Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 15: Sixers climb higher in Top 5; Celtics take No. 1

See where all 30 teams rank as we enter Week 15 of the 2022-23 season.

Joel Embiid and the Sixers wrapped up a Western Conference road trip with a 5-0 record.

As we enter Week 15 with 57% of the season complete, there are seven teams in the Western Conference within two games of .500, ranging from the fifth-place Dallas Mavericks (25-23) to the 11th-place Oklahoma City Thunder (23-24). Now, it’s not a huge surprise that there have been four West teams worse than the Thunder. But that OKC is within a game of .500 is a little shocking. And that they’re within a game of fifth place is rather stunning.

And how about the fact that the Thunder are currently playing the best basketball of all those teams in the West’s 5-11 scrum? OKC is 9-5 since Christmas, with the league’s third-best point differential per 100 possessions (plus-7.0) over these last four weeks. The Thunder have been strong on both ends of the floor, and while there’s probably some 3-point luck involved (the Thunder rank fifth in 3-point percentage and third in opponent 3-point percentage over the last four weeks), they might not go away. In fact, the Thunder have one of the league’s easiest remaining schedules.

The Western Conference standings are weird. And they just may stay that way.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Philadelphia (3-0) — The Sixers went 5-0 on their road trip, finishing it with a win in Sacramento without James Harden and Joel Embiid.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: New York (0-4) — The Knicks’ week included three losses to teams – Toronto (x 2) and Washington – who are more than five games under .500. They also let the Hawks shoot 56%.

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East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 14

  • Toughest: 1. Detroit, 2. Charlotte, 3. Washington
  • Easiest: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Minnesota, 3. Denver
  • Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

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Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: Phoenix (+4), Atlanta (+3), LA Clippers (+3), Oklahoma City (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Indiana (-9), New York (-6), Portland (-5)

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Week 15 Team to Watch

  • New York The Knicks have already begun to suffer some slippage and have lost their hold on the 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. And they haven’t yet reached the really hard part of their schedule, which begins this week with three games against top-five teams in the East. They’ll host the Cavs on Tuesday, and then visit the Celtics on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT) and the Nets on Saturday (5:30 p.m. ET, ABC). If they’re going to stay ahead of the Hawks and Chicago Bulls, they’ll need to beat some teams ahead of them.

* * *


OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)

The league has averaged 113.3 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes 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.

Last Week:2

Record: 35-12

OffRtg: 117.3 (3) DefRtg: 110.8 (5) NetRtg: +6.6 (1) Pace: 100.1 (15)

This is often thought of as the toughest part of the season to stay focused, and if there’s a team that can afford some slippage, it’s this one. But the Celtics have won nine straight games for the second time this season, showing some resilience along the way. They’ve had the league’s No. 1 defense (107.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the course of the streak, and that defense has been at its best in the fourth quarter. They faced fourth-quarter deficits on Thursday and Saturday, but held the Warriors and Raptors to just 36 total points on 50 fourth-quarter possessions, with Al Horford making big blocks in both games.

Horford and Robert Williams III have started five of the team’s last seven games together, and the Celtics have allowed less than a point per possession with them both on the floor. But they’ve shared the floor for just 98 total minutes, and Williams suffered another left knee injury in the first quarter of their win in Toronto on Saturday. That was followed by an ankle sprain from Marcus Smart in a game that Jayson Tatum missed with a sore left wrist. Fortunately, the Celtics have both a four-game lead in the loss column atop the Eastern Conference and a capable bench. Malcolm Brogdon has averaged 18.7 points on an effective field goal percentage of 64% over the winning streak, while Payton Pritchard and Grant Williams combined to shoot 8-for-13 from 3-point range in the Toronto win. The Cs have the league’s fourth-ranked bench (in regard to aggregate on-court point differential per 100 possessions) for the second straight season.

The Celtics are the only undefeated team (they’re 4-0) in rest-disadvantage games, and they have five remaining, with the first of those in Miami on Tuesday. It’s their final meeting with the Heat, having won two of the first three (which all took place in the first seven weeks of the season).

Week 15: @ ORL, @ MIA, vs. NYK, vs. LAL

Last Week:1

Record: 33-14

OffRtg: 118.0 (1) DefRtg: 113.4 (16) NetRtg: +4.6 (3) Pace: 99.0 (21)

On Sunday, the Nuggets lost a game in which their starting center registered a positive plus-minus, getting (somewhat) stung by bench minutes once again. But that starting center was Zeke Nnaji, and not Nikola Jokic, who’s missed the last two games with hamstring tightness. Nnaji has been solid in Jokic’s stead, Jamal Murray (23 total assists over the two games) has taken over playmaking duties, and the Nuggets clobbered the Pacers without the reigning MVP on Friday, registering their second-most efficient offensive game of the season.

But their 16-game home winning streak came to an end with a loss to the Thunder on Sunday, largely because the Nuggets couldn’t make free throws. Their 33 attempts were their sixth-highest total for the season, but they were 17-for-33 (52%), the worst mark for a team with at least 30 attempts since the Cavs went 18-for-35 (51%) … against the Thunder … exactly one year prior (Jan. 22, 2022). The Nuggets are one of two teams (the Nets are the other that rank in the top five in both 2-point percentage (57.2%, fifth) and 3-point percentage (39.8%, first). But they rank 27th in free throw percentage (74.2%), even though four of the five Nuggets with at least 70 attempts have shot better than 82%. Aaron Gordon’s 62.6% is the worst mark of his career and the second-worst mark among 63 players with at least 150 attempts this season.

With the loss to the Thunder, the Nuggets have the league’s seventh-biggest home-road differential in regard to winning percentage (22-4 vs. 11-10). But they still have its biggest home-road differential in regard to point differential per 100 possessions (plus-10.8 vs. minus-3.0). They’ve had the league’s fourth most home-heavy schedule thus far, and have played 17 of their last 22 games at Ball Arena. Twenty of their remaining 35 games are on the road, and they have a tough three-game trip this week. It begins in New Orleans, where they lost by 15 (getting outscored by 17 points in 10:43 with Jokic off the floor) in early December.

Week 15: @ NOP, @ MIL, @ PHI

Last Week:5

Record: 30-16

OffRtg: 114.9 (7) DefRtg: 110.8 (4) NetRtg: +4.1 (5) Pace: 98.3 (25)

The Sixers seemed happy to punt the final game of their Western Conference road trip, sitting James Harden and Joel Embiid in Sacramento (even though they had a rest advantage) on Saturday. And they were down 21 points late in the second quarter, having allowed the Kings to score 73 points on 45 possessions. But the Sixers outscored the Kings by 32 points (55-23) over the next 15 1/2 minutes, and they held on to complete the 5-0 trip and improve to 4-2 in games in which they’ve had neither Harden or Embiid.

The Celtics are the only team that ranks in the top five on both ends of the floor, but the Sixers (0.2 points scored per 100 possessions behind the fifth-ranked Mavs on offense) are close to joining them. They’ve ranked third offensively as they’ve gone 18-4 over the last 6 1/2 weeks, climbing from eighth to second place in the East. Joel Embiid is now the league’s leading scorer (for the second straight season) at 33.59 points per game (ahead of Luka Doncic’s 33.58), and he’s one of six Sixers with a true shooting percentage above the league average (57.9%) on at least 100 field goal attempts over this 18-4 stretch. Tyrese Maxey scored an efficient 37 points off the bench in wins over the Clippers and Blazers, and then was more of a volume scorer (32 points on 12-for-29 shooting) as a starter in Sacramento.

The Sixers are playing just one game over a seven-day stretch that began Sunday, and it’s a visit from Ben Simmons and the Nets, who were the victims in one of those other wins without Harden or Embiid. Then it’s a Jokic-Embiid matchup on Saturday afternoon, with the Sixers 4-3 all-time in games in which the two MVP candidates have both played. Denver won the lone head-to-head meeting last season, even though the Sixers were a plus-9 in Jokic’s minutes on the floor.

Week 15: vs. BKN, vs. DEN

Last Week:3

Record: 31-15

OffRtg: 114.6 (9) DefRtg: 109.2 (1) NetRtg: +5.4 (2) Pace: 102.0 (5)

The Grizzlies rank in the top two in second-chance points per game for the third straight season. They ran their winning streak to 11 games on Steven Adams’ second-chance game-winner (off a Ja Morant miss) against Cleveland on Wednesday, and their 39 second-chance points in L.A. two nights later were the most for any team in any game in the 27 seasons for which second-chance points have been tracked. But they needed 40 to send the game to overtime and Brandon Clarke (after rebounding another Morant miss) missed the second of two free throws with 1.7 seconds left. The loss to the Lakers brought an end to the winning streak, and was also the Grizzlies’ first defeat in a game they led by double-digits (they were previously 31-0 after leading by 10 or more).

The Grizz rank second in offensive rebounding percentage, but another reason why they tally a lot of second-chance points is they don’t shoot particularly well. And their wire-to-wire loss in Phoenix on Sunday (in which they trailed by as many as 29 points) was the second straight game in which they had an effective field goal percentage under 50%. And they’re now 4-13 when they’ve had a mark under 50% for the season.

The Grizz still have the league’s No. 1 defense, and they’re 17-1 when they’ve held their opponent to an effective field goal percentage under 50%. But before they return to the Chase Center (where they lost on Christmas Day), they’ll be at a rest disadvantage against the league’s second-ranked offense on Monday. The Grizz have won their last three rest-disadvantage games, including one (at home) against the Kings on New Year’s Day.

Week 15: @ SAC, @ GSW, @ MIN, vs. IND

Last Week:4

Record: 29-17

OffRtg: 114.7 (8) DefRtg: 111.4 (7) NetRtg: +3.3 (6) Pace: 99.0 (20)

The Nets lost their first four games after Kevin Durant’s knee injury, scoring a pretty anemic 101.7 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak. The worst offensive performance of the four came against the worst defensive team in the league, with the Nets (who rank second in 3-point percentage for the season) having the worst 3-point shooting game of the season for any team that doesn’t play its home games in Houston, Texas. But that loss in San Antonio came without Kyrie Irving, who totaled 86 points on an effective field goal percentage of 71.6% as the Nets put an end to the slide and won two games over the weekend.

The Nets’ comeback at Golden State on Sunday gave them five wins (tied with the Grizzlies for the league lead) in games they trailed by 15 points or more. And almost all of the 27-10 run to end the game was pulled off by a lineup that had Seth Curry in place of Ben Simmons, the same group that almost rallied all the way back from 22 down in the fourth quarter in Phoenix three nights earlier. The Simmons lineup (plus-22 in 46 minutes) has actually been nearly as successful as the Curry lineup (plus-24 in 94 minutes) over the no-Durant stretch, but things have fallen off (on both ends of the floor) as the Nets have gone deeper in their rotation.

That loss in San Antonio did come with Simmons’ 12th double-digit scoring game of the season (and two made free throws). One of the previous 11 was the Nets’ first game in Philadelphia, though that was a loss to a team missing its three leading scorers (Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey). They’re back in Philly on Wednesday, and after that, the Nets will have played 15 of their last 20 games on the road. They’ll play eight of their next nine at home, a stretch that includes a somewhat-important game against the Knicks on Saturday, with Brooklyn having won eight straight against the team from Manhattan.

Week 15: @ PHI, vs. DET, vs. NYK

Last Week:6

Record: 29-19

OffRtg: 114.2 (10) DefRtg: 109.7 (2) NetRtg: +4.5 (4) Pace: 96.3 (30)

The Cavs have been better with only one of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell on the floor (plus-6.1 in 1,257 total minutes) than they’ve been with them on the floor together (plus-2.8 per 100 in 796 minutes), with the bigger difference on defense. Weirdly, the numbers are better with only Garland (plus-7.5 per 100), even though they’ve won all nine games he’s missed and are just 2-6 without Mitchell, who’s missed the last three games with a groin injury.

The Cavs lost the first two of those games, getting outscored by 17 points (scoring just 31 points on 34 offensive possessions) by the Grizzlies and shorthanded Warriors in Garland’s 17 minutes off the floor. The no-Garland minutes weren’t better (22 points scored on 25 possessions) against the Antetokounmpo-less Bucks on Saturday, but the Cavs got their second no-Mitchell victory of the season behind a career-high 38 points from Evan Mobley.

Fifteen of Mobley’s 19 buckets against Milwaukee were assisted (seven of those assists came from Garland), but they weren’t all dunks and layups. He was 8-for-11 on non-restricted-area 2-point shots and is now shooting 60.9% from 2-point range for the season, 12th among 79 players with at least 300 2-point attempts and up from 54.1% last season. Mobley put the Cavs up three late in Memphis on Wednesday with a pair of hook shots (with a soft touch) off pick-and-roll feeds from Garland.

The Cavs have had four rest-advantage games in the last three weeks, and they’ll have three more (at Houston, vs. the Clippers, vs. Memphis) in the next 11 days. They’re still just 2-4 in rest-advantage games after that loss to the Warriors (who were without four starters) on Friday.

Week 15: @ NYK, @ HOU, @ OKC, vs. LAC

Last Week:8

Record: 29-17

OffRtg: 111.4 (23) DefRtg: 110.3 (3) NetRtg: +1.0 (11) Pace: 100.0 (16)

The Bucks didn’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo for the last four games of their first stretch of five games in seven nights. But they won both games of the second back-to-back, scoring at least 130 points per 100 possessions for just the third and fourth times this season. Jrue Holiday led the way, scoring a season-high 35 points against Indiana, and then topping that with 37 against Toronto. He made 10 3-pointers (including another clutch step-back) and assisted on 10 more as the Bucks shot 42-for-85 (49%) from beyond the arc over the two games. The Bucks are one of two teams – the Warriors are the other – that have taken more than half of their shots from 3-point range in January.

The Bucks (still without Antetokounmpo) were a plus-21 from beyond the arc in Cleveland on Saturday (they haven’t been outscored from 3-point range since their Christmas loss in Boston), but were a minus-22 in the paint and a minus-10 from mid-range as the Cavs (29-19) drew even in the win column and in the season series (2-2). The Bucks are 6-5 without Antetokounmpo, but these last five games without him have been their worst stretch of defense this season (119.1 points allowed per 100 possessions). They’ve allowed 132.5 per 100 in Holiday’s 62 minutes off the floor over that stretch.

Both Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton (who’s missed the last 18 games) are listed as probable for their game in Detroit on Monday, and the Bucks don’t have another back-to-back until Feb. 9 and 10. They’ll have rest advantages at home against both Denver (their first meeting with the Nuggets) and New Orleans this week, and they were 4-0 (3-0 at home) in rest-advantage games before the loss in Cleveland on Saturday.

Week 15: @ DET, vs. DEN, @ IND, vs. NOP

Last Week:9

Record: 26-19

OffRtg: 117.7 (2) DefRtg: 114.9 (25) NetRtg: +2.7 (7) Pace: 101.7 (7)

The Kings have the league’s No. 1 offense in January, and they’ve scored more than 125 points per 100 possessions in six of their last eight games. They didn’t quite crack the 125-per-100 mark in L.A. on Wednesday, but still scored efficiently enough to win without Domantas Sabonis. De’Aaron Fox had a big game (31 points on 13-for-23 shooting) and Richaun Holmes was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field as Sabonis’ replacement in the starting lineup. (Holmes was DNP’d in the games preceding and following that one start.) Sabonis returned two nights later, recorded a triple-double, and had six assists to Keegan Murray as the rookie scored a career-high 29 points (on 10-for-12 shooting) in a quality win over the rolling Thunder.

But defense can still be a problem for the Kings. And their six-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday, when they blew a 21-point lead and allowed the Sixers (without James Harden or Joel Embiid) to score 129 points on just 99 possessions. The Kings rank fourth in defensive rebounding percentage for the season, but Philly had 15 offensive boards and 23 second-chance points, their second-highest total of the season.

The Kings still have a firm grip on third place in the Western Conference, but while the league is 89-71 in rest-advantage games, the Kings are 0-5, one of two teams without a win (the Knicks are 0-1) when they’ve been rested and the opponent has been playing the second game of a back-to-back. They’ll have four more rest-advantage games in the next two weeks, with the first of those being Monday against the Grizzlies (who lost in Phoenix on Sunday night). The other three are on a seven-game trip that begins with a rest-advantage game in Minnesota on Saturday. It’s one of only three seven-game trips on the NBA schedule this season.

Week 15: vs. MEM, vs. TOR, @ MIN

Last Week:11

Record: 26-22

OffRtg: 111.0 (26) DefRtg: 111.0 (6) NetRtg: +0.0 (18) Pace: 97.1 (28)

The Heat have seen the league’s biggest drop in 3-point percentage, going from first (37.9%) last season to 27th (33.5%) this season. Among 164 individuals with at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons, Max Strus (from 41.0% to 33.1%), Gabe Vincent (from 36.8% to 32.2%), Duncan Robinson (from 37.2% to 33.1%) and Kyle Lowry (from 37.7% to 34.0%) have seen the fifth, 21st, 25th and 29th biggest drops, respectfully. And January has been the Heat’s worst 3-point shooting month (30.8%) thus far. Shooting 8-for-31 (26%) in Atlanta on Monday and 4-for-20 (20%) in Dallas on Friday, the Heat got clobbered, trailing both games by more than 25 points (though they cut a 26-point deficit down to four late in Atlanta).

On Sunday, the Heat had just the fifth game this season in which a team has shot less than 25% from 3-point range and committed more than 20 turnovers. But they won (coming back from a 16-point deficit), because the offense was uglier on the Pelicans’ end of the floor. The Heat and Pels rank second and sixth in opponent turnover rate, and Sunday was the first time in almost eight years (since Feb. 21, 2015) that two teams had more than 15 live-ball turnovers in the same game.

Despite the losses in Atlanta and Dallas, the Heat have climbed past the Knicks (who they’ve yet to face) into sixth place in the East. The last three games have been the first time this season that the Heat have had all of their top six guys (their starters plus Victor Oladipo) for three straight. They don’t have any back-to-backs until Feb. 10 and 11, and they’ll have a rest advantage when they host the Celtics (who are in Orlando on Monday) on Tuesday night. Boston won the first two meetings, but the Heat won the third in overtime.

Week 15: vs. BOS, vs. ORL, @ CHA

Last Week:7

Record: 26-21

OffRtg: 113.9 (12) DefRtg: 111.4 (8) NetRtg: +2.5 (8) Pace: 110.5 (13)

It was noted in this space last week that the Pelicans had a better record without both Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson (7-4) than they did with both of them in the lineup (7-5). A week later, that’s no longer the case, and the Pels may really be feeling the effects of absences that have now reached 28 and 10 games, respectively. They’ve lost four straight, and it’s been their worst four-game stretch of offense by a pretty healthy margin (104.1 points scored per 100 possessions). CJ McCollum has shot just 36% (including 4-for-16 from mid-range) and committed 17 turnovers over the losing streak. Seven of those 17 came in Miami on Sunday, when the Pels had 25 turnovers total. In one week, they dropped from sixth to 12th in offensive efficiency, losing their status as a “top 10 on both ends of the floor” team.

While their loss to Miami (at home) on Wednesday was a wire-to-wire squash, the Pels led by at least 13 points in their other three games last week. But their defense couldn’t hold up after halftime in Cleveland, Orlando or Miami. At one point, they were 18-1 in games they led by double-digits, but they’re now 25-7, with those three straight losses.

This stretch without Williamson has been pretty tough in regard to the schedule. The Pels played nine of their last 12 games on the road and nine of their last 13 against teams that are currently over .500. They begin a three-game homestand on Tuesday with a visit from the best team in the Western Conference. The Pels did win their only meeting with the Nuggets this season, getting a career-high 38 points from Jose Alvarado in early December.

Week 15: vs. DEN, vs. MIN, vs. WAS, @ MIL

Last Week:14

Record: 24-23

OffRtg: 112.9 (18) DefRtg: 113.5 (18) NetRtg: -0.5 (21) Pace: 101.5 (9)

The Hawks are now in a three-team battle for that sixth guaranteed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. And the five-game winning streak that put them there included wins over the other two teams – Miami and New York – fighting for that spot. The Heat and Knicks both rank in the top half of the league defensively, but the Hawks lit ’em both up, and the five-game streak was Atlanta’s best five-game stretch of offense this season (126.2 points per 100 possessions). Dejounte Murray and Trae Young combined to average 51.2 points on a true shooting percentage of 64.6% over the five games, with Murray shooting 31-for-55 (56%) from outside the paint and Young getting to the line a ton.

The shooting stayed hot in Charlotte on Saturday; the Hawks have now registered an effective field goal percentage over 60% in four straight games, having done so just three times prior. But they turned the ball over 18 times and blew a 19-point, third-quarter lead by allowing the league’s 29th-ranked offense to score 73 points on 53 second-half possessions, with the final three coming when Jalen Johnson was called for a foul on Terry Rozier’s step-back 3 with 1.1 seconds left. That was the Hawks’ ninth loss (they’re 21-9) in a game they led by double-digits, tying them (with Minnesota) for the third most in the league. Two of those losses have come to the Hornets and seven of them have come at home.

The Hawks play seven of their next eight games on the road, and their visit to Oklahoma City on Wednesday begins a stretch of nine straight against the Western Conference. The Hawks led their first meeting with the Thunder by 14 points in the third quarter … and lost by seven.

Week 15: @ CHI, @ OKC, vs. LAC

Last Week:13

Record: 23-24

OffRtg: 112.9 (17) DefRtg: 113.4 (15) NetRtg: -0.4 (20) Pace: 103.2 (1)

There certainly have been signs of progress. The Celtics are the best team in the league and are currently on a nine-game winning streak. And the Warriors, who we know have struggled on the road, had a good chance (up nine in the fourth quarter, up four with less than two minutes left) to beat the Celtics in Boston on Thursday. And with four starters out, the Warriors’ B Squad got a win in Cleveland, where the Cavs are otherwise 20-4. Jonathan Kuminga returned from an eight-game absence over the weekend and had some really good minutes (9-for-15 shooting, plus-13) against Brooklyn on Sunday.

But the Warriors lost to the Celtics, and they lost to the Nets after leading by 13 points in the fourth. And while the Boston game came with 48-ish minutes of good basketball against a good team, the champs need real victories with its real rotation. They’re 2-4 with Curry in uniform since he made his return 13 days ago, they’ve been outscored by 1.2 points per 100 possessions (scoring a relatively weak 107.3 per 100) in his 207 minutes on the floor, and they haven’t won consecutive games with their star since Dec. 2 and 3. Before Curry’s injury, the Warriors’ issues were clearly about the road, the defense and the bench. Now, they’re a little more nebulous.

They’re still just a game and a half out of fifth place. And this week, with two two-day breaks, should offer the Warriors some practice time. They’ll host the second-place Grizzlies on Wednesday, exactly one month since the champs (without Curry) beat Memphis on Christmas Day.

Week 15: vs. MEM, vs. TOR

Last Week:16

Record: 23-24

OffRtg: 112.7 (20) DefRtg: 111.7 (9) NetRtg: +1.0 (12) Pace: 102.1 (4)

The Thunder had their first chance (since they were 4-5) to get back to .500 in Sacramento on Friday, but couldn’t hold onto a seven-point, halftime lead, scoring just 47 points on 47 second-half possessions against the league’s 25th-ranked defense. But they’ll have another chance to hit .500 this week because they ended the Nuggets’ 16-game, home winning streak on Sunday, edging the Nuggets (who were without Nikola Jokic) on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s bank shot with 9.2 seconds left.

The bucket tied Gilgeous-Alexander (4-for-8) with De’Aaron Fox (4-for-5) for the most buckets to tie or take the lead in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. But the Thunder (11-16 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes) haven’t been as clutch as the Kings (15-11) overall. But as they’ve gone 12-6 over the last 5 1/2 weeks, they haven’t had to be. Eight of those 12 wins (including a wire-to-wire victory over the Pacers on Wednesday) weren’t close at the end. The Thunder have the league’s fourth-ranked defense over the extended 12-6 stretch and its fourth-ranked offense in the month of January. Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey have combined to shoot 58.2% from inside the arc, while their teammates have shot 40.4% from beyond it this month.

Their game against Atlanta on Wednesday isn’t just a chance to climb back to .500. It’s also the Thunder’s first opportunity to be the first team to match its win total from last season (when they were 24-58). They’ll have a rest advantage when they host the Cavs on Friday, but they’re just 2-7 in rest-advantage games (only two teams have been worse) thus far.

Week 15: vs. ATL, vs. CLE

Last Week:17

Record: 25-24

OffRtg: 111.1 (25) DefRtg: 112.0 (10) NetRtg: -0.9 (24) Pace: 98.3 (24)

The Clippers lost their first game with Paul George back, turning the ball over 19 times and getting destroyed over the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter by the Sixers on Tuesday. And of course, neither George nor Kawhi Leonard played the following night in Utah, as the Clips dropped to 2-8 (with five straight losses) in games in which both have sat.

But both George and Leonard were in uniform for both of their games in Texas over the weekend (the first time this month they played two straight games together), and the Clips’ offense was sharp, scoring 135 points per 100 possessions over the two games. Leonard totaled 66 points over the weekend on 23-for-36 (64%) from the field and 13-for-13 from the line. He struggled from distance early on this season, but he’s clearly getting his legs back, now 17-for-32 (53%) from 3-point range over his last seven games. His 62.3% shooting in the paint, meanwhile, is the second-best mark of his career. With the big weekend (against the 30th and 24th-ranked defenses, for context), the Clips have finally climbed out of the bottom five in offensive efficiency.

With their loss in Utah last week, the Clippers have had eight rest-disadvantage games already. But they’re one of two teams – the Knicks are the other – that have had just one rest-advantage game this season. Their second – Thursday vs. the Spurs – is their only “home” game (they’re the visitors against the Lakers on Thursday) in a stretch of 11 that began last week. Their six-game trip begins with a Saturday-Sunday back-to-back (their last back-to-back until March) in Atlanta and Cleveland.

Week 15: @ LAL, vs. SAS, @ ATL, @ CLE

Last Week:12

Record: 25-23

OffRtg: 115.1 (5) DefRtg: 114.9 (24) NetRtg: +0.2 (15) Pace: 96.3 (29)

The Mavs got Dorian Finney-Smith back from a 14-game absence last week and then lost Christian Wood to a thumb injury. Wood has had a terrific season offensively and Finney-Smith has seen a big drop in 3-point percentage from last season, but both of those changes should be a positive for a defense that has taken a big step backward this season. And in their first game after Wood’s injury, the Mavs held their opponent (Miami) under a point per possession for just the fifth time this season and cruised to a 25-point victory on Friday night.

The defense held up through the first half of their game against the Clippers on Sunday afternoon, but the Mavs then allowed the Clips to score 63 points on just 45 second-half possessions, with 50 of those 63 points coming in the paint or from the free throw line. (The Clippers rank 25th in the percentage of their shots that have come in the paint, by the way.) The Sunday defeat put the Clippers just a half-game behind the fifth-place Mavs, who have lost seven of their last 10 games, with only the streaking Rockets having allowed more points per 100 possessions over that stretch.

It should be noted that the Mavs are still without one of their best defenders, and Maxi Kleber said last week that he hopes to be back before the All-Star break. The Mavs’ schedule will get tougher as we get close to the break, but they’ll play six of their next seven games against teams that are currently at or below .500. Of course, they’re just 15-12 against that group, a mark that includes a loss to the Wizards, who they’ll host on Tuesday.

Week 15: vs. WAS, @ PHX, @ UTA

Last Week:10

Record: 25-23

OffRtg: 115.0 (6) DefRtg: 113.2 (13) NetRtg: +1.8 (9) Pace: 98.0 (27)

Mitchell Robinson for DPOY. The Knicks’ preferred starting lineup has allowed 113.8 points per 100 possessions in its 392 minutes. That mark ranks only 14th among the 20 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes, but … in 124 minutes with the other four starters on the floor without Robinson, the Knicks have allowed an amazing 141.6 points per 100 possessions. Some of that is unsustainable 3-point shooting (48-for-98, 49.0%), but it goes beyond that. Playing without Robinson for all but the first nine minutes of their last three games, the Knicks hardly forced any turnovers and allowed a ton of second-chance points. For the season, they’ve grabbed 72.4% of available defensive rebounds with him on the floor and only 69.7% with him off the floor.

The Knicks have allowed more than 130 points per 100 possessions over a four-game losing streak that has dropped them from 10th to 13th in defensive efficiency and (more importantly) from sixth to seventh place in the East. The Knicks’ own offense has been fine, but games in Atlanta and Toronto over the weekend gave them a league-high six losses in games in which they scored at least 120 points per 100 possessions (they’ve lost four of their last five of those). The Hawks’ 139 points on just 94 possessions on Friday was the second-most-efficient game for any team this season.

And now the Knicks’ schedule gets tougher. Twenty-one of their remaining 34 games (and 14 of their next 18) are against teams that currently have winning records, and they’re just 5-13 within that group thus far. That includes a 2-7 mark against the top five teams in the East, with games against the Cavs (1-1), Celtics (0-1) and Nets (0-1) coming this week.

Week 15: vs. CLE, @ BOS, @ BKN

Last Week:19

Record: 24-25

OffRtg: 116.4 (4) DefRtg: 115.2 (26) NetRtg: +1.2 (10) Pace: 100.4 (14)

The Jazz are still here. After a rough, eight-game, post-Christmas stretch in which their only win was against the Rockets, they won four of five for the first time since early November. Their win in Minnesota on Monday came with 17 points (featuring a couple of pretty incredible finishes) from rookie Ochai Agbaji, who was on the floor (along with fellow rookie Walker Kessler) down the stretch. And their win over the Clippers on Wednesday came with their most efficient offensive performance (126 points on just 95 possessions) since that same early-November, four-game winning streak. Despite the coaching change and roster overhaul, the Jazz have a top-five offense and a top-five 3-point rate, for the third straight season.

On the other end of the floor, the Jazz have seen the league’s fifth-biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions (+5.2), going from 10th to 26th in defensive efficiency. So, while Rudy Gobert hasn’t made the expected impact with his new team and while Kessler’s career is off to a terrific start, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year is missed (to a certain degree) by his old team. Transition defense remains an issue; the Jazz have seen the league’s biggest jump from last season in the percentage of their opponents’ possessions that have been in transition, and they allowed Brooklyn to register 31 transition points (its highest total in its last eight games) as they dropped back below .500 on Friday.

The Jazz still have seven games left on a stretch where they’re playing 11 of 13 at home, and they’re playing just five games over a stretch of 16 days that began Saturday. But they have a couple of big ones – at Portland, vs. Dallas – this week.

Week 15: vs. CHA, @ POR, vs. DAL

Last Week:18

Record: 24-24

OffRtg: 113.2 (16) DefRtg: 113.2 (14) NetRtg: +0.0 (17) Pace: 101.7 (6)

The Wolves were 6-13 between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but they’re 8-3 (third best in the West) in January. The bigger improvement has come on offense, where the Wolves have registered an effective field goal percentage of 58.3% (third best in the league) this month. They have four of the 30 players with an effective field goal percentage over 60% on at least 75 January shots, and that group is led by Jaden McDaniels (63.4%), who was 4-for-7 from beyond the arc in a two-point win over Toronto on Thursday.

Of course, McDaniels missed his biggest shot of the season, a wide-open corner 3 for the win against Utah on Monday. And while they’re 8-3 this month, the Wolves have seemingly left some meat on the bone. They blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Jazz and then a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead in Denver two nights later. But they also came back from double-digit, second-half deficits against both Toronto on Thursday (when D’Angelo Russell won the game with a rip-through move) and Houston on Saturday (when Anthony Edwards scored 16 of his 44 points in the third quarter). Twelve of the Wolves’ 15 games since Christmas have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they’re now 15-10 in clutch games for the season.

The Wolves have had to come back from double-digit deficits in two of their three games against the Rockets (they’re 5-19 when trailing by double-digits overall), but they’ll go for the season sweep as they complete a home-and-home series in Houston on Monday. After a visit to New Orleans, they’ll begin their longest homestand of the season (six games over 10 days).

Week 15: @ HOU, @ NOP, vs. MEM, vs. SAC

Last Week:23

Record: 24-24

OffRtg: 113.4 (14) DefRtg: 112.6 (11) NetRtg: +0.9 (13) Pace: 98.7 (22)

The Suns are finally getting healthier … and better. Cam Johnson returned from a 37-game absence on Thursday, Chris Paul returned from a seven-game absence on Sunday, and the Suns have won three straight games, despite scoring just 108.9 points per 100 possessions over the three. It’s been their best three-game stretch of defense (105.4 allowed per 100) since late November, and the three wins came by a total of just 12 points, though the Suns led two of them (vs. Brooklyn and Memphis) by 24 and 29.

Neither the Nets nor the Grizzlies had a real chance to tie or take the lead, but the Suns (who used 12 different guys in clutch time over the three games) were probably due for some late-game fortune anyway. They had lost eight of their previous nine games that were within five points in the last five minutes, scoring just 69 points on 82 clutch possessions over that stretch. More important is that Paul looked terrific in scoring 22 points (with 15 in the first quarter) and dishing out 11 assists (and playing 38 minutes!) against Memphis. They’re still missing four rotation guys, but having the point guard at least puts everybody back in their proper roles, and we should be getting an update on Devin Booker (who’s missed the last 14 games) this week.

Going back to Game 6 of last year’s conference semifinals, the Suns have trailed each of their last four games against the Mavs by more than 20 points. They did come back from 22 down to beat Dallas in October, and the Mavs will be back in Phoenix on Thursday. Even with that tough matchup, the Suns have a pretty good chance of climbing back over .500 this week, even though they’re just 3-3 against the bottom five teams in the league.

Week 15: vs. CHA, vs. DAL, @ SAS

Last Week:22

Record: 22-25

OffRtg: 113.3 (15) DefRtg: 113.8 (20) NetRtg: -0.6 (22) Pace: 102.4 (2)

The Lakers have shown some resilience, both in a macro and micro sense. Overall, they’ve managed to win eight of their last 12 games to remain within range of a Play-In spot, despite the absences of Anthony Davis and a couple of other rotation guys. They’ve needed to win with offense and LeBron James continues to score more (35.1 points per game) and more efficiently (true shooting percentage of 61.0%) as a 38-year-old than he did in his 27 games prior to his birthday (27.8, 57.4%). Thomas Bryant has also stepped up, and he tied a career-high with 31 points (on 12-for-15 shooting) in Portland on Sunday.

The Lakers have also shown some resilience within games. Three of the wins on this 8-4 stretch have come in games they trailed by double-digits. On Friday, they handed the Grizzlies their first loss in a game they led by double-digits, and in Portland two nights later, they came back from the biggest deficit (25 points) that any team has faced in a game it won this season. Over the two second halves against the Grizzlies and Blazers, the Lakers scored 148 points (with only six turnovers) on 104 possessions. Dennis Schroder had 36 points in 36 minutes over those two second halves, winning the game against Memphis with a steal and a bucket.

The Lakers have lost nine straight games to the Clippers, and they’ve scored just 95.7 points per 100 possessions (their second-worst mark against any opponent) in two meetings this season (with James and Davis available for both meetings). Meeting No. 3 in the season series is Tuesday, the penultimate game in a stretch where the Lakers will have seven of eight at home. There’s some hope that Davis (who’s now missed the last 19 games) will return on a five-game trip that begins Saturday in Boston.

Week 15: vs. LAC, vs. SAS, @ BOS

Last Week:21

Record: 21-24

OffRtg: 112.9 (19) DefRtg: 113.1 (12) NetRtg: -0.2 (19) Pace: 100.5 (12)

The Bulls took care of business against the Pistons in Paris, picking up their first wire-to-wire victory of the season, despite shooting just 7-for-23 (30%) from 3-point range. Two of those seven makes came from Patrick Williams, who’s taken 44% of his shots from 3-point range (up from 27% through his first two seasons) and shot 17-for-34 (50%) from beyond the arc over the last eight games. Both of those makes on Thursday were corner 3s off of roll-and-kick feeds from Nikola Vucevic, and Williams is now 32-for-66 (48%) from the corners, the fifth-best mark among 68 players with at least 50 attempts.

Less ball movement seems to be working for the Bulls, who rank 10th offensively (but 29th in assist rate) in January. Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan combined for 56 points in Paris, with only two of their 19 field goals having been assisted. DeRozan has scored 1.23 points per possession on isolations, the second-best mark among 31 players with at least 100 isolation possessions, according to Synergy tracking. This is the fourth straight season in which he’s ranked first or second in that regard, and the 1.23 would be the second-best mark in 19 years of Synergy tracking, behind only Kyrie Irving’s 1.28 this season.

The win over Detroit improved the Bulls to 3-3 against the bottom five teams in the league, and they’ll have five more games against that group between now and the All-Star break. The Bulls trail the eighth-place Hawks by two games (one in the loss column) and the ninth-place Pacers by just a half-game, and they’ll face them both in a home-road back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday. Their first two meetings with Atlanta were determined by buzzer-beaters.

Week 15: vs. ATL, @ IND, @ CHA, @ ORL

Last Week:24

Record: 21-27

OffRtg: 113.9 (13) DefRtg: 113.6 (19) NetRtg: +0.2 (14) Pace: 98.1 (26)

The Raptors’ offense was strong over their five-game week, scoring more than 120 points per 100 possessions over the five games. Fred VanVleet (who was having a rough shooting season prior to last week) averaged 31.3 points (shooting 19-for-39 from 3-point range) over the four games he played in, and Scottie Barnes (who was afraid to shoot a couple of weeks ago) made a few 3s too. The Raps beat the Knicks twice, attempting 76 free throws and committing just 14 turnovers over the two wins.

But they lost the middle three games of the five-in-seven stretch, mostly because their defense just isn’t very good anymore. Games in Milwaukee and Minnesota were the Raptors’ third and fourth losses in games in which they scored at least 120 points per 100 possessions. Against Boston (and without VanVleet) on Saturday, they weirdly had both their lowest 3-point rate (19 of 86 shots from beyond the arc) and their lowest free throw rate (seven attempts) of the season.

The three losses came by a total of just 12 points, and the Raps still have a positive point differential (plus-10) for the season. Their 21-27 record (.438) would be the third worst winning percentage for a team with a positive point differential in NBA history, better than only the 1976-77 Phoenix Suns (plus-60) and last season’s Spurs (plus-10), who were both 34-48 (.415).

The Raptors are one of two teams – the Bucks are the other – that haven’t played in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, and they’re just 1-4 (with a positive point differential) in Western Conference arenas. They begin a seven-game trip (one of three seven-game trips league-wide this season) in Sacramento on Wednesday.

Week 15: @ SAC, @ GSW, @ POR

Last Week:25

Record: 20-26

OffRtg: 112.5 (21) DefRtg: 113.4 (17) NetRtg: -0.9 (23) Pace: 99.5 (18)

Bradley Beal has been in and out of the lineup and Daniel Gafford doesn’t play a lot for a starter (sometimes because of foul trouble), so the minutes of the Wizards’ starting lineups with both Gafford and Kristaps Porzingis have been limited. The lineup with Beal (who’s been back for the last two games) has played just 49 minutes, while the lineup with Corey Kispert in his place has played just 69. But in those 118 total minutes, the Wizards have outscored their opponents by 75 points, scoring 136.1 points per 100 possessions and allowing just 104.3. It’s been a month since Gafford and Porzingis began starting together (Dec. 23), and over that month, the Wizards have been the league’s second-best first-quarter team (plus-12.7 points per 100 possessions) and its second-best third-quarter team (plus-13.5 per 100).

Bench minutes were not good early last week when the Wizards were outscored by the Warriors and Knicks by 75 points with at least one reserve on the floor. The Wiz never went back to the Porzingis-Gafford combo as the Warriors went on two fourth-quarter runs (10-0 and 12-0) to take the lead and then put the game away on Monday. But in Beal’s return two nights later, the starters took a 19-5 lead in the first quarter in New York, and the Knicks never got to within five after that. Against the Magic on Saturday, bench minutes were much better, with Rui Hachimura scoring 30 points (and registering a plus-20) in 30 minutes.

The Wizards are now 8-5 since they went to the Porzingis-Gafford combo to start games and they’ve outscored their opponents by 24.4 points per 100 possessions in 201 total minutes with the two bigs on the floor together. They still have the league’s sixth-worst record overall, but their win over Orlando made them 5-1 against the five teams below them. Their five-game trip that begins Tuesday in Dallas includes three more games – in Houston, San Antonio and Detroit – against that group.

Week 15: @ DAL, @ HOU, @ NOP

Last Week:15

Record: 23-25

OffRtg: 112.3 (22) DefRtg: 114.2 (22) NetRtg: -1.9 (25) Pace: 102.1 (3)

The Pacers have lost seven straight games, a streak that began with the game in New York in which Tyrese Haliburton went down with knee and elbow injuries. They rank 29th offensively (106.6 points scored per 100 possessions) over the course of the streak, which has taken them from sixth to ninth place in the East. Haliburton is obviously their best player (and will likely be an All-Star), but a lot of their opponents have also been shorthanded. Last week, the Pacers lost to the Bucks without Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the Nuggets without Nikola Jokic, and the Suns without four of their five preferred starters.

T.J. McConnell has been a bright spot, averaging 15.0 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 66.7%), 8.3 assists and 1.7 steals over the losing streak. He scored a career-high 29 points in Milwaukee, recorded his third career triple-double (in his first start of the season) in Phoenix, and he’s made his last six 3-point attempts. Andrew Nembhard is having a nice rookie season, but the Pacers need a real point guard. Over the seven games, they’ve been 22.5 points per 100 possessions better with McConnell on the floor (minus-3.2) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-25.7). And while his 3-point and free throw attempts are limited, but McConnell now has 50/40/90 shooting splits for the season, while also ranking third (among players who’ve played at least 500 minutes) in deflections per 36 (4.5).

The Pacers are now just a half-game ahead of the 10th-place Bulls, who have fewer losses (they’re 21-24) and a 1-0 advantage in the season series. Meeting No. 2 is in Indiana on Tuesday, when the Pacers will have a rest advantage. They’re 2-1 (2-0 at home) in rest-advantage games thus far.

Week 15: vs. CHI, @ ORL, vs. MIL, @ MEM

Last Week:20

Record: 21-25

OffRtg: 114.1 (11) DefRtg: 114.1 (21) NetRtg: +0.0 (16) Pace: 98.4 (23)

Their visit from the Lakers on Sunday felt like a pretty big game for the Blazers. Holding onto 12th place in the West (which the Blazers held by a half-game before Sunday’s meeting) in the middle of January doesn’t matter, but maybe these teams will be fighting for eighth, ninth or 10th place in a couple of months. It was also an opportunity for the Blazers to regain some footing, having lost seven of their previous nine games.

The Blazers have generally been at their worst in the first quarter, and they fell into an early hole on Sunday. But they climbed out of it and, with Anfernee Simons outscoring the Lakers by himself, won the second quarter by 32 points (45-13), tied for the biggest single-quarter point differential in any game in *almost 36 years. But while Portland was a plus-32 in those 12 minutes, the Lakers were a plus-34 over the final 22 to move ahead of the Blazers in both the standings and the season series (2-1). Portland’s 25-point lead was the largest for any team in a game it lost this season, and the Blazers continue to lead the league in losses (they’re 16-11) in games led by double-digits.

* Since Feb. 4, 1987, when the Lakers won the first quarter against the Kings by a score of 40-4. This was the fourth 32-point differential since then.

Overall, the Blazers are 4-12 (tied for the league’s second-worst record) over the last five weeks, even though they’ve been outscored by only 15 total points over those 16 games. The four wins have come by an average of 18.5 points, while nine of the 12 losses have been within five in the last five.

The Blazers have four games left on their six-game homestand (their longest of the season), with a visit from the Jazz on Wednesday being their next big game in regard to the standings (if this team still has hopes of competing for a Play-In spot). The road team has won both meetings this far, and both were within two points in the final minute.

Last Week:26

Record: 17-29

OffRtg: 111.2 (24) DefRtg: 114.8 (23) NetRtg: -3.6 (26) Pace: 99.4 (19)

The Magic have a starting frontline for the foreseeable future. They’ve outscored their opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions in 409 total minutes with Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr. on the floor together, with those numbers being a plus-17.2 per 100 in 146 minutes in January. That’s the ninth-best on-court mark for any three-man combination outside of Denver that’s played at least 100 minutes this month. And the Magic trio actually registered a plus-10 in a little less than 16 minutes in Denver eight days ago.

The first question is what fits around the big three. Markelle Fultz doesn’t seem like the best complement (he’s attempted 1.8 3-pointers per 36 minutes) and sample sizes remain small, but the trio’s numbers have been much better with Fultz also on the floor (plus-14.7 per 100 possessions in 150 minutes) than they’ve been otherwise (plus-3.9 per 100 in 259 minutes).

The second question is if the Magic can sustain any kind of success when one or more of the starting bigs is off the floor. They did get some good bench minutes (from Cole Anthony and Bol Bol, especially) in a comeback win over New Orleans on Friday when Banchero and Carter remained off the floor for the entire, game-deciding fourth quarter. Wagner scored 30 points against the Pels, complementing his on-ball attacks (lefty hook!) with some good off-ball movement.

The success of the Wagner-Banchero-Carter trio has been a little bit more about offense than defense. And in Washington on Saturday, the Magic allowed the Wizards to score 62 points on just 39 possessions (159 per 100) with the three on the floor. That dropped the Magic to 1-8 in the second games of back-to-backs, and they’ll have another Friday-Saturday back-to-back (at Miami, vs. Chicago) this week.

A little more than three years ago, Jonathan Isaac was Orlando’s most promising frontcourt player. And after missing the last 29 months of action (211 total games), Isaac is set to make his return when the Magic host the Celtics on Monday.

Week 15: vs. BOS, vs. IND, @ MIA, vs. CHI

Last Week:27

Record: 14-32

OffRtg: 110.7 (27) DefRtg: 119.4 (30) NetRtg: -8.7 (30) Pace: 101.6 (8)

On Tuesday, the Nets went under screens, sagged back in the paint and closed out short, inviting the Spurs (with the exception of Doug McDermott) to shoot from the perimeter as much as they wanted. It was a good game plan; though Jeremy Sochan made two wide-open 3s, the Spurs were 7-for-34 (21%) from beyond the arc as a team. The Spurs rank last in both pull-up 3-point attempts per game (5.2) and pull-up 3-point percentage (25.4%).

But, even as they refused to defend the Spurs on the perimeter, the Nets couldn’t keep Keldon Johnson away from the basket. He scored a career-high 36 points as the Spurs put an end to a five-game losing streak and held their opponent under a point per possession for the third time this season, with 25 of those 36 coming in the restricted area or at the free throw line. Johnson is still registering career lows in effective field goal percentage (49.3%) and true shooting percentage (53.9%), but he’s seen jumps since Christmas (51.7%, 58.5%) with more shots and better shooting in the paint.

The Spurs are one of six teams that have played fewer than four rest-advantage games. They’ll have two (against the Blazers and Lakers) on a three-game trip that begins Monday in Portland, having lost seven straight on the road and having been outscored by 55 points over their first L.A. back-to-back.

Week 15: @ POR, @ LAL, @ LAC, vs. PHX

Last Week:29

Record: 13-34

OffRtg: 109.5 (29) DefRtg: 115.9 (27) NetRtg: -6.4 (27) Pace: 101.3 (10)

LaMelo Ball reinjured his left ankle in the third quarter in Houston on Wednesday, but the Hornets came back from a fourth-quarter deficit without him. Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington each came up big, Mark Williams gave them good minutes off the bench, and they scored 39 points on 26 fourth-quarter possessions, despite shooting just 8-for-16 at the line. Three nights later in Atlanta (and without Ball), the Hornets got another comeback win with another big fourth quarter (37 points on 27 possessions), with Washington and Rozier (23 of those 37 points) starring offensively once again.

The Hornets have been the league’s worst first-half team, getting outscored by 10.7 points per 100 possessions before halftime, with the league’s worst first-half offense (107.3 scored per 100) and its second-worst first-half defense (118.0 allowed per 100). In 10 of their last 13 games, they’ve lost either the first or second quarter by nine points or more. But they’ve been the league’s eighth-best second-half team (with top-10 marks on both ends of the floor) over that stretch. And with their comebacks against Houston and Atlanta, the Hornets have won two straight games for the second time this season.

They also remain one of two teams – the Knicks are the other – with a better road record (8-18) than home record (5-16). The Hornets’ weird road trip (Houston to Atlanta to Utah to Phoenix) concludes with a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday. In addition to having a better road record than home record, they also have more wins against the Western Conference (7-11) than they do against the East (6-23), yet to face either the Jazz or the Suns.

Week 15: @ UTA, @ PHX, vs. CHI, vs. MIA

Last Week:28

Record: 12-36

OffRtg: 110.6 (28) DefRtg: 118.0 (29) NetRtg: -7.4 (28) Pace: 100.7 (11)

The Pistons went to Paris and never held a lead, with their loss to the Bulls being their second straight wire-to-wire defeat. They only had two through their first 46 games, even though they’ve been the league’s third-worst team (better than only the Pacers and Hornets) in the first six minutes of the first quarter. They’ve trailed after the first six minutes in each of their last seven games, and among 177 players with at least 75 field goal attempts in the first quarter, Jaden Ivey (43.0%) and Saddiq Bey (40.6%) rank 174th and 177th in first-quarter effective field goal percentage.

Ivey’s speed and quickness were on display in Paris. There have been nine rookies in the last three seasons who’ve averaged at least 10 drives per game, and the Pistons have had four of the nine (Killian Hayes, Saben Lee, Cade Cunningham and Ivey). Ivey’s 11.2 are most among first-year players this season, though, like most rookie guards, he hasn’t finished well in the paint. His 48.2% in the paint ranks 103rd among 107 players with at least 200 attempts, and it’s a little lower in January (47.6%) than it was prior (48.4%).

The Pistons are 3-1 against the other bottom-five teams in the league, having played the fewest games within the group. They have three games (all at home) within the group between now and the All-Star break, and the last-place team in the East will face the last-place team in the West for the first time on Saturday.

Week 15: vs. MIL, @ BKN, vs. HOU

Last Week:30

Record: 10-36

OffRtg: 109.1 (30) DefRtg: 117.1 (28) NetRtg: -8.0 (29) Pace: 100.0 (17)

The Rockets have had some opportunities. They were down two with the ball with less than two minutes left in L.A. (in what was their most efficient offensive game of the season) on Monday. They had a fourth-quarter lead against Charlotte on Wednesday when Jalen Green tied his career high with 41 points. And they had a 12-point, third-quarter lead in Minnesota on Saturday when they were a plus-16 in the paint. Six of their 10 January games have been within five points in the last five minutes.

But their losing streak is now at 13 games, with the Rockets ranking 29th offensively and 30th defensively over the course of the streak. Green’s 41-point game (in which he shot 16-for-24) was followed by a game in which he shot 3-for-13 with six turnovers. Overall, the Rockets committed 27 more turnovers than their opponents (51-24) over their three games last week, with very winnable games against the Hornets and Wolves being the sixth and seventh times they’ve had a double-digit differential.

Alperen Sengun (averaging 18.2 points on 62% shooting in January) continues to do good things offensively, and the Rockets have had success when he’s set a screen for Eric Gordon. They’ve scored 1.21 points per chance with that ball-screen combination, the best mark among 135 combinations with at least 150 ball-screens, according to Second Spectrum tracking. (Kevin Porter Jr. and Jabari Smith Jr. have the worst mark.)

The Rockets are two losses from matching their 15-game losing streak from last season (longest for any team in ’21-22). They’ve been much better, statistically at home (minus-4.6 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been on the road (minus-10.9), and they have a three-game homestand this week. Then they’ll visit the last-place team in the other conference.

Week 15: vs. MIN, vs. WAS, vs. CLE, @ DET