Power Rankings
Power Rankings

Week 14 Power Rankings: Changes afoot outside of top four spots

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Jan 15, 2018 11:26 AM ET

The Timberwolves are now 11-3 against other Western Conference playoff teams.

The second half of the season is underway, and it's a good time to see where the league is trending.

League-wide pace is up again. At an average of 99.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes, the league is playing at its fastest pace since the 1990-91 season. Twenty of the 30 teams have played at a faster pace than they did last season, when 21 of the 30 teams played faster than they did the season before. The 2005-06, "Seven seconds or less" Phoenix Suns played at a pace that would rank 20th this season.

At 106.2 points scored per 100 possessions, 2016-17 was the most efficient scoring season in NBA history, and this season, teams have been slightly more efficient through Game 41 (105.6 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (105.5). So it's possible that the league will eventually top that mark of 106.2.

At 52.0 percent, effective field goal percentage is already higher than its ever been in any full season. The percentage of shots that have come from 3-point range has seen another big jump, from 32 percent to 34 percent.

But we're also seeing the all-time lowest marks in both offensive rebounding percentage (only 22 percent of available rebounds have been grabbed by the offensive team) and free throw rate (the league is averaging just 26 free throw attempts per 100 shots from the field).

Furthermore, after dropping each of the last three seasons (from 15.1 to 14.0 per 100 possessions), league-wide turnover percentage is up to 14.7. That's still the third lowest rate in the 41 seasons since the league started counting turnovers, though.

Pace and space has made it harder to defend the league's best offenses than it was in years prior. But some teams have done it well. The Minnesota Timberwolves weren't one of those teams early in the season, but they've improved defensively over the last several weeks and have picked up some quality wins along the way. A 12-3 mark since Dec. 18 has them back in the top five for the first time since Week 2.

 
Dig into some of the key numbers from this week's Power Rankings.
  • Hero team of the week: Miami (3-0) -- The Heat's perfect week included an impressive back-to-back in Toronto and Indiana.
  • Zero team of the week: Cleveland (0-3) -- The Cavs lost to the Wolves and Raptors by a total of 62 points before blowing an 22-point lead in Indiana.
  • Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Utah, 3. Chicago
  • Easiest schedules so far: 1. Houston, 2. Washington, 3. Boston
  • 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: Miami (+9), Indiana (+5), L.A. Lakers (+5)
  • Free falls of the week: Denver (-5), Charlotte (-4), Four teams (-3)
  • Team to watch in Week 14: Philadelphia -- The Sixers are a game and a half (tied in the loss column) behind the Milwaukee Bucks for eighth place in the East. They'll visit the Bucks on Saturday after hosting the Raptors on Monday and playing their last game against the Celtics on Thursday in Boston.

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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 99.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.6 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.

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1
Last week:
1

Record: 35-9
Pace: 102.4 (4) OffRtg: 113.5 (1) DefRtg: 102.9 (3) NetRtg: +10.6 (1)

The Warriors arrive in Cleveland having won their last 12 road games (despite a close call in Toronto on Saturday) and the last 12 games in which Stephen Curry has played, undefeated with their MVP since Thanksgiving. They've started Quinn Cook, Shaun Livingston and Patrick McCaw in his place, but after an Andre-Iguodala-at-point-guard lineup was a plus-14 in their 14-point, Curry-less win in Milwaukee on Friday, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by more than 14 points per 100 possessions (with great defensive numbers) in 209 minutes with Iguodala on the floor without any of the four guys who have started at the point. The Death Lineup hasn't played together since Dec. 4, and with Iguodala and Draymond Green having shot a combined 29 percent from 3-point range this season, it's easier for opponents to pick their poison against a five-man-unit that scored 122 points per 100 possessions last season.

Week 14: @ CLE, @ CHI, @ HOU

2
Last week:
2

Record: 34-10
Pace: 97.9 (20) OffRtg: 105.0 (14) DefRtg: 99.6 (1) NetRtg: +5.4 (4)

Over the course of their seven-game winning streak, the Celtics have cleaned up some defensive rebounding problems that were hurting them in December, while also taking advantage of second chances on the other end of the floor. They rank 25th in effective field goal percentage over the course of the winning streak, but their win in London over the Sixers on Thursday was the fourth time in their last five games in which they registered 17 or more second chance points. It was also the second time in the last 2 1/2 weeks that they've come back from more than 20 points to win. Only Denver has been more improved after halftime than the Celtics, who have been 9.7 points per 100 possessions better in the second half of games (plus-10.1) than they have been in the first half (plus-0.4) (the Sixers are basically the opposite), with the bigger difference (8.4 points per 100) coming on offense. Among 204 players who have attempted at least 100 shots in each half, Marcus Morris has seen the biggest increase in effective field goal percentage from the first half (38.9 percent) to the second half (57.3 percent), with Jayson Tatum also seeing a top-10 increase (from 52.5 percent to 62.2 percent).

Week 14: vs. NOP, vs. PHI, vs. ORL

3
Last week:
3

Record: 29-12
Pace: 100.7 (9) OffRtg: 110.9 (3) DefRtg: 103.2 (5) NetRtg: +7.6 (3)

Blowing an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead in Brooklyn on Monday resulted in a Kyle Lowry injury in overtime, which played a part in the end of the Raptors' 12-game, home winning streak a night later. Of course, the Raptors still blew out the Cavs and almost came back from 27 points down against the Warriors without Lowry. The young bench has been somewhat inconsistent over the last month, with Norman Powell having the league's worst effective field goal percentage (minimum 50 field goal attempts) since Christmas. But it had a big second half on Saturday and the Raps still rank second (behind the Warriors) in bench NetRtg. Fred VanVleet shot 9-for-14 from 3-point range against Cleveland and Golden State, scoring a career-high 22 points against the Cavs.

Week 14: @ PHI, vs. DET, vs. SAS, @ MIN

4
Last week:
4

Record: 30-11
Pace: 101.5 (8) OffRtg: 112.6 (2) DefRtg: 104.9 (14) NetRtg: +7.7 (2)

Chris Paul has picked up his scoring in the absence of James Harden, dropping 37 (and drawing the ire of Damian Lillard) against Portland on Wednesday. But Gerald Green has provided the lift we didn't know the Rockets needed. He has scored in double-figures in each of his last eight games and was 33-for-66 (50 percent) from 3-point range before missing his last eight attempts in the Rockets' win in Phoenix on Friday. With Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker being defense-first guys who have each attempted less than half as many shots as Green has per 36 minutes, Green gives the Rockets both a higher ceiling offensively and additional lineup versatility. Before they host the Warriors on Saturday, they'll have their first of four meetings with the Wolves on Thursday.

Week 14: @ LAC, vs. MIN, vs. GSW

5
Last week:
9

Record: 29-16
Pace: 97.7 (23) OffRtg: 110.7 (4) DefRtg: 106.4 (18) NetRtg: +4.3 (5)

The Wolves have struggled against the East, but blasted the Cavs on Monday. And with wins over the Pelicans, Thunder and Blazers over the last 10 days, they're 11-3 against the other West playoff teams (and 2-0 against both the ninth-place Clippers and 10th-place Jazz), having scored 112 points per 100 possessions over the 14 games. Though Jimmy Butler has seen an increase in usage rate from early in the season and has seven of their eight top scoring games over the last month, the offense has been rather balanced among the Wolves starters, who have now played almost 300 more minutes together than any other lineup in the league. There's still room for improvement, with Andrew Wiggins having seen a drop in both 3-point percentage and free throw rate from last season.

Week 14: @ ORL, @ HOU, vs. TOR

6
Last week:
5

Record: 29-15
Pace: 96.7 (29) OffRtg: 105.1 (13) DefRtg: 101.0 (2) NetRtg: +4.0 (6)

The Spurs are almost healthy. Rudy Gay is still out, but they got both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green back on Saturday. Leonard picked up another four steals in less than 29 minutes and Green shot 3-for-5 from beyond the arc in a blowout of the Nuggets that has them a league-best 19-2 at home. Their bench had a rough night in L.A. on Thursday, but they will be seriously deep when Gay returns to uniform. Over their last 12 games, they've risen from 18th to ninth in 3-point percentage, with Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes and Manu Ginobili combining to shoot 46 percent from beyond the arc over that stretch. They still have some work to do to get back into the top 10 on offense (where they've been for each of the last eight seasons), but have a favorable schedule in regard to opposing defenses over the next several weeks.

Week 14: @ ATL, @ BKN, @ TOR, vs. IND

7
Last week:
16

Record: 25-17
Pace: 96.8 (28) OffRtg: 103.6 (22) DefRtg: 104.2 (8) NetRtg: -0.6 (18)

All of a sudden, the Heat are just a game behind the Cavs for third place in the Eastern Conference, and it may soon be too late to find a seat aboard the Bam-wagon. As the Heat beat three East playoff teams (two on the road) last week, Bam Adebayo totaled 37 points, 21 rebounds, 14 assists and five blocks, earning fourth quarter minutes over Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk. The rookie is far more than just an athletic big who benefits from his teammates' playmaking; He's making plays (like this one and this one) himself. Most of his assists have been dribble-handoffs, but he has also displayed good vision out of the low post and as a roll man. The Heat have climbed into the top 10 in defensive efficiency and are 8-5 against the other East playoff teams, though they still have a negative point differential, having been outscored 24 points over their 42 games.

Week 14: @ CHI, @ MIL, @ BKN, @ CHA

8
Last week:
8

Record: 25-18
Pace: 99.6 (13) OffRtg: 106.7 (11) DefRtg: 104.3 (10) NetRtg: +2.4 (8)

Though the Wizards have been pretty healthy for the last month, minutes for their Kelly-Oubre-instead-of-Markieff-Morris lineup, which has outscored opponents by more than 18 points per 100 possessions over the last two regular seasons, have remained limited. It played more minutes in October (126) than it has since (60). But Oubre's minutes (mostly off the bench) have been a bellwether. The Wizards are 19-5 when he has a non-negative plus-minus, but he was a minus-15 (and made a defensive mistake on the play that gave the Jazz the lead for good) in the Wizards' loss to Utah on Wednesday. Oubre has shot 53 percent as the Wizards have won eight of their last 11 games, and big buckets from John Wall saved them when weekend games against the Magic and Nets became too close for comfort.

Week 14: vs. MIL, @ CHA, @ DET

9
Last week:
6

Record: 26-16
Pace: 99.1 (15) OffRtg: 110.2 (5) DefRtg: 109.3 (29) NetRtg: +0.9 (12)

After a brutal 1-4 trip in which...
1. Their only win came by four points against the Magic (who have lost 16 of their last 17 games)
2. Two losses (in Minnesota and Toronto) came by 28 and 34 points and
3. They blew a 22-point lead in Indiana
... the Cavs have lost eight of their last nine games on the road. Not only has the defense been bad, but they've scored just 103 points per 100 possessions over those nine games, with Cavs not named Kyle Korver shooting 27 percent from 3-point range over the five-game trip. The good news is that they've won 13 straight games at the Q, where they'll play seven of their next nine. More bad news: They still have the league's worst home defense (109.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) and Stephen Curry is healthy again.

Week 14: vs. GSW, vs. ORL, vs. OKC

10
Last week:
7

Record: 22-20
Pace: 97.7 (24) OffRtg: 107.4 (8) DefRtg: 107.7 (24) NetRtg: -0.3 (17)

If you can keep Giannis Antetokounmpo away from the basket, you're in great shape against the Bucks. Antetokounmpo (the league leader in restricted-area buckets) got a season-low two shots in the restricted area against in Indiana on Monday, and just six in Miami on Sunday, part of a 1-3 week for the Bucks, who couldn't make up for the lack of layups with any kind of success from the perimeter. They shot 15-for-76 (20 percent) from 3-point range in the three losses, dropping to 28th in 3-point percentage for the season. Malcolm Brogdon has shot 51 percent since moving back to the starting lineup five games ago, but the new lineup has been pretty poor defensively in that stretch and the Bucks still can't find the right mix off the bench. They've seen the league's biggest drop in bench NetRtg, from plus-2.1 (eighth in the league) last season to minus-5.5 (27th) this season.

Week 14: @ WAS, vs. MIA, @ PHI

11
Last week:
10

Record: 23-20
Pace: 97.7 (21) OffRtg: 105.4 (12) DefRtg: 103.0 (4) NetRtg: +2.4 (7)

Raise your hand if you knew Raymond Felton would be the guy to pull the Thunder out of a three-game losing streak with eight points and four assists on a game-changing, 22-6 run in the fourth quarter in Charlotte on Saturday. Felton hasn't exactly been a top-five back-up point guard, but the Thunder have been a little better with Russell Westbrook off the floor (minus-6.3 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (minus-8.9), when they were they were destroyed in no-Westbrook minutes in the playoffs. Billy Donovan continues to search for the right combinations (and trying out five-man bench units), but over Andre Roberson's seven-game absence, the numbers have been good (plus-12.9 points per 100 possessions) with Josh Huestis on the floor. Patrick Patterson's play remains disappointing.

Week 14: vs. SAC, vs. LAL, @ CLE

12
Last week:
17

Record: 23-20
Pace: 98.9 (17) OffRtg: 108.4 (7) DefRtg: 106.7 (21) NetRtg: +1.7 (9)

The Pacers still rank second in 3-point percentage, but a 1-for-18 performance against Miami on Wednesday kept them from sweeping a four-game homestand that included comfortable wins over the Bulls and Bucks, a comeback from 22 points down against the Cavs, and maybe the best defense the Pacers have played all season. With an easy win in Phoenix on Sunday, they've allowed just 100 points per 100 possessions over their last five games, even though they haven't had Myles Turner (second in the league in blocks per game) for the last three. They've actually been more than seven points per 100 possessions better defensively with Domantas Sabonis playing center with the other four starters than they've been with Turner at the five. No matter when Turner returns from his elbow injury, the defensive numbers could stay strong, because the Phoenix win was just the start of an 11-game stretch where nine of the 11 games are against teams that rank in the bottom 11 offensively.

Week 14: @ UTA, @ POR, @ LAL, @ SAS

13
Last week:
11

Record: 19-20
Pace: 103.1 (2) OffRtg: 104.4 (16) DefRtg: 103.4 (6) NetRtg: +1.0 (11)

The Sixers brought their turnover problem with them to London, committing 19 as they blew a 22-point lead to the Celtics and saw their stretch of improved offense come to an end. Joel Embiid has shot 10-for-33 in two games against Boston, with 18 of the 33 shots coming from outside the paint (and he's 2-for-18 on those shots). The second half of their season will be much easier than the first half was, but the Sixers have three more games against East playoff teams this week. They're 0-8 against the conference's top three teams (Boston, Toronto and Cleveland) and 5-1 against teams 4-8, but have yet to play Miami or Milwaukee.

Week 14: vs. TOR, @ BOS, vs. MIL

14
Last week:
15

Record: 22-20
Pace: 101.8 (6) OffRtg: 108.5 (6) DefRtg: 107.5 (23) NetRtg: +1.0 (11)

The Pels have been more than two games above or below .500 for just one day this season (they were 11-8 for less than 24 hours), a quirk that should be threatened by a stretch of four games (starting with their visit to Atlanta on Wednesday) against teams with a cumulative winning percentage of .335. But even after coming back from 14 points down in the fourth quarter in New York on Sunday, they're just 3-3 since Christmas against teams with losing records. They lost in Memphis on Wednesday with Anthony Davis out and DeMarcus Cousins (the guy with the highest turnover rate on drives among players who have averaged at least four drives per game) getting stripped as he drove for the win in the closing seconds. But with Davis back, they ran Cousins-Davis pick-and-rolls to get key buckets against Portland on Friday and again at Madison Square Garden two days later. Cousins has almost as many assists to Davis (53) as Rajon Rondo does (54).

Week 14: @ BOS, @ ATL, vs. MEM

15
Last week:
12

Record: 22-19
Pace: 97.7 (22) OffRtg: 104.3 (17) DefRtg: 104.2 (9) NetRtg: +0.0 (15)

A 34-point win in Brooklyn on Wednesday gave the Pistons' road point differential a boost, but narrow losses in New Orleans (with Ish Smith missing a layup he'd surely love to have back) and Chicago (with a missed call on Reggie Bullock's shot for the win) have them 3-10 on the road since Dec. 1. Even with the Brooklyn win, only four teams have a bigger home-road NetRtg differential than the Pistons, who have been 8.8 points per 100 possessions better at home than on the road, with (weirdly) a big discrepancy in their defensive rebounding percentage (81 percent vs. 75 percent). They have a tough game in Toronto on Wednesday, but starting with Friday's game against Washington, they'll play 13 of 15 games at Little Caesars Arena.

Week 14: vs. CHA, @ TOR, vs. WAS, vs. BKN

16
Last week:
18

Record: 21-21
Pace: 100.1 (11) OffRtg: 106.9 (9) DefRtg: 106.4 (19) NetRtg: +0.5 (13)

Maybe Lou Williams has been miscast as a sixth man all this time. Williams moved back into the starting lineup four games ago and the Clippers have run off four straight wins, with Blake Griffin missing two of the games and with Williams averaging 35.0 points. His 50 (a career high) on Wednesday (and 22 from someone named Tyrone Wallace) helped the Clips end a 12-game losing streak to the champs. The Clips are 5-1 in games that Williams, Griffin and Milos Teodosic have all played, though the numbers (on defense in particular) have not been good with the three of them on the floor together. They're tied in the loss column with the eighth-place Nuggets, who they'll play for the first time on Wednesday. It would help to have DeAndre Jordan's rim protection against the team (Denver) that ranks second in the percentage of their paints that come from the paint, but after spraining his ankle in Sacramento on Thursday, Jordan missed a game for the first time in his career on Saturday.

Week 14: vs. HOU, vs. DEN, @ UTA

17
Last week:
14

Record: 22-21
Pace: 99.1 (16) OffRtg: 103.7 (21) DefRtg: 104.0 (7) NetRtg: -0.3 (16)

It took more than two months, but the Blazers have found their offense. They rank fifth offensively in 2018, having scored 111 points per 100 possessions in their eight January games, with Evan Turner shooting 58 percent and Jusuf Nurkic emerging from a slump. Of course, they've also lost their defense and rank 26th on that end of the floor this month, with particularly horrendous numbers when reserves have been on the floor. Their win in Oklahoma City on Monday was one their best offensive games of the season, but they followed it up by allowing the Rockets to grab 17 offensive rebounds on Wednesday and allowing the Pelicans and Wolves to shoot 54 percent over the weekend.

Week 14: vs. PHX, vs. IND, vs. DAL

18
Last week:
13

Record: 22-21
Pace: 98.5 (18) OffRtg: 106.8 (10) DefRtg: 106.7 (20) NetRtg: +0.1 (14)

The Nuggets haven't been able to take care of business against a relatively easy stretch of schedule, picking up losses to the Sixers, Kings and Hawks over the last 2 1/2 weeks. The problem has been on offense, with Nikola Jokic shooting 27 percent (including 1-for-17 3-point range) and the team scoring just 96 points per 100 possessions in those three games. With things looking bad against another bad team (Memphis) on Friday, Mike Malone dusted off Kenneth Faried and Richard Jefferson, and the little-used vets helped turn things around in an ugly win. But after a 32-point loss in San Antonio on Saturday, the Nuggets could be playing for eighth place in the West (with a rest disadvantage) in L.A. on Wednesday.

Week 14: vs. DAL, @ LAC, vs. PHX

19
Last week:
21

Record: 16-27
Pace: 99.6 (14) OffRtg: 101.2 (28) DefRtg: 107.8 (25) NetRtg: -6.6 (28)

Things couldn't have gone much better for Zach LaVine in his Bulls debut. He looked comfortable in shooting off the dribble and aggressive in attacking the basket on his way to scoring 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting. The Chicago ball movement suffered a bit (2.95 passes per possession on Saturday, down from 3.09 over their first 42 games), but Fred Hoiberg will happily take another guy who can create off the dribble and take some of the playmaking load off of Kris Dunn, who finally got a big shot to go (off the glass) after missing his first five clutch attempts in the Bulls' double-overtime win in New York on Wednesday. Among the 15 lineups that have played at least 250 minutes this season, the Bulls' pre-LaVine starters have been the worst offensively (102 points scored per 100 possessions) by a pretty wide margin.

Week 14: vs. MIA, vs. GSW, @ ATL

20
Last week:
19

Record: 19-24
Pace: 98.4 (19) OffRtg: 104.2 (18) DefRtg: 105.7 (15) NetRtg: -1.5 (21)

The Knicks had a couple of thrillers at Madison Square Garden last week, Jeff Hornacek drew up one of the best last-possessions we've seen in a while, and they got Tim Hardaway back from a six-week absence over the weekend. But playoff contention is quickly slipping away, as they've lost 10 of their last 12 games, with the league's 28th-ranked offense over that stretch. The issues start with Kristaps Porzingis, who has shot 39 percent over the 12 games, but they're not getting nearly enough 3-point shooting around their star. Now, with the Grammys coming to MSG, they leave for their longest trip of the season (seven games over 12 days). Only the Kings have been worse offensively on the road.

Week 14: @ BKN, @ MEM, @ UTA, @ LAL

21
Last week:
26

Record: 15-27
Pace: 103.6 (1) OffRtg: 101.1 (29) DefRtg: 104.5 (11) NetRtg: -3.4 (24)

The Lakers' four-game winning streak began with a big offensive game against Atlanta, but the rest of the streak has been about defense. They allowed the Kings, Spurs and Mavs to score just 87 points per 100 possessions last week to creep back toward the top 10 in defensive efficiency. Brook Lopez provided an offensive spark against Sacramento, hitting three threes at the start of a 26-5 run in the third quarter, and the Lakers numbers have been generally terrible with Larry Nance at center. But a Kyle Kuzma-Nance frontline had some big minutes off the bench in the win over San Antonio on Thursday. Lonzo Ball remains inconsistent offensively, but the L.A. defense has been at its best with him on the floor.

Week 14: @ MEM, @ OKC, vs. IND, vs. NYK

22
Last week:
22

Record: 16-27
Pace: 102.3 (5) OffRtg: 102.8 (26) DefRtg: 106.1 (16) NetRtg: -3.4 (23)

The Nets are making a run for the Mavs' Team #LeaguePassAlert title, with seven of their last eight games having been within five points in the last five minutes (and two against East playoff teams going to overtime last week). Only Russell Westbrook (4-for-17) has taken more shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime than Spencer Dinwiddie, who is 5-for-15 on those shots after a 2-for-5 week that included the game-winner in Atlanta on Friday. With D'Angelo Russell possibly coming back this week, it will be interesting to see how Kenny Atkinson manages the minutes (and late-game touches) of the two point guards, who have played just 46 minutes together in the 11 games in which they've both been healthy.

Week 14: vs. NYK, vs. SAS, vs. MIA, @ DET

23
Last week:
23

Record: 15-29
Pace: 97.3 (25) OffRtg: 104.7 (15) DefRtg: 107.1 (22) NetRtg: -2.3 (22)

No team better reflects league-wide trends in offensive rebounding and turnovers better than the Mavs, who have both the league's lowest offensive rebounding percentage and its lowest turnover rate. Improvement in the latter (just 28 turnovers over their last four games) and better shooting from Harrison Barnes (51 percent over the last seven) has helped them rank as the league's sixth best offense since Christmas, even with an ugly shooting performance in an overtime loss to the Lakers on Saturday. Yogi Ferrell was having a bit of a renaissance (and was moved into the starting lineup) before shooting 1-for-10 from beyond the arc in that one, which ended a stretch of five straight games against teams below .500. Tuesday's visit to Denver begins a stretch of seven straight against teams over .500.

Week 14: @ DEN, @ POR

24
Last week:
20

Record: 16-25
Pace: 100.6 (10) OffRtg: 103.5 (23) DefRtg: 104.5 (12) NetRtg: -1.0 (20)

When Steve Clifford returns to coach against the Wizards on Wednesday, his team could have the same record without him as they had with him (8-13). The Hornets haven't been able to sustain any momentum from a 3-1 trip that included a win at Golden State. After a four-day break, they had a chance to survive one of their worst defensive games of the season, but Dwight Howard shot 5-for-18 from the free throw line and Kemba Walker missed a three to tie with 12 seconds left against Dallas. Walker is now 0-for-12 (0-for-7 from 3-point range) on shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime and the Hornets are now 7-15 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Last season, when they were one of two teams with a losing record and a positive point differential, the problem was the league's second worst clutch defense. This season, it's been the league's worst clutch offense.

Week 14: @ DET, vs. WAS, vs. MIA

25
Last week:
24

Record: 17-25
Pace: 96.9 (27) OffRtg: 103.7 (20) DefRtg: 104.6 (13) NetRtg: -0.8 (19)

Joe Ingles shot just 5-for-19 from 3-point range on Utah's four-game trip, but the only three he made in Washington on Wednesday was the one (with a little over a minute to go) that gave the Jazz the lead for good in their only win of the trip. Though they just lost Thabo Sefolosha to a knee injury, are still waiting on Rudy Gobert, and are reportedly talking to the Bulls about a Nikola Mirotic trade, the time for a playoff push may be right now. After the Jazz host the Pacers (with a rest advantage) on Monday, they'll play four straight games against teams with losing records. Sefolosha's absence could result in more playing time for Royce (da 6'6") O'Neale, an undrafted rookie who provided a big lift in that Washington win and has generally given them good minutes when he's been called on. He ranks fourth in rebounding percentage among players under 6-7.

Week 14: vs. IND, @ SAC, vs. NYK, vs. LAC

26
Last week:
25

Record: 16-28
Pace: 102.5 (3) OffRtg: 102.5 (27) DefRtg: 109.2 (28) NetRtg: -6.7 (29)

The Suns are in the middle of a light stretch of schedule, playing just four games over 14 days. They're also in the middle of a tough stretch of schedule, playing nine straight games against teams that are currently at or above .500, and they're 4-21 against that group after losses to the Rockets and Pacers over the weekend. The Suns are the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both field goal percentage in the paint (26th) and effective field goal percentage outside the paint (28th), but actually shot better than Houston on Friday, getting beat on turnovers and on the glass. They weren't so proud to own the 3-point zone on Sunday, shooting 9-for-37 from deep against Indiana.

Week 14: @ POR, @ DEN

27
Last week:
27

Record: 13-28
Pace: 95.7 (30) OffRtg: 102.8 (25) DefRtg: 106.3 (17) NetRtg: -3.5 (25)

Marc Gasol showed some signs of life in the Grizzlies win over New Orleans on Wednesday, coming a few assists shy of a triple-double and clinching the victory by stripping DeMarcus Cousins clean in the closing seconds. A question for the Grizzlies going forward is whether Gasol can ever be as effective of a defender as he was in the past with the way the game has evolved since he was the Defensive Player of the Year five years ago. Short-term, the goal seems to be finding a buyer on Tyreke Evans and developing at least one of the young players into something of value. Accomplishing the former and redistributing touches would help with the latter, because Evans ranks fifth in the league in usage rate since Christmas. Speaking of veterans taking touches from young guys, Zach Randolph makes his return to the Grindhouse on Friday.

Week 14: vs. LAL, vs. NYK, vs. SAC, @ NOP

28
Last week:
29

Record: 11-31
Pace: 99.7 (12) OffRtg: 104.2 (19) DefRtg: 108.1 (26) NetRtg: -4.0 (26)

The Hawks remain patient with John Collins, keeping him out of the starting lineup (even though the current starters haven't been nearly as good since Christmas as they were prior), keeping his minutes at just 22 per game, and using him for just nine of their 28 clutch-time minutes since he returned from injury a month ago. What has been the league's worst clutch defense (130 points allowed per 100 possessions with the game within five points in the last five minutes) allowed the Nets to shoot 7-for-8 in the final five minutes on Friday. Dewayne Dedmon returned from a long absence last week (and was a team-best plus-33 over three games), making the frontcourt even more crowded.

Week 14: vs. SAS, vs. NOP, vs. CHI

29
Last week:
28

Record: 13-29
Pace: 97.1 (26) OffRtg: 100.2 (30) DefRtg: 110.2 (30) NetRtg: -10.0 (30)

The Kings are trying something new. Their last five games have been the fastest-paced stretch (102.4 possessions per 48 minutes) in 1 1/2 seasons under Dave Joerger. One result was a season-high 23 fast break points in L.A. on Saturday, while another has been an increase in turnovers (and four straight losses). Their shot selection hasn't changed much and they remain one of two teams (the Spurs are the other) that ranks in the bottom five both in the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area (27th) and in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (29th). Among 222 players who have attempted at least 200 total shots, Skal Labissiere (63 percent), De'Aaron Fox (55 percent) and Zach Randolph (54 percent) all rank in the top 15 in the percentage of their shots that have come in between.

Week 14: @ OKC, vs. UTA, @ MEM

30
Last week:
30

Record: 12-31
Pace: 101.6 (7) OffRtg: 103.5 (24) DefRtg: 109.0 (27) NetRtg: -5.5 (27)

You know you're struggling when you can't even win a game (Friday against Washington) in which Bismack Biyombo scores 18 points (his career high for a whole game) in the first half. Over their seven-game losing streak (Phase 3 of a 4-27 stretch), the Magic are just a minus-4 in the first half of games. But they've allowed their opponents to shoot 56 percent and score 123 points per 100 possessions after halftime. Though he has shot much better off the bench (effective field goal percentage of 54 percent) than as a starter (47 percent), Jonathon Simmons has remained in the starting lineup (where he's overmatched on the wing) since late-November. Rookie Wes Iwundu is starting to get more consistent minutes this month, though.

Week 14: vs. MIN, @ CLE, @ BOS


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