Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 16: Sixers take over No. 1 spot

See where all 30 teams rank as we enter Week 16 of the 2022-23 season.

Joel Embiid and the Sixers got a big win Saturday against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

Over the last 40 years (since the 1983-84 season), the 1994-95 Houston Rockets (47-35) are the only team to win a championship after winning less than 60% of their regular season games. Every other champion over that stretch has gone no worse than 52-30 in the regular season, while every other team to reach the NBA Finals (with the exception of the 27-23 New York Knicks in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season) was no worse than 49-33.

The defending-champion Golden State Warriors are 25-24. To finish with 49 wins, they would need to go 24-9 the rest of the way. To finish with 52 wins, they’d have to go 27-6.

Heck, even a 22-11 finish to match the ’94-95 Rockets would be a pretty remarkable tear for a team that hasn’t had more than seven wins in any 10-game stretch this season, with their most recent 7-3 stretch having come in a 10-game span around Thanksgiving.

Maybe the regular season just doesn’t mean as much these days, and a 45-ish-win team can flip the switch and win a championship. Maybe the Warriors are set to make a run in the fashion of last season’s Boston Celtics and finish in the top three in the West.

Or maybe the writing is on the wall.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Philadelphia (2-0) — The Sixers played only two games, but they beat two of the other six teams that have at least 30 wins entering Week 16.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: New Orleans (0-4) — The Pels have been pretty resilient in regard to dealing with injuries in the past. Not so much of late.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 15

  • Toughest: 1. Charlotte, 2. Detroit, 3. Washington
  • Easiest: 1. Minnesota, 2. Philadelphia, 3. LA Clippers
  • 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: New York (+4), LA Clippers (+3), Milwaukee (+3), Minnesota (+3), Washington (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: New Orleans (-6), Dallas (-3), San Antonio (-3)

Week 16 Team to Watch

  • Miami — After a slow start to the season, the Heat have climbed into sixth place in the East behind a top-five defense. They began a four-game road trip with a loss in Charlotte on Sunday afternoon, but the big games are coming up. The Heat will visit the fifth-place Cavs on Tuesday, the seventh-place Knicks on Thursday and the third-place Bucks on Saturday, a stretch that could really let us know if the East has more than five serious contenders.

Previous 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 113.5 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:3

Record: 32-16

OffRtg: 115.7 (5) DefRtg: 111.6 (6) NetRtg: +4.1 (4) Pace: 98.2 (24)

They slowed the Nuggets down by putting P.J. Tucker on Nikola Jokic in the second half on Saturday, but the Sixers’ last three games have been their worst three-game stretch of defense this season by a wide margin, as they’ve allowed the Kings, Nets and Nuggets (three top-six offenses, for context) to score 131.1 points per 100 possessions. But they’ve won all three games, extending their winning streak to seven and climbing to within a game in the loss column of the first-place Celtics (who they’ll play next week).

To win three games while allowing your opponents to score that efficiently (Brooklyn’s effective field goal percentage of 73.7% on Wednesday was the highest in NBA history for a losing team), you have to be pretty darn efficient yourself. The Sixers scored more than 130 points per 100 possessions in each of the three games, having done so just three times through their first 45. Joel Embiid didn’t play in the Sacramento win and was just 6-for-18 from the field against the Nets, but the real showcase was Saturday afternoon, and he came through with the signature performance of his season: 47 points (including a personal, 7-0, fourth-quarter run to give the Sixers the lead for good) against Jokic and the Nuggets. It’s been noted in this space that Embiid has been shooting more in the paint this season, but four of his five fourth-quarter buckets came from outside the paint, where he was 7-for-13. He’s one of five Sixers who’ve shot 40% or better on more than 25 3-point attempts over the seven-game winning streak.

The Sixers have won 20 of their last 24 overall, and they now rank higher offensively than defensively for the first time since mid-November. They’re just 6-3 against the bottom five teams in the league, set to play their next three games against that group. One of those losses (the only one at home) came against the Spurs in Week 1, and they’ll be in San Antonio on Friday. The schedule will get much tougher (11 of 12 against teams currently over .500) after that.

Week 16: vs. ORL, vs. ORL, @ SAS, @ NYK

Last Week:1

Record: 36-15

OffRtg: 116.6 (4) DefRtg: 110.9 (4) NetRtg: +5.7 (1) Pace: 99.7 (17)

The Celtics went from a nine-game winning streak to losing three straight. And that streak would be at four games if the refs had called a foul on Jayson Tatum on the final play of regulation on Saturday. But the Celtics survived and Jaylen Brown came up huge, scoring 11 points in overtime and making five of his six clutch free throw attempts two nights after missing two for the lead at the end of an overtime loss against New York.

The Celtics have been without Kia Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart for these last four games, but the bigger drop-off from the winning streak has come on offense. They committed 35 turnovers (16 more than their opponents) in their back-to-back in Florida, with Tatum throwing the ball away when they had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds in Miami on Tuesday. And they’ve shot 33% over their last three games, with Tatum missing a contested 3 for the tie after Brown missed those free throws against the Knicks.

Two overtimes in three days (along with missing teammates) has led to extra playing time for Tatum, who’s averaged 42.7 minutes over his last six games (though he did sit out a game nine days ago). He’s played 40-plus minutes in 11 games this season, one shy of his regular-season total from last season (12). So it’s a good time for the Celtics’ second of three three-day breaks this season.

The Celtics are 4-0 against the Nets (2-0), Sixers (1-0) and Bucks (1-0), and they’ll play each of them once more before the All-Star break. The first of those games is Wednesday, with the Celtics having won their last nine games against Brooklyn (including their playoff sweep last year).

Week 16: vs. BKN, vs. PHX

Last Week:2

Record: 34-16

OffRtg: 117.4 (2) DefRtg: 113.4 (15) NetRtg: +4.0 (5) Pace: 98.9 (20)

The Tucker-on-Jokic move definitely made an impact on Saturday, but their loss in Philadelphia wasn’t the only game on the Nuggets’ road trip in which they struggled in the second half. On Tuesday, they blew a 19-point lead in New Orleans, only to be saved by Nikola Jokic’s game-winning floater. The following night in Milwaukee, the Bucks put the Nuggets (playing without four starters) away with a 16-3 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. And in Philly, they suffered just their second loss in a game they led by at least 15 points. Over the course of the trip, the Nuggets scored 126 points per 100 possessions before halftime and an anemic 88.9 per 100 (with Jamal Murray and Bones Hyland combining to shoot 8-for-30) after halftime. As always, Jokic (only 11 shots over the 39 second-half minutes he played on the trip) should probably shoot more.

For the season, the Nuggets have the league’s fifth best record (24-5) when taking a lead into the second half, but they’ve seen its biggest half-to-half drop-off in regard to point differential per 100 possessions (plus-7.8 vs. minus-0.2). And this is the third straight season in which they’ve been No. 1 (or No. 30 depending on how you want to look at it) in that regard.

The Nuggets also have the league’s biggest home-road differential in regard to point differential per 100 possessions (plus-10.8 vs. minus-3.0), and they’re back at Ball Arena for a three-game homestand that includes games against the Pelicans and Warriors. Denver is 11-5 (5-1 at home, 6-4 on the road) against the other eight Western Conference teams that currently have winning records, and that’s the best record within the group.

Week 16: vs. NOP, vs. GSW, vs. ATL, @ MIN

Last Week:7

Record: 33-17

OffRtg: 112.3 (24) DefRtg: 110.2 (3) NetRtg: +2.2 (8) Pace: 100.7 (12)

The Bucks have apparently put their foot on the gas pedal. Khris Middleton has been back for four games and they’ve won all four to climb into third place in the East (the spot from which they won a championship two years ago). Nikola Jokic’s absence on Wednesday certainly took the juice out of their visit from the Nuggets, which ended up being a pretty ugly game on both ends of the floor. But the Bucks scored more than 125 points per 100 possessions over the other three wins, with Giannis Antetokounmpo dropping 50 on the Pelicans on Sunday.

And the Bucks didn’t waste any time, winning the three first quarters (against Detroit, Indiana and New Orleans) by a total of 58 points (131-73), scoring their 131 on just 81 offensive possessions (162 per 100). If that craziness continues, Middleton (who looked pretty sharp considering the long layoff) may have to stay coming off the bench, though the Bucks’ current starting lineup (with Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton on the wings) has been outscored by 0.7 points per 100 possessions in its 107 minutes together.

The Bucks lost two games in Miami without both Middleton and Antetokounmpo earlier this month, and will play their first of two February home games against the Heat on Saturday. Before that, we should get the first Antetokounmpo-Kawhi Leonard matchup in almost two years (since March of 2021).

Week 16: vs. CHA, vs. LAC, vs. MIA

Last Week:4

Record: 32-18

OffRtg: 114.0 (12) DefRtg: 109.7 (2) NetRtg: +4.3 (3) Pace: 101.9 (4)

The Warriors still have the league’s biggest home-road differential, but the Grizzlies aren’t far behind after losing all five games of their most recent road trip. They scored just 105.4 points per 100 possessions over the trip, shooting poorly (31%) from 3-point range and turning the ball over a ton. And given how badly Jaren Jackson Jr. shot in the paint (14-for-37), you’d think he was being defended by Jaren Jackson Jr.

Of course, while the Warriors’ home-road differential is more about how bad they’ve been (6-18, tied for third worst) on the road, the Grizzlies’ is still more about how good they’ve been (league-best 21-3) at home. They’ve won eight straight at FedEx Forum, and the losing streak came to an end on Sunday with a home win over the Pacers that also improved the Grizzlies to 17-3 against the Eastern Conference.

Steven Adams is out at least a few weeks with a knee injury, and while the Grizzlies should be OK with Brandon Clarke playing alongside Jackson (those minutes have been nearly as good as Adams-Jackson minutes), the worry is what happens behind the starters. Over their four games since Adams’ injury, the Grizzlies have been outscored by more than 32 points per 100 possessions in Jackson’s 70 minutes off the floor. The Grizzlies should be a little deeper this week, with Desmond Bane expected to return from a two-game absence and the possibility of Danny Green making his Grizzlies debut on Wednesday.

Adams got the game-winning tip-in when the Grizzlies beat the Cavs 12 days ago, but the Jackson-Clarke frontline was a plus-15 in less than 13 minutes that night. The league’s two top defenses will meet again on Thursday in Cleveland, when the Grizz will be playing the second game of a back-to-back. Their loss in Sacramento last week dropped them to 3-3 (0-2 on the road) in rest-disadvantage games.

Week 16: vs. POR, @ CLE, vs. TOR

Last Week:5

Record: 30-19

OffRtg: 115.6 (6) DefRtg: 112.5 (11) NetRtg: +3.1 (6) Pace: 98.3 (21)

Shooting has not been a problem for the Nets, who have registered an effective field goal percentage of 58.4%, what would be the highest mark in NBA history*. And they’ve had a higher effective field goal percentage than their opponent in 37 of their 49 games, including their visit to Philadelphia on Wednesday, when they had a mark of 73.7%, the highest single-game effective field goal percentage in NBA history … for a team that lost. The Nets committed five more turnovers than Philly, grabbed five fewer offensive rebounds, and kept sending the Sixers to the line, where they shot 35-for-36. Ben Simmons shot 5-for-7 from the field (and 2-for-3 from the line), but committed four fouls in less than 29 minutes. His 4.5 fouls per 36 is the highest mark of his career by a healthy margin and, while some of that is him playing center more than he ever has before, he also commits some over-aggressive ones on the perimeter.

* Topping their own mark of 57.5% from two seasons ago. This season’s Nuggets (57.9%) are also on pace to top that record.

While they’ve shot much more effectively than their opponents, the Nets have averaged 6.2 fewer shooting opportunities** than their opponents, which would be the second worst differential in the last 30 years. They’ve had fewer shooting opportunities than their opponents in 40 of their 49 games, including 11 straight. Their turnover differential (plus-0.6 per game) isn’t terrible (it ranks 17th), but they would be the third team since the league expanded to 30 (last 19 seasons) to rank last in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. (The other two — the 2009-10 Warriors and 2013-14 Lakers — both won fewer than 30 games.) Kevin Durant is missed somewhat in regard to the latter, as the Nets have been better on the defensive glass with him on the floor.

** Shooting opportunities = Shots from the field or trips to the line = FGA + (0.44 * FTA)

The Nets are two games into a stretch where they’re playing eight of nine at home. The lone road game is their third meeting with the Celtics, who have held Brooklyn to just a point per possession (its worst mark against any opponent) thus far.

Week 16: vs. LAL, @ BOS, vs. WAS

Last Week:6

Record: 31-21

OffRtg: 114.4 (10) DefRtg: 109.7 (1) NetRtg: +4.7 (2) Pace: 96.1 (30)

The Cavs have the league’s seventh best record, but its second best point differential, with the latter reflective of a team that’s 35-17 instead of 35-21. The disparity has basically been there from the jump, with 10 of their first 12 wins coming by double-digits and each of their first five losses coming by seven points or fewer. And the disparity remains, with the Cavs 4-5 over their last nine games, having outscored their opponents by 34 points over that stretch. They had two halftime leads of more than 25 points last week.

For the season, the Cavs have a winning record (16-14) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, but they’ve lost their last three close ones, with Donovan Mitchell getting blocked three times in the final minute and a half in New York on Tuesday. Evan Mobley has the best clutch field goal percentage (18-for-25, 72%) among 92 players with at least 20 attempts, but missed the final shot for the tie at MSG.

Cleveland hasn’t won two straight games in almost four weeks, unable to take advantage of Kevin Durant’s absence in Brooklyn to move up a spot in the East standings. A visit from the Heat on Tuesday is suddenly a pretty big game, with the Cavs holding a 1-0 head-to-head edge thus far. They’ll have a rest advantage against the Grizzlies two nights later, but will begin their only stretch of five games in seven days in Indiana on Sunday.

Week 16: vs. MIA, vs. MEM, @ IND

Last Week:9

Record: 28-23

OffRtg: 111.0 (27) DefRtg: 111.0 (5) NetRtg: +0.0 (18) Pace: 97.2 (28)

The Heat still can’t shoot. In each of their last five games (and in 16 of their last 19), they’ve had an effective field goal percentage below the league average (54.3%). And over that five-game stretch, six of the eight Heat players who’ve attempted more than 25 shots have had an effective field goal percentage below 49%, with only one of the eight (Jimmy Butler) above the league average.

The Heat will force some turnovers, though. Their opponent turnover rate of 17.0 per 100 possessions would be the second highest for any team in the last seven seasons. And over their last four games, the Heat have committed 29 fewer turnovers than their opponents (52-81). That was the difference as they went 3-0 on a homestand, having trailed all three games after the third quarter. They now lead the league with 10 wins in games they trailed after three, and the biggest turnover of the week was Tyler Herro’s steal with the Heat up two against the Celtics on Tuesday.

But a huge turnover differential (11-19) wasn’t enough as the Heat began a four-game road trip in Charlotte on Sunday. They led by as many as 13 and were up nine late in the third quarter, but then shot 13-for-33 (including 3-for-16 from 3-point range over the final 15:45, falling to 5-3 against the bottom five teams in the league.

With the loss, the Heat are two games behind the fifth-place Cavs, set to visit Cleveland on Tuesday for the second of four meetings. They were without both Butler and Herro when they suffered their worst loss of the season (a 26-point defeat) at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in November.

Week 16: @ CLE, @ NYK, @ MIL

Last Week:8

Record: 27-21

OffRtg: 117.5 (1) DefRtg: 114.7 (21) NetRtg: +2.7 (7) Pace: 101.5 (7)

Through Friday, the Kings had played the league’s most home-heavy schedule, with 27 of their first 47 games at the Golden 1 Center. And of course, that meant that they had the league’s most road-heavy schedule (21/35) going forward. They went into their seven-game trip as one of only two Western Conference teams with a winning road record, but they began the trip with a loss in Minnesota, allowing the Wolves to register an effective field goal percentage of 63.1%, the third highest mark the Kings have allowed this season.

Prior to that, the Kings had the league’s ninth-ranked road defense, and they remain one of five teams that have allowed fewer points per 100 possessions on the road (113.4, 10th) than they have at home (115.7, 28th). If that’s still the case when this trip is done, the Kings should be in pretty good shape.

Overall, the Kings have lost three of their last four games, getting outscored by 31 points (126-95) in the third quarter over that stretch. The Kings have the league’s eighth best record and they have two strong All-Star candidates (Domantas Sabonis should be a lock), but their starting lineup hasn’t been especially strong. It’s outscored its opponents by 5.5 points per 100 possessions, a mark which ranks 11th among the 21 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes. And it’s actually been outscored by 1.6 per 100 over 182 total minutes in the third quarter.

There are still three games in the loss column separating the third-place Kings from the slew of teams behind them. But these three weeks before the All-Star break will be critical, with five of their nine remaining pre-break games against the Wolves, Pelicans, Mavs (x2) and Suns. The Kings are currently 5-8 (13 is the fewest games played) within the top nine in the Western Conference.

Week 16: @ MIN, @ SAS, @ IND, @ NOP

Last Week:12

Record: 25-24

OffRtg: 113.3 (14) DefRtg: 113.4 (16) NetRtg: -0.1 (21) Pace: 103.2 (1)

The Warriors have outscored their opponents by 9.4 points per 100 possessions in 302 total minutes with Draymond Green as the lone big* on the floor, slightly better than they’ve been with him playing alongside Kevon Looney (plus-8.9 in 648 minutes). They started with Green at the five for a couple of games, but were kind of forced to play two bigs (Green plus either Anthony Lamb or Kevon Looney) over the last minute-plus of their game against the Grizzlies on Wednesday, because Stephen Curry was ejected for his distaste for Jordan Poole’s shot selection. And they survived, with Poole getting the game-winning bucket as the Grizzlies overplayed the strong side on a baseline out-of-bounds play. The champs are 7-3 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes since Christmas, after going 5-10 in clutch games prior to the holiday.

* Lone big = No Looney, Lamb, JaMychal Green or James Wiseman on the floor.

They went back to Looney in the starting lineup (instead of Jonathan Kuminga) against Toronto on Friday. But Kuminga turned the game around by draining four 3-pointers in the final three minutes of the third quarter. Whether they’ve started big or small, bench minutes have been much better since Stephen Curry’s return from injury (they’ve actually been better with him off the floor over those nine games) than they were prior.

The Warriors have already played 26 of their 30 games against the Eastern Conference, and 17 of their next 18 games are within the West. They’re one of nine West teams with 24, 25 or 26 losses, and they’ll face three of the other eight this week. Their most interesting test could be Thursday in Denver (they haven’t played the Nuggets since Oct. 21), though that’s the second game of a back-to-back. The Warriors are 2-5 on the road without rest, though Curry has played in only three of those seven games and Klay Thompson hasn’t played in any.

Week 16: @ OKC, @ MIN, @ DEN, vs. DAL

Last Week:14

Record: 28-25

OffRtg: 112.4 (23) DefRtg: 112.4 (10) NetRtg: +0.0 (19) Pace: 98.1 (25)

The Clippers had Paul George and Kawhi Leonard together for five straight games, they won all five, and they scored a ridiculous 135.5 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak. Leonard averaged 30 points on 64/48/92 shooting splits over the five games, going 26-for-35 (74%) in the paint and 16-for-24 (67%) from mid-range. George was less efficient but, only because it would be impossible not to be. And Reggie Jackson has seen a resurgence, taking advantage of John Wall’s absence and shooting 15-for-33 (45%) from 3-point range over his last seven games.

Alas, the Clippers’ game in Cleveland (against the league’s No. 1 defense) on Sunday was the second game of a back-to-back. And apparently, neither Leonard nor George plays in both games of back-to-backs these days (George last did on Dec. 26 and 27). The Clippers got clobbered by the Cavs (they trailed 64-29 near the end of the first half) and are now 2-9 (with six straight losses by no fewer than 13 points) when both stars have been out.

But guess what?!?! The Clippers now have no more back-to-backs until March 2nd and 3rd. So they could have both George and Leonard in the lineup for the next 11 games, their longest stretch between back-to-backs (though it’s broken up by the All-Star break) all season. And after they visit the Bulls on Tuesday (Game 3 of their six-game trip), their next 13 game will be against other teams that are currently over .500. The Clippers are just 6-17 (3-5 with both George and Leonard) within that group thus far, and if they’re going to turn that record around, the time is right now.

Week 16: @ CHI, @ MIL, @ NYK

Last Week:16

Record: 27-24

OffRtg: 115.1 (8) DefRtg: 113.4 (17) NetRtg: +1.6 (9) Pace: 97.8 (27)

The Knicks played three of the top five teams in the East last week, and got two wins (improving to 4-8 against that group), edging the Cavs and Celtics behind big games from Julius Randle (73 total points, 13-for-25 from 3-point range). The big stop against Cleveland came from Isaiah Hartenstein, part of a bench that was critical in both wins. In fact, the Knicks were outscored by 26 points (scoring just 106.8 points per 100 possessions) in Randle’s 75 minutes on the floor over the two wins, but were a plus-31 in 26 minutes with him off the floor (allowing just 38 points on 55 defensive possessions).

The Knicks have the league’s sixth-ranked bench overall this season, and Immanuel Quickley has the best on-off differential in their rotation for the second straight year. But the bench hasn’t been quite as consistent as it was last season, and their RJ-Barrett-and-the-bench unit got outscored by 13 points in less than 10 minutes in their loss to Brooklyn on Saturday. The Knicks have had the league’s sixth most improved offense from last season (scoring 5.4 more points per 100 possessions), but they haven’t been able to really win with just offense. With their ninth straight loss to the Nets, they’re 0-18 this season when they’ve allowed more than 117 points per 100 possessions.

The schedule isn’t getting much easier any time soon, but the seventh-place Knicks will have an opportunity on Thursday, when they play their first of four games against the sixth-place Heat. The Knicks still have a losing record (12-13) at home, and this week’s four-game homestand is their longest remaining on the schedule.

Week 16: vs. LAL, vs. MIA, vs. LAC, vs. PHI

Last Week:11

Record: 25-25

OffRtg: 113.1 (18) DefRtg: 113.9 (19) NetRtg: -0.7 (23) Pace: 101.4 (10)

The Hawks put themselves in the race for the 6 seed in the East with a five-game winning streak that includes wins over the Heat and Knicks. But they’ve since lost three of four, and are now just a game in the loss column ahead of the streaking Wizards for eighth place (with all four head-to-head meetings upcoming).

De’Andre Hunter returned from a two-game absence on Saturday, reuniting a starting lineup that’s outscored its opponents by 11.6 points per 100 possessions, the fifth best mark among 21 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes. But the Hawks continue to struggle when they’ve had just one of their two starting guards on the floor without the other, and lately, the numbers have been particularly bad in Dejounte Murray’s minutes with Trae Young on the bench. For the season, Atlanta has been outscored by 5.1 points per 100 possession in 1,205 total minutes with either Young or Murray on the floor without the other. Bogdan Bogdanovic is supposed to be the guy to keep the offense humming when one of those guys sits, and his minutes were a clear positive in his first two years in Atlanta. But the Hawks’ defense has been at its worst (117.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) with him on the floor this season, and that’s not really about opponent 3-point shooting.

The Hawks began January on the West coast, and that’s where they’ll finish the month, too. They begin a five-game trip in Portland on Monday, currently 4-4 (with three straight wins) in Western Conference arenas.

Week 16: @ POR, @ PHX, @ UTA, @ DEN

Last Week:13

Record: 24-25

OffRtg: 113.1 (19) DefRtg: 112.0 (8) NetRtg: +1.1 (13) Pace: 102.0 (3)

The Thunder lost another opportunity to get back to .500 on Wednesday, when they had their worst defensive game of the season, allowing the Hawks to score 137 points on 106 possessions. They were able to keep up offensively with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (36 points on 13-for-22 from the field) on the floor, but were outscored by 14 points in 11:31 with him on the bench and their late-game comeback fell short.

The bench was much better (the game turned on a 19-3 run spanning the third and fourth quarters) on Friday, when the Thunder beat the Cavs to become the first team to match its win total from last season (24-58). They’re 13-7, ranking eighth offensively and fifth defensively, over the last 20 games, with only the Nuggets having outscored their opponents by more points per 100 possessions over those six-plus weeks. And, despite the bad game against Atlanta, the Thunder have had the league’s No. 1 bench (by a healthy margin) over that stretch.

Nine of those 13 wins have come by double-digits, while the Thunder’s last three losses have come by a total of 11 points. (The Thunder remain one of four teams that have scored less than a point per possession in the clutch.) As we enter Week 16, they have the point differential (plus-1.2 per game, seventh best in the West) of a team that’s 27-22.

The Thunder’s next chance to reach .500 (in reality) is their first of four meetings with the Warriors. The schedule gets easier from there and they’ll play the Rockets three times between now and the All-Star break, with two of those meetings (including a rest-advantage game on Saturday) in Oklahoma City.

Week 16: vs. GSW, @ HOU, vs. HOU

Last Week:18

Record: 27-25

OffRtg: 113.1 (17) DefRtg: 112.7 (12) NetRtg: +0.5 (15) Pace: 101.7 (6)

The Wolves remain difficult to figure out. They began last week with a loss to the Rockets (who had lost 13 straight entering the game), missing eight straight shots down the stretch after erasing an early, 13-point deficit. But they’ve since won three straight to climb into sixth place in the West, with all three coming against teams ahead of them in the standings. And even with the loss in Houston, the last five games have been the Wolves’ best stretch defense (105.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) since late November. Playing two games against the Rockets helps in that regard, but the Wolves were also solid on that end of the floor in beating the Kings on Saturday.

This is a team for whom the third quarter was a problem; Only the Magic and Lakers were worse in the third quarter than the Wolves (minus-11.3 points per 100 possessions) through Dec. 31. But as the Wolves have gone 11-4 in January, they have been the league’s fifth best third-quarter team (plus-6.8 per 100) this month, and they’ve won the third period in nine of their last 10 games, with the loss in Houston being the only exception. Anthony Edwards has averaged 10.7 third-quarter points on an effective field goal percentage of 69.2% (shooting 18-for-30 from 3-point range) over those 10 games. (No other Wolf has averaged more than 3.3 third-quarter points over that stretch.)

The Wolves’ six-game homestand (their longest of the season) continues with another game against the Kings on Monday. And suddenly, a visit from the Warriors (Wednesday) is a huge game. The first meeting with the champs (a Nov. 28 loss, also at home) was one of the three times that the Wolves have allowed more than 130 points per 100 possessions, and it was basically over after a 47-27 first quarter.

Week 16: vs. SAC, vs. GSW, vs. ORL, vs. DEN

Last Week:10

Record: 26-25

OffRtg: 113.2 (15) DefRtg: 111.7 (7) NetRtg: +1.5 (11) Pace: 100.3 (15)

Brandon Ingram returned from a two-month absence last week, but he wasn’t able to stop the Pelicans’ slide, shooting just 12-for-40 (30%) and turning the ball over 10 times over his two games back. Zion Williamson remains out, and the Pelicans have lost eight straight games, falling out of the top four in the Western Conference. They’ve had the league’s worst offense by a wide margin (104.6 points scored per 100 possessions) over the losing streak, going five straight games without making at least a third of their 3-point attempts. That streak came to an end in Milwaukee on Sunday, but the Pelicans (playing the second game of a back-to-back) still had no chance against the suddenly potent Bucks without Ingram and CJ McCollum.

McCollum did break out of his shooting slump, and the Pelicans had some opportunities to win games earlier in the week. They came back from 19 down and took a late lead against Denver on Tuesday. And they led the Wolves by double-digits (in Ingram’s return) the following night. But they fell to the Nuggets on a Nikola Jokic game-winner and they never had a chance to make things really interesting against the Wolves and Wizards. The Pelicans were 10-6 in clutch games through Dec. 31, but have won just one of their seven January games that have been within five points in the last five minutes.

The Pelicans’ three-game trip concludes with a couple of big games in Denver and Dallas, and they’ll be at a rest disadvantage at home against the Kings on Sunday. They’re 9-7 (7-3 with Williamson, 2-4 without him) in games played between the nine West teams that currently have winning records.

Week 16: @ DEN, @ DAL, vs. LAL, vs. SAC

Last Week:17

Record: 26-26

OffRtg: 116.6 (3) DefRtg: 115.1 (26) NetRtg: +1.5 (12) Pace: 100.3 (14)

As noted in Thursday’s notebook, Lauri Markkanen has seen the league’s biggest jump in boxscore numbers, both on a per-game and a per-36-minute basis. A big jump in usage has come with a big jump in efficiency, and he’s been remarkably consistent, with the Jazz’s win over Dallas on Saturday being the 18th straight game in which he’s scored more than 20 points. While Markkanen has seen a bigger jump in how effectively he’s shot from outside the paint, he’s taken 49% of his shots in the paint, the highest rate of his career and up from 40% last season. So he’s playing bigger than he ever has.

And so are the Jazz. Kelly Olynyk returned from an eight-game absence on Saturday and the Jazz started Markkanen, Olynyk and Walker Kessler together for the first time. The Luka-less Mavs weren’t a huge test and shot just 3-for-12 from 3-point range with the three Utah bigs on the floor together, but the Jazz have outscored their opponents by 12.5 points per 100 possessions in the trio’s 114 total minutes this season. It’s a big lineup, but it can shoot, with Markkanen and Olynyk two of the 25 players who’ve shot 41% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts this season.

The Jazz have won six of their last nine games and remain in the middle of the 5-13 scrum in the Western Conference. Their schedule remains light (in regard to how many games they’re playing) for another week, and they have a chance to climb back above .500 (where they haven’t been since they were 19-18 in late December) when they host Toronto on Wednesday. They clobbered Charlotte last week, but are still just 7-11 against the Eastern Conference, having yet to face the Raptors.

Week 16: vs. TOR, vs. ATL

Last Week:15

Record: 26-25

OffRtg: 115.0 (9) DefRtg: 114.9 (23) NetRtg: +0.1 (17) Pace: 96.2 (29)

Technically, the Mavs are 0-6 without Luka Doncic after losing in Utah on Saturday. But they were trailing in Phoenix two nights earlier when Doncic sprained his ankle and left the game early in the first quarter. And they came back to beat the Suns for the sixth time in their last eight meetings, with Dwight Powell (who hasn’t played a lot of clutch time) chasing down a late rebound to seal the win.

Spencer Dinwiddie took over the offense without Doncic, and the Phoenix win (36 points) and the Utah loss (35) have been two of the three highest scoring games of Dinwiddie’s Mavs career (91 games total). Those games came with a lot of free throws (18-for-24) and 3-pointers (11-for-17), and Dinwiddie is now one of 15 players with at least 125 made 3s and at least 125 made freebies this season, shooting a career-best 41.2% from beyond the arc and 82.3% (his best mark for any season with at least 50 attempts) from the stripe. The Mavs, though, have been much better (especially offensively) in Doncic’s minutes without Dinwiddie (plus-10.7 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in their minutes together (minus-0.9) or in Dinwiddie’s minutes without Doncic (minus-3.6).

Doncic is listed as questionable for the Mavs’ game against Detroit on Monday, so he shouldn’t be an extended absence. And after the Detroit game, the Mavs will play four straight against other West teams that have 24, 25 or 26 losses, with their visit to Golden State on Friday being the start of a five game road trip. They’re 10-10 (8-2 at home, 2-8 on the road) within that 4-12 group in the West thus far.

Week 16: vs. DET, vs. NOP, @ GSW

Last Week:19

Record: 26-25

OffRtg: 113.7 (13) DefRtg: 112.2 (9) NetRtg: +1.5 (10) Pace: 98.6 (22)

Though they didn’t trail by more than 20 points this time and despite Dallas losing Luka Doncic to an ankle injury in the first quarter, the Suns lost to the Mavs again on Thursday. DeAndre Ayton shot 6-for-20 and the Phoenix bench had a rough night, with the Suns getting outscored by 13 points in a little less than 30 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor. The Suns’ drop-off has still been all about the starters (and the games they’ve missed). They’ve outscored their opponents by 2.0 points per 100 possessions with Mikal Bridges off the floor, the same off-the-floor mark he had last season. But Bridges’ on-the-floor mark has gone from plus-9.8 per 100 in ’21-22 to plus-1.4 in ’22-23.

The Suns have won five of their last six games, and Chris Paul has averaged 22.3 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 63.5%) and 10.8 assists over the four games since he returned from a seven-game absence. Bridges has been playing a ton of minutes (more than 40 in six of the last 10 games), but had enough gas in the tank to score eight of the Suns’ 18 points (hitting three tough shots) in overtime in San Antonio on Saturday. That game probably shouldn’t have gone to OT (the Suns blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead), but it was good to get a clutch win on the road. Prior to that, Phoenix was 1-9 in road games that were within five points in the last five minutes.

The Suns still have the league’s fourth biggest home-road differential in regard to overall winning percentage (18-8 vs. 8-17), and they begin a five-game trip (their longest remaining trip of the season) with a Friday-Saturday back-to-back in Boston and Detroit. They’re just 6-11 in interconference games, set to play their next seven games against the East.

Week 16: vs. TOR, vs. ATL, @ BOS, @ DET

Last Week:23

Record: 23-26

OffRtg: 112.7 (20) DefRtg: 113.2 (14) NetRtg: -0.5 (22) Pace: 99.6 (18)

The Wizards have won five straight games for the second time in the last 5 1/2 weeks. The numbers were stronger and the competition was tougher in the first streak, but there’s certainly some value to winning close games on the road, which the Wizards did three times last week. Bradley Beal was out for the last three games of the December streak and Kristaps Porzingis has been out for the last three games of this one, but one guy who’s been available for all 10 games is Delon Wright, the league leader with 5.7 deflections per 36 minutes. Wright had two deflections in the last five seconds to seal the Wizards’ win in Dallas on Tuesday, he’s had 22 assists (with just three turnovers) over these last five games, and the Wizards are now 14-6 with him in uniform.

It was noted in this space last week that the Wizards’ starting lineups with Porzingis and Daniel Gafford together have been terrific thus far, but that bench minutes have been sketchy. But the Washington bench ranks 10th (aggregate NetRtg of plus-0.9) since Wright made his return from a two-month absence, up from 27th (minus-3.0) prior to that. Of course, the Wizards just traded the player (Rui Hachimura) who’s played the second most bench minutes for them this season, and the assumption is that the deal is a sign that they want to keep Kyle Kuzma, who will surely decline his player option and become a free agent in July. The Wizards have outscored their opponents by 5.4 points per 100 possessions in 493 minutes with Beal, Kuzma and Porzingis on the floor together.

The winning streak has the Wizards within three games of .500 for the first time since they were 11-14, and their schedule gives them a real opportunity to get to 26-26. With their win in Houston last week, the Wizards are 6-1 against the bottom five teams in the league, set to visit the Spurs (who they’ve yet to face) and Pistons (who they beat in Week 1) on Monday and Wednesday. Then it’s a home game against a team (Portland) that’s lost its last eight games on the road.

Week 16: @ SAS, @ DET, vs. POR, @ BKN

Last Week:20

Record: 23-27

OffRtg: 113.2 (16) DefRtg: 113.9 (20) NetRtg: -0.8 (24) Pace: 102.3 (2)

The Lakers have added Rui Hachimura, they got Anthony Davis back from a 20-game absence last week, and they’d probably be 2-0 with those two guys if a foul had been called on LeBron James’ layup at the end of regulation in Boston on Saturday. (James is 4-for-23 on clutch 3-point attempts, but his 17-for-21 on clutch free throws is his best mark in the last nine seasons.) With James going for 40-plus for the fifth time since he turned 38, the Lakers led for most of the second half on the road against what has been the league’s best team this season, outscoring the Celtics by 18 points in the paint and by 13 points on second chances.

But the Lakers probably can’t afford to slow play any kind of turnaround, and both James and Davis are both listed as out for their game in Brooklyn on Monday, the front end of their final back-to-back before the All-Star break. L.A. is 1-3 (0-3 on the road) when neither of their stars has been available, and another loss would put them five games below .500. Yes, they’re only two games in the loss column behind the sixth-place Wolves, but there are seven teams between them and that 6 spot, and there are now nine West teams over .500. The Lakers are also 9-12 in games in which they’ve had both Davis and James, having outscored their opponents by just 0.9 points per 100 possessions in their 524 minutes on the floor together.

While every game is important for the Lakers going forward, the most important on this five-game trip is Sunday in New Orleans. And they’ll have a rest advantage, with the Pelicans playing in Dallas the night before. The Lakers are 5-3 in rest-advantage games thus far, though all eight of those have been at home.

Week 16: @ BKN, @ NYK, @ IND, @ NOP

Last Week:22

Record: 23-28

OffRtg: 114.3 (11) DefRtg: 113.7 (18) NetRtg: +0.6 (14) Pace: 97.9 (26)

The Raptors, a team that still ranks 28th in effective field goal percentage, are close to having a top-10 offense, having scored 123.8 points per 100 possessions (with just 36 total turnovers) as they’ve won three of their last four games. Five different Raptors have averaged at least 17 points over the four-game stretch, a group that includes Precious Achiuwa, who started in place of OG Anunoby (sprained wrist) in Portland on Saturday. He scored a career-high 27 points (shooting 9-for-13 in the paint) as the Raptors had their third most efficient game of the season (123 points on just 92 possessions).

The Raptors’ when-healthy starting lineup (with Pascal Siakam at center) has outscored its opponents by just 16 total points (1.7 per 100 possessions) in its 361 minutes together. But in 156 total minutes with Achiuwa on the floor with four of the other five starters, the Raps are a plus-75 (plus-19.7 per 100), with strong numbers on both ends of the floor. That’s not a huge sample size (and it’s a mix of five different lineups), Achiuwa minutes can sometimes be an adventure, and in total, the Raptors are just a plus-2 with the 23-year-old on the floor this season. But he seems to fit in well with the other starters and the Raps have five more games before the trade deadline to figure out if this core is worth salvaging.

All five of those games are against the Western Conference and four of them are the end of the Raptors’ seven-game road trip. A couple of the remaining opponents (the Suns and Grizzlies) could be interested to see what the Raptors might be selling, though Anunoby will miss the Phoenix game on Monday.

Week 16: @ PHX, @ UTA, @ HOU, @ MEM

Last Week:21

Record: 23-26

OffRtg: 112.7 (22) DefRtg: 112.8 (13) NetRtg: -0.1 (20) Pace: 100.5 (13)

The Bulls had an important four games last week. Two — vs. Atlanta, at Indiana — were extra important in regard to the standings, while the other two — in Charlotte and Orlando — were critical in regard to taking care of business against bad teams. And with the trade deadline now 10 days away, all four might determine in which direction this team should go.

A 2-2 week might not be the answer either way, and maybe it’s too early to pull the plug on a talented core that’s only been together for a season and a half. But, while the Bulls have shown improvement over time and continue to be snake-bit by late-game misfortune, they haven’t exactly shown us that they’re really on the rise. Their defense was OK over the four games, but what had been an improving offense scored a paltry 103.3 points per 100 possessions against the Hawks, Pacers and Hornets. The losses in Indiana and Charlotte were two of their three worst 3-point shooting games of the season. The Bulls rank last in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (33.3%), but have the second biggest differential in their record when they’ve shot the league average or better from beyond the arc (18-7)) vs. when they haven’t (5-19).

They’ll get another shot at the Hornets on Thursday, Game 2 of a four-game homestand that begins with a visit from the Clippers. The Bulls have the league’s worst record (4-11) on interconference games and are one of two teams (Denver is the other) that still have half of their games against the other conference remaining on their schedule.

Week 16: vs. LAC, vs. CHA, vs. POR

Last Week:25

Record: 23-26

OffRtg: 115.2 (7) DefRtg: 114.9 (25) NetRtg: +0.2 (16) Pace: 98.4 (23)

The Blazers’ starting lineup had been pretty healthy for almost eight weeks (since Damian Lillard returned from a seven-game absence in early December), and it ranks second among all lineups (behind only the Kings’ starters) in total minutes played. But it hasn’t been very good, getting outscored by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in its 209 January minutes and by 0.4 per 100 for the season. Lillard scored 97 total points (shooting 16-for-26 from 3-point range) against the Spurs and Jazz last week, but the Blazers were at their best with reserves on the floor over the two wins. And reserves were necessary on Wednesday, when both Josh Hart (hamstring) and Jusuf Nurkic (calf) were lost to injuries.

Of course, without Hart and Nurkic against Toronto on Saturday (the recently returned Nassir Little and Drew Eubanks were in their place), the Blazers were in a 16-point hole before Chauncey Billups made a sub. No matter who’s playing (though Justise Winslow has been missed), this team just isn’t very good defensively, and the wire-to-wire loss on Sunday was the Blazers’ worst defensive game of the season (123 points allowed on only 92 possessions).

The Blazers can say that they’re still just two games in the loss column out of fourth place, but they’re also a team that hasn’t won three out of four since mid-December. A win over the Hawks on Monday would give them a 3-1 stretch, but that game is followed by a three-game trip, and the Blazers have lost their last eight on the road.

Week 16: vs. ATL, @ MEM, @ WAS, @ CHI

Last Week:24

Record: 24-28

OffRtg: 112.7 (21) DefRtg: 114.9 (22) NetRtg: -2.2 (25) Pace: 101.9 (5)

Just 39 seconds into the first quarter of a game in Memphis on Sunday, Rick Carlisle called timeout with the Pacers down 5-0, hoping to catch his team before it fell into a deeper hole. At that point, the Pacers had lost their last six first quarters by a total of 71 points, allowing their opponents to score an incredible 146.8 points per 100 first-quarter possessions over those 10 days.

The timeout worked. Over the next 18 minutes, the Pacers outscored the Grizzlies by 24 points (56-32), taking a 19-point lead late in the second quarter. But #FirstQuarterPacers became #ThirdQuarterPacers, the lead was gone by the end of the third period, and the Pacers lost by 12. They came back from 21 down to beat the Bulls on Tuesday, but have lost 10 of their last 11 games, ranking in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive efficiency over that stretch. Eleven different guys have started games since Tyrese Haliburton was injured, to Carlisle has been trying stuff. But not much has worked and the ninth-place Pacers are now closer to 12th than they are to eighth.

The Pacers still have a winning record (17-14) within the Eastern Conference, but are now 7-14 against the West, set (after a three-day break) to host the Lakers and Kings as they play six of their eight remaining pre-break games at home. Bennedict Mathurin has the third biggest home-road effective field goal percentage differential (53.8% at home, 43.1% on the road) among 108 players with at least 200 field goal attempts both at home and on the road.

Week 16: vs. LAL, vs. SAC, vs. CLE

Last Week:26

Record: 19-31

OffRtg: 111.6 (25) DefRtg: 114.9 (24) NetRtg: -3.3 (26) Pace: 99.2 (19)

The Magic are the only team with three wins against the team with the league’s best record. Overall, they’ve been worse defensively (allowing 1.4 more points per 100 possessions than the league average) than they were last season (0.7 worse than average). But they held the Celtics’ fourth-ranked offense under a point per possession over the three wins. The first two mostly were about 3-point shooting, but the Celtics shot well from deep on Monday, only to commit 18 turnovers and attempt only 11 free throws. Those are the two areas — opponent turnover rate and opponent free throw rate — on defense where the Magic rank higher than they did last season.

The Magic defense has been much better with Wendell Carter Jr. on the floor (111.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) than it’s been with him off the floor (115.8). Jonathan Isaac, meanwhile, led the league with 4.81 steals + blocks per 36 minutes three seasons ago. So there’s potential for defensive improvement going forward with Isaac on the floor for some of the minutes that Carter isn’t. Isaac looked pretty sharp offensively in his season debut on Monday, scoring 10 points (on 4-for-7 shooting) in less than 10 minutes against Boston. But he played only 27 total minutes in three games, he sat the first game of the Magic’s weekend back-to-back, and the second one (vs. Chicago on Saturday) was one of Orlando’s worst defensive games of the season (128 points allowed on only 97 possessions).

Their worst defensive game of the season (133 allowed on 98) came against the Sixers in late November, and the Magic are in Philly for a two-game series on Monday and Wednesday. That’s the start of a four-game trip and a stretch where they’re playing six of seven against teams that currently have winning records.

Week 16: @ PHI, @ PHI, @ MIN, @ CHA

Last Week:28

Record: 15-36

OffRtg: 109.2 (29) DefRtg: 115.6 (27) NetRtg: -6.5 (27) Pace: 101.4 (9)

There are two teams — Golden State and Boston — that have averaged more than 15 made 3-pointers per game this season. The Hornets had a three-game stretch last week in which they totaled 15 made 3s. Over the last two games of their four-game trip, they were outscored by 90 points (114-24) from beyond the arc by the Jazz and Suns. And through Sunday, the Hornets are the only team that doesn’t have a single player who’s shot the league average (36.0%) or better on at least 75 3-point attempts. (There are 128 of those players total and 25 of the 30 teams have at least three of them.)

But the Hornets came home and got their third win in a game in which they had seven or fewer 3s, because the Bulls shot worse from 3-point range (4-for-25) than they did (7-for-32) on Thursday. And then they busted out on Sunday afternoon, making 15 3s in a win over the Heat, with six of those (including three from P.J. Washington) coming on a 27-7, game-changing run spanning the third and fourth quarters. Washington had made just of his 17 3-point attempts prior to that and is one of a few Hornets that have seen big drops in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) from last season.

The Hornets have won two straight games for the third time this season, but their third shot at a three-game winning streak is a visit to Milwaukee on Tuesday. They’re 3-2 in games played within the bottom five teams in the league, with three more games against that group before the All-Star break. The two losses have come to the Pistons and Magic, two teams they’ll face this week, visiting Detroit on Friday and hosting Orlando for another Sunday matinee.

Week 16: @ MIL, @ CHI, @ DET, vs. ORL

Last Week:30

Record: 12-38

OffRtg: 109.0 (30) DefRtg: 116.7 (28) NetRtg: -7.7 (29) Pace: 100.0 (16)

The Rockets put an end to their 13-game losing streak and actually won two games last week, losing double-digit leads in both, but then edging the Wolves and Pistons. They have the league’s worst 3-point differential (making 3.2 fewer 3s per game than their opponents) and have been outscored by an average of 21.6 points from 3-point range over their last five games. But they’re a plus-20.4 per game in the paint over that same stretch. Alperen Sengun has averaged 14.7 points in the paint per 36 minutes, 11th most in the league and up from 10.4 per 36 last season.

The Rockets also have the highest offensive rebounding percentage (34.1%) for any team in the last seven seasons. Their tendency to crash the glass is one reason why they have the worst transition defense in 19 seasons on Synergy tracking, but it’s also why they beat the Pistons on Saturday. They outscored Detroit, 21-4, on second chance points, with the final two (a Kenyon Martin Jr. tip-in of a missed Jae’Sean Tate put-back) giving them the lead with 31 seconds left.

That win came without both Jalen Green (who had an efficient 42 points in their win over the Wolves earlier in the week) and Kevin Porter Jr. The Rockets have seen a slight increase in ball movement without Porter, averaging 318 passes per 24 minutes of possession over their last nine games, up from 310 per 24 over their first 41, though that number is still a little below the league average (322 per 24).

The Rockets have won their last three meetings with the Thunder, including a game in late November in which OKC scored less than a point per possession. They’ll meet three more times in the next three weeks.

Week 16: vs. OKC, vs. TOR, @ OKC

Last Week:29

Record: 13-38

OffRtg: 111.0 (26) DefRtg: 118.3 (29) NetRtg: -7.2 (28) Pace: 101.0 (11)

If the Pistons could have a rest advantage every night, they might be pretty good. They’re now 4-1 in rest-advantage games (including 2-0 on the road) after winning in Brooklyn on Thursday (24 hours after the Nets lost in Philly). It was the Pistons’ second most efficient offensive performance since Thanksgiving, with a new starting lineup (backcourt of Alec Burks and Jaden Ivey) scoring 58 points on its 38 offensive possessions (153 per 100).

That game also ended a string of three straight wire-to-wire defeats, with the Pistons playing 175 minutes of basketball (14 1/2 quarters) without holding a lead. The new lineup got them off to another good start against Houston on Saturday, but they gave away a 14-point, first-quarter lead and eventually gave away the game. They were up three in the final minute, but Jalen Duren didn’t foul Kenyon Martin Jr. hard enough (or rotate fast enough) and Ivey didn’t box out Jae’Sean Tate on the ensuing free throw. The Pistons haven’t been nearly as bad in clutch games (they’re 9-15) as they were two seasons ago (league-worst 7-25), but they’ve had the league’s worst clutch defense by a pretty healthy margin (129.1 points allowed per 100 possessions).

One of their clutch wins came (with some Killian Hayes overtime heroics) against the Mavs, and the Pistons will be in Dallas on Monday. Their February begins with a four-game homestand that includes a visit from the 14th-place Hornets, with their previous game against Charlotte (a Dec. 14 win) being the Pistons’ third most efficient performance since Thanksgiving.

Week 16: @ DAL, vs. WAS, vs. CHA, vs. PHX

Last Week:27

Record: 14-36

OffRtg: 110.6 (28) DefRtg: 120.1 (30) NetRtg: -9.5 (30) Pace: 101.5 (8)

One of these days, the Spurs will get a win in a game they trailed by double-digits. Their latest opportunity came against Phoenix on Saturday, when they came back from 13 points down early in the fourth quarter, but missed on three (very contested) chances to win the game in regulation and then allowed the Suns to score 18 points on 12 possessions in overtime. The Spurs are now 0-34 (every other team has at least three wins) in games they’ve trailed by at least 10 points.

The defense wasn’t so bad in regulation on Saturday, but the Spurs have allowed more than 140 points per 100 possessions three times on their five-game losing streak. Every other team has allowed more than 140 per 100 a total of 10 times all season, and two of the four most efficient offensive performances in the league this season (more than 145 per 100) have come from the Clippers against the Spurs in the last 10 days.

There have been some positives on the other end of the floor, including Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan combining for 64 points and 10 assists in the loss to Phoenix. Sochan was 5-for-5 from the line, now 44-for-57 (77%) since he started shooting free throws one-handed, up from 11-for-24 (46%) prior to that. (Some other guys around the league could learn a lesson from the rookie.)

The league’s worst defense will face two top-five offenses – those of the Kings and Sixers – as the Spurs’ four-game homestand wraps up this week. The Spurs won in Philly in Week 1, but have allowed more than 130 per 100 in both of their games against Sacramento (two double-digit losses) thus far.

Week 16: vs. WAS, vs. SAC, vs. PHI