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Power Rankings: Golden State Warriors clearly best in West as winning streak rolls through Texas

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Apr 3, 2017 12:06 PM ET

Stephen Curry and the Warriors have found their groove over the past two weeks.

If the East-West discrepancy in the NBA is cyclical, than this has been a really long cycle.

This will be the 17th time in the last 17 seasons that the Western Conference has had a better record than the Eastern Conference. Last season, it looked like the East had made some progress, winning 48 percent of the games played between the conferences, up from 42 percent in 2014-15 and 37 percent in 2013-14.

But this year, the East has won just 45 percent of interconference games. And with 10 days left in the regular season, the East is in danger of having three playoff teams under .500.

The West, meanwhile, could have all eight playoff teams over .500 after the 8 seed was well under for most of the season. With a 14-3 mark since March 1, the Portland Trail Blazers are 38-38 with four of their final six games at home. Not only does the West have the teams with the three best records, but it has the better depth in its playoff field.

In fact, only one East team that's currently in playoff position has a winning record against the top eight teams in the West. That's the Milwaukee Bucks, who are 8-7, with a game in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

Of course, when we get to The Finals, it won't matter what happened between the two conferences in the regular season. The Detroit Pistons won the title in 2003-04, the season with the biggest East-West discrepancy in the last 20 years (the West won 63 percent of interconference games).

It would be hard to pick against the Golden State Warriors right now, but we were saying the same thing at this point last year.

  • Last week: Top two teams face off again this week
  • This time last year: Last playoff spots still up in the air -- The Jazz were in playoff position and the Rockets were not. The Celtics handed the Warriors their first home loss and the Thunder were having fourth-quarter problems. Kyle Lowry had his elbow drained, Blake Griffin returned from a three-month absence, and a D'Angelo Russell prank on Nick Young went a little too far.
  • Hero team of the week: Golden State (4-0) -- The Warriors ran their winning streak to 11 games with four wins over top-10 teams, including a sweep of a road back-to-back in Houston and San Antonio.
  • Zero team of the week: Orlando (0-4) -- The Magic led the Thunder by 21 and the Celtics by 13, but couldn't finish either of them off and capped their week with a loss in Brooklyn on Saturday.
  • East vs. West: The West is 244-202 (.547) against the East in interconference games after going 9-5 last week. With only four interconference games remaining, this will be the 17th time in the last 18 seasons that the West has had the better record.
  • Toughest schedules so far: 1. Sacramento, 2. Memphis, 3. L.A. Lakers
  • Easiest schedules so far: 1. Toronto, 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.
  • High jumps of the week: Charlotte (+5), Chicago (+3), Minnesota (+3), Toronto (+3), Utah (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Orlando (-5), Denver (-3), Indiana (-3), Miami (-3)
  • Team to watch this week: Miami -- The Heat are holding on to eighth place by their fingernails and have three tough road games this week, visiting Charlotte on Wednesday, Toronto on Friday, and Washington on Saturday.

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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 106.2 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

* * *

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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1
Last week:
1

Record: 63-14
Pace: 102.3 (4) OffRtg: 113.2 (1) DefRtg: 101.1 (2) NetRtg: +12.1 (1)

When you can't beat the best team in the league (because that's you), back-to-back road wins over Nos. 2 & 3 is as good as it gets. The Warriors' offense has scored 115 points per 100 possessions over their 11-game winning streak and shot 51 percent against the league's No. 1 defense on Wednesday. The Warriors' defense, meanwhile, held the league's No. 2 offense under a point per possession in two games last week and has held Russell Westbrook and James Harden to a combined 34 percent shooting in eight games against OKC and Houston. It's not clear that they need Kevin Durant back, but he's making good progress toward a return and it may be time to ask the Warriors-or-the-field question.

This week: vs. MIN, @ PHX, vs. NOP

2
Last week:
2

Record: 59-17
Pace: 96.6 (27) OffRtg: 109.4 (7) DefRtg: 100.9 (1) NetRtg: +8.5 (2)

The Spurs couldn't hold onto an early 22-point lead against the Warriors on Tuesday, but 3-1 against four of the league's 10 best teams is a good week, especially with five rotation guys out against Utah on Sunday. They held the Cavs, Thunder and Jazz to just 94 points per 100 possessions in the three wins, with LaMarcus Aldridge making the biggest defensive play of the week. With little chance of the Spurs finishing anywhere other than second in the West and two more back-to-backs on the schedule, there will surely be more rest days in the last six games.

This week: vs. MEM, vs. LAL, @ DAL, vs. LAC

3
Last week:
3

Record: 52-25
Pace: 102.4 (3) OffRtg: 112.0 (2) DefRtg: 106.0 (16) NetRtg: +5.9 (3)

It was an illness that kept James Harden out of Sunday's win in Phoenix, but his first missed game of the season gives his aching wrist four full days off between games. He had shot 29 percent over his last three, the Rockets' first three-game losing streak (and their worst offensive stretch) of the season. Ryan Anderson's absence (over the last five games) has also been a factor, but he could be back by Friday's game against Detroit. The Rockets' regular starters have outscored their opponents by 22.9 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, the best mark among 29 lineups that have played at least 100 post-break minutes.

This week: vs. DEN, vs. DET, @ SAC

4
Last week:
4

Record: 50-27
Pace: 99.2 (13) OffRtg: 108.5 (8) DefRtg: 105.3 (11) NetRtg: +3.2 (7)

The Celtics' defense has suffered a bit (109 points allowed per 100 possessions in the five games prior to Sunday's win in New York) and they fell short of a perfect homestand when the Bucks got 'em in the final minutes on Wednesday. But this was still the week they moved into first place in the East and they'll have a chance to solidify that position when they host the Cavs on Wednesday. The home team has won all three games and it has been a very offensive series thus far, with the teams combining to score 116 points per 100 possessions.

This week: vs. CLE, @ ATL, @ CHA

5
Last week:
8

Record: 47-30
Pace: 97.2 (22) OffRtg: 110.1 (4) DefRtg: 105.0 (8) NetRtg: +5.1 (4)

For the second straight season and thanks to the best bench in the East, the Raptors lead the league in wins after trailing by double-digits, with four more (19) than they had last season (15). They'd have a nine-game winning streak if they didn't blow their own double-digit lead and allow the Hornets to score 44 points in the fourth quarter on Wednesday, but they're back in third place and just might get Kyle Lowry back this week. DeMar DeRozan not only has three 40-point games in the last two weeks, but also three games of eight or more assists in that stretch.

This week: @ IND, @ DET, vs. MIA, @ NYK

6
Last week:
9

Record: 47-30
Pace: 93.7 (30) OffRtg: 107.2 (13) DefRtg: 102.4 (3) NetRtg: +4.8 (5)

We're 77 games into the season, and the Jazz are still shorthanded and their when-healthy starters have still played just 13 games together. But Shelvin Mack stepped up last week (after being out of the rotation for most of the last three months), the scoring was balanced in their three wins (with Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles combining to shoot 22-for-30 from 3-point range), and their defense has remained stifling. Still, after Sunday's loss in San Antonio, they have a lot of work to do to hold onto the 4 seed, and only one of their five remaining games (Friday vs. the Wolves) is against a team currently under .500.

This week: vs. POR, vs. MIN, @ POR

7
Last week:
5

Record: 46-31
Pace: 99.8 (11) OffRtg: 108.4 (9) DefRtg: 106.8 (20) NetRtg: +1.6 (9)

The Wizards began their five-game trip with a win in Cleveland, but ended it with their first three-game losing streak since mid-November. They got chewed apart by the Clippers and Warriors and are set to have a below-average defense for the first time in five years. Only the Grizzlies (7.0 points per 100 possessions) have seen a bigger increase in Defensive Rating since the All-Star break than the Wiz (6.2), who have allowed 111.2 points per 100 possessions since the break after allowing only 105.0 before it. Tuesday's game against Charlotte will be their last against an above-average offense, though.

This week: vs. CHA, @ NYK, vs. MIA

8
Last week:
6

Record: 49-27
Pace: 98.4 (17) OffRtg: 111.0 (3) DefRtg: 108.1 (24) NetRtg: +3.0 (8)

With J.R. Smith (14-for-25 from 3-point range over the last three games) finally finding his rhythm, there's a little less pressure on the Cavs' defense. But LeBron James played a season-high 52 minutes in Game 76 on Sunday (a double-OT win over Indiana), that defense couldn't stop a fairly simple pin-down action from freeing up Paul George (causing some serious friction between James and Tristan Thompson), and Wednesday's game in Boston (with first place in the East on the line) will be the second game of a back-to-back for the Cavs.

This week: vs. ORL, @ BOS, vs. ATL, @ ATL

9
Last week:
7

Record: 43-33
Pace: 100.7 (7) OffRtg: 104.9 (17) DefRtg: 105.2 (9) NetRtg: -0.3 (15)

In the span of five days, the Thunder were a part of three of the wildest comebacks of the season. On Monday, they came back from 13 down with 3:30 left to beat the Mavs, with Russell Westbrook scoring 12 of their final 14 points. On Wednesday, they came back from 21 points down to win in Orlando, with Westbrook registering an unprecedented, 57-point triple-double. But on Friday, OKC blew its own 21-point lead against San Antonio, falling to 2-9 against the top three teams in the West. Sunday's loss to Charlotte was their fourth straight game scoring less than a point per possession (even though Westbrook has averaged 41.5 points over the four games) and dropped them to 8-8 since March 1.

This week: vs. MIL, @ MEM, @ PHX, @ DEN

10
Last week:
11

Record: 47-31
Pace: 98.4 (16) OffRtg: 109.9 (6) DefRtg: 106.2 (17) NetRtg: +3.7 (6)

Wins haven't come easy for the Clippers. Even when they scored the first 17 points of the game on Saturday, they allowed the Lakers to come back and take the lead before improving to 18-2 against their arena-mates over the last five years. But the Clips have won three straight and seven of their last nine to stay ahead of the Thunder and remain in the 4-5 matchup in the West. They've scored a 115.7 points per 100 possessions (second only to the Warriors) in that stretch, with Blake Griffin shooting 15-for-33 from 3-point range and leading six guys averaging double-figures over the nine games. But one of the other five is Austin Rivers, who is likely done for the regular season with a hamstring injury. Even though Chris Paul has missed 21 games, he and Rivers have played 242 more minutes together this season (538) than they did last season (296) and the Clippers have outscored their opponents by 11.1 points per 100 possessions in those minutes.

This week: vs. DAL, @ SAS

11
Last week:
12

Record: 38-38
Pace: 99.4 (12) OffRtg: 108.0 (11) DefRtg: 108.0 (23) NetRtg: -0.1 (14)

Jusuf Nurkic played the best game of his career in the biggest game of the year, leading the Blazers to a crucial win over his former team with 33 points and 15 rebounds on Tuesday. Nurkic was lost for at least the rest of the regular season with a leg fracture on Thursday, but the Blazers have continued to put distance between themselves and the Nuggets. They've won six straight games, are a league-best 14-3 since March 1, and have reached .500 for the first time since they were 12-12. With Thursday's victory over Houston, they've won five of their last seven games against teams above .500, having been 6-21 against that group previously. With three games left against teams over .500 (Utah and San Antonio) and three against teams below (Minnesota and New Orleans), their magic number (combination of Blazers wins and Nuggets losses) to clinch a playoff spot is four.

This week: @ MIN, @ UTA, vs. MIN, vs. UTA

12
Last week:
14

Record: 40-37
Pace: 96.8 (26) OffRtg: 107.8 (12) DefRtg: 106.7 (19) NetRtg: +1.1 (11)

The Bucks are 15-4 with Khris Middleton in the starting lineup (though nine of the wins have been within five points in the last five minutes), with quality road wins in Charlotte and Boston last week. But with Malcolm Brogdon out (and Matthew Dellavedova in the starting lineup) over the weekend, their bench struggled (they were outscored by 25 points in 32 minutes with Dellavedova off the floor) against Detroit and Dallas. They lost on Sunday, but remain a game ahead of Atlanta for fifth place in the East (with the Hawks holding the tiebreaker).

This week: @ OKC, @ IND, @ PHI

13
Last week:
10

Record: 37-40
Pace: 97.6 (20) OffRtg: 104.9 (16) DefRtg: 104.1 (5) NetRtg: +0.8 (12)

It remains remarkable what the Heat have done in the second half of the season, but their 10-21 record without Dion Waiters (with a home loss to the Knicks on Friday) is a reminder of just how small their margin for error has been all season. Four of their last five games have been within two points in the final minute and Hassan Whiteside's buzzer-beating tip-in in Detroit on Tuesday (along with the head-to-head tiebreaker against Indiana) is keeping them in eighth place. But after two straight losses at home, they have to circle the wagons for a big week on the road.

This week: @ CHA, @ TOR, @ WAS

14
Last week:
17

Record: 38-39
Pace: 97.5 (21) OffRtg: 104.5 (20) DefRtg: 105.6 (13) NetRtg: -1.0 (19)

The Bulls have come up with a rare stretch of consistency (and potent offense) in time to save their season. They've won four straight games, have shot an amazing 43 percent from 3-point range over their last eight, and got more game-winning free throws from the league's most clutch free-throw shooter (that's Jimmy Butler) against Atlanta on Saturday. With their final five gams against the Knicks, Sixers, Nets (x 2) and Magic, and with the Bucks and Hawks playing much tougher schedules, the Bulls actually have a chance of finishing as high as fifth in the East (though they wouldn't have the tiebreaker against either Milwaukee or Atlanta).

This week: @ NYK, @ PHI, @ BKN

15
Last week:
20

Record: 36-41
Pace: 98.1 (19) OffRtg: 106.7 (14) DefRtg: 105.6 (12) NetRtg: +1.2 (10)

The Hornets are making a late playoff run having won seven of their last nine games, with impressive victories in Toronto and Oklahoma City last week. They've scored 114.5 points per 100 possessions over the nine games, the second best offensive stretch they've had in four years under Steve Clifford. Kemba Walker (24.2 points per game) has led the way, but bench contributions from Frank Kaminsky and Marco Belinelli have been critical and Jeremy Lamb provided a big lift against his old team on Sunday. Amazingly, they're just a game behind the eighth-place Heat, will host them on Wednesday, and would hold the tiebreaker if they win that game.

This week: @ WAS, vs. MIA, vs. BOS

16
Last week:
13

Record: 36-40
Pace: 100.4 (8) OffRtg: 110.0 (5) DefRtg: 111.1 (29) NetRtg: -1.0 (18)

With their season likely on the line in Portland on Tuesday, we saw the Nuggets' poor defense more than their potent offense. Not only did they allow the Blazers to shoot 49 percent (with Jusuf Nurkic getting all 12 of his buckets within five feet of the basket), but the league's fifth best defensive rebounding team also allowed Portland to grab 15 offensive rebounds and register a season-high 27 second-chance points. Sunday's quality win in Miami kept the Nuggets alive, but Danilo Gallinari may have busted out of his shooting slump a little too late and they need help from the Wolves or Jazz this week

This week: @ NOP, @ HOU, vs. NOP, vs. OKC

17
Last week:
15

Record: 42-35
Pace: 95.0 (28) OffRtg: 104.8 (18) DefRtg: 104.5 (7) NetRtg: +0.3 (13)

The Grizzlies are looking a little like they did at this point last year, with three projected starters - Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol - out all or most of last week. But they got a couple of wins and clinched their seventh straight playoff berth by breaking out of an offensive slump and scoring 113 points per 100 possessions against Indiana and Dallas behind 64 total points from Mike Conley. Brandan Wright has filled in nicely, but in the five games that Gasol has missed over the last eight days, they've been outscored by 25 points in the 55 minutes that Conley has been on the bench. They're almost certainly looking at a first round matchup with the Spurs, who they've beat twice at home and who they'll visit on Tuesday.

This week: @ SAS, vs. OKC, vs. NYK, vs. DET

18
Last week:
19

Record: 33-44
Pace: 100.0 (9) OffRtg: 103.1 (25) DefRtg: 104.3 (6) NetRtg: -1.2 (20)

In their first 10 games together, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were a minus-24, with the Pelicans scoring a paltry 91.1 points per 100 possessions in their 200 minutes. In their last six games together, Davis and Cousins are a plus-59, with the Pels scoring 111.6 points per 100 possessions in those 156 minutes. That stretch coincides with Tim Frazier moving back into the starting lineup alongside Jrue Holiday, even though Frazier has shot 33 percent since the move. They're figuring things out and with four of their last five games against bottom-10 defenses, the strong offensive numbers should continue.

This week: vs. DEN, @ DEN, @ GSW

19
Last week:
16

Record: 37-40
Pace: 98.3 (18) OffRtg: 105.6 (15) DefRtg: 106.5 (18) NetRtg: -1.0 (17)

A 1-6 stretch, in which they've allowed 114 points per 100 possessions, has taken the Pacers from sixth place to ninth. Tuesday's loss to Minnesota (with Jeff Teague fouling Ricky Rubio on a 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds left) and Sunday's loss in Cleveland (with Paul George - a 90 percent free throw shooter - missing one of two from the line at the end of the first overtime), were particularly painful, though they still have the league's seventh best record (22-16) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Injuries to Glenn Robinson, Rodney Stuckey and Al Jefferson have sapped their depth, but the bad defense has started with the starters. Over these last seven games, they've allowed 123 points per 100 possessions with George, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young on the floor.

This week: vs. TOR, vs. MIL, @ ORL

20
Last week:
18

Record: 39-38
Pace: 99.9 (10) OffRtg: 101.8 (28) DefRtg: 103.1 (4) NetRtg: -1.3 (21)

The Hawks got Paul Millsap back from an eight-game absence in Brooklyn on Sunday, but he couldn't give their offense much of a lift shooting 4-for-14. They picked up a couple of critical Millsap-less wins earlier in the week, but they've lost to the Nets twice in the last eight days, and now their schedule gets much tougher. With their next four games coming against the top two teams in the East and a team (Charlotte) that has won seven of its last nine games, it's not hard to imagine the East's final playoff spot coming down to their game in Indiana on the last night of the season.

This week: vs. BOS, @ CLE, vs. CLE

21
Last week:
21

Record: 32-44
Pace: 94.0 (29) OffRtg: 104.0 (22) DefRtg: 106.0 (15) NetRtg: -2.0 (22)

The Mavs will miss the playoffs for just the second time in the last 17 years and will likely rank as a bottom-10 offensive team for the first time since they drafted Dirk Nowitzki. Despite the addition of Harrison Barnes, only three teams have suffered a bigger drop-off in offensive efficiency than the Mavs, who have scored 0.8 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season. Among the 31 players who have taken at least 1,000 shots this season, Barnes ranks 26th in true shooting percentage. Wesley Matthews has had a second season of below-average shooting in the wake of his Achilles injury, and it's unclear if this team has a full-time playmaker. But their year of transition will continue with a lottery pick in what appears to be a strong draft.

This week: @ SAC, @ LAC, vs. SAS, @ PHX

22
Last week:
25

Record: 30-45
Pace: 97.0 (23) OffRtg: 108.0 (10) DefRtg: 108.5 (25) NetRtg: -0.4 (16)

The Wolves' streak of not making the playoffs has officially hit 13 seasons, the second longest in NBA history. Before March 21, Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn had never played more than six minutes together in a game. But the two point guards have played 82 minutes together over the last six games. Dunn's ascension to the starting point guard spot didn't happen this season and maybe it doesn't happen next season if Tom Thibodeau decides he can find enough minutes for both by giving them 10-15 minutes together every night. Rubio scored a career-high 33 points in Thursday's win over the Lakers and has averaged 18.7 points (with an effective field goal percentage of 52 percent) and 10.4 assists over the last 11 games.

This week: vs. POR, @ GSW, @ POR, @ UTA, @ LAL

23
Last week:
22

Record: 35-42
Pace: 97.0 (24) OffRtg: 103.1 (26) DefRtg: 105.2 (10) NetRtg: -2.1 (23)

In the last two weeks, Reggie Jackson went from starter to reserve to inactive for the last four games. Beno Udrih gave the Pistons good back-up minutes against the Nets and Bucks on Thursday and Friday, but the Pistons came one bucket short of getting the win in the more important of those games and are going to miss the playoffs for the seventh time in the last eight years. In fact, because they've been swept by the Cavs in their last two appearances, they're the only Eastern Conference team that hasn't won a playoff game since 2008. Since the All-Star break, they've been outscored by an amazing 36 points per 100 possessions in the first six minutes of the first quarter, as none of their starting lineups have worked.

This week: vs. TOR, @ HOU, @ MEM

24
Last week:
26

Record: 30-47
Pace: 96.9 (25) OffRtg: 104.2 (21) DefRtg: 109.1 (27) NetRtg: -4.9 (25)

With Buddy Hield continuing to shoot well, the Kings' other 2016 lottery pick is starting to get some playing time off the bench. For a 19 year old, 7-1 Georgios Papagiannis has looked rather comfortable in the post as he has shot 19-for-30 over his last five games. Dave Joerger is also playing his other young core pieces - Hield, Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein - more together, with Labissiere starting the last three games. He has shot well from mid-range (55 percent), but has attempted just five threes in his rookie season.

This week: vs. DAL, @ LAL, vs. HOU

25
Last week:
27

Record: 29-48
Pace: 98.9 (15) OffRtg: 104.6 (19) DefRtg: 108.6 (26) NetRtg: -4.0 (24)

Before almost every game, the opposing coach is asked about the Knicks. And the word most often used in those situations (as a platitude) is "dangerous." The Knicks actually lived up to that description last week, playing spoiler in wins over the Pistons and Heat, holding both under a point per possession. Derrick Rose scored 27 points in the win over Detroit, but that was likely the last game he'll play for the Knicks, because he suffered yet another knee injury, a torn meniscus in his left knee. Rose had his most efficient scoring season (true shooting percentage of 53.0 percent) since his original knee injury in 2012, but the Knicks will obviously need to make the point guard position their No. 1 priority this summer.

This week: vs. CHI, vs. WAS, @ MEM, vs. TOR

26
Last week:
24

Record: 28-49
Pace: 101.0 (5) OffRtg: 100.5 (30) DefRtg: 105.9 (14) NetRtg: -5.4 (26)

Tiago Splitter played his first game in more than a year last week, but Jahlil Okafor (knee soreness) and Robert Covington (meniscus tear) joined Jerryd Bayless, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the Sixers' done-for-the-season list. At one point against Brooklyn on Tuesday, they were playing a lineup with Nik Stauskas at point guard and Dario Saric at center. Covington's absence creates a larger role for rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who scored a career-high 19 points in Cleveland on Friday and then topped that with 23 in Toronto on Sunday.

This week: vs. BKN, vs. CHI, vs. MIL

27
Last week:
28

Record: 18-59
Pace: 103.5 (1) OffRtg: 101.9 (27) DefRtg: 108.0 (22) NetRtg: -6.1 (28)

The Nets have shot 29 percent from 3-point range over the last two weeks, but are 5-3 (and had late leads in two of the three losses) with the league's best defense in that stretch, taking advantage of a soft close to their schedule (and a relatively healthy roster). They're playing 12 of their final 14 games against the league's worst 11 offenses, allowing them to climb from 28th to 22nd in defensive efficiency. Sunday's win over Atlanta ended a 22-game losing streak in the second game of a back-to-back and was just their fourth win over a team currently in playoff position. Two of the four have come against the Hawks.

This week: @ PHI, @ ORL, vs. CHI

28
Last week:
23

Record: 27-50
Pace: 98.9 (14) OffRtg: 101.2 (29) DefRtg: 107.6 (21) NetRtg: -6.4 (29)

If Russell Westbrook wins the MVP award, Nikola Vucevic will have done his part, missing the free throw that set up Westbrook's ridiculous game-tying three and allowing him to add seven points, four rebounds and two assists in the extra five minutes of a signature performance on Wednesday. The Magic's bench issues continued in Brooklyn on Saturday, when their starting lineup was a plus-10, but they were outscored by 20 points in 26 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor. Mario Hezonja hasn't benefited from a more consistent role; Among the 220 players who have taken at least 100 shots since the All-Star break, only Stanley Johnson (36.0 percent) and Marcus Smart (36.4 percent) and have a lower effective field goal percentage than Hezonja (37.6 percent).

This week: @ CLE, vs. BKN, vs. IND

29
Last week:
30

Record: 22-55
Pace: 100.8 (6) OffRtg: 103.6 (23) DefRtg: 111.3 (30) NetRtg: -7.7 (30)

The Lakers got their first real spoiler victory since the break on Sunday, with D'Angelo Russell recovering from a rough week (6-for-30 over the previous nine quarters) to score 28 points against the Grizzlies. Brandon Ingram has been more consistent, scoring in double-figures in 12 straight games and shooting well both in the restricted area (72 percent) and from mid-range (53 percent) over that stretch. More consistent has been the Lakers' defense, which is five games from ranking last in two straight seasons, with three of those games against top-10 offenses.

This week: @ SAS, vs. SAC, vs. MIN

30
Last week:
29

Record: 22-56
Pace: 102.9 (2) OffRtg: 103.5 (24) DefRtg: 109.1 (28) NetRtg: -5.6 (27)

Marquese Chriss was mostly an athlete early in the season, but has shown a more complete offensive game since the All-Star break. He's made at least one 3-pointer in 17 of the Suns' 21 games since the break and ranks as one of the league's most improved shooters, with a post-break effective field goal percentage of 57.4 percent, third best among rookies with at least 100 FGA (and up from 47.2 percent before the break). Even with Chriss shooting better and Devin Booker scoring 70 points, the Suns rank 28th offensively over a 12-game losing streak that has put them even with the Lakers (in the win column) for the second best lottery odds.

This week: vs. GSW, vs. OKC, vs. DAL


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