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Power Rankings: Bulls and Mavs sinking fast

Will current damage derail playoff pushes for Chicago and Dallas?

POSTED: Mar 28, 2016 11:39 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Chicago Bulls Miss The Playoffs?

The Bulls currently sit outside the playoffs — will they miss the postseason with all that talent?

There are 17 days and 134 games left in the regular season. Right now, there are a lot of teams (and fans) that would love to move on to the playoffs or the Lottery.

But at this point last season, the Miami Heat were in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of the Boston Celtics, while the Oklahoma City Thunder had a lead of 2 1/2 games over the New Orleans Pelicans for eighth place in the West. And when it came to Lottery odds, the New York Knicks were 2 1/2 games "ahead" of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Over those last 17 days, though, the Celtics took the Heat's playoff spot, the Pelicans bumped the Thunder, and the Wolves finished with the league's worst record, which would land them Karl-Anthony Towns.

Having dropped out of the top eight in their respective conferences with brutal defense, the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks are seemingly heading toward an early vacation. But nothing is a given at this point and anything can happen in the next 2 1/2 weeks.

* * *

• Last week: Spurs get even, reclaim No. 1 spot
• This time last year: Some teams still dealing with bad case of post-trade blahs -- The Hawks and Warriors clinched home-court advantage in their respective conferences. The Thunder officially shut down Kevin Durant for the season, the Knicks hit 60 losses for the first time in franchise history, George Hill beat the Wizards with a one-handed scoop, Khris Middleton beat the Heat at the buzzer, and "Sauce Castillo" was born.

• Plus-minus stud: LeBron James (CLE) was a plus-62 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Gary Harris (DEN) was a minus-72 in four games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Brooklyn (2-1) -- The Nets went 2-1 against three teams from last week's top 10, outscoring the Cavs and Pacers in the fourth quarter by a combined score of 59-29.
• Zero team of the week: Chicago (1-3) -- An easy schedule should have solidified the Bulls' playoff spot. Instead, it dropped them into Lotteryville.

• Team to watch this week: Atlanta -- The Hawks have won 13 of their last 16 and face the top two teams in the East this week, visiting Toronto on Wednesday and hosting the Cavs on Friday.

• East vs. West: The West is 217-205 (.514) against the East in interconference games, but the East was 9-6 (3-0 vs. New Orleans) last week. Five teams (Charlotte, Denver, Indiana, Minnesota and Utah) are done with games against the opposite conference.

• Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Milwaukee, 3. New Orleans
• Easiest schedules so far: 1. San Antonio, 2. Golden State, 3. Oklahoma City
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: Minnesota (+3), Oklahoma City (+3), Washington (+3)
• Free falls of the week: Chicago (-5), New Orleans (-4), Milwaukee (-2), Toronto (-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 103.8 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

* * *'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.


Last week: 2

Golden State (66-7)
Pace: 101.9 (2) OffRtg: 113.0 (1) DefRtg: 100.9 (5) NetRtg: +12.0 (2)
Klay Thompson (57 percent from 3-point range over the last three weeks) has been on fire, the Warriors continue to set records (like most 3-pointers in a season), and they're still unbeaten at home. They need seven wins in their final nine games to pass the '96 Bulls, and these next four (against teams playing for the postseason) may be more challenging than the final five (which include two games against the Spurs).
This week: vs. WAS, @ UTA, vs. BOS, vs. POR


Last week: 1

San Antonio (61-12)
Pace: 96.2 (24) OffRtg: 108.9 (3) DefRtg: 96.0 (1) NetRtg: +12.9 (1)
The Spurs' maintenance program went into full effect last week, but not before they suffered their biggest collapse since they drafted Tim Duncan. Playing without Kawhi Leonard (bruised quad) over the weekend, they allowed both the Grizzlies and Thunder to shoot better than 50 percent. If they're going to finish undefeated at home, they'll have to beat the Raptors, Warriors and Thunder, against whom they're 0-4 on the road.
This week: @ MEM, vs. NOP, vs. TOR


Last week: 6

Oklahoma City (51-22)
Pace: 99.4 (8) OffRtg: 109.9 (2) DefRtg: 102.8 (12) NetRtg: +7.2 (3)
The Spurs were shorthanded on Saturday, but six of the Thunder's seven wins on their current streak have been against playoff teams, only two of the seven games have been close, and they've been able to keep Kevin Durant's and Russell Westbrook's minutes somewhat limited. The schedule doesn't get much easier. Five of their last nine games are against top-10 offenses, which should prep their defense for the playoffs.
This week: @ TOR, @ DET, vs. LAC, @ HOU


Last week: 4

Cleveland (52-21)
Pace: 95.3 (29) OffRtg: 108.1 (4) DefRtg: 102.3 (10) NetRtg: +5.8 (4)
First quarters haven't been the problem for the Cavs under Tyronn Lue that they were under David Blatt. They've gotten off to much better starts offensively since the coaching change and won three first quarters by double-digits last week. But they've had some ugly fourth quarters of late and a 4-for-21 final period in Brooklyn on Thursday gave them their first loss to a bottom-five team in winning percentage.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. BKN, @ ATL, vs. CHA


Last week: 3

Toronto (49-23)
Pace: 95.4 (28) OffRtg: 107.1 (5) DefRtg: 102.6 (11) NetRtg: +4.5 (7)
The Raptors still don't have a starting lineup that has played well together. Though Norman Powell (28 points over the weekend) is finally starting to provide some offense, the latest lineup (which has been dealing with injuries) is a minus-7 in the eight games it has started. But their bench remains strong and one more win will give them a franchise record for victories for the third time in Dwane Casey's five seasons.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. ATL, @ MEM, @ SAS


Last week: 5

Atlanta (44-30)
Pace: 99.1 (9) OffRtg: 103.4 (15) DefRtg: 98.8 (2) NetRtg: +4.6 (5)
The Hawks' bench has been strong all season and is now getting consistent contributions from Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kris Humphries, who weren't in the picture early on. But their 13-3 record over their last 16 games can be tied to improvement with the starting lineup, which has outscored opponents by 14.0 points per 100 possessions in that stretch after getting outscored by 2.7 through Feb. 22.
This week: @ CHI, @ TOR, vs. CLE


Last week: 7

Charlotte (42-31)
Pace: 97.8 (18) OffRtg: 104.7 (10) DefRtg: 101.9 (8) NetRtg: +2.8 (9)
The Hornets have been more consistent defensively than offensively, but Jeremy Lin (50 points against the Spurs and Nets) picked up the slack when Kemba Walker had a couple of off nights last week. The Hornets got their signature win (coming back from 23 down against the Spurs) on Monday and are the only team that ranks in the top six on both ends of the floor in March, but still have work to do to get a top-four seed.
This week: @ PHI, vs. PHI, @ CLE


Last week: 8

Miami (42-30)
Pace: 95.7 (26) OffRtg: 103.7 (13) DefRtg: 101.3 (6) NetRtg: +2.4 (10)
It would be fun to see the Heat get a shot at the Cavs before the conference finals, but Miami could have the edge for the 3 seed in the East. Saturday's trip to Portland (the second game of a back-to-back) is their toughest game before they visit the Celtics on the final night of the season. They have two of the league's five best lineups that have played at least 100 minutes since Joe Johnson's arrival (Feb. 28).
This week: vs. BKN, @ LAL, @ SAC, @ POR


Last week: 11

Boston (43-30)
Pace: 101.1 (3) OffRtg: 103.9 (12) DefRtg: 100.4 (4) NetRtg: +3.5 (8)
Isaiah Thomas has had a huge March (26.3 points per game, effective field goal percentage of 54.2 percent), Evan Turner has been solid as a replacement starter, and the Celtics have followed up a four-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak. But the four wins have come against three bad teams and a good team (Toronto) missing its best player. Things get much tougher this week.
This week: @ LAC, @ POR, @ GSW, @ LAL


Last week: 9

L.A. Clippers (45-27)
Pace: 98.2 (14) OffRtg: 106.1 (6) DefRtg: 101.5 (7) NetRtg: +4.6 (6)
Blake Griffin was cleared to play and began his four-game suspension this past weekend. He'll see his first action on Sunday against the Wizards and the Clippers will have (a soft) seven games to reintegrate him into the offense before the playoffs. They've been held under a point per possession in five of their last eight games, with Clippers not named J.J. Redick shooting 30 percent from 3-point range in that stretch.
This week: vs. BOS, @ MIN, @ OKC, vs. WAS


Last week: 10

Indiana (39-34)
Pace: 99.1 (11) OffRtg: 101.8 (24) DefRtg: 100.0 (3) NetRtg: +1.8 (11)
The Pacers had won 10 straight games against teams that aren't currently in playoff position before Saturday's brutal fourth quarter in Brooklyn. That was one of 10 March games (out of 13 total) that has been within five points in the last five minutes. Monta Ellis hit the biggest shot in Sunday's win over Houston, but ranks sixth with 29 clutch-time assists this season, almost twice as many as he had last year (15).
This week: vs. CHI, vs. ORL, @ PHI, @ NYK


Last week: 13

Portland (38-36)
Pace: 98.1 (15) OffRtg: 105.6 (7) DefRtg: 105.5 (20) NetRtg: +0.2 (13)
After ranking eighth defensively in February, the Blazers have ranked 27th against a rough March schedule. But behind a new starting lineup (with Maurice Harkless at small forward), they've held three straight opponents (including two top-10 offenses) under a point per possession since the first time since the All-Star break. They were just one stop short against the Clippers on Thursday.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. BOS, vs. MIA, @ GSW


Last week: 14

Utah (36-37)
Pace: 93.4 (30) OffRtg: 102.8 (20) DefRtg: 102.2 (9) NetRtg: +0.6 (12)
The Jazz scored less than a point per possession in four of the five games on their road trip. But they went 3-2 and moved into playoff position because they finally got some stops on the road and capped a big second half in Houston on Wednesday with Rodney Hood's drive and dish to Derrick Favors. Now, they're home for six of their last nine games, and the only road games are against the Suns, Nuggets and Lakers.
This week: vs. LAL, vs. GSW, vs. MIN, @ PHX


Last week: 16

Detroit (39-35)
Pace: 97.6 (19) OffRtg: 103.3 (16) DefRtg: 103.6 (14) NetRtg: -0.3 (15)
Thanks to Andre Drummond's tip-in against the Bucks and big first halves against the Magic and Hornets (combined scored of 138-113), the Pistons are undefeated (5-0) on their homestand against teams that aren't from Atlanta. But they rank 28th defensively in March and a second loss to the Hawks on the homestand has them just a game in the loss column ahead of the Bulls, with a huge week ahead.
This week: vs. OKC, vs. DAL, @ CHI


Last week: 15

Houston (36-38)
Pace: 100.0 (7) OffRtg: 104.8 (9) DefRtg: 106.1 (22) NetRtg: -1.3 (17)
The Rockets have lost four of their last five games (their worst offensive stretch since the All-Star break), but three of the four losses were by four points or less and they're still in playoff position thanks to the Mavs' struggles. James Harden picked up a triple-double in Friday's win over Toronto and has recorded eight or more assists in nine straight games, having never done it in more than five straight games prior.
This week: @ CLE, vs. CHI, vs. OKC


Last week: 19

Washington (36-37)
Pace: 100.3 (6) OffRtg: 102.6 (21) DefRtg: 103.7 (15) NetRtg: -1.1 (16)
The Wizards have won six of their last eight games to stay within two games in the loss column of the eighth-place Pistons (who they face one more time). But Friday's loss to Minnesota, in which they couldn't get any key stops and in which Marcin Gortat missed two huge free throws at the end of the second overtime, is really going to hurt if they miss the playoffs. Bradley Beal has been alternating good and bad offensive games.
This week: @ GSW, @ SAC, @ PHX, @ LAC


Last week: 12

Chicago (36-36)
Pace: 98.6 (12) OffRtg: 101.5 (26) DefRtg: 103.5 (13) NetRtg: -2.0 (19)
The Bulls went from winning four out of five to losing three straight against the Knicks (x 2) and Magic, allowing two bottom-10 offenses to score more than 117 points per 100 possessions. Only two teams have regressed more offensively from last season, but the defensive regression since Jan. 1 has been more concerning. They're two games out of eighth and their season has seemingly hit its nadir, but a tough week lies ahead.
This week: vs. ATL, @ IND, @ HOU, vs. DET


Last week: 17

Memphis (41-32)
Pace: 95.7 (27) OffRtg: 102.8 (19) DefRtg: 104.4 (17) NetRtg: -1.6 (18)
The Grizzlies' offense has been rather decent, given the randomness of their shorthanded lineups from game to game (Tony Allen shot 12-for-12 in L.A. on Tuesday), but the defense has struggled without Marc Gasol or Mike Conley. They let the Lakers shoot better than 50 percent for just the fourth time this season and have allowed opponents to score 113 points per 100 possessions over the last seven games.
This week: vs. SAS, vs. DEN, vs. TOR, @ ORL


Last week: 18

Dallas (35-38)
Pace: 97.0 (22) OffRtg: 104.9 (8) DefRtg: 105.1 (18) NetRtg: -0.2 (14)
Dirk Nowitzki - averaging 22.1 points on 51 percent shooting since the All-Star break (with 82 percent of his shots coming from outside the paint) - isn't going down without a fight, but things aren't looking good for the Mavs, who have lost 10 of their last 12 games and have been just awful defensively. They need to get three wins this week before facing both Houston and Utah in the final eight days of the season.
This week: @ DEN, vs. NYK, @ DET, @ MIN


Last week: 21

Denver (31-43)
Pace: 98.3 (13) OffRtg: 102.9 (18) DefRtg: 106.1 (23) NetRtg: -3.2 (25)
Thanks to Emmanuel Mudiay's crazy game-winner against Philly and a big game from the bench against the Lakers, the Nuggets are 8-6 (with a top-10 offense) in March. If they get a win against the Mavs, Grizzlies or Pelicans this week, they'll have their first winning month (of more than one game) since January of 2014. Jusuf Nurkic totaled 37 points on 16-for-24 shooting in weekend games at Staples Center.
This week: vs. DAL, @ MEM, @ NOP, vs. SAC


Last week: 24

Minnesota (24-49)
Pace: 97.5 (20) OffRtg: 104.0 (11) DefRtg: 107.1 (27) NetRtg: -3.1 (23)
Karl-Anthony Towns has racked up eight straight double-doubles, in part because he's been playing heavier minutes (37.8 per game) of late. Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine are also playing more minutes together, and they rank as two of the league's four most improved shooters since the All-Star break, in part because they're both taking more threes. The Wolves still rank 28th in 3-point attempts since the break.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. LAC, @ UTA, vs. DAL


Last week: 20

Milwaukee (30-44)
Pace: 96.3 (23) OffRtg: 102.4 (23) DefRtg: 105.6 (21) NetRtg: -3.2 (24)
The Bucks have found things that work offensively over the last few months, but no team has regressed more defensively from last season. They rank last in defensive rebounding percentage and have allowed 20 or more second chance points (including the two that beat them in Detroit on Monday) in four of the five games on their current losing streak. Six of their final eight games are against bottom-10 offenses, though.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. ORL, vs. CHI


Last week: 23

Orlando (30-43)
Pace: 97.9 (17) OffRtg: 101.6 (25) DefRtg: 104.2 (16) NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
The absences of Nikola Vucevic and Ersan Ilyasova have allowed Andrew Nicholson to have his annual stretch of looking like a solid (offensive) role player off the bench. The restricted free agent who had been out of the Orlando rotation for the last two months has scored 13-plus points in five of his last six games, averaging 27.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per 36 minutes in that stretch.
This week: vs. BKN, @ IND, @ MIL, vs. MEM


Last week: 25

Sacramento (29-44)
Pace: 102.2 (1) OffRtg: 103.4 (14) DefRtg: 106.2 (24) NetRtg: -2.8 (22)
The Kings have won three of their last five games and played spoiler with 133 points on 62 percent shooting against Dallas on Sunday. Willie Cauley-Stein totaled 47 points on 19-for-30 shooting in weekend wins over the Suns and Mavs, but didn't play much with DeMarcus Cousins last week. And since the Kings can't go a week without drama, they're now openly mocking their coach on twitter and TV.
This week: @ POR, vs. WAS, vs. MIA, @ DEN


Last week: 26

New York (30-44)
Pace: 95.8 (25) OffRtg: 102.5 (22) DefRtg: 105.1 (19) NetRtg: -2.7 (21)
After struggling earlier this month, Kristaps Porzingis has averaged 20 points on 49 percent shooting over the last five games. Carmelo Anthony has shot 51 percent from 3-point range over his last eight (and is starting to take more threes). But the Knicks' offense as a whole didn't wake up until it faced the Bulls twice last week. They have wins against every East team except Cleveland (0-4) and Indiana (0-1, with two games to go).
This week: @ NOP, @ DAL, vs. BKN, vs. IND


Last week: 22

New Orleans (26-46)
Pace: 99.1 (10) OffRtg: 103.0 (17) DefRtg: 106.9 (26) NetRtg: -3.9 (26)
Alexis Ajinca scored a season high 22 points and Omer Asik grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds in Indiana on Thursday, and the pair actually hooked up on an alley-oop against Toronto on Saturday. But starting the two together hasn't really worked out for the Pelicans, who were basically missing seven of their top eight guys last week, with Jrue Holiday (sore toe) the latest to miss games (again).
This week: vs. NYK, @ SAS, vs. DEN, @ BKN


Last week: 28

Brooklyn (21-51)
Pace: 97.0 (21) OffRtg: 101.4 (27) DefRtg: 107.4 (28) NetRtg: -6.0 (27)
The Nets have been the worst defensive team in March, but held the Cavs and Pacers to a total of just 29 points on 7-for-38 shooting in the fourth quarters of wins on Thursday and Saturday. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson threw down a serious dunk in his first game back from a 50-game absence, Brook Lopez has been doing work in the paint, and Bojan Bogdanovic has continued to shoot well.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ CLE, @ NYK, vs. NOP


Last week: 27

Phoenix (20-53)
Pace: 100.5 (4) OffRtg: 99.3 (29) DefRtg: 107.5 (29) NetRtg: -8.2 (28)
Since Brandon Knight's return, he and Devin Booker have been playing heavy minutes (29 per game) together, and those minutes (minus-5.2 NetRtg) haven't been nearly as bad as the minutes the two played prior to Knight's injury (minus-14.0). The Suns outscored the Celtics by 14 points (in a loss) with the pair on the floor on Saturday, even though they shot a combined 3-for-16 from 3-point range.
This week: @ MIN, @ MIL, vs. WAS, vs. UTA


Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (15-58)
Pace: 98.0 (16) OffRtg: 99.3 (28) DefRtg: 109.3 (30) NetRtg: -10.0 (29)
Julius Randle's career high in assists was four before last week and he has looked like a strong candidate for First Team All Tunnel-Vision. But he dropped five dimes in Tuesday's win over Memphis and then doubled his new career high on his way to his first career triple-double against Denver on Friday. There are nine more games left in the career of Kobe Bryant, who just might play in all nine.
This week: @ UTA, vs. MIA, vs. BOS


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (9-65)
Pace: 100.4 (5) OffRtg: 96.3 (30) DefRtg: 106.6 (25) NetRtg: -10.3 (30)
The Sixers hung around with the champs for a while on Sunday, but are 48 minutes away from their fourth double-digit losing streak of the season and are 1-22 since early February. They need one more win to avoid tying their own record for the most losses in a single season, but three more losses will give them the first seat at the Lottery for the first time since the league starting weighing the odds in 1990.
This week: vs. CHA, @ CHA, vs. IND