Golden State has won 3 straight and 5 of its last 6 to return to the Top 10.
We are just about at the quarter-mark of the 2022-23 season. When Monday’s 10-game slate is complete, the league will have played 308 (25%) of the season’s 1,230 games.
As things stand, 19 of the 30 teams have hit the 20-game mark, that time when we have a somewhat clear picture of just how good (or bad) these teams are. As noted last week (in reference to the Utah Jazz), history tells us that a team that’s won at least 12 of its first 20 games is very, very likely to finish the season in playoff position.
Here are the numbers for the last 20 seasons where teams played 82 games:
Wins through 20 games, last 20 full (82-game) seasons
|Wins through 20
|12 or more
|6 or fewer
|9 or more
|8 or fewer
A reminder: 91% is not 100%. The Washington Wizards were 13-7 after 20 games last season and finished eight games out of the Eastern Conference Play-In. On the other side of the ledger, the New Orleans Pelicans started 4-16 and reached the playoffs via the Western Conference Play-In.
Still, things are looking very interesting for the Sacramento Kings, owners of the longest playoff drought in NBA history (16 years). The Kings are currently 10-8, with home games against the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers in the next three days.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Houston (2-0) — The Rockets went from three wins to five in the span of 27 hours, also making a little history in regard to second chance points (see below).
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Utah (0-4) — Mike Conley for MVP.
East vs. West
Schedule strength through Week 6
- Toughest: 1. Detroit, 2. Houston, 3. Chicago
- Easiest: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Indiana, 3. Phoenix
- 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: Golden State (+8), Memphis (+5), Three teams (+4)
- Free falls of the week: Dallas (-8), Washington (-7), Atlanta (-5), Utah (-5)
Week 7 Team to Watch
- Brooklyn — The Nets don’t have the toughest schedule this week, and that’s kind of the point. A seven-game homestand that began with a win over Portland on Sunday is an opportunity to climb above .500 and possibly into the top six in the Eastern Conference, but the Nets have yet to show the ability to string more than a couple of wins together. Maybe that happens when they host the Magic, Wizards and Raptors before welcoming the first-place Celtics to Brooklyn on Sunday night.
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 111.8 points scored per 100 possessions and 100.0 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: 119.9 (1) DefRtg: 112.2 (17) NetRtg: +7.7 (1) Pace: 99.6 (18)
The Celtics are just an offensive machine, with the top seven guys in their rotation able to score in multiple ways and willing to make the right (and quick) decisions with the ball. Even when the Mavs made good rotations to erase the Celtics’ initial advantage on Wednesday, Boston created another advantage and another open shot. The Mavs’ top three scorers shot 33-for-50 (66%) and they couldn’t keep up. Two nights later, the league’s second-ranked offense (that of the Kings) was completely outclassed. Jayson Tatum has been the primary driver of the offensive success, but on Sunday, the Celtics just kept rolling without him, registering their second most efficient performance of the season (130 points on just 94 possessions) against the team (Washington) that ranked ninth defensively prior to that. (The Wizards now rank 15th.)
The Celtics’ 119.9 points scored per 100 possessions are 2.6 more than the highest mark in league history (that of the 2020-21 Nets) and 8.1 more than the league average, what would be the third biggest differential in the 27 seasons of play-by-play data. Though this has been the most efficient season in NBA history league-wide, there are two teams — the Hawks and Bulls — who’ve only once scored at least 119.9 per 100 in a game this season.
The Celtics are one of four teams that have yet to play a rest-disadvantage game, and they’ll have three over the next 16 days. The first is Monday vs. the Hornets and the other two are on a six-game trip that begins Sunday in Brooklyn and eventually takes them out West for the first time. The Celtics are one of three teams — the Blazers and Kings are the others — with multiple road trips of at least six games, and their second one will come in March.
Week 7: vs. CHA, vs. MIA, vs. MIA, @ BKN
OffRtg: 111.1 (17) DefRtg: 106.5 (1) NetRtg: +4.6 (5) Pace: 100.1 (16)
The Bucks’ nine-game winning streak to start the season doesn’t not count, but after their loss to the Bulls on Wednesday, they were 3-5 since the end of the streak. They’ve still seen the biggest drop in the percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range (from 45% last season to just 36% this season), but in that Wednesday game, it was three consecutive 3s that did the Bucks in. And Giannis Antetokounmpo’s abandoning of the strong-side corner on Coby White’s go-ahead 3 looked a little like Jrue Holiday’s gamble that left De’Anthony Melton open in the strong-side corner for the go-ahead 3 five days earlier in Philadelphia. You’ll surely take the bad with the good when it comes to those two defenders, though.
Though it’s played about half as many minutes, the Bucks’ starting lineup – with Jevon Carter and Grayson Allen – has been nearly as dominant as the Warriors, outscoring their opponents by 23.3 points per 100 possessions. While Golden State’s lineup has been ridiculously efficient offensively, the Milwaukee lineup has allowed just 93.8 points per 100 in its 127 minutes. (Warriors-Bucks is two weeks from Tuesday, by the way.) Bench minutes for the Bucks haven’t been nearly as bad as they have for the champs, but in that five-point loss to the Bulls, Milwaukee was outscored by 17 points in a little more than 12 minutes with Holiday on the bench.
The Bucks recovered from the Chicago loss to put together two straight wins for the first time since the end of the nine-game winning streak, finishing off a four-game homestand with weekend victories over the Cavs and Mavs, the fourth and fifth times this season that the Bucks have scored at least 120 points per 100 possessions. Antetokounmpo’s effective field goal percentage (55.0%) and true shooting percentage (57.7%) are still his lowest marks of the last five seasons, but it’s fair to say that he’s finding his rhythm, averaging 35.3 points on 64.2% true shooting over the homestand.
The Bucks have played the league’s most home-heavy schedule to date, with 13 of their 19 games at Fiserv Forum. They’ll now play 11 of their next 15 on the road, with only four one-game homestands between now and Dec. 30. That stretch includes only one back-to-back though, and it’s Friday (vs. the Lakers) and Saturday (at Charlotte), with the Hornets also playing Friday night. The Bucks have had two back-to-backs thus far, with Antetokounmpo playing both games in the first, and in just one of the two games in the second.
Week 7: @ NYK, vs. LAL, @ CHA
OffRtg: 115.9 (3) DefRtg: 109.0 (5) NetRtg: +6.9 (2) Pace: 98.3 (25)
The Suns have climbed back into first place in the Western Conference with a four-game win streak, capped by a revenge win over the Jazz on Saturday. Deandre Ayton totaled 57 points (on 22-for-32 shooting), 33 rebounds and four blocks in two wins over the weekend, with 15 of those 57 points and seven of those 33 rebounds (including six on the offensive glass) coming in the clutch. He had a big tip-dunk against the Pistons on Friday, sealed the win over the Jazz with another offensive rebound, and was 7-for-8 on clutch free throws. The Suns are now 3-4 in clutch games (3-2 without Chris Paul) and one of three teams — the Celtics and Cavs are the others — with only two losses that weren’t within five points in the last five minutes.
Paul practiced on Wednesday and could return this week, but the Suns’ temporary starting lineup had much better numbers over the winning streak (plus-17.9 per 100 possessions) than it did over the previous five games without CP3 (minus-16.4). Damion Lee has also given them some good minutes off the bench (with Landry Shamet also on the shelf) and now ranks third in the league in 3-point percentage (49.3%), having shot 10-for-19 from deep over the winning streak. He is the Splash Brother-In-Law, after all.
The Suns are still just 2-5 (with three straight losses) on the road, and their first of four meetings with the Kings is in Sacramento on Monday. All four Suns-Kings meetings were within five points in the last five minutes last season, with Sacramento responsible for two of Phoenix’s nine clutch losses.
Week 7: @ SAC, vs. CHI, vs. HOU, @ SAS
OffRtg: 114.8 (7) DefRtg: 108.2 (3) NetRtg: +6.7 (3) Pace: 96.8 (29)
The Cavs have rebounded from a five-game losing streak to win five of their last six, with the only loss coming in Milwaukee on Friday. The Cavs actually led that game by 16 points, but had twice as many turnovers (six) as field goals (three) in a third quarter that the Bucks won by 25. The Cavs have only two double-digit losses this season, and both have come at Fiserv Forum in the last 12 days. Good news: They won’t have to play there again until (at least) April.
The other good news is that the injury that Jarrett Allen suffered on Friday seems to be minor. He missed the Cavs’ win in Detroit on Sunday, but was listed as questionable prior to the game. It certainly helped that the game they played without Allen was against the depleted Pistons, but the Cavs have allowed just 104.9 points per 100 possessions over this 5-1 stretch. Robin Lopez started in Allen’s place on Sunday, but played just four minutes, with Evan Mobley playing most of his 40 minutes at the five. The Cavs have been better in 283 minutes with Mobley on the floor without Allen or Lopez (plus-2.1 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in his 404 minutes alongside one of the two centers (minus-1.5 per 100). And in 117 minutes with Mobley on the floor as the lone big (no Allen, Lopez, Kevin Love or Mamadi Diakite), the Cavs have outscored their opponents by 7.7 per 100.
The Cavs lost on opening night in Toronto, and they’re back in the 6ix (at a rest disadvantage) on Monday. After that, they’ll play 11 of their next 14 games at home (where they’re 8-1), a stretch that takes them past Christmas.
Week 7: @ TOR, vs. PHI, vs. ORL, @ NYK
OffRtg: 114.9 (6) DefRtg: 114.0 (24) NetRtg: +0.9 (13) Pace: 99.2 (19)
Nikola Jokic returned from a three-game absence on Tuesday and was one rebound away from an efficient, 31-point triple-double against the Pistons. But (and stop us if you’ve heard this one before) the Nuggets were outscored by 15 points in a little more than 11 minutes with Jokic off the floor, and they lost by two (with Nuggets not named Jokic shooting 0-for-4 in the clutch).
Though DeAndre Jordan was extracted from the rotation for the two-game trip that followed, the Nuggets weren’t much better (getting outscored by 15 points in 25 total minutes) with Jokic off the floor. But they got wins over the Thunder and Clippers, scoring 122.5 points per 100 possessions over the two games. That included 25 points on 18 clutch possessions in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, with Jokic hitting Aaron Gordon with an absolute dime for the game-tying bucket in regulation and Bruce Brown hitting two huge shots in overtime. Brown has basically filled in for every Denver starter except Jokic and he now has as many clutch buckets (5-for-7) as he had in 24 clutch appearances with Brooklyn last season (5-for-12).
With the continued bench issues, the Nuggets have been an amazing 30.2 points per 100 possessions better with Jokic on the floor (plus-14.0) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-16.2) this season. That’s almost twice as big as his league-leading differential from last season (16.3). No lineup that doesn’t include Jokic or Jordan has played more than 10 minutes.
The Nuggets have played 13 of their 19 games on the road. They’ll have a home-heavy schedule for most of the next two months, but their December begins with a two-game trip through Atlanta and New Orleans.
Week 7: vs. HOU, vs. HOU, @ ATL, @ NOP
OffRtg: 112.3 (14) DefRtg: 108.3 (4) NetRtg: +4.1 (6) Pace: 97.8 (27)
There’s a lot of “they lost to the Sixers without Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey” in these here rankings and anywhere else somebody’s writing about the Nets or Magic. But maybe the Sixers without those guys still have some decent talent. At worst, the last few weeks have been a display of just how deep this team is when it’s healthy.
Neither Shake Milton nor Paul Reed have been a consistent part of the rotation throughout the season. But Milton has averaged 23.6 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 70%), 6.6 rebounds and 6.6 assists over the five games that Maxey has missed, while Reed has shot 19-for-26 and done the dirty work, averaging 13.3 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes over the four games that Embiid has been out. Tobias Harris is the fourth option when the other guys are available, but has done pretty well leading the offense without them. In fact, the four games without Embiid have been the Sixers’ best four-game stretch of offense (118.1 points scored per 100 possessions) since late October, with offensive rebounding (where Reed has excelled) being a significant part of that.
The competition has been relatively soft, but 3-1 without your three leading scorers is good work, no matter who you’re playing. The schedule does get tougher this week, with no clear indication that either Harden or Embiid is set to return as the Sixers’ first stretch of five games in seven nights concludes with a visit from the Hawks on Monday. The home team has won both meetings between Atlanta and Philadelphia this season, with the Sixers being outscored by 29 points in Embiid’s 24 minutes off the floor.
Week 7: vs. ATL, @ CLE, @ MEM
OffRtg: 115.7 (4) DefRtg: 113.8 (23) NetRtg: +1.9 (8) Pace: 110.4 (13)
The Jazz have played 14 of their first 22 games on the road, and two of those eight home games were the second games of road-home back-to-backs. Their six total back-to-backs are tied (with the Pistons) for the most in the league to date, and they’ve been without Mike Conley for the last four games. So it’s neither super surprising nor all that disappointing that they’ve lost four straight to fall from first place to eighth in the West.
The offense has been fine over the losing streak, scoring more than 117 points per 100 possessions, with two of the four opponents being teams — the Clippers and Suns — that rank in the top five defensively. The Jazz had fourth quarter leads in L.A. and Phoenix, but had four straight turnovers on a 27-11 Clippers run and allowed the Suns to score 14 points on nine clutch possessions. (And they probably should have fouled when they were down one with just a two-second differential between the game and shot clocks.) Overall, they’ve allowed 124.8 per 100 over the losing streak and have dropped from eighth to 23rd in defensive efficiency over the last two weeks. The 125 points on 95 possessions that the Pistons scored on Wednesday (without three starters and at a rest disadvantage) was Detroit’s most efficient offensive performance of the season.
Some schedule relief is coming. The Jazz will now play eight of their next nine games at home, with their longest homestand of the season (six games over 12 days) beginning Monday with a visit from the Bulls. But after that game, nine of their next 10 will be against teams that currently have winning records, and the Jazz have two more back-to-backs in the next two weeks.
Week 7: vs. CHI, vs. LAC, vs. IND, vs. POR
OffRtg: 113.8 (8) DefRtg: 112.7 (20) NetRtg: +1.1 (12) Pace: 100.5 (12)
Jaren Jackson Jr. obviously isn’t the shooter that Desmond Bane is, and that lurching stroke still looks a little goofy. But Jackson’s spacing and willingness to launch from the four or five position can be critical for Ja Morant and the rest of the Grizzlies’ offense. Since going 0-for-7 from 3-point range in his season debut 13 days ago, Jackson has shot 9-for-22 (41%) from beyond the arc, averaging 22 points over his last four games.
More important may be that the Grizzlies have allowed just 104.5 points per 100 possessions in Jackson’s 130 minutes on the floor and climbed out of the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency for the first time this season. Jackson ranks second in the league with 4.4 blocks per 36 minutes and his *fouls per 36 (3.6) are a career low by a wide margin. It’s just 130 minutes, but that’s a great sign.
* Brook Lopez (+12), Bol Bol (+10), Jackson (+3) and Darius Bazley (+1) are the only players who’ve played at least 100 minutes with more blocks than personal fouls.
The Grizzlies haven’t had much consistency on either end of the floor over the course of Bane’s seven-game absence, but their second biggest margin of victory this season (132-111) was an important Western Conference win over the Pelicans on Friday. Two nights later in New York, Morant capped his fifth career (regular-season) triple-double with a game-winning put-back of a shot that only he would attempt.
The Grizzlies’ schedule is East-heavy for the next 2 1/2 weeks, but they’ll face the Wolves for the second time on Wednesday. Going back to Game 2 of their playoff series in April, the Grizz have won five of their last six games against Minnesota.
Week 7: @ MIN, vs. PHI, @ DET
OffRtg: 111.8 (16) DefRtg: 112.4 (18) NetRtg: -0.6 (19) Pace: 97.1 (28)
The Blazers have gone from 10-4 to 11-9, with the only win in their 1-5 stretch (at New York on Friday) having come in overtime. Damian Lillard (out the last four games) has obviously been missed, but the bigger drop-off has come on defense, with the last five games being the Blazers’ worst defensive stretch of the season (119.9 points allowed per 100 possessions). Their opponents have turned the ball over a lot less, gone to the line more, and shot much better inside the arc. On Sunday, the Nets had just eight turnovers, took more free throws (18) than they did in their previous two games combined (17), and shot 15-for-20 on non-restricted-area shots in the paint.
The Blazers have still seen the second biggest season-to-season drop in points allowed per 100 possessions, but they probably couldn’t be worse defensively than they were last season. And in the last nine days, they’ve fallen from sixth to 18th on that end of the floor.
A potent offense can certainly make up for a slightly worse-than-average defense. And with Jerami Grant putting up big numbers (31.3 points on a true shooting percentage of 66.2% over the last three games), the potential is there for the offense to take off when Lillard returns. Though he had 28 free throw attempts on Friday, Grant has scored a little more efficiently in games that Lillard has played (true shooting percentage of 62.9%) than he has in the games that Lillard has missed (61%).
The Blazers will play two back-to-backs this week, and the first (Tuesday and Wednesday) comes against two teams — the Clippers and Lakers — that rank in the top 10 defensively. They beat the Lakers on one of Grant’s game-winners in Week 1, but have yet to face the Clippers.
Week 7: vs. LAC, @ LAL, @ UTA, vs. IND
OffRtg: 113.6 (9) DefRtg: 113.4 (22) NetRtg: +0.2 (15) Pace: 103.0 (2)
The Warriors conceded another rest-disadvantage game against the Pelicans on Monday, resting four of their five starters in New Orleans for the second time in 18 days. But they’ve since won three straight games for the first time this season and they’re over .500 for the first time since they were 3-2.
The champs have won the last five games in which they’ve had their starters, with the starting lineup having outscored their opponents by 64 points (scoring an amazing 147.3 per 100 possessions) in its 82 minutes over that stretch. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins have combined to shoot 75-for-152 (49.3%) from 3-point range over those five games (Draymond Green is 4-for-7!), with the Warriors shooting more liberally from beyond the arc. After taking more than half their shots from 3-point range in just one of their first 12 games, they’ve done it seven times in their last nine. With that, they’ve outscored their opponents by an average of 24.6 points per game from 3-point range over these last five wins.
Curry’s on-off differential remains absurd (30.2 points per 100 possessions), but with the winning streak, Jordan Poole has registered a positive plus-minus in three straight games for the first time this season. It’s helped that the Warriors have staggered Curry’s and Green’s minutes more than they were earlier in the season, though they’ve still played just 52 total minutes (and have scored less than a point per possession) with Poole and Green on the floor without Curry.
The first Western Conference finals rematch is Tuesday in Dallas. The Warriors’ fifth back-to-back of the season will be their first where both games are at home, with the Bulls and Rockets in San Francisco on Friday and Saturday.
Week 7: @ DAL, vs. CHI, vs. HOU
OffRtg: 115.0 (5) DefRtg: 109.6 (6) NetRtg: +5.4 (4) Pace: 100.3 (15)
The Pelicans remain one of three teams — the Cavs and Suns are the others — that rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor. They were able to get fat against the star-less Warriors and punchless Spurs early last week, allowing just 92.8 points per 100 possessions over the two games. This season, the Pelicans (one of six teams that have had a worst-than-average defense in each of the last four seasons) have seen the seventh biggest drop in points allowed per 100 (-2.4) from last season.
But much of that is about opponent 3-point shooting. While their opponents have shot much worse from beyond the arc (33.4% vs. 36.6% last season), they’ve shot better (and more often) in the paint (60.2% vs. 58.8%). When the Pelicans faced an opponent on their level on Friday, they allowed the Grizzlies to score 132 points on 101 possessions (shooting 18-for-38 from 3-point range) in a game that was mostly over after 17 minutes. The Pelicans now have the league’s fourth biggest differential between their record against the 14 teams that are currently at or below .500 (7-1) and their record against the 16 teams currently over .500 (4-7), and two of those four wins against the latter group were with the Warriors resting four starters.
The Pelicans will have two games against each of those groups this week, though one of the good teams (Toronto) has been shorthanded. The Pelicans will have their first meeting with the healthier Nuggets on Sunday. Denver and New Orleans played once after the CJ McCollum trade last season, with the Pelicans losing in overtime after trailing by 21 points in the first quarter.
Week 7: vs. OKC, vs. TOR, @ SAS, vs. DEN
OffRtg: 116.0 (2) DefRtg: 114.2 (25) NetRtg: +1.8 (10) Pace: 102.0 (6)
As the Kings’ schedule got tougher (and more road-heavy) last week, they were able to pull out a win in Memphis. And with the Grizzlies scoring just 109 points on 108 possessions, it was the Kings’ best defensive game of the season by a healthy margin. (The Kings are one of three teams — the Knicks and Blazers are the others — that have yet to hold an opponent under a point per possession.) But the Kings almost blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead (they were up 11 with 2:15 left) and it was, in part, a good defensive game because the Grizzlies shot just 8-for-30 (27%) from 3-point range and just 19-for-30 (63%) from the free throw line. Two of those 11 misses came after De’Aaron Fox fouled Ja Morant on a game-tying 3 with less than two seconds left.
The rest of the Kings’ road trip didn’t go so well. And as they lost in Atlanta and Boston, they shot 18-for-66 (27%) from 3-point range and committed 14 more turnovers than their opponents. After scoring an amazing 128.9 points per 100 possessions over the first six games of their seven-game winning streak, they scored just 103.2 per 100 (with Keegan Murray shooting 2-for-21) over the three-game trip.
The Memphis game was still a quality win, and it has the Kings in a decent position to have a winning record through 20 games for the first time in the last 18 seasons. They’re home for three of their next four games, though the quality of their opponents remains strong for the next couple of weeks. Monday brings their first meeting with the Suns, a nice challenge for the Kings’ six-game home winning streak.
Week 7: vs. PHX, vs. IND, @ LAC, vs. CHI
OffRtg: 107.4 (29) DefRtg: 107.6 (2) NetRtg: -0.2 (17) Pace: 99.2 (20)
The Clippers have outscored their opponents by 19.9 points per 100 possessions in Kawhi Leonard’s 112 minutes on the floor. But, after missing 12 straight games, Leonard was back for only three before spraining his ankle. Paul George (hamstring strain) has missed the last four games and the Clippers were 0-3 with neither of their two stars in the lineup after a loss to Denver on Friday, having allowed almost 116 points per 100 possessions over those three games.
And then on Sunday afternoon, the Clippers won a game (without George and Leonard) in which they shot just 6-for-32 (19%) from 3-point range, just the fourth time this season a team has won a game in which it shot less than 20% from beyond the arc. Ivica Zubac had 31 points and 29 rebounds (one board shy of just the third 30-30 game in the last 40 years), and the Clips were the first team this season to hold the Pacers’ offense (which ranked eighth before Sunday) under a point per possession. Over their 21 games, the Clippers and their opponents have combined to score just 107.5 per 100, the league’s lowest combined mark.
Having played nine of their last 12 games at home, the Clippers will play six of their next seven on the road. That stretch includes two back-to-backs, with the first of those being Tuesday (at Portland) and Wednesday (at Utah). Saturday will be the second meeting between the two teams that rank in the top six on one end of the floor and in the bottom six on the other end. The Clippers (29th on offense, second on defense) beat the Kings (second on offense, 25th on defense) in Week 1 behind 40 points from George.
Week 7: @ POR, @ UTA, vs. SAC
OffRtg: 112.8 (12) DefRtg: 110.9 (12) NetRtg: +1.9 (9) Pace: 95.7 (30)
The Mavs have been on the road, so the Mavs are on a losing streak. They’re now 1-7 away from the American Airlines Center, with the only win having come in overtime (and with a rest advantage) in Brooklyn in Week 2. The offense struggled to deal with double-teams on Luka Doncic (after the first six minutes) in Toronto on Saturday, but the bigger difference between the Home Mavs (8-3) and the Road Mavs has been on defense, where they allowed the Celtics, Raptors and Bucks to score almost 123 points per 100 possessions last week. That includes almost 133 per 100 in 70 total minutes with Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie on the floor together.
For the season, the Mavs have now been 16 points per 100 possessions better with one of the two on the floor without the other (plus-9 per 100) than they’ve been with both Doncic and Dinwiddie on the floor (minus-7), though the bigger differential (9.8 per 100) has been on offense. We’ll see if Kemba Walker (reportedly on his way) can help.
Though they just completed a three-game trip, the Mavs have still had one of the league’s four most home-heavy schedules to date. And they now have only a brief stop at home for their first meeting of the season with the Warriors, one of two teams — the Suns are other other — with a bigger home-road differential than the Mavs have …
Biggest home-road winning percentage differential
1. Golden State: 9-1 (.900) at home, 2-9 (.182) on the road
2. Phoenix: 11-1 (.917) at home, 2-5 (.286) on the road
3. Dallas: 8-3 (.727) at home, 1-7 (.125) on the road
With Doncic averaging 31.5 points over the four regular-season meetings, the Mavs were one of three teams to beat the eventual champs three times in the 2021-22 regular season, but they allowed Golden State to score more than 120 points per 100 possessions in the conference finals. The home team won seven of those nine games total.
Week 7: vs. GSW, @ DET, @ NYK
OffRtg: 113.1 (10) DefRtg: 111.6 (16) NetRtg: +1.4 (11) Pace: 102.3 (5)
Indiana has mostly won with offense, but its five-game winning streak was their best stretch of defense (104.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season and included two games in which the Pacers (who rank fourth in 3-point rate) shot worse than 30% from beyond the arc. Of course, that comes with the context that four of the games came against teams – Charlotte, Houston and Orlando (x 2) – that rank in the bottom 10 offensively.
The Pacers’ own offense has had a couple of off nights as they’ve lost two of their last three. They had their second worst 2-point shooting performance of the season (21-for-52) against Minnesota and their worst 3-point shooting performance of the season (9-for-42) in L.A. Buddy Hield had a couple of off-shooting nights last week and Aaron Nesmith has shot just 4-for-18 from 3-point range since moving into the starting lineup four games ago.
The Pacers still sit in fourth place in the East at 11-8, and with the improved defensive numbers, they’ve seen the third biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions (-3.9) from last season, with only the Bucks and Blazers having seen bigger drops. The Pacers are also now one of seven teams that have been better than the league average (111.8 points per 100 possessions) on both ends of the floor.
The second game of their seven-game trip (Monday against the Lakers) is their second straight against a top-10 defense and their second rest-disadvantage game of the season. It’s a tough trip in regard to opponent strength, and the Pacers’ only stretch of five games in seven nights begins Sunday in Portland.
Week 7: @ LAL, @ SAC, @ UTA, @ POR
OffRtg: 110.4 (20) DefRtg: 111.1 (14) NetRtg: -0.7 (20) Pace: 102.0 (8)
Earlier this month, the Hawks put an end to the Bucks’ nine-game winning streak to start the season. And on Wednesday, the Hawks put an end to the Kings’ seven-game winning streak, holding the league’s second-ranked offense to just 106 points on 104 possessions. (Those are two of the four longest winning streaks in the league this season). Two nights later, the Hawks began a stretch where they would be playing 12 of 15 games against teams that are currently below .500.
But they’ve lost the first two games of that stretch, and they clearly missed Clint Capela (out with dental pain) over the weekend. On Friday, they lost a game in which Trae Young and Dejounte Murray combined for 83 points, because they allowed the Rockets to grab 22 offensive rebounds and register 37 second-chance points, the most for any team in a game in the last 13 seasons. The Heat weren’t nearly as active on the glass on Sunday, but they still outscored the Hawks by 20 points (42-22) in the restricted area. The Hawks have outscored their opponents by 5.0 points per 100 possessions in 381 minutes with John Collins and Capela on the floor together, but are now a minus-8.5 per 100 in 239 minutes with Collins alongside Onyeka Okongwu.
The Hawks are now 5-3 against the 14 teams that are currently at or below .500. They’re playing two of three against teams over .500 this week, though the Sixers will probably be without their three leading scorers on Monday. The two teams split a home-and-home series earlier this month.
Week 7: @ PHI, @ ORL, vs. DEN
OffRtg: 112.9 (11) DefRtg: 112.4 (19) NetRtg: +0.5 (14) Pace: 98.4 (24)
Tuesday was Ben Simmons’ first game back in Philly, but it certainly wasn’t the first time the Nets were completely outplayed by a team with less available talent. The difference in the level at which the two teams were defending was stark, and Brooklyn was at the wrong end of that difference, allowing the Sixers to register their most efficient offensive performance in almost a month (115 points on just 93 possessions), even though they were without Joel Embiid, James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. Twenty-five of those 115 came on second chances and the Nets allowed another 34 second-chance points the following night in Toronto. They still beat the Raptors (who were also without three of their best players), because they had the biggest effective field goal percentage differential (65.2% vs. 39.1%) for any team in a game this season.
For the season, only the Celtics (+5.5%) have a bigger effective field goal percentage differential than the Nets (+5.2%), who are the only team that ranks in the top five on both ends of the floor. (Yes, the Nets rank in the top five in the most important defensive category.) But Brooklyn opponents have averaged 7.7 more shooting opportunities (field goal attempts or trips to the line) than the Nets have, with their three games prior to Friday accounting for three of the six biggest differentials (-23, -20, -27) in the league this season. Rebounding has been the biggest issue, but the turnover differential has also been bad of late. Their loss in Indiana on Friday wasn’t so bad in regard to shooting opportunities (-10), but the Nets still attempted 22 fewer free throws than the Pacers (30-8).
The Nets began their longest homestand of the season (seven games over 13 days) with a win over the Blazers on Sunday, the fifth straight game in which they registered an effective field goal percentage better than 60% and the first time in the last eight games that they had fewer turnovers than their opponent. That game was also Game 4 of a stretch of five games in seven days, though the Nets’ Monday opponent (Orlando) also played (at a later hour and in a different city) on Sunday.
Week 7: vs. ORL, vs. WAS, vs. TOR, vs. BOS
OffRtg: 112.6 (13) DefRtg: 110.6 (10) NetRtg: +2.0 (7) Pace: 98.4 (22)
The Raptors are keeping their heads above water (they haven’t fallen below .500 since they were 1-2), despite Pascal Siakam now having missed more games (10, with the Raptors 5-5) than he played before his groin injury (9). The Raptors have been outscored by 2.6 points per 100 possessions (with worse numbers on both ends of the floor) over these last 10 games, and they couldn’t hang with Brooklyn on Wednesday with Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes also out. But seven of their Siakam-less games have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they’ve won five of those seven.
That includes a 3-1 clutch mark over the last two weeks, with the Raptors scoring 42 points on 28 clutch possessions in the three wins. OG Anunoby was huge down the stretch of their win over the Mavs on Saturday, with nine of his 26 points coming in the clutch. The Raptors fell into a deep hole early on when their aggressive defense on Luka Doncic resulted in four open corner 3s for the Mavs in the first seven minutes. But their rotations improved after that, and the get-the-ball-out-of-Doncic’s-hands strategy ultimately paid off. With the Mavs scoring just 100 points on 95 possessions, it was Toronto’s best defensive game without Siakam. And on the other end of the floor, the Raps had more than 20 second chance points for the eighth time in their last 11 games.
Siakam practiced on Friday, so he could make his return this week. The Raptors will next play two of the three teams that rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor, though they beat the Cavs on opening night and will have a rest advantage when they host them on Monday.
Week 7: vs. CLE, @ NOP, @ BKN, vs ORL
OffRtg: 109.5 (24) DefRtg: 110.2 (8) NetRtg: -0.7 (21) Pace: 97.9 (26)
Bam Adebayo had himself an interesting week offensively, totaling 32 points on 12-for-33 shooting on Monday and Wednesday, and then totaling 70 points (with two of the six highest scoring games of his career) on 28-for-42 shooting over the weekend. None of those 70 points came from outside the paint, with Adebayo shooting 28-for-39 (72%) in the paint and 14-for-14 from the line. For the season, Adebayo has seen a small drop in true shooting percentage and a larger drop in assist/turnover ratio with a small increase in usage rate from last season. And as noted in this space a few weeks ago, Adebayo’s switching hasn’t been nearly as effective defensively.
But the Heat have allowed just 104.7 points per 100 possessions as they’ve won three straight games to climb back to within a game of .500. Both of their games against Washington were within five points in the last five minutes, the Wizards scored just 10 points on 15 clutch possessions, and Adebayo had the biggest bucket of the Heat’s week, a lefty, pick-and-roll finish over Kristaps Porzingis that gave the Heat a three-point lead with 21 seconds left on Friday. The Heat lead the league with 15 games that have been within five points in the last five minutes (they’re 7-8 in those games), and with all their injuries, nine different guys have played at least 10 clutch minutes.
The Heat still have three games left on a stretch of 11 straight against teams that are currently at or above .500, but they’re expected to get Jimmy Butler back from a six-game absence on Wednesday, and their two-game series in Boston is all they’ve got on the schedule this week. They lost to the Celtics in Week 1 despite their starting lineup registering a plus-16 in its 15 minutes.
Week 7: @ BOS, @ BOS
OffRtg: 111.9 (15) DefRtg: 114.4 (27) NetRtg: -2.5 (25) Pace: 100.7 (11)
The Knicks finished off their strong, 3-2 trip with some revenge against the Thunder on Monday. They got 84 total points from Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, with Barrett’s 10-for-16 shooting particularly encouraging given his struggles from the field. His effective field goal percentage of 44.7% ranks 90th among 93 players with at least 200 field goal attempts this season, and his career mark of 47.0% ranks last among 99 players with at least 2,000 field goal attempts over his four seasons in the league.
Upon returning home, the Knicks were good enough offensively (committing just 18 turnovers over the two games) to beat both the Blazers and Grizzlies over the weekend. But their defense has been bad – having allowed 121.4 points allowed per 100 possessions over their last four games, the Knicks have slid to 27th on that end of the floor – and Jalen Brunson’s one bucket for the lead against Portland wasn’t enough. After a pair of Anfernee Simons free throws tied the game back up, Brunson missed a floater for the win, and he was 0-for-2 on last-minute chances to tie or take the lead against the Grizzlies two nights later (now 1-for-6 on the season).
It’s still early and the difference is minimal, but for the second straight season, the Knicks are one of five teams that have a better record on the road (5-6) than they do at home (4-5). And though the four-game homestand that begins Wednesday will be the Knicks’ longest of the season to date, it’s a pretty tough slate of opponents: Milwaukee, Dallas, Cleveland and Atlanta. They’ll also be at a rest disadvantage (playing the second game of a back-to-back against a rested opponent) in two of the four games: vs. the Bucks on Wednesday and vs. the Cavs on Sunday. The Knicks are actually 2-0 in rest-disadvantage games thus far, with both wins (against Denver and Oklahoma City) having come on the recent road trip. They’re also 2-0 against the Pistons (accounting for half their wins at Madison Square Garden), who they’ll visit on Tuesday.
Week 7: @ DET, vs. MIL, vs. DAL, vs. CLE
OffRtg: 110.7 (19) DefRtg: 110.7 (11) NetRtg: +0.1 (16) Pace: 102.7 (3)
Consistency remains elusive for the Wolves. They won five straight games to climb to two games over .500, but the winning streak came to an end in Charlotte on Friday with an ugly loss in which the two teams combined to score just 118 points on 117 possessions. The Wolves were up 10 at the half, but were on the wrong side of a 39-21 third quarter and a fourth-quarter comeback came up short when Karl-Anthony Towns (who shot 6-for-22) missed an open 3-pointer for the tie. Towns’ 32.8% from beyond the arc is a career-low mark and down from 41% last season. That’s the sixth biggest drop among 152 players with at least 100 3-point attempts last season and at least 50 this season.
Though they lost to a team that was previously 5-14, the Wolves had their best five-game stretch of defense (101.9 points allowed per 100 possessions). And then they got eviscerated by the Warriors on Sunday, allowing the champs to shoot 25-for-30 (83%) in the paint and drain 20 3-pointers. The Wolves’ starting lineup allowed the Warriors to score a pretty amazing 53 points on 35 possessions in a little less than 17 minutes on the floor. A quarter of the way through the season, one game dropped the Wolves from seventh to 11th in defensive efficiency.
The loss to the Warriors also began a stretch where the Wolves are playing eight of nine games against teams that are currently at or above .500. But there will be some practice opportunities upcoming, with just one game over a stretch of six days after they host Memphis on Wednesday.
Week 7: @ WAS, vs. MEM, vs. OKC
OffRtg: 109.6 (23) DefRtg: 111.3 (15) NetRtg: -1.8 (22) Pace: 98.4 (23)
A 10-10 start (with a negative point differential) isn’t great, the Wizards were 10-7 five days ago, and they were 13-7 after 20 games last season. But this is just the 10th time in the last 44 years (since they made back-to-back trips to The Finals) that the Wizards have won at least 10 of their first 20. They could have more wins than that, but they lost fourth-quarter leads in both of their games in Miami last week, allowing the Heat to score 26 points on 18 clutch possessions and dropping to 6-6 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
Bradley Beal is 11-for-16 (69%) on clutch shots, the best mark among 47 players who’ve attempted at least 15. And Beal has started to see an uptick in his overall scoring, averaging 27.2 points over the five games he’s played since a five-game absence, up from 21.6 prior to that. There hasn’t been a major change in his shot selection, but he’s seen a small increase in usage, a small increase in efficiency, and a small increase in how fast the Wizards have been playing. Unfortunately, Beal’s scoring jump hasn’t helped the Wizards’ overall efficiency. They remain in the bottom 10 on offense and they fell out of the top 10 on defense after getting thumped by the Celtics on Sunday.
The Wizards are just three games into a stretch where they’re playing 17 of 23 on the road. The schedule remains rather soft in regard to the opponents for another week or so, though their worst loss of the season (128-86) came to the Nets earlier this month. The Wizards in Brooklyn on Wednesday and the teams (currently separated by 1/2 game in the standings) will meet again (in Washington) 12 days later.
Week 7: vs. MIN, @ BKN, @ CHA, vs. LAL
OffRtg: 110.8 (18) DefRtg: 112.8 (21) NetRtg: -2.0 (23) Pace: 102.4 (4)
The Thunder are four games under .500 for the first time this season, having lost four of their last five. They played both the Grizzlies and Nuggets close over that stretch, but also lost to the Knicks (with a rest advantage) and Rockets by double-digits last week. Over the last three weeks, their defense has fallen from seventh into the bottom 10, with their losses to New York and Denver on Monday and Wednesday being the second and third times they’ve allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions. There have been 20 occasions where a team has made at least eight corner 3-pointers this season, and three of the 20 have been the Nuggets (8-for-17 from the corners on Wednesday) doing it against the Thunder.
The OKC offense has remained out of the bottom 10, in part because Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has lived (and shot well) at the free throw line. Over four games last week, he was 47-for-49 (96%) at the stripe, going 5-for-5 in the final 30 seconds of overtime on Friday to turn a one-point deficit into a four-point win over Chicago. There have been only five instances prior to this season of a player shooting 90% or better on at least eight free throw attempts per game, but Gilgeous-Alexander (92.2% on 8.8 attempts) and Kevin Durant (who did it in 2009-10) are both doing it this year.
The Thunder are 1-2 against the similarly-positioned Pistons (0-1), Rockets (0-1) and Magic (1-0). They’ll face the similarly-positioned Spurs for the first time on Wednesday, the lone home game in a stretch where they’re playing seven of eight on the road.
Week 7: @ NOP, vs. SAS, @ MIN
OffRtg: 110.2 (21) DefRtg: 110.5 (9) NetRtg: -0.3 (18) Pace: 100.9 (10)
The Bulls remain the only team in the league without a win against the opposite conference, 0-5 against the West after their overtime loss in Oklahoma City on Friday. They’ve allowed more than 119 points per 100 possessions over those five games, and the latest defeat came with the Thunder scoring 13 points on just eight possessions in the extra period. The Bulls were up one with less than 30 seconds left when DeMar DeRozan fouled Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on a step-back 3, and DeRozan then missed a jumper for the tie on the other end. He’s one of four players — Jerami Grant (4), Paul George (3) and Dennis Smith Jr. (3) are the others — with at least three buckets (he’s 3-for-8) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or OT, but the Bulls still have the league’s worst record (1-8) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
That loss in Oklahoma City was preceded by impressive wins over the best two teams in the East, with the Bulls holding the Celtics and Bucks to just 106.8 points per 100 possessions. On the other end of the floor, it could be that the Bulls’ increase in ball movement (they’ve gone from 22nd to third in passes per 24 minutes of possession) is starting to bare fruit. The two wins were their two best offensive games this month, and the 9-0 run that won the game in Milwaukee was a display of their willingness to share the ball. Coby White drove, kicked and relocated for the game-tying 3, and then DeRozan fed White for the go-ahead 3 before Nikola Vucevic bailed him out with the dagger.
The Bulls’ six-game trip continues with four more games against the Western Conference this week. All four opponents (four teams they’ve yet to face) rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, and they’re a combined 32-7 at home.
Week 7: @ UTA, @ PHX, @ GSW, @ SAC
OffRtg: 107.8 (28) DefRtg: 109.9 (7) NetRtg: -2.1 (24) Pace: 103.5 (1)
The Lakers have certainly taken advantage of a soft stretch of schedule to win five of their last six games. The five wins have come against the Nets, Pistons and Spurs (x 3), and the Lakers had a rest advantage (with their opponent playing the second game of a back-to-back) in the first three of those victories. But it’s obviously better to be a team taking advantage of weak (and tired) opponents than to be one of those weak opponents that teams are taking advantage of.
Improvement has come on both ends of the floor, but more on offense, where the Lakers have scored 115 points per 100 possessions (seventh best in the league) over the last 15 days. Anthony Davis (33.4 points and 17.6 rebounds per game) dominated inside over the first five games of the 5-1 stretch, and without Davis on Saturday, LeBron James had his best offensive game of the season, scoring 39 points and shooting 7-for-12 from 3-point range. As much as the lack of shooting around him has been an issue, James’ own 3-point percentage — he was previously 18-for-75 (24%) from beyond the arc — was a big reason the Lakers have struggled offensively. Even with the 7-for-12 performance over the weekend, he’s seen the 11th biggest drop (from 35.9% to a career-low 28.7%) among 152 players with at least 100 3-point attempts last season and at least 50 this season.
Now we will see if the Lakers can beat some good teams. Their next seven (and 12 of their next 13) games are against teams that enter Week 7 at or above .500. They will have two more rest-advantage games (against the Pacers and Blazers) on Monday and Wednesday before embarking on their longest road trip of the season (six games over 10 days).
Week 7: vs. IND, vs. POR, @ MIL, @ WAS
OffRtg: 106.0 (30) DefRtg: 111.0 (13) NetRtg: -5.1 (26) Pace: 100.4 (14)
LaMelo Ball remains out, Gordon Hayward has a fracture in his left shoulder, and the league’s 30th-ranked offense has scored a paltry 103.7 points per 100 possessions over its last five games, having shot no better than 32% from 3-point range in any of the last four. Terry Rozier hasn’t been shooting a good ball as he tries to handle point guard duties, and the Hornets’ offensive drop-off (they’ve scored 7.7 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season) would be the sixth biggest season-to-season drop in the last 20 years.
But the Hornets have won two straight games for the first time this season, having held both the shorthanded Sixers and (mostly) full-strength Wolves to just a point per possession last week. They certainly benefited from some bad perimeter shooting (23% from 3-point range), but they also kept both opponents off the free throw line and showed improvement on the glass. Those two factors were particularly strong with Nick Richards on the floor, and he had one emphatic block of Rudy Gobert (leading to a Kai Jones alley-oop dunk) in the fourth quarter on Friday. Jones had nine defensive boards and a block of Karl-Anthony Towns in 28 minutes (the first time he’s played more than eight), though one defensive mistake — chasing a loose ball he had no chance at — was particularly puzzling.
The Hornets entered the season with the league’s second longest active streak of seasons (6) with a worse-than-average defense, trailing only the Kings (16 straight seasons) in that regard. But with some success on that end of the floor over the last three games, they enter Week 7 with a better-than-average defense. Their reward, of course, is their first game (Monday in Boston) against the most efficient offense in NBA history.
Week 7: @ BOS, vs. WAS, vs. MIL
OffRtg: 109.3 (25) DefRtg: 116.9 (29) NetRtg: -7.6 (29) Pace: 99.8 (17)
The Pistons have had it rough, playing without Cade Cunningham for the last 10 games, without Isaiah Stewart for the last seven, and without Jaden Ivey for the last two. Saddiq Bey returned from a four-game absence on Sunday, but Bojan Bogdanovic didn’t play. A stretch of five games in seven nights came to an end on Wednesday and a six-game trip came to an end on Friday. The Pistons’ last five games have come against teams with a cumulative record of 60-38 (.612).
But they had their first winning streak of the season, somehow sweeping a back-to-back in Denver and Utah. And while the injuries to the young starters are more important in regard to the big picture, it’s possible that the absence of Alec Burks for the first 12 games of the season was underplayed. Burks totaled 39 points in the two wins and hit big shots — a late-clock fadeaway for a five-point lead in the final minute in Denver and a corner 3 to go up six late in Utah – down the stretch of both games. Kevin Knox also had 38 points on 14-for-19 shooting over the two wins, and the Pistons have, amazingly, outscored their opponents by 44 points (27.9 per 100 possessions) in 80 minutes with both Burks and Knox on the floor together.
The Pistons played both the Suns and Cavs close over the weekend, but scored just seven points on 14 clutch possessions, shooting 1-for-8 and committing five turnovers. Each of their last five (and seven of their last eight) games have been within five points in the last five minutes.
Their loss to the Cavs on Sunday was the start of a four-game homestand, and the next two games are against teams — New York and Dallas — that have losing records. Only six of the Pistons’ 22 games have come against the other 13 teams that are currently at or below .500 (they’re 2-4 within the group).
Week 7: vs. NYK, vs. DAL, vs. MEM
OffRtg: 108.7 (26) DefRtg: 114.2 (26) NetRtg: -5.5 (28) Pace: 101.3 (9)
The Rockets committed 47 turnovers over the weekend and have what would be the highest turnover rate (18.0 per 100 possessions) for any team in the last eight seasons (since The Process Sixers averaged 18.3 per 100 in 2014-15). But, despite the miscues, they have their first winning streak of the season, picking up wins at home over the Hawks and Thunder. Jalen Green led the way with 58 points over the two games and Alperen Sengun (who missed the first game) had a huge night (21 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks) against Oklahoma City on Saturday. The Rockets lead the league by a wide margin in the percentage of their minutes (57%) that have come from rookies or second-year players, and they have two of the five second-year guys who’ve averaged at least 15 points per game.
But most important may be the improved play of rookie Jabari Smith Jr., who’s averaged 19.3 points and 9.7 rebounds over the last three games and made at least two 3-pointers in each of the last six. The Rockets ran their first play of the Atlanta game for a Smith corner 3, he had a pair of pull-up 3s vs. soft defense later in the night, and the biggest (and most impressive) play of the game may have been his offensive rebound and put-back in traffic with a little more than a minute to go. Those were the final two of the Rockets’ 37 second-chance points, the second most any team has had in a single game in the 27 seasons in which second-chance points have been tracked.
Smith also did some good things defensively, thwarting a Trae Young iso and deflecting an Aaron Holiday pass with active hands in the first quarter. (There were also a couple of occasions where he didn’t get to where he needed to be defensively.)
Though they just completed a four-game homestand, the Rockets have played 11 of their 19 games on the road. And they have a pretty tough, four-game road trip this week. They’ve yet to face the Nuggets, but their worst defensive game of the season came in Phoenix.
Week 7: @ DEN, @ DEN, @ PHX, @ GSW
OffRtg: 109.6 (22) DefRtg: 115.1 (28) NetRtg: -5.5 (27) Pace: 98.7 (21)
The Magic got Paolo Banchero back from a seven-game absence over the weekend, but they got swept in a second straight two-game series. Losing the first game of a series should provide an opportunity for adjustments and improvement, but the second games of those two series — at Indiana on Monday, vs. Philly on Sunday — were the Magic’s two worst losses of the season (by 21 and 30 points, respectively).
The Magic ranked 25th defensively prior to those two series and the Sixers were obviously without their three leading scorers, but the four-game losing streak has been Orlando’s worst stretch of defense this season (122.6 points allowed per 100 possessions). The Magic offense has still seen the league’s fourth biggest jump in points scored per 100 (+5.6) from last season, but the defense has now seen its eighth biggest jump in points allowed per 100 (+3.0). The Magic ranked 19th defensively last season (when their starting lineup allowed just 103.2 per 100 in 424 total minutes), but only the Spurs and Pistons have been worse on that end of the floor this year.
It’s possible that Markelle Fultz (who was listed as questionable for Sunday) will make his season debut this week, though we know it won’t come in Brooklyn on Monday, Game 2 in a stretch of five games in seven nights. After the Brooklyn game, the Magic will have 11 straight against teams that entered Week 7 with winning records. They’re currently 2-8 against that group and the Magic’s previous meetings against the Hawks (who they’ll host on Wednesday) and Cavs (who they’ll visit on Friday) were the two times that they’ve been held under a point per possession this season.
Week 7: @ BKN, vs. ATL, @ CLE, @ TOR
OffRtg: 108.0 (27) DefRtg: 118.0 (30) NetRtg: -10.0 (30) Pace: 102.0 (7)
At this point, it’s not unfair to wonder if the Spurs will win another game. They’ve lost eight straight and 13 of their 14 games in the month of November, ranking 29th offensively and last (by a wide margin) defensively this month. Prior to Saturday, the Spurs had a stretch of five straight games in that they never led beyond the 8:57 mark of the first quarter. That streak came to an end when they had their best offensive game of the season (138 points on 107 possessions) on Saturday, but they allowed the same from the Lakers’ 28th-ranked offense and lost to L.A. for the third time in seven days.
There have been some positives in the starting lineup. Devin Vassell continues to shoot well from both mid-range (47.6%) and beyond the arc (41.9%). Jeremy Sochan had nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block on Friday, and now ranks second among rookies with 2.1 deflections per game. And Tre Jones had his best offensive game of the season on Saturday, scoring 23 points (on 9-for-13 shooting) and dishing out 13 assists (with just one turnover). Though the Spurs have been outscored by 10.0 points per 100 possessions overall, the starting lineup is just a minus-1.7 per 100 in its 141 minutes.
Those minutes were limited on Saturday, because both Sochan and Jakob Poeltl missed the second half with quad injuries. The Spurs will likely remain careful in regard to ailments, but they’re playing just three games over a span of 11 days that began Sunday.
Week 7: @ OKC, vs. NOP, vs. PHX