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Post-break hoops gets ugly

Power Rankings: Week 18


POSTED: Mar 2, 2015 12:02 PM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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James Harden led the Rockets to a perfect week that included wins over the Clippers and Cavaliers.

The longer All-Star break may have been good for players who wanted to get away for a while, but it has produced some ugly basketball in the last 11 days.

The league has scored just 99.9 points per 100 possessions in 84 games since the break, down from 103.7 in 85 February games before the break. Shooting is down, turnovers are up, and half the league (15 of the 30 teams) has scored less than a point per possession since returning from vacation.

Injuries have been a factor and trades have thrown a bunch of point guards into unfamiliar offenses. So the league may just need some time to get back on track.

A handful of teams - Boston, Brooklyn and Oklahoma City, to name a few - have bucked the trend, coming out of the break scoring more efficiently. But bad offense is a pretty consistent theme as we run down the league from top to bottom.

* * *

• Last week: Health is the key as the season hits the final stretch
• This time last year: It's getting ugly at the bottom -- The Sixers were more than halfway through a 26-game losing streak, Rajon Rondo skipped the Celtics' trip to Sacramento to celebrate his birthday in L.A., and DeMarcus Cousins got suspended for a gut-punch to Patrick Beverley

• Plus-minus stud: Klay Thompson (GSW) was a plus-58 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Joffrey Lauvergne (DEN) was a minus-70 in four games last week.

• Hero Team of the Week: Houston (4-0) -- The Rockets' perfect week included wins over the Clippers and Cavs, who have otherwise looked strong of late.
• Zero Team of the Week: Denver (0-4) -- The Nuggets gave Brooklyn its biggest margin of victory (28 points) since Nov. 3 and Utah its second biggest (22 points) since Nov. 1. They're 2-19 since mid-January.

• High jumps of the week: Portland (+4), Six teams (+3)
• Free falls of the week: Detroit (-8), Phoenix (-4), Toronto (-4)

• East vs. West: The West is 202-143 (0.586) against the East in interconference games and was 14-6 last week.

• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Utah, 3. Sacramento
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Washington, 2. Milwaukee, 3. Atlanta
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

* * *

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 96.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.8 points scored per 100 possessions through Sunday.

* * *

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.

1

Last week: 1

Golden State (46-11)
Pace: 101.0 (1) OffRtg: 109.5 (2) DefRtg: 97.7 (1) NetRtg: +11.7 (1)
Stephen Curry's foot issue was minor and he shot 62 percent in the Warriors' three wins last week. But he and Klay Thompson both struggled against the Cavs' improved defense on Thursday. Monday's visit to Brooklyn concludes a stretch where the Dubs will have played 10 of 11 games on the road. After that, it's 10 of 12 at home, where they're 24-2.
This week: @ BKN, vs. MIL, vs. DAL, vs. LAC

2

Last week: 2

Atlanta (47-12)
Pace: 96.2 (15) OffRtg: 106.3 (6) DefRtg: 99.8 (5) NetRtg: +6.5 (2)
The Hawks' offense (like that of a lot of teams) is still in a slump, with Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague shooting poorly since the break. But they've won four straight by holding their opponents to just 92 points per 100 possessions. The streak has included wins over the Bucks and Mavs and a win (in Miami on Saturday) without three starters. More tests await.
This week: vs. HOU, vs. CLE, @ PHI

3

Last week: 3

Memphis (42-16)
Pace: 94.3 (26) OffRtg: 103.8 (11) DefRtg: 100.1 (7) NetRtg: +3.7 (8)
There are a lot of teams that have been worse in the final 12 minutes, but the fourth quarter has been the Grizzlies' worst and they got outscored 54-30 in the fourth in their two losses last week. They went 4-1 against teams with winning records in February, but had a bottom-10 offense for the month and face February's No. 1 defense (Utah) on Tuesday.
This week: vs. UTA, @ HOU, vs. LAL, @ NOP

4

Last week: 7

Houston (41-18)
Pace: 99.0 (3) OffRtg: 103.5 (12) DefRtg: 99.7 (3) NetRtg: +3.8 (6)
After losing their first post-break game in Dallas, the Rockets went 5-0 at home, with Terrence Jones moving into the starting lineup and averaging 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the last four games. They're 19-8 (14-6 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes) without Dwight Howard, who is set to get an update on his right knee this week.
This week: @ ATL, vs. MEM, vs. DET, @ DEN

5

Last week: 4

Cleveland (37-24)
Pace: 95.0 (24) OffRtg: 107.0 (5) DefRtg: 104.1 (21) NetRtg: +2.9 (11)
LeBron James would have gone 2-0 against fellow MVP candidates last week if he could make his free throws. The Cavs are still 11-0 at home since James took those two weeks off, but before you declare them the clear favorites in the East, let's see how well they defend the Hawks, who scorched 'em the last two times they played, on Friday.
This week: vs. BOS, @ TOR, @ ATL, vs. PHX

6

Last week: 6

L.A. Clippers (39-21)
Pace: 96.7 (12) OffRtg: 110.0 (1) DefRtg: 103.5 (16) NetRtg: +6.5 (3)
Ten of the Clippers' 11 games in the last month were against teams that are over .500. They went 5-5 (5-3 without Blake Griffin) in the 10 games. They get a brief respite in Minnesota on Monday, though that's the second night of a back-to-back and they play five of their next six games against teams with winning records. Real relief doesn't come until late March.
This week: @ MIN, vs. POR, @ GSW

7

Last week: 11

Portland (39-19)
Pace: 96.6 (13) OffRtg: 104.9 (10) DefRtg: 99.9 (6) NetRtg: +5.0 (5)
Last season, the Thunder and Spurs led the league with 14 wins after trailing by at least 10 points. This season's Blazers (now 14-14 after trailing by 10-plus) matched that mark by coming back from 15 down against Oklahoma City on Friday. Portland has won three straight and Damian Lillard (13-for-33 since the break) is making 3-pointers again.
This week: @ LAC, vs. DAL, @ MIN

8

Last week: 5

Dallas (39-22)
Pace: 96.7 (11) OffRtg: 108.2 (3) DefRtg: 102.5 (14) NetRtg: +5.7 (4)
The Mavs offense took a step back with the Rajon Rondo trade, but it's been particularly bad (98.7 points per 100 possessions) in the last 10 games, with or without Rondo. More important than his relationship with Rick Carlisle is the health of Tyson Chandler (hip) and Chandler Parsons (ankle), who both missed weekend losses to Atlanta and Brooklyn.
This week: vs. NOP, @ POR, @ GSW, @ LAL

9

Last week: 9

Oklahoma City (33-27)
Pace: 97.7 (7) OffRtg: 103.0 (14) DefRtg: 100.8 (11) NetRtg: +2.1 (13)
Russell Westbrook has recorded three straight triple-doubles and averaged 31, nine and 10 in February. But Westbrook's teammates shot 0-for-6 in overtime in Phoenix on Thursday, the Thunder blew a 15-point lead in Portland on Friday, Andre Roberson accidentally broke Westbrook's face, and the Pelicans aren't going away. Stay tuned.
This week: vs. PHI, @ CHI, vs. TOR

10

Last week: 10

San Antonio (36-23)
Pace: 95.7 (19) OffRtg: 103.5 (13) DefRtg: 99.8 (4) NetRtg: +3.7 (7)
The Spurs ended the rodeo trip with two wins and now play their next six games at home, where they're 11-2 since Christmas. Saturday's win in Phoenix was just the second time that their standard starting lineup (with Tiago Splitter at center) played at least 10 minutes together. Tony Parker (13-for-50 and just 20 assists in his last five games) is still struggling.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. DEN, vs. CHI

11

Last week: 12

Chicago (37-23)
Pace: 95.5 (22) OffRtg: 105.0 (9) DefRtg: 101.7 (12) NetRtg: +3.3 (10)
Derrick Rose suffered a torn meniscus on Monday, Taj Gibson sprained his ankle on Friday, and Jimmy Butler sprained his elbow on Sunday. The Bulls are 12-13 in their last 25 games and don't look like they'll get a chance to build any consistency before the postseason. New starting point guard Aaron Brooks has shot 28 percent in the last month.
This week: vs. WAS, vs. OKC, @ IND, @ SAS

12

Last week: 8

Toronto (37-22)
Pace: 96.0 (17) OffRtg: 107.4 (4) DefRtg: 103.8 (17) NetRtg: +3.6 (9)
Things have suddenly become real ugly in Toronto. Since winning in Atlanta in their first game after the break, the Raps have lost five straight, with DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams combining to shoot 29.5 percent. Lowry has been banged up, shot 34 percent (12-for-40 from 3-point range) in February, and sat out Saturday's loss in New York.
This week: @ PHI, vs. CLE, @ CHA, @ OKC

13

Last week: 16

New Orleans (32-27)
Pace: 94.0 (27) OffRtg: 105.7 (7) DefRtg: 105.3 (25) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)
The Pelicans have won five straight games without Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. Six players have averaged double-figures during the streak, and that doesn't include Luke Babbitt, who capped off a big comeback against Toronto on Monday by hitting two huge 3s in the final three minutes. Eric Gordon has been pretty clutch too.
This week: @ DAL, vs. DET, vs. BOS, vs. MEM

14

Last week: 13

Milwaukee (32-27)
Pace: 96.4 (14) OffRtg: 100.8 (22) DefRtg: 98.6 (2) NetRtg: +2.2 (12)
Michael Carter-Williams had eight assists in less than 18 minutes against his former team on Wednesday, but the Bucks are 2-4 with a worse offense than the Sixers since swapping Brandon Knight for Carter-Williams at the point. They've turned the ball over 23 or more times in three of the six games and haven't hit more than five threes in any of them.
This week: @ DEN, @ GSW, vs. WAS

15

Last week: 18

Indiana (25-34)
Pace: 95.6 (20) OffRtg: 99.3 (25) DefRtg: 100.8 (10) NetRtg: -1.5 (17)
The Pacers have the league's best record (8-2) since Feb. 1. But in their last eight games, they've managed to play the Hornets without Kemba Walker, the Spurs without Manu Ginobili, the Pelicans without Anthony Davis, the Warriors without Stephen Curry, the Thunder without Kevin Durant, and the Cavs without LeBron James. That's some luck.
This week: vs. NYK, vs. CHI, @ NYK

16

Last week: 19

Utah (23-35)
Pace: 92.9 (29) OffRtg: 102.6 (15) DefRtg: 104.4 (23) NetRtg: -1.8 (18)
It might not be a coincidence that the Jazz had the league's best defense in the month they traded Enes Kanter. Their 4-1 mark since the All-Star break includes wins over three playoff teams (Portland, San Antonio and Milwaukee) in which Trey Burke averaged 21.7 points off the bench. He's averaged more points and shot better as a reserve than as a starter.
This week: @ MEM, @ BOS, @ PHI, @ BKN

17

Last week: 20

Boston (23-34)
Pace: 98.8 (4) OffRtg: 101.3 (21) DefRtg: 103.2 (15) NetRtg: -1.9 (19)
The Celtics were just a couple of minutes away from beating the Warriors on Sunday and creating a four-way tie for eighth place. Isaiah Thomas has been getting to the line, has averaged 21.8 points, and is a team-high plus-48 in his five games with Boston. Part of that has been the Celtics' success (plus-41 in 44 minutes) with Jonas Jerebko playing center.
This week: @ CLE, vs. UTA, @ NOP, @ ORL

18

Last week: 17

Washington (34-26)
Pace: 96.0 (16) OffRtg: 102.4 (16) DefRtg: 100.5 (9) NetRtg: +1.9 (14)
Bradley Beal shot 2-for-10 against Detroit on Saturday, but his return from an eight-game absence and his activity on offense opened up things for his teammates. He had five assists and the Wizards ended their six-game losing streak, which included losses to two of the three worst teams in the league - Minnesota and Philadelphia - earlier last week.
This week: @ CHI, vs. MIA, @ MIL

19

Last week: 15

Phoenix (31-29)
Pace: 99.5 (2) OffRtg: 105.4 (8) DefRtg: 104.1 (19) NetRtg: +1.3 (15)
The Suns stopped the bleeding in Denver and got an OT win in Oklahoma City to stay in the playoff picture, but have been pretty terrible offensively (92.2 points scored per 100 possessions) with their new point guard combo (Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight) on the floor together. They have the fewest remaining games (seven) against teams under .500.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ BKN, @ CLE

20

Last week: 21

Brooklyn (24-33)
Pace: 94.5 (25) OffRtg: 100.6 (23) DefRtg: 104.2 (22) NetRtg: -3.6 (23)
The Nets got through their toughest stretch of schedule with a couple of wins and could have had more if Jarrett Jack (see here and here) knew that he's shooting 3-for-41 on pull-up 3-pointers. Deron Williams (25 points in Dallas on Saturday) is coming around and Thaddeus Young (averaging 13.4 points on 58 percent shooting) has provided a boost.
This week: vs. GSW, vs. CHA, vs. PHX, vs. UTA

21

Last week: 23

Charlotte (24-33)
Pace: 95.2 (23) OffRtg: 97.9 (29) DefRtg: 100.3 (8) NetRtg: -2.4 (21)
The Hornets discovered some offense last week, scoring over 105 points per 100 possessions in road wins over the Bulls and Magic. They're 21-20 with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in uniform and have outscored their opponents by 4.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. He's made at least half his shots in each of his last 10 games.
This week: vs. LAL, @ BKN, vs. TOR, @ DET

22

Last week: 14

Detroit (23-36)
Pace: 95.6 (21) OffRtg: 101.8 (17) DefRtg: 103.9 (18) NetRtg: -2.1 (20)
Having lost three straight games, the Pistons are losing sight of the playoff chase, with the fewest home games remaining (nine) in the league. Five of those, including Sunday's game against the Hornets, are sandwiched between road trips. They've been better, especially defensively, with just one big on the floor since the Reggie Jackson addition.
This week: @ NOP, @ HOU, vs. CHA

23

Last week: 22

Miami (25-33)
Pace: 92.4 (30) OffRtg: 101.5 (18) DefRtg: 104.1 (20) NetRtg: -2.6 (22)
Goran Dragic has had his moments (20 points on 9-for-13 on Friday), but the Heat's offense has been inconsistent and they lost two games against very shorthanded teams - New Orleans and Atlanta - over the weekend. Eight of their next 10 are at home (and six of the 10 are against teams on the second night of a back-to-back), but they're just 10-17 at the AAA.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. LAL, @ WAS, vs. SAC

24

Last week: 24

Sacramento (20-37)
Pace: 97.6 (8) OffRtg: 101.3 (20) DefRtg: 106.0 (27) NetRtg: -4.7 (24)
The Kings got a nice win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday, but lost DeMarcus Cousins to a sprained ankle along the way and couldn't beat the Spurs or Blazers without him. They're 2-15 on the road since late November and now embark on an eight-game trip, which begins with a crazy, New York-San Antonio back-to-back, the result of a January storm.
This week: @ NYK, @ SAS, @ ORL, @ MIA

25

Last week: 25

Minnesota (13-45)
Pace: 97.5 (9) OffRtg: 99.3 (26) DefRtg: 108.5 (30) NetRtg: -9.2 (29)
Kevin Garnett's first game back with the Wolves was their best defensive game of the season, though that may have had more to do with the Wizards than with KG. He's fitting in well with his new team, with seven of his 11 shots coming from mid-range. The Wolves' 43 mid-range shots in Friday's loss at Chicago was the most they've attempted this season.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. DEN, vs. POR

26

Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (16-42)
Pace: 96.8 (10) OffRtg: 101.5 (19) DefRtg: 108.0 (29) NetRtg: -6.4 (27)
Kobe Bryant's reaction to seeing his teammates celebrate a win was perfect. The Lakers actually won two more games after that. The three-game winning streak pushed them away from the Sixers and Wolves in the standings, but they're still three games (in the win column) away from the Magic and improving the odds of losing their first round pick.
This week: @ CHA, @ MIA, @ MEM, vs. DAL

27

Last week: 27

Philadelphia (13-46)
Pace: 98.2 (6) OffRtg: 91.7 (30) DefRtg: 101.8 (13) NetRtg: -10.1 (30)
Nerlens Noel still has his awkward moments on offense, but he's scored in double-figures in seven of his last eight games, averaging 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks and allowing opponents to shoot just 41 percent when he's around them in that stretch. This block on Marcin Gortat from Friday's win over the Wizards was particularly nasty.
This week: vs. TOR, @ OKC, vs. UTA, vs. ATL

28

Last week: 26

Orlando (19-42)
Pace: 95.7 (18) OffRtg: 99.2 (27) DefRtg: 104.9 (24) NetRtg: -5.6 (26)
The Magic had a four-game winning streak in their hands, but blew an eight-point lead with 40 seconds left in regulation against Miami on Wednesday. Elfrid Payton shot 3-for-20 in three games last week and played less than 13 minutes in Sunday's loss to Charlotte, with 33-year-old Willie Green seeing an increase in his minutes under James Borrego.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. SAC, vs. BOS

29

Last week: 30

New York (12-46)
Pace: 93.1 (28) OffRtg: 98.8 (28) DefRtg: 107.6 (28) NetRtg: -8.9 (28)
Break up the Knicks! After losing their first 16 games without Carmelo Anthony, they've won two straight. Andrea Bargnani, starting for the first time, totaled 44 points and 15 rebounds in the two games. Langston Galloway hit two more big 3s, one to tie in Detroit and one to put the game away vs. Toronto. He's 6-for-9 on clutch 3s this season.
This week: vs. SAC, @ IND, vs IND

30

Last week: 28

Denver (20-39)
Pace: 98.3 (5) OffRtg: 100.2 (24) DefRtg: 105.3 (26) NetRtg: -5.1 (25)
The Nuggets (0-6) are the only team without a win since the All-Star break, have lost 19 of their last 21 games, and have lost 10 straight home games for the first time in more than 17 years. And to make matters worse, their entertainment value takes a serious hit without Jusuf Nurkic, who sprained his ankle not long after giving Markieff Morris the business.
This week: vs. MIL, @ MIN, @ SAS, vs. HOU
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