The best laid plans ...
The New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder were playing their best basketball of the season last week ... and then catastrophic injuries struck. DeMarcus Cousins was going after his own missed free throw, while Andre Roberson was executing one of his patented cuts along the baseline.
One is an All-Star and a 25-points-per-game scorer on the league's sixth-ranked offense. The other is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate on the league's sixth-ranked defense. And both are done for the season.
Neither team has an immediate answer for how they proceed, but optimism can be found in how improved the Thunder offense has been over the last six weeks and in how well the Pelicans have played with Anthony Davis at center.
And fortunately for both teams (as well as those looking to sell off a piece or two), the injuries occurred before the trade deadline, which is now just 10 days away. The Cleveland Cavaliers should be the team that drives the market, but there are now a couple of additional teams with a need for reliable rotation guys.
The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, just keep rolling.
- Last week: Rockets beat Warriors again, but champs still No. 1
- This time last year: Dog days of winter taking toll on contenders -- The day before his 40th birthday, Vince Carter went 360 on the Raptors. After Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade called out their teammates, Rajon Rondo responded on Instagram. LeBron James was reportedly unhappy with the Cavs' reluctance to spend money, Enes Kanter punched a chair and broke his arm, Paul George threw one down on Clint Capela, Andrew Wiggins beat the Suns at the buzzer, and Dion Waiters beat the Warriors with a deep three.
- Plus-minus stud: Steven Adams (OKC) was a plus-55 in four games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Devin Booker (PHX) was a minus-76 in four games last week.
- Shinsuke team of the week: Oklahoma City (4-0) -- The Thunder took a huge blow with a season-ending injury to their best defender, but kept their eight-game winning streak alive with continued improvement on offense.
- Jobber team of the week: Phoenix (0-4) -- The Suns jobbed out to a few good teams last week, but also lost by 22 points at home to the Knicks.
- East vs. West: The West is 158-141 (.528) against the East in interconference games after going 20-8 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Dallas, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Chicago
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Washington, 2. Houston, 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: Charlotte (+4), Philadelphia (+4), Oklahoma City (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Washington (-5), Detroit (-4), Chicago (-3)
- Team to watch in Week 16: Houston -- The Rockets are solidly in second place in the West, but have a couple of interesting road games this week, visiting the Spurs on Thursday and the Cavs on Saturday.
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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 105.7 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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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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