The NBA is getting a longer All-Star break this year, and it couldn't come at a better time.
All of a sudden, we have another rash of injuries. Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and Steven Adams all went down last week, joining Mike Dunleavy, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Kemba Walker, who had already been out for teams in a playoff spot or in the hunt for one.
Getting injured around the break means that you miss fewer games, and the hope is that all of the guys above will be healthy and making an impact on the playoff race come March and April.
There are some healthy teams (see Wizards, Washington) that could probably use some time off too. And with the trade deadline just 10 days away, everybody could afford to step back and figure out where they stand in the title contention picture.
The Atlanta Hawks currently stand No. 1 in the Power Rankings, having defeated the Golden State Warriors in the first matchup of the league's two best teams on Friday. The Memphis Grizzlies continued to make noise by knocking off the Hawks on Sunday, but still don't have the resume that the teams above them do.
* * *
• Last week: Time has come for our No. 1s to meet on the court
• This time last year: Thunder still tops as All-Star break arrives for weary clubs -- The Magic beat the Thunder on a buzzer-beating, fast-break dunk. The Pistons fired Mo Cheeks and the Cavs fired Chris Grant. Matt Bonner broke a nose that was already broken, Chris Kaman got some rest on the Lakers' bench, the Grizzlies attempted a single free throw (an NBA all-time low) in a win in Atlanta, and LeBron James jumped really high.
• Plus-minus stud: Kevin Love (CLE) was a plus-74 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: Jason Thompson (SAC) was a minus-74 in four games last week.
• Hero Team of the Week: Indiana (3-0) -- The Pacers were the only team that didn't lose last week, ending the Cavs' 12-game winning streak along the way.
• Zero Team of the Week: Denver (0-3) -- The Nuggets have shot 22 percent from 3-point range over their five-game losing streak, which has included losses to four East teams below .500.
• High jumps of the week: Brooklyn (+4), Cleveland (+4), Minnesota (+4)
• Free falls of the week: L.A. Clippers (-6), Miami (-4), Phoenix (-4)
• East vs. West: The West is 178-128 (0.582) against the East in interconference games, but the East was 12-10 last week. After starting the season 96-48 (0.667), the West is 82-80 (0.506) over the last 51 days and 47-48 over the last 30.
• Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. L.A. Lakers, 2. Utah, 3. Philadelphia
• Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Washington, 2. Golden State, 3. Toronto
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 96.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 103.1 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.
(42-10) Pace: 96.1 (15) OffRtg: 107.4 (5) DefRtg: 100.2 (8) NetRtg: +7.2 (2)
The Hawks had won 14 straight games that were within five points in the last five minutes, before coming up empty on six straight possessions down the stretch in Memphis on Sunday
. Before that though, they scored 124 points and hit 15 3s against the No. 1 defense in the league. They finish their pre-break schedule with two suddenly frisky opponents. This week:
@ MIN, @ BOS
(40-9) Pace: 101.2 (1) OffRtg: 110.4 (1) DefRtg: 97.8 (1) NetRtg: +12.6 (1)
The Warriors came up short in the battle for No. 1 and won't get their rematch until March 18. But thanks to Stephen Curry's 51 against Dallas
, they've climbed to No. 1 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and Blake Griffin's absence in L.A. increases the likelihood that they'll be the first team since the 1995-96 Bulls to finish the season there. This week:
@ PHI, @ MIN
(38-13) Pace: 94.1 (27) OffRtg: 105.0 (10) DefRtg: 100.2 (9) NetRtg: +4.8 (6)
The Grizzlies fell victim to Ricky Rubio's 3-point shooting on Friday, but kept Kyle Korver in check on Sunday, which doesn't make any sense. Tony Allen deserves some credit for the second part and has been making an impact since being moved to the bench. The Grizzlies' new starting lineup hasn't been all that effective, especially offensively
. This week:
vs. BKN, @ OKC
(35-18) Pace: 96.7 (11) OffRtg: 109.7 (3) DefRtg: 102.9 (14) NetRtg: +6.8 (3)
The absence of Rajon Rondo hasn't been felt, as the Mavs have won five of their last six games with no defensive drop-off and Devin Harris hitting three or more 3s in four of the five wins. Saturday's wild comeback against the Blazers
earned them a rare victory over a fellow West playoff team and Monday's visit from the slumping Clippers is a chance for another. This week:
vs. LAC, vs. UTA
(35-16) Pace: 98.5 (4) OffRtg: 103.6 (14) DefRtg: 99.9 (5) NetRtg: +3.7 (9)
There must be something in the water in Houston, because Josh Smith has hit four 3s (tying his career high) in three of his last six games
and is up to 36 percent from beyond the arc since coming to the Rockets
. Donatas Motiejunas has once again stepped up in the absence of Dwight Howard, and the Rockets continue to survive without their center. This week:
@ PHX, @ LAC
(32-21) Pace: 94.6 (24) OffRtg: 107.1 (6) DefRtg: 105.1 (23) NetRtg: +2.0 (13)
The Cavs let C.J. Miles go wild in the fourth quarter of Friday's loss in Indiana, but they rank 15th defensively since LeBron James' return from his two-week break. That's not great, but it's a lot better than where they were before. They've allowed less than 95 points per 100 possessions in 288 minutes with James and Timofey Mozgov on the floor together
. This week:
vs. MIA, @ CHI
Pace: 95.7 (20) OffRtg: 109.0 (4) DefRtg: 104.4 (18) NetRtg: +4.6 (7)
The Raptors are your Jekyll and Hyde Team of the Week, not just because they went 2-2, beating the two best opponents. They did it by losing ugly (to Milwaukee), losing a high-scoring game (to Brooklyn), winning a high-scoring game (against the Clippers) and winning ugly (against the Spurs). That, my friends, is serious Jekyll and Hyding.
This week: vs. WAS
(32-19) Pace: 95.5 (22) OffRtg: 103.7 (12) DefRtg: 99.7 (3) NetRtg: +4.1 (8)
Thanks to an anemic offensive display
, Gregg Popovich couldn't get win No. 1,000 as the Spurs' rodeo trip began in Toronto on Sunday. When it comes to NetRtg, this is the worst Spurs team since Tim Duncan was drafted (previous low was plus-4.3 in 2008-09) in 1997, with Duncan registering the worst on-court NetRtg (plus-2.4) of his career. This week:
@ IND, @ DET
(35-17) Pace: 96.7 (12) OffRtg: 104.7 (11) DefRtg: 99.8 (4) NetRtg: +5.0 (5)
The Blazers suffered a brutal loss in Dallas on Saturday, but recovered in Houston a night later and, given the issues surrounding some of the teams surrounding them in the standings, could be in worse shape. LaMarcus Aldridge has shot 49 percent since deciding to postpone thumb surgery
, though he may want to skip the 3s. He's missed 11 straight. This week:
(33-19) Pace: 96.3 (14) OffRtg: 110.3 (2) DefRtg: 104.6 (20) NetRtg: +5.8 (4)
Just when they had seemingly found their groove, the Clippers' season has turned on a dime. They've lost four straight to drop two spots in the West and have lost Blake Griffin indefinitely to a staph infection
. Even if J.J. Redick returns on Monday, they're basically down to five guys who can play, and 12 of their next 15 games are against teams over .500. This week:
@ DAL, vs. HOU
(27-24) Pace: 94.2 (25) OffRtg: 105.6 (8) DefRtg: 105.5 (24) NetRtg: +0.1 (16)
There was another Anthony Davis injury scare
and the Pelicans got thumped once their star left Saturday's game against the Bulls. But as long as his shoulder sprain isn't long-term, the good - ending the Hawks' winning streak and earning a home-and-home split against the Thunder on Davis' ridiculous game-winner
- outweighed the bad last week. This week:
vs. UTA, vs. IND
(29-24) Pace: 99.1 (2) OffRtg: 105.7 (7) DefRtg: 103.7 (16) NetRtg: +2.0 (14)
The Suns are still in eighth place, but they seem destined to finish outside the playoffs with 45 or more wins for the third time in seven years. Sunday's loss at the buzzer
was the fourth one they've suffered this season, and three of the game-winning shots had no business going in. They're 2-10 in games decided by three points or less or in overtime. This week:
(32-20) Pace: 95.8 (18) OffRtg: 105.2 (9) DefRtg: 102.1 (12) NetRtg: +3.1 (11)
The Bulls capped their weird, 3-3 road trip by blowing a 16-point lead to a bad team and then coming back from six points down
with 35 seconds left without having to put the Magic on the free throw line on Sunday. Still looking for some defensive consistency, they play eight of their next nine games at the United Center, where they've lost five of their last seven This week:
vs. SAC, vs. CLE
(26-25) Pace: 97.2 (9) OffRtg: 102.0 (16) DefRtg: 101.0 (10) NetRtg: +1.0 (15)
They split their home-and-home with the Pelicans, but the Thunder finally broke out offensively last week, scoring 116 points per 100 possessions in their four games
, even though Kevin Durant missed two of them. Russell Westbrook scored a total of 93 points against New Orleans and the Thunder are now 12-2 when he has shot 50 percent or better. This week:
@ DEN, vs. MEM
(28-23) Pace: 96.4 (13) OffRtg: 101.9 (17) DefRtg: 99.1 (2) NetRtg: +2.8 (12)
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been about production as much as highlights lately. He has shot 61 percent as the Bucks have won six of their last seven games (their best offensive stretch in almost two months). He's recorded double-doubles in four of his last five
and set career highs in two straight games last week (25 vs. the Lakers and 27 at Houston). This week:
vs. BKN, vs. SAC
(32-20) Pace: 95.8 (19) OffRtg: 103.7 (13) DefRtg: 100.2 (7) NetRtg: +3.5 (10)
The Wizards' five-game losing streak featured some brutal quarters (four in which they scored less than 20 points) and one teammate screaming at another over a rebound
. A blowout win over the Nets
on Saturday put a stop to that, but Wednesday's game in Toronto will be a good test going into the break. The Wizards are 0-5 against the Hawks and Raptors. This week:
vs. ORL, @ TOR
(22-29) Pace: 95.3 (23) OffRtg: 97.9 (29) DefRtg: 100.1 (6) NetRtg: -2.3 (18)
If the Hornets lose a playoff spot to the Pacers by a game or two, remember the play when Cody Zeller left the guy with the ball four feet from the basket
. Charlotte had won seven of its last eight games that were within five points in the last five minutes before that loss to the Pacers, which was actually its best offensive game in almost a month. This week:
(20-32) Pace: 95.8 (17) OffRtg: 101.8 (18) DefRtg: 104.1 (17) NetRtg: -2.3 (19)
The Pistons' defense (107.9 points allowed per 100 possessions in the eight games
) has fallen off a lot more than their offense since they lost Brandon Jennings for the season. They got scorched on the perimeter by the Pacers (12-for-21 from 3-point range) and beat up inside by Nikola Pekovic (25 points in the paint or at the line) in their two losses last week. This week:
@ CHA, vs. SAS
(21-29) Pace: 94.2 (26) OffRtg: 100.0 (24) DefRtg: 104.6 (21) NetRtg: -4.6 (25)
Behind Brook Lopez and Jarrett Jack, the Nets' offense came alive for a five-game stretch
, and impressive wins over the Clippers and Raptors helped them reclaim the eighth spot in the East for 24 hours. But they have to hope that Saturday's shellacking in Washington was just a schedule loss, because they play their next seven games on the road. This week:
@ MIL, @ MEM
Pace: 98.6 (3) OffRtg: 101.1 (22) DefRtg: 103.4 (15) NetRtg: -2.2 (17)
Brad Stevens has moved Marcus Smart into the starting lineup and has shortened his rotation ... in more ways than one. Not only has he stuck to just nine guys, but he's been playing small ball more. The Celtics are a plus-30, scoring 111 points per 100 possessions and allowing just 98 in 89 minutes with just one big on the floor over the last four games.
This week: vs. ATL
(20-32) Pace: 95.5 (21) OffRtg: 99.0 (28) DefRtg: 101.6 (11) NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
A good point guard can do a lot for an offense. The Pacers have won three straight games for the first time, a streak that coincides with George Hill's return to the starting lineup and includes strong offensive games against the improved Cavs and suffocating Hornets (with Hill getting the game-winner
). They've had top-five offense numbers with Hill on the floor
. This week:
vs. SAS, @ NOP
(18-33) Pace: 92.8 (28) OffRtg: 103.1 (15) DefRtg: 106.2 (27) NetRtg: -3.1 (21)
Dante Exum's move into the starting lineup nine games ago gave the Jazz an initial boost, but they couldn't sustain it against a tougher schedule, and their defense has taken a step backward after showing improvement in January. Offense has as big a problem as they've lost six of their last seven on the road
, where they'll finish their pre-break schedule. This week:
@ NOP, @ DAL
(21-29) Pace: 91.8 (30) OffRtg: 101.2 (21) DefRtg: 104.5 (19) NetRtg: -3.2 (22)
Given their lack of a back-up shooting guard and how bad their point guards have been, it's amazing that the Heat have six wins (in 15 games) without Dwyane Wade (though none of the six have been against good teams). They might have seven if Norris Cole and Hassan Whiteside hadn't combined for the Shaqtin' a Fool Play of the Year
on Wednesday. This week:
vs. NYK, @ CLE
Pace: 97.4 (7) OffRtg: 101.6 (19) DefRtg: 105.7 (25) NetRtg: -4.1 (24)
George Karl has taken over two teams in the middle of a season. He took a 20-20 Sonics team and went 27-15 in 1991-92, and he took a 17-25 Nuggets team and went 32-8 in 2004-05. If Karl and the Kings get a deal done, he can make an impact right away and get a head start on trying to end what will be a nine-year playoff drought next season.
This week: @ CHI, @ MIL
(12-40) Pace: 98.0 (6) OffRtg: 91.7 (30) DefRtg: 102.1 (13) NetRtg: -10.4 (30)
With Robert Covington (16.6 points per game) leading the way, the Sixers have won four of their last seven games, including their first win (Saturday vs. Charlotte
) without Michael Carter-Williams since November of 2013 (they had lost 21 straight games without him). Given Carmelo Anthony's status, they may not see the Eastern Conference basement again. This week:
Pace: 97.3 (8) OffRtg: 99.3 (26) DefRtg: 109.2 (30) NetRtg: -9.9 (29)
Upon Ricky Rubio's return, the Wolves went down to the wire in Dallas and then won three straight (even though Rubio sat out Sunday's win in Detroit). More surprising than Rubio being a plus-31 for the season is that he hit two clutch 3s to beat Memphis and that the Wolves kept the Grizzlies off the glass (season-low two offensive boards) on Friday.
This week: vs. ATL, vs. GSW
New York (10-41)
Pace: 92.7 (29) OffRtg: 99.2 (27) DefRtg: 107.6 (28) NetRtg: -8.5 (28)
This week could be the last time we see Carmelo Anthony until next season. The Knicks are 0-12 without him, having scored less than a point per possession in 10 of the 12 losses. Amar'e Stoudemire may have helped his (potential) post-buyout market by playing in back-to-back games (for the first time since early December) over the weekend.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL
(19-32) Pace: 98.4 (5) OffRtg: 100.9 (23) DefRtg: 104.8 (22) NetRtg: -3.9 (23)
The Nuggets have lost 12 of their last 13 games and became the first team to lose to each of the four worst teams in the league last week. Their offense has looked anemic at times, with Danilo Gaillinari shooting 34 percent since returning from his latest knee injury
. Tim Connelly should be actively looking to shed future salary over the next 11 days. This week:
vs. OKC, @ LAL
(16-38) Pace: 96.1 (16) OffRtg: 99.7 (25) DefRtg: 105.8 (26) NetRtg: -6.1 (26)
The James Borrego era began with a win
(because the Magic fired Jacque Vaughn the day before they played the Lakers) and an epic, 35-second collapse
. For whatever two games against a depleted Lakers roster and an uninspired Bulls team can tell you, the defense was improved. But Maurice Harkless still can't get any real playing time. This week:
@ WAS, vs. NYK
(13-38) Pace: 96.8 (10) OffRtg: 101.4 (20) DefRtg: 108.2 (29) NetRtg: -6.9 (27)
Carlos Boozer is playing behind an undrafted rookie (Tarik Black), but the Lakers' situation (a bad team playing out the string) is an opportunity for Boozer to build on his numbers leading into free agency. He scored a season-high 28 points in Wednesday's OT loss in Milwaukee and has averaged 15.4 points on 54 percent shooting over his last seven games
. This week:
vs. DEN, @ POR