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Power Rankings: Warriors leading an offensive surge

Hornets keep surging; Clippers tumble out of Top 5

POSTED: Mar 14, 2016 11:40 AM ET
UPDATED: Mar 15, 2016 9:16 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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Another week, another instance of the Warriors distancing themselves from the rest of the pack.

Early in the season, we marveled at the pace revolution. The Golden State Warriors taught us that you can play great defense (and win a championship) while playing at a fast pace, and most of the league decided to mimic the champs as best they can.

Even now, with the season 80 percent complete, 28 of the 30 teams (Dallas and Denver are the only exceptions) have played at a faster pace than they did last season. And pace has picked up even more since the All-Star break, with 24 of the 30 teams playing faster than they did before the break.

The other thing that has picked up as the season has gone on is offensive efficiency. The league has scored 105.3 points per 100 possessions since the break, up from 103.1 before it. The league average that we note below creeps up every week and is now 0.54 points per 100 possessions higher than it was last season.

Put together the increase in pace with more efficient offense and the league is set to have the highest scoring season since 1992-93.

Of course, the rest of the league is just following Stephen Curry's lead. Curry and the Warriors continue to top the rankings, despite some slippage, but the No. 1 spot will be up for grabs in San Antonio on Saturday.

* * *

• Last week: The week the Lakers beat the champs
• This time last year: Cavs keep pushing with a month to go -- The top teams in each conference (Golden State and Atlanta) both lost in Denver in a three-day span. Kyrie Irving went for 57 in San Antonio, Hassan Whiteside trucked Kelly Olynyk, and Russell Westbrook was averaging 36 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists over an eight-game stretch.

• Plus-minus stud: Paul Millsap (ATL) was a plus-74 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Isaiah Canaan (PHI) was a minus-55 in three games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Milwaukee (3-1) -- The Bucks' three-game winning streak began with a big fourth quarter against the Heat (with Dwyane Wade) on Wednesday.
• Zero team of the week: Sacramento (0-4) -- The league's only 0-4 week included two losses to teams - New Orleans and Orlando - in the bottom 10 of the rankings, more silly drama, and more awful defense.

• Team to watch this week: Boston -- The Celtics are without a starter (Jae Crowder) and visit two potential playoff opponents (Indiana and Toronto), with a home game against the Thunder in between.

• East vs. West: The West is 202-188 (.518) against the East in interconference games, though the East was 16-12 (Charlotte was 3-0) last week.

• Toughest schedules so far: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Phoenix, 3. Sacramento
• Easiest schedules so far: 1. San Antonio, 2. Toronto, 3. Golden State
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: Houston (+5), Atlanta (+4), Charlotte (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Sacramento (-5), Dallas (-4), L.A. Clippers (-4)

* * *

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 98.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.6 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 (59-6)
Pace: 102.2 (2) OffRtg: 112.7 (1) DefRtg: 100.6 (6) NetRtg: +12.0 (2)
The Warriors continue to show slippage on defense, having allowed three bottom-10 offenses to score more than 110 points in the last eight days. Andre Iguodala's absence for the next two weeks certainly doesn't help in that regard, but the Stephen Curry show (three more games of seven or more threes last week) continues to roll on and how well they defend bad teams won't matter if they stop the Spurs again on Saturday.
This week: vs. NOP, vs. NYK, @ DAL, @ SAS

2

Last week: 2

San Antonio (56-10)
Pace: 96.4 (24) OffRtg: 108.8 (3) DefRtg: 95.5 (1) NetRtg: +13.3 (1)
The Spurs, Warriors or both could become the first team(s) to go through a season without ever losing two straight games. In a stunning development, Gregg Popovich put that distinction at risk by resting guys in Minnesota on Tuesday, a night after losing in Indiana. The Spurs won anyway and, at plus-13.33, are a hair behind the '95-96 Bulls (plus-13.34) for the best NetRtg since the league starting counting turnovers in 1977.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. POR, vs. GSW

3

Last week: 3

Cleveland (47-18)
Pace: 95.5 (29) OffRtg: 107.8 (4) DefRtg: 101.4 (8) NetRtg: +6.3 (3)
The Cavs' only loss in their last seven games was Monday's inexcusable defeat at the hands of the injury-depleted Grizzlies. But we needed that to keep us wondering about the chemistry and happiness of their stars. Throw that one away and they've scored 120 points per 100 possessions in their other five games this month. Channing Frye made 10 of his 14 threes at Staples Center last week.
This week: @ UTA, vs. DAL, @ ORL, @ MIA

4

Last week: 5

Toronto (44-20)
Pace: 95.5 (28) OffRtg: 107.0 (5) DefRtg: 102.7 (11) NetRtg: +4.4 (6)
DeMar DeRozan (31.0 points on 50 percent shooting in three games) looks like a Player of the Week candidate and the Raptors' bench is back to building on leads after some struggles. More important is that Toronto has held two straight opponents (both Eastern Conference playoff teams) under a point per possession for the first time since January. Now comes a tough, five-game week.
This week: vs. CHI, @ MIL, @ IND, vs. BOS, vs. ORL

5

Last week: 9

Atlanta (38-29)
Pace: 99.0 (12) OffRtg: 102.7 (19) DefRtg: 98.6 (2) NetRtg: +4.1 (7)
The biggest difference in the Hawks' defense that ranked 13th through Jan. 14 and the defense that has ranked first since then is opponent 3-point shooting. SportVU numbers don't say that they're contesting threes more than they were early in the season, so don't be surprised if that 3-point percentage starts to creep back up when they play some of the league's best shooting teams in a couple of weeks.
This week: @ DET, vs. DEN, vs. HOU

6

Last week: 10

Charlotte (37-28)
Pace: 97.8 (17) OffRtg: 104.6 (8) DefRtg: 101.7 (9) NetRtg: +2.8 (9)
The Hornets' offense has been off the charts (119 points scored per 100 possessions) over their seven-game winning streak, and they've gotten started early. They've scored more than 30 points in six of the seven first quarters and, with early leads, have trailed for only 33 minutes (less than 10 percent) of the streak. Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum are two of 10 players averaging at least 15, 5 and 6 in March.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. ORL, @ MIA, vs. DEN

7

Last week: 6

Oklahoma City (44-22)
Pace: 99.4 (8) OffRtg: 109.2 (2) DefRtg: 102.9 (14) NetRtg: +6.3 (4)
Another big first quarter propelled the Thunder to an important win over the Clippers on Wednesday. But two more fourth-quarter collapses in Minnesota and against the Spurs dropped them to 4-8 since the All-Star break, having been outscored by 23.4 points per 100 possessions in final period. Russell Westbrook has shot 29 percent in those fourth quarters and hurt his team with a brutal defensive mistake on Saturday.
This week: vs. POR, @ BOS, @ PHI, @ IND

8

Last week: 4

L.A. Clippers (42-23)
Pace: 98.4 (13) OffRtg: 106.1 (6) DefRtg: 100.8 (7) NetRtg: +5.3 (5)
After losses to the Thunder and Cavs, there's some urgency for Blake Griffin to return. But Griffin's original injury (torn left quad) is still an issue and he won't be playing on a five-game trip that starts in San Antonio, ends in Oakland, and includes two of the Clippers' seven remaining back-to-backs (most in the league). Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford have all shot less than 40 percent with no rest.
This week: @ SAS, @ HOU, @ MEM, @ NOP

9

Last week: 7

Boston (39-27)
Pace: 101.3 (3) OffRtg: 103.9 (11) DefRtg: 100.1 (4) NetRtg: +3.7 (8)
The Celtics' 14-game home winning streak came to an end against Houston on Friday with a rough shooting performance. Their starting lineup hasn't been very good since the break, and they'll now be missing Jae Crowder (sprained ankle) over the next couple of weeks. With their status as a top-four seed in jeopardy, they play eight of their next 11 games on the road, where they've lost four of their last five.
This week: @ IND, vs. OKC, @ TOR, @ PHI

10

Last week: 8

Miami (38-28)
Pace: 95.7 (26) OffRtg: 102.6 (20) DefRtg: 100.5 (5) NetRtg: +2.1 (10)
Joe Johnson continues to shoot well (he's 9-for-10 on threes off passes from Goran Dragic) and gave the Heat a fighting chance (with a season-high 28 points) in Toronto without Dwyane Wade on Saturday. Miami has outscored its opponents by 23 points per 100 possessions in 123 minutes with Wade, Johnson and Luol Deng on the floor together and has registered 20-plus fast break points in two straight games for the first time.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. CHA, vs. CLE

11

Last week: 12

Indiana (35-31)
Pace: 99.2 (9) OffRtg: 101.9 (24) DefRtg: 100.1 (3) NetRtg: +1.8 (11)
It's nice to have a Monday win over the Spurs and a Saturday win on the road in hand when you get thumped in Atlanta on Sunday. Paul George had averaged 27 points and hit nine of his 20 threes over a three-game winning streak, but has had two of his three single-digit scoring games against the Hawks after Sunday's 3-for-15 performance. The Pacers play eight of their next nine games at home.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. TOR, vs. OKC

12

Last week: 11

Portland (35-32)
Pace: 97.8 (18) OffRtg: 105.8 (7) DefRtg: 104.9 (20) NetRtg: +0.9 (12)
The Blazers are 13-3 at the Moda Center since early January, but have only been home for two one-game stops in the last 17 days. And they're back on the road (where they've lost four straight) for five of their next six games. Damian Lillard has had bigger games, but C.J. McCollum has been the league's best 3-point shooter since the break, hitting at least two threes in 13 of his last 14 games.
This week: @ OKC, @ SAS, @ NOP, @ DAL

13

Last week: 13

Detroit (34-32)
Pace: 97.5 (19) OffRtg: 102.9 (14) DefRtg: 102.9 (13) NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
With all five starters averaging more than 15 points over the last five games, the Pistons have put together their best offensive stretch of the season (111 points scored per 100 possessions). They haven't defended well of late, but they begin a nine-game homestand on Wednesday, they got both Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver back over the weekend, and five of their next six opponents have losing records.
This week: @ WAS, vs. ATL, vs. SAC, vs. BKN

14

Last week: 19

Houston (33-33)
Pace: 100.1 (7) OffRtg: 104.4 (10) DefRtg: 106.2 (23) NetRtg: -1.7 (18)
It's March 14 and the Rockets haven't won a first quarter since January. In its last 16 games, Houston has trailed 14 times (10 times by six or more points) and has been tied twice after the opening 12 minutes. But the Rockets have recovered to win eight of those 16 games despite continued struggles from 3-point range (25 percent in March), ending double-digit home winning streaks in both Toronto and Boston.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. LAC, vs. MIN, @ ATL

15

Last week: 14

Memphis (39-27)
Pace: 95.6 (27) OffRtg: 102.9 (16) DefRtg: 103.4 (15) NetRtg: -0.6 (16)
The Grizzlies had two regular starters (Tony Allen and Matt Barnes) last week, were missing Mike Conley and Zach Randolph for all four games, and had Mario Chalmers (torn Achilles) join Marc Gasol on the out-for-the-season list. But they managed to go 2-2, with Allen, Barnes, JaMychal Green, Lance Stephenson and Briante Weber all registering season-high scoring games in one of the two wins.
This week: @ HOU, vs. MIN, @ MIL, vs. LAC

16

Last week: 16

Utah (31-35)
Pace: 93.6 (30) OffRtg: 102.9 (15) DefRtg: 102.8 (12) NetRtg: +0.1 (14)
The Mavs and Rockets are keeping the playoff door open for the Jazz, who have won two straight games for the first time since the All-Star break and have the easiest remaining schedule of the three. Their defense hasn't been up to their standards, their bench has been pretty terrible (they're the league's worst second-quarter team since the break) ... and they're still two games back.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. PHX, @ CHI, @ MIL

17

Last week: 17

Chicago (32-32)
Pace: 99.0 (11) OffRtg: 100.9 (26) DefRtg: 102.6 (10) NetRtg: -1.7 (17)
The Bulls got good news about Jimmy Butler's left knee on Thursday, but fell to 5-10 without him and have allowed 112 points per 100 possessions in 359 minutes with replacement starter E'Twaun Moore on the floor since the All-Star break. They've slid out of playoff position, but will have a chance to save their season with seven straight games against teams under .500 after Monday's visit to Toronto.
This week: @ TOR, @ WAS, vs. BKN, vs. UTA

18

Last week: 20

Milwaukee (29-38)
Pace: 96.9 (22) OffRtg: 102.3 (22) DefRtg: 105.3 (22) NetRtg: -3.0 (23)
O.J. Mayo's fall down the stairs broke up a lineup that had been playing pretty well. But Giannis Antetokounmpo is still playing point guard and still racking up triple doubles, and the Bucks have won three straight games (scoring 111 points per 100 possessions) with Jerryd Bayless and Greg Monroe starting. All three opponents on this week's homestand will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
This week: vs. TOR, vs. MEM, vs. UTA

19

Last week: 15

Dallas (33-33)
Pace: 96.5 (23) OffRtg: 104.5 (9) DefRtg: 104.2 (17) NetRtg: +0.3 (13)
Dirk Nowitzki has shot 54 percent over his last nine games, but the Mavs have allowed 108 points per 100 possessions over a five-game losing streak where the only road game was in Denver. They still have a two-game lead in the loss column over Utah, but they're sinking like a stone and their schedule is getting tougher, with their next six games against teams with winning records and top-10 offenses.
This week: @ CHA, @ CLE, vs. GSW, vs. POR

20

Last week: 22

Denver (28-38)
Pace: 98.2 (14) OffRtg: 102.8 (18) DefRtg: 105.3 (21) NetRtg: -2.5 (21)
The best of the wins was against the sinking Mavs, but the Nuggets went 5-2 on their homestand. Since Danilo Gallinari's injury, their two best players have been rookies Nikola Jokic (12.9 points, 8.6 boards and 3.3 assists during the homestand) and Emmanuel Mudiay (18.0 points and 5.9 assists). The Nuggets have scored 111 points per 100 possessions in 593 minutes with the two on the floor since early December.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ ATL, @ CHA

21

Last week: 18

Washington (30-35)
Pace: 100.3 (5) OffRtg: 102.0 (23) DefRtg: 104.4 (18) NetRtg: -2.4 (20)
The Wizards got shafted by a five-second violation that wasn't called before C.J. McCollum's game-tying shot in Portland on on Tuesday. But their losing streak reached five games with ugly losses in Utah and Denver over the weekend. The streak has seemingly sunk them, but they can keep themselves alive with home games this week against the two teams between them and a playoff spot.
This week: vs. DET, vs. CHI, @ PHI, vs. NYK

22

Last week: 24

New York (28-40)
Pace: 95.9 (25) OffRtg: 102.6 (21) DefRtg: 104.8 (19) NetRtg: -2.2 (19)
The Knicks have won three of their last five games and have season sweeps against the three worst teams in the West thanks to Jose Calderon's game-winning three off a busted play at the end of a very ugly game in L.A. on Sunday. Carmelo Anthony has shot 52 percent in March, but his shot selection is still mid-range heavy. His lead in mid-range attempts is up to 48 shots over DeMar DeRozan.
This week: @ GSW, @ WAS, vs. SAC

23

Last week: 25

Orlando (28-37)
Pace: 97.9 (15) OffRtg: 101.1 (25) DefRtg: 103.8 (16) NetRtg: -2.7 (22)
The Magic made Monday's game at Golden State interesting with a big fourth quarter, but were without three rotation guys by the time they finished a 1-3 trip in which they lost to the Lakers and got thumped in Portland. Those losses dropped them to 4-10 on the second night of a back-to-back, having allowed 109 points per 100 possessions in the 14 games. They play another back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday.
This week: vs. DEN, @ CHA, vs. CLE, @ TOR

24

Last week: 26

Minnesota (21-45)
Pace: 97.4 (20) OffRtg: 103.6 (12) DefRtg: 107.1 (27) NetRtg: -3.4 (24)
Ricky Rubio hit three 3-pointers, including the game-winner, in Oklahoma City on Friday. Zach LaVine has hit 11 corner threes since the break after hitting only 14 in his career prior to that. The Wolves haven't increased the number of threes they're taking by much, but only the Blazers have seen a bigger jump in 3-point percentage since the break. The Wolves' starters have been one of the league's best post-break offensive lineups.
This week: @ PHX, @ MEM, @ HOU

25

Last week: 23

New Orleans (24-41)
Pace: 99.1 (10) OffRtg: 102.8 (17) DefRtg: 106.5 (24) NetRtg: -3.7 (26)
Those "when scoring x points or more/less" stats can lack context, but the Pelicans' 0-30 record when scoring less than 100 points is fairly easy to explain. For the fourth straight season, their defense stinks, despite the presence of a guy who should be the league's most disruptive defensive force. The last team that went winless in games it scored less than 100 points was the 1992-93 Hawks (0-22).
This week: @ GSW, @ SAC, vs. POR, vs. LAC

26

Last week: 21

Sacramento (25-40)
Pace: 102.4 (1) OffRtg: 103.0 (13) DefRtg: 106.5 (26) NetRtg: -3.5 (25)
It had been a while (like, three weeks) since the Kings had some real drama, so DeMarcus Cousins shouted at George Karl in a timeout, the team suspended Cousins for Friday's loss to Orlando, and Cousins later said it was the coach's call. Somehow, Rajon Rondo has become the mediator in a player-coach relationship. The Kings have lost nine of their last 10 and are 5-17 since late January.
This week: @ LAL, vs. NOP, @ DET, @ NYK

27

Last week: 28

L.A. Lakers (14-53)
Pace: 97.9 (16) OffRtg: 99.4 (29) DefRtg: 109.5 (30) NetRtg: -10.1 (29)
Kobe Bryant gave us another semi-vintage performance (26 points on 11-for-16 shooting) against the Cavs on Thursday, going up and under on LeBron James in the post. Bryant has some time this week (the Lakers are playing just two games in eight days) to rest up for the home stretch, which will be spent, mostly, at home. The Lakers play 10 of their final 15 games at Staples Center.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. PHX

28

Last week: 30

Philadelphia (9-57)
Pace: 100.1 (6) OffRtg: 96.1 (30) DefRtg: 106.5 (25) NetRtg: -10.4 (30)
Jahlil Okafor is out for the season with a meniscus tear, so it's up to Roy Hibbert to determine who finishes with the league's worst on-court NetRtg. The Sixers have the numbers of a 19-47 team (with the 28th-ranked offense and 19th-ranked defense) with Okafor off the floor. Balanced offense and improved defense got them a win over Brooklyn on Friday and they can take the season series on Tuesday.
This week: @ BKN, vs. WAS, vs. OKC, vs. BOS

29

Last week: 29

Brooklyn (18-48)
Pace: 96.9 (21) OffRtg: 100.4 (27) DefRtg: 107.1 (28) NetRtg: -6.7 (27)
If you look up and down the NetRtg rankings, you see a big gap between teams 2 and 3, and another between teams 26 and 27. There's a clear bottom 4 and the Nets have a losing record (3-4) against the other three teams in the group after Friday's loss in Philadelphia. Sean Kilpatrick (Sean Marks' first acquisition) has been a bright spot, but it would be nice to see Rondae Hollis-Jefferson back on the floor at some point.
This week: vs. PHI, @ CHI, @ DET

30

Last week: 27

Phoenix (17-49)
Pace: 100.4 (4) OffRtg: 99.7 (28) DefRtg: 108.0 (29) NetRtg: -8.4 (28)
The Suns have the league's worst offense since the All-Star break, but they put a scare in the Warriors on Saturday with 116 points in Brandon Knight's second game back (and first start) after a 21-game absence. That was the only one of three games last week that Devin Booker didn't score more than 30 points, but Knight scored 30 (matching Curry from 3-point range) and Booker dished out 11 assists.
This week: vs. MIN, @ UTA, @ LAL