Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 24: East leaders set to clash with 2 weeks left

See where all 30 teams rank heading into Week 24 of the 2021-22 season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid will face off Tuesday for the second time this season.

While injuries to Stephen Curry and Ja Morant have made the last two weeks of the regular season a little less meaningful in the Western Conference, things are getting pretty interesting out East.

With the Miami Heat seemingly imploding on the brink of the postseason, we now have four teams tied in the loss column at the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Each has seven or eight games remaining, and there are three games left within the group. Two of those – Milwaukee-Philadelphia on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, League Pass) and Miami-Boston on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) – are this week.

Of course, it’s not clear if seeding really matters at this point. These teams (especially the Sixers given their most recent experience) might see the Brooklyn Nets as a serious first-round threat, but they can’t know (at this point or maybe even at the end of the season) where the Nets will land in the bracket.

Either way, the Eastern Conference playoffs are going to be great, and there are going to be some very good teams losing in the first round.

Of course, the first round is still 19 days away. There are 110 regular season games left to be played, and most of them mean something.


Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Memphis (3-0) — Ja Morant’s got a pretty good supporting cast.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Miami (0-4) — Who knew that the biggest Eastern Conference battle on last week’s schedule would be Jimmy Butler vs. #HeatCulture?

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 23

  • Toughest: 1. Houston, 2. Portland, 3. Oklahoma City
  • Easiest: 1. Phoenix, 2. Memphis, 3. Boston
  • 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: Chicago (+2), Houston (+2)
  • Free falls of the week: Miami (-6), Cleveland (-3), Portland (-2)

Week 24 Team to Watch

  • Milwaukee In that mix at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Bucks have a big week ahead. They visit the similarly 46-28 Sixers on Tuesday and then the closer-to-full-strength Nets on Thursday. Then they head home to face two Western Conference playoff teams, facing the Clippers on Friday and the Mavs on Sunday.

Previous Power Rankings


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 98.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 111.0 points scored per 100 possessions this season.


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.


Record: 61-14

Pace: 100.0 (9) OffRtg: 115.0 (2) DefRtg: 106.6 (2) NetRtg: +8.5 (1)

Chris Paul returned from a 15-game absence on Thursday, Devin Booker celebrated by scoring 49 points, and with their victory in Denver, the Suns clinched the league’s best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. So, with eight games left to play, they reasonably (and finally) took their foot off the gas.

Ha ha. No, they didn’t. Instead, the Suns came home and improved to 26-9 against the other 15 teams that currently have winning records, erasing a 15-point deficit to beat the Sixers on Sunday. Booker had his second straight big game (35 points on 13-for-22 shooting) against an MVP candidate and has now averaged 33.0 points on an effective field goal percentage of 62.3% over the Suns’ eight-game winning streak. As a team, the Suns have shot 50% or better from the field in nine straight games, tied for the longest such streak in 29 years.

And with their comeback wins over the Wolves and Sixers last week, the Suns are 16-14 (.533) in games they trailed by double-digits. No other team is better than 16-24 (.400) and Phoenix would be the first team in the last five years (since 2016-17) to have a winning record in games it trailed by at least 10 points. The Suns also have a chance to record the best road record in NBA history. At 30-6, they’d need to go 5-0 on the road to hold it by themselves, while a 4-1 mark would have them tied with the 2015-16 Warriors (34-7) atop the list.

The (reeling) Warriors themselves, along with the (not reeling) Grizzlies, will have something to say about that. The Suns are currently 2-3 against the second and third place teams in the West.

Week 24: @ GSW, @ MEM, @ OKC

Record: 47-28

Pace: 97.1 (24) OffRtg: 112.8 (10) DefRtg: 105.9 (1) NetRtg: +6.9 (2)

With two weeks left in the season, there are three teams that rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor. The Suns have been there since mid-November, while the Grizzlies have been there since mid-January. And the newest member of the group is the Celtics, who have climbed into the top 10 on offense, having ranked 18th just four weeks ago. Their defense has been fantastic since Christmas, but now they’re also destroying opposing defenses.

The Celtics are 11-1 in March, having scored 2.7 more points per 100 possessions (124.5) than any other team this month. They’ve scored more than 130 per 100 in five straight games, including Sunday, when they eviscerated the team – Minnesota – that ranks No. 1 defensively this month. The Cs shot 17-for-39 (44%) from 3-point range, but also scored 54 points in the restricted area, the fourth most that the Wolves have allowed all season.

Jayson Tatum has been on fire, averaging 31.6 points on an effective field goal percentage of 78.4% (!) over the last five games. His true shooting percentage this month (69.1%) is the highest mark for any month in his career (26 total) in which he’s played more than six games. And that’s with his usage rate (32.4%) also being his highest mark in those 26 months.

With how good they’ve been on both ends of the floor, the Celtics have led each of their last six games by at least 24 points (there are seven teams that haven’t led that many games by at least 24 points all season). Dominance starts with their starting lineup, which has outscored its opponents by 218 total points. That’s almost double the cumulative margin of any other lineup in the league and would be the best total plus-minus for any lineup in the last four seasons.

But Robert Williams III went down with a knee injury on Sunday, putting the future of that lineup (and the Celtics’ top-ranked defense) in some doubt. The Cs are in first place in the East, with four games left within the top six. Two of those four (including their visit to Toronto on Monday) are the second games of back-to-backs.

Week 24: @ TOR, vs. MIA, vs. IND, vs. WAS

Record: 52-23

Pace: 100.3 (6) OffRtg: 114.3 (4) DefRtg: 108.7 (7) NetRtg: +5.6 (4)

The bad news is that Ja Morant might be done for the regular season; The Grizzlies ruled him out until at least next Thursday, at which point they’ll have three games left. The good news is that the Grizz, now 17-2 without their star, don’t need him to finish with the second best record in that NBA. And that’s amazing.

Prior to last week, the Grizzlies’ no-Morant success was mostly about defense. But they’ve scored 126 points per 100 possessions over their current, four-game winning streak, with their wins over the Pacers and Nets last week being their second and third most efficient games of the season (topped only by their Morant-less, 73-point win over the Thunder). De’Anthony Melton has been on fire, shooting 21-for-34 (62%) from 3-point range over the streak. And he’s not the only guy who’s shot well.

The Grizzlies rank 28th in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (34.6%), and they’re still racking up points in the paint without Morant. Their win on Saturday was the second time they’ve scored 66 points in the paint against the Bucks, who’ve allowed more than that just once this season. But the Grizz are now 32-3 when they’ve shot 35% or better from 3-point range. That’s the league’s best shoot-decent-from-deep record by a healthy margin, with every other team having at least seven losses in games they’ve shot 35% or better from beyond the arc.

The Grizz are 11-7 (second to the Suns’ 12-5) in games played between the top seven teams in the West. They still have four games remaining within the group, set to host the Warriors (with a rest advantage) on Monday and the Suns on Friday.

Week 24: vs. GSW, @ SAS, vs. PHX

Record: 46-28

Pace: 100.5 (4) OffRtg: 113.9 (5) DefRtg: 110.4 (13) NetRtg: +3.6 (7)

With easy victories over the Bulls and Wizards last week (games they led by 35 and 28 points), the Bucks had won 10 of their last 12 games. The Chicago game was the first time in two months that they held their opponent under a point per possession, and (without Giannis Antetokounmpo) they were nearly as stifling against Washington.

But it feels like we’re going to have to wait until the playoffs for the champs to really turn the screws defensively. In a 25-point loss (without Jrue Holiday) in Memphis on Saturday, the Bucks allowed the Grizzlies (without Ja Morant) to score 98 points on 77 possessions (1.27 per) through the first three quarters. The Grizzlies’ 66 points in the paint (they shot 17-for-31 on non-restricted-area paint shots) were tied (with the last Memphis-Milwaukee game) for the second most that the Bucks have allowed this season.

Holiday (ankle), Khris Middleton (wrist) and Antetokounmpo (knee) are all still somewhat banged up; The Bucks have been without at least one of the three in each of the last four games. Their health on April 16 is priority No. 1, but the trio has still played just 16 total minutes alongside Brook Lopez, with six of those 16 having come in the first game of the season. So the next two weeks still have some value, and they’ll come with some big tests. One could say that the five Eastern Conference contenders are Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks are 6-6 (4-2 at home, 2-4 on the road) within that group with three games remaining. Two of those three are Tuesday and Thursday, when they visit the Sixers and Nets.

Week 24: @ PHI, @ BKN, vs. LAC, vs. DAL

Record: 46-29

Pace: 95.5 (30) OffRtg: 111.3 (17) DefRtg: 108.5 (6) NetRtg: +2.8 (9)

If last week didn’t go well, the Mavs could be in seventh place right now. Instead, they’re in fourth, only two games behind the reeling Warriors, against whom they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. And five of their seven remaining games are against teams that are at least 10 games under .500.

The Mavs are a jump-shooting team, ranking third in the percentage of their shots that have come from outside the paint (57%) and sixth in the percentage from 3-point range (43.5%). They rank 10th in mid-range field goal percentage, but 24th in 3-point percentage (34.3%), and over their first three games last week, they were 32-for-122 (26%) from beyond the arc. But Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock both hit big 3s to cap off a game-deciding, 10-2 run against the Wolves. And then the Mavs broken out on Sunday, shooting 17-for-34 from beyond the arc (Bullock was 7-for-11) to beat the Jazz at their own game (and move past them in the standings).

With that victory over the Wolves on Monday (they got crushed in Minnesota four nights later), the Mavs have won their last seven (and 12 of their last 14) games that were within five points in the five minutes, with Spencer Dinwiddie having hit a game-winner 12 days ago against one of his former teams. He’ll face two more former teams (Washington and Detroit) on the four-game trip that begins Wednesday in Cleveland.

Week 24: vs. LAL, @ CLE, @ WAS, @ MIL

Record: 46-28

Pace: 96.5 (26) OffRtg: 112.1 (14) DefRtg: 109.7 (9) NetRtg: +2.4 (12)

Sixers coach Doc Rivers made a change to his rotation for his team’s three-game trip out West. Prior to the trip, he had been staggering the minutes of James Harden and Joel Embiid, so that one or both was always on the floor. But last week, Rivers had them sitting on the bench together for a few minutes in each half. (Maybe to get them more reps together before the playoffs, maybe because Embiid was struggling with Harden off the floor, maybe because Tyrese Maxey needs time to shine.) And over the course of the trip, the Sixers won those minutes, even outscoring the Suns by eight points in a little less than seven minutes with both off the floor on Sunday.

But the Sixers were outscored by 18 points (scoring just 85 on 84 offensive possessions) with Harden and/or Embiid on the floor. The big man scored 37 points and the duo combined for 20 free throw attempts, but Harden missed all of his 2-point attempts (he was 0-for-6 inside the arc) for the second time in his 14 games as a Sixer. The Sixers are 10-4 with Harden, who has an effective field goal percentage of 53.9% in the 10 wins and 37.3% in the four losses.

* Among 179 players with at least 100 field goal attempts since the All-Star break, Harden (71 attempts per 100 shots from the field) and Embiid (68) have the second and fourth highest free throw rates.

There are four teams at the top of the Eastern Conference with exactly 28 losses. The Sixers had three post-break games against the other three, and Harden missed the first two (both against Miami, both the second games of back-to-backs). The third is Tuesday, when the champs are in Philly with both teams rested. The Bucks and Sixers have split the first two meetings, with each winning a close game on the other’s floor.

Week 24: vs. MIL, @ DET, vs. CHA, @ CLE

Record: 48-27

Pace: 98.7 (16) OffRtg: 112.2 (12) DefRtg: 106.6 (3) NetRtg: +5.5 (5)

At least the Warriors can say that their Week 23 wasn’t as bad as that of the Heat. The Dubs (playing without Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) actually blew a 19-point lead (after igniting the fire in Erik Spoelstra) in Miami on Wednesday, but then came back themselves, scoring 37 points on 22 possessions in the fourth quarter to complete a season sweep.

But that was the Warriors’ only win in their last six games. They’ve lost to Orlando, Atlanta and Washington on the five-game trip that ends in Memphis on Monday, when they’ll probably rest Thompson and Green again. They’re now 3-8 without Stephen Curry and 6-10 since the All-Star break. They actually have a positive point differential over those 16 games, but have now lost nine of their last 10 games that were within five points in the last five minutes. They’ve scored just 56 points on 65 clutch possessions over that stretch, with Curry and Thompson having combined to shoot 0-for-10 on clutch 3s. Thompson (0-for-7) has taken the bulk of those, but Curry’s 7-for-39 (18%) on clutch 3s for the season is the third worst mark among 35 players who’ve attempted at least 20.

The Warriors are more worried about Curry missing games than missing 3s at this point. And his continued absence obviously takes a lot of the luster out of what could have been a string of marquee matchups within the top five in the West. But the Dubs need to find some consistency (on either end of the floor) either way.

Week 24: @ MEM, vs. PHX, vs. UTA, @ SAC

Record: 47-28

Pace: 96.4 (28) OffRtg: 112.1 (13) DefRtg: 108.1 (5) NetRtg: +4.0 (6)

The Heat certainly weren’t dominating the Eastern Conference prior to last week, but they were in first place despite a myriad of absences among their best players. So this six-day stretch that they just had (with the playoffs just weeks away) is rather remarkable. First, there were the three fourth-quarter collapses against three shorthanded opponents…

  • On Monday, the Heat led by three with 5:00 left. And then the Sixers (without Joel Embiid and James Harden) went on a 16-2 run.
  • On Wednesday, the Heat led by three early in the fourth quarter. And then the Warriors (without Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) went on a 37-16 run.
  • On Friday, the Heat led by 17 early in the fourth. And then the Knicks (without Julius Randle) went on a 30-5 run.

The Wednesday meltdown, of course, came after a shouting match between the head coach and the star player. The very public dispute certainly wasn’t nothing to worry about, and it certainly hasn’t galvanized the team in the days since. It was followed by the loss to the Knicks and an even worse loss to Brooklyn on Saturday, when the Heat trailed by as many as 37 points (their largest deficit of the season).

Tyler Herro’s offense was missed against Golden State and New York, but the last five games (a stretch that started with a win over the league’s worst offense) have been the Heat’s worst defensive stretch (118.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) since early December. Their opponents scored 108 on 68 (159 per 100) over those three fourth quarters noted above, and their starting lineup has allowed 114.5 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break. That’s up from 92.5 per 100 (second best among 24 lineups that played at least 200 minutes) before the break.

Their game against the Kings on Monday will be a good test of just how far the Heat have fallen. But they have a tough, three-game trip after that, with their visit to Boston on Wednesday being the most important in regard to seeding. The Celtics have won the first two meetings, and only the Kings and Magic have scored less efficiently against their top-ranked defense than the Heat (91.4 points scored per 100 possessions).

Week 24: vs. SAC, @ BOS, @ CHI, @ TOR

Record: 44-31

Pace: 98.1 (20) OffRtg: 113.3 (7) DefRtg: 110.8 (15) NetRtg: +2.5 (10)

Prior to a few weeks ago, the Nuggets were near the bottom of the league in regard to the number of their games that were close. But 10 of their last 12 have been within five points in the last five minutes, even though the offense has been potent on both ends of the floor over that stretch. (Over the 12 games, the Nuggets and their opponents have combined to score 118.7 points per 100 possessions.) Playing a close game against the Suns is good. Playing a close game against the Thunder … not so much.

The Nuggets did have the most efficient game for any team against Phoenix this season (130 points on 98 possessions) … and lost by 10, with the Suns shooting a pretty amazing 39-for-59 (66%) inside the arc. For the season, Denver ranks seventh in opponent 3-point percentage (34.4%), but 28th in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (58.7%). Overall, this is the third straight season where the Nuggets have been right around the league average (within 0.3 points per 100 possessions) in defensive efficiency.

With the seventh-place Wolves losing three of four last week, the Nuggets became more entrenched in the 6 seed in the West. But they still have some work to do to stay out of the Play-In, with their game against the Wolves on Friday obviously being the biggest in that regard. Minnesota has won two of the three meetings thus far, with the two losses being two of the 13 times this season the Nuggets have allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions.

Week 24: @ CHA, @ IND, vs. MIN, @ LAL

Record: 43-33

Pace: 101.2 (1) OffRtg: 113.5 (6) DefRtg: 110.2 (12) NetRtg: +3.3 (8)

The Wolves have lost three of four for the first time since early January, but it’s not much of a step backward. They split two big games against the Mavs, also losing to the best team in the league (Phoenix) and the best team of the last two months (Boston). They certainly could have been worse offensively (they scored 115.3 points per 100 possessions) over four games against teams that rank first, second and sixth on defense.

Of course, there were missed opportunities. The Wolves came back from 16 points down and took a late lead in Dallas on Monday, only to allow the Mavs to score 10 points on a critical stretch of four possessions. And they had a 15-point, second-half lead against the Suns, only to allow 74 points (on just 49 possessions) over the last 24 minutes. For the season, the Wolves have had the league’s fourth best first-quarter defense (104.7 points allowed per 100), but don’t rank better than 18th defensively in any of the other three quarters.

The Wolves are the only team with only six games remaining. The first three are on the road, while the last three are at home (where they’re a league-best 18-4 since mid-December). No team has a bigger home-road differential in regard to points allowed per 100 possessions, and the biggest game of the six is in Denver (on Friday), against the league’s seventh-ranked offense. The Wolves did win there in December, with Anthony Edwards shooting 10-for-14 from 3-point range.

Week 24: @ TOR, @ DEN, @ HOU

#11
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Utah Jazz

Record: 45-30

Pace: 97.5 (23) OffRtg: 116.1 (1) DefRtg: 110.2 (11) NetRtg: +5.8 (3)

The Jazz remain a bit confounding. They still have the league’s third best point differential per 100 possessions, but they’re now in fifth place in the West, having allowed almost 126 points per 100 possessions as they’ve dropped four straight games. Their defense is meant to protect the rim and defend the 3-point line, but they’ve allowed 77% shooting in the restricted area and 45% shooting from beyond the arc over the four games.

The Jazz have been without Hassan Whiteside for the last two games, Rudy Gobert also missed their game in Dallas on Sunday, and they’ve now been outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions (allowing 116.9 per 100) in 488 total minutes with *Rudy Gay and/or Eric Paschall on the floor without one of the two centers. But the defense hasn’t been good (more than 120 allowed per 100) with either of the big men on the floor, either.

* Remember when we thought that Gay and Paschall would be viable small-options at the five, giving Utah more versatility? That was a nice idea in theory.

The Jazz still have the best record (9-3) in games played between the fourth-seventh place teams in the West. And they still have tie-breakers over all three: Head-to-head vs. Denver) and Minnesota, and the division leader (!) tie-breaker over Dallas. But they need to get healthy (Bojan Bogdanovic has now missed the last eight games) and get back to playing some defense.

Week 24: @ LAC, vs. LAL, @ GSW

Record: 43-31

Pace: 98.9 (13) OffRtg: 112.5 (11) DefRtg: 112.3 (21) NetRtg: +0.2 (17)

The Bulls are 1-11 against the four teams – the Sixers, Heat, Celtics and Bucks – ahead of them in the East standings, having gotten thumped in Milwaukee on Tuesday. But they finished 6-2 against the Raptors and Cavs, picking up wins against both last week to hold onto fifth place. With how tight the top four are, there’s not necessarily an advantage to being fifth instead of sixth. But you certainly don’t want be seventh, and at this point of the season, the Bulls just need to get back on track.

Though DeMar DeRozan shot 11-for-14 against his former team on Monday, the Bulls haven’t exactly found their offense; They’ve still seen the second-biggest drop in points scored per 100 possessions since the All-Star break. But, with the Raptors and Cavs combining to shoot 13-for-63 (21%) from 3-point range, the Chicago defense did allow just 104.9 per 100 over those two wins. For the season, the Bulls actually rank 24th in opponent 3-point percentage (36.2%), but third in the (lowest) percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range (also 36.2%).

Over the eight games since Alex Caruso’s return from injury, they’ve allowed 11.1 fewer per 100 with him on the floor (109.4) than they have with him off the floor (120.5). He’s started the last four games and his 38 minutes in Cleveland on Saturday were the most he’s he’s played since mid-November. The Bulls got Patrick Williams back from a 20-week absence on Monday, but also revealed that Lonzo Ball isn’t anywhere near a return.

The Bulls have the league’s biggest differential between their record at home (26-10, fourth best) and their record on the road (17-21, 17th). And after their back-to-back in New York and Washington on Monday and Tuesday, they’ll have played 12 of their last 15 games away from the United Center. A five-game homestand begins on Thursday and includes games against three of those top four teams in the East: Miami (Saturday), Milwaukee and Boston.

Week 24: @ NYK, @ WAS, vs. LAC, vs. MIA

Record: 42-32

Pace: 96.5 (27) OffRtg: 112.0 (15) DefRtg: 110.1 (10) NetRtg: +1.9 (13)

The Raptors have had a few confounding losses this month, and they missed a real opportunity to move up even further in the standings when they lost in Chicago on Monday. The team that leads the league in turnover differential (-3.2 per game) by a wide margin committed eight more turnovers than the Bulls, with Chicago’s rate (six in 92 possessions) being the Raptors’ lowest opponent rate in more than three years (since Jan. 2019).

The Raps certainly miss Gary Trent Jr. (third in steals per game – out the last three games) in regard to turning the other team over. But they got OG Anunoby back from a 15-game absence on Thursday, when they got a huge win (behind 35 points from Pascal Siakam) over the Cavs. Anunoby shot 7-for-13 from 3-point range in his two games back and the Raps have won eight of their last 10 games to climb into sixth place and out of the Play-In group in the East. Siakam has averaged 25.9 points (on 54% shooting, including 20-for-39 from 3-point range), 7.5 rebounds and 5.7 assists over that 10-game stretch.

The Raps have two possible playoff previews in the next seven days. They’re 1-2 against the Celtics (having not faced them since November) and 2-1 against the Heat, with all three of those Miami meetings having been within five points in the last five minutes and the two teams combining to score just 80 points on 93 clutch possessions (86 per 100). The Raps (6-3 in rest-advantage games thus far) will have a rest advantage (the opponent is playing the night before) against both Boston and Miami.

Week 24: vs. BOS, vs. MIN, @ ORL, vs. MIA

Record: 39-36

Pace: 99.2 (12) OffRtg: 112.9 (9) DefRtg: 112.4 (22) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)

Kyrie Irving got to play in his first home game on Sunday, but he shot 6-for-22 as the Nets slipped back into ninth place with a loss to the Hornets in which they blew a 14-point lead. That was the second game of a back-to-back, with the Nets traveling home from a win in Miami the previous night. They certainly went for the win, with Kevin Durant playing 42 minutes (including the entire second half), but they’re now 2-11 (with 10 straight losses) in the second games of back-to-backs. They still have one more back-to-back (vs. Houston and at New York next week) left on their schedule.

The big picture is that the Nets now have Irving full-time (except if they play in Toronto) and they’re 29-12 when they’ve been rested with Durant in uniform. That mark includes a loss in Memphis on Wednesday, but also comfortable wins over the Jazz and Heat last week. Though he didn’t need to do too much in Miami on Saturday (when he was still 7-for-11 on non-restricted area 2-point shots), Durant has averaged 32.9 points on 56% shooting over his last seven games with rest.

The Nets rank second offensively (121.7 points scored per 100 possessions) over their 12 games since Durant’s return from a 21-game absence, but the defense (which got scorched by the Grizzlies) remains a work in progress. They won a bit of a barn-burner (the two teams combined to score 121 points per 100 possessions) the last time they faced the Bucks, who will be in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Week 24: vs. DET, vs. MIL, @ ATL

Record: 41-33

Pace: 96.7 (25) OffRtg: 110.5 (20) DefRtg: 108.0 (4) NetRtg: +2.4 (11)

Yes, the Cavs miss Jarrett Allen, who’s now missed the last 10 1/2 games. Only the Thunder have seen a bigger post-break jump in points allowed per 100 possessions than the Cavs, who’ve allowed 10.5 more per 100 since the break (116.3, 24th) than they did before it (105.8, fourth). Their opponents have seen big jumps in both field goal percentage in the paint (from 53.4% to 57.6%) and effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (from 48.1% to 52.9%), while also seeing a big jump in free throw rate and a big drop in turnover rate.

Darius Garland had 27 assists and just five turnovers on Monday and Thursday, but the Cavs allowed the Lakers and Raptors to score more than 131 points per 100 possessions in dropping the two games. L.A. shot 28-for-36 in the restricted area (the third most restricted-area buckets the Cavs have allowed all season), Toronto made nine corner 3s (tied for the most the Cavs have allowed), and both teams committed fewer than 10 turnovers. The Cavs’ loss to Chicago on Saturday was uglier on both ends of the floor (they scored just 35 points on 47 first-half possessions), and it dropped them into the Play-In group in the East.

They still have the tiebreaker vs. Toronto, but the Cavs have a tough Week 24 in regard to rest. There weren’t supposed do be any stretches of four games in five nights this season, but postponements have created 10 of them. The last of those 10 belongs to the Cavs, with their make-up game in Atlanta creating a four-in-five stretch from Wednesday through Sunday. The Cavs are one of 10 teams with winning records (they’re 7-6) in the second games of back-to-backs.

Week 24: vs. ORL, vs. DAL, @ ATL, @ NYK, vs. PHI

Record: 39-36

Pace: 100.5 (5) OffRtg: 113.0 (8) DefRtg: 112.6 (23) NetRtg: +0.5 (15)

It’s a good time for the Hornets to be playing some of their best basketball of the season. A home loss to the Knicks (in which they never led) on Wednesday was pretty brutal, but they’ve won seven of their last eight to climb into eighth place, and their win in Brooklyn on Sunday gave the Hornets the head-to-head tiebreaker with the equally 39-36 Nets. Charlotte ranks third offensively (124.4 points scored per 100 possessions) over the 7-1 stretch, with three guys – LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier – all averaging more than 20 points per game on effective field goal percentages better than 61%. Isaiah Thomas (averaging 24.2 points per 36 minutes in his 10 game with Charlotte) has given them some timely buckets, and the Hornets have a pretty amazing assist/turnover ratio of 2.83 over the eight games.

Charlotte has had a winning record just three times in the 17 previous seasons since the Bobcats were born in 2004. And its ranked in the top 10 offensively just twice (ninth in both 2015-16 and ‘17-18) over that stretch. So this could be a new high for a team that ranked 23rd offensively last season. Only the Cavs (+5.3) and Wolves (+4.3) have seen bigger jumps in points scored per 100 possessions than the Hornets (+2.9, who’ve been without Gordon Hayward for 26 of the last 29 games.

With their win in Brooklyn on Sunday, the Hornets have the league’s biggest differential between their winning percentage with rest (38-24, .613) and their mark in the second games of back-to-backs (1-12, .077). And that win was the start of their penultimate back-to-back of the season, so they’ll have a rest disadvantage when they host the Nuggets on Monday.

Week 24: vs. DEN, @ NYK, @ PHI

Record: 37-37

Pace: 98.5 (17) OffRtg: 114.5 (3) DefRtg: 113.8 (26) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)

The Hawks are like a box of chocolates. But for the last few months, you’d have a pretty good idea of what you’re gonna get by knowing where they’re playing. Since mid-January, the Hawks are 16-3 at home. And since Christmas, they’re 6-15 on the road. For the season, only the Bulls (26-10, 17-21) have a bigger home-road winning percentage differential than the Hawks (24-14, 13-23).

Trae Young did his thing (45 points) at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, when his ankle-breaking move on Taj Gibson capped the 11-0 run that won a game the Hawks trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter. (They were previously 0-20 on the road after trailing by more than five in the fourth.) But their road woes returned the following night in Detroit, when a 23-0 Pistons run put them down by 29. The Hawks’ home-road differential has been bigger on offense (elite at home, good on the road) than on defense (bad either way), and the loss in Detroit was the first time since the All-Star break that they’ve scored less than a point per possession.

With that loss, the Hawks are 0-5 in their last five opportunities to climb above .500, having allowed 119.9 points per 100 possessions over those five games (which also include a loss to the Rockets). They’ll have another chance on Monday (on the road again), because their offense returned to life (121 points on 97 possessions against the league’s third-ranked defense) upon returning home. With their win over the Warriors on Friday, the Hawks finished 10-5 at home against the Western Conference, with wins over each of the West’s top three teams.

Week 24: @ IND, @ OKC, vs. CLE, vs. BKN

Record: 32-43

Pace: 98.0 (21) OffRtg: 110.7 (19) DefRtg: 111.5 (17) NetRtg: -0.7 (19)

The Pelicans looked like they were going to lose both games of their mega-important back-to-back over the weekend, but they earned a split with their third win (only the Clippers have more) in a game they trailed by 20 points or more. And since the win was over the Lakers (and not the Spurs), the Pels are now in ninth place in the West, in position to host the 9-10 Play-In game. So it’s very possible that one of the two teams they faced this past weekend will be back in New Orleans in two weeks.

They came back from 23 points down against L.A., but because they shut down the Lakers’ offense down the stretch, the Pels didn’t need any late-game heroics on their own end of the floor. They struggled in those situations earlier in the week, with CJ McCollum getting doubled on last-second possessions against both Charlotte and San Antonio. But they didn’t have Brandon Ingram in those two games and upon his return (from a 10-game absence) on Sunday, he had 26 points and five assists in less than 26 minutes. The Pels are now 6-5 with both Ingram and McCollum.

And they’re just two games into a stretch of seven straight against teams that currently have losing records. Since their initial 1-12 start to the season, the Pels are 19-7 within that currently-below-.500 group, though they obviously suffered one of those seven losses as recently as Saturday.

Week 24: @ POR, @ LAL, @ LAC

Record: 36-39

Pace: 98.5 (18) OffRtg: 107.8 (26) DefRtg: 109.5 (8) NetRtg: -1.7 (21)

The Clippers remain pretty safe in the 8 seed, but they’ve lost five straight games for the first time this season, allowing more than 120 points per 100 possessions in four of the five games. The last three games have been particularly ugly, with the Clips winning just one of the 12 quarters, and getting outscored, 102-66, in the first. For the season, their most recent starting lineup – Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris and Ivica Zubac – has been outscored by 13.5 points per 100 possessions, the fourth worst mark among 32 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes. (Morris didn’t play the second half on Friday.)

The Clippers’ bench has also gone from top 10 before the All-Star break to bottom 10 after the break. The opponents have had something to do with that and this has definitely been a schedule-aided losing streak, with the five opponents (currently) at least eight games over .500. The Clips have lost their last seven games against teams that currently have winning records, and this tough stretch isn’t over. Each of their next three games (plus a game against the Suns next week) are against that over-.500 group, and their other game this week – against the ninth-place Pelicans – could be intriguing if they don’t win at least one of the first three.

The Clips have allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions in each of their two games against the Jazz (who they host on Tuesday) and their two worst defensive games of the season have come against New Orleans and Milwaukee.

Week 24: vs. UTA, @ CHI, @ MIL, vs. NOP

Record: 33-42

Pace: 96.3 (29) OffRtg: 109.6 (24) DefRtg: 110.4 (14) NetRtg: -0.9 (20)

Over the 26 seasons for which we have play-by-play data, the Knicks rank second (behind the Kings) with 14 bottom-10 finishes on defense. In that context, ranking 14th and allowing 0.6 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average is great. Assuming they stay below, this will be just their fourth better-than-average defense in the last 21 years.

But given the Knicks’ success on that end of the floor last season (when they ranked fourth), their defense has obviously been a disappointment. Only the Lakers (+5.4), Jazz (+2.7) and Sixers (+2.7) have seen bigger jumps in points allowed per 100 than the Knicks, who’ve allowed 2.6 more than they did last season. In both of their seasons under Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks have been in the bottom three in regard to the percentage of their opponents’ shots (73% this season) that have come from the restricted area or 3-point range. But they haven’t defended those areas as well as they did last season, seeing the league’s sixth-biggest jump in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area and its second-biggest jump in opponent 3-point percentage.

The Knicks have had the league’s top-ranked defense (108.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) as they’ve won eight of their last 12 games. But to have a real shot at the Play-In the game they really needed to win was Tuesday against the Hawks, and as they blew a late lead, they allowed Atlanta to score 17 points on a stretch of seven possessions.

Week 24: vs. CHI, vs. CHA, vs. CLE, @ ORL

Record: 32-42

Pace: 97.7 (22) OffRtg: 110.0 (21) DefRtg: 113.1 (25) NetRtg: -3.1 (23)

Remember when the Wizards had a top five defense? It was a long time ago, but it was this season. The Wiz ranked fifth defensively through their first 17 games (Nov. 23), seemingly boosted by imports from the team that ranked first last season. But the slide from there was pretty rapid, and by Game 34 (just after Christmas), the Wiz were already in the bottom 10. That’s where they’ve been for the last three months, and this will be Washington’s third bottom-10 defense in the last four seasons.

The Wizards have allowed their opponents to take only 62% of their shots, the league’s lowest rate, from the restricted area (26%, eighth lowest) or 3-point range (35%, lowest). With that, they’ve been better than average (13th) in opponent effective field goal percentage. But they rank last in opponent turnover rate (12.1 per 100 possessions) and they’ve had some bad luck in regard to free throws. In fact, their opponent mark from the line (80.7%) is the highest in at least the last 52 years (and probably NBA history).

If it was the league average (77.8%), the Wiz would only move up two spots in defensive efficiency. But they might have a couple of more wins. They have two losses by one point (both in the span of seven days in January) in which their opponent shot 85% or better from the line. As they stand (and having won two straight games for the first time since mid-January), the Wiz are 5 1/2 games behind the 10th place Hawks (who they visit next week) with eight games to play.

Week 24: vs. CHI, vs. ORL, vs. DAL, @ BOS

Record: 31-43

Pace: 100.3 (7) OffRtg: 109.6 (23) DefRtg: 112.2 (20) NetRtg: -2.6 (22)

The Pelicans’ two weekend results – a loss to the Spurs and a win over the Lakers – were probably a worst-case scenario for L.A. Not only have the Lakers lost the tie-breaker with New Orleans, they also lead the 11th-place Spurs (who would hold the conference-record tie-breaker) by just one game. And of course, the Lakers are still the Western Conference team with the most games remaining (six of their eight) against teams that currently have winning records. The possibility of this team failing to reach the Play-In has never been more real.

The Lakers still control their own destiny, and they have a couple of quality wins (in Toronto and Cleveland – two of their five best offensive performances of the season) over the last couple of weeks. But they seemingly put their best foot forward in the first half on Sunday, only to blow a 23-point lead. Shooting 39% (including 3-for-16 from 3-point range) they were outscored 67-39 in the second half. The Lakers have five losses in games they led by at least 15 points (tied for fifth most) and they’ve come against the Thunder (x2), Pacers, Wizards and Pelicans.

Their final meeting with the Pelicans is in L.A. on Friday, but that will be the second half of a road-home back-to-back, with the Pelicans having Thursday off. In fact, the Lakers’ only two remaining games that aren’t against teams with winning records – Friday vs. the Pels, next week vs. Oklahoma City – are both rest-disadvantage games. They’re 2-4 (with four straight losses) in rest-disadvantage games thus far.

Week 24: @ DAL, @ UTA, vs. NOP, vs. DEN

Record: 30-44

Pace: 100.6 (3) OffRtg: 111.5 (16) DefRtg: 111.7 (18) NetRtg: -0.2 (18)

A three-game winning streak has the Spurs alive in the race for the final two Play-In spots in the West. They’ve been in the West’s top eight in regard to point differential for most of the season, but they’re finally getting some close wins. The Spurs (who had the league’s second-worst clutch record three weeks ago) have won their last five games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Though they almost blew a late, 10-point lead, their win in New Orleans on Saturday was also just their fifth victory (they were previously 4-40) after trailing by double-digits. And with that win, the Spurs hold the tiebreakers against both the ninth-place Pelicans (via a 3-1 head-to-head record) and the 10th-place Lakers (via a better conference record – the season series was tied).

The Spurs are set to finish outside the top 10 on defense for the fourth straight season, having ranked in the top 10 in 20 of the previous 21. They continue to struggle on the defensive glass (they rank 25th in defensive rebounding percentage) and Saturday was the seventh time they’ve allowed more than 25 second chance points. But it was their first win in one of those games and the winning streak has been their best three-game stretch of offense (122.4 points scored per 100 possessions) since late January. Dejounte Murray had a rough shooting night (4-for-19) in New Orleans, but had 13 assists with just two turnovers, and (even with Devin Vassell and Lonnie Walker IV out) six other Spurs scored in double-figures.

The Spurs have the league’s fifth-biggest differential between their winning percentage against the 14 teams currently at or below .500 (21-14, .600) and their winning percentage against the 16 teams currently over .500 (9-30, .231). Two of those nine wins against the latter group (the good teams) have come in the last 18 days, and they’ll certainly need more to make the Play-In, with five of their final eight games coming against teams currently over .500. The other three – one in Houston, two against the Blazers – are this week.

Week 24: @ HOU, vs. MEM, vs. POR, vs. POR

Record: 27-48

Pace: 100.2 (8) OffRtg: 109.7 (22) DefRtg: 114.6 (28) NetRtg: -4.9 (25)

The Kings ranked last defensively, by a wide margin, last season. So they have been improved on that end of the floor, seeing the league’s 11th biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions (-1.9). But going from 30th to 28th on defense probably isn’t something they’ll be putting on their season-ticket-renewal brochures. They’re set to rank in the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency for the 16th time in the last 19 seasons, and in the bottom five for the seventh time in the last 11 (a span that includes eight different coaches).

As was the case on offense, the Kings have ranked lower on defense under Alvin Gentry (27th) than they did under Luke Walton (26th). They’ve had two full-time starters through their big trade with Indiana, and the 117.1 points per 100 possessions they’ve allowed with De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes on the floor together is the highest on-court mark among 351 two-man combinations that have played at least 750 total minutes.

The Kings rank in the top 10 in opponent free throw rate (22.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field), but maybe it would be better if they fouled more. They’re one of two teams – Portland is the other – that rank in the bottom five in both opponent field goal percentage in the paint (58.1%, 26th) and opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (52.2%, 29th).

In winning the first two games of their five-game trip, the Kings have held two straight opponents under 110 points per 100 possessions for the first time since late December. They have just one winning streak of more than two games this season (it was three games in early December), and they can get their second if they can take advantage of the reeling Heat on Monday.

Week 24: @ MIA, @ HOU, @ HOU, vs. GSW

Record: 20-55

Pace: 98.8 (15) OffRtg: 105.0 (28) DefRtg: 112.8 (24) NetRtg: -7.8 (28)

On Wednesday and Friday last week, the Pistons held two straight opponents under a point per possession for the first time since the first two games of the season. Of course, they lost one of those two games (to Washington), because their offense was equally anemic. The Pistons rank higher on defense than they do on offense, but (unless they can move up a couple of spots in the next 14 days) this will be the lowest they’ve ranked defensively in Dwane Casey’s four seasons in Detroit. They’ve seen the league’s 10th biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions (+0.6) from last season, when they ranked 19th.

The Pistons are one of two teams – the Blazers are the other – that rank in the bottom three in two of the four factors on defense, currently 29th in opponent free throw rate (28.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field) and 28th in defensive rebounding percentage (70.6%). Their most recent starting lineup (with Cory Joseph) ranks 30th in the latter (70.9%) among 32 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes, but has been solid defensively otherwise, allowing 109.3 points per 100 possessions. Cade Cunningham, with his size and (seemingly) a willingness to work on that end of the floor, certainly has the potential to be a plus-defender.

The bottom three teams all get the same Lottery odds, and the Pistons, Magic and Rockets are now all tied for the worst record in the league (20-55). But the Thunder have just one more win than those bottom three, and the Pistons will be in Oklahoma City on Friday, playing another winnable game (in Indiana) two nights later.

Week 24: @ BKN, vs. PHI, @ OKC, @ IND

Record: 25-50

Pace: 98.3 (19) OffRtg: 111.2 (18) DefRtg: 114.3 (27) NetRtg: -3.1 (24)

Even before they allowed the Grizzlies and Raptors to score an incredible 139 points per 100 possessions on Thursday and Saturday, the Pacers were set to finish in the bottom five in defensive efficiency. And that’s news, because in the 25 seasons for which we have play-by-play data (1996-97 through last season), the Pacers are the only team that hasn’t ranked in the bottom five defensively. In fact, their only season in the bottom 10 over that stretch was 1998-99 (when they ranked 23rd). This season will draw them even with the Celtics, Heat and Spurs, both in regard to bottom-five finishes (1) and bottom-10 finishes (2).

The Pacers have seen the fifth biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season (+2.4), when they ranked 14th. They’ve seen the third biggest jump in opponent effective field goal percentage, going from the top 10 to the bottom 10 both in and outside the paint. And they’ve seen the third biggest drop in opponent turnover rate.

The Pacers have been without Myles Turner since mid-January, and they’ve certainly fallen off as their games have lost meaning. In fact, only the Blazers have been worse defensively since the Sabonis-Haliburton trade. But the Pacers were already a bottom-10 defensive team (110.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, 21st) at the time when Turner had played his last game. They still have four games remaining against teams that rank in the top 10 offensively, with three of those four in the next five days.

Week 24: vs. ATL, vs. DEN, @ BOS, vs. DET

Record: 20-55

Pace: 99.7 (10) OffRtg: 103.9 (29) DefRtg: 111.7 (19) NetRtg: -7.8 (29)

Believe it or not, the Magic have had the league’s second-ranked defense since the All-Star break, even though they’re one of two teams – the Spurs are the other – that have been on the other side of two of the nine 50-point games since the break. The Nets’ 150 points on 104 possessions (in the game where Kyrie Irving scored 60) was the most efficient performance for any team post-All-Star. But the Magic have also held their opponent (including the Warriors on Tuesday) under a point per possession four times in 13 March games, having done so eight times (in 62 games) prior to that. And league-wide, this has been the most efficient month (114.6 points scored per 100 possessions) in *NBA history.

* Probably, though we don’t have the historical data to say it definitively. It has been the most efficient month in the last several seasons.

The Magic have a lot of guys (including rookie Jalen Suggs) who can get after it on that end of the floor, even with Jonathan Isaac having missed a second straight season. Chuma Okeke is one of six players (aka “The Jimmy Butler Club”) who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes with more steals (87) than personal fouls (86). So this team ranking 26th defensively before the break could have been considered a disappointment. But overall, the Magic rank as the league’s ninth most improved defensive team, having allowed 2.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season (when they ranked 26th).

The Orlando defense has been strongest in the paint, with no team having a smaller differential between its opponents’ field goal percentage in the paint (54.8%, seventh lowest) and their opponents’ effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (51.8%, third highest). The Magic also rank ninth (third since the All-Star break) in defensive rebounding percentage. A couple of this week’s opponents – Toronto (second in offensive rebounding percentage) and New York (fifth) – will challenge them in that regard.

Week 24: @ CLE, @ WAS, vs. TOR, vs. NYK

Record: 20-55

Pace: 101.0 (2) OffRtg: 107.6 (27) DefRtg: 115.9 (30) NetRtg: -8.3 (30)

The Rockets have suddenly won three of their last four games to draw even with the Pistons and Magic at 20 wins. With league-wide offense off the charts this month, the 3-1 stretch has been the Rockets’ best stretch of defense (105.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Thanksgiving. Of course, it comes with the context that the three wins have come against the Wizards and Blazers (x2).

Still, those two wins over Portland have the Rockets in position to climb out of the basement in defensive efficiency, as they’ve now (for the season) allowed just 0.1 more points per 100 possessions than the Blazers have. The Rockets are one of only four teams that have allowed fewer points per 100 since the break (114.2, 14th) than they did before it (116.4, 30th by a wide margin).

Even if they climb out of the basement, the Rockets will rank in the bottom five defensively for the second straight season. They ranked 27th last season and only six teams have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions. The Rockets’ defense has struggled most inside. They rank last in opponent field goal percentage in the paint by a healthy margin, while also ranking 24th in both in defensive rebounding percentage and opponent free throw rate. The issues in the paint obviously start in transition. The Rockets have allowed 25.0 transition points per game, most in the 18 seasons of Synergy play-type tracking, topping their own record of 23.8 two seasons ago.

Week 24: vs. SAS, vs. SAC, vs. SAC, vs. MIN

Record: 21-53

Pace: 99.4 (11) OffRtg: 103.4 (30) DefRtg: 111.0 (16) NetRtg: -7.5 (26)

Last season, the Thunder had the league’s 10th-ranked defense before the All-Star break and its 29th-ranked defense after the break. This year (though the break came much later in the season) has been almost the same exact story. At the break, the Thunder ranked eighth defensively. And since the break, they rank 29th, with only the Blazers having allowed more points per 100 possessions.

The schedule and injuries have both played roles in the drop-off. Ten of the Thunder’s 16 post-break games have come against teams that rank in the top 10 offensively. And none of the 16 games have come with Lu Dort or Kenrich Williams, two of their best defenders. Darius Bazley has been around and has certainly improved on that end of the floor. In fact, he’s the only player in the league who’s played at least at least 500 minutes (he’s played more than 1,900) with more blocks (70) than personal fouls (68). But the Thunder are still lacking a true defensive anchor inside.

Still, that they ranked eighth almost 60 games into the season without a real center (Derrick Favors ranked 11th on the team in pre-break minutes) is reason to believe that the Thunder can be competitive when it chooses to. It’s also evidence that Mark Daigneault can coach a little.

Week 24: @ POR, vs. ATL, vs. DET, vs. PHX

Record: 27-47

Pace: 98.9 (14) OffRtg: 108.0 (25) DefRtg: 115.8 (29) NetRtg: -7.8 (27)

The Blazers were the only team that ranked in the bottom five defensively in each of the last two seasons. And now, despite a coaching change, they’re set to make it three straight years in the bottom five. With the league average having seen a drop, the Blazers have actually allowed more points per 100 possessions (115.8) than they did last season (115.3).

The Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic injuries have obviously made this team less competitive, and the Blazers have allowed a whopping 124.0 points per 100 possessions (4.6 more than any other team) since the All-Star break. But they already ranked last defensively at the point when Lillard had played his last game. Their starting lineup was pretty good defensively (104.8 points allowed per 100) last season, but didn’t defend as well (111.2) this year. New scheme, same results, and three of those starters have been traded.

The new scheme did produce the league’s biggest jump in opponent turnover rate. But the Blazers rank in the bottom three in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (59.0%, 29th), opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (53.0%, 30th), and opponent free throw rate (27.8 attempts per 100 shots from the field, 28th).

At the All-Star break, the 30th-ranked Rockets’ defense had allowed 2.7 more points per 100 possessions than that of the Blazers. And with how poorly Portland has defended over the last five weeks, that difference is down to just 0.1 per 100. The Blazers still have two games left against the league’s worst offense (that of the Thunder), but it would be a surprise if they don’t finish this season as its worst defense.

Week 24: vs. OKC, vs. NOP, @ SAS, @ SAS

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