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Power Rankings: History happening in two places

POSTED: Feb 29, 2016 11:43 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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Are we on pace to see two 70-win teams this season in the Spurs and Warriors? Maybe.

The San Antonio Spurs are 50-9, on pace for 69 wins, a number that only one team in NBA history has eclipsed. They've outscored their opponents by 13.6 points per 100 possessions, a bigger differential than that of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls or any other team of the last 40 years.

All three teams that have won at least 69 games and eight of the 10 that have won at least 67 have gone on to win the NBA championship. All four teams that have recorded a regular-season NetRtg of better than plus-10.0 have won the title.

But in 2015-16, 50-9 is somehow second best, because the Golden State Warriors are something we've never seen before.

The champs topped themselves again on Saturday, coming back from 11 down with less than five minutes to go in Oklahoma City to beat the Thunder in overtime on Stephen Curry's ridiculous game-winner. Amazingly, we wouldn't have gotten there if Kevin Durant didn't throw the ball away or if Andre Iguodala (9-for-30 on fourth quarter free throws in last year's playoffs) didn't hit two freebies with a second to go in regulation.

The Spurs got waxed by the Warriors in their only head-to-head meeting a month ago. It'll be another 20 days before they get them at home (where San Antonio is still undefeated), and there are two more meetings in April. Maybe the champs will knock the Spurs off their win pace, and maybe the Spurs will keep the Warriors from getting 73 wins.

At this point, they're both set to make history, but only one will still be playing in June.

* * *

• Last week: Deadline doesn't alter the landscape
• This time last year: Post-break hoops gets ugly -- Derrick Rose suffered a second torn meniscus in 15 months and Andre Roberson put a dent in Russell Westbrook's face. Rick Carlisle and Rajon Rondo had a shouting match on the Mavs' bench, Jusuf Nurkic gave Markieff Morris the business, and Kobe Bryant wasn't happy with the way his teammates celebrated a win over Boston.

• Plus-minus stud: Tobias Harris (DET) was a plus-65 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Julius Randle (LAL) was a minus-63 in three games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Detroit (4-0) -- The Pistons ended a five-game slide and beat the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, one on the road and the other on the second night of a back-to-back.
• Zero team of the week: Philadelphia (0-4) -- The Sixers had some winnable games last week, but allowed their opponents (all below-average offensive teams) to score 115 points per 100 possessions.

• Team to watch this week: Portland -- The Blazers' week will be a good test of East vs. West. Portland has won 13 of its last 15 and will visit Boston (13-4 since Jan. 22), Toronto (18-4 since Jan. 6) and Detroit (on a four-game winning streak) after Tuesday's game in New York.

• East vs. West: The West is 180-158 (.533) against the East in interconference games after going 7-5 (Golden State and Portland were each 3-0) last week.

• Toughest schedules so far: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Denver, 3. Milwaukee
• Easiest schedules so far: 1. San Antonio, 2. Oklahoma City, 3. Portland
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: Detroit (+5), Atlanta (+3), Phoenix (+2), Toronto (+2)
• Free falls of the week: Memphis (-3), Five teams (-2)

* * *

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 98.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.4 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.

1

Last week: 1

Golden State (53-5)
Pace: 102.4 (2) OffRtg: 112.6 (1) DefRtg: 100.0 (5) NetRtg: +12.6 (2)
The champs still have three more games against the Spurs, but when you take home/away and back-to-backs into account, they just finished their toughest stretch of the 2015-16 schedule. They went 5-1 on their post-break road trip and now play 17 of their final 24 games at home, where they've won 42 straight in the regular season. Thursday's rematch against the Thunder will tell us more about OKC than the Warriors.
This week: vs. ATL, vs. OKC, @ LAL

2

Last week: 2

San Antonio (50-9)
Pace: 96.4 (23) OffRtg: 109.2 (3) DefRtg: 95.7 (1) NetRtg: +13.6 (1)
Kawhi Leonard returned from a three-game absence and reclaimed his league lead in 3-point percentage by shooting 8-for-14 from beyond the arc last week. More important is that the Spurs held the Kings, Jazz and Rockets to less than 90 points per 100 possessions to finish 7-1 on the rodeo trip. They have only six games remaining against teams currently under .500, and three of them are in the next nine days.
This week: vs. DET, @ NOP, vs. SAC

3

Last week: 4

Oklahoma City (41-18)
Pace: 99.3 (9) OffRtg: 109.8 (2) DefRtg: 102.6 (13) NetRtg: +7.2 (3)
Curry broke their hearts, but the Thunder gave us one good reason why they may be the Warriors' toughest matchup. If the champs can't get defensive rebounds, they can't get into transition, where they have a league-high effective field goal percentage of 65.9 percent. OKC's 16 offensive boards only produced 15 second chance points on Saturday, but gave Golden State something to be concerned about going forward.
This week: @ SAC, @ LAC, @ GSW, @ MIL

4

Last week: 6

Toronto (39-19)
Pace: 95.4 (26) OffRtg: 106.6 (5) DefRtg: 102.4 (12) NetRtg: +4.2 (6)
Kyle Lowry deserved a day off after Friday's huge performance (43 points, nine assists, no rest in the second half, and a step-back game-winner) against the Cavs. But it would have been interesting if, holding the tiebreaker, the Raptors drew within one game of Cleveland with a win in Detroit on Sunday. They didn't, but they've still won 10 straight at home and begin a a seven-game homestand on Wednesday.
This week: vs. UTA, vs. POR, vs. HOU

5

Last week: 3

Cleveland (41-17)
Pace: 95.2 (29) OffRtg: 107.0 (4) DefRtg: 101.3 (8) NetRtg: +5.7 (5)
That the Cavs chose to rest LeBron James two days after having their East lead cut to two games is a clear sign that they're not too stressed about where they finish in the standings. The defensive regression since Tyronn Lue took over for David Blatt might be cause for some stress, though. Opposing point guards have averaged 26 points per game, with an effective field goal percentage of 66 percent, since the break.
This week: vs. IND, vs. WAS, vs. BOS

6

Last week: 5

L.A. Clippers (38-20)
Pace: 98.4 (13) OffRtg: 106.4 (6) DefRtg: 100.5 (7) NetRtg: +5.9 (4)
Jeff Green is still very much Jeff Green, scoring five, 18, six and 22 points in his first four games with the Clippers. But Green's inconsistency still looks like an upgrade over the little offense they've been getting from starting forwards Luc Mbah a Moute and Paul Pierce. Either way, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick continue to carry the offense and don't get enough attention for how good of a shooting backcourt they've been.
This week: vs. BKN, vs. OKC, vs. ATL

7

Last week: 7

Boston (35-25)
Pace: 101.5 (3) OffRtg: 103.6 (11) DefRtg: 99.9 (4) NetRtg: +3.7 (7)
The Celtics lost in Minnesota on Monday and almost blew an 18-point lead against Milwaukee on Thursday, but have won 10 straight games at home and are holding strong to third place in the East after Saturday's big fourth quarter against Miami. Evan Turner has turned up his playmaking of late, but Isaiah Thomas still had the best dime of the week. They're still home for much of the next two weeks, with one key visit to Cleveland.
This week: vs. UTA, vs. POR, vs. NYK, @ CLE

8

Last week: 8

Miami (33-26)
Pace: 95.3 (28) OffRtg: 101.5 (24) DefRtg: 100.2 (6) NetRtg: +1.3 (10)
If Joe Johnson keeps shooting like he has since Jan. 1, he'll give the Heat's offense a boost. They shot 2-for-21 from 3-point range in a weekend split in Boston and New York, with Johnson providing the only make in Sunday's win over the Knicks. Still, prepare for some ugly games down the stretch. Thirteen of their final 23 games, including each of the next six, are against offenses that also rank in the bottom 10.
This week: vs. CHI, vs. PHX, @ PHI, vs. PHI

9

Last week: 10

Portland (32-28)
Pace: 97.7 (16) OffRtg: 105.3 (7) DefRtg: 104.4 (19) NetRtg: +0.9 (12)
Defensive improvement has been a big part of the Blazers' charge over the last five weeks, but Damian Lillard continues to light it up on the other end, scoring 30-plus points in seven of the last eight games. He has shot 42 percent from 3-point range in that stretch, but has also averaged 9.3 free throw attempts, up from 5.6 through his first 31 games. The Blazers finish their trip with three games against East teams playing well.
This week: @ NYK, @ BOS, @ TOR, @ DET

10

Last week: 13

Atlanta (33-27)
Pace: 99.2 (10) OffRtg: 102.6 (17) DefRtg: 99.5 (2) NetRtg: +3.1 (8)
The Hawks lost their first three games out of the break, but won their two most important games on their five-game homestand, beating the Bulls on Friday and the Hornets on Sunday. As they've dropped from fifth to 17th in offensive efficiency, they've risen from 14th to second in defensive efficiency, allowing 2.7 fewer points per 100 possessions than any other team over the last 7 1/2 weeks. Tuesday's game will be a test, though.
This week: @ GSW, @ LAL, @ LAC

11

Last week: 9

Indiana (31-28)
Pace: 99.5 (8) OffRtg: 101.7 (22) DefRtg: 99.7 (3) NetRtg: +2.0 (9)
Rodney Stuckey's return hasn't provided a boost to the Pacers' offense, which has more bad games (including costly losses to Miami and Charlotte last week) than good ones. The game-winner that Paul George missed against the Hornets was representative of his move inside the 3-point line for more of his shots over the last 17 games, when his mid-range FGA to 3PA ratio has been 1.1, up from 0.8 prior to that.
This week: @ CLE, @ MIL, @ CHA, @ WAS

12

Last week: 17

Detroit (31-29)
Pace: 97.6 (17) OffRtg: 102.6 (18) DefRtg: 102.2 (11) NetRtg: +0.4 (15)
The Pistons caught a break with Kyle Lowry's day of rest on Sunday, but their four-game winning streak began with an impressive victory in Cleveland and has them back within a half game of eighth place. They're dealing with injuries to Anthony Tolliver and Stanley Johnson, but their new starting lineup was a plus-42 in 83 minutes last week and they got some solid shooting from little-used Reggie Bullock off the bench.
This week: @ SAS, @ NYK, vs. POR

13

Last week: 12

Charlotte (30-28)
Pace: 97.6 (18) OffRtg: 102.8 (16) DefRtg: 101.7 (9) NetRtg: +1.2 (11)
With a top-five defense in February, the Hornets are set to finish in the top 10 in all three of Steve Clifford's seasons in Charlotte. But the offense will come and go. Kemba Walker had more heroics in Indiana on Friday, but a brutal (nine points on 2-for-21 shooting) first quarter in Atlanta on Sunday kept them from climbing into fifth place. They haven't been home since Feb. 8, but play 10 of their next 12 at Time Warner Cable Arena.
This week: vs. PHX, @ PHI, vs. IND

14

Last week: 11

Memphis (34-24)
Pace: 95.4 (27) OffRtg: 103.0 (15) DefRtg: 103.4 (15) NetRtg: -0.4 (16)
This stretch of schedule was supposed to help the Grizzlies build enough of a cushion that they'd survive their rough final 20 games and still make the playoffs without Marc Gasol. But Saturday's loss to Phoenix certainly plants a seed of doubt, especially on defense. They've scored 113 points per 100 possessions in their six games without Gasol, with Vince Carter seeing more playing time and shooting well from 3-point range.
This week: @ DEN, vs. SAC, vs. UTA, vs. PHX

15

Last week: 16

Dallas (32-28)
Pace: 96.4 (24) OffRtg: 104.4 (8) DefRtg: 103.7 (17) NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
Mavs games lead the league in scoring over the last few weeks, not just because they don't like determining a winner until at least 53 minutes have been played. Their offense ranks third and their defense ranks 25th in February, with Dallas and its opponents combining to score 113 points per 100 possessions over their last seven games. David Lee totaled 27 points and 23 boards in weekend wins over the Nuggets and Wolves.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. SAC, @ DEN

16

Last week: 14

Utah (28-30)
Pace: 93.3 (30) OffRtg: 103.2 (13) DefRtg: 102.6 (14) NetRtg: +0.5 (14)
The Jazz got a big win against Houston on Tuesday, but couldn't hold onto eighth place, shooting 8-for-37 from 3-point range and scoring less than 90 points per 100 possessions against the Spurs (a great defensive team) and Nets (a terrible one). They're just 9-18 on the road (7-6 with both Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert), where they'll play 11 of their next 15 games, a stretch that also includes five back-to-backs.
This week: @ BOS, @ TOR, @ MEM, @ NOP

17

Last week: 15

Chicago (30-28)
Pace: 98.7 (11) OffRtg: 101.2 (26) DefRtg: 102.1 (10) NetRtg: -1.0 (17)
Derrick Rose has missed the last three games with a hamstring issue and, after a brief dalliance with Warriors-esque efficiency, the Bulls' offense has returned to its previously anemic state. They have an easier remaining schedule than the ninth-place Pistons in regard to opponent strength, but 13 of their 24 games are on the road, where they've lost seven of their last eight, allowing 110 points per 100 possessions.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. HOU

18

Last week: 19

Washington (28-30)
Pace: 100.3 (5) OffRtg: 102.6 (19) DefRtg: 104.1 (18) NetRtg: -1.5 (18)
The Wizards couldn't beat the Heat without Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade or the Bulls without Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. But they finally took advantage of the absence of a key opponent against Cleveland on Sunday. At this point, it's still tough to believe they have what it takes to grab a playoff spot, but improved defensive numbers (97 points allowed per 100 possessions over the last eight games) provide a sliver of hope.
This week: vs. PHI, @ MIN, @ CLE, vs. IND

19

Last week: 18

Houston (29-30)
Pace: 99.7 (7) OffRtg: 104.3 (9) DefRtg: 106.3 (25) NetRtg: -2.0 (20)
The Rockets may have saved their season with Thursday's out-of-nowhere, 70-41 second half in Portland. James Harden had 34 points on 11-for-13 shooting in those 24 minutes and has averaged 35.5 since the break, but Josh Smith is shooting 31 percent in his return to Houston and the Rockets' new starting lineup (with Smith at the four) hasn't been very good if you don't count games against the Suns.
This week: @ MIL, vs. NOP, @ CHI, @ TOR

20

Last week: 20

New Orleans (23-35)
Pace: 98.6 (12) OffRtg: 103.7 (10) DefRtg: 106.7 (27) NetRtg: -3.0 (22)
The Pelicans have won five of the last seven games that Anthony Davis has played, picking up their best win in months against the Thunder on Thursday. But another injury to Davis stopped whatever momentum they had on Saturday. Eric Gordon scored 31 points in his return from a five-week absence, but the Pelicans allowed the Wolves to score 67 in the second half. Only the Suns have been worse defensively after halftime.
This week: @ HOU, vs. SAS. vs. UTA

21

Last week: 21

Sacramento (24-33)
Pace: 102.4 (1) OffRtg: 103.1 (14) DefRtg: 106.2 (24) NetRtg: -3.1 (23)
The Kings are weird. Their 13 most-used lineups are a combined plus-109 in 989 minutes. They're one of nine teams with two or more lineups with a NetRtg of at least plus-10.0 over 100 minutes. Yet, they're nine games under .500 with a bottom-10 point differential. After losses to the Spurs and Clippers last week, they're 6-19 against the other 10 teams in the West's top 11, with their next five games against that group.
This week: vs. OKC, @ MEM, @ DAL, @ SAS

22

Last week: 22

Denver (23-36)
Pace: 98.2 (15) OffRtg: 101.8 (21) DefRtg: 105.5 (22) NetRtg: -3.6 (25)
The Nuggets beat the Clippers on Wednesday and forced overtime with a big second half in Dallas on Friday. Though they've lost to the Kings twice since the break, they could be a decent spoiler team, except that Danilo Gallinari may be out a while with a right ankle injury. Kenneth Faried picked up two of his six 20-point games against the Clips and Mavs, totaling 12 offensive boards and 14 second chance points.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. LAL, vs. BKN, vs. DAL

23

Last week: 23

Milwaukee (24-35)
Pace: 96.6 (22) OffRtg: 101.5 (25) DefRtg: 105.4 (21) NetRtg: -4.0 (26)
The Giannis-Antetokounmpo-at-point-guard experiment continues to get more interesting. He had his second first triple-double of his career against the Lakers on Monday (his first first triple-double was taken away after film review) and totaled 15 assists against Boston and Detroit after that. The Bucks have scored 103.7 points per 100 possessions in 561 minutes with Antetokounmpo on the floor without another point guard.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. IND, vs. MIN, vs. OKC

24

Last week: 24

New York (25-36)
Pace: 95.9 (25) OffRtg: 102.3 (20) DefRtg: 105.1 (20) NetRtg: -2.8 (21)
Since Kurt Rambis has taken over for Derek Fisher, Carmelo Anthony has averaged 38.1 minutes, which seems somewhat excessive given Anthony's age, his knee issues and, especially, the Knicks' place in the standings. He played almost the entire second half of Sunday's game against Miami, which New York lost by 17. Jimmer Fredette made his first shot with the Knicks on Monday and hasn't played since. #FreeJimmer
This week: vs. POR, @ BOS, vs. DET

25

Last week: 25

Orlando (26-32)
Pace: 97.3 (19) OffRtg: 101.7 (23) DefRtg: 103.5 (16) NetRtg: -1.8 (19)
If the Magic don't get more consistent stops in the final month and a half, they'll be the first below-average defensive team that Scott Skiles has coached in a full, 82-game season. Only five of their final 24 games are against top-10 offenses, but they allowed the Sixers to shoot 54 percent in two games last week. That's not exactly an encouraging sign in regard to defensive improvement or competing for a playoff spot.
This week: @ DAL, vs. CHI, vs. PHX

26

Last week: 26

Minnesota (19-41)
Pace: 97.1 (20) OffRtg: 103.5 (12) DefRtg: 107.0 (28) NetRtg: -3.4 (24)
The Wolves have gone all-in on the youth movement. Andre Miller was waived, Kevin Martin could be next, and Tayshaun Prince has seen his playing time slashed. Seven of the top eight guys in minutes over the last seven games are all in their first, second or third season, and the other - Ricky Rubio - is essential to keeping their offense afloat. That offense, believe it or not, ranks No. 1 in February.
This week: vs. WAS, @ MIL, vs. BKN

27

Last week: 27

Brooklyn (17-42)
Pace: 97.0 (21) OffRtg: 99.8 (27) DefRtg: 106.3 (26) NetRtg: -6.5 (27)
The Nets have won two straight games and held two straight opponents under a point per possession for the first time since Lionel Hollins was fired. They have been a top-five 3-point shooting team since Tony Brown took over and have kept things going in that regard, despite the departure of Joe Johnson. Bojan Bodganovic stepped into the starting lineup and hit five of his 12 threes in Phoenix and Utah.
This week: @ LAC, @ LAL, @ DEN, @ MIN

28

Last week: 30

Phoenix (15-44)
Pace: 100.4 (4) OffRtg: 99.5 (28) DefRtg: 107.5 (29) NetRtg: -8.0 (28)
Statistically, Thursday's visit from Brooklyn was the Suns' second most winnable game of their post-break schedule. So, after they lost that one (trailing by 25 at one point), the idea of Phoenix ending the season on a 37-game losing streak seemed somewhat plausible. But behind a big game from Alex Len, they ended their 13-game losing streak and got Earl Watson his first coaching win against Memphis on Saturday.
This week: @ CHA, @ MIA, @ ORL, @ MEM

29

Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (11-49)
Pace: 98.2 (14) OffRtg: 98.7 (29) DefRtg: 109.5 (30) NetRtg: -10.9 (30)
The Lakers have allowed an incredible 119 points per 100 possessions over their eight-game losing streak and have probably clinched the "Worst Defense in the League" title for 2015-16. The 13 threes the Grizzlies made against them on Wednesday was the most Memphis had hit in more than three years, and they hit 13 more in L.A. on Friday. Curry gets his last shot at that defense on Sunday, though he may not need to play much.
This week: vs. BKN, @ DEN, vs. ATL, vs. GSW

30

Last week: 28

Philadelphia (8-50)
Pace: 100.1 (6) OffRtg: 95.4 (30) DefRtg: 106.0 (23) NetRtg: -10.5 (29)
Brett Brown seems resigned to finishing in the bottom 10 defensively (after ranking 13th last season), because he's willing to sit through experiments that aren't working yet (like Jahlil Okafor guarding small-ball fours) to give them a chance of working at some point in the future. Okafor was able to take advantage of cross-matching against Washington to get early post position against Jared Dudley a couple of times on Friday.
This week: @ WAS, vs. CHA, vs. MIA, @ MIA