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Cavs keep pushing with a month to go

Power Rankings: Week 20

POSTED: Mar 16, 2015 10:50 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have led the Cavs to a 24-5 record since Jan. 15.

One month to go.

There are 31 days and 242 games left in the regular season. For a lot of teams (some good and some bad), April 15 can't come soon enough. For others, there's still some business to take care of.

The focus will be on the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and the final two playoff spots in the East. But playoff seeding, Lottery odds and coaches jobs are also at stake.

Teams have already started preparing for the postseason by resting key players. But the MVP race might need all of the next 31 days to be sorted out, with Stephen Curry, James Harden and LeBron James all making cases that are tough to argue against.

James' Cavs keep rolling, picking up impressive wins in Dallas and San Antonio last week. But they've hit a ceiling at No. 3 in the Power Rankings. There might be a full month left, but the Warriors and Hawks have staked strong claims to those top two spots. And the winner of Wednesday's rematch will likely be No. 1 next week.

* * *

• Last week: Still a clear top two after Hawks thwart Cavs

• This time last year: Streaking Spurs, Clippers stand alone at the top -- The Clippers had won 11 straight games, while the Spurs had won 10 straight. But no streak could match that of the Sixers, who were 20 games into their 26-game losing streak. The Knicks hired Phil Jackson, Andrew Bynum played his only two games as a Pacer, and Carlos Boozer set the standard for being mic'd up during a game.

• Plus-minus stud: Danilo Gallinari (DEN) was a plus-71 in four games last week.

• Plus-minus dud: Kevin Martin (MIN) was a minus-73 in four games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Denver (4-0) -- Yeah, the Warriors were shorthanded on Friday. But when you beat Atlanta and Golden State in three days (something only four other teams have done all season) and win in New Orleans in a game the Pelicans absolutely needed and in which Anthony Davis put up 36 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and nine blocks, it's a good week.

• Zero Team of the Week: Minnesota (0-4) -- The 14-win Wolves have put themselves in position to finish with the league's worst record, with a visit to the 13-win Knicks on Thursday.

• High jumps of the week: Denver (+6), Boston (+3), Utah (+3), Washington (+3)

• Free falls of the week: Minnesota (-4), Toronto (-3), Five teams (-2)

• East vs. West: The West is 231 - 164 (0.585) against the East in interconference games and was 17-10 last week (4-0 against Detroit and 4-1 against New York).

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Sacramento, 3. Philadelphia

• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Indiana, 2. Washington, 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 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.8 points scored per 100 possessions through Sunday.

* * *

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

Golden State (52-13)
Pace: 100.9 (1) OffRtg: 109.2 (1) DefRtg: 97.6 (1) NetRtg: +11.6 (1)
David Lee has had three DNPs in the last six games. His defense can be an issue, but Lee is a great playmaker at the power forward position. A team with cap space could benefit from the Warriors' need to pay Draymond Green this summer by taking the last year of Lee's contract off their hands. The Dubs get their rematch against Atlanta on Wednesday.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. ATL, vs. NOP, vs. UTA

2

Last week: 2

Atlanta (52-14)
Pace: 96.2 (15) OffRtg: 106.2 (6) DefRtg: 99.9 (6) NetRtg: +6.3 (2)
The Hawks are 4-1 when resting starters, but the strategy didn't keep Kyle Korver from breaking his nose in Sunday's win in L.A. A day off had helped Korver had regained his touch (14-for-19 from 3-point range over three games) after he had been struggling for a bit (17-for-54 in his first seven games after the break). Now, he'll have to deal with a mask.
This week: @ SAC, @ GSW, @ OKC, vs. SAS

3

Last week: 3

Cleveland (43-25)
Pace: 94.9 (24) OffRtg: 108.2 (3) DefRtg: 104.3 (21) NetRtg: +3.8 (7)
The Cavs are 24-5 since Jan. 15 and Kyrie Irving looks playoff-ready after Thursday's 57-point performance in an intense game in San Antonio. But a tweak of LeBron James' right knee on Sunday was a little reminder of how fragile their success is. They're 2-9 without James and have been outscored by 7.9 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor.
This week: @ MIA, vs. BKN, vs. IND, @ MIL

4

Last week: 6

Portland (44-20)
Pace: 96.5 (13) OffRtg: 105.3 (8) DefRtg: 99.9 (5) NetRtg: +5.3 (4)
Arron Afflalo has shot just 35 percent in his four games as a starter, but LaMarcus Aldridge (who shot 30-for-50 in three games last week) and Damian Lillard (19-for-32 in the last two) have picked up the slack and the Blazers are tied in the loss column with the second-place Grizzlies, who'll they'll visit on Saturday (having lost the previous three meetings).
This week: @ WAS, @ MIA, @ ORL, @ MEM

5

Last week: 4

Memphis (46-20)
Pace: 94.3 (26) OffRtg: 103.3 (13) DefRtg: 100.2 (8) NetRtg: +3.1 (9)
Time will tell if the Grizzlies' maintenance day (Thursday in Washington) was what they needed. They still have to get Mike Conley healthy and still have a starting lineup issue (Jeff Green and Courtney Lee are a minus-41 in 548 minutes together), but had one of their better post-break offensive games against the league's No. 2 defense (Milwaukee) on Saturday.
This week: vs. DEN, @ DET, @ DAL, vs. POR

6

Last week: 7

San Antonio (41-24)
Pace: 96.0 (17) OffRtg: 105.0 (9) DefRtg: 100.2 (9) NetRtg: +4.8 (6)
The Spurs would have an eight-game winning streak if Kawhi Leonard made his free throws at the end of regulation on Thursday. They've scored a league-best 115 points per 100 possessions over the 7-1 stretch, but are about to be without Manu Ginobili, who turned his ankle in Sunday's win over the Wolves and hasn't missed consecutive games all season.
This week: @ NYK, @ MIL, vs. BOS, @ ATL

7

Last week: 5

Houston (44-22)
Pace: 99.2 (2) OffRtg: 103.2 (14) DefRtg: 99.9 (3) NetRtg: +3.3 (8)
The James Harden MVP campaign has hit some bumps in the road since the All-Star break. He totaled just 33 points on 10-for-32 shooting in losses in Portland and Utah last week. But 18 trips to the line for Harden and a couple of big defensive possessions from Trevor Ariza in the final minute helped the Rockets get an important win in L.A. on Sunday.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. DEN, vs. PHX

8

Last week: 8

L.A. Clippers (42-25)
Pace: 96.8 (10) OffRtg: 109.2 (2) DefRtg: 103.5 (17) NetRtg: +5.7 (3)
The Clippers are finally out of the woods. Seventeen of their last 21 opponents have been teams currently over .500. They went 10-11 in that stretch, but now have Blake Griffin back and the easiest remaining schedule in the West. Nine of their final 15 games are against teams that are currently under .500 and four of the other six are at home.
This week: vs. CHA, @ SAC, vs. WAS, vs. NOP

9

Last week: 9

Oklahoma City (37-29)
Pace: 97.9 (7) OffRtg: 103.4 (12) DefRtg: 101.4 (11) NetRtg: +2.0 (13)
As Russell Westbrook has gone bonkers since the All-Star break, a couple of teammates have gone along for the ride. Anthony Morrow, who hit the dagger off a Westbrook feed against Chicago on Sunday, has shot 28-for-55 (51 percent) from 3-point range since the break and Enes Kanter has averaged 15.7 points, shooting better than he did in Utah.
This week: @ DAL, vs. BOS, vs. ATL, vs. MIA

10

Last week: 10

Dallas (42-25)
Pace: 96.6 (11) OffRtg: 107.7 (4) DefRtg: 102.9 (15) NetRtg: +4.8 (5)
Has Amar'e Stoudemire become the Mavs' leader in less than a month? He called Tuesday's thumping at the hands of the Cavs "unacceptable," and his team responded with a huge win over the Clippers on Friday. Last week's light schedule could benefit Dirk Nowitzki, who's averaged just 12.8 points on 41 percent shooting since the All-Star break.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. ORL, vs. MEM, @ PHX

11

Last week: 11

Indiana (30-35)
Pace: 95.5 (23) OffRtg: 100.0 (25) DefRtg: 100.0 (7) NetRtg: -0.1 (17)
The Pacers' seven-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday, because their bench didn't give them the same lift it had been giving them since Feb. 1. After Thursday's win over Milwaukee, they looked like they had a shot at sixth place. But they're still very much in the 7-10 scrum, with seven of their next eight games against teams with winning records.
This week: vs. TOR, @ CHI, @ CLE, vs. BKN

12

Last week: 15

Utah (29-36)
Pace: 92.6 (30) OffRtg: 102.6 (15) DefRtg: 103.2 (16) NetRtg: -0.6 (18)
It's a shame the Jazz were bad early in the season, because things would be really interesting if they were six games higher in the standings. They're 12-3 in their last 15 games, with five wins against the top nine teams in the West. Rudy Gobert blocking a Josh Smith shot and beating the Rockets down the floor spelled out how scary this team has become.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. WAS, @ LAL, @ GSW

13

Last week: 13

New Orleans (36-30)
Pace: 93.9 (27) OffRtg: 105.6 (7) DefRtg: 105.1 (25) NetRtg: +0.6 (16)
Anthony Davis has put up ridiculous lines since returning from his shoulder injury, but the Pelicans suffered a brutal, double-OT loss on Sunday, because they still can't protect the rim. The Nuggets got a lot more layups and dunks (26) than Davis had blocks (9), especially late, when one additional stop could have won kept the Pels in eighth place.
This week: vs. MIL, @ PHX, @ GSW, @ LAC

14

Last week: 12

Chicago (40-28)
Pace: 95.6 (20) OffRtg: 104.4 (11) DefRtg: 102.0 (13) NetRtg: +2.4 (12)
The Bulls have lost five of their last six games to fall from second to fourth in the East. Their initial defense has been OK, but (their offense has been bad and) they've been getting killed on the glass, allowing their opponent to grab 17 offensive rebounds in each of their last three games. Charlotte scored 27 of its 101 points on second chances on Friday.
This week: vs. IND, vs. TOR, @ DET

15

Last week: 18

Boston (29-36)
Pace: 98.3 (6) OffRtg: 101.0 (22) DefRtg: 102.7 (14) NetRtg: -1.6 (19)
The Celtics are on a four-game winning streak in which they've been missing either Avery Bradley or Isaiah Thomas in each game, beat three potential playoff teams, and allowed just 92 points per 100 possessions. They're 7-1 on the second night of a back-to-back since mid-January after Saturday's win in Indiana which put them within a game of seventh.
This week: vs. PHI, @ OKC, @ SAS, vs. DET

16

Last week: 19

Washington (38-28)
Pace: 95.9 (18) OffRtg: 102.6 (16) DefRtg: 99.9 (4) NetRtg: +2.7 (11)
John Wall felt disrespected by the Grizzlies resting four key players on Thursday. More importantly, Wall found his shot last week, shooting 24-for-37 (15-for-19 from outside the paint) and averaging 22.3 points as the Wizards put together a much-needed, three-game winning streak before hosting the Blazers and heading out on a tough, four-game trip.
This week: vs. POR, @ UTA, @ LAC, @ SAC

17

Last week: 14

Toronto (39-27)
Pace: 96.0 (16) OffRtg: 107.6 (5) DefRtg: 104.6 (24) NetRtg: +3.0 (10)
The Raptors haven't beat a team with a winning record since they knocked off the Hawks in their first game after the All-Star break. But they could not beat a team with a winning record for the rest of the season and still finish with 50 wins, because they play only three games against winning teams the rest of the way. No other team plays fewer than five.
This week: @ IND, vs. MIN, @ CHI, vs. NYK

18

Last week: 16

Milwaukee (34-32)
Pace: 96.3 (14) OffRtg: 100.5 (23) DefRtg: 99.1 (2) NetRtg: +1.3 (14)
The Bucks have lost eight straight on the road and have the league's worst offense since the All-Star break. Michael Carter-Williams isn't totally to blame though. The offense has been much better with him on the floor (98.6 points scored per 100 possessions) than with him off it (89.6). Good news: No team has fewer road games remaining than the Bucks (6).
This week: @ NOP, vs. SAS, @ BKN, vs. CLE

19

Last week: 17

Charlotte (29-35)
Pace: 95.6 (22) OffRtg: 98.4 (28) DefRtg: 100.3 (10) NetRtg: -2.0 (20)
The Hornets got a big win over the Bulls on Friday, registering a season-high 27 second chance points. But Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller are out with injuries, Kemba Walker has shot 6-for-23 in his first two games back, and they have the toughest remaining schedule in the East, including five road games in the next eight days, starting with a Utah-L.A. back-to-back.
This week: @ UTA, @ LAC, @ SAC, @ MIN

20

Last week: 20

Miami (29-36)
Pace: 93.0 (29) OffRtg: 101.7 (18) DefRtg: 103.7 (19) NetRtg: -2.0 (21)
There are reasons Hassan Whiteside has been passed over by the rest of the league, and we saw evidence of them over the last couple of weeks, with Monday's cheap shot on Kelly Olynyk being the low point. Chris Andersen (18 points and 14 rebounds) gave the Heat a lift against the Nets in Whiteside's absence, but they face a tough schedule this week.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. POR, vs. DEN, @ OKC

21

Last week: 21

Phoenix (35-33)
Pace: 99.1 (3) OffRtg: 104.5 (10) DefRtg: 103.6 (18) NetRtg: +0.9 (15)
The Suns have had some tough breaks this season, but the league's two best teams have no sympathy for them, apparently. Four days after winning in Phoenix, the Warriors rested guys in Denver. And two nights after winning in Phoenix, the Hawks rested guys in L.A. The Suns scored an anemic 86 points per 100 possessions in the two losses.
This week: vs. NOP, @ HOU, vs. DAL

22

Last week: 28

Denver (26-41)
Pace: 98.4 (4) OffRtg: 101.0 (21) DefRtg: 104.6 (23) NetRtg: -3.5 (23)
The two most dangerous spoiler teams are in the Northwest Division. The Nuggets have joined the Jazz with a 6-2 record under Melvin Hunt, having knocked off the Bucks, Hawks, (short-handed) Warriors and Pelicans. Hunt has them attacking the rim more, with 37 percent of their shots coming in the restricted area, up from 33 percent under Brian Shaw.
This week: @ MEM, @ HOU, @ MIA, @ ORL

23

Last week: 22

Brooklyn (26-38)
Pace: 94.7 (25) OffRtg: 100.3 (24) DefRtg: 104.4 (22) NetRtg: -4.1 (24)
The Nets have a league-high 11 home games left, but are a league-worst 3-11 at home in 2015, with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combining to shoot 37 percent over the 14 games (though defense has been a bigger issue). Saturday's visit to Indiana is the first of three straight games against teams fighting for the seventh and eighth spots in the East.
This week: @ MIN, @ CLE, vs. MIL, @ IND

24

Last week: 25

Sacramento (22-43)
Pace: 97.8 (8) OffRtg: 101.8 (17) DefRtg: 106.8 (27) NetRtg: -4.9 (25)
The Kings capped their 2-6 trip by turning a 21-point lead into a 16-point loss in Washington on Saturday. Rudy Gay shot well, but injured his knee, and the Kings allowed almost 112 points per 100 possessions on the trip. They rank last defensively under George Karl and begin their five-game homestand with two of the league's top six offenses.
This week: vs. ATL, vs. LAC, vs. CHA, vs. WAS

25

Last week: 23

Detroit (23-43)
Pace: 95.6 (21) OffRtg: 101.1 (19) DefRtg: 104.1 (20) NetRtg: -3.0 (22)
The Pistons' losing streak has reached 10 games. After Tuesday's loss in L.A., they're the only team that has lost twice to the Lakers. They're also one of two teams that have lost twice to the Wolves and one of two teams that have lost twice to the Sixers. A second loss to the Knicks, completing the set, could come on the last night of the season in New York.
This week: vs. MEM, @ PHI, vs. CHI, @ BOS

26

Last week: 26

Orlando (21-47)
Pace: 95.9 (19) OffRtg: 99.5 (26) DefRtg: 105.4 (26) NetRtg: -5.9 (26)
After dealing with a knee issue, Tobias Harris is finding a rhythm again. He's averaged 19.8 points with an effective field goal percentage of 55 percent in his last six games. Of course, that stretch has coincided with a little bit of a slump for Victor Oladipo and the Magic have lost four straight, getting scorched by both the Pacers and Cavs last week.
This week: @ HOU, @ DAL, vs. POR, vs. DEN

27

Last week: 27

Philadelphia (15-51)
Pace: 98.4 (5) OffRtg: 92.1 (30) DefRtg: 101.5 (12) NetRtg: -9.5 (29)
Thomas Robinson has averaged 16.7 points and 18.5 rebounds per 36 minutes with the Sixers, grabbing 38 boards in just 55 minutes last week. The former No. 5 pick is on his fourth team in three seasons. If he's a part of the Sixers' plans, it would be good to see him alongside Nerlens Noel, but they've played just 45 minutes together in 10 games.
This week: @ BOS, vs. DET, vs. NYK, @ LAL

28

Last week: 24

Minnesota (14-51)
Pace: 97.5 (9) OffRtg: 99.4 (27) DefRtg: 108.6 (30) NetRtg: -9.2 (28)
An 0-4 trip has killed a little bit of the optimism surrounding the Wolves. Kevin Garnett didn't play, Andrew Wiggins shot 38 percent, Ricky Rubio turned his ankle, they trailed each of the four games by at least 14 points, and they got absolutely thumped in San Antonio on Sunday. One silver lining: 16 points and 15 rebounds for Adreian Payne against the Clippers.
This week: vs. BKN, @ TOR, @ NYK, vs. CHA

29

Last week: 30

New York (13-53)
Pace: 93.4 (28) OffRtg: 98.0 (29) DefRtg: 107.7 (29) NetRtg: -9.8 (30)
It's possible that Alexey Shved was acquired for more than just entertainment value. Shved averaged 17.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists in five games last week, finally getting that hook shot to go down. Since they got him, the Knicks have been outscored by 4.4 points per 100 possessions with Shved on the floor and by 22.2 with him off the floor.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. MIN, @ PHI, @ TOR

30

Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (17-48)
Pace: 96.6 (12) OffRtg: 101.1 (20) DefRtg: 107.4 (28) NetRtg: -6.3 (27)
Byron Scott is a month away from ranking in the bottom five in defensive efficiency in his fourth straight season on the bench (with a one-year break between his stops in Cleveland and L.A.). That feat has been pulled off before - by Tom Nissalke (four straight full seasons) and Dick Motta (six straight) but not in a league that had more than 23 teams.
This week: @ GSW, vs. UTA, vs. PHI