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Power Rankings: Spurs get even, reclaim No. 1 spot

Raptors find place in Top 3; Thunder, Clippers lose ground

POSTED: Mar 21, 2016 10:54 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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San Antonio won its showdown against Golden State by pounding away at the Warriors in the paint.

While a lot of the league has been trying to imitate the Golden State Warriors, playing smaller and faster, the San Antonio Spurs have gone back to their roots.

The Warriors are really just an evolution of how the Spurs have played over the last several seasons. Spread the floor for pick-and-rolls, get the ball moving, and make plays from all five positions. Boris Diaw is the French Draymond Green.

But while other teams were trying to match what the Warriors have done, the Spurs have tried to counter it. They got bigger (but still more skilled) with the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge last summer and they've kept playing at a relatively slow pace.

On Saturday, we saw San Antonio's plan bear fruit with an 87-79 victory over the champs that kept the Spurs unbeaten at home and got them within three games of the top seed in the Western Conference. With Andrew Bogut out, the Warriors started Green at center. And the Spurs went to Diaw and Aldridge early and often in the low post.

It was an ugly game, but the Spurs used their size to grab 15 offensive rebounds and turn them into 24 second chance points, the second highest total the Warriors have allowed this season.

There are two more meetings between the league's two best teams and plenty of chess moves to be played, especially if they meet in the Western Conference finals. For now, the Spurs have evened the score and taken back the No. 1 spot in the rankings.

* * *

• Last week: Warriors leading an offensive surge
• This time last year: Playoff picture shaping up to include a lot of new blood -- The Thunder had a three-game lead for eighth place int he West, but both Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka were done for the season. James Harden scored 50 points against Denver, Marcus Smart gave Matt Bonner a low blow, and Steve Nash announced his retirement.

• Plus-minus stud: John Wall (WAS) was a plus-88 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Hollis Thompson (PHI) was a minus-56 in four games last week.

• Hero team of the week: San Antonio (3-0) -- Before they beat the champs, the Spurs handled their business against the Clippers and Blazers. Three wins against last week's top 12 is good work.
• Zero team of the week: L.A. Lakers (0-2) -- Other teams had more losses, but the Lakers dropped home games to the struggling Kings and Suns.

• Team to watch this week: Houston -- In the wake of Stickum-gate, the Rockets play three playoff teams and also host the ninth-place Jazz, whom they lead by just one game.

• East vs. West: The West is 211-196 (.518) against the East in interconference games after going 9-8 (Oklahoma City was 3-0) last week.

• Toughest schedules so far: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Indiana, 3. New Orleans
• 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: Chicago (+5), New Orleans (+3), Phoenix (+3)
• Free falls of the week: New York (-4), Detroit (-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 98.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.7 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: 2

San Antonio (59-10)
Pace: 96.2 (24) OffRtg: 109.0 (3) DefRtg: 95.6 (1) NetRtg: +13.4 (1)
LaMarcus Aldridge is still Mr. Mid-Range, but he has the league's fourth highest field goal percentage in the restricted area (minimum 200 attempts). He's is on pace to take more shots there than he has in five years, and he looked comfortable in the paint against the Warriors. After holding the champs to just 37 points before halftime on Saturday, the Spurs' first-half DefRtg (90.5) is the best since the 2003-04 Spurs (86.6).
This week: @ CHA, vs. MIA, vs. MEM, @ OKC

2

Last week: 1

Golden State (62-7)
Pace: 102.0 (2) OffRtg: 112.8 (1) DefRtg: 100.6 (4) NetRtg: +12.1 (2)
The Warriors can chalk Saturday's result to an off night from Stephen Curry, the schedule (nine games in 14 days), or the absences of Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala. But their 79 points in the loss (their lowest scoring game in more than two years) was as much about pace as it was about poor shooting or a lack of free throws. And as was the case in Oklahoma City last month, rebounding issues kept them from running.
This week: @ MIN, vs. LAC, vs. DAL, vs. PHI

3

Last week: 4

Toronto (48-21)
Pace: 95.4 (28) OffRtg: 107.2 (5) DefRtg: 102.5 (11) NetRtg: +4.7 (5)
A four-game winning streak has the Raptors within a game of the Cavs (and holding the tie-breaker) for first place in the East. Cleveland has the easier remaining schedule, but Toronto has been playing better defense. Not only has Bismack Biyombo averaged 11.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks as a replacement starter during the streak, but the Raptors have allowed just 94 points per 100 possessions in his 127 minutes.
This week: @ BOS, @ HOU, @ NOP

4

Last week: 3

Cleveland (49-20)
Pace: 95.3 (29) OffRtg: 107.6 (4) DefRtg: 102.1 (9) NetRtg: +5.5 (4)
The Cavs won a game without LeBron James (they're 4-12 without him over the last two seasons), but also lost two games last week in which their opponents (Utah and Miami) were missing their best players. They rank 18th defensively over the last 3½ weeks and could fall out of the top 10 for the season, but none of their remaining opponents rank in the top seven (and only two rank in the top 14) offensively.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. MIL, @ BKN, @ NYK

5

Last week: 5

Atlanta (41-29)
Pace: 99.1 (11) OffRtg: 103.1 (16) DefRtg: 98.7 (2) NetRtg: +4.4 (7)
The Hawks have been the league's best defensive team over the last three months, and now their offense is showing some signs of life. They've won 10 of their last 12 games and have scored 109 points per 100 possessions over their five-game winning streak, with an increase in their assist rate, seven guys averaging double-figures, and Kyle Korver shooting 14-for-26 from 3-point range.
This week: vs. WAS, @ WAS, vs. MIL, @ DET

6

Last week: 7

Oklahoma City (48-22)
Pace: 99.5 (8) OffRtg: 109.8 (2) DefRtg: 102.9 (12) NetRtg: +7.0 (3)
Russell Westbrook messed around and got three triple-doubles last week, while Kevin Durant averaged 26.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists. The Thunder won all four games, won a couple of fourth quarters against playoff teams, and have held five of their last eight opponents under a point per possession. They might not get full-strength Spurs on Saturday, with San Antonio on the second night of a back-to-back.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. UTA, vs. SAS

7

Last week: 6

Charlotte (39-30)
Pace: 97.9 (17) OffRtg: 104.5 (10) DefRtg: 101.9 (8) NetRtg: +2.6 (9)
The Hornets' winning streak came to an end and they lost at home to two West teams that are currently under .500. But they got an important win in Miami and have a 25-15 conference record that will give them the tiebreaker against the Heat if they're even after April 13. Having spent most of March at home though, they'll play nine of their final 12 games on the road after hosting the Spurs on Monday.
This week: vs. SAS, @ BKN, @ DET, @ MIL

8

Last week: 10

Miami (40-29)
Pace: 95.7 (26) OffRtg: 103.5 (13) DefRtg: 101.1 (6) NetRtg: +2.4 (10)
Rookie Josh Richardson made just five of his 25 3-point attempts before the All-Star break, but has suddenly become the Mayor of Kaboomtown. He's 29-for-45 from beyond the arc since the break and 22-for-30 in the last eight games. The Heat have been the most improved offensive team since the break, scoring 8.6 more points per 100 possessions than they did before it. They visit the league's best defense on Wednesday.
This week: @ NOP, @ SAS, vs. ORL

9

Last week: 8

L.A. Clippers (43-26)
Pace: 98.2 (14) OffRtg: 106.2 (6) DefRtg: 101.6 (7) NetRtg: +4.6 (6)
The Blake Griffin-less Clippers appear to be running out of gas, especially on defense. After winning 23 of their first 30 games without Griffin, allowing 99.6 points per 100 possessions, they've lost six of their last nine, allowing 109.7. They allowed the depleted Grizzlies and the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans to shoot 49 percent and get to the line a combined 76 times over the weekend.
This week: @ GSW, vs. POR, vs. DEN

10

Last week: 11

Indiana (36-33)
Pace: 99.1 (10) OffRtg: 101.8 (24) DefRtg: 100.2 (3) NetRtg: +1.6 (1)
After shooting below 40 percent in four of his previous five games, Paul George went for 45 points in Saturday's loss to the Thunder, doing a lot of work off the ball. The Pacers are just a half game ahead of the ninth-place Pistons and haven't been consistent on either end of the floor, or on the glass. But they went 3-3 against a tough stretch of opponents and now have the league's easiest remaining schedule.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. NOP, @ BKN, vs. HOU

11

Last week: 9

Boston (40-30)
Pace: 101.3 (3) OffRtg: 103.9 (12) DefRtg: 100.7 (5) NetRtg: +3.2 (8)
Before Sunday's visit to Philly stopped the bleeding, the Celtics lost their first three games without Jae Crowder to fall out of the top four in the East. Marcus Smart shot 5-for-22 in two starts at small forward (before Brad Stevens turned to Evan Turner as the new starter) and Kelly Olynyk has shot 5-for-22 in his first three games back from his shoulder injury. But hey, Kevin Durant likes Boston a lot.
This week: vs. ORL, vs. TOR, @ PHX

12

Last week: 17

Chicago (35-33)
Pace: 98.7 (12) OffRtg: 101.4 (26) DefRtg: 102.9 (13) NetRtg: -1.5 (19)
The Bulls have had Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose in the same game just once since early February, they're still aren't getting much from Mike Dunleavy, and their latest starting lineup hasn't been very good. But they've held on to eighth place by winning three of their last four games, completing a season sweep of the Raptors on Monday with a terrific, game-saving defensive play by Butler.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. NYK, @ NYK, @ ORL

13

Last week: 12

Portland (36-35)
Pace: 97.9 (18) OffRtg: 105.8 (7) DefRtg: 105.8 (22) NetRtg: -0.0 (14)
The Blazers have lost seven of their last 10 games, allowing more than 123 points per 100 possessions in the seven losses. They have to hope that the porous defense was the result of a rough schedule: 13 games (11 of them on the road) in 23 days. Five of the seven losses were also against top-10 offenses and they have a back-to-back against two more this week. But they're home for eight of their last 11 games.
This week: vs. DAL, @ LAC, vs. PHI

14

Last week: 16

Utah (34-36)
Pace: 93.4 (30) OffRtg: 103.0 (19) DefRtg: 102.3 (10) NetRtg: +0.7 (12)
Gordon Hayward is dealing with plantar fasciitis at the wrong time, but the Jazz have won five of their last six games to stay in contact with the Blazers, Mavs and Rockets. They've had the league's biggest home-road differential in DefRtg, but head into Wednesday's game in Houston having held the Bucks to 85 points in Milwaukee on Sunday. With that win, they were the first team to finish its schedule against the opposite conference.
This week: @ HOU, @ OKC, @ MIN

15

Last week: 14

Houston (35-35)
Pace: 100.0 (7) OffRtg: 104.9 (8) DefRtg: 106.2 (23) NetRtg: -1.3 (17)
It's hard to excuse Dwight Howard's Stickum situation when he was in under the basket at the time of Michael Beasley's foul, walked to the table to spray his hands as Paul Millsap took his first free throw, and then asked to touch the ball before the second attempt. The Rockets are 6-4 with Donatas Motiejunas starting alongside Howard, but that successful Capela-Howard frontline hasn't played together since Feb. 10.
This week: @ OKC, vs. UTA, vs. TOR, @ IND

16

Last week: 13

Detroit (36-34)
Pace: 97.7 (19) OffRtg: 103.1 (15) DefRtg: 103.5 (15) NetRtg: -0.4 (15)
The Pistons began their nine-game homestand by allowing the Hawks to score 30 or more points in three of four quarters, including a pivotal fourth period which, essentially, has them still sitting on the outside of the East playoff picture. They hit 22 threes in weekend wins over Sacramento and Brooklyn, but the homestand gets tougher as it goes on and, against two top-10 defenses this week, they'll need to get stops themselves.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. ORL, vs. CHA, vs. ATL

17

Last week: 15

Memphis (40-30)
Pace: 95.7 (27) OffRtg: 102.7 (20) DefRtg: 104.2 (17) NetRtg: -1.5 (18)
With a four-game losing streak that included a 49-point defeat in Houston and another Matt Barnes altercation (and suspension), it looked like the wheels had finally come off the Grizzlies' rickety bus. But Zach Randolph's first career triple-double fueled a big win over the Clippers, who they're likely to face in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in five years. On Monday, they visit the Suns, who they've lost to twice in the last month.
This week: @ PHX, @ LAL, @ SAS

18

Last week: 19

Dallas (35-35)
Pace: 96.8 (22) OffRtg: 104.8 (9) DefRtg: 104.4 (18) NetRtg: +0.4 (13)
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Mavs started Dirk Nowitzki at center for three games last week and called on Salah Mejri for a career-high 33 minutes against Portland on Sunday. They scored 112 points in 42 minutes with Nowitzki at center and Mejri was a plus-30 in the critical win. But they missed an opportunity to pick up another win against the LeBron-less Cavs and still have a lot of work to do to hold off Utah.
This week: @ POR, @ GSW, @ SAC, @ DEN

19

Last week: 21

Washington (34-35)
Pace: 100.4 (4) OffRtg: 102.3 (22) DefRtg: 103.5 (14) NetRtg: -1.2 (16)
The Wizards are still very much alive after a 4-0 week that included blowout wins over both of the teams -- Detroit and Chicago -- between them and a playoff spot, a comeback from 18 points down against New York, and two John Wall triple-doubles. It's the first time they've held four straight opponents under a point per possession this season and they have the most improved defense since the break.
This week: @ ATL, vs. ATL, vs. MIN, @ LAL

20

Last week: 18

Milwaukee (30-40)
Pace: 96.5 (23) OffRtg: 102.4 (21) DefRtg: 105.3 (20) NetRtg: -2.9 (23)
If playing a 6-foot-11 guy at point guard wasn't enough, coach Jason Kidd is now experimenting with John Henson and Miles Plumlee on the floor together. The combination was a plus-15 in Thursday's win over Memphis, with the Grizzlies scoring just 13 points in its 12 minutes. The Bucks themselves scored less than 20 points in four quarters (all the second or third) last week, making just 10 threes in their three games.
This week: @ DET, @ CLE, @ ATL, vs. CHA

21

Last week: 20

Denver (29-41)
Pace: 98.3 (13) OffRtg: 103.0 (18) DefRtg: 105.8 (21) NetRtg: -2.8 (21)
D.J. Augustin was supplanted by a rookie as the Thunder's back-up point guard and sent to Denver in the Randy Foye trade. But the 2016 free agent has shot 46 percent from 3-point range, averaging 13.3 points and 4.7 assists off the bench for the Nuggets, who have scored 136 points per 100 possessions in 96 minutes with Augustin and Emmanuel Mudiay on the floor together. Denver is 14-14 against the East after a 1-3 week.
This week: @ CLE, vs. PHI, @ LAL, @ LAC

22

Last week: 25

New Orleans (26-43)
Pace: 99.2 (9) OffRtg: 103.4 (14) DefRtg: 106.7 (25) NetRtg: -3.3 (26)
Anthony Davis is done for the season and set to undergo surgeries on his left knee and left shoulder. The injuries will increase his games-missed total to 68 for his first four seasons in the league, could cost him $24 million over the next five years (if he doesn't earn an All-NBA selection), and will likely keep him from playing in the Olympics this summer. The Pelicans are 2-6 without after Sunday's win over the Clippers.
This week: vs. MIA, @ IND, vs. TOR

23

Last week: 23

Orlando (29-40)
Pace: 97.9 (16) OffRtg: 101.4 (25) DefRtg: 104.0 (16) NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
The Magic have lost seven of their last nine games and are 10-27 in 2016. But they have single-digit losses to Golden State, Charlotte, Cleveland and Toronto in the last two weeks, which could be seen as some sort of progress. With Nikola Vucevic out, Victor Oladipo is getting more shots and has averaged 24.4 points on 56 percent shooting over the last eight games, dropping 45 on the Cavs on Friday.
This week: @ BOS, @ DET, @ MIA, vs. CHI

24

Last week: 24

Minnesota (22-47)
Pace: 97.5 (20) OffRtg: 104.0 (11) DefRtg: 107.2 (27) NetRtg: -3.3 (24)
Among teams with no chance of making the playoffs, the Wolves have the most to gain from the last month. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have played almost 2,000 minutes together already, but improved chemistry should always be the goal with the last two No. 1 picks. Both have seen an increase in their assist rate since the break and Wiggins had a couple of pick-and-roll assists to Towns in Houston on Friday.
This week: vs. GSW, vs. SAC, @ WAS, vs. UTA

25

Last week: 26

Sacramento (27-42)
Pace: 102.2 (1) OffRtg: 103.0 (17) DefRtg: 106.4 (24) NetRtg: -3.3 (25)
The Kings beat the Lakers and Knicks last week to remind us that things could be worse. In between, they allowed the Pelicans and Pistons to score 119 points per 100 possessions to remind us that they have a real shot at finishing in the bottom five in defensive efficiency for the sixth time in nine seasons. They have five more games against top-10 offenses, including Sunday's visit from the Mavs.
This week: @ CHI, @ MIN, vs. PHX, vs. DAL

26

Last week: 22

New York (28-43)
Pace: 95.9 (25) OffRtg: 102.0 (23) DefRtg: 104.9 (19) NetRtg: -2.9 (22)
There never seems to be a dull moment in Carmelo Anthony's relationship with Knicks management. Last week, he rejected the idea of Phil Jackson coaching part-time, as well as the thought of hiring Kurt Rambis before talking to other candidates. Meanwhile, the Knicks fell to 0-8 without Anthony on Sunday and have scored a paltry 97.4 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor this season.
This week: @ CHI, vs. CHI, vs. CLE

27

Last week: 30

Phoenix (19-50)
Pace: 100.4 (5) OffRtg: 99.2 (28) DefRtg: 107.6 (29) NetRtg: -8.4 (28)
Good news for the Celtics: The Suns won two more games last week to draw even with Brooklyn in the standings and appear to have more winnable games (maybe three this week) remaining than the Nets do. Mirza Teletovic's second last-second game-winner of the season was a lot like the first in that he didn't look up at the basket until the ball was almost out of his hands.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. LAL, @ SAC, vs. BOS

28

Last week: 29

Brooklyn (19-50)
Pace: 96.9 (21) OffRtg: 101.1 (27) DefRtg: 107.5 (28) NetRtg: -6.4 (27)
Bojan Bogdanovic has averaged 18.9 points with an effective field goal percentage of 58.2 percent in 11 games since being moved to the starting lineup, dropping 44 on the Sixers on Tuesday. The Nets avoided the embarrassment of losing the season series to Philly, but have allowed their opponents to shoot better than 50 percent and score 115 points per 100 possessions in their last 10 games.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. CLE, vs. IND

29

Last week: 27

L.A. Lakers (14-55)
Pace: 98.0 (15) OffRtg: 99.1 (29) DefRtg: 109.2 (30) NetRtg: -10.1 (29)
Kobe Bryant missed the last two games with a sore shoulder. The Lakers' starting lineup -- with Metta World Peace in Bryant's place -- shot 10-for-42 in the two games, and Nick Young was a DNP-CD both nights. The Lakers have the league's worst defense, but are also the only team that has three guys -- Bryant, Young and Julius Randle -- with an effective field goal percentage under 45 percent on at least 300 shots.
This week: vs. MEM, @ PHX, vs. DEN, vs. WAS

30

Last week: 28

Philadelphia (9-61)
Pace: 100.3 (6) OffRtg: 96.3 (30) DefRtg: 106.8 (26) NetRtg: -10.5 (30)
The Sixers' offense has improved quite a bit over the last couple of months, but they're still set to become the first team to finish last in offensive efficiency in three straight seasons since the Bulls did it in 1998-99, '99-00 and '00-01. And no team has regressed more defensively since the break than this one, allowing 8.8 more points per 100 possessions than it did before the break.
This week: @ IND, @ DEN, @ POR, @ GSW