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Power Rankings: Warriors tumble from lofty No. 1 perch

Bulls, Clippers make big jumps; Suns fall to basement

POSTED: Jan 4, 2016 11:17 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann


Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs have been dominant in their last four games.

The holidays don't really offer a break for NBA teams. While kids around the country have been off from school for 10-12 days, their favorite basketball players have been hard at work. In the last two weeks, most teams have played at least seven games and a few have played eight.

This time of year, between New Year's Day and the All-Star break, can be a real slog. Rookies will hit the wall, vets will have their off nights, and there will be some inexplicably bad performances here and there. Depth will be important.

But with so many teams competing for playoff spots in both conferences, there are fewer candidates to let go of the rope. One bad stretch can drop you several spots in the standings and important games are always on the horizon.

The league's four title contenders, however, have built enough of a cushion that they don't have to let the day-to-day get in the way of the long-term focus. The Golden State Warriors know that health played a role in their championship campaign last year and won't stress over an ugly loss in Dallas or seeing a team above them in the Power Rankings for the first time since week 15 of last season.

* * *

• Last week: West is wide open beyond the top three
• This time last year: In the new year, Hawks fly to the top of the list -- The Hawks began what would be the first 17-0 month in NBA history. LeBron James was on hiatus, Brandon Jennings shot 25-for-38 in his first two games of 2015, the Blazers had the league's second best record, and Omer Asik sent a game to overtime by scoring for the wrong team.

• Plus-minus stud: J.J. Redick (LAC) was a plus-59 in four games last week.
• Plus-minus dud: P.J. Tucker (PHX) was a minus-75 in five games last week.

• Hero team of the week: Chicago (4-0) -- The up-and-down Bulls are up again, with three big wins over the Raptors (x2) and Pacers last week.
• Zero team of the week: Phoenix (0-5) -- The wheels have come off.

• Team to watch this week: Boston -- The Celtics need to right the ship after home losses to the Lakers and Nets. A week that includes games against Detroit, Chicago and Memphis will test their ability to figure things out.

• East vs. West: The East is 99-97 (.505) against the West in interconference games, though the West was 10-9 last week.

• Toughest schedules through Jan. 3: 1. New Orleans, 2. Brooklyn, 3. Philadelphia
• Easiest schedules through Jan. 3: 1. San Antonio, 2. Golden State, 3. Orlando
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: Chicago (+10), L.A. Clippers (+7), Milwaukee (+4)
• Free falls of the week: Atlanta (-5), Boston (-5), Houston (-4), Phoenix (-4)

* * *

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 98.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.2 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

* * *'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.


Last week: 2

San Antonio (29-6)
Pace: 95.7 (27) OffRtg: 107.4 (3) DefRtg: 92.9 (1) NetRtg: +14.5 (1)
The Spurs have recovered well from their Christmas Day loss, winning their last four games by an average of 18 points. This stretch of 10 straight games against below-.500 teams (which runs through next Monday) has allowed them to kick the tires on Boban Marjanovic, who has quickly become a sensation. He shot 7-for-7 against Minnesota on Monday and grabbed 12 boards in 15 minutes against Phoenix on Wednesday.
This week: @ MIL, vs. UTA, vs. NYK


Last week: 1

Golden State (31-2)
Pace: 101.6 (2) OffRtg: 111.9 (1) DefRtg: 98.4 (4) NetRtg: +13.4 (2)
The chase for 73 wins is still alive, but it has to be put on the backburner until Stephen Curry gets over his recurring leg issue, which knocked him out of Saturday's win over Denver. Draymond Green's offensive role continues to grow, but the champs' defense continues to show cracks. The 110.8 points per 100 possessions they've allowed in their last three games is more than they allowed in any three-game stretch last season.
This week: vs. CHA, @ LAL, @ POR, @ SAC


Last week: 3

Oklahoma City (24-10)
Pace: 98.7 (13) OffRtg: 109.5 (2) DefRtg: 100.3 (9) NetRtg: +9.2 (3)
The Thunder are 13-2 and top five on both ends of the floor over the last month. They haven't lost a game within the Western Conference in seven weeks and now play seven straight against the West, part of a relatively soft January schedule. Cameron Payne has supplanted D.J. Augustin at back-up point guard, shooting 59 percent with 12 assists and just two turnovers in 61 minutes over the last four games.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. MEM, @ LAL, @ POR


Last week: 4

Cleveland (22-9)
Pace: 95.3 (28) OffRtg: 103.5 (7) DefRtg: 98.3 (3) NetRtg: +5.2 (4)
They've been more of an offensive team in limited minutes with their big three on the floor thus far, but the Cavs had the second most improved defense from Oct.-November to December and began January by holding the Magic to 79 points. In the two games since the list of worst high-volume shooters from outside the paint was posted on Wednesday, LeBron James has shot 13-for-25 from the outside.
This week: vs. TOR, @ WAS, @ MIN, @ PHI


Last week: 12

L.A. Clippers (22-13)
Pace: 98.6 (14) OffRtg: 105.2 (4) DefRtg: 101.3 (14) NetRtg: +4.0 (6)
The Clippers' best five-game stretch of offense (115 points scored per 100 possessions) has been their five games without Blake Griffin. Chris Paul dunked (sort of) twice, J.J. Redick (19-for-29 from 3-point range in the five games) has caught fire, Cole Aldrich has proved himself useful, and the bench has actually maintained leads. Sunday began a stretch of 13 days where they're playing only four games.
This week: @ POR, vs. CHA, vs. NOP


Last week: 16

Chicago (20-12)
Pace: 98.8 (9) OffRtg: 100.6 (24) DefRtg: 98.8 (7) NetRtg: +1.8 (12)
As is the case with the Clippers, the Bulls' last five games have been their best offensive stretch of the season (112 points scored per 100 possessions). It started with a couple of big games from Derrick Rose and has continued with Rose out. Jimmy Butler took over and broke Michael Jordan's franchise record for most points in a half. Sunday's win in Toronto put the Bulls in sole possession of second place in the East.
This week: vs. MIL, vs. BOS, @ ATL


Last week: 8

Toronto (21-14)
Pace: 95.9 (25) OffRtg: 104.2 (5) DefRtg: 100.9 (11) NetRtg: +3.4 (8)
The Raptors have several quality wins within the Eastern Conference, but lost two games to the Bulls last week and are now 0-7 against Chicago over the last two years. Their starting lineup (wither either Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo at center) hasn't been very good this season (minus-4.6 combined NetRtg), but bench play was more of a problem last week. Cory Joseph was a minus-29 over the two losses.
This week: @ CLE, @ BKN, @ WAS, @ PHI


Last week: 7

Miami (20-13)
Pace: 94.5 (29) OffRtg: 103.1 (12) DefRtg: 98.5 (5) NetRtg: +4.6 (5)
It's time for the Heat to finally pay for what has been a very home-heavy schedule thus far. After hosting the Pacers and Knicks this week, they'll play 14 of their next 16 games on the road. But it's not like they've struggled away from the Heat's House. They've won four of their last five road games after Sunday's thrashing of the Wizards. That was the third straight game they've held an opponent to 14 points or less in a quarter.
This week: vs. IND, vs. NYK, @ PHX, @ UTA


Last week: 9

Indiana (19-14)
Pace: 99.4 (8) OffRtg: 102.3 (13) DefRtg: 98.7 (6) NetRtg: +3.6 (7)
Some big plays from Ian Mahinmi against Atlanta on Monday and a big fourth quarter from Paul George (he scored the team's final 21 points) against Detroit on Saturday got the Pacers important wins last week. They've still lost six of their last seven games on the road, where they'll play nine of their next 11. But after visits to Miami and Orlando this week, five of the other seven road games are against teams under .500.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ NOP, @ HOU


Last week: 5

Atlanta (21-14)
Pace: 98.7 (12) OffRtg: 103.6 (6) DefRtg: 101.2 (13) NetRtg: +2.4 (11)
Fresh off a scene-stealing role in "Trainwreck," LeBron James is currently filming "Thunderstruck 2" with Kyle Korver. As James was finally making some jumpers last week, Korver missed 20 straight 3-point attempts before hitting two of his last four in New York on Sunday. A big comeback in Houston on Tuesday has kept the Hawks from losing three straight, but Korver isn't the only reason the offense has struggled.
This week: vs. NYK, @ PHI, vs. CHI


Last week: 6

Boston (18-15)
Pace: 100.9 (4) OffRtg: 101.1 (20) DefRtg: 97.8 (2) NetRtg: +3.3 (9)
After inexcusable losses to the Lakers and Nets, the Celtics are 9-9 at home. Brad Stevens is taking the blame, but it would help if his players could make some shots. Boston shot 26 percent from outside the restricted area in the two games (1-for-10 after they tied Saturday's game in the fourth quarter). Monday's visit to Brooklyn is their last chance to directly improve their odds for the No. 1 pick in this year's Draft.
This week: @ BKN, vs. DET, @ CHI, @ MEM


Last week: 10

Detroit (18-16)
Pace: 97.9 (17) OffRtg: 100.2 (26) DefRtg: 100.3 (8) NetRtg: -0.0 (15)
There's an idea that Brandon Jennings is a prime candidate to be traded now that he's returned from a torn Achilles. But the primary concern for the Pistons should be decreasing their reliance on Reggie Jackson, which sounds like a job for Jennings. He played 57 minutes in his first three games back, but they were all in relief of Jackson. Coach Stan Van Gundy has yet to use the two point guards together.
This week: vs. ORL, @ BOS, vs. BKN


Last week: 13

Dallas (19-15)
Pace: 97.9 (16) OffRtg: 103.4 (10) DefRtg: 102.2 (15) NetRtg: +1.2 (13)
The Mavs went 4-0 and beat the Warriors on Wednesday without Deron Williams, but J.J. Barea's magic might have had a Dec. 31 expiration date. He shot 6-for-19 as the Mavs scored less than a point per possession in weekend losses to Miami and New Orleans. Chandler Parsons is back in the starting lineup, but Williams reinjured his hamstring on Saturday. Dallas' top four offensive guys have played just 136 minutes together.
This week: vs. SAC, @ NOP, @ MIL, @ MIN


Last week: 11

Charlotte (17-16)
Pace: 98.2 (15) OffRtg: 103.5 (8) DefRtg: 100.9 (12) NetRtg: +2.6 (10)
The Hornets have lost eight of their last 11 games, their defense got beat up (especially from beyond the arc) by three top-five offenses last week, and Al Jefferson is out another six weeks with a torn meniscus. That will lead to more playing time for Frank Kaminsky, but the Hornets could use Spencer Hawes, who gave them good minutes in mid-December and has missed the last five games with a back issue.
This week: @ GSW, @ PHX, @ LAC, @ DEN


Last week: 14

Orlando (19-15)
Pace: 96.9 (22) OffRtg: 101.8 (17) DefRtg: 100.8 (10) NetRtg: +1.0 (14)
The new year hasn't been kind to the Magic, who went from scoring 113 points per 100 possessions in their last five games of December to scoring 89 in their first two games of January. Though his team is 13-7 since he last changed the lineup, Scott Skiles is thinking about doing it again. The defense has regressed over the last month, though the Frye-Vucevic combo has much better numbers than it did last season.
This week: @ DET, vs. IND, @ BKN, vs. WAS


Last week: 19

Utah (15-17)
Pace: 93.7 (30) OffRtg: 101.9 (16) DefRtg: 102.8 (17) NetRtg: -0.8 (16)
The Jazz are still missing their starting frontline, but have won three of four games for the first time since early November. They've been winning more with defense than offense, but their latest starting lineup (with Jeff Withey at center) has scored 118 points per 100 possessions since Derrick Favors has been out with back spasms. Withey recorded the first two double-doubles of his career last week.
This week: vs. HOU, @ SAS, @ HOU, vs. MIA


Last week: 18

Memphis (18-17)
Pace: 95.8 (26) OffRtg: 99.9 (27) DefRtg: 102.8 (16) NetRtg: -2.9 (21)
It's been a few weeks since they've been blown out and the defense has been improved, but the Grizzlies are still searching for something that works consistently, especially on offense. Dave Joerger started Zach Randolph for one game of Matt Barnes' suspension, but had him back on the bench for the second game. The Grizz have won four straight at home and begin their longest homestand of the season (six games) on Friday.
This week: @ POR, @ OKC, vs. DEN, vs. BOS


Last week: 17

Washington (15-17)
Pace: 100.2 (5) OffRtg: 100.7 (23) DefRtg: 103.4 (19) NetRtg: -2.8 (20)
The Wizards' run as a decent offensive team didn't last very long. They've scored just 93 points per 100 possessions (shooting 27 percent from 3-point range) as they've lost three of their last four games to fall back below .500. They're going to play more top-10 defenses before they get healthy, so the offense will continue to struggle, unless John Wall or Garrett Temple start to make some shots.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. TOR, @ ORL


Last week: 15

Houston (16-19)
Pace: 99.9 (7) OffRtg: 103.1 (11) DefRtg: 105.5 (26) NetRtg: -2.4 (19)
Yeah, you can throw that Christmas Day result out with your tree. After holding the league's third-ranked offense to 84 points, the Rockets have allowed their last four opponents (including the Spurs again on Saturday) to shoot 46 percent from 3-point range and score 117 per 100 possessions. James Harden has helped the offense keep up through the first half, but he's shot 11-for-37 in the second half of the four games.
This week: @ UTA, vs. UTA, vs. IND


Last week: 20

Portland (15-21)
Pace: 97.2 (21) OffRtg: 103.5 (9) DefRtg: 105.0 (23) NetRtg: -1.5 (17)
The Blazers have scored 108.2 points per 100 possessions as they've won four of their last five games (behind 27.4 points on 52 percent shooting from C.J. McCollum). With 17 of their next 22 at home, they can continue to compete for a playoff spot, but this is the toughest week of that stretch, so Damian Lillard's return would be welcome. They've played just one game against the West's top six in the last month.
This week: vs. MEM, vs. LAC, vs. GSW, vs. OKC


Last week: 21

New York (16-19)
Pace: 96.5 (23) OffRtg: 100.9 (22) DefRtg: 103.2 (18) NetRtg: -2.4 (18)
The Knicks picked up two impressive home wins last week, getting big games from vets they added in the summer. Robin Lopez held Andre Drummond in check in Tuesday's win over Detroit and Arron Afflalo scored 39 points on 14-for-17 shooting in Sunday's win over Atlanta. They've won six of their last eight games at Madison Square Garden, but have lost nine of their last 11 on the road, with a tough trip this week.
This week: @ ATL, @ MIA, @ SAS, vs. MIL


Last week: 23

New Orleans (11-22)
Pace: 98.8 (10) OffRtg: 102.1 (15) DefRtg: 107.3 (29) NetRtg: -5.2 (26)
The Pelicans are serious Jekyll and Hyde offensive team. Since Dec. 2, they've scored 115 points per 100 possessions in their seven wins and 93 in their eight losses. Eric Gordon -- 56 percent shooting (26-for-46 from 3-point range) in the wins, 29 percent (9-for-38) in the losses -- has been the biggest barometer, but Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have all shot much better in the wins.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. IND, @ LAC


Last week: 27

Milwaukee (14-21)
Pace: 96.3 (24) OffRtg: 101.2 (19) DefRtg: 106.1 (27) NetRtg: -5.0 (25)
The Bucks have shown some signs of life, scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions over the last eight games, with Khris Middleton (22.5 points and 5.1 assists, 54 percent shooting) starting to earn that new contract of his. They have a league-high five back-to-backs this month, but have been 12.1 points per 100 possessions better on the second night of a back-to-back (plus-4.4) than they've been with rest (minus-7.7).
This week: vs. SAS, @ CHI, vs. DAL, @ NYK


Last week: 22

Sacramento (13-20)
Pace: 102.3 (1) OffRtg: 102.1 (14) DefRtg: 105.5 (25) NetRtg: -3.4 (23)
The Kings have allowed a league-low 23 drives per game, but let the Sixers drive 39 times on Wednesday, because they were too spread out and too slow defensively. Despite that loss, they're 11-6 in games that weren't part of a back-to-back. Of course, they're 2-14 in back-to-backs (2-6 on the first night, 0-8 on the second night), with visits to Oklahama City and Dallas on Monday and Tuesday this week.
This week: @ OKC, @ DAL, vs. LAL, vs. GSW


Last week: 25

Minnesota (12-22)
Pace: 97.9 (18) OffRtg: 100.6 (24) DefRtg: 103.6 (20) NetRtg: -3.0 (22)
The difference between the Wolves that started 8-8 (DefRtg: 100.1) and the Wolves that have since gone 4-14 (DefRtg: 106.9) has been the defense, but closing games has also been a problem. In those first 16 games, they were 6-5 in those that were within five points in the last five minutes. Since: 2-9, shooting 30 percent (3-for-24 from 3-point range), with more turnovers (13) than assists (12) on "clutch" possessions.
This week: @ PHI, vs. DEN, vs. CLE, vs. DAL


Last week: 24

Denver (12-23)
Pace: 97.4 (20) OffRtg: 101.3 (18) DefRtg: 106.5 (28) NetRtg: -5.2 (27)
The Nuggets were almost the first team to come back from 15 or more down to beat the Warriors since April of 2014. Instead, they've lost nine of their last 10 games (with the league's worst defense in that stretch), with the only win coming against the sinking Suns. After Sunday's loss to Portland, they've lost seven of their last eight games that have been within five points in the last five minutes (after starting 8-3 in those games).
This week: @ MIN, @ MEM, vs. CHA


Last week: 28

Brooklyn (10-23)
Pace: 97.8 (19) OffRtg: 98.6 (28) DefRtg: 104.9 (21) NetRtg: -6.2 (28)
The Nets almost won three road games against teams over .500 last week, but had another bad collapse in Orlando on Wednesday. That was their league-leading ninth loss in games they've led by 10 or more points. Behind some big games from Brook Lopez, their offense has shown some improvement, but will likely suffer with the loss of Jarrett Jack, who tore his ACL. The league's worst point guard rotation just got worse.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. TOR, vs. ORL, @ DET


Last week: 29

L.A. Lakers (8-27)
Pace: 98.7 (11) OffRtg: 97.1 (29) DefRtg: 107.3 (30) NetRtg: -10.2 (19)
Break up the Lakers! They have the league's second best defense in 2016 and have won three straight games (as many as they had won over the previous six weeks). The Warriors can only hope to have as long a winning streak when they meet on Tuesday. Lou Williams shot 18-for-26 in wins over Boston and Phoenix and got to the line 12 times against the Sixers. He's still shooting much better as a starter.
This week: vs. GSW, @ SAC, vs. OKC, vs. UTA


Last week: 30

Philadelphia (3-33)
Pace: 100.0 (6) OffRtg: 92.5 (30) DefRtg: 104.9 (22) NetRtg: -12.4 (30)
The Sixers scored 111 and 110 points in their two post-Christmas wins in Phoenix and Sacramento, but they also held four straight opponents under a point per possession for the first time this season before getting smoked by the Clippers on Saturday. Coach Brett Brown has played Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor together for only 11 minutes over the three games since Okafor returned from a knee issue.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. ATL, vs. TOR, vs. CLE


Last week: 26

Phoenix (12-25)
Pace: 101.0 (3) OffRtg: 100.9 (21) DefRtg: 105.4 (24) NetRtg: -4.5 (24)
Well, indeed things did indeed get worse after the towel throwing and assistant-coach firing. The Suns were actually competitive against the Cavs and Thunder last week, but gave up 142 points to the Kings and trailed the Lakers 74-36 on their way to losing their ninth straight game. Tyson Chandler has looked terrible and the Mavs won't trade for him for another few years, when he's in the final season of his contract.
This week: vs. CHA, vs. MIA