You can definitely say that the Cleveland Cavaliers help turn their season around by the deals they made in January. The Boston Celtics not only added assets to their cupboard, but did some addition by subtraction by trading the overrated Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo. And the Miami Heat got themselves a dynamic point guard (as long as they can re-sign him) to take some of the pressure off Chris Bosh.
But there are more teams that seemingly took steps backward with the moves they made. The Dallas Mavericks deflated the league's No. 1 offense by adding Rondo. Green, meanwhile, took his they're-better-with-me-on-the-bench-ness to Memphis. And though they swapped players, both the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns have fallen off since their deadline deal.
Meanwhile, a couple of Eastern Conference "contenders" -- Toronto and Washington -- that didn't make (major) trades have been in a tailspin. And it all makes it tough to get excited about too many teams right now.
The playoffs will bring new life and it would be nice to fast forward to April 18 right now. But you have to wonder if some teams would like to push the rewind button instead.
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• Last week: Playoff picture shaping up to include a lot of new blood
• This time last year: Spurs still rolling, but they face major tests this week -- The eventual champs had won 17 straight games, but the Sixers' 26-game losing streak came to an end with a win over the Pistons. The Suns had the edge over the Grizzlies for the final playoff spot in the West, Doc Rivers kicked Glen Davis off the Clippers' bench, and Josh McRoberts threw one down.
• Plus-minus stud: DeAndre Jordan (LAC) was a plus-84 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Langston Galloway (NYK) was a minus-61 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Golden State (4-0) -- Update: Te Warriors are still ridiculously good. Their perfect week included road wins over two top-10 teams (Portland and Memphis).
• Zero Team of the Week: New York (0-4) -- Clearly suffering from a lack of big butts, the Knicks lost their four games by a total of 87 points.
• High jumps of the week: Miami (+4), Milwaukee (+2)
• Free falls of the week: Utah (-4), Memphis (-3), Phoenix (-3)
• East vs. West: The West is 258 - 180 (0.589) against the East in interconference games and was 9-5 last week.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Sacramento, 3. Minnesota
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Atlanta, 2. Boston, 3. Washington
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
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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.
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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.
Golden State (60-13)
Pace: 100.6 (1) OffRtg: 109.5 (2) DefRtg: 97.4 (1) NetRtg: +12.2 (1)
It's been almost a month since the Warriors lost a game with their starters in uniform, and they're now 51-7 (a 72-10 pace) in games Andrew Bogut has played. With the West's No. 1 seed locked up and a five-game lead on the Hawks for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how they handle this week of tough opponents.
This week: @ LAC, vs. PHX, @ DAL, @ SAS
(48-27) Pace: 94.8 (25) OffRtg: 108.0 (4) DefRtg: 104.0 (20) NetRtg: +4.0 (6)
The Cavs are still undefeated at home since LeBron James' return in mid-January, but the 16th straight win at the Q
(over Philly on Sunday) came with more back pain for Kevin Love
and no points in the final four minutes. Fortunately, it's followed by three days off before they play again. Their 2-3 record without Love includes losses to both of this week's opponents. This week:
vs. MIA, vs. CHI
Pace: 96.3 (15) OffRtg: 106.0 (6) DefRtg: 100.8 (8) NetRtg: +5.3 (4)
The Hawks will go into the playoffs with home-court advantage in the East, but probably without much momentum. Jeff Teague is dealing with an ankle injury and coach Mike Budenholzer is likely to give his starters more rest days down the stretch. The Hawks have three more back-to-backs, starting with Monday and Tuesday games against the Bucks and Pistons.
This week: vs. MIL, @ DET, vs. BKN
(47-26) Pace: 95.9 (18) OffRtg: 105.5 (7) DefRtg: 99.9 (3) NetRtg: +5.6 (3)
A healthy Tiago Splitter gives the Spurs' their standard, dominant starting lineup, which, in turn, puts their bench in order. And a healthy Tiago Splitter puts up some solid boxscore numbers (on a per-36-minute basis) too. He's averaged 19.8 points (on 67 percent shooting), 10.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks per 36 over the last nine games
. This week:
@ MIA, @ ORL, vs. DEN, vs. GSW
(49-25) Pace: 97.0 (10) OffRtg: 109.6 (1) DefRtg: 103.0 (18) NetRtg: +6.6 (2) The Clippers have their defensive issues
, but they've been in a real groove offensively, having scored over 115 points per 100 possessions in their last six games
, with J.J. Redick (24-for-42 from 3-point range
) shooting the lights out. They've taken back the No. 1 spot in offensive efficiency, but it will be on the line in Tuesday's meeting with the Warriors. This week:
vs. GSW, @ POR, @ DEN, @ LAL
(50-23) Pace: 99.1 (2) OffRtg: 103.7 (13) DefRtg: 100.1 (4) NetRtg: +3.6 (8)
Dwight Howard is back, and the Rockets have won seven of their last eight games to take over second place in the West. But they lost Patrick Beverley (wrist) and Donatas Motiejunas (back) to more injuries last week, and the opponents are getting tougher. Sunday's win in D.C.
began an eight-game stretch where seven of the opponents are over .500. This week:
@ TOR, vs. SAC, @ DAL, @ OKC
(50-24) Pace: 94.3 (26) OffRtg: 103.0 (14) DefRtg: 100.3 (6) NetRtg: +2.7 (11)
The Grizzlies have lost three straight to fall into third in the West and in position to face the Spurs (who they're 4-16 against over the last four years) in the first round. But with a banged-up Tony Allen (hamstring) and a struggling Courtney Lee (shooting 33 percent in March
), they could keeping sliding into a matchup with Portland, who they swept this season. This week:
vs. SAC, vs. OKC, vs. WAS
Pace: 96.4 (13) OffRtg: 105.2 (9) DefRtg: 100.9 (9) NetRtg: +4.3 (5)
The Blazers have regained their footing with a three-game winning streak (despite 33 percent shooting from Damian Lillard) and could regain the edge for home-court advantage in the first round with a win over the Clippers on Wednesday. Including that game, six of their final 10 are against teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. LAC, @ LAL, vs. NOP
(42-32) Pace: 98.2 (7) OffRtg: 103.9 (11) DefRtg: 102.2 (13) NetRtg: +1.8 (12)
Now that Kevin Durant is officially done for the season
, the Thunder's destiny seems to be a quick, first-round exit at the hands of the Warriors (with some crazy Russell Westbrook lines thrown in). But they can get closer to the No. 7 seed with a win over the Mavs on Wednesday. They blew a 15-point, second-half lead the last time the two teams played
. This week:
vs. DAL, @ MEM, vs. HOU
(45-29) Pace: 95.3 (23) OffRtg: 105.1 (10) DefRtg: 101.9 (12) NetRtg: +3.2 (9)
The return of Jimmy Butler has helped the Bulls put together their first three-game winning streak since the All-Star break. Nikola Mirotic has had a big March and has been more efficient of late, shooting 49 percent over the last six games. The Bulls have outscored their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions with Butler and Mirotic on the floor together
. This week:
@ MIL, vs. DET, @ CLE
(45-29) Pace: 97.0 (11) OffRtg: 106.8 (5) DefRtg: 102.9 (16) NetRtg: +3.9 (7)
The Mavs are the only team to beat the Spurs in regulation this month, but have lost four of their last five games, scoring a paltry 95 points per 100 possessions
. Monta Ellis is dealing with a calf injury and they play one of their biggest games of the season on Wednesday ... on the road, where they're 1-7 since the All-Star break (with the only win over the Lakers). This week:
@ OKC, vs. HOU, vs. GSW
New Orleans (39-34)
Pace: 93.8 (27) OffRtg: 105.2 (8) DefRtg: 104.5 (23) NetRtg: +0.7 (16)
The Pelicans are in the middle of a four-game stretch against the Kings (x 2), Wolves and Lakers that will keep them within a couple of games of the Thunder. But, beginning with Saturday's visit to Portland, they play six of their final seven games against teams over .500. Of course, if they fall short of the playoffs, their 13 losses to teams under .500 will haunt them.
This week: @ LAL, @ SAC, @ POR
(34-39) Pace: 93.1 (29) OffRtg: 101.7 (19) DefRtg: 103.3 (19) NetRtg: -1.6 (20)
The Heat dealt with injuries to Chris Andersen, Luol Deng, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside last week, but went 2-1 in games in which 6-foot-8 Udonis Haslem was their biggest player. A day after having his knee drained, Wade put up 40 points in Sunday's win over Detroit
. Haslem's 18 in the same game was the most he's scored since Nov. 2010. This week:
vs. SAS, @ CLE, @ DET, @ IND
(41-33) Pace: 96.0 (16) OffRtg: 101.8 (18) DefRtg: 100.2 (5) NetRtg: +1.6 (13)
The Wizards got a much-needed win (thanks to some John Wall jumpers) against the Hornets on Friday, but their offense is still generally terrible, in part because their shot selection has come back to bite them. When only one team takes a greater percentage of its shots from mid-range, it's not good that you rank 25th from mid-range since the All-Star break
. This week:
vs. PHI, vs. NYK, @ MEM
(43-30) Pace: 95.6 (20) OffRtg: 108.0 (3) DefRtg: 105.0 (25) NetRtg: +3.1 (10)
Games against the Knicks and Lakers in the last eight days have allowed the Raptors to clinch the Atlantic Division for the second straight year, but not climb out of the bottom two in defensive efficiency in the month of March
. They're on the road for most of the next two weeks, but Monday's game against the Rockets is their last against a team over .500. This week:
vs. HOU, @ MIN, @ BKN, vs. BOS
(32-41) Pace: 92.5 (30) OffRtg: 102.3 (15) DefRtg: 102.5 (15) NetRtg: -0.2 (17)
The momentum and great defense the Jazz had gained by trading Enes Kanter disappeared over the course of a four-game losing streak. But they got their revenge with a win over the trash-talking Kanter
on Saturday. They've shot a pretty brutal 28 percent from 3-point range over their last seven games
, but face some pretty brutal defenses this week. This week:
@ MIN, vs. DEN, @ PHX, @ SAC
(32-41) Pace: 98.4 (5) OffRtg: 101.0 (22) DefRtg: 102.5 (14) NetRtg: -1.5 (19)
The Celtics, like all of the teams vying for the final playoff spots in the East, continue to spit out random results from game to game. It doesn't help that their current starting lineup has been pretty terrible, getting outscored by 12.6 points per 100 possessions
. Coach Brad Stevens knows this, of course, and has given the lineup short leash of late. He hasn't changed it, though. This week:
@ CHA, vs. IND, vs. MIL, @ TOR
(32-40) Pace: 95.0 (24) OffRtg: 101.1 (20) DefRtg: 104.5 (22) NetRtg: -3.5 (23)
Their fourth three-game winning streak has given the Nets the final playoff spot in the East. But to hold onto it, they'll need to win four straight for the first time by beating the Pacers on Tuesday. They still don't have a consistent formula for winning, but Brook Lopez has averaged 28.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks over the last six games
. This week:
vs. IND, @ NYK, vs. TOR, @ ATL
(38-36) Pace: 99.1 (3) OffRtg: 103.8 (12) DefRtg: 103.0 (17) NetRtg: +0.8 (14)
The Suns have lost three straight and their season basically came to an end on a vintage D.J. Augustin sky hook
on Sunday. Appropriately, like every other shot that has killed their playoff chances, it bounced around the rim before going in. Upon returning from an eight-game absence, Brandon Knight shot 1-for-10 ... and then got hurt again. This week:
@ POR, @ GSW, vs. UTA
(36-37) Pace: 96.3 (14) OffRtg: 100.4 (24) DefRtg: 99.6 (2) NetRtg: +0.8 (15)
The Bucks have had the third-worst offense and fifth-worst NetRtg since the All-Star break, but they won their two most important games of the season last week, beating the Heat (on a crazy sequence
) and Pacers (behind 34 points from Ersan Ilyasova) at the Bradley Center. If they're still in sixth place after their next three games, they should feel comfortable. This week:
@ ATL, vs. CHI, @ BOS, vs. ORL
(32-41) Pace: 95.7 (19) OffRtg: 100.3 (25) DefRtg: 101.3 (11) NetRtg: -0.9 (18)
Just when you think they're out, the Pacers pull themselves (with some help, of course) back in. A big fourth quarter and another George Hill game-winner
ended their slide in Washington on Wednesday, and some hot 3-point shooting got them another big win over Dallas on Sunday. Paul George is ready, but still awaiting clearance from the team. This week:
@ BKN, @ BOS, vs. CHA, vs. MIA
(28-45) Pace: 95.4 (22) OffRtg: 101.8 (17) DefRtg: 104.1 (21) NetRtg: -2.3 (21)
They lost to a severely depleted Heat team on Sunday, but the Pistons have put together a solid 5-2 run without Greg Monroe. The new starting lineup (with Anthony Tolliver at the four) has scored almost 123 points per 100 possessions in 112 minutes over the seven games
, with Reggie Jackson averaging 22.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 11.4 assists
. This week:
vs. ATL, @ CHA ,@ CHI, vs. MIA
(31-41) Pace: 95.6 (21) OffRtg: 98.1 (28) DefRtg: 100.4 (7) NetRtg: -2.3 (22)
The Hawks resting their starters on Saturday
was a lifeline for the Hornets, who had lost eight of their last 10 games. They're still on the outside of the playoff picture, but have big games against the Celtics, Pacers and Heat in the next nine days. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's health (he sprained his ankle on Friday) will be critical to their chances of moving up. This week:
vs. BOS, vs. DET, @ IND, vs. PHI
(26-46) Pace: 97.9 (8) OffRtg: 102.0 (16) DefRtg: 106.3 (27) NetRtg: -4.3 (25)
We'll always remember last week as the week that "Sauce Castillo" was born
. It was also the week when the Kings put together their first four-game winning streak since early November and the week they dropped into the bottom five in defensive efficiency for the first time this season. If they stay there, it will be five times in the bottom five in the last eight years. This week:
@ MEM, @ HOU, vs. NOP, vs. UTA
(28-46) Pace: 98.5 (4) OffRtg: 101.1 (21) DefRtg: 104.7 (24) NetRtg: -3.6 (24)
Some minor injuries have kept the Nuggets' small starting lineup from developing a lot of continuity, but it continues to have solid numbers (plus-6.4 points per 100 possessions in 162 minutes
). Jameer Nelson, meanwhile, has averaged 16.9 points, shooting 52 percent from 3-point range, over his last nine games
. The Nuggets are 8-7 under interim coach Melvin Hunt. This week:
@ UTA, @ SAS, vs. LAC
(18-56) Pace: 98.4 (6) OffRtg: 92.5 (30) DefRtg: 101.2 (10) NetRtg: -8.7 (28)
Though their last two games have been against top-four offenses, the Sixers have indeed climbed into the top 10 in defensive efficiency. And with only one of their last eight games against an above-average offense, they have a good chance of staying there. The last 3:57 of Sunday's loss in Cleveland
(where neither team scored) told the story of their season. This week:
vs. LAL, @ WAS, @ CHA, @ NYK
(22-52) Pace: 96.0 (17) OffRtg: 99.7 (27) DefRtg: 105.8 (26) NetRtg: -6.1 (27)
The Magic have lost nine of their last 10 games, allowing more than 110 points per 100 possessions
. They're pretty locked in to the fifth-worst record in the league and a 29 percent chance at a top-three Draft pick, but need two more wins to improve on last season's 23-59 record. Games against the Wolves (Friday) and Knicks (April 11) should
get the job done. This week:
vs. SAS, @ MIN, @ MIL
(16-57) Pace: 97.1 (9) OffRtg: 99.7 (26) DefRtg: 108.9 (30) NetRtg: -9.1 (29)
Zach LaVine running the point has been an adventure (not a good one, mostly) this season. But the dunk champ has been showing off his 3-point prowess of late. He hit two huge, pull-up threes to send Monday's win in Utah to overtime (after following a terrible shot with a terrible foul) and is 18-for-36 from beyond the arc over the last nine games
. This week:
vs. UTA, vs. TOR, vs. ORL
(19-53) Pace: 96.5 (12) OffRtg: 101.0 (23) DefRtg: 107.1 (28) NetRtg: -6.1 (26) Nick Young's season might be over
and the Lakers are giving other vets some rest days to let the kids play. On the night he and Jeremy Lin made NBA history as the first ever Asian-American starting backcourt, Jordan Clarkson scored a career-high 30 points in Oklahoma City, scoring 14 of the 30 points at the basket, where he's been able to finish well. This week:
@ PHI, vs. NOP, vs. POR, vs. LAC
New York (14-60)
Pace: 93.5 (28) OffRtg: 97.1 (29) DefRtg: 107.6 (29) NetRtg: -10.5 (30)
History has been made in the Knicks' first full season under president Phil Jackson. This franchise has had a lot of dysfunction and has played a lot of bad defense over the years, but it had never lost 60 games before. The Knicks have trailed exactly half of those 60 games, including four of the last five and eight this month, by 20 points or more.
This week: vs. BKN, @ WAS, vs. PHI