We're about to reach a critical point in the 2018-19 season. Toward the end of Wednesday's 10-game slate, we will reach the season's quarter point (308 of 1,230 games played), when we should start to take a team's record pretty seriously.
On average, about 14 of the 16 teams that eventually make the playoffs are in the top eight at the quarter mark of the season. At the quarter mark last season, seven of the eight eventual Eastern Conference playoff teams were no worse than tied for eighth place in the conference, with the 10-11 Miami Heat (one game out of eighth) being the lone exception. The same thing was true in the West, where the 8-12 Oklahoma City Thunder were the only eventual playoff team that wasn't in the top eight through Nov. 29.
A team's first 20 games are only a quarter of its season, but they can be pretty indicative of things to come. Over the last 15 (full) seasons, 92 percent of teams that had at least 12 wins through their first 20 games went on to make the playoffs, while only five percent of teams with six or fewer wins through their first 20 games turned things around and made the postseason.
Recovering from a slow start has obviously been tougher in the Western Conference, where things are especially jumbled right now. Through Sunday's games there are seven teams that are three games over .500, but another seven that are within a game of eighth place at no worse than 9-11. Come Thursday morning, the West standings may not mean quite as much as they usually do.
But in the East, the Orlando Magic should feel pretty good about being 10-10 through their first 20 games, while the Miami Heat and Washington Wizards should be worried about their chances of returning to the postseason.
- Last week Quality wins help Clippers take over top spot
- This time last year: Cavs surging at the quarter mark -- The Heat put an end to the Celtics' 16-game winning streak and the East had a winning record against the West. Marc Gasol was not happy about being benched in the fourth quarter, Paul Millsap had surgery on his left wrist, and Patrick Beverley was lost for the season after returning for one game. Joel Embiid broke out the sky hook, Harrison Barnes banked in a game-winner in Memphis, and Russell Westbrook was happy about dunking on the Warriors.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) was a plus-66 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Dewayne Dedmon (ATL) was a minus-69 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: New York (3-1) -- After getting edged out by the Blazers on Tuesday, the Knicks won in Boston, came back to beat the Pelicans, and became just the second team to win in Memphis this season.
- Something Just Ain't Right: Portland (1-3) -- The Blazers have been going through a rough travel schedule, but they lost two games (at Milwaukee and Golden State) by 43 and 28 points.
East vs. West
- The West is 61-40 (.604) against the East in interconference games, though the East was 15-12 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 6
- Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. Phoenix, 3. Minnesota
- Easiest: 1. Toronto, 2. Detroit, 3. Dallas
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Dallas (+9), Denver (+6), Detroit (+6)
- Free falls of the week: Boston (-12), San Antonio (-6), Portland (-4)
Week 7 Team to Watch
- Dallas -- Behind the league's best bench, the Mavs have won six of their last seven games to climb to .500 and a virtual, four-way tie for eighth place in the West. A six-game stretch, in which they're playing six teams tied with them or ahead of them in the standings, begins on Wednesday, when they visit the Rockets. It continues with weekend games against the two Los Angeles teams, in L.A. against the Lakers on Friday and home against the Clippers on Sunday.
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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 101.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.4 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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