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Power Rankings: Problems arise for Bucks, Clippers

Power Rankings: Week 4

POSTED: Nov 23, 2015 10:46 AM ET
UPDATED: Nov 23, 2015 11:04 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


It hasn't been the type of encore from last year's breakout season that the Bucks had hoped for.

This season is not last season.

The Golden State Warriors are just as dominant (maybe more) as they were last year, and the Philadelphia 76ers are just as bad (maybe) worse. But the Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks have provided the latest evidence that success doesn't necessarily carry over from one season to the next.

The Clippers have lost seven of their last nine games to fall below .500 (beyond the first three games of a season) since they traded for Chris Paul in 2011. And an ugly, three-game stretch resulted another case of locker room strife, a malady that seems to be making its way around the Western Conference.

The Bucks, meanwhile, have lost five of their last six games to fall into 13th place in the East. Milwaukee didn't have championship aspirations like the Clippers, but they certainly weren't expected to fall from second to 30th in defensive efficiency. After a surprise season in which they finished sixth in the East, the Bucks may be a victim of their own success in what has become a tougher conference.

Those teams join the Rockets and Grizzlies as squads that haven't been able to replicate last season's success and may need to reinvent themselves before they fall too far behind teams that have passed them by.

* * *

• Last week: Little separation in the pack
• This time last year: West continues to dominate lackluster East -- The West was 45-19 against the East, the Blazers were seven games into a nine-game winning streak, and Lou Williams had three buzzer-beaters in two games. The Cavs were 5-7 and the Sixers were 0-13.

• Plus-minus studs: Monta Ellis and Ian Mahinmi (IND) were both a plus-61 in three games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Jerami Grant (PHI) was a minus-77 in four games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Golden State (4-0) -- Thanks to three wins over teams that were in last week's top 10, the champs only need to beat the Lakers to break the record for most consecutive wins to start the season.
• Zero team of the week: Milwaukee (0-3) -- The Bucks had three tough road games, but lost them by an average of 27 points.

• East vs. West: The East is 37-32 (0.536) against the West in interconference games and was 10-7 last week.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Philadelphia, 2. New Orleans, 3. Brooklyn
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Dallas, 2. Golden State, 3. San Antonio
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: Dallas (+7), New York (+7), Chicago (+6)
• Free falls of the week: L.A. Clippers (-12), Boston (-5), Denver (-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 99.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 101.5 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: 1

Golden State (15-0)
Pace: 102.2 (3) OffRtg: 111.8 (1) DefRtg: 96.8 (5) NetRtg: +15.0 (1)
If you want to nitpick, you can certainly say that the Warriors' defense hasn't been up to their standards, allowing 104 points per 100 possessions over the last six games, and their regular starting lineup has been outscored by nine points in 65 minutes. But none of that matters when Luke Walton can turn to the Lineup of Destruction, which has outscored its opponents, 200-119, through Sunday.
This week: vs. LAL, @ PHX, vs. SAC


Last week: 2

Cleveland (10-3)
Pace: 95.8 (28) OffRtg: 106.4 (3) DefRtg: 99.6 (11) NetRtg: +6.9 (4)
LeBron James has found his jump shot (19-for-40 from outside the paint in his last four games), but the Cavs' defense has had some issues of late and will be without Timofey Mozgov for at least another week. Saturday's win over the (banged up) Hawks was their first game against a team that currently ranks in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, but they have two more this week.
This week: vs. ORL, @ TOR, @ CHA, vs. BKN


Last week: 3

San Antonio (10-3)
Pace: 96.8 (26) OffRtg: 103.6 (6) DefRtg: 94.6 (1) NetRtg: +8.9 (2)
The Spurs are good for an inexplicable loss -- like Friday's in New Orleans -- every once in a while. Their defense has been better than their offense, but if Danny Green gets going, they'll rank in the top five on both ends. Among players that took at least 250 shots last season and 100 shots this season, Green has seen the biggest drop-off (-14.8 percent) in effective field goal percentage.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. DAL, @ DEN, vs. ATL


Last week: 10

Chicago (8-4)
Pace: 99.9 (10) OffRtg: 98.9 (23) DefRtg: 97.7 (6) NetRtg: +1.2 (14)
Mike Dunleavy is missed, but the Bulls' defense has been at its best with Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell (a combination that wasn't used much last season) at the wings. Chicago had won four straight and held five straight opponents under a point per possession before Friday's loss at Golden State. Snell (4-for-22 in the last four games) is not giving his team much offense, though.
This week: @ POR, @ IND


Last week: 7

Indiana (8-5)
Pace: 98.7 (17) OffRtg: 100.9 (18) DefRtg: 95.7 (3) NetRtg: +5.2 (6)
Even though Frank Vogel tinkers with his starting lineup on a game-by-game basis (and his two most-used lineups haven't been very good), the Pacers are 8-2 in their last 10 games, with the league's best defense in that time. They've also been the league's third best 3-point shooting team in the last two weeks and have won 11 straight quarters after an ugly start in Chicago on Monday.
This week: @ WAS, vs. CHI, @ LAL


Last week: 4

Oklahoma City (8-6)
Pace: 101.2 (6) OffRtg: 107.5 (2) DefRtg: 101.8 (18) NetRtg: +5.6 (5)
The Thunder are 3-3 without Kevin Durant and have had bad offensive games and bad defensive games since he injured his hamstring. Sunday's win over Dallas, in which they came back from 10 down, was maybe their most important of the season. But they're in Utah on Monday and 0-3 on the second night of a back-to-back, having given up 112 points per 100 possessions in the three losses.
This week: @ UTA, vs. BKN, vs. DET


Last week: 14

Dallas (9-5)
Pace: 99.9 (11) OffRtg: 102.6 (10) DefRtg: 100.3 (12) NetRtg: +2.3 (12)
The Mavs won six straight games, holding their opponents under 96 points per 100 possessions and looking like a second-tier team in the West. But they couldn't stop Russell Westbrook and the Thunder on Sunday and have a tough road back-to-back this week. The Bucks miss Zaza Pachulia, who was Dallas' Plan B after DeAndre Jordan changed his mind and who averaged a double-double during the streak.
This week: @ MEM, @ SAS, vs. DEN


Last week: 9

Toronto (9-6)
Pace: 97.3 (23) OffRtg: 103.3 (7) DefRtg: 99.5 (10) NetRtg: +3.8 (9)
Jonas Valanciunas has a broken hand and Bismack Biyombo is the only other center on the roster. So the Raptors will probably lead the league in dropped passes over the next six weeks. But they finished their road trip with a big win over the Clippers on Sunday and we've seen a little more of #FIBAScola of late. Luis Scola has averaged 17.7 points in his last three games, shooting 13-for-26 from outside the paint.
This week: vs. CLE, @ WAS, vs. PHX


Last week: 11

Miami (8-4)
Pace: 97.0 (25) OffRtg: 101.8 (13) DefRtg: 94.8 (2) NetRtg: +6.9 (3)
The Heat are 5-1 on the homestand that ends Monday, but they haven't exactly looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They lost to the Wolves, almost blew a big lead against the Kings, and went down 17 before escaping with a win over the Sixers. Their lack of offensive improvement has been disappointing. What looks like a stacked starting lineup has scored less than a point per possession.
This week: vs. NYK, @ DET, @ NYK


Last week: 8

Atlanta (9-6)
Pace: 98.7 (18) OffRtg: 103.2 (8) DefRtg: 100.9 (15) NetRtg: +2.4 (11)
The only teams the Hawks have beat in the last 15 days (seven games) are the Pelicans and Kings. They lost in Brooklyn (with offense being the issue) on Tuesday and got thumped in Cleveland (with defense being the issue) on Saturday. If they're going to stay near the top of the East in the next few weeks, they'll need to beat the West, with eight of their next 10 games against the opposite conference.
This week: vs. BOS, @ MIN, @ MEM, @ SAS


Last week: 6

Boston (7-6)
Pace: 101.6 (5) OffRtg: 101.7 (14) DefRtg: 96.6 (4) NetRtg: +5.1 (7)
Near the end of a stretch where they're playing 10 games in 16 days, the Celtics haven't had many days off of late. And their depth took a hit with a knee injury to Marcus Smart, who's been a key to their defense and who's going to be out at least two weeks. Their offense has been more inconsistent, but the defense allowed the Mavs and Nets to shoot better than 50 percent in their two losses last week.
This week: @ ATL, vs. PHI, vs. WAS, @ ORL


Last week: 12

Utah (6-6)
Pace: 94.7 (29) OffRtg: 100.3 (22) DefRtg: 97.7 (7) NetRtg: +2.6 (10)
Six of the Jazz's last seven games have been within five points in the last five minutes. They almost had two impressive fourth-quarter comebacks last week, but couldn't get the stops they needed down the stretch in Dallas on Friday. Their defense has suffered some slippage of late and they face three top-five offenses (Thunder, Clippers and Warriors) in the next eight days.
This week: vs. OKC, @ LAC, vs. NOP


Last week: 20

New York (8-6)
Pace: 97.3 (24) OffRtg: 101.6 (15) DefRtg: 100.7 (14) NetRtg: +0.8 (15)
So Kristaps Porzingis is the real deal, huh? He put up 27 and 11 in Tuesday's win over the Hornets and 24, 14 and seven blocks (including two big ones against James Harden in the last three minutes) in Saturday's win in Houston. The kid plays with confidence, isn't afraid of contact, and has the Knicks' best plus-minus (in part because Carmelo Anthony has been with him on the floor for 95 percent of his minutes).
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. MIA, vs. HOU


Last week: 13

Charlotte (7-6)
Pace: 97.9 (19) OffRtg: 105.5 (4) DefRtg: 101.1 (17) NetRtg: +4.3 (8)
The Hornets got to feast on the Nets and Sixers last week, but their offensive improvement (best in the league by a wide margin) looks more legit as the season goes on. Kemba Walker averaged 23.0 points on an effective field goal percentage of 65 percent in three games last week, his best three-game shooting stretch in more than a year. Charlotte has won five straight at home, with five games left on their current homestand.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. WAS, vs. CLE, vs. MIL


Last week: 16

Washington (6-4)
Pace: 101.9 (4) OffRtg: 102.3 (12) DefRtg: 102.6 (19) NetRtg: -0.3 (18)
The Wizards' starting lineup has been worse than the Lakers' starting lineup, but they're getting good contributions off the bench from Jared Dudley and Nene. After playing just four games in a 16-day stretch that ends Monday, they'll play four back-to-backs in the next two weeks. The first one of those -- against the Pacers and Hornets -- could tell us a lot about all three teams.
This week: vs. IND, @ CHA, @ BOS, vs. TOR


Last week: 15

Detroit (7-6)
Pace: 97.7 (22) OffRtg: 98.2 (25) DefRtg: 98.2 (8) NetRtg: -0.1 (16)
The Pistons got a nice win against the Cavs on Tuesday and their defense has kept them above .500. But their bench continues to be a big problem. In their three games last week, their five starters all had a plus-minus of plus-30 or better, while their five subs were all minus-21 or worse. In 179 minutes this season, they've scored a brutal 78 points per 100 possessions with less than three starters on the floor.
This week: @ MIL, vs. MIA, @ OKC, @ BKN


Last week: 5

L.A. Clippers (6-7)
Pace: 99.7 (13) OffRtg: 103.9 (5) DefRtg: 104.3 (22) NetRtg: -0.4 (19)
Remember when the Clippers were up 23 on the Warriors midway through the second quarter on Thursday? A lot has changed since then. They collapsed against the champs, fell apart late in Portland, and had a brutal first half against Toronto, a sequence that led to some raised voices in the locker room. They've lost seven of their last nine, with the league's worst defense in that stretch.
This week: @ DEN, vs. UTA, vs. NOP, vs. MIN


Last week: 17

Phoenix (7-6)
Pace: 102.8 (1) OffRtg: 102.4 (11) DefRtg: 101.0 (16) NetRtg: +1.4 (13)
The Suns have been the league's most inconsistent jump-shooting team, but have another long-distance weapon with Mirza Teletovic (16-for-39 from 3-point range in the last six games) playing a larger role. They allowed more than 108 points per 100 possessions in four games last week, but were a plus-17 in 46 minutes without a center in weekend games (which they split) in Denver and New Orleans.
This week: @ SAS, vs. NOP, vs. GSW, @ TOR


Last week: 21

Memphis (7-7)
Pace: 96.4 (27) OffRtg: 98.6 (24) DefRtg: 103.6 (21) NetRtg: -5.0 (24)
Before Mario's Magic ran out in San Antonio on Saturday, the Grizzlies had won their first four games with Mario Chalmers. Not only had they made some threes, but they started running more. They scored 20-plus fast break points in as many games last week (2) as they did all of last season. Unrelated: Vince Carter was dusted off for 33 total minutes against the Rockets and Spurs.
This week: vs. DAL, @ HOU, vs. ATL, vs. PHI


Last week: 19

Orlando (6-7)
Pace: 99.2 (16) OffRtg: 97.7 (28) DefRtg: 98.9 (9) NetRtg: -1.2 (21)
As was expected with the hiring of Scott Skiles, the Magic are one of the league's most improved defensive teams. But their offense has been brutal (91.0 points scored per 100 possessions) with Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton on the floor together. They're shooting a combined 36 percent and it's not just about jumpers. They're two of the league's four worst shooters in the restricted area (minimum 50 FGA).
This week: @ CLE, vs. NYK, vs. MIL, vs. BOS


Last week: 24

Minnesota (5-8)
Pace: 100.0 (9) OffRtg: 100.5 (19) DefRtg: 100.7 (13) NetRtg: -0.2 (17)
The Wolves got another impressive road win (in Miami) on Tuesday, but their inability to shoot (16-for-68 from 3-point range in their last four games) continues to be a problem. There's certainly a lack of floor spacing in their starting lineup, but they've been the league's fourth best team (plus-15.2 NetRtg) in the first six minutes of the first quarter. So a lineup change isn't really called for just yet.
This week: vs. PHI, vs. ATL, @ SAC, @ LAC


Last week: 18

Denver (6-8)
Pace: 99.6 (14) OffRtg: 100.9 (17) DefRtg: 105.3 (25) NetRtg: -4.4 (23)
Emmanuel Mudiay has cut down on his turnovers since the start of the season and Danilo Gallinari is a joy to watch when he has it going like he did Tuesday in New Orleans (32 points and eight assists). But the Nuggets' defense (and Mike Malone would be the first to tell you this) has been pretty dreadful, allowing 110 points per 100 possessions as they've lost four of their last five.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. SAS, @ DAL


Last week: 25

Portland (6-9)
Pace: 97.8 (21) OffRtg: 102.8 (9) DefRtg: 103.4 (20) NetRtg: -0.6 (20)
The Blazers' seven-game losing streak came to an end with a flurry of late-game, Damian Lillard threes against the Clippers on Friday. They're undefeated (3-0) when Mason Plumlee records a double-double, like he did against both L.A. teams over the weekend. Most important is that they've held three straight opponents under a point per possession, with two bottom-10 offenses coming to town this week.
This week: vs. CHI, vs. LAL


Last week: 23

Sacramento (5-9)
Pace: 102.6 (2) OffRtg: 100.4 (20) DefRtg: 104.5 (23) NetRtg: -4.1 (22)
The Kings got their first road win of the season on Saturday, thanks to a big third quarter in Orlando. For the season, they've scored 97 points per 100 possessions in quarters 1, 2 and 4, but 110 in the third. Not coincidentally, the third quarter is when they've passed the ball most. After hitting five threes in the last two games, Rajon Rondo is shooting better from 3-point range (36 percent) than from the free throw line (35 percent).
This week: @ CHA, @ MIL, vs. MIN, @ GSW


Last week: 22

Milwaukee (5-8)
Pace: 94.6 (30) OffRtg: 100.3 (21) DefRtg: 109.0 (30) NetRtg: -8.7 (28)
It was an ugly week on the road for the Bucks, who allowed 123 points per 100 possessions in losses to the Wizards, Cavs and Pacers. Their defense can be suffocating when it's at its best, but awful when five guys aren't in synch, which has been the case this season. After a season in which it surprised everybody, Jason Kidd's team is experiencing some serious growing pains.
This week: vs. DET, vs. SAC, @ ORL, @ CHA


Last week: 29

New Orleans (3-11)
Pace: 100.4 (7) OffRtg: 101.3 (16) DefRtg: 108.8 (29) NetRtg: -7.5 (25)
The Pelicans' offense kicked in before their defense clamped down. They've scored 108 points per 100 possessions (and allowed 109) over their last four games (getting weekend wins over the Spurs and Suns), with Ryan Anderson averaging 28.3 points in that stretch. New Orleans has outscored its opponents by more than 19 points per 100 possessions with Anderson, Anthony Davis and Ish Smith on the floor together.
This week: @ PHX, @ LAC, @ UTA


Last week: 28

Brooklyn (3-11)
Pace: 97.9 (20) OffRtg: 98.1 (26) DefRtg: 105.8 (26) NetRtg: -7.7 (26)
The Nets haven't been able to get consistent stops, but they've looked like a decent team more often than not over the last two weeks and have played one of the league's toughest schedules (which isn't getting any easier this week). Thaddeus Young has averaged 18.3 points and 10.0 rebounds over the last six games and the defense has been good with Young, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brook Lopez on the floor together.
This week: @ OKC, @ CLE, vs. DET


Last week: 26

Houston (5-9)
Pace: 100.3 (8) OffRtg: 98.0 (27) DefRtg: 105.8 (27) NetRtg: -7.8 (27)
J.B. Bickerstaff's Rockets look a lot like Kevin McHale's Rockets, with only a lucky home win over a team that had lost six straight games to their name. The defense was terrible again in Saturday's loss to the Knicks, but they had scored a paltry 92 points per 100 possessions in the five games prior to that, with Dwight Howard attempting only 20 shots in 133 minutes. You might want to make a 58 percent shooter a bigger part of the offense.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. PHI, @ NYK


Last week: 27

L.A. Lakers (2-11)
Pace: 99.7 (12) OffRtg: 97.7 (29) DefRtg: 106.6 (28) NetRtg: -8.9 (29)
As you might have expected, the Lakers' visit to the top 25 in defensive efficiency was a brief one. And their next visit is to Oracle Arena. Kobe Bryant's 3-point shooting isn't getting any better. He's missed his last 10 threes and is 9-for-39 from outside the paint in his last three games. According to SportVU, 60 percent of his jumpers have been contested, down from a league-leading 69 percent last season.
This week: @ GSW, @ POR, vs. IND


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (0-14)
Pace: 99.5 (15) OffRtg: 90.3 (30) DefRtg: 105.1 (24) NetRtg: -14.8 (30)
The Sixers committed an amazing 58 turnovers in their first two games last week and are worse offensively (scoring 11.2 points per 100 possessions fewer than the league average) than they were last season, when they were the worst offensive team in 12 years. They almost beat the Heat, but put their 24-game losing streak up against the Wolves' 14-game home losing streak on Monday, so something has GOT to give.
This week: @ MIN, @ BOS, @ HOU, @ MEM