The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have each lost five of their last seven games. Time to panic, worry, or just mild concern?
Probably not. Both teams can blame the schedule, having played each of their last seven games in a different city. And both teams can blame injuries, missing All-Star forwards - Kevins Durant and Love - for all (in the case of Love) or all but a minute and 33 seconds (in the case of Durant) of the seven-game stretch.
But the slides have made things interesting in regard to the No. 1 seed in both conferences. The Warriors are now just a half game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs, having lost the tiebreaker with Saturday's star-free defeat in San Antonio. And the Cavs are just two games ahead of both Washington and Boston in the East, with head-to-head games remaining against both of those teams.
The Warriors still rank as a top-2 team on both ends of the floor and still have three healthy All-Stars. But the Cavs have dropped to 22nd in defensive efficiency and have become even more reliant on LeBron James than they already were, having been outscored by 32 points per 100 possessions in 101 minutes with him off the floor this month.
In the last 40 years, only three teams have won the championship after ranking outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency. But all three of those teams - the 1988 Lakers, the 1995 Rockets and the 2001 Lakers - were defending champs, so the Cavs have that going for them. Both the Cavs and Warriors will need to flip the switch somewhat come April 15, but they also need to stabilize themselves in the next few weeks in order to hold onto home-court advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs.
- Last week: Chase for No. 8 seed in West heats up
- This time last year: Warriors leading an offensive surge -- Grizzlies point guards Mike Conley and Mario Chalmers were both done for the season. So was O.J. Mayo, who broke his ankle falling down the stairs in his house. The Kings suspended DeMarcus Cousins for yelling at George Karl, Stephen Curry hit a ridiculous shot, Ricky Rubio hit a game-winning three, and Kanye West offered to redesign the Clippers' mascot.
- Plus-minus studs: Allen Crabbe (POR) and Khris Middleton (MIL) were both a plus-49 in four games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Dwyane Wade (CHI) was a minus-63 in two games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Washington (4-0) -- The Wizards beat four West teams with losing records, but coming back from 21 down in Portland on Saturday after playing overtime in Sacramento the night before was pretty darn impressive.
- Zero team of the week: Memphis (0-3) -- The Grizzlies' five-game losing streak includes a double-digit home loss to Brooklyn on Monday.
- East vs. West: The West is 211-177 (.544) against the East in interconference games after going 9-10 (0-4 vs. Washington) last week.
- Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Brooklyn, 2. Sacramento, 3. L.A. Lakers
- Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. Washington, 3. Indiana
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
- High jumps of the week: Milwaukee (+7), Miami (+4), Six teams (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Memphis (-8), Chicago (-5), Sacramento (-4)
- Team to watch this week: Portland -- The Blazers' schedule is home heavy starting next week, but they first have to complete a trip with four road games (two back-to-backs) against top-10 defenses - New Orleans, San Antonio, Atlanta and Miami.
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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 98.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 106.1 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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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.
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