Power Rankings
Power Rankings

Week 21 Power Rankings: Western Conference races heat up on both ends of playoff picture

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Mar 5, 2018 11:58 AM ET

The Pelicans are surging down the stretch while the Wolves have hit a bumpy patch.

Klay Thompson said last week that the Golden State Warriors are "trying to win every game going into the playoffs."

Maybe that's not realistic, but the champs are one of five teams (all in the Western Conference) that haven't lost since the All-Star break and have started to play better defensively. When they're focused, the Warriors can be the best team in the league on both ends of the floor.

Of course, if the Warriors are going to try to run the table, the Houston Rockets have to stay just as locked in. The Rockets have won 15 straight games, but still have just a one-game edge in the loss column over the champs.

They won't play each other again until the conference finals (if they get there), but both the Rockets and Warriors have some interesting road games this week. Houston will visit Oklahoma City and Toronto, while Golden State will visit Portland (where the Blazers have won 13 of their last 14) and Minnesota.

 
Dig into some of the key numbers from this week's Power Rankings.
  • Hero team of the week: Houston (3-0) -- The Rockets' week included two double-digit, road wins over teams - the Clippers and Jazz - that have otherwise been playing well.
  • Zero team of the week: Memphis (0-4) -- The Grizz have vaulted to the top of the Lottery race with a 13-game losing streak, losing to both the Suns and Magic last week.
  • Toughest schedules so far: 1. Dallas, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Utah
  • Easiest schedules so far: 1. Indiana, 2. Houston, 3. Toronto
  • 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: New Orleans (+8), Utah (+4), Three teams (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Minnesota (-5), Memphis (-4), Washington (-4)
  • Team to watch in Week 21: Houston -- The Rockets take their 15-game winning streak on a four-game trip, which includes three games against teams with winning records. The highlight should be their Friday game in Toronto, where the Raptors have the league's best home record.

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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 99.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 106.1 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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1
Last week:
1

Record: 49-13
Pace: 100.2 (11) OffRtg: 113.4 (2) DefRtg: 104.5 (10) NetRtg: +8.9 (2)

The Warriors still have an easier remaining schedule than the Rockets, but for schedule strength to matter in the race for the overall top seed, the Rockets would have to lose to good teams. Their 15-game winning streak includes 10 wins over teams with winning records, and they've allowed just 102 points per 100 possessions in the six games during the streak that have been against top-10 offenses. They rank third defensively over the course of the streak, with improvement coming in defending the perimeter and keeping their opponents off the line (they lead the league in opponent free throw rate over the streak). For the season, they've allowed just 99 points per 100 possessions with Luc Mbah a Moute on the floor. That's the second lowest on-court DefRtg among 223 players who have averaged at least 20 minutes in 25 or more games, with the only lower mark belonging to a guy (Andre Roberson) who is done for the season.

Week 21: @ OKC, @ MIL, @ TOR, @ DAL

2
Last week:
2

Record: 49-14
Pace: 102.6 (2) OffRtg: 114.0 (1) DefRtg: 103.4 (5) NetRtg: +10.6 (1)

The Warriors won third quarters in New York and Washington by a combined 34 points last week, and their season-long mark of plus-21.5 points per 100 possessions in the third would be the second best mark (lower than only that of their plus-22.8 in the third quarter last season) for any team in any quarter over the last 20 years. But with the change in their starting lineup, they've also been the league's best first quarter team (plus-29.5 per 100) since the All-Star break. JaVale McGee has averaged just 12.5 minutes since the break, but with stronger starts, the Warriors have trailed for less than 21 minutes through their first five post-break games. This is the toughest week remaining on their schedule and their Thursday-Friday back-to-back against the Spurs and Blazers is the only of their four remaining back-to-backs in which they don't play the Suns on the second night.

Week 21: vs. BKN, vs. SAS, @ POR, @ MIN

3
Last week:
3

Record: 45-17
Pace: 100.3 (10) OffRtg: 110.9 (4) DefRtg: 102.6 (3) NetRtg: +8.3 (3)

The Raptors' depth is so good, they can lose a starter (OG Anunoby) to injury, insert a guy who has played 29 minutes all season (Malcolm Miller), and not skip a beat. Replacing Anunoby with Norman Powell didn't really work last week (and hasn't worked much this season), but Miller kept things moving in limited minutes against Washington and Charlotte over the weekend. The Raptors have of the best eight lineups in the league (minimum 200 minutes); Their five-man bench unit has outscored its opponents by 24.2 points per 00 possessions and their regular starters have outscored their opponents by 12.1. But their most-used lineup in the clutch has been reserve Fred VanVleet with the other four starters. Their numbers have been solid (plus-5.1 per 100 possessions), but not spectacular with VanVleet on the floor with both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Week 21: vs. ATL, @ DET, vs. HOU, @ NYK

4
Last week:
6

Record: 37-26
Pace: 99.0 (18) OffRtg: 105.5 (16) DefRtg: 104.2 (7) NetRtg: +1.2 (13)

A six-game winning streak has put the Blazers in good position to begin the playoffs at home, where they've won 13 of their last 14 games, with seven of the 13 wins coming against teams that currently have winning records. They lead the league defensively since the All-Star break, having held each of their five opponents under a point per possession. The defense (which has risen back to seventh in the league after falling to 11th prior to the break) has been at its best with Jusuf Nurkic on the floor. He ranks as one of the league's best high volume rim protectors and the Blazers have allowed just 20 free throw attempts per 100 shots from the field (an opponent free throw rate which would lead the league) with him on the floor.

Week 21: @ LAL, vs. NYK, vs. GSW

5
Last week:
7

Record: 44-20
Pace: 98.4 (22) OffRtg: 105.6 (14) DefRtg: 101.4 (1) NetRtg: +4.1 (4)

The Celtics have had the league's best post-break offense, scoring almost 119 points per 100 possessions over what has been their best five-game offensive stretch of the season. Eight different Celtics have averaged double-figures over the five games, with Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris providing some punch off the bench. No team has come closer to beating the Rockets over the last five weeks, but that improved offense came up short in the final two minutes on Saturday, with two straight turnovers leading directly to the Trevor Ariza buckets that tied the game and gave the Rockets the lead for good. The Celtics' have still had the league's second best clutch offense, with a clutch effective field goal percentage (59 percent) better than that of the Warriors or Rockets. Kyrie Irving ranks second in the league in clutch scoring, while Jaylen Brown, Al Horford and Jayson Tatum are three of the 22 players who have shot 50 percent or better on at least 20 clutch shots.

Week 21: @ CHI, @ MIN, vs. IND

6
Last week:
10

Record: 33-30
Pace: 97.5 (25) OffRtg: 105.3 (18) DefRtg: 103.5 (6) NetRtg: +1.8 (10)

The Jazz are the only West team with more games remaining against teams with losing records (10) than against teams with winning records (9). They've also won eight straight games on the road, where they'll play their four remaining games against teams that are currently sitting between third and eighth in the West (including one in New Orleans on Sunday). But they don't play any of those teams more than once, so they still need some help in order to get back to the playoffs. They've had the league's best defense in the seven-plus weeks since Rudy Gobert returned from injury and have allowed less than 90 points per 100 possessions in 150 minutes with Gobert and Jae Crowder on the floor together.

Week 21: vs. ORL, @ IND, @ MEM, @ NOP

7
Last week:
15

Record: 36-26
Pace: 102.5 (4) OffRtg: 107.9 (9) DefRtg: 106.7 (18) NetRtg: +1.2 (14)

When he scored a season-high 53 points against Phoenix on Monday, Anthony Davis took just one of 29 shots from 3-point range, scoring 43 of the 53 in the restricted area (where he was 11-for-14) or at the foul line (where he was 21-for-26). As he's averaged 37.3 points over the Pelicans' eight-game winning streak, Davis has played stronger inside, and not just in regard to his scoring. His eight offensive boards against Phoenix were one short of tying his career high and he simply outworked the Spurs to the offensive rebound that helped seal a win on Wednesday. The Pels are in fourth place and, after visiting the Clippers and Kings, they'll play eight of their next nine games at home.

Week 21: @ LAC, @ SAC, vs. WAS, vs. UTA

8
Last week:
5

Record: 36-27
Pace: 98.7 (20) OffRtg: 107.9 (7) DefRtg: 105.8 (14) NetRtg: +2.1 (9)

Big wins in Milwaukee and Washington over the weekend, in which they allowed less than a point per possession, have the Pacers in fourth place in the East. But they should probably be in third, because their four-game trip began with losses in Dallas and Atlanta, in which they scored less than a point per possession. They rank 24th offensively since the break, with Pacers not named Bojan Bogdanovic having shot 29 percent from 3-point range. They miss Darren Collison (his original timeline would have had him back by now), not because Cory Joseph hasn't been able to fill in, but because they've scored a paltry 92 points per 100 possessions in 71 minutes with back-up Joe Young on the floor since the break.

Week 21: vs. MIL, vs. UTA, vs. ATL, @ BOS

9
Last week:
4

Record: 38-28
Pace: 98.1 (23) OffRtg: 111.2 (3) DefRtg: 108.3 (24) NetRtg: +2.9 (6)

The Wolves are two games into a stretch of eight straight against teams with winning records. And that stretch is not off to a good start, with losses in Portland and Utah dropping them to 2-13 on the road in 2018. They recorded a paltry 30 assists on 76 buckets in the two losses, and adding to the issue of Jimmy Butler's absence, Taj Gibson suffered a hip contusion on Thursday (but still played the next night) and Karl-Anthony Towns was ejected in the first half on Friday. Nemanja Bjelica has replaced Butler in the starting lineup and has averaged a team-high 36.5 minutes over the four games since Butler's injury, maybe because the two of the guys that remain reserves - Jamal Crawford and Gorgui Dieng - have shot a combined 21-for-63 (33 percent).

Week 21: vs. BOS, vs. GSW

10
Last week:
12

Record: 35-28
Pace: 99.0 (16) OffRtg: 108.8 (6) DefRtg: 108.4 (26) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)

Their loss to the Clippers on Tuesday, in which they allowed 72 points in the paint and 21 second chance points, dropped the Nuggets into ninth place, with a road-heavy schedule going forward. But with wins in Memphis and Cleveland over the weekend, they've won four straight away from the Pepsi Center, they're back in playoff position, and they now have an easier stretch of schedule (before things get much more difficult), with seven of their next nine games against teams with losing records. Paul Millsap is back (and was in the starting lineup for both of the road wins), but the perimeter guys continue to provide the bulk of the scoring for what has been the league's second best offense (just a hair behind that of the Rockets) since Feb. 1. Gary Harris averaged 27 points on 58 percent shooting (11-for-21 from 3-point range) in their three games last week and Will Barton ranks fourth in effective field goal percentage since the All-Star break (minimum 50 FGA).

Week 21: @ DAL, vs. CLE, vs. LAL, vs. SAC

11
Last week:
9

Record: 34-28
Pace: 101.4 (5) OffRtg: 105.7 (13) DefRtg: 103.0 (4) NetRtg: +2.7 (7)

The Sixers got a good win in Cleveland on Thursday, holding a top-five offense under a point per possession. But their two more important road games last week featured their two biggest problems this season: turnovers (they committed 49 total in the two losses) and an inability to hold on to early leads. They blew a 13-point lead in Miami on Monday and a 20-point lead in Milwaukee on Sunday. New additions Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova have had their moments, but have yet to make a difference on the bottom line, as the Sixers have been outscored by almost 12 points per 100 possessions in 116 minutes with Joel Embiid off the floor and rank 23rd in aggregate bench NetRtg since the All-Star break.

Week 21: @ CHA, @ MIA, @ BKN

12
Last week:
8

Record: 36-28
Pace: 99.2 (15) OffRtg: 107.1 (11) DefRtg: 105.7 (13) NetRtg: +1.4 (11)

The Wizards' no-John-Wall offense has ... hit a wall. They've scored just 102 points per 100 possessions as they've lost three straight games at home. Bradley Beal has shot 31 percent over the three games and couldn't complete a comeback from 17 points down against Indiana on Sunday, missing his last five shots (the last three would have tied the game or given the Wizards the lead in the final minute). Among players who have attempted at least 50 clutch shots this season, only Carmelo Anthony (30 percent) has a lower clutch field goal percentage than Beal (31 percent), who has shot 2-for-21 from mid-range in the clutch. The home team will have a rest advantage in both of the Wizards' games against the Heat this week (Tuesday in D.C. and Saturday in Miami).

Week 21: vs. MIA, @ NOP, @ MIA

13
Last week:
11

Record: 37-28
Pace: 98.7 (19) OffRtg: 106.9 (12) DefRtg: 104.4 (9) NetRtg: +2.5 (8)

The Thunder have been able to take care of business against the seven worst teams in the league, going 6-0 against that group since the Andre Roberson injury, though the last five of those wins were each within five points in the last five minutes and they needed more late-game heroics from Russell Westbrook to win in Dallas and Phoenix last week. His and-one in overtime in Dallas on Wednesday put him in a tie for the league lead with eight baskets to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or OT. He outplayed the guy he's tied with (Damian Lillard) on Saturday, but Paul George shot 8-for-19 (and is 11-for-46 from 3-point range since the break) and the loss in Portland dropped OKC to 2-8 since the Roberson injury against teams that aren't at least 20 games under .500. They get to play the Suns, Kings and Hawks in the next nine days, but after that, they'll have just one more game (the last one of the season) against teams with losing records.

Week 21: vs. HOU, vs. PHX, vs. SAS

14
Last week:
17

Record: 34-28
Pace: 101.1 (6) OffRtg: 107.9 (8) DefRtg: 106.6 (17) NetRtg: +1.3 (12)

The Clippers have lost two starters since the All-Star break, Danilo Gallinari to (another) injury and Tyrone Wallace to two-way contract rules. But they've managed to stay in the playoff race in the West with the league's fifth best offense over the last three weeks. For the most part, the offense has been fueled by the usual suspects, but Boban Marjanovic gave them a huge lift (18 points, five offensive rebounds, plus-27) in a desperate moment (they trailed by 19 in the third quarter) in Denver on Tuesday, helping the Clips clinch the tiebreaker with the eighth-place Nuggets. Marjanovic has played less than nine minutes over the three games since, in part because Montrezl Harrell has also been really good in backing up DeAndre Jordan. In fact, Harrell (73 percent) and Jordan (70 percent) rank first and second in field goal percentage (minimum 50 FGA) over the last three weeks.

Week 21: vs. NOP, vs. CLE, vs. ORL

15
Last week:
13

Record: 36-27
Pace: 97.1 (29) OffRtg: 105.5 (17) DefRtg: 102.4 (2) NetRtg: +3.1 (5)

Kawhi Leonard is back in San Antonio and could return this season, but LaMarcus Aldridge is dealing with an ankle injury and the Spurs have lost eight of their last 10 games to drop from third to sixth in the West. For once, defense has been more of an issue than offense, as they've allowed more than 110 points per 100 possessions in six of the eight losses and rank 19th on that end of the floor since Feb. 1, unable to control their shot selection as well as they did prior. Over their 10 games in February and March, 68 percent of their opponents' shots have come from the restricted area or 3-point range, up from 62 percent through January. They've got nine games remaining against the league's top-10 offenses and one of their three remaining games against bottom-10 offenses is against the team (the Lakers) that beat them on Saturday.

Week 21: vs. MEM, @ GSW, @ OKC

16
Last week:
14

Record: 36-26
Pace: 99.9 (14) OffRtg: 109.9 (5) DefRtg: 109.8 (28) NetRtg: +0.1 (17)

LeBron James has averaged a triple-double over his last 14 games, a stretch in which he's shared the floor with 17 different teammates. His best two-man plus-minus over the 14 games (plus-43) has been with Larry Nance Jr. and, over their eight games with the guys they acquired on deadline day, the Cavs have been 25 points per 100 possessions better with Nance on the floor (plus-16.4) than they've been with him off the floor (minus-8.8). They allowed the Nets, Sixers and Nuggets to score almost 120 points per 100 possessions last week, they've dropped back into the negatives (-3) in regard to total season point differential, and J.R. Smith threw soup at Damon Jones. The Cavs have lost four of their six post-break games (including four of five at home) with Nance averaging less than 22 minutes, but he'll get a lot more time with Tristan Thompson dealing with an ankle injury. After hosting the Pistons on Monday, the Cavs will head out for their longest road trip of the season (six games over 11 days).

Week 21: vs. DET, @ DEN, @ LAC, @ LAL

17
Last week:
20

Record: 28-34
Pace: 103.2 (1) OffRtg: 103.8 (23) DefRtg: 105.4 (11) NetRtg: -1.5 (21)

The Lakers are 5-0 since the All-Star break, ranking in the top six in both post-break offense and post-break defense. They've led the league in both pace and points per game in the restricted area for most of the season, and they've remained relentless in their attack no matter who's been in or out of the lineup. Lonzo Ball has been in, and he's made 14 of his 22 3-point attempts as the Lakers have increased their volume from beyond the arc. After taking just 31 percent of their shots from 3-point range (the ninth lowest rate in the league) before the break, they've taken 38 percent of their shots from deep (fifth highest rate) since the break. Ball drained three threes in the final three minutes in San Antonio on Saturday as the Lakers played road spoiler for the second time in March. With 15 of their final 20 games against teams over .500 (and with no control of their own draft pick), more spoiler opportunities await.

Week 21: vs. POR, vs. ORL, @ DEN, vs. CLE

18
Last week:
16

Record: 34-29
Pace: 97.9 (24) OffRtg: 107.2 (10) DefRtg: 106.3 (16) NetRtg: +0.9 (15)

The Bucks have had a bunch of big swings (mostly bad ones) in their six games since the All-Star break. And having lost four straight, they found themselves down 19 points early in the third quarter against Philadelphia on Sunday. But another big swing (a 50-17 run over about 17 minutes) kept them from falling into eighth place in the East. After playing Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker together for just 20 total minutes in Parkers first 10 games of the season, Joe Prunty had them on the floor together for 22 minutes in two games over the weekend, though those minutes were not good (with the Bucks being outscored by 22 points).

Week 21: @ IND, vs. HOU, vs. NYK

19
Last week:
18

Record: 33-30
Pace: 97.3 (27) OffRtg: 103.6 (24) DefRtg: 104.3 (8) NetRtg: -0.7 (19)

The Heat were overwhelmed by the Lakers' pace on Thursday, their worst defensive game of the season. But they won their two more important games last week, holding the Sixers and Pistons under a point per possession. The Detroit win gave them a four-game cushion for eighth place in the East and, with a seven-game edge in conference record, they'll likely have the tiebreaker. Though it's been more than a month since they had both Kelly Olynyk and Wayne Ellington healthy for a full game, the offense has been improved. Dwyane Wade had two of his three highest scoring games of the season against Philly and L.A., shooting 18-for-27 inside the arc and scoring 15 of the Heat's last 17 points (while assisting on the other two) against the Sixers. Miami has four remaining games against the five teams ahead of them in the East standings, and three of those four are this week.

Week 21: vs. PHX, @ WAS, vs. PHI, vs. WAS

20
Last week:
19

Record: 28-36
Pace: 100.2 (12) OffRtg: 105.5 (14) DefRtg: 106.0 (15) NetRtg: -0.5 (18)

Through their first 48 games, the Hornets at least had their starting lineup, which had outscored its opponents by 6.9 points per 100 possessions in its first 614 minutes. But over their last 16 games, their starters have taken a step backward, getting outscored by 6.9 points per 100 possessions (the second worst mark among lineups that have played at least 100 minutes over that stretch) over their last 188 minutes together, with a bigger drop-off on the defensive end of the floor. Their bench still ranks in the bottom five, but has shown some improvement; Reserves have their best raw plus-minus marks since Cody Zeller returned from injury last month.

Week 21: vs. PHI, vs. BKN, vs. PHX

21
Last week:
21

Record: 29-34
Pace: 98.4 (21) OffRtg: 104.3 (20) DefRtg: 105.5 (12) NetRtg: -1.3 (20)

When the Pistons traded for Blake Griffin, they were four games out of eighth place in the loss column. That's right where they are five weeks later, having lost their most important game of the season on Saturday. That loss in Miami dropped them to 0-8 with Griffin against opponents that didn't play the night before, having allowed more than 113 points per 100 possessions over those eight games, even though five of the eight opponents had below-average offenses. Another change in the starting lineup (James Ennis instead of Stanley Johnson at small forward) hasn't worked out, though Johnson had a big game off the bench in their win over the Bucks on Wednesday and Ennis scored a season-high 21 points in Orlando on Friday. That game was lost with the Pistons shooting 7-for-29 from the field and 7-for-14 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and OT.

Week 21: @ CLE, vs. TOR, vs. CHI

22
Last week:
24

Record: 20-44
Pace: 100.3 (9) OffRtg: 103.3 (26) DefRtg: 107.7 (22) NetRtg: -4.4 (25)

Only the Jazz have been more improved defensively since Feb. 1 than than the Hawks, who ranked 26th on that end of the floor through January (108.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) and have ranked ninth defensively in February and March (104.8). In playing spoiler on Wednesday, they forced 24 turnovers out of the Pacers' top-10 offense and held Victor Oladipo to 9-for-25 shooting (1-for-8 with Malcolm Delaney guarding him). Their win over Phoenix on Sunday was their best offensive game in the last four weeks, with Taurean Prince hitting the game-winning three off the dribble. Prince has actually shot much better from beyond the arc on the road (44 percent) than at home (34 percent), but was 18-for-36 on threes over the Hawks' four-game homestand.

Week 21: @ TOR, @ IND, vs. CHI

23
Last week:
23

Record: 21-41
Pace: 100.2 (13) OffRtg: 101.6 (29) DefRtg: 108.4 (25) NetRtg: -6.8 (28)

Robin Lopez hasn't played since the All-Star break, but Cristiano Felicio can't play 48 minutes a night, so the Bulls might still win some games. They did just that (with a 30-15 fourth quarter) against Dallas on Friday, despite Felicio's minus-17 in 25 minutes. They were a plus-25 in a little over 20 minutes with Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis on the floor together and have now scored 110 points per 100 possessions in 344 minutes with Markkanen at center (with neither Lopez or Felicio on the floor). In 1,564 minutes with Markkanen at power forward (mostly with Lopez at the five), they've scored just 98 per 100.

Week 21: vs. BOS, vs. MEM, @ DET, @ ATL

24
Last week:
27

Record: 20-44
Pace: 97.3 (28) OffRtg: 101.3 (30) DefRtg: 109.9 (29) NetRtg: -8.6 (30)

With their vets getting some days off and their games a little more competitive of late, the Kings' young guys have been getting some crunch-time reps. And with wins over the Nets and Knicks last week, the team is 18-14 (best among non-playoff teams) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. De'Aaron Fox hit the runner that sent the Brooklyn game to overtime (where Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield combined for 12 points), and Skal Labissiere hit the game-winner against New York. Their most-used all-young-guy lineup (no Carter, Hill, Koufos, Randolph or Temple) has still played just 60 minutes together.

Week 21: vs. NOP, vs. ORL, @ DEN

25
Last week:
22

Record: 24-40
Pace: 99.0 (17) OffRtg: 104.0 (22) DefRtg: 107.5 (20) NetRtg: -3.5 (23)

The Knicks have had the league's worst defense (116 points allowed per 100 possessions) since losing Kristaps Porzingis for the season, having allowed their opponents to shoot a league-high 42 percent from 3-point range over those nine games. Their newest starting lineup (with Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard) has been outscored by 33 points in its 58 minutes together over the last five games, but there's been some good offensive numbers (121 points scored per 100 possessions) with back-up guards Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina on the floor together. Burke has shot 55 percent and the pair have had a 44/10 assist-turnover ratio in those 144 minutes.

Week 21: @ POR, @ MIL, vs. TOR

26
Last week:
25

Record: 20-44
Pace: 101.0 (7) OffRtg: 103.4 (25) DefRtg: 108.1 (23) NetRtg: -4.7 (26)

The Nets benefited from The Cristiano Felicio Plan on Monday, beating the Bulls to put an end to their eight-game losing streak. Games in Cleveland and L.A. later in the week were two of their five best offensive games of the season, but they're now 1-4 in those five games, because defense remains a problem and they're 0-7 since Feb. 1 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. They've been on the wrong side of a lot of missed calls this season, but they also rank in the bottom 10 in clutch defense. The defensive numbers have also been bad (113 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Spencer Dinwiddie and D'Angelo Russell on the floor together since Russell's return from injury in late January.

Week 21: @ GSW, @ CHA, vs. PHI

27
Last week:
28

Record: 20-43
Pace: 100.6 (8) OffRtg: 104.9 (19) DefRtg: 108.8 (27) NetRtg: -3.9 (24)

Thanks to 18 points in the clutch from Evan Fournier, the Magic are undefeated (2-0) in March, having played spoiler against the Pistons on Friday and having handed the Grizzlies their 13th straight loss on Saturday. Fournier hasn't had the best shooting season of his career, and he has recorded career lows in free throw rate (22 attempts per 100 shots from the field) and the percentage of his shots that have come from the restricted area (25 percent). But he has recovered from a down year last season, shooting better from every distance. Jonathan Isaac was fairly quiet offensively in his first two games since late December, but did have four blocks and two steals in 33 total minutes.

Week 21: @ UTA, @ LAL, @ SAC, @ LAC

28
Last week:
29

Record: 19-45
Pace: 97.4 (26) OffRtg: 104.2 (21) DefRtg: 107.5 (21) NetRtg: -3.3 (22)

Nerlens Noel returned from a three-month absence last week, the Mavs fed him some playing time, and he registered 17 rebounds, four steals and three blocks in his 49 minutes. But the Mavs were outscored by 26 points in those 49 minutes over three games that they lost by a total of ... (wait for it) ... 26 points. Dirk Nowitzki scored a season-high 23 points against New Orleans on Sunday and now ranks fifth in the league in 3-point percentage, having shot a career-high 43 percent from beyond the arc. The Mavs have scored 128 points per 100 possessions in 118 minutes with Nowitzki and Doug McDermott (15-for-22 from 3-point range over his last six games) on the floor together.

Week 21: vs. DEN, vs. MEM, vs. HOU

29
Last week:
30

Record: 19-46
Pace: 102.6 (3) OffRtg: 101.7 (28) DefRtg: 110.3 (30) NetRtg: -8.6 (29)

Over the course of the season, the fourth quarter has been the Suns' best, the only one in which they haven't been outscored by at least six points per 100 possessions. But they've lost the fourth in 13 of their last 14 games. They led four straight games by at least 13 points, and then led by seven in the fourth in Atlanta on Sunday. They lost four of those five, spoiling some big games from Devin Booker (40 and 39 points vs. New Orleans and Oklahoma City) and Elfrid Payton (triple-double in Atlanta). They did get a win (in Memphis) when Josh Jackson scored a career-high 29 points on Wednesday.

Week 21: @ MIA, @ OKC, @ CHA

30
Last week:
26

Record: 18-44
Pace: 96.8 (30) OffRtg: 101.9 (27) DefRtg: 107.1 (19) NetRtg: -5.2 (27)

Jarell Martin has is having one of the best stretches of his career, averaging 17 points on 59 percent shooting over the last three games. But it's not good when your star player isn't happy with your youth movement and a team that's much better than yours has better young players too. That was the case in Boston on Monday when the Celtics built a 26-point, halftime lead with their young, second-unit guys outplaying those of the Grizzlies. The Grizz also lost (or won?) the battle of 10-game losing streaks against Phoenix on Wednesday and have taken their streak to 13 games. It includes three losses to the other seven teams that have 20 or fewer wins, and the Grizz have two more games against that group this week.

Week 21: @ SAS, @ CHI, vs. UTA, @ DAL


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