Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 22: Bucks hold No. 1 spot as Sixers & Kings rise

See where all 30 teams rank as we enter Week 22 of the 2022-23 season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has the Bucks at No. 1 in the Power Rankings, but Joel Embiid and the Sixers are looming.

It’s been a good season for the Eastern Conference. Through Week 21 (and as documented every week in the space below), the East is 201-181 (.526) against the West this season. That would be the East’s best mark against the West in the last 24 years and only the third time in that stretch that the East has had a winning record in interconference games.

And the East’s success still holds if you just look at games between the 13 teams (seven in the East, six in the West) that currently have winning records. Those seven East teams are 40-32 (.556) against those six West teams, with the Philadelphia 76ers (8-1) and Milwaukee Bucks (6-2) having the best records in those best-against-the-best interconference games.

There will be six more of those games coming this week, with the Bucks, Nets, Nuggets and Kings each involved in two of the six. The first of them is Monday in Sacramento (10 p.m. ET, League Pass) when the league’s No. 1 offense plays host to its second-ranked defense. The Bucks have the best record in the league, while the Kings have the best record since the All-Star break, and maybe they can knock Milwaukee out of the top spot in next week’s Power Rankings.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Sacramento (3-0) — The Kings lit the beam against both the Knicks and Suns to solidify their standing as a top-3 seed in the West.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Detroit (0-4) — The Pistons played four teams that were in the bottom 10 in last week’s Rankings, and they couldn’t come up with a win.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 21

  • Toughest: 1. Detroit, 2. Washington, 3. Charlotte
  • Easiest: 1. Denver, 2. Sacramento, 3. Philadelphia
  • 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: Oklahoma City (+3), Brooklyn (+2), Chicago (+2), LA Clippers (+2), Sacramento (+2)
  • Free falls of the week: Minnesota (-4), New York (-3), Toronto (-3)

Week 22 Team to Watch

  • Memphis The Grizzlies picked up a couple of important wins last week to remain in a tie for second place in the West. But now, they’ve got to go back on the road, where they’ve lost 11 of their last 12. Their three-game trip begins in Dallas on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and then continues through Miami and San Antonio. They’ll be back home on Saturday night to face a team (the Warriors) that has struggled on the road more than the Grizz have themselves.

Previous Power Rankings

  • This time last year: Several key East-West matchups await — Gregg Popovich became the NBA’s all-time wins leader, Victor Oladipo made his season debut, and the Nets handed the Sixers their first loss with James Harden in the lineup. The Suns were the first team to clinch a playoff spot, and the Magic were the first team officially eliminated. Klay Thompson got a visit from Jackie Moon, the Grizzlies and Thunder were both wearing white uniforms for their game in Oklahoma City, and Jaylen Brown dunked all over Maxi Kleber.

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 113.8 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.8 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:1

Record: 48-19

OffRtg: 113.4 (19) DefRtg: 109.6 (2) NetRtg: +3.8 (6) Pace: 101.2 (11)

With the start of the first round 33 days away, there doesn’t seem to be any long-term concern about Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s been available and able to finish only four of the Bucks’ last 10 games. The Bucks won the first five of those other six, holding their opponents to just 105.5 points per 100 possessions over the five games. With Brook Lopez healthy this season, they have a winning record (9-6) in games that Antetokounmpo has missed completely (they were 6-9 last season, and 6-5 in their championship season) and their defense has allowed just 108.9 per 100 in his 1,557 minutes off the floor.

The Bucks had an eight-point lead without Antetokounmpo in San Francisco on Saturday, having held the Warriors to exactly a point per possession (100/100) through the first 46 minutes. But they couldn’t stop Stephen Curry over the next seven and the overtime loss was the first time this season that they allowed their opponent to make more than 20 3-pointers. (They had allowed more than 20 3s in 23 games over their previous three seasons.)

Khris Middleton finally moved into the starting lineup last week, but with Antetokounmpo out, Jrue Holiday, Middleton and Antetokounmpo have still played just 132 total minutes together. That’s the Bucks’ 56th most-used three-man combination this season.

Antetokounmpo is listed as questionable for the Bucks’ game in Sacramento on Tuesday, a matchup of the league’s No. 1 offense and its No. 2 defense. The first meeting (a 13-point win) was actually the Bucks’ fourth most efficient offensive performance of the season, with Antetokounmpo and Holiday combining for 66 points.

Week 22: @ SAC, @ PHX, vs. IND, vs. TOR

Last Week:3

Record: 47-21

OffRtg: 116.7 (4) DefRtg: 111.1 (4) NetRtg: +5.6 (1) Pace: 99.3 (18)

The Celtics had a three-game losing streak in which they led all three games by at least 14 points. They did well to hold an 11-point lead with less than five minutes to go in Cleveland on Monday, playing without Jayson Tatum and Al Horford in what was the second game of a back-to-back. But they allowed the Cavs to score 18 points on their final nine possessions of regulation, Grant Williams missed two free throws that would have won the game, and the Celtics shot 1-for-8 in overtime. They’re now 11-10 against the other six Eastern Conference teams with winning records, 11-3 in regulation and 0-7 in OT.

Though that 11-10 record includes a 3-0 mark against the Sixers, the losing streak had Philly within one game in the loss column of the second-place Celtics. But the Celtics have since been able to hold the Sixers off … by holding off their opponents after building double-digit leads. Tatum totaled 64 points and 22 rebounds as they followed the Cleveland loss with wins over Portland and Atlanta, draining 38 3-pointers over the two games. Robert Williams III has missed the last four games and the rotation remains in flux (Blake Griffin is getting minutes and only eight guys played on Saturday), but bench minutes were solid in both wins.

The Warriors (44) and Celtics (43) have each made 15 or more 3-pointers at least 10 times more than any other opponent. But while the Warriors are 26-18 in those games, the Celtics are 35-8. (Five of the eight losses, including each of the last four, have been in overtime.)

The Celtics’ win in Atlanta began a six-game trip in which the first five games are against teams currently at or below .500 (because that win dropped the Hawks to 34-34). They’re a league-best 29-7 (with seven straight wins) against that currently-at-or-below-.500 group and they’re 18-5 in interconference games, with the last five games of the trip in Western Conference arenas.

Week 22: @ HOU, @ MIN, @ POR, @ UTA

Last Week:4

Record: 45-22

OffRtg: 116.8 (3) DefRtg: 112.4 (9) NetRtg: +4.4 (3) Pace: 97.7 (26)

In the previous 26 seasons for which we have play-by-play data (1996-97 through last season), there were only four instances where a team won a game in which it allowed at least 135 points per 100 possessions. There have been five such games this season, the Sixers account for three of those five wins, and two of those three came in the span of three days. The latest came in Indiana on Monday, when Joel Embiid scored 42 points (taking just 16 shots from the field), James Harden dished out 20 assists (with just one turnover), and the Sixers shot 67% on 2-pointers, 47%% on 3-pointers and 35-for-38 (92%) from the line. It was their fifth win by single-digits, having shot 90% or better on at least 25 free throw attempts. (Practice your free throws, kids.)

Some of us are old enough to remember the Sixers ranking last offensively for four straight seasons. But this is an offensive team now, one that can allow 71 points in the first half (like they did against Portland on Friday) and still come back to win. The Sixers played without James Harden earlier in the week in Minnesota, but Tyrese Maxey did a fine job feeding Embiid in the pick-and-pop as they crushed the Wolves. And over their five-game winning streak, four Sixers — Embiid, Maxey, De’Anthony Melton and Georges Niang — have shot 50% or better on at least 15 3-point attempts.

With that winning streak, the Sixers lead the Cavs by five games in the loss column for the No. 3 seed, though Cleveland will have the much easier schedule going forward, both in regard to total games (12 vs. 15) and cumulative opponent winning percentage (.456 vs. .535). The third and final meeting (which will determine the tie-breaker) is in Cleveland on Wednesday, when the Sixers will have a rest advantage, with the Cavs in Charlotte the night before. Philly is 6-3 (4-2 on the road) in rest-advantage games, with this being its last one of the season.

Week 22: @ CLE, @ CHA, @ IND

Last Week:2

Record: 46-22

OffRtg: 117.4 (2) DefRtg: 113.5 (16) NetRtg: +3.9 (5) Pace: 99.1 (20)

The Nuggets have seemingly hit their first real rough patch of the season. It’s the second time they’ve lost three straight games, but this losing streak includes a 21-point loss at home to the Bulls and a loss (on the road) to the 17-50 Spurs. They actually had double-digit leads in all three games, but …

  • They were outscored 66-39 over the final 23 minutes against the Bulls on Wednesday
  • In San Antonio on Friday, they were outscored 80-54 over a 26-minute stretch spanning the second and fourth quarters
  • Against the Nets on Sunday, they were outscored 48-23 over a 15:30 stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters

The Nuggets’ defense had been making progress prior to last week, but they allowed 123.6 points per 100 possessions over the three games. The Bulls and Spurs totaled 134 points in the paint, while the Nets made 17 3-pointers (their highest total in their last 10 games) and turned the ball over just 10 times. The Brooklyn loss also came with another terrible performance from the Denver bench (they were outscored by 16 points in nine minutes with Nikola Jokic off the floor) and concern about Jamal Murray, who left in the fourth quarter with knee soreness.

The Nuggets still have a four-game lead in the loss column atop the Western Conference, and they still have the best record (16-7) in games played between the 13 teams that are currently over .500. They have eight games remaining within that group and the first two are a weekend back-to-back in New York, with the Knicks and Nets being two of the six teams that have won in Denver. Those are the third and fourth games of the Nuggets’ longest road trip of the season (five games over nine days), which begins Tuesday in Toronto. They’ve had a winning road record in each of their last three seasons, but are 16-16 away from Ball Arena after the San Antonio loss.

Week 22: @ TOR, @ DET, @ NYK, @ BKN

Last Week:6

Record: 43-27

OffRtg: 115.1 (9) DefRtg: 109.6 (1) NetRtg: +5.6 (2) Pace: 96.2 (30)

It was noted in this space seven days ago that the Cavs were struggling to beat (and defend) quality opponents. But they went 2-1 against the Celtics and Heat last week, with the one loss (in Miami on Friday) coming without Darius Garland and by only four points. They allowed just 105.9 points per 100 possessions over the two wins, with Boston shooting just 50% in the paint and with Miami turning the ball over 24 times on Wednesday. The Cavs are in a virtual tie with the Bucks for the league lead in defensive efficiency, and Cleveland has the easier remaining schedule in regard to opposing offenses.

Donovan Mitchell had two 40-point games last week, bringing his season-long total to nine, with five of those nine having come against team — Boston (x 3), Chicago and Miami — that rank in the top seven defensively. He did need help, and some some of that help came from Lamar Stevens (five straight points in overtime against Boston) and Isaac Okoro (tough finish for a five-point lead in the final minute of the Miami win). Okoro and Stevens have combined to shoot just 33% from 3-point range, but the two lineups with them as the fifth guys have been better offensively (119.0 points scored per 100 possessions over 512 total minutes) than defensively (116.7 allowed per 100).

The Cavs are one of three teams — the Hornets and Knicks are the others — with only 12 games left to play. Only four of their 12 are against teams that currently have winning records, and two of those are against the Nets, who are 7-7 since the trade deadline. One of the other two is a rest-disadvantage game against the Sixers on Wednesday. The third and fourth-place teams in the East have split their two meetings thus far, even though the Cavs have scored 122.3 points per 100 possessions (with Garland and Mitchell combining to shoot 15-for-25 from 3-point range) over the two games.

Week 22: @ CHA, vs. PHI, vs. WAS

Last Week:8

Record: 40-26

OffRtg: 118.7 (1) DefRtg: 115.8 (25) NetRtg: +2.9 (7) Pace: 101.4 (9)

The team with the 16-year playoff drought is now in second place in the Western Conference. The Kings have the league’s best record (8-1) since the All-Star break, with four of those eight wins having come against teams — the Clippers (x 2), Knicks and Suns — with winning records. And they’ve done it while allowing 119.4 points per 100 possessions (fourth worst) over their nine post-break games.

The offense remains ridiculous, even though the Kings have been playing some good and/or solid defenses of late. They ranked second offensively at the All-Star break and they’ve seen the league’s biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions (+9.5) since the break. There are 15 players with an effective field goal percentage of 64% or better on at least 75 field goal attempts since the break, and three of them — Malik Monk (66.9%), Kevin Huerter (66.8%) and Domantas Sabonis (64.4%) — are Kings.

The Suns had the league’s fourth-ranked post-break defense prior to Saturday, but they couldn’t stop the Kings, who scored at least 120 points per 100 possessions for the 30th time this season. Their effective field goal percentage of 57.1% was their lowest mark since the break, but they went 31-for-37 from the line.

The Kings have a tougher remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage (.517) than the similarly 40-26 Grizzlies (.457), but only six of their 16 remaining games are against teams that currently have winning records. With their wins over the Knicks and Suns last week, they’re 13-14 within the top 13, set to host the league’s second-ranked defense on Monday.

Week 22: vs. MIL, @ CHI, @ BKN, @ WAS

Last Week:7

Record: 37-30

OffRtg: 114.3 (12) DefRtg: 111.9 (6) NetRtg: +2.3 (9) Pace: 98.7 (22)

The Suns without Kevin Durant are still pretty good. After Durant sprained his ankle during his pre-game workout on Wednesday, they clobbered the Thunder (who were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), getting 44 points (on 17-for-23 shooting) from Devin Booker and 24 off the bench from Terrence Ross. And with the win, the Suns had scored at least 130 points per 100 possessions more times in March (3) than they had prior (2).

But the Suns without Durant are lacking some depth. And on Saturday, they lost a game in which they outscored the Kings by 14 points in the 18.7 minutes that their starting lineup was on the floor. They were a minus-23 in the other 29.3 minutes, allowing Sacramento to score 89 points on 64 possessions (139 per 100) when at least one of their starters was on the bench.

The Suns are 7-4 since trading Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, 3-0 with Durant and 4-4 without him. And there will be nine more without-him games before Durant is even reevaluated at the end of the month. Durant never seems to have any rust when he returns and the Suns will be near impossible to guard when they have all their stars in uniform, but they still have some work to do to secure a top-four seed in the West. They lead the fifth-place Clippers and sixth-place Warriors by three games in the loss column and they’ll play both of those teams one more time this season. The game against the Clippers is on the last day of the season, but they’ll have an opportunity to complete a season sweep of the champs in San Francisco on Monday.

Week 22: @ GSW, vs. MIL, vs. ORL, @ OKC

Last Week:5

Record: 40-30

OffRtg: 116.1 (5) DefRtg: 113.5 (17) NetRtg: +2.5 (8) Pace: 97.4 (27)

The Knicks have been slightly better with Jalen Brunson off the floor (plus-2.8 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been with him on the floor (plus-2.1) this season. But they still really need their point guard, and it certainly wasn’t a surprise that Brunson’s foot injury led to the end of their nine-game winning streak. The Knicks probably still had enough to beat the Hornets at home on Monday, but Julius Randle had his worst shooting game of the season (to date) and the Knicks blew a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead.

Randle shot worse (5-for-24) against the Clippers on Saturday, when the Knicks’ losing streak reached three games with another rough fourth quarter. And when they were down by three early in the fourth in the same building against the Lakers on Sunday (having shot worse than 30% from 3-point range for a fourth straight game), things were not looking good. But the Knicks then went on a 21-8 run, with RJ Barrett (who has the third worst fourth-quarter effective field goal percentage in the league) scoring 11 of the 21 points. The Knicks ended both their three-game losing streak and the Lakers’ three-game winning streak despite the poor shooting from deep and with another big game (in regard to plus-minus) from their bench.

The Eastern Conference is enjoying its best season against the West in the last 24 years, but the sixth-place team in the East is still just 12-13 in interconference games, a record that, weirdly, includes a loss (at home) to the Blazers and a win in Denver. The Knicks’ four-game trip ends in Portland on Tuesday, and they’ll surely be happy to have a three-day break (given the status of their point guard) before hosting the Nuggets and Wolves.

Week 22: @ POR, vs. DEN

Last Week:9

Record: 40-26

OffRtg: 113.7 (17) DefRtg: 109.7 (3) NetRtg: +4.0 (4) Pace: 101.6 (7)

The Warriors have the biggest home-road winning percentage differential of the last 30 years, and the seventh biggest differential in that span belongs to the Grizzlies, who are 28-5 at home and 12-21 on the road, with their 16 remaining games split evenly. The Grizzlies went 1-3 on their recent road trip, with the only win coming in Houston and with their loss in L.A. on Tuesday being the sixth time this season that they’ve scored less than a point per possession. All six of those ugly offensive games have been on the road.

But they came home and stopped the bleeding, coming out of the gate with a 48-28 first quarter against the aforementioned Warriors on Thursday and finishing with 131 points on 101 possessions, their most efficient offensive performance in almost two months. They didn’t start so hot two nights later, but came back from an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the shorthanded Mavs to run their home winning streak to seven games and stay even with the second-place Kings in the standings. Seven different Grizzlies scored more than 20 points and they recorded assists on 67% of their buckets over the two wins. One of the seven was rookie David Roddy, who had a huge game (24 points on 10-for-13 shooting) off the bench on Saturday.

The Grizzlies will play the Warriors and Mavs three more times in the next eight days, with one of those three meetings (Monday) on the road. The last time the Grizz were in Dallas (Oct. 22), they lost by 41.

Week 22: @ DAL, @ MIA, @ SAS, vs. GSW

Last Week:12

Record: 36-33

OffRtg: 113.1 (20) DefRtg: 113.2 (12) NetRtg: -0.1 (19) Pace: 98.5 (24)

After losing their first five games out of the All-Star break, the Clippers began a stretch where they were playing nine of 10 at home. And they’ve begun that stretch with three straight wins. Defense was an issue over the losing streak, but they held the Raptors and Knicks to just 104.3 points per 100 possessions last week, winning two games in which they totaled just 37 points (committing 12 turnovers) over the two first quarters. For the second straight season, the Clippers have been a much better team in second halves (plus-4.0 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been before halftime (minus-4.2).

Kawhi Leonard had 16 of those 37 first-quarter points against Toronto and New York and has averaged 32 (on 54/50/93 shooting splits) over the three-game winning streak. At one point this season, he was 5-for-30 from 3-point range. But he’s now at 41.9% (the second best mark of his career) from beyond the arc, shooting slightly better on pull-up 3s (33-for-79, 41.8%) than he has off the catch (41-for-100, 41.0%). His legs have also looked pretty good on the break, and the Clippers are now 26-15 with Leonard in the lineup and 10-18 otherwise.

The Clippers’ home-heavy stretch continues for another couple of weeks, and the most important game in that stretch is their visit from the champs on Wednesday. They currently lead the sixth-place Warriors by a half-game and the home team has won all three head-to-head meetings thus far, with their game in San Francisco 11 days ago being the Clippers’ worst offensive game of the season (91 points on 103 possessions).

After Wednesday, the Clippers will play six straight against teams with losing records, though they have a back-to-back this weekend. They’re just 3-9 (1-8 since mid-November) in the second game of back-to-backs.

Week 22: vs. GSW, vs. ORL, @ POR

Last Week:10

Record: 35-33

OffRtg: 113.9 (14) DefRtg: 113.4 (14) NetRtg: +0.5 (14) Pace: 102.7 (1)

There’s not much to explain the Warriors’ road woes, other than, perhaps, a lack of hunger given their status as the defending champs. Coach Steve Kerr admitted back in December that his team wasn’t as motivated as it was last season.

“You win the championship and there’s just a natural, human nature drop-off,” he said. “You’re just not as on edge.”

There certainly wasn’t any edge at the start of the Warriors’ two road games last week. They lost both first quarters by double-digits, allowing the Thunder and Grizzlies to score 88 points on 54 first-quarter possessions (163 per 100). The Warriors erased a 14-point deficit in Oklahoma City and cut a 20-point deficit down to four in Memphis, but couldn’t finish the job either night. Those were the 11th and 12th times this season that they’ve allowed at least 125 points per 100 possessions (something they did just three times last season), with 11 of the 12 instances having come on the road.

The Warriors did finish the job at home on Saturday, outscoring the Bucks (who were without Giannis Antetokounmpo) by 17 points (25-8) over the last seven minutes of their overtime victory. Stephen Curry had 20 of those 25 points as the Warriors improved to 17-17 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. They’ve won seven straight at home, having allowed just 105.2 points per 100 possessions over those seven games.

The Warriors are three games behind the fourth-place Suns in the loss column and they’ll host Phoenix on Monday, having lost the first three meetings (Curry played in all three). Then, they’re back on the road for a five-game trip in which four of the five opponents are currently at or above .500.

Week 22: vs. PHX, @ LAC, @ ATL, @ MEM

Last Week:14

Record: 39-29

OffRtg: 114.5 (11) DefRtg: 113.4 (15) NetRtg: +1.1 (11) Pace: 99.2 (19)

Ten days ago, the Nets trailed the Celtics by 28 midway through the second quarter, having lost their previous four games by an average of 21 points. But they came back to beat Boston and they’ve won four of their five games since then. In fact, their only loss on this 5-1 stretch was by five points in Milwaukee with the Nets resting four of their top six guys. They followed that up with a rest-disadvantage, overtime win in Minnesota and an even more impressive win in Denver on Sunday afternoon.

The win over the Nuggets was the Nets’ most efficient offensive performance (122 points on 94 possessions) without Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. It came with eight of the nine guys who played scoring at least nine points and with the Nets’ third highest assist rate (assists on 32 of their 42 buckets) of the season. It also came with the Nets outscoring the Nuggets by 15 points in about 12 1/2 minutes with no center on the floor.

They held the league’s second-ranked offense to just 23 points on 24 possessions over those 12 1/2 minutes with Dorian Finney-Smith manning the five, and the much bigger difference between this 5-1 stretch (105.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and the four-game losing streak that preceded it (125.6 allowed per 100) has been on the defensive end of the floor.

With the 5-1 stretch, the Nets are percentage points ahead of the Knicks for fifth place in the East. After they complete their five-game trip in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, they will play 10 of their final 13 games at home. The four-game homestand that begins Thursday is tough in regard to the opponents, but the Nets will have rest advantages against both the Kings and Nuggets this week.

Week 22: @ OKC, vs. SAC, vs. DEN

Last Week:13

Record: 34-34

OffRtg: 116.0 (6) DefRtg: 115.6 (23) NetRtg: +0.4 (15) Pace: 96.9 (29)

Before Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving played their first game together, the Mavs were 31-26. They’re now 34-34, at .500 for the first time since before Christmas (16-16) and in eighth place in the Western Conference, just a game ahead of the 12th-place New Orleans Pelicans. To make matters worse, both Doncic (thigh strain) and Irving (foot soreness) are dealing with injuries that had them in street clothes on Saturday.

The starless Mavs had a chance to win in Memphis, getting 43 combined points from young guards Jalen Green and Jaden Hardy. The latter had a big step-back 3-pointer in the final minutes, but young talent usually brings some lows with the highs, and the next two possessions resulted in a lost ball on a drive and a pass out of bounds. The Mavs blew an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead and 10 of their 11 losses (including all six of their losses with both Doncic and Irving) have been within five points in the last five minutes.

They’re 3-6 with both stars in uniform, having scored 121.1 points per 100 possessions (good!) and allowed 120.1 per 100 (bad!) over the nine games. Maxi Kleber has been available for four of their last six games, but the Mavs’ defense hasn’t been much better (118.9 allowed per 100) in his 96 minutes on the floor over that stretch.

Doncic is out and Irving is listed as questionable for the second half of the Mavs’ home-and-home set with the Grizzlies. The biggest game left on their schedule could be their visit to L.A. on Friday, with the 11th-place Lakers also a game behind them in the standings. The Mavs have won two of the first three meetings, but the loss was the one in which they had both Doncic and Irving.

Week 22: vs. MEM, @ SAS, @ LAL

Last Week:15

Record: 36-33

OffRtg: 111.1 (26) DefRtg: 112.1 (7) NetRtg: -1.0 (23) Pace: 96.9 (28)

The Heat have allowed 117.3 points per 100 possessions (22nd) since the All-Star break, up from 111.2 (fifth) before the break. That’s the league’s biggest jump, though it comes with the context that seven of their 10 post-break games have come against top-10 offenses. They’ve seen big drop-offs in opponent turnover rate and defensive rebounding percentage.

The Heat’s own offense saw an uptick over their six-game homestand, with the last five of those games being their most efficient five-game stretch of the season (120.6 points scored per 100 possessions). Jimmy Butler averaged 27 points on 60% shooting and 12 free throw attempts per game over that stretch, and he capped the homestand by draining a contested, pull-up, mid-range jumper to put the Heat up three in the final seconds on Friday. Butler ranks second in total clutch points (133), but he didn’t have a clutch 3-pointer until the following night in Orlando. He sent the game to overtime with that clutch 3-pointer, but the 22nd-ranked post-break defense couldn’t get stops in overtime.

Despite the uptick in efficiency on both ends of the floor, the Heat’s last six games have all been within five points in the last five minutes, giving them 49 clutch games this season. That’s nine shy of the record (in the 27 seasons for which we have clutch data) and when nearly every game is close, you’re going to lose some of them to bad teams. With that loss in Orlando, the Heat are 9-11 against the bottom seven teams in the East, set to play six of their final 13 games against that group. The first two of those are a weekend back-to-back in Chicago and Detroit, with the Heat currently 0-3 against those two opponents.

Week 22: vs. UTA, vs. MEM, @ CHI, @ DET

Last Week:11

Record: 34-34

OffRtg: 112.9 (23) DefRtg: 113.0 (11) NetRtg: -0.1 (20) Pace: 101.7 (5)

The Wolves rank 11th defensively and they’ve allowed 5.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with Rudy Gobert on the floor (109.1) than they have with him off the floor (114.7). Though that’s not nearly the differential that he had in his last DPOY season (11.9 per 100), it’s significant given that Gobert is a starter generally defending against other starters. But Gobert’s defensive limitations were on display in both of the Wolves’ games last week.

Against the Sixers on Wednesday, Gobert had trouble containing Tyrese Maxey and/or getting back to contest Joel Embiid on the pick-and-pop. And it got so bad in the third quarter that the Wolves put Kyle Anderson on Embiid. The Wolves’ defense was better against Brooklyn on Friday (it was particularly suffocating in the first few minutes), but the Nets got the game-winning 3 with a five-out lineup and a drive that drew Gobert to the basket and left Dorian Finney-Smith open in the corner. Minnesota had rest advantages in both games and lost ’em both, scoring just 95 points on 98 possessions (shooting 7-for-32 from 3-point range and 63% from the line) over the two second halves.

The Wolves would be tied for fourth place if the Western Conference standings counted only games between Western Conference teams. But with the two losses last week, they’re 9-14 against the East. They still have six games left on a stretch of eight straight against the other conference, and they’ll play nine of their remaining 14 games on the road. They won three road games before these last two losses, but their last win in an Eastern Conference arena was the day before Thanksgiving.

Week 22: @ ATL, vs. BOS, @ CHI, @ TOR

Last Week:16

Record: 34-34

OffRtg: 114.8 (10) DefRtg: 114.9 (22) NetRtg: -0.1 (18) Pace: 101.3 (10)

Playing what was a top-five defense, the Hawks scored on each of their first 11 possessions on Monday. Amazingly, all 11 scores were 2-point baskets. And for the game, the Hawks outscored the Heat by 34 points inside the arc. But they were a minus-15 at the free throw line and a minus-21 from 3-point range, losing by two with Trae Young losing the ball on a critical, last-minute possession. They swept an important two-game series in Washington, but had a similar math problem against the Celtics on Saturday, losing by nine even though they were a plus-16 on 2-point shots.

These Hawks are quickly evolving into last season’s Hawks, ranking third offensively and 26th defensively since the All-Star break, combining with their opponents to score 120.4 points per 100 possessions over their nine post-break games. They also have the league’s top-ranked bench since the break. Bogdan Bogdanovic had two good games in Washington, they’ve been at their best since the break (plus-23.4 points per 100 possessions) with Onyeka Okongwu on the floor, and Saddiq Bey has averaged more post-break minutes (27.8) than either Clint Capela or John Collins.

No matter who the coach is and whether they’ve been better with their starters or their bench, the Hawks have remained squarely in the middle of the NBA landscape in this season of parity. They’ve been within one game of .500 after each of their last 22 games, and they’ll make it 23 no matter what happens against Minnesota on Monday. They have just five road games left on their schedule, and those are all single-game trips. The first is to San Antonio for a Sunday matinee.

Week 22: vs. MIN, vs. GSW, @ SAS

Last Week:20

Record: 33-35

OffRtg: 114.1 (13) DefRtg: 112.7 (10) NetRtg: +1.4 (10) Pace: 102.1 (3)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has played in only three of the Thunder’s last 10 games, but they’ve remained competitive, winning five of their last six to hold onto one of the four Play-In spots in the West. With Jalen Williams also missing a couple of games, no OKC lineup has played more than 32 total minutes over the 5-1 stretch, but the Thunder continue to have good starts no matter who’s on the floor for the opening tip. They’ve won the first quarter by double-digits in four of their last five games, with their top-10 defense allowing just 91 points on 111 first-quarter possessions (82 per 100) over those four wins.

Through Week 21, there are nine teams that have been better than the league average (113.8 points per 100 possessions) on both ends of the floor. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the nine and their point differential (plus-1.5 per game) is fifth best in the West, much better than that of the Warriors or Clippers. It’s the point differential of a team that’s 38-30 instead of 33-35, with the Thunder having been undone by close games. They’re 13-22 (fifth worst) in those that were within five points in the last five minutes.

No team has scored more efficiently against the Thunder this season than the Suns (128.0 points per 100 possessions), who’ve won the teams’ two meetings since the All-Star break, with two more meetings (both in Oklahoma City) left on the schedule. The first of those is Sunday.

Week 22: vs. BKN, @ TOR, vs. PHX

Last Week:19

Record: 33-35

OffRtg: 112.9 (22) DefRtg: 113.3 (13) NetRtg: -0.4 (21) Pace: 102.3 (2)

The Lakers won three straight games to match last season’s win total (33-49) and, more importantly, climb into ninth place in the Western Conference. But given the congestion in that 7-12 group, you have to keep winning to avoid sliding. The Lakers couldn’t make it four straight, losing to the Knicks on Sunday, and they’re back outside the Play-In Tournament.

With LeBron James out, Anthony Davis is the Lakers’ anchor on both ends of the floor. The defense has remained strong with Jarred Vanderbilt also on the floor, and D’Angelo Russell shot well upon his return from a six-game absence. But over the three-game winning streak, the Lakers were at their best with reserves on the floor. As they beat Memphis and Toronto last week, Austin Reaves totaled 35 points and 12 assists (with just one turnover), while Rui Hachimura added 33 points on 14-for-20 shooting, with six of those 33 coming on the most critical run (17-4 in the fourth quarter) against the Grizzlies. Three nights later, the Toronto game turned with another bench-fueled run (26-8) spanning the third and fourth quarters.

The Lakers have the easiest remaining schedule among the six Western Conference teams that enter Week 22 with 34 or 35 losses, with only three of their 14 remaining games against teams — the Suns (x 2) and the Clippers — that currently have winning records. With one five-game homestand in the books, the Lakers will begin another one later this week. Before that, they’ll play one of their biggest games of the season, visiting the Pelicans on Tuesday. The home team has won all three meetings thus far, with the Lakers having had James and Davis available for all three.

Week 22: @ NOP, @ HOU, vs. DAL, vs. ORL

Last Week:18

Record: 33-35

OffRtg: 113.1 (21) DefRtg: 112.4 (8) NetRtg: +0.7 (13) Pace: 99.9 (14)

This season has been a bit of a struggle for CJ McCollum, who is registering his lowest effective field goal percentage (51.4%) in the last five years. But the Pelicans’ lone healthy star may be finding his shot at the right time. After shooting 11-for-42 (26%) from 3-point range over his first six games out of the All-Star break, McCollum was 14-for-23 from beyond the arc as the Pelicans won two of their last three to stay in the mix for one of the four Play-In spots in the West. The Pels needed all of it on Wednesday, with their game against Dallas going down to the wire after Brandon Ingram sprained his ankle. And McCollum responded, draining three straight 3s before giving his team a seven-point lead with a deft runner off the glass.

He got some help against Portland on Sunday, when Trey Murphy III scored a career-high 41 points as the Pels walloped the Blazers. Murphy was 9-for-14 from 3-point range, with eight of those nine 3s coming from at least 27 feet out. Murphy consistently spaces several feet beyond the arc and he now ranks 10th with 52 3-pointers from 27 feet or deeper, with eight of the nine guys in front of him (all except Kristaps Porzingis) being ball-handlers who usually take those long 3s off the dribble. The 52-for-121 (43.0%) Murphy has shot from 27 feet and out is the second best mark (behind that of Darius Garland) among 39 players with at least 75 attempts, and the best thing about spacing so far out is that your feet are still behind the line when you step forward after a fly-by.

The Pelicans have two games remaining against the other five Western Conference teams that are either 34-34 or 33-35. The last of those is in Minnesota on the last day of the season and the first is Tuesday against the Lakers, maybe the most important game left on their schedule. L.A. will have the easier schedule going forward, but starting Friday, the Pels will play four straight games against bottom-four teams in the league, a two-game series in Houston followed by home games against the Spurs and Hornets. They’re currently one of six undefeated teams (they’re 8-0) against the bottom four this season.

Week 22: vs. LAL. @ HOU, @ HOU

Last Week:17

Record: 32-36

OffRtg: 113.7 (16) DefRtg: 113.6 (18) NetRtg: +0.1 (17) Pace: 98.0 (25)

Pascal Siakam (37.5) and Fred VanVleet (37.0) rank first and fourth, respectively, in minutes per game. If you’re wondering why, Raptors coach Nick Nurse would be happy to show you the lineup data from his team’s loss in L.A. on Friday. The Raptors led 25-10 in the first quarter and began the third quarter with a 25-5 run. Nurse played his starting lineup for 27 total minutes (about as much time as you’ll ever see a single lineup on the floor in game that doesn’t go to overtime) and it outscored the Lakers by 17 points over those 27.

But the Raptors lost by 10, struggling both offensively (scoring 40 points on 46 possessions) and defensively (allowing 67 on 47) as they were outscored by 27 points in the 21 minutes for which at least one reserve was on the floor. Over the course of their five-game road trip, the Raptors were outscored by an amazing 40.9 points per 100 possessions with Fred VanVleet on the bench.

The Raptors shot relatively well (38.5%) from 3-point range over the last four games of the trip. But they went 0-3 over the Western Conference portion, struggling inside the arc (24-for-64) against the Clippers on Wednesday and also having a hard time getting to the line. The Raptors rank last in free throw rate (20.8 attempts per 100 shots from the field) since the All-Star break and have been outscored at the line in each of their last six games.

With the three-game losing streak, the Raptors have eclipsed their loss total from last season (48-34). They play seven of their next eight games home, having won six of their last seven at Scotiabank Arena. The next three are their final games against the Western Conference, and their visit from the Wolves on Saturday will be their final rest-advantage game of the season. They’ll be at a disadvantage the following night in Milwaukee.

Week 22: vs. DEN, vs. OKC, vs. MIN, @ MIL

Last Week:22

Record: 33-35

OffRtg: 115.9 (7) DefRtg: 115.7 (24) NetRtg: +0.2 (16) Pace: 100.6 (12)

The Jazz have been without Collin Sexton for the last eight games and without Jordan Clarkson for five of the last six. And not coincidentally, their offense finally dropped out of the top five, scoring just 103.1 points per 100 possessions over a four-game losing streak that included two games against bottom-10 defenses. Rookie Ochai Agbaji has started the last six games and shot 20-for-60 (33%) over that stretch.

But the Jazz broke out of their slump at the end of last week, scoring 125 per 100 as they picked up wins in Charlotte and Orlando, even withstanding a 3-for-22 performance (on Saturday) from Lauri Markkanen. Talen Horton-Tucker (the other replacement starter) totaled 60 points and 18 assists over the two games, with 17 of his 24 buckets coming in the paint and 11 of those 18 assists leading to dunks or layups. The Jazz are one of nine teams that have scored fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season (116.2, first), but one area in which they’ve improved is offensive rebounding. And they totaled 46 second-chance points (with Walker Kessler grabbing 12 offensive boards) over the two wins. They continue to dominate the glass with Markkanen, Kessler and Kelly Olynyk on the floor together.

The Jazz are still in Play-In Tournament position and are 5-0 against the 11th-place Lakers and 12th-place Pelicans, with two games remaining against L.A. The Jazz’s six-game trip wraps in Miami on Monday and they’ll then have a four-day break (their final multi-day break of the season) before beginning a four-game homestand with their first of two meetings with the Celtics.

Week 22: @ MIA, vs. BOS

Last Week:21

Record: 31-37

OffRtg: 113.8 (15) DefRtg: 114.3 (20) NetRtg: -0.5 (22) Pace: 98.8 (21)

There have been a lot of teams this season that have teased us with fits of competence only to regress, and the Wizards are at or near the top of the list. After a 6-3 stretch that included a couple of quality road wins and had them somewhat comfortably in 10th place, the Wizards have lost five of their last six, with the only win having come (at the buzzer) in Detroit.

The Wizards are playing 14 of their 21 March and April games in Washington, but they’re the only team that’s still in playoff or Play-In Tournament contention that has a losing record at home. They hosted the Hawks for a big two-game series last week and went 0-2, getting outscored by 19 points in 26 minutes with Kristaps Porzingis off the floor. Both games were still close, but Bradley Beal had some rough moments down the stretch of the two losses. Only the Suns and Bulls have seen bigger drops in clutch winning percentage than the Wizards, who were 25-15 (third best) in clutch games last season and 15-23 (sixth worst) this season.

With four of the last five losses having been within five points in the last five minutes, the Wizards aren’t playing terribly. While Porzingis had a quiet night in Philadelphia on Sunday, he continues to have a strong season, averaging 24 points on an effective field goal percentage of 60.4% since the All-Star break. Corey Kispert, meanwhile, has shot 22-for-41 (54%) from 3-point range over his last eight games. But if the Wizards want to make the Play-In, they can’t let any more games get away.

Week 22: vs. DET, @ CLE, vs. SAC

Last Week:25

Record: 31-36

OffRtg: 112.6 (24) DefRtg: 111.8 (5) NetRtg: +0.8 (12) Pace: 99.7 (16)

The Bulls have been the league’s most improved team, statistically, since the All-Star break, 9.9 points per 100 possessions better than they were before the break. They’re just 5-3 over these last three weeks, but three of the five wins have been blowouts. And that includes their best win of the season, which came Wednesday in Denver. Prior to that, the Nuggets were 30-4 at home, with the four losses all having come by three points or fewer. The Bulls went up there and won by 21, outscoring the West’s best team, 66-39, over the final 23 minutes. It was the only time this season that the Nuggets’ second-ranked offense was held under a point per possession at home.

The Bulls followed that up with a win in Houston on Saturday, turning a four-point deficit into an eight-point victory with a late, 13-0 run. Zach LaVine totaled 65 points over the 2-0 trip, shooting 19-for-24 (79%) in the paint. Bench minutes were big and Patrick Williams had one of his best games of the season in Denver, but the Bulls’ new starting lineup was on the floor for the entirety of that run in Houston and has now outscored its opponents by 23.6 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among the 89 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.

That lineup (with Patrick Beverley and Alex Caruso) has been strongest on defense, allowing just 95.5 per 100 in its 155 minutes. And after a three-day break, the Bulls will face the league’s No. 1 offense on Wednesday. The Bulls held the Kings to one of their worst offensive performances of the season (110 points on 103 possessions) in December, but the Bulls themselves scored less than a point per possession (despite 41 points from LaVine) and lost by nine.

Week 22: vs. SAC, vs. MIN, vs. MIA

Last Week:24

Record: 31-37

OffRtg: 113.6 (18) DefRtg: 115.9 (26) NetRtg: -2.3 (25) Pace: 101.4 (8)

We seemingly have a four-team race for the final two Play-In Tournament spots in the East, and the Pacers are right there, just a game behind the ninth-place Raptors and holding the tie-breakers vs. each of the other three teams (Toronto, Chicago and Washington). Though the remaining schedules are pretty even in regard to opponent strength, the Pacers have the most road games remaining (8).

But the Pacers have a winning record (28-26) when they’ve had Tyrese Haliburton, who has averaged 27.7 points and 13.3 assists (with a ridiculous 8.89 assist/turnover ratio) since the All-Star break. He totaled 68 and 35 as the Pacers split a couple of close games with the Sixers and Rockets last week, and his last four games have come with three of the five times in his career (189 total games) that he’s had double-digit free throw attempts. For the season, Haliburton’s free throw rate is 23.6 attempts per 100 shots from the field, up from 20.9 per 100 last season and a paltry 9.0 per 100 as a rookie.

Since the break, the Pacers have scored an amazing 30.1 more points per 100 possessions with Haliburton on the floor (134.8) than they have with him off the floor (104.7). But they did get a win without him (Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin were also out) in Detroit on Saturday, getting 39 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks from Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith.

The Pacers still have two more games left against the Pistons, finishing up their two-game series on Monday. They also have four games left against the top three teams in the East, and they’re currently 0-5 against the Bucks and Sixers, who they’ll face later in the week.

Week 22: @ DET, @ MIL, vs. PHI

Last Week:23

Record: 31-37

OffRtg: 115.8 (8) DefRtg: 117.1 (27) NetRtg: -1.3 (24) Pace: 98.7 (23)

The Blazers are still just two games out of a Play-In Tournament spot, and they’ll play eight of their next nine games at home. But given the way they’ve been playing, they seemed destined for a second straight year in the NBA Draft lottery.

A season ago, the Blazers turned the lights off after the All-Star break and were outscored by an astounding 21.3 points per 100 possessions over their 23 post-break games, a mark that was almost twice as bad as every other team. The lights are seemingly still on in Portland this year, but the Blazers have again seen the league’s biggest drop in point differential per 100 possessions (from minus-0.3 to minus-7.6) since the break. They’re 3-7 over the last three weeks, with their only wins having come against the Rockets, Magic and Pistons.

With Anfernee Simons returning from a four-game absence and shooting 5-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half on Friday, the Blazers did have a 21-point lead in Philadelphia. But they allowed the Sixers to score 64 points on 46 possessions after halftime, Jusuf Nurkic went 1-for-5 at the line down the stretch, and Joel Embiid beat them with a fadeaway jumper in the final seconds. Count that as loss No. 16 (two more than every other team) in games the Blazers led by double-digits. (The record for the 27 seasons of play-by-play data is 22.)

Now Damian Lillard is dealing with a calf issue that kept him out of their loss in New Orleans on Sunday. Although the schedule is home-heavy, the Blazers also have a relatively tough remaining schedule overall, with eight of their 14 games against teams that currently have winning records. With their losses in Boston and Philly last week, they’re just 8-19 (2-13 since late November) against that group.

Week 22: vs. NYK, vs. BOS, vs. LAC

Last Week:26

Record: 28-40

OffRtg: 111.6 (25) DefRtg: 114.1 (19) NetRtg: -2.5 (26) Pace: 99.5 (17)

With Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero as their forwards of the present and future, the Magic need guards who can shoot 3s. That’s a big reason why Gary Harris (career-best 43.0% from 3-point range) is on this roster and in the starting lineup. Among their starters, the Orlando offense has been at its best (113.8 points scored per 100 possessions) with Harris on the floor.

In regard to shooting from deep, Markelle Fultz (30.8% on a team-low 1.7 attempts per 36 minutes) and Jalen Suggs (31.6%) don’t fit the bill, and the Magic offense has been pretty bad (106.4 scored per 100) when those two have shared the floor. But Fultz is having his best shooting season in the paint (57.8%), Suggs is a solid 21-for-43 (49%) from mid-range, and both of them are disruptive defensively. They’re two of the 29 players who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes and registered more than three deflections per 36, and they combined for six steals and five blocks in the Magic’s overtime win over the Heat on Saturday. (Suggs also shot 4-for-6 from deep, stopping a late Heat run with a no-hesitation 3 off the catch.)

It’s been five weeks since the Magic last won two straight games, but with the win over Miami in hand, they begin a four-game road trip in San Antonio on Tuesday, having won their first meeting with the Spurs by 20. Orlando and San Antonio are tied for the league’s worst record (1-10) in the second games of back-to-backs, and the first of the Magic’s two post-break back-to-backs is Saturday and Sunday in L.A.

Week 22: @ SAS, @ PHX, @ LAC, @ LAL

Last Week:27

Record: 22-48

OffRtg: 108.9 (30) DefRtg: 114.6 (21) NetRtg: -5.7 (27) Pace: 101.7 (6)

The Hornets have had some ugliness on offense without LaMelo Ball; Their loss in Brooklyn eight days ago was the fourth worst offensive performance (86 points on 101 possessions) for any team this season. But they’ve shot better than 50% in two of their four games since then, and one of those two was against Cleveland on Sunday, when they had two big quarters against the league’s No. 1 defense (but blew a 16-point lead).

More important is that the Hornets have had the league’s No. 1 defense since the All-Star break, holding their opponents to just 108.6 points per 100 possessions over their 10 post-break games. Their game in New York on Monday wasn’t their best defensive game statistically, but it was good enough to end the Knicks’ nine-game winning streak, with P.J. Washington getting two big stops in the final two minutes.

Five of the Hornets’ 10 post-break games have come against teams that rank in the bottom eight offensively, and two of those five were against the Pistons without Bojan Bogdanovic. Opponent 3-point shooting (league-low 29.1% since the break) is a big factor in the Hornets’ improvement, so there’s certainly some luck involved. But their opponents have also shot worse in the paint, attempted fewer free throws, and grabbed fewer offensive rebounds.

The Hornets are four games into a stretch where they’re playing seven of 10 against top-10 offenses. Though they lost on Sunday, their defense benefited from Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland combining to shoot 2-for-16 from 3-point range. So we’ll see how much longer they can hold onto their best-defense-since-the-break status, set to host the Cavs again on Tuesday.

Week 22: vs. CLE, vs. PHI

Last Week:28

Record: 15-52

OffRtg: 109.8 (28) DefRtg: 118.2 (29) NetRtg: -8.5 (29) Pace: 99.9 (15)

The Rockets’ last win over a team not named the Spurs came on Feb. 1. They had two chances to pick up wins last week, coming back from 18 points down to force overtime (on Jabari Smith’s turnaround 3-pointer) in Indiana and holding a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Bulls. But they allowed 19 points in the extra period on Thursday and they came up empty in the final minutes of the fourth quarter two nights later. They’ve lost their last five games that were within five minutes, having scored 43 points on 49 clutch possessions over that stretch.

For the season, 19 of Smith’s 31 clutch shots have come from 3-point range. Overall, 46.9% of his shots, the third highest rate among 44 players 6-10 or taller with at least 250 total field goal attempts, have come from beyond the arc. But in scoring a career-high 30 points in that Indiana game, Smith was 7-for-14 inside the arc (with some pretty mid-range jumpers and one really strong finish through Myles Turner) and 7-for-9 at the line. He’s played only 22% of his minutes at the five, with 67% having come alongside Alperen Sengun. The 121.3 points per 100 possessions the Rockets have allowed with the two young bigs on the floor is the second worst mark among 180 two-man combinations that have played at least 1,000 minutes, topped only by the mark (121.5) for Sengun and Jalen Green.

Like the two teams below them in these rankings, the Rockets have been eliminated from playoff (or Play-In) contention. Their playoff drought is now three seasons long, and they’ll need to win one more game than the Pistons over the next four weeks to avoid having the league’s worst record in all three of those seasons. They’ll play Detroit (in Houston) at the end of the month, but have a pretty tough schedule between now and then.

Week 22: vs. BOS, vs. LAL, vs. NOP, vs. NOP

Last Week:29

Record: 17-50

OffRtg: 109.3 (29) DefRtg: 119.2 (30) NetRtg: -9.9 (30) Pace: 101.7 (4)

Over their first 52 seasons (going back to the ABA), the Spurs never missed the playoffs in two straight years. Now, they officially have a four-year playoff drought. And they need three more wins to keep this from being the worst season in franchise history.

The Spurs do already have three wins since the All-Star break, with the latest of those coming against the first-place Nuggets on Friday. It was the first time since Jan. 2 that Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson and Jeremy Sochan were all available to play, and, with all four of them (along with Doug McDermott) scoring at least 14 points, it was the Spurs’ most efficient offensive performance in five weeks. Alas, only one of those guys (Vassell) was in uniform two nights later as the Spurs scored just 90 points on 101 possessions (their second worst offensive performance of the season) against the Thunder.

Despite the anemic offense, the Spurs only lost by 12, and it was the third time in their eight post-break games that their opponent scored a point per possession or less. That only happened in three of their 59 pre-break games, so perhaps there’s been some progress on the defensive end of the floor.

Expect more off days this week, because the Spurs will play the second of four post-break back-to-backs on Tuesday and Wednesday. Seven of their remaining 14 games, including visits from the Mavs and Hawks this week, are against top-10 offenses so any defensive progress will be put to the test.

Week 22: vs. ORL, vs. DAL, vs. MEM, vs. ATL

Last Week:30

Record: 15-53

OffRtg: 110.1 (27) DefRtg: 117.4 (28) NetRtg: -7.3 (28) Pace: 100.4 (13)

The Pistons are playing 10 of their first 11 post-All-Star games against teams with losing records. They had a rest advantage against Portland on Monday, and they faced the Pacers without Tyrese Haliburton and Myles Turner on Saturday. But Detroit is 0-9 (the only team with fewer than two wins) since the break and has an 11-game losing streak overall. They actually have the league’s 10th-ranked defense since the break and six of their nine post-break losses have been by six points or fewer, but their offense has been rather anemic with Bojan Bogdanovic having played in just three of the nine.

Jalen Duren returned from a six-game absence on Thursday, so the Pistons have had Duren, Marvin Bagley and James Wiseman for the last two games. Bagley has been the one sharing the floor with one of the other two, and his minutes alongside Duren were not good for the Pistons, especially offensively (33 points on 42 possessions). Wiseman’s minutes were generally bad prior to Thursday, but over these last two games, he’s a plus-22, with the Pistons getting outscored by 38 points in his 43 minutes on the bench.

Having been officially eliminated last week, the Pistons’ playoff drought is four years long. They’ve had the league’s worst record by a healthy margin over that stretch, having won 18 fewer games than any other team since the start of the 2019-20 season. And it’s now been 15 years since they won a playoff game (2008), with the Kings being the only other franchise that doesn’t have a playoff victory since then.

The Pistons are also in danger of being the first team in 69 years (since the 1953-54 Baltimore Bullets) to go winless in its own division. They’re 0-12 within the Central, and the first of their four remaining division games is Monday, when they complete their two-game series with the Pacers.

Week 22: vs. IND, @ WAS, vs. DEN, vs. MIA