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
- Right Way: Aaron Gordon (DEN) was a plus-54 in four games last week.
- Wrong Way: Trey Murphy III (NOP) was a minus-66 in four games last 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
- The East is 141-137 (.507) against the West in interconference games after going 12-10 last week.
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.
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- Thursday’s notebook: Jaren Jackson Jr.’s DPOY case + LeBron’s scoring
- This time last year: Suns, Bucks on the rise in Top 5 — Alex Caruso suffered a fractured wrist just a week after Lonzo Ball suffered a knee injury. Ja Morant 360’d around the Bulls and Russell Westbrook posterized Rudy Gobert. Aaron Gordon hit a game-winning 3 against the Clippers and Stephen Curry beat the Rockets at the buzzer.
- The archive: NBA.com Power Rankings
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.