Joel Embiid has the Philadelphia 76ers right in tune as the final 3 weeks of the season begin.
There are just three weeks left in the 2022-23 regular season, with 160 games to be played over 20 days (no games on April 3).
A few teams would probably be happy to start the playoffs right now. The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings are probably content with both their seeding and how well they’ve been playing. The Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks might be happy to end the season with guaranteed playoff spots.
But for other teams, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Even if most teams in seventh-10th place in each conference are OK with qualifying for the playoffs through the Play-In Tournament, they’d all prefer to be in seventh or eighth place instead of ninth or 10th.
There’s also a Kia MVP race to sort out, with a nice round-robin of head-to-head matchups starting with Milwaukee-Denver on Saturday. So let’s see what we’ve got over these next three weeks and continue to enjoy the journey.
Note: For the bottom three teams in each conference (though they all haven’t been officially eliminated), it’s time to start recapping the season. This week’s notes for those teams will be focused on their offense, and we’ll dig into their defense next week.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Philadelphia (3-0) — The Sixers have a 10, 9, 8-game winning streak, having won the eight games by an average of 14.8 points.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Portland (0-3) — Nobody can match the Blazers’ post-All-Star swoon of a year ago, but nobody’s done a better imitation than the Blazers themselves.
East vs. West
Schedule strength through Week 22
- Toughest: 1. Detroit, 2. Charlotte, 3. Brooklyn
- Easiest: 1. Denver, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Sacramento
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Chicago (+5), Oklahoma City (+5), Toronto (+4)
- Free falls of the week: Atlanta (-4), Minnesota (-4)
Week 23 Team to Watch
- Miami — The Heat are in seventh place, four games in the loss column behind the fifth-place Knicks and two behind the sixth-place Nets. And they have time to catch one or both for one of the final two guaranteed playoff spots in the East, because they have three games against them in the next 10 days. They’ll host the Knicks on Wednesday and the Nets on Saturday, with a visit to Madison Square Garden also schedule for next week.
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 113.9 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.
OffRtg: 117.4 (3) DefRtg: 112.2 (7) NetRtg: +5.2 (3) Pace: 97.7 (26)
The Sixers continue to roll offensively, scoring an amazing 130 points per 100 possessions over their eight-game winning streak, which has pushed them into second place in the East and included wins in Milwaukee and Cleveland. They scored efficiently against the Cavs’ top-ranked defense on Wednesday despite 20 turnovers, mostly because they shot so well from outside the paint.
The Sixers are actually a below-average shooting team in the paint (57%, 19th), but they rank second in mid-range field goal percentage (46.1%)* and first in 3-point percentage (39%). Joel Embiid continues to make a living at the nail and his 49% from mid-range ranks third among the 21 players with at least 200 mid-range attempts. The Sixers also have three of the 19 players (Tyrese Maxey, Georges Niang and De’Anthony Melton) who’ve shot 40% or better on at least 300 3-point attempts, with four more that have shot 38% or better on at least 100.
* The only team that has shot better from mid-range (Brooklyn) no longer has the league’s best mid-range shooter.
This is the fourth time that James Harden has led a top-five offense, but the best thing about it is that Harden doesn’t have to be that guy for this team. His 10.8 assists per game aren’t a career high, but his 3.24 assist/turnover ratio is, and he’s seen a jump in true shooting percentage (61.7%) from last season (58.3%).
The two best teams since the All-Star break in regard to point differential per 100 possessions are the Sixers (plus-10.2) and the Bulls (plus-8.4). They’ll play a home-and-home series on Monday and Wednesday, with the second game being the start of a four-game trip for Philly. The two teams have split their first two meetings, but in their home loss in January, the Sixers were without Embiid, who’s 12-0 against the Bulls in his career.
Week 23: vs. CHI, @ CHI, @ GSW, @ PHX
OffRtg: 113.8 (17) DefRtg: 110.1 (3) NetRtg: +3.7 (6) Pace: 101.2 (11)
The Bucks have still seen the league’s biggest drop, by a wide margin, in opponent 3-point rate, with 36.5% of their opponents’ shots (fourth lowest rate) having come from beyond the arc, down from 44.8% (second highest rate) last season. But their opponents have attempted more than 45 3-pointers in three of their last five games. And when the Pacers shot 22-for-46 (48%) from deep on Thursday, the Bucks lost to a currently-below-.500 team for the first time since they lost to Charlotte (20-for-48 from 3-point range) on Jan. 6.
The Bucks were without Brook Lopez against Indy, and they beat three better teams than the Pacers last week. Since that early-January loss to the Hornets, they’re 21-1 when they’ve had both Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the lineup, with the only loss having come (by three points) to the Sixers 16 days ago. (They’ll play Philly again a week from Sunday.) Lopez has picked things up offensively, averaging 21.8 points over his last 13 games, up from 14.2 ppg prior to that. That increase in production has come with a drop in 3-point rate, with Lopez taking only 35% of his shots from beyond the arc over his last 13 games, down from 45% prior. And his 70.7% shooting in the paint over these last 32 days ranks second among 67 players with at least 75 point attempts over that stretch.
The Bucks’ game in Utah on Friday is the start of a four-game trip and a stretch of five games in seven days, and the Bucks will be at a rest disadvantage in Denver on Saturday night. Denver was without four of its five starters when the Bucks had a rest advantage and won ugly in January.
Week 23: vs. SAS, @ UTA, @ DEN
OffRtg: 116.7 (4) DefRtg: 111.2 (4) NetRtg: +5.5 (2) Pace: 99.2 (18)
As the Celtics have lost six of their last 11 games to fall from first to third place in the East, their issues have mostly been about an offense that ranks 19th over that stretch. Al Horford has somehow shot much more effectively since the All-Star break (77.3%) than he did before it (60.0%, which was already the best mark of his career), but other Celtics have seen drop-offs. Marcus Smart has seen the biggest, but, given each player’s shot volume, Jayson Tatum’s struggles have been more significant. As the Celtics lost in Houston on Monday, Tatum was 2-for-10 from 3-point range before missing the game-tying layup. Two nights later, he had his second least effective shooting game of the season as the Celtics escaped with a two-point win.
Though Robert Williams III has now missed the last eight games, the Boston defense had been pretty good. And through Friday, the Celtics were the only team that hadn’t lost a game in which it scored at least 120 points per 100 possessions. But they no longer hold that distinction, having lost in Utah on Saturday while scoring 117 on just 95 possessions despite the absence of Horford (it was the second game of a back-to-back) and another sub-par shooting night from Tatum (4-for-12). The Celtics led by 19 midway through the second quarter, but allowed the Jazz to score 84 points on their final 61 possessions of the game.
The Celtics have one game left on their six-game trip, and it’s against the league’s No. 1 offense. They will have a rest advantage in Sacramento on Tuesday (the Kings play in Utah the night before), and the Celtics are the only undefeated team (they’re 5-0) in rest-advantage games, with three of those five wins having come on the road.
Week 23: @ SAC, vs. IND, vs. SAS
OffRtg: 117.5 (2) DefRtg: 113.8 (17) NetRtg: +3.7 (5) Pace: 98.8 (21)
Road wins are good wins, but a road win in Detroit (which the Nuggets got on Thursday) is less good than any other. So the Nuggets really needed their victory in Brooklyn on Sunday, having lost their previous five games against teams that aren’t 16-56. They got Zeke Nnaji back from a 17-game absence and (unsurprisingly) replaced Thomas Bryant as the backup center, while Reggie Jackson played just five minutes off the bench. And of course, bench minutes were a bit of a struggle, with the Nuggets being outscored by seven points in 11:33 with Nikola Jokic off the floor. But the starters were good enough and the defense wasn’t terrible after allowing 124.8 points per 100 possessions over those five losses.
Michael Porter Jr. hasn’t been as efficient (true shooting percentage of 62.7%) as he was two seasons ago (64.6%). But he’s had several big games over the last month and his post-break effective field goal percentage of 66.9% ranks fourth (right behind Jokic’s 66.9%) among 134 players with at least 100 post-break field goal attempts. Porter’s defensive improvement might be more important, but his offense will continue to be crucial going forward.
The Nuggets still have a three-game lead in the loss column atop the Western Conference. And they still have three games remaining against the East, a visit to Washington on Wednesday and then consecutive home games against the Bucks (Saturday) and Sixers. They lost to both Milwaukee and Philly on a road trip in January, though they rested four of their five starters in the Milwaukee game, which was the second night of a back-to-back. With the Bucks playing in Utah on Friday, the Nuggets will have the rest advantage this time.
Week 23: @ WAS, vs. MIL
OffRtg: 115.4 (9) DefRtg: 109.6 (1) NetRtg: +5.8 (1) Pace: 96.1 (30)
The Cavs have lost seven of their last nine games within the top seven in the Eastern Conference, and their top-ranked defense has allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions in the last five of those seven losses. Against the Sixers on Wednesday, they were at a rest disadvantage and they were without Jarrett Allen. And they had their worst defensive rebounding game of the season, with the Sixers securing more than 43% of available rebounds on that end of the floor. This has been a great defensive rebounding team (74.9%) when it’s had both of its starting bigs on the floor together, but the Cavs have struggled on the glass in Evan Mobley’s minutes without Allen.
Six of those last seven losses within the top eight in the East have been within five points in the last five minutes. The Cavs have the league’s fifth-best record, but its best point differential, both per game and per 100 possessions. Two nights after the Philly loss, they beat the Wizards by 23, becoming the first team in more than three months to win a game in which it made fewer than five 3-pointers. They’ve won 11 of their last 12 games against teams that are currently below .500, they lead the league with 11 wins by 20 points or more (their most since they won the championship in 2015-16), and they’ve yet to lose by more than 17.
The only top-eight team in the East that the Cavs haven’t played in the last two months is the Nets, and they’ll play a two-game series in Brooklyn on Tuesday and Thursday. They’re one of two teams (Golden State is the other) with no more back-to-backs and one of two teams (Toronto is the other) with no rest-advantage or rest-disadvantage games left on their schedule.
Week 23: @ BKN, @ BKN, vs. HOU
OffRtg: 118.7 (1) DefRtg: 115.8 (24) NetRtg: +2.8 (7) Pace: 101.3 (10)
The Kings had lots of terrific pick-and-roll execution in the fourth quarter in Chicago on Wednesday, beating the Bulls’ top-five defense whether Nikola Vucevic was switching or not. But the two biggest buckets of the game came when they just let De’Aaron Fox play one-on-one against an opposing guard. The league’s leading clutch scorer got a switch and hit his patented foul-line pull-up against Coby White to put his team up six with 41 seconds left and then, after the Bulls climbed back, drained the game-winning 3 over Ayo Dosunmu. Fox’s 182 points with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime include just six 3-pointers, but two of those six were for the win at the buzzer or with less than a second left on the clock.
The Kings are one of two teams – the Pacers are the other – that rank in the top five in both ball and player movement, and Fox’s 2.6 isolation possessions per game rank just 32nd, according to Synergy tracking. But his 1.13 points per possession on isolations rank seventh among 49 players with at least 100 possessions and are up from 1.06 last season and just 0.86 two seasons ago.
The Kings lost in Milwaukee on Monday, blowing a 15-point lead and then allowing the Bucks to score 24 points on a stretch of 10 fourth-quarter possessions. The Kings rank 26th defensively (118.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break, but still have the league’s best post-break record (11-2), because their offense has been so good and because they continue to win close games.
The Kings still can clinch a playoff spot this week, though they still have two games left on a stretch of five in seven days. They begin a four-game homestand with the second game of the second back-to-back in that stretch, a visit from the Celtics, who beat them handily back in November.
Week 23: @ UTA, vs. BOS, vs. PHX, vs. UTA
OffRtg: 116.2 (5) DefRtg: 113.5 (15) NetRtg: +2.7 (8) Pace: 97.4 (27)
The Knicks have generally been a first-half team. Through Dec. 4, they were 7.4 points per 100 possessions better in the first halves of games (plus-5.4) than they were in second halves (minus-2.3) and 3-21 in games they trailed by double-digits. Over their 18 games since then, they’ve been even stronger in first halves (plus-9.3 per 100), but also much better after halftime. And they’ve now won six of their last nine games that they trailed by at least 10 points, with three of those six wins having come against the Sixers, Celtics and Nuggets.
The Knicks were down 13 to Denver midway through the third quarter on Saturday afternoon, but they then held the league’s second-ranked offense to just 26 points over its last 34 possessions of the game. Jalen Brunson was back from a three-game absence and the Knicks also had their most efficient offensive performance in their last seven games.
So the Knicks have followed their three-game losing streak with three straight wins, improving to 11-3 (with the league’s third-ranked offense) since adding Josh Hart. The new addition is still shooting better than 50% (20-for-36) from 3-point range as a Knick and he had a big game (16 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a plus-26 in 37 minutes) against his old team as the Knicks came back from 16 down to beat the Blazers on Tuesday. Since Hart’s addition, the Knicks have had the league’s top-ranked bench (in regard to aggregate NetRtg) by a huge margin.
The Knicks are looking good for no worse than the No. 6 seed (and still have a chance at fourth), now four games in the loss column ahead of the seventh-place Heat. But they’ll have two head-to-head meetings in the next 10 days, with the Knicks having won the first two by a total of four points.
Week 23: vs. MIN, @ MIA, @ ORL
OffRtg: 114.0 (15) DefRtg: 112.2 (6) NetRtg: +1.9 (9) Pace: 98.9 (20)
Devin Booker is averaging 34.1 points on 57/45/84 shooting splits in the month of March. But the Suns have lost four of their last five games, with the only win having come (at home and by only three points) against the Magic. In Oklahoma City on Sunday, they lost a game in which Booker scored 46 points because Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (40 points) got more help. The offensive production of both Deandre Ayton (8-for-19 against Milwaukee on Tuesday) and Chris Paul (5-for-15 in Oklahoma City) remains inconsistent, and the Phoenix defense has also had some slippage.
A good defense starts in transition, and in three of their last five games, the Suns have allowed 33 transition points to the Suns, 41 to the Magic, and 31 to the Thunder, according to Synergy tracking. Phoenix still ranks much higher defensively than it does on offense, but only four teams have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions than the Suns, who’ve allowed 5.4 more per 100 than they did last season (106.8, third). The jump has been bigger in Ayton’s minutes on the floor (+5.9) than it’s been in his minutes off the floor (+3.2), so it’s a little bit more about the starters than a lack of depth.
The Suns will (again) be an entirely different team when Kevin Durant returns, but transition-defense habits will still matter, and they still want to finish as high in the standings as possible. They lead the fifth-place Clippers (who they’ll face on the last day of the season) by just a half-game and both their transition defense (with another game against the Kings) and Ayton (with games against Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid) will be tested this week.
Week 23: @ LAL, @ SAC, vs. PHI
OffRtg: 113.9 (16) DefRtg: 109.9 (2) NetRtg: +4.0 (4) Pace: 101.5 (7)
Ja Morant is eligible to return from his suspension on Monday, though he’ll sit out another game and likely make his return for a two-game series against the Rockets. The Grizzlies are 9-8 without Morant this season, including 5-3 over this current absence and 5-1 over the last 11 days. That latter mark includes four wins over Dallas and Golden State, with the two wins over the Warriors (both at home) being two of the Grizzlies’ six most efficient offensive games of the season.
The Grizz are still one of nine teams that have scored fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season (114.3, fourth). But the win on Saturday came with 31 points from Jaren Jackson Jr., who registered his highest usage rate of the season (36.9%) and did damage both inside and out. Jackson’s 3-point shooting remains critical to this team and he’s still shooting worse than the league average from beyond the arc. But he’s also shooting a career-high 58.7% in the paint and, with Jackson and the Grizzlies, 3-pointers and paint is all you get. Memphis has taken just 7% of its shots, the league’s lowest rate, from mid-range, with Jackson at just 1.2% (8/667.
The win on Saturday began a stretch where the Grizzlies are playing seven of eight at home. So, as well as the Kings have been playing, this team still has a great shot at earning the 2 seed in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies have won eight straight at FedExForum and their 29-5 mark there is both the league’s best home record and the best home record in franchise history. The Mavs come to town having won two straight road games since their loss in Memphis nine days ago.
Week 23: vs. DAL, vs. HOU, vs. HOU, @ ATL
OffRtg: 113.4 (20) DefRtg: 113.2 (12) NetRtg: +0.2 (16) Pace: 98.6 (24)
The Russell Westbrook experiment has been working to a certain degree. The Clippers’ new starting lineup has outscored their opponents by 12.3 points per 100 possessions in its 95 minutes, and the Clips are 5-1 when all five guys have been available. That success is largely about defense (94.6 allowed per 100) and not totally about opponent 3-point shooting (33.9%). One of those wins was a big one over the Warriors on Wednesday, when the Clips turned the ball over half as many times (8) as the champs (16), with Westbrook registering a 7/0 assist/turnover ratio.
But in 211 total minutes with Westbrook, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the floor together, the Clips have outscored their opponents by just 2.6 per 100, not a great mark for the most-used three-man combination of a title contender. The offense has not been good; Westbrook can be ignored on the perimeter, he’s shot just 8-for-22 (36%) from mid-range and 9-for-33 (27%) from 3-point range with his new team, and the Clips have scored just 109.8 per 100 (well below the league average) in those 211 minutes with the star trio on the floor. Only four teams – Indiana, Miami, Atlanta and Portland – have seen a bigger drop in offensive efficiency since the All-Star break than this one. The absence of Norman Powell for the last seven games has hurt, but the Clips have played only one of their 11 post-break games against a team (Memphis) that ranks in the top 10 defensively.
Save for an ugly loss to Orlando without Leonard, the offense has been trending up. But the Clippers will now play their next seven games against top-10 defenses, a stretch that includes two games each against the Thunder (10th), Pelicans (ninth) and Grizzlies (second).
Week 23: vs. OKC, vs. OKC, vs. NOP
OffRtg: 111.7 (25) DefRtg: 112.4 (8) NetRtg: -0.7 (22) Pace: 96.9 (28)
The Heat actually played two straight games that weren’t within five points in the last five minutes last week. And that was the case because they had their best offensive performance of the season (138 points on 102 possessions) against Memphis on Wednesday and then had one of their worst defensive performances of the season (113 points allowed on only 89 possessions) three nights later (with a rest advantage) in Chicago.
Jimmy Butler has played in 24 straight games, he’s averaged 25.7 points on 61% shooting (along with 11 free throw attempts per game) since the All-Star break, and he’s registering career-best marks in both effective field goal percentage (54.9%) and true shooting percentage (64%). But defensive regression has been the stronger trend in general, with the Heat ranking 23rd on that end of the floor since the All-Star break and only the Pacers having seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from before the break.
As noted last week, it’s been a tough stretch in regard to the opposing offenses, eight of the Heat’s 14 post-break games having come against offenses that rank in the top 10. But it’s not getting much easier going forward.
The Heat will play three of their next four games against the Knicks (x 2) and Nets, certainly their most important stretch of the season as they fight for one of the last two guaranteed playoff spots in the East. New York and Brooklyn are the two Eastern Conference teams that have scored most efficiently (in going 4-0) against Miami this season and one of the two Brooklyn games came after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were sent to the Western Conference. With only one remaining game, the Nets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami. But the Heat can win the tie-breaker vs. New York with two wins in the next 10 days (and a tied season series), because they will likely win their division.
Week 23: vs. NYK, vs. BKN
OffRtg: 114.2 (14) DefRtg: 112.8 (10) NetRtg: +1.4 (10) Pace: 102.2 (2)
The Thunder’s two starting guards (6-foot-6 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and 6-foot-8 Josh Giddey) are bigger than their starting forwards (6-foot-4 Lu Dort and 6-foot-5 Jalen Williams), and they’re also small/slight at the center position, with 6-foot-9 rookie Jaylin Williams holding that job full-time since Kenrich Williams was lost for the season. And the lack of size up front is a reason the Thunder rank 28th in defensive rebounding percentage (69.2%). In their loss in Toronto on Thursday, they allowed the Raptors to grab 19 offensive rebounds and register 21 second-chance points.
But the Thunder still rank fourth in restricted-area point differential, having outscored their opponents by 4.3 points per game at the rim. Having the league leader in drives per game (for the third straight season) is obviously a big part of that, and as the Thunder outscored the Nets (52-28) and Suns (46-30) by 40 total points in the restricted area in their two wins last week, Gilgeous-Alexander (32 restricted area points over the two games) led the way. But a bunch of other guys contributed and OKC’s 10th-ranked defense obviously did its job in keeping the opponents from having their own success inside. The Thunder have won seven of their last nine games, ranking third defensively (110.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) over that stretch.
With that run, the Thunder are in eighth place, just two games in the loss column behind the fifth-place Clippers, who they will face twice this week. The second of those two games is the start of a stretch of five games in seven days that includes another huge game against the Lakers on Friday. The Lakers rank second in restricted-area point differential (+4.7 per game), though the winner of the restricted-area battle (the Lakers on Feb. 7, the Thunder on Mar. 1) has lost both head-to-head meetings thus far.
Week 23: @ LAC, @ LAC, @ LAL, @ POR
OffRtg: 115.9 (7) DefRtg: 115.5 (23) NetRtg: +0.3 (15) Pace: 96.9 (29)
After a 3-9 stretch, the Mavs have finally won two straight games … by the skin of their teeth. They were down nine with less than five minutes left in San Antonio on Wednesday and down four with 10 seconds left in L.A. two nights later. But they pulled out both games, with the lowlight being Maxi Kleber’s pass out of bounds against the Spurs and the highlight being his buzzer-beating, game-winning 3 against the Lakers. Prior to Wednesday, the Mavs had lost 16 straight games that they trailed by at least five points in the fourth quarter.
Luka Doncic has missed the last four games, but Kyrie Irving returned from a three-game absence on Friday, scored 38 points on 14-for-23 shooting, and drew the crowd that left Kleber open for the game-winner. The Mavs are now 3-0 with Irving and not Doncic, with the offense nearly as efficient in those three games (119.5 points scored per 100 possessions) as it’s been in their nine games with both stars (121.1 per 100). The L.A. win also came with Christian Wood playing 34 minutes (his most in almost two months) and dishing out a career-high eight assists. Dallas was previously 3-9 when he played that much and the Kleber-Wood minutes haven’t been good (minus-9.4 points per 100 possessions, 129.5 allowed per 100) since Kleber returned from injury. But both guys were on the floor down the stretch of both of the Mavs’ close wins last week.
Only four of the Mavs’ 11 remaining games are within the Western Conference. And the biggest of those is on Wednesday when they host the seventh-place Warriors with the head-to-head tiebreaker on the line. The Mavs are one of two teams — Toronto is the other — with three games remaining against the bottom three teams in the league, and two of those three are a home-and-home set against the Hornets this weekend.
Week 23: @ MEM, vs. GSW, vs. CHA, @ CHA
OffRtg: 114.2 (12) DefRtg: 114.0 (18) NetRtg: +0.2 (17) Pace: 102.7 (1)
The Warriors are three games into a five-game trip, so, obviously, they have a three-game losing streak. They’ve now won their last eight home games (with a good win over the Suns last Monday) and lost their last 11 road games, just a remarkable feat of mediocrity.
As has been noted multiple times over the last five months, the much bigger difference between the home Warriors and the road Warriors has been on the defensive end of the floor, and the champs have allowed more than 128 points per 100 possessions over these last three games. The Clippers, Hawks and Grizzlies combined to shoot 44% from 3-point range, while grabbing 33.8% of available offensive rebounds and turning the ball over on just 8.5% of their possessions. The Warriors lost games in which Stephen Curry scored 50 points (the LA game), in which they had 25 second-chance points themselves (the Atlanta game), and in which they made a season-high 28 free throws and also had 30 second-chance points (the Memphis game). They lost playing fast (107 possessions against the Hawks) and playing slow (97 against the Grizzlies).
Despite the win over the Suns last week, the Warriors are three games out of fourth place (where they’d need to be to have home-court advantage in a playoff series), with Phoenix holding the tie-breaker and with two teams between them. And despite this trip being three-fifths complete, they still have as many road games (five) as home games (five) remaining. But hey, maybe this is the week they flip the switch and decide to defend on the road.
Week 23: @ HOU, @ DAL, vs. PHI, vs. MIN
OffRtg: 114.2 (13) DefRtg: 113.5 (14) NetRtg: +0.8 (12) Pace: 99.1 (19)
The Nets’ have been on a roller coaster since the All-Star break, losing their first four post-break games before turning things around with a wild comeback in Boston, the start of a 5-1 stretch. And now, they’ve lost three straight, scoring an anemic 106.3 points per 100 possessions over the three games, even though two of them were rest-advantage games against teams — the Kings and Nuggets — that rank 24th and 17th defensively.
They’ve stuck with the same starting lineup throughout. It was good enough defensively through those first 10 games, but the defense has since slipped and the group continues to struggle to score. The lineup has been outscored by 30 points in 49 minutes over the losing streak, scoring just 103 points on 104 offensive possessions. While Mikal Bridges has mostly been terrific, the other new starters have seen huge drop-offs in effective field goal percentage since their arrivals in Brooklyn …
It turns out that role players are better when they’re playing alongside stars. And as great as Bridges’ scoring has been, he’s not creating much for the others, with a much lower assist rate in Brooklyn (10.5 per 100 possessions used) than he had in Phoenix (16.1).
The Nets’ schedule remains tough (especially if they’re looking to get their offense cranking) for the next three games, a two-game series against the Cavs’ top-ranked defense and then a game in Miami. They’ll have seven straight games against teams currently below .500 after that, but their visit to Orlando on Sunday is the second game of a back-to-back.
Week 23: vs. CLE, vs. CLE, @ MIA, @ ORL
OffRtg: 114.2 (11) DefRtg: 113.5 (16) NetRtg: +0.7 (13) Pace: 98.1 (25)
The Raptors are doing a Warriors imitation. They’ve lost their last four road games, having allowed 118.3 points per 100 possessions over the four. And they’ve won seven straight at home, having scored 120.8 per 100 over the seven. So, with a chance to get back to .500 for the first time since they were 13-13 and, more importantly, climb into a top-eight spot in the East, it’s a good time for a four-game homestand.
The home winning streak began with some not-so-great competition, but it includes two quality wins over the Nuggets and Thunder last week, two of the Raps’ seven most efficient offensive games of the season. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam were the leading scorers, but OG Anunoby totaled 41 points on 16-for-23 shooting) over the two games, has shot better than 60% in six straight, and is 24-for-39 (62%) from 3-point range (including 15-for-26 from above the break) over his last seven. Maybe the Raps were right to hang on to him.
The Raptors have two games left against the other four teams fighting for the final three Play-In spots in the East, and they’re both at home this week. They’re currently 0-2 against the Pacers (who they’ll host Wednesday) and 1-1 against the Wizards (who they’ll host on Sunday). If the Raptors can beat the Pistons in between, this will be the sixth straight year in which the season series between those two teams is a sweep. The schedule will get much tougher after these three games, so the Raps would really like to be 38-27 a week from now.
Week 23: vs. IND, vs. DET, vs. WAS
OffRtg: 113.1 (22) DefRtg: 113.3 (13) NetRtg: -0.2 (20) Pace: 102.0 (3)
If the Lakers miss the Play-In Tournament (or are a lower seed needing to win on the road) by one game, the non-call in Boston might be the first thing we remember. But Maxi Kleber’s game-winning 3 from Friday, along with the Anthony Davis foul (on a Kleber 3-point attempts) on the preceding possession, won’t be far behind. Eight of the Lakers’ 10 March games have been within five points in the last five minutes, so it’s been a month (played without LeBron James) of close calls.
The Lakers are now 9-9 when Davis has played without James, but they didn’t play the big man in both games of their New Orleans-Houston back-to-back last week, and they lost to the worst team in the Western Conference, failing to get back to .500 and falling to 2-5 when neither star has been available. They continue to be their best with reserves on the floor, and one of those reserves (Austin Reaves) scored a career-high 35 points in a win over Orlando on Sunday. Reaves has been a much improved 3-point shooter this season, but he did most of his damage inside the arc (8-for-10) and at the free throw line (16-for-18) against the Magic, and his 68.4% shooting in the paint is the best mark among 141 players 6-6 or shorter with at least 100 paint attempts.
It’s still not clear when James will make his return, but the Lakers will play a huge game against the Thunder on Friday. It will determine the head-to-head tiebreaker and the Lakers will have a rest advantage, with the Thunder playing the Clippers the night before. With their win over Orlando on Sunday, the Lakers are 6-5 in rest-advantage games, with all 11 having come at home.
Week 23: vs. PHX, vs. OKC, vs. CHI
OffRtg: 112.9 (23) DefRtg: 111.9 (5) NetRtg: +1.0 (11) Pace: 99.6 (16)
The Bulls continue to be the league’s most improved team (in regard to point differential per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break. The most improved team in regard to winning percentage is the Kings (11-2 since the break), and the Bulls took them down to the wire on Wednesday, when it would have been nice to have Alex Caruso (who was out with an illness) to guard De’Aaron Fox down the stretch. Caruso continues to lead the league (minimum 750 minutes) in deflections per 36 minutes (5.2) and over their 11 post-break games, the Bulls have allowed 14.4 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (102.3) than they have with him off the floor (116.7), a differential obviously aided by his absence in the game against the league’s No. 1 offense.
The Bulls recovered from Fox’s game-winner to beat the Wolves in double-overtime, getting stops (with more disruptive defense than they showed against the Kings) at the end of regulation and the first OT. And 24 hours after playing 58 minutes, they completed a three-game season sweep of the Heat (who swept the Bulls last season), scoring efficiently against a top-10 defense. The offense was pretty balanced on Saturday (Patrick Beverley hit five 3s), but Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have combined to average 56.1 points since the break, with both guys shooting better than 54% from the field, 44% from 3-point range, and 80% from the line. LaVine’s true shooting percentage of 68.6% is the fourth-best mark among the 24 players who’ve averaged at least 25 points since the break.
The Bulls are one of five teams with 12 games over the last three weeks of the season. The Sixers are one of the other four, and there’s no better test of the Bulls’ post-break improvement than two games against the only team that’s been better, statistically, since the break. The Sixers come into Chicago with an eight-game winning streak and with Joel Embiid having never lost to the Bulls.
Week 23: @ PHI, vs. PHI, @ POR, @ LAL
OffRtg: 112.9 (24) DefRtg: 113.0 (11) NetRtg: -0.2 (19) Pace: 101.6 (5)
The Wolves got their first win in an Eastern Conference arena in almost four months, beating the Hawks behind a 76-point first half and Kyle Anderson’s third career triple-double. Anderson got his fourth triple-double four nights later in Chicago, but the Wolves blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead, scored just 23 points (with seven turnovers) on 26 clutch possessions, and lost in overtime. They’re tied with Dallas and Phoenix for the most losses (four) in games they led by double-digits in the 4th quarter, and they’re 1-5 on this stretch of eight straight games against the Eastern Conference (and just 10-17 against the East overall).
The Wolves have scored just 110.7 points per 100 possessions over the 1-5 stretch, a mark which ranks 27th over the last 13 days. Jalen McDaniels’ offense has picked up (18.2 points per game over the last five) and Mike Conley has had his three highest-scoring games of the season in March, but as you might expect, the offense has been much better with Anthony Edwards on the floor (115.3 per 100) than it’s been with him off the floor (105.0 per 100) over those six games. And with the Wolves in a tight, six-team battle for the four Play-In Tournament spots in the West, it was not a good time for Edwards to suffer an ankle sprain. He wasn’t around to protect that fourth-quarter lead in Chicago and the Wolves’ loss in Toronto on Saturday was the first game he’d missed in more than a year.
The Wolves have 10 games left, and they’ve said that Karl-Anthony Towns (who’s missed the last 51 games) will make his return at some point in that stretch. After two more games against the East, they’ll have a three-day break (an opportunity for a practice or two) before they begin a three-game trip with a big game against the Warriors on Sunday. They’ve scored just 104.7 points per 100 possessions (their worst mark against any Western Conference opponent) as they’ve lost two of three to the champs thus far.
Week 23: @ NYK, vs. ATL, @ GSW
OffRtg: 114.8 (10) DefRtg: 115.1 (22) NetRtg: -0.3 (21) Pace: 101.5 (8)
The Hawks beat the Warriors on Friday, because the game was in Atlanta. But they’ve lost their other three games over the last 10 days, with the nadir being the second half in San Antonio on Sunday, when they were outscored by 32 points (65-33) over the final 23:15, blowing a 24-point lead. (They had won their previous 39 games in which they led by at least 20, a streak that lasted almost two years.) When a team gets clobbered that badly, it obviously has issues on both ends of the floor. And maybe scoring just 33 points over 46 offensive possessions against the league’s worst defense is more concerning.
But the Hawks now rank 28th defensively (119.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Quin Snyder took over as coach. Seven of their 10 games during that stretch have come against teams — Washington (x 3), Miami (x 2), Minnesota and San Antonio — with worse-than-average offenses. They rank 30th in opponent effective field goal percentage (59.1%) over that stretch, with big jumps in both opponent field goal percentage in the paint (62.3%) and opponent 3-point percentage (39.1%) from where those numbers were prior (58.3% and 35.1%).
The Hawks have now been within one game of .500 after each of their last 25 games, needing a win against the Pistons (who rank 28th offensively) on Tuesday to keep that streak going. They’re one of three teams — the Bucks and Kings are the others — with three back-to-backs remaining on their schedule. Two of those are this week, and they’ll be at a rest disadvantage against both Minnesota (on the road) and Memphis (at home). They’re 2-5 in rest-disadvantage games thus far.
Week 23: vs. DET, @ MIN, vs. IND, vs. MEM
OffRtg: 116.0 (6) DefRtg: 115.8 (25) NetRtg: +0.2 (18) Pace: 100.5 (12)
The Jazz traded three rotation guys at the deadline, they’ve been without both Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton for seven of their last eight games, and the four players who’ve played at least 100 minutes off the bench for them in that stretch are Kris Dunn (who wasn’t on a roster a month ago), Simone Fontecchio, Rudy Gay and Damian Jones. So you can understand why Utah has the league’s lowest-ranked bench since the All-Star break. The Jazz have been outscored by more than 20 points per 100 possessions in 201 post-break minutes with Kelly Olynyk off the floor.
But 29 minutes of Olynyk on the floor was just enough on Saturday, when the Jazz came back from 19 points down to beat the Celtics by one. Talen Horton-Tucker put them ahead with a strong drive past Grant Williams, Walker Kessler sealed the win by blocking Williams at the rim, and the Jazz got a rare clutch win against a good team. Though Clarkson still ranks second with 16 clutch 3-pointers, the Jazz are 21-26 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, including 6-16 against the 13 teams that currently have winning records.
So the Jazz are still hanging around, having won three of their last four games and in a virtual tie with the ninth-place Wolves and 10th-place Lakers. Seven of their final 12 games are against that currently-over-.500 group, with two of those this week against the Kings, who edged the Jazz (scoring 28 points on 20 clutch possessions) in two nail-biters around New Year’s Day.
Week 23: vs. SAC, vs. POR, vs. MIL, @ SAC
OffRtg: 113.3 (21) DefRtg: 112.7 (9) NetRtg: +0.6 (14) Pace: 99.7 (14)
Prior to Friday, the Pelicans were one of five undefeated teams (they were 8-0) against the bottom four teams in the league. Though they lost a huge game against the Lakers on Tuesday, four straight games against that bottom-four group were going to give them a chance to climb back into the Play-In Tournament picture in the Western Conference. But that stretch began with a loss to the Rockets on Friday, with the Pelicans blowing a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead, allowing the Rockets to score efficiently, and watching Jabari Smith beat them with less than a second to go.
The Pelicans still have a positive point differential, that of a team that’s 37-34 instead of 34-37. But they’ve now lost 10 of their last 13 games that were within five points in the last five minutes, even though Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum have combined to shoot 18-for-33 (55%) on clutch shots over that stretch.
Ingram and McCollum combined for 52 points on Sunday as the Pelicans earned a split of their two-game split in Houston and stayed tied in the loss column with the ninth-place Wolves and 10th-place Lakers. But their no-Zion-Williamson starting lineup is about to crack the 200-minute mark and it has been outscored by 16.7 points per 100 possessions, with brutal numbers defensively (127.6 points allowed per 100 possessions).
After finishing this stretch of four straight games against the bottom four, seven of the Pelicans’ final nine will come against teams that are currently at or above .500. They’ll face the Clips (who they last faced in October) on each of the next two Saturdays, with this week’s visit to LA the start of a four-game trip.
Week 23: vs. SAS, vs. CHA, @ LAC
OffRtg: 113.7 (19) DefRtg: 114.5 (20) NetRtg: -0.7 (23) Pace: 98.7 (22)
The Wizards beat the Pistons for the second time in eight days on Tuesday, with Bradley Beal scoring 36 points on 13-for-15 from the field. But to compete for a Play-In Tournament spot in the East, the Wizards will have to be somebody other than Detroit, and they’ve lost their last seven games against everybody else, with the last three of those losses having come by an average of 18.7 points. After that win over the Pistons, the Wizards were held under a point per possession (for the eighth time this season) by the league’s No. 1 defense and allowed more than 130 per 100 (for the sixth time) to the league’s No. 1 offense.
Lineup continuity has been an issue. Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis each missed games last week and no Wizards lineup has played more than 52 total minutes over their 13 games since the All-Star break. Of course, the Wiz have also been outscored by 4.8 points per 100 possessions (scoring an inefficient 109.4 per 100) in 171 post-break minutes with Bradley Beal, Kuzma and Porzingis on the floor together. And overall, this is one of two teams — Portland is the other — that rank in the bottom 10 on both ends of the floor since the break.
This week is probably the Wizards’ last shot to put themselves in contention for a Play-In spot. Three of their four games are against teams with losing records, with the last of those (in Toronto on Sunday) coming against one of the two Play-In teams they trail by only two games in the loss column.
Week 23: @ ORL, vs. DEN, vs. SAS, @ TOR
OffRtg: 113.7 (18) DefRtg: 116.3 (26) NetRtg: -2.6 (25) Pace: 101.4 (9)
The Pacers had the most Jekyll-and-Hyde pair of games any team can possibly have last week, losing to the worst team in the league (Detroit) on Monday and beating the best team in the league (Milwaukee) three nights later. In typical Pacers fashion, they lost both first quarters (as well as their first quarter against the Sixers on Saturday) by double-digits. But T.J. McConnell and George Hill led a 26-8 run spanning the third and fourth quarters on Thursday and, with eight guys scoring in double-figures, the Pacers got their 15th win in a game they trailed by 10 or more (second to Brooklyn’s 16). They’re just 4-13 without Tyrese Haliburton, but two of the four wins have come at Golden State (where the Warriors are 29-7) and at Milwaukee (where the Bucks are 29-7).
McConnell continues to make his biggest impact on defense, and his 4.0 deflections per 36 minutes rank fifth among 244 players who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes. But he’s also managed to have an efficient scoring season (true shooting percentage of 58.1%) despite his reluctance to shoot 3-pointers and his inability to dunk (outside of practice) or get to the free throw line. He’s one of nine players who’ve shot better than 50% on at least 100 pull-up 2-point attempts and he’s actually shooting a career-high 44.0% (22-for-50) from 3-point range. McConnell’s season-long on-off differential is even, but since the All-Star break, the Pacers have been 21.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (plus-12.4) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-8.9).
The Pacers are just a game and a half out of the Play-In Tournament, with a big game in Toronto on Wednesday, having already beat the ninth-place Raptors twice this season. But we know that Haliburton (ankle sprain) is out for their game in Charlotte on Monday, so his status for the next one is probably up in the air.
Week 23: @ CHA, @ TOR, @ BOS, @ ATL
OffRtg: 115.4 (8) DefRtg: 117.3 (27) NetRtg: -1.9 (24) Pace: 98.7 (23)
The Blazers rank as the league’s third most-improved offensive team, having scored 8.1 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season. And that’s obviously (and primarily) about Damian Lillard playing only 29 games last season and struggling through injury before he was shut down. Lillard has returned and had the best season of his career, averaging a career-high 32.4 points on a career-best true shooting percentage of 64.4%, which would be the fifth-best* mark in NBA history for a player averaging at least 30 points per game (83 instances).
* One of the five higher marks – Joel Embiid at 65.4% – is also from this season.
Behind Lillard’s brilliance, the Blazers have a top-10 offense for the fourth time in the last five seasons, and their bigger issues are obviously on defense. But consistent contributions from his supporting cast have been hard to come by, and the Blazers have been 12.3 points per 100 possessions worse offensively with Lillard off the floor (106.9) than they have with him on the floor (119.2). Despite Lillard averaging 35.5 points on a true shooting percentage of 63.7% over the 11 post-break games he’s played in, the Blazers rank just 24th offensively since the break, with only three teams having seen a bigger post-break drop in offensive efficiency.
The Blazers have scored just 106.8 points per 100 possessions (only the Hornets have been worse offensively) as they’ve lost six straight games, essentially eliminating themselves from Play-In contention.
Week 23: @ UTA, vs. CHI, vs. OKC
OffRtg: 111.5 (26) DefRtg: 114.2 (19) NetRtg: -2.7 (26) Pace: 99.5 (17)
The Magic have a bottom-10 offense for the 11th straight season, tying the Bobcats/Hornets (in their first 11 seasons) for the longest such streak in the 27 years for which we have play-by-play data. But they rank as the league’s fourth most improved offensive team, having scored 7.6 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season (when they ranked in the bottom 10 in each of the four factors on offense). They really couldn’t get worse, but they’ve seen the league’s fifth biggest jump in effective field goal percentage, its third biggest jump in offensive rebounding percentage, and its biggest jump in free throw rate.
The Magic rank just 23rd in ball movement (305 passes per 24 minutes of possessions), but they’re one of four teams — the Celtics, Warriors and Heat are the others — with at least five players who’ve averaged at least three assists per game, evidence that they have multiple guys who can handle the ball and make plays. Turnovers remain an issue (only the Rockets and Pistons have lower assist/turnover ratios) and this team still needs some shooting.
The Magic’s talent is up front, and they have the league’s second biggest difference between their field goal percentage in the paint (57.9%, 15th) and their effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (48.6%, 25th). Bol Bol has the biggest differential (70.8% vs. 41.5%) among 231 players with at least 100 field goal attempts both in and outside the paint, with Wendell Carter Jr., Moe Wagner, Markelle Fultz and Paolo Banchero also having significant differentials.
Carter did shoot 4-for-8 from 3-point range as the Magic beat the Clippers on Saturday, but a loss in San Antonio four days earlier was probably the end of Orlando’s Play-In Tournament hopes. The Magic have one of the league’s toughest remaining schedules, with seven of their 10 games against teams currently over .500.
Week 23: vs. WAS, vs. NYK, vs. BKN
OffRtg: 110.1 (27) DefRtg: 118.1 (29) NetRtg: -8.0 (29) Pace: 99.7 (15)
The Rockets are set to finish in the bottom five on both ends of the floor for the third straight season, with no other team ranking in the bottom five on both ends in any two of those three years. That they’re there on defense isn’t a big surprise, but there was seemingly some hope for improvement on offense, and (when you take the league average into account) they’ve actually taken a small step backward on that end of the floor.
The Rockets are the only team that ranks in the bottom five in field goal percentage in the paint (55.2%, 27th), mid-range field goal percentage (35.6%, 30th) and 3-point percentage (32.8%, 29th). Given that the perimeter shooting has been worse, it’s good that only the Grizzlies have taken a greater percentage of their shots in the paint. And some of that abundance comes from second chances, with the Rockets leading the league in offensive rebounding percentage. As they won three straight games (for the first time) last week, they averaged 64.7 points in the paint and 18.3 second-chance points.
The Rockets do rank 17th offensively (114.2 points scored per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break, up from 30th (109.2 per 100) before the break, and it seems that they’ll avoid having the league’s worst record for a third straight season. Their two remaining games within the bottom four are 11 and 15 days away, and the Rockets will play three games against the league’s top two defenses (those of the Cavs and Grizzlies) this week.
Week 23: vs. GSW, @ MEM, @ MEM, @ CLE
OffRtg: 109.9 (29) DefRtg: 119.1 (30) NetRtg: -9.2 (30) Pace: 101.7 (4)
The two teams involved in last summer’s Dejounte Murray trade have both been much worse offensively (when you take the league average into account) than they were last season. San Antonio has fallen harder, scoring 2.0 fewer points per 100 possessions than it did in 2021-22, with only the Hornets having seen a bigger drop-off. While this will be the Spurs’ fourth straight season out of the playoffs, it will be its first season in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency since the year before they drafted Tim Duncan (1996-97).
The Spurs are one of two teams — the Warriors are the other — that rank in the bottom 10 in three of the four factors on offense. They’re 25th in the most important of those (effective field goal percentage), and in the bottom seven in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) for the eighth straight season. They also rank in the bottom five in both free throw rate and turnover rate, having seen the league’s biggest jump in the latter. (They were second in turnover rate last season.)
Health (and non-injury-related absences) have been a bit of an issue. The Spurs’ three returning (and remaining) core players — Tre Jones, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson — have played just 439 total minutes together. But the Spurs have only scored 108.0 points per 100 possessions when the trio has been in the game, a mark that ranks 397th among 426 three-man combinations with at least 400 minutes of floor time. And now, their most intriguing offensive player may be rookie Jeremy Sochan, who’s averaged 17.4 points per game since the All-Star break (with 29 in a win over Orlando on Tuesday, up from 10 ppg before the break. That’s the ninth-biggest jump among 345 players who’ve played at least five games since the break.
The Spurs would have to be really bad offensively over the next three weeks to finish last on both ends of the floor, but they’re playing seven of their next eight games on the road (where they’re 1-19 since late December) and three of their next four against top-10 defenses.
Week 23: @ NOP, @ MIL, @ WAS, @ BOS
OffRtg: 108.5 (30) DefRtg: 114.8 (21) NetRtg: -6.3 (27) Pace: 101.6 (6)
As a whole, the league has scored 2.5 more points per 100 possessions than it did last season. The Hornets have scored 5.2 fewer than they did last season (when they ranked eighth offensively), the league’s biggest drop by a huge margin (next is San Antonio at -2.0 per 100). They had LaMelo Ball for only 36 of their 72 games, but their efficiency in those games (111.8 scored per 100) was still a big drop-off from last season (113.6) and well below the league average (113.8).
The drop-off has mostly been about 3-point shooting, from 36.5% (sixth) last season to 32.7% (30th) this season, with a huge drop in 3-point volume as well. On Tuesday, the Hornets shot an impressive 37-for-35 (70%) from 2-point range against the league’s No. 1 defense, but they were 6-for-23 (and outscored by 24 points) from beyond the arc.
Gordon Hayward has seen the ninth biggest drop (from 39.1% to 32.4%) among 209 players with at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons, while Terry Rozier has seen the 10th biggest drop (from 37.4% to 32.7%) among 113 players with at least 200 attempts. The Hornets have scored just 105.3 points per 100 possessions in 550 minutes with Hayward and Rozier on the floor without Ball.
The positive is that Hayward has now played in 23 straight games. There are 10 left to play, and three of the Hornets’ next four are against bottom-10 defenses (those of the Pacers and Mavs). Given the gap between them and the 29th-ranked Spurs (and Ball’s done-for-the-season status), it would be tough for them not to finish last in offensive efficiency for the first time since their 7-59 season in 2011-12.
Week 23: vs. IND, @ NOP, @ DAL, vs. DAL
OffRtg: 110.1 (28) DefRtg: 119.1 (28) NetRtg: -7.3 (28) Pace: 100.14 (13)
This will likely be the Pistons’ third straight season in the bottom five in offensive efficiency. But, amazingly and with their star guard having played in just 12 games, they have seen the league’s sixth biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions from last season. A lot of credit goes to Bojan Bogdanovic, an offensive upgrade over Jerami Grant and one of three qualified players — Stephen Curry and Malcolm Brogdon are the others — who’ve shot at least 48% from the field, 40% from 3-point range and 88% from the line. He’s certainly played with more talent around him with other teams, but Bogdanovic has had the most efficient season of his career, registering a true shooting percentage of 62.7%, a mark that ranks eighth among the 53 players who’ve averaged at least 20 points per game.
With Bogdanovic having missed the last nine games, the Pistons have scored just 107.8 points per 100 possessions, with only Charlotte having been worse offensively over that stretch. They did get their first win within the Central Division on Monday, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds (Jalen Duren and James Wiseman had five each) and registering 22 second-chance points. The Pistons rank last in field goal percentage in the paint (54.5%), but they’re in the top 10 in both offensive rebounding percentage (eighth) and free throw rate (fourth), up from 13th and 15th last season. Jaden Ivey’s free throw rate (38.6 attempts per 100 shots from the field) would be the second highest for a rookie guard with at least 500 field goal attempts in the last 10 seasons (51 instances).
Week 23: @ ATL, @ TOR