Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Chase for No. 8 seed in West heats up

Power Rankings: West race for eighth heats up

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

With 933 of 1,230 games in the books, we’ve hit the three-quarter mark of the 2016-17 season.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, though they’re each missing one of their best players for an extended absence, remain clear favorites to get back to The Finals. Though Golden State hasn’t surpassed last season’s win total, it has the best point differential (plus-12.1 points per 100 possessions) of the last 20 years. And as long as LeBron James is healthy and has shooters around him, the Cavs are a matchup problem for any team in the East.

But there is still a lot to be determined over the final six weeks of the season. And the race for the final playoff spot in the West is getting more interesting.

The Sacramento Kings are taking themselves out of it, but the other four teams chasing the Denver Nuggets are still very much alive. The Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves are a combined 10-6 since the All-Star break, and the New Orleans Pelicans have an All-Star frontline that could figure things out at any point.

In the East, there are still five or six teams fighting for the final two or three playoff spots. And while teams below them are fighting for the chance to face them in the playoffs, there will be six games this week between the eight teams that are at least 12 games over .500, starting with Rockets-Spurs and Celtics-Clippers on Monday.

Last week: Deadline doesn’t change title picture

This time last year: The week the Lakers beat the champs — The 12-51 Lakers beat the 55-5 Warriors (with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shooting 1-for-18 from 3-point range). Damian Lillard dropped 50 in a loss in Toronto, LeBron James went to Miami to work out with Dwyane Wade, and Giannis Antetokounmpo was one rebound short of three triple-doubles in four games.

Plus-minus stud: Patrick Beverley (HOU) was a plus-61 in three games last week.

Plus-minus dud: T.J. McConnell (PHI) was a minus-58 in four games last week.

Hero team of the week: Phoenix (3-1) — Break up the Suns! The youth movement in Phoenix has led to the team’s first three-game winning streak since Nov. 2015, with weekend wins coming against the Thunder and Celtics.

Zero team of the week: Sacramento (0-3) — The Lakers (0-3) and Kings were the only winless teams last week and the Kings won the ZTotW tie-breaker by helping Brooklyn put an end to its 16-game losing streak.

East vs. West: The West is 202-167 (.547) against the East in interconference games after going 12-10 last week.

Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Brooklyn, 2. L.A. Lakers, 3. Phoenix

Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Utah, 2. Golden State, 3. Washington

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: Minnesota (+3), Phoenix (+3), Five teams (+2)

Free falls of the week: Sacramento (-7), Four teams (-2)

Team to watch this week: San Antonio — The league’s No. 1 defense will play host to the league’s top two offenses, facing the Rockets on Monday and the Warriors on Sunday, with a visit to Oklahoma City in between.

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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 98.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 106.0 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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