few guys on 10-day contracts. It says a lot about their season that a lineup with Langston Galloway and Lou Amundson is already their most-used five-man unit, but Galloway could be a find. He hit big threes late in their wins over Philly and Orlando.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. OKC, @ IND, vs. LAL


Last week: 28

Philadelphia (8-36)
Pace: 98.5 (6) OffRtg: 91.1 (30) DefRtg: 103.1 (13) NetRtg: -12.1 (30)
The loss of Tony Wroten (partially torn ACL) seemingly makes the Sixers a lot less entertaining, but Brett Brown had 6-foot-9 Jakarr Sampson running point for a few minutes in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss in Memphis. With Jerami Grant getting eight of 'em against the Knicks on Wednesday, the Sixers have four of the top six rookies in blocks per 36 minutes.
This week: @ NOP, vs. DET, vs. MIN, @ ATL


Last week: 29

Minnesota (7-36)
Pace: 97.8 (7) OffRtg: 98.8 (27) DefRtg: 110.0 (30) NetRtg: -11.2 (29)
Nikola Pekovic's return has given Flip Saunders the opportunity to see how Pek and Gorgui Dieng play together (plus-2 in 25 minutes over the weekend). A lineup of Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young, Dieng and Pekovic has the potential to be excellent defensively, though perimeter shooting would be an issue (not that it isn't anyway).
This week: @ OKC, vs. BOS, @ PHI, vs. CLE