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Spurs continue push, but haven't made it far

Power Rankings: Week 23

POSTED: Apr 6, 2015 11:34 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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While their play has improved since the All-Star break, the Spurs haven't seen a big jump in the standings.

With only 10 days and 78 games left in the 2014-15 NBA season, we still don't have any clue who will be playing whom in the playoffs.

Five teams are still very much alive for the last two spots in the East, two teams are neck-and-neck for the final spot in the West, and each conference has a tightly packed scrum in the middle seeds.

Included in that Western Conference scrum are the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, who have the league's best point differential (per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break after Sunday's statement win over the Warriors.

At the break, the Spurs had the worst NetRtg (plus-4.3) of the Tim Duncan era. But their offense has surged, their defense has remained stifling, and they're starting to scare the rest of the league again.

The amazing thing is that this post-break revival has only pushed the Spurs from seventh to sixth in the West. And they might have to sweep a home-and-home with the Rockets this week to have a chance at home-court advantage in the first round.

* * *

• Last week: Some teams still dealing with bad case of post-trade blahs
• This time last year: So many questions remain as season winds down -- For the second time in two weeks, the Warriors parted ways with an assistant coach. The Nuggets ran a play for Timofey Mozgov to shoot a game-tying 3-pointer, and J.R. Smith took an NBA-record 22 threes in a loss to the Heat.

• Plus-minus stud: John Wall (WAS) was a plus-67 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Wesley Johnson (LAL) was a minus-70 in four games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: San Antonio (4-0) -- The Spurs took care of business against the Heat, Magic and Nuggets, and then handed the Warriors their worst loss of the season.
• Zero Team of the Week: Philadelphia (0-4) -- The Sixers lost to three cohabitants -- the Lakers, Hornets and Knicks -- of the bottom 10.

• High jumps of the week: Orlando (+3), Five teams (+2)
• Free falls of the week: Miami (-5), Philadelphia (-4), Dallas (-2), Oklahoma City (-2)

• East vs. West: The West is 261 - 184 (0.587) against the East in interconference games, with five more to go. The East was 3-4 last week.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Sacramento, 3. Minnesota
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Washington, 2. Atlanta, 3. Boston
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 102.9 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 (63-14)
Pace: 100.6 (1) OffRtg: 109.5 (2) DefRtg: 97.8 (1) NetRtg: +11.7 (1)
The Warriors are 0-3 in Atlanta, Cleveland and San Antonio after Sunday's loss to the Spurs. But they're 35-2 at Oracle Arena and just one win (or a Hawks loss) from clinching home-court advantage throughout the postseason. Apparently, Stephen Curry is just getting warmed up. He's 43-for-75 (57 percent) from 3-point range over the last nine games.
This week: @ NOP, vs. POR, vs. MIN

2

Last week: 2

Cleveland (50-27)
Pace: 94.8 (25) OffRtg: 108.1 (5) DefRtg: 103.9 (20) NetRtg: +4.2 (6)
No matter who is or isn't calling the plays on offense, the Cavs' defense will determine how far they go in the postseason. So it's encouraging that they've held 12 of their 22 opponents since the All-Star break under a point per possession. Sunday's win over the Bulls was their last game against a top-10 offense until at least the conference semifinals.
This week: @ MIL, vs. BOS, @ BOS

3

Last week: 4

San Antonio (51-26)
Pace: 95.9 (18) OffRtg: 105.9 (7) DefRtg: 99.6 (2) NetRtg: +6.3 (3)
Kawhi Leonard made his case for Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday, as the Spurs whooped the current favorite (Draymond Green) and the best team we've seen since the 1995-96 Bulls. He can continue making his case and the Spurs can keep moving up the standings with three games against the league's two leading scorers this week.
This week: @ OKC, vs. HOU, @ HOU, vs. PHX

4

Last week: 3

Atlanta (57-19)
Pace: 96.1 (15) OffRtg: 106.5 (6) DefRtg: 101.0 (9) NetRtg: +5.5 (4)
With another to come on Wednesday, the Hawks have won their three meetings with the Nets by an average of 22.0 points, improving their draft pick and sending a message to a potential playoff opponent. But Saturday's shellacking came with a Paul Millsap shoulder injury, which could ruin any remaining intrigue in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
This week: vs. PHX, @ BKN, vs. CHA, @ WAS

5

Last week: 5

L.A. Clippers (52-26)
Pace: 96.9 (10) OffRtg: 110.0 (1) DefRtg: 103.1 (16) NetRtg: +6.9 (2)
Chris Paul was on the wrong side of the mixtape highlight on Wednesday, but on the right side on Sunday. Jamal Crawford is expected to bring his own fancy dribblin' back on Tuesday after missing the last month. The Clippers don't need him in the first quarter, where they've outscored their opponents by 20.5 points per 100 possessions since the break.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. MEM

6

Last week: 6

Houston (53-24)
Pace: 99.2 (2) OffRtg: 104.0 (12) DefRtg: 100.4 (7) NetRtg: +3.6 (7)
Some games against bad defenses have given both the Rockets' offense and James Harden's MVP campaign a boost. He dropped 51 on the Kings on Wednesday, 41 in Oklahoma City on Sunday, and became the second player in NBA history (Gilbert Arenas with 205 and 606 in 2006-07 was the other) to make 200 threes and 600 free throws in a season.
This week: @ SAS, vs. SAS, vs. NOP

7

Last week: 8

Portland (50-26)
Pace: 96.2 (13) OffRtg: 105.8 (8) DefRtg: 100.9 (8) NetRtg: +4.9 (5)
Only the Thunder have regressed more defensively since the All-Star break, but the Blazers' offense has kicked back in. They've scored more than 117 points per 100 possessions over their last five games, getting a lift off the bench from C.J. McCollum. They're leaving some guys at home for their one-game road trip to Brooklyn, a result of a January snowstorm.
This week: @ BKN, vs. MIN, @ GSW, vs. UTA

8

Last week: 7

Memphis (52-25)
Pace: 94.3 (26) OffRtg: 102.9 (14) DefRtg: 100.0 (5) NetRtg: +2.9 (11)
The Grizzlies miss Tony Allen, who's still nursing a sprained hamstring. They're 6-8 in games he's missed and have been outscored by 3.1 points per 100 possessions in 2,093 minutes with him off the floor. He obviously makes a bigger difference on defense, but the Grizz shot an Allen-esque 8-for-38 from outside the paint in Saturday's loss to Washington.
This week: vs. NOP, @ UTA, @ LAC

9

Last week: 10

Chicago (46-31)
Pace: 95.2 (23) OffRtg: 104.8 (10) DefRtg: 101.8 (12) NetRtg: +3.0 (10)
Derrick Rose said that he'd "probably" return this week, giving him 3-5 games to get ready for the playoffs. Things have changed since he last played on Feb. 23. Specifically, Nikola Mirotic has a bigger role, playing almost every minute of every fourth quarter since March 1. Rose has played only 240 minutes with Mirotic and thrown him only 75 passes.
This week: @ ORL, @ MIA, vs. PHI

10

Last week: 12

New Orleans (41-35)
Pace: 93.7 (27) OffRtg: 105.5 (9) DefRtg: 104.6 (22) NetRtg: +0.9 (14)
Ryan Anderson is back and he gave the Pelicans an expected lift on offense last week. If the Warriors have the best shooting backcourt, the Pelicans have the best shooting frontline combination. They've scored 110 points per 100 possessions in about 1,800 minutes with Anderson and Anthony Davis on the floor together over the last three seasons.
This week: vs. GSW, @ MEM, vs. PHX, @ HOU

11

Last week: 9

Oklahoma City (42-35)
Pace: 98.3 (6) OffRtg: 104.1 (11) DefRtg: 102.7 (15) NetRtg: +1.4 (13)
Russell Westbrook keeps ripping off triple-doubles (11 and counting), but the Thunder have lost five of their last six games, allowing almost 113 points per 100 possessions. They still have a half-game edge on the Pelicans for eighth in the West, with an easier remaining schedule, but their defense is so bad that nothing is guaranteed.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. SAC, @ IND

12

Last week: 14

Washington (44-33)
Pace: 96.0 (16) OffRtg: 101.9 (17) DefRtg: 99.8 (4) NetRtg: +2.0 (12)
Putting the ball in the basket remains a serious issue, but the Wizards are still pretty good defensively. In fact, they're one of three teams (the Spurs and Warriors are the others) that have ranked in the top five in defensive efficiency both before and after the break. They've held their opponents to just 92 points per 100 possessions as they've won four of five.
This week: @ PHI, @ BKN, vs. ATL

13

Last week: 11

Dallas (46-31)
Pace: 97.2 (9) OffRtg: 106.9 (5) DefRtg: 103.5 (18) NetRtg: +3.4 (8)
The postseason is a fresh start for everybody and late-season swoons don't typically portend failure in the playoffs. But teams should certainly be fighting for the 2 seed and a chance to open against the Mavs, who are now back to having issues on defense. Dirk Nowitzki has looked really slow on that end, where they've ranked 28th over the last four weeks.
This week: vs. PHX, @ DEN, @ LAL

14

Last week: 16

Utah (35-42)
Pace: 92.5 (30) OffRtg: 102.4 (15) DefRtg: 102.0 (13) NetRtg: +0.4 (17)
The Jazz are, by far, the most improved team since the All-Star break, 11.2 points per 100 possessions better than they were before it (12.9 better on defense, 1.7 worse on offense). But for a harsh dose of reality, note that the team that showed the most post-break improvement last season was Charlotte. And the season before that, it was Sacramento.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. MEM, @ POR

15

Last week: 15

Toronto (45-32)
Pace: 95.6 (20) OffRtg: 108.3 (3) DefRtg: 105.2 (25) NetRtg: +3.1 (9)
Monday's victory over the Rockets wasn't just the Raptors' second win over a team with the winning record since the All-Star break. It was also just their second win in a game that was within five points in the last five minutes since the break. Over the weekend, they lost two more to fall to a league-worst 2-8 in those "clutch" games since All-Star.
This week: @ CHA, @ ORL, @ MIA

16

Last week: 17

Boston (35-42)
Pace: 98.4 (5) OffRtg: 101.4 (21) DefRtg: 102.6 (14) NetRtg: -1.3 (19)
With his team down one and three seconds on the clock on Saturday, Brad Stevens saw Jared Sullinger put the ball on the floor and said, "No thanks!" He called another timeout and drew up the play to get Isaiah Thomas on the run and get the basket that kept the Celtics in eighth place. Their schedule gets tougher, unless LeBron James needs some rest.
This week: @ DET, @ CLE, vs. CLE

17

Last week: 18

Brooklyn (35-41)
Pace: 94.9 (24) OffRtg: 101.8 (18) DefRtg: 105.1 (24) NetRtg: -3.4 (23)
Since mid-March, the Nets are 10-3, with a minus-8 point differential. They've won nine straight games that were within five points in the last five minutes, but have had their butts handed to them when it wasn't their night. Their new starting lineup has been great and only the Spurs have been more improved offensively since the break, but the D still stinks.
This week: vs. POR, vs. ATL, vs. WAS, @ MIL

18

Last week: 13

Miami (34-43)
Pace: 93.1 (29) OffRtg: 101.4 (20) DefRtg: 103.9 (19) NetRtg: -2.4 (22)
A four-game losing streak has taken the Heat from seventh to 10th in the East and ensured that they will finish with a losing record for the first time in seven years. Heat players not named Goran Dragic have shot 13-for-63 (21 percent) from 3-point range, but defense has been the bigger issue during the streak, whether or not they've had any big men available.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. CHI, vs. TOR

19

Last week: 19

Phoenix (39-38)
Pace: 99.0 (3) OffRtg: 103.5 (13) DefRtg: 103.1 (17) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)
The Suns escaped even more last-second heartbreak when P.J. Tucker got away with a bump on Rodney Hood's game-winning attempt on Saturday. To have a chance at finishing with a winning record, they'll need at least two road wins against teams over .500 this week. They only have one road win over a team that's currently over .500 since Christmas.
This week: @ ATL, @ DAL, @ NOP, @ SAS

20

Last week: 20

Milwaukee (38-39)
Pace: 96.3 (12) OffRtg: 100.5 (25) DefRtg: 99.7 (3) NetRtg: +0.8 (15)
The Bucks ended an 11-game, road losing streak in Boston on Friday, but they still have some work to do after losing at home to the Magic a night later. Zaza Pachulia doesn't get a lot of recognition, but has been an essential part of the Bucks' ensemble. Since the All-Star break, they've been 16.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.
This week: vs. CLE, @ NYK, vs. BKN

21

Last week: 21

Indiana (34-43)
Pace: 95.7 (19) OffRtg: 100.5 (24) DefRtg: 101.0 (10) NetRtg: -0.5 (18)
Paul George's 2014-15 debut on Sunday couldn't have gone much better for PG-13 and the Pacers. He shot 3-for-6 from 3-point range and was a plus-12 in less than 15 minutes, helping build on the lead in the second half and get a big win over the Heat. Just as important was the first quarter, which Indiana won for just the second time in its last 15 games.
This week: @ NYK, @ DET, vs. OKC

22

Last week: 22

Detroit (30-47)
Pace: 95.2 (22) OffRtg: 101.7 (19) DefRtg: 104.0 (21) NetRtg: -2.4 (21)
At one point this season, the Pistons lost 12 straight at home. But the Palace has become a tough time to play over the last few weeks. Their five-game, home winning streak has included wins over four top-4 seeds and Saturday's comeback from 15 down in the fourth quarter against the Heat. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has shot much better at home.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. IND, vs. CHA

23

Last week: 23

Charlotte (33-43)
Pace: 95.6 (21) OffRtg: 98.0 (28) DefRtg: 100.3 (6) NetRtg: -2.3 (20)
The Hornets are just a game in the loss column out of eighth place, but play four of their last six games on the road, where they've lost six of their last seven. Al Jefferson might not play again this season and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's ankle is still swollen. No. 9 pick Noah Vonleh played more than 10 minutes in two straight games for the first time over the weekend.
This week: @ MIA, vs. TOR, @ ATL, @ DET

24

Last week: 27

Orlando (24-53)
Pace: 95.9 (17) OffRtg: 99.7 (26) DefRtg: 105.5 (26) NetRtg: -5.8 (26)
Back-to-back road wins, in which Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic combined to average 52.5 points and 23.0 rebounds, made the Magic the 10th team to surpass last season's win total. But an increase from 23 to 24 (or slightly more) isn't what we were expecting from a team that will be three years from the Dwight Howard trade when next season tips off.
This week: vs. CHI, vs. TOR, vs. NYK

25

Last week: 24

Sacramento (26-50)
Pace: 97.9 (8) OffRtg: 101.9 (16) DefRtg: 106.3 (27) NetRtg: -4.4 (25)
The Kings can surpass last year's win total (28) if they can beat the Wolves and Lakers twice. But they've lost five straight, giving up 18.4 fast break points per game during the streak. They've allowed a league-high 17.0 for the season, so, come October, George Karl might want to begin training camp with a emphasis on transition defense.
This week: vs. MIN, @ UTA, @ OKC, @ DEN

26

Last week: 25

Denver (28-49)
Pace: 98.4 (4) OffRtg: 100.7 (23) DefRtg: 105.1 (23) NetRtg: -4.4 (24)
If you're looking for a team that has let go of the rope, start with the one that trailed last week's games (against the Jazz, Spurs and Clippers) by 25, 37 and 24 points. After winning six of their first eight games under Melvin Hunt, the Nuggets have lost eight of their last 10. Lottery combinations will be on the line when they host the Kings on Sunday.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. DAL, vs. SAC

27

Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (20-56)
Pace: 96.2 (14) OffRtg: 100.7 (22) DefRtg: 107.5 (29) NetRtg: -6.8 (27)
The Lakers' second win over the Sixers (capped by Jordan Clarkson's game-winner) basically ensured that they will have a 17.2 percent chance (instead of a four percent chance had they finished with a worse record than Philly) of losing their pick ... to the Sixers. They went on to lose their next three games by 79 points, getting burned from the outside.
This week: @ LAC, @ DEN, vs. MIN, vs. DAL

28

Last week: 30

New York (15-62)
Pace: 93.5 (28) OffRtg: 97.3 (29) DefRtg: 107.4 (28) NetRtg: -10.1 (30)
The Knicks have been worse offensively than the historically-bad-offensively Sixers since the All-Star break, but in Sunday's win over Philly, they shot at least 50 percent for the first time since Dec. 7. They still have a one-game "lead" in the win column over the Wolves for the highest odds in the Lottery, but also have a couple of winnable games this week.
This week: vs. IND, vs. MIL, @ ORL

29

Last week: 28

Minnesota (16-60)
Pace: 96.9 (11) OffRtg: 99.6 (27) DefRtg: 109.0 (30) NetRtg: -9.4 (29)
Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio are done for the season, but there's still some hope that we'll see Kevin Garnett again. Andrew Wiggins is set to play all 82 games and has scored 20-plus points in seven of the last nine. Among players with at least 200 shots since the All-Star break, he ranks third in post-break free throw rate (FTA/FGA) at 0.496.
This week: @ SAC, @ POR, @ LAL, @ GSW

30

Last week: 26

Philadelphia (18-60)
Pace: 98.2 (7) OffRtg: 92.8 (30) DefRtg: 101.6 (11) NetRtg: -8.9 (28)
The Sixers need another win to match their total from last season (when they had real NBA veterans on their roster), but may have lost their best chance at it in New York on Sunday. They actually rank as the second best fourth-quarter team since the All-Star break, but just couldn't stop Langston Galloway down the stretch at Madison Square Garden.
This week: vs. WAS, @ CHI