Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 8: Pelicans, Kings jump into Top 10

See where all 30 teams rank as we enter Week 8 of the 2022-23 season.

Zion Williamson and the Pelicans are on the rise in our latest Power Rankings.

Friday night was a weird one, with the top three teams in last week’s Power Rankings — Boston, Milwaukee and Phoenix — all losing games at home to teams (the Heat, Lakers and Rockets, respectively) that ranked in the bottom 10 last week.

None of these teams are perfect (though the Celtics’ offense seemingly came close to perfection over their last three November games), all three of those Friday games were close, and this is a league where any team can beat any other team on any given night. It just seems that there’s a little more parity this year. Through Week 7, there are 14 teams that are within two games of .500, and for most of them, it’s not clear on which side of .500 they’ll ultimately reside.

At this time last season, there were only 12 teams within two games of .500, but there were more within one game (eight) and more that were exactly at .500 (five) than there are this season (seven and one). Maybe it just feels like there’s more parity now, because a year ago, there were two teams — the Warriors and Suns — that had won more than 80% of their games, while this year there are none.

Those three teams that lost on Friday remain in the top three spots in the rankings, though there’s been some shuffling below, with the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies each entering the top five for the first time this season.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: New Orleans (4-0) — The Pelicans haven’t been whole, but they’ve been defending, and their four-game winning streak includes a 15-point win over the Nuggets on Sunday.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: San Antonio (0-3) — The Spurs had better hope they can beat the Rockets on Thursday, because if they can’t, this losing streak (now at 11 games) will get even uglier. (And it’s been pretty darn ugly thus far.)

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 7

  • Toughest: 1. Houston, 2. Chicago, 3. Portland
  • Easiest: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Phoenix, 3. Indiana
  • Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: New Orleans (+7), L.A. Lakers (+6), Sacramento (+4)
  • Free falls of the week: Indiana (-5), Utah (-5), Dallas (-3), Philadelphia (-3)

Week 8 Team to Watch

  • Boston — The Celtics have clearly established themselves as the best team in the league and they’re already 6-0 against the Western Conference, with wins over the West teams that currently sit in second, third, fourth and fifth place. But this week brings their first meeting with the first place team – Wednesday at Phoenix, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN – as well as their first meeting with the team that beat them in the Finals – Saturday at Golden State, 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC. Before they head West, the Cs will play in Toronto (where the Raptors are 9-2) on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass).

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 112.0 points scored per 100 possessions and 100.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes this season.

NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.

Last Week:1

Record: 19-5

OffRtg: 120.1 (1) DefRtg: 111.5 (14) NetRtg: +8.6 (1) Pace: 99.5 (18)

The Celtics still have the most efficient offense in NBA history, but they no longer have the best offense in NBA history, with their differential vs. the league average (+8.6 points per 100 possessions) dropping below the best mark in the 27 seasons for which we have play-by-play data, that of the 2003-04 Dallas Mavericks (+9.0). The Celtics’ last two games — vs. Miami and at Brooklyn — were the fourth and fifth times they’ve scored less than 110 per 100, and turnovers (37 — including 14 from Jayson Tatum — over the two games) were an issue. Three of those turnovers came on the Heat’s 13-0, fourth-quarter run that turned the game around and ultimately set up overtime on Friday. The Celtics are now 0-3 in overtime and 19-2 (with two losses to the Bulls) in regulation.

But they won in Brooklyn on Sunday, and it’s probably good to know that you can win a game in which you scored 16 points over the first 16 1/2 minutes of the second half. The Celtics’ defense still has some issues (they were allowing drives through the paintnot defending the nailfar too often in their first meeting with the Heat last week), but Sunday was just the second time (and the first time in more than five weeks) that the Nets’ offense has been held under a point per possession this season. And that came without Marcus Smart (or Robert Williams III).

If the Celtics’ offense can rebound over the final five games of their six-game trip, it will have to do it against some good defense. Four of the five games will come against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively, with the one exception being the first Finals rematch of the season (Saturday in San Francisco). The Celtics have played just six of their 24 games against that current top-10 group (with their two overtime losses to Cleveland included), scoring 118.9 points per 100 possessions over the six.

Week 8: @ TOR, @ PHX, @ GSW

Last Week:2

Record: 16-6

OffRtg: 111.6 (14) DefRtg: 107.0 (2) NetRtg: +4.6 (5) Pace: 100.1 (16)

Khris Middleton looked pretty sharp in his season debut on Friday, shooting 5-for-7 from outside the paint and dishing out seven assists with no turnovers. The Bucks had their most efficient offensive game of the season (129 points on 99 possessions), scoring 77 points on 54 possessions (143 per 100) with Middleton on the floor. But, while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez each had incredible blocks in the fourth quarter, the Milwaukee defense couldn’t stop Anthony Davis and LeBron James from getting to the basket, and the Lakers’ 54 points in the restricted area are tied for the second most that the Bucks have allowed in five seasons (391 games, including playoffs) under Mike Budenholzer. The only time they’ve allowed more was in a win in L.A. in February (without Lopez), when the Lakers had 56.

The Bucks had opportunities down the stretch on Friday, but they had a painful turnover with a little more than a minute left and Grayson Allen and Jrue Holiday each missed open 3-pointers for the tie in the final 24 seconds. Only Houston (3-for-19, 16%) has shot worse than Milwaukee (5-for-27, 19%) on clutch 3s this season.

Overall, the Bucks have scored 123.5 points per 100 possessions in the last four games that Antetokounmpo has played. And they got just enough offense (105 on 105) without him, Holiday and Middleton in Charlotte on Saturday. The two-time Kia MVP has now had four games off, including the second game of each of the Bucks’ last two back-to-backs.

They don’t have another back-to-back until January, but the Bucks also don’t have another two-day break until after their Christmas game in Boston. All those Lakers points at the rim have knocked the Bucks out of the top spot in defensive efficiency, and that Boston game will be the end of a stretch that begins Wednesday (with a visit from the Kings) where they’re playing eight of 10 games against teams that rank in the top 10 offensively.

Week 8: @ ORL, vs. SAC, @ DAL, @ HOU

Last Week:3

Record: 16-7

OffRtg: 117.5 (2) DefRtg: 109.1 (5) NetRtg: +8.4 (2) Pace: 98.9 (20)

Devin Booker was on one last week, averaging 45.3 points on an effective field goal percentage of 74% (shooting an incredible 19-for-30 from mid-range) over a three-game stretch prior to Sunday (when much less was needed against the Spurs). Though Chris Paul has missed the last 13 games and Booker has been assisted on the lowest percentage of his buckets (42.5%) in Paul’s three seasons in Phoenix, Booker’s efficiency (true shooting percentage of 60.4%) is his highest in those three seasons.

But Booker’s 41 points weren’t enough against … [checks notes] … the Rockets on Friday, when the Suns blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead and missed four shots for the win (Booker missed two of the four) in the final 20 seconds. The Suns were 55-0 (including playoffs) when leading by double-digits in the fourth quarter last season, but are one of two teams (the Mavs are the other) with multiple losses (they’re 13-2, the first loss was in Miami) in that situation this year. They also lost a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead in Sacramento on Monday, but recovered with a 19-6 run, featuring eight points from Damion Lee. With their blowout win in San Antonio on Sunday, the Suns have won two straight road games, having won just two of their first seven.

The Suns are one of three teams who have yet to play a rest-disadvantage game (they were a league-best 10-4 in rest-disadvantage games last season), and their first of six is Monday in Dallas, the back end of their Texas back-to-back. Though that’s a playoff rematch and the first meeting (on opening night) went down to the wire, the more interesting matchup — the one against the best team in the league — will be two nights later back in Phoenix. The loss to Houston on Friday ended a seven-game winning streak at Footprint Center.

Week 8: @ DAL, vs. BOS, @ NOP, @ NOP

Last Week:11

Record: 15-8

OffRtg: 114.9 (6) DefRtg: 108.0 (3) NetRtg: +6.9 (3) Pace: 100.7 (10)

Though the Pelicans got CJ McCollum back from a four-game absence over the weekend, they’ve had their full starting lineup together in just one of their last 10 games. But they’ve won nine of their last 11, with eight of the nine wins coming by double-digits. Over that 11-game stretch, they rank fifth offensively and have had the league’s No. 1 defense, having held their opponents to just 104.8 points per 100 possessions. Improvement from their first 12 games (after which they ranked 15th defensively) has come in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (57.9% vs. 61.0%) and in opponent turnover rate (17.2 vs. 14.7 per 100 possessions).

Jose Alvarado has had something to do with those opponent turnovers and scored a career-high 38 points (in less than 27 minutes off the bench) in a win over Denver on Sunday. Ten of his 12 buckets (including all eight of his 3-pointers) were assisted, and the Pelicans recorded assists on more than 70% of their field goals for the fifth time this season. Zion Williamson has had at least four assists in each of his last five games, dishing out eight in two of the Pelicans’ wins last week. The team’s only single-digit win in this stretch was against Oklahoma City on Monday, when Williamson was making good decisions with the ball throughout the night. After creating the Trey Murphy 3 that put the Pelicans ahead with a little more than a minute to go, he used an Alvarado screen to get to the rim himself. And his game-winning and-1 stood up when Herb Jones drew a charge on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the final seconds.

With their four-game winning streak, the Pelicans are just a game behind the first-place Suns, who they will play three times in the next two weeks. In fact, after they host the Pistons on Wednesday, the Pelicans will play five straight games against Phoenix (x 3) and Utah (x 2), the teams that rank second and third offensively. It will be fascinating to see how their improved defense (they’ve now seen the league’s second biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season) holds up in that stretch.

Week 8: vs. DET, vs. PHX, vs. PHX

Last Week:8

Record: 14-9

OffRtg: 113.6 (8) DefRtg: 112.1 (17) NetRtg: +1.5 (11) Pace: 100.6 (12)

The Grizzlies are the only team that hasn’t lost (they’re 14-0) a game they’ve led by double-digits. But they’re 0-9 when *they haven’t led by double-digits and they only led by nine in Minnesota on Wednesday. They had the second highest rebounding percentage (63.8%) for any team in a game this season … and lost, because they turned the ball over 27 times (tied for the highest total in a game this season) and shot just 18-for-30 (60%) at the free throw line. Their 69.9% from the line for the season would be the worst mark in the last three years. Steven Adams – 19-for-62 (31%) – is obviously the biggest culprit, but the Grizz have five other guys who’ve shot worse than 75% on at least 20 attempts.

* League-wide, there have been 47 occasions (13% of all games) where the winning team never led by double-digits, with 24 of the 30 teams having at least one such win.

Despite the free throw shooting and despite Desmond Bane’s continued absence (10 straight games now), the Grizzlies have a top-10 offense for the second straight season. They registered 24 fast break points and 25 second-chance points (both being their third highest marks of the year) against the Sixers’ fourth-ranked defense on Friday and they shot well from beyond the arc (15-for-35, 43%) in Detroit on Sunday. Despite the ugliness in Minnesota, the last five games (a 4-1 stretch) have been the Grizzlies’ best stretch of offense (119.1 points scored per 100 possessions) since Games 2-6. It’s also been a good stretch for the Memphis bench, which has struggled to maintain leads this season.

The Grizzlies’ longest homestand of the season is five games over 11 days, and it begins Monday with a rest-disadvantage game against the Heat. They’re 0-2 in rest-disadvantage games thus far, having scored just 99.5 points per 100 possessions in losses at Dallas (by 41 points) and vs. Boston.

Week 8: vs. MIA, vs. OKC, vs. DET

Last Week:4

Record: 15-9

OffRtg: 113.0 (10) DefRtg: 106.7 (1) NetRtg: +6.3 (4) Pace: 96.4 (30)

Jarrett Allen has missed the last five games, and it’s been the Cavs’ best five-game stretch of defense (99.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) of the season, helping them surpass the Bucks as the No. 1 defensive team in the league through Sunday. The context is that four of the five opponents have had worse-than-average offenses, the fifth (Toronto) ranks 13th on that end of the floor, and three of them shot worse than 30% from 3-point range against Cleveland. But, as was noted in this space last week, the Cavs have had good numbers (now plus-5.5 per 100 possessions) with Evan Mobley at the five, and that includes some minutes with him guarding Joel Embiid (who shot just 6-for-16) in a 28-point win over the Sixers on Wednesday. Mamadi Diakite started that game at the four and the Cavs had some good minutes with Mobley alongside Diakite or Kevin Love last week.

As good as the defense has been, the Cavs have lost two of these five games without Allen. Their second loss in Toronto (Monday — a rest-disadvantage game) was the first time they’ve scored less than a point per possession. And their loss in New York on Sunday was the second worst offensive performance (81 points on 99 possessions) for any team this season, topped (bottomed?) by only by one of the Warriors’ games in New Orleans in which they rested four of their five starters. The Knicks were the first team in more than a year (since the Cavs did it last October) to win a game in which it had five or fewer 3-pointers and 20 or more turnovers.

The Cavs still rank in the top 10 offensively, but it’s fair to say that they’ve been inconsistent on that end of the floor. If they’re to find some consistency soon, it will come against the other conference. They’re just 2-4 against the West thus far, and they’ll play seven of their next eight games against Western Conference opponents. One of the two wins was against the Lakers, who they’ll host on Tuesday. LeBron James is 8-1, with seven straight wins, as a visitor in Cleveland.

Week 8: vs. LAL, vs. SAC, vs. OKC

Last Week:5

Record: 14-9

OffRtg: 115.7 (5) DefRtg: 114.4 (26) NetRtg: +1.4 (12) Pace: 98.8 (22)

The Nuggets’ schedule has been road heavy, and they had won seven of their last nine road games before embarking on a two-game trip over the weekend. But they lost both games, allowing the Hawks (without Trae Young) and Pelicans (without Brandon Ingram) to score more than 120 points per 100 possessions. Atlanta shot 27-for-40 (68%) in the paint, while New Orleans attempted 36 free throws (most for a Nuggets opponent this season).

Each of the Nuggets’ eight worst defensive games of the season (those in which they’ve allowed more than 117 per 100) have come on the road, and the seven worst account for seven of their nine losses overall. The two-game trip dropped them into the bottom five in defensive efficiency for the season, and they now have the league’s second biggest home-road differential (9.2 per 100) in regard to points allowed per 100 (smaller than only that of the Warriors).

Bones Hyland returned from a four-game absence over the weekend, but was a minus-14 in just five minutes in New Orleans on Sunday (Nikola Jokic was a plus-2 in a game the Nuggets lost by 15), and Michael Porter Jr. has now missed the last six games with a heel strain. The Nuggets’ lineup with Bruce Brown in Porter’s place has played almost as many minutes (162) as the Porter lineup (172), and has somehow allowed 15.1 more points per 100 possessions than the Porter group. Size matters, maybe.

Their loss in New Orleans on Sunday was the start of a fun stretch where the Nuggets are playing the Pelicans, Mavs, Blazers and Jazz. They will have rest advantages at home against both Dallas and Utah this week, currently just 1-2 in rest-advantage games. One of the losses (Oct. 24 in Portland) was one of the two games in which the Nuggets have allowed more than 140 points per 100 possessions.

Week 8: vs. DAL, @ POR, vs. UTA

Last Week:12

Record: 13-9

OffRtg: 115.9 (4) DefRtg: 112.0 (16) NetRtg: +3.8 (6) Pace: 102.7 (6)

While other early-season surprises have begun to fade, the Kings are still here. They’ve won three straight games to climb to fifth place in the Western Conference, just a game in the loss column behind the second-place Pelicans. And it may be that the Mike Brown defense is beginning to take hold, as the three wins are the first three times this season that the Kings have allowed a point per possession or less. In just five days (and with games against offenses that rank 16th, 28th and 25th), they’ve climbed from 26th to 16th in defensive efficiency.

On the other end of the floor, six different Kings have averaged double-figures over the winning streak. The leader (at 17.7 points per game) is the one that comes off the bench. Playing at a fast pace and registering the highest usage rate of his career (25.3%), Malik Monk is also having his most efficient season, both in regard to true shooting percentage (61.7%) and assist/turnover ratio (2.29). Improvement has come with his shooting in the paint (62.7% vs. 60.1% last season), with his free throw rate (19.4 vs. 14.2 attempts per 100 shots from the field), and with his free throw percentage (89.4% vs. 79.5%). Monk was having a disappointing season from 3-point range until last week (when he was 11-for-25), and if he can get his beyond-the-arc shooting up to his number from the previous two seasons (39.4%) he can be a Kia Sixth Man candidate at this level of usage.

The Kings are one of three teams — the Celtics and Blazers are the others — with multiple road trips of at least six games. Their first — six games over 10 days — begins Wednesday in Milwaukee and includes four games against teams with winning records and top-10 defenses. With their win over the Bulls on Sunday, they’re 8-3 against the Eastern Conference, but just 2-3 in East arenas.

Week 8: @ MIL, @ CLE, @ NYK

Last Week:6

Record: 12-11

OffRtg: 111.3 (17) DefRtg: 109.1 (4) NetRtg: +2.2 (9) Pace: 97.5 (27)

The Sixers’ win over the Hawks on Monday ended much like their last win with Joel Embiid in the lineup (vs. Milwaukee 10 days earlier), with Embiid getting the ball on nearly every possession down the stretch and scoring or assisting on all of his team’s clutch points (also making a great defensive play to seal the Atlanta win). Philly now has the guys — James Harden (46.2%) and Embiid (45.3%) — with the two highest clutch usage rates among the 220 players who’ve played at least 10 clutch minutes.

But the Sixers have had Harden and Embiid together for just six of their 23 games, and their offense was pretty anemic (scoring just 85 points on 92 possessions) without the former in Cleveland on Wednesday. Both Embiid and Tobias Harris rebounded from off nights to score more efficiently in Memphis two nights later, but the Sixers were destroyed when Embiid went to the bench. Paul Reed had some good moments as the Sixers went 3-1 in Embiid’s absence a couple of weeks ago, but over the three games since his return, Philly has been outscored by 34 points (41.5 per 100 possessions) in just 39 minutes with Embiid off the floor. Montrezl Harrell was DNP’d twice last week.

The Sixers are 7-8 with Embiid (2-4 with Harden, 5-4 without him) and Harden is expected to make his return from his 14-game absence for a homecoming visit to Houston (where he’s 1-1 since leaving the Rockets) on Monday. The Sixers will then have a few days off before beginning their longest homestand of the season (seven games over 15 days). They’ve won six of their last seven at the Wells Fargo Center.

Week 8: @ HOU, vs. LAL, vs. CHA

Last Week:9

Record: 13-11

OffRtg: 112.4 (11) DefRtg: 113.1 (24) NetRtg: -0.7 (18) Pace: 97.3 (28)

The Blazers went 2-5 over Damian Lillard’s most recent absence and are 5-7 without him for the season. They’re tied for the most wins (they’re 8-9) after trailing by double-digits, but they also blew double-digit leads (18 and 11 points) in losses to the Clippers and Lakers last week, allowing the two L.A. teams to total 127 points on 93 possessions (137 per 100) after halftime. (As noted last week, their defensive numbers were suffering more than the offense in Lillard’s absence.)

But the Blazers put an end to a 1-7 stretch with a win in Utah on Friday and then celebrated Lillard’s return by beating Indiana a night later. They’re the only team that hasn’t held an opponent under a point per possession this season (the Kings and Knicks each did it for the first time over the weekend), but they held the Jazz and Pacers (who were without Tyrese Haliburton) to just 107.1 points per 100 possessions over the two wins.

They remain ripe for a breakout on the other end of the floor. Anfernee Simons made sure to get his career high (45 points in Utah on Saturday) before Lillard got back, and the two combined to shoot 10-for-19 from 3-point range upon the star’s return on Sunday. Jerami Grant didn’t let the comeback mess up his rhythm, registering his second highest usage rate of the season and leading all scorers with 28 points against the Pacers.

The Blazers have three days off and their game against the Nuggets is the end of a stretch where they will have played nine of 11 against teams that currently have winning records. Their two-game series against the Wolves (Portland will have a rest advantage on Saturday) is the start of a stretch where they’re playing seven straight against teams that are currently at or below .500.

Week 8: vs. DEN, vs. MIN

Last Week:10

Record: 13-11

OffRtg: 113.6 (7) DefRtg: 112.4 (20) NetRtg: +1.2 (13) Pace: 103.1 (4)

The Warriors’ road issues aren’t necessarily a thing of the past. The bigger difference between the home Warriors (11-1) and the road Warriors (2-10) has been on defense, but they scored just six points in their first 16 possessions as they fell into a 17-point hole in Dallas on Tuesday. And after taking the lead with a little more than six minutes left in the fourth, they missed six straight shots and committed two turnovers. The loss dropped the champs to just 4-7 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. And yes, Stephen Curry did travel with the Warriors down two in the final seconds.

But they returned home and got a clutch win (after blowing almost all of an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead) against the Bulls on Friday, with Draymond Green (the Warriors’ second leading clutch scorer) hitting the biggest shot (a late-clock 3-pointer) of the night. With an easy win over the Rockets on Saturday, the Warriors are 10-4, ranking in the top eight on both ends of the floor, over the last month. Jordan Poole’s minutes have been better since the Warriors began staggering the minutes of Curry and Green, and Poole’s shooting was pretty good (12-for-21 from 3-point range) as he totaled 51 points over the weekend wins. The Warriors continue to play incredibly fast with their reserves on the floor.

The Warriors have one of the West’s toughest December schedules, and 12 of their next 14 games (a stretch that extends into January) are against teams that currently have winning records). But they’ve won 10 straight at home, and it’s at home where they’ll face the Celtics (8-3 on the road) on Saturday.

Week 8: vs. IND, @ UTA, vs. BOS

Last Week:7

Record: 14-12

OffRtg: 116.1 (3) DefRtg: 113.6 (25) NetRtg: +2.5 (7) Pace: 100.7 (11)

After playing 14 of their first 22 games on the road, the Jazz looked like they had rediscovered their mojo back at home. Against the Pacers and Clippers last week, they had two of their three most effective shooting games of the season (64.5% and 64.2%) and put an end to a five-game losing streak. Their starting lineup with Collin Sexton in Mike Conley’s place has now scored an amazing 133.8 points per 100 possessions, the best mark (better than that of the Warriors’ starters) among the 30 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes, with Sexton averaging 17.1 points on an effective field goal percentage of 59.9% in his nine games as a starter.

But the hot shooting didn’t last through the second game of the Jazz’s weekend back-to-back. The starting lineup was a plus-14 in 18.5 minutes and the Jazz erased a 15-point deficit against the Blazers on Saturday. But they were outscored by 19 points with at least one reserve on the floor, and came up short down the stretch with a couple of painful turnovers in the final minute. The Jazz have only been outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions as they’ve gone 4-9 over the last 23 days, but they’ve lost their last five games that have been within five points in the last five minutes.

The Jazz have three days off before their six-game homestand concludes with games against the Warriors and Wolves. Their one loss of their last six that wasn’t within five in the last five (and the only time in their last 12 games that the Jazz have been outscored from 3-point range) was at Golden State 10 days ago.

Week 8: vs. GSW, vs. MIN, @ DEN

Last Week:13

Record: 13-11

OffRtg: 107.8 (28) DefRtg: 109.4 (6) NetRtg: -1.5 (23) Pace: 99.1 (19)

The Clippers got a second straight win (after losing their first three games) without either Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, with Norman Powell scoring 32 points (his high in 29 total games as a Clipper) against his former team in Portland on Tuesday. After averaging just 10.4 ppg on an effective field goal percentage of 45.5% over his first 10 games, Powell has averaged 18.5 ppg on 58.5% over his last 12. But Powell (groin strain) joined George and Leonard (and Luke Kennard) on the shelf after the Portland game, and the Clippers suffered double-digit losses to the Jazz and Kings later in the week.

Somehow, though Leonard has played just 112 minutes, the Clippers are still two games over .500, tied with the Warriors and Blazers for sixth place in the Western Conference. But they have the point differential (third worst in the West) of a team that’s 10-14, and they’ve allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions (something they hadn’t done all season) in four of their last six games (coinciding with the absences of both Leonard and George), including their one head-to-head meeting with the champs.

It’s been a tough stretch in regard to opposing offenses, and the Clippers will face four worse-than-average offenses on the road trip that begins Monday in Charlotte. They’ve played the fewest games of any team (they’re 3-1) against the opposite conference and are one of two teams – the Knicks are the other – that haven’t yet had a rest advantage, with their first of nine rest-advantage games coming Saturday in Washington. And hey, maybe George and Leonard will come back this week to allow this team to finally get its season started in earnest.

Week 8: @ CHA, @ ORL, @ MIA, @ WAS

Last Week:16

Record: 13-10

OffRtg: 111.1 (20) DefRtg: 110.9 (9) NetRtg: +0.3 (15) Pace: 101.5 (8)

The Hawks won just five of their last 12 games in November, with the league’s 27th-ranked offense over that stretch. And though they have the easiest December schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage, their month began with their toughest December opponent (Denver) and without Trae Young, De’Andre Hunter and John Collins. But they beat the Nuggets on Friday with their third most efficient offensive performance of the season (117 points on 96 possessions), getting 34 points from Dejounte Murray, 24 from rookie AJ Griffin (who started in Young’s place), and a big bench run spanning the third and fourth quarters. Though the Hawks have been outscored by 6.9 points per 100 possessions (scoring an anemic 102.8) in 316 total minutes with Murray on the floor without Young, they’ve won both of the games that Young has missed (the other won was against the Bucks) and are now 10-7 without him over the last three regular seasons.

The win over Denver came with the season debut of Bogdan Bogdanovic, a needed addition given the absences of Hunter and Collins. But it will be interesting to see how the minutes work out when the Hawks are healthy, as Griffin is certainly making a case to remain in the top seven of the rotation. He’s had big games in both of the wins without Young, scored 15 points in just 23 minutes in Orlando on Wednesday, and now ranks second in effective field goal percentage (59.1%) among the 13 rookies with at least 100 field goal attempts.

The softness of that December schedule really kicks in now, with eight of the Hawks’ next 10 games against teams that currently have losing records. With the win in Orlando last week, they’re 6-3 against that group thus far.

Week 8: vs. OKC, @ NYK, @ BKN, vs. CHI

Last Week:17

Record: 13-12

OffRtg: 112.3 (12) DefRtg: 111.4 (13) NetRtg: +0.9 (14) Pace: 98.4 (24)

Might the Nets actually have a decent defense? They rank fourth on that end of the floor since their ugly, 1-5 start to the season (since Halloween), and the last five games have been the second time they’ve held five straight opponents under 110 points per 100 possessions. In fact, for the season, only the Cavs (17) have held their opponent under 110 per 100 more times than the Nets, who’ve done it in 16 of their 25 games (They’re 13-3 in those games and 0-9 otherwise). The most recent occasion was against the most efficient offense in NBA history on Sunday, when they looked rather competent and communicative and only lost because they didn’t have enough offense around Kevin Durant (who had eight of their 15 turnovers). Though that was their worst offensive game of the season, the Nets are now one of *seven teams that have been better than the league average (112.0 per 100) on both ends of the floor.

* The other six: Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, New Orleans, Phoenix and Toronto.

The offense would be better if Kyrie Irving could find his 3-point stroke. He’s taken 41.5% of his shots, the highest rate of his career, from 3-point range. But his 3-point percentage (32.4%) is the second worst mark in his 12 seasons and down from a career-high 41.8% last season. That’s the biggest drop among 75 players with at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons and that said, his effective field goal percentage isn’t far off his mark from last season, because his 2-point percentage (57.8%) is the best mark of his career.

The Nets added another offensive weapon with T.J. Warren making his season debut last week and scoring 10 points in 17 minutes against Toronto. We’ll see if they get Ben Simmons (out the last three games) back as their seven-game homestand concludes with games against the Hornets and Hawks (their first meeting of the season against Atlanta) after a two-day break. They’ve already lost twice to the Pacers, and the season series wraps in Indiana on Saturday.

Week 8: vs. CHA, vs. ATL, @ IND

Last Week:19

Record: 11-12

OffRtg: 110.0 (23) DefRtg: 111.0 (11) NetRtg: -1.0 (19) Pace: 98.1 (26)

It turns out that Jimmy Butler is a difference maker. Without Butler, the Heat were competitive in Boston on Wednesday (they trailed by three with less than six minutes left), but couldn’t close the deal. With him (back from a seven-game absence) in the same building two nights later, they were able to do just that (after coming back from 13 points down in the second half) and end the Celtics’ five-game winning streak. Bam Adebayo had as many clutch points in the OT win, but Butler hit the Heat’s four biggest shots of the night, three of them pull-up jumpers over Al Horford. He remains a sub-par shooter (effective field goal percentage of 46.3%) from *outside the paint overall, but it seems that the numbers go out the window when he’s in high-leverage situations (and the Heat have been in a lot of those this season).

* The league-average effective field goal percentage from outside the paint is 50.6%

The Heat are 7-7 with Butler this season, but they’ve outscored their opponents by 7.5 points per 100 possessions in 321 minutes with him and Adebayo on the floor together. Overall, they’ve won four of five for the first time this season, and (though they allowed more than 135 per 100 in the first Boston game), the Heat rank fifth defensively over the last 2 1/2 weeks. That’s been a road-heavy stretch and they’ve already tripled their road-win total (from one to three) on the four-game trip that ends Monday in Memphis.

The Heat are one of two teams (the Spurs are the other) that have yet to play a game against one of the four teams — Detroit, Houston, Orlando and San Antonio — that have won less than 30% of their games. They’ll have four games against that group (including two against the Spurs) in the next two weeks, and their game against Pistons on Tuesday is the start of a stretch where they’ll be playing seven of eight against teams that rank in the bottom 10 offensively. They’ll also have a rest advantage for each of their two games against tougher opponents — the Grizzlies and Clippers — this week.

Week 8: @ MEM, vs. DET, vs. LAC, vs. SAS

Last Week:14

Record: 11-11

OffRtg: 113.2 (9) DefRtg: 110.8 (8) NetRtg: +2.4 (8) Pace: 96.4 (29)

The Mavs have the point differential (+2.3 per game, fourth best in the West) of a team that’s 13-9, with 10 of their 11 losses having come by single digits. But three of those 10 single-digit losses have come at the hands of the Magic, Rockets and Pistons, with Dallas being the only team with three losses to the four teams — the Spurs (who they’ve yet to play) are the other — that have won less than 30% of their games. Their game in Detroit on Thursday came with their second-best effective field goal percentage of the season (64.5%), but they got beat on the glass and allowed the Pistons to score more than 122 points per 100 possessions, including 14 on nine in overtime.

The losses to Orlando and Houston were more about the offense, which has been better of late. Tim Hardaway Jr. has taken well to being moved into the starting lineup, averaging 25.3 points and shooting 19-for-38 from 3-point range over the last three games. The new lineup (with Hardaway in place of Reggie Bullock) has scored 143.2 points per 100 possessions in 42 minutes over its four total starts, with Luka Doncic also shooting well (20-for-43 over his last five) from beyond the arc. The Mavs got their second road win of the season by blowing out the Knicks in the second half on Saturday afternoon.

They’re still 0-8 outside Dallas or the boroughs of New York, they’ll have rest disadvantages in Denver on Tuesday and in Chicago in Saturday and the two teams coming to Dallas this week — the Suns and Bucks — will be the two toughest teams they’ve faced at home thus far. So it feels like a pretty big week to see what the Mavs are made of.

Week 8: vs. PHX, @ DEN, vs. MIL, @ CHI

Last Week:18

Record: 12-11

OffRtg: 112.1 (13) DefRtg: 110.5 (7) NetRtg: +1.6 (10) Pace: 98.6 (23)

The Raptors’ defense still ranks seventh overall, but its had some serious first-quarter issues last week, allowing the Pelicans and Nets to score 81 points on 53 first-quarter possessions (153 per 100) on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Those marked second and third games that the Raptors have trailed by more than 30 points. For the season, Toronto has allowed 117.8 points per 100 possessions (only seven teams have allowed more) in the first quarter and just 108.0 per 100 thereafter.

Pascal Siakam’s return from a 10-game absence did spark the Raptors’ second win of the season over Cleveland on Monday (when they had a rest advantage), the third time this season Toronto has held its opponent under a point per possession. Siakam averaged 22.8 ppg on a true shooting percentage of 63.3% over his four games back, though (with the offensive rebounds drying up a bit) offense has continued to be a struggle. Only the Hornets have a worse effective field goal percentage than the Raptors, who rank in the bottom 10 both in the paint (56.2%, 21st) and outside the paint (45.6%, 28th). Fred VanVleet’s effective field goal percentage of 46.2% is his lowest mark since his rookie season and ranks 109th among 117 players with at least 200 field goal attempts.

The Raptors took care of business against Orlando on Saturday, holding the Magic to just five points (with three turnovers) on their first nine possessions, building an early, double-digit lead, and climbing back above .500. Going back to Game 2 of their 2019 first-round series, the Raptors have won 14 of their last 15 games against the Magic, and they’ll be in Orlando for two more meetings this weekend. Their first meeting with the Celtics is another rest-advantage game in Toronto on Monday.

Week 8: vs. BOS, vs. LAL, @ ORL, @ ORL

Last Week:25

Record: 10-12

OffRtg: 110.7 (22) DefRtg: 110.0 (10) NetRtg: -0.3 (16) Pace: 103.2 (2)

Four of the first five wins on this 8-2 run that the Lakers are on came against the Pistons and Spurs (x 3), so it was more than fair to look at their improvement with skepticism. They beat the Blazers on Wednesday, but that was with a rest advantage (like they had against Brooklyn to start this run) and Portland was without Damian Lillard.

Then the Lakers began the league’s most road-heavy December schedule in Milwaukee. And they beat the Bucks, scoring 133 points (on 100 possessions) against what was the league’s No. 1 defense. Anthony Davis went up against two of the best interior defenders in the league and scored 44 points, with 18 of those coming in the restricted area. It was a victory that certainly legitimized the Lakers’ improvement, and they followed it up by clobbering the Wizards (with Davis scoring 55 points on 22-for-30 shooting) on Sunday. The Lakers have scored 118.6 points per 100 possessions (third best in the league) over the 10-game stretch, up from 104.2 over their first 12.

Davis was the guy with the high ceiling who could lift this roster to the level where it could really compete in the Western Conference, and he appears to be doing that now, averaging 35.3 points (on a true shooting percentage of *72.4%), 15.6 rebounds and 2.9 blocks over the 8-2 stretch. Most of the scoring damage has been done inside, but he even started making some jumpers over the weekend, shooting 11-for-17 from outside the paint against the Bucks and Wiz.

* Fourth best among 140 players with at least 75 field goal attempts over the last 22 days.

The Lakers’ next three games will come against three more top-10 defenses, and that stretch includes their first of eight rest-disadvantage games (Wednesday in Toronto) and a tasty Davis-Embiid matchup two nights later.

Week 8: @ CLE, @ TOR, @ PHI, @ DET

Last Week:15

Record: 12-11

OffRtg: 111.5 (16) DefRtg: 112.8 (21) NetRtg: -1.3 (21) Pace: 103.3 (1)

A hard truth for the Pacers: Until they embarked on their seven-game road trip, they had played a relatively easy schedule, with only seven of their first 18 games having come against the 17 teams that currently have winning records. And three of those seven were against the 13-12 Nets, who just climbed over .500 recently. So their 11-7 record was probably inflated.

With four of their first five games of the trip having come against teams with winning records (and the fifth having come against the improved Lakers), the Pacers are 1-4, with the only win having come at the buzzer and the four losses having come by an average of 18.3 points. And the Pacers allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions in Sacramento and Utah last week, the tougher schedule has showed up more in the offensive numbers. In fact the five games have been their worst stretch of offense (102.0 points per 100 possessions) this season. Their top three perimeter scorers — Tyrese Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and Buddy Hield — have combined for an effective field goal percentage of just 43% over the trip and Haliburton (groin soreness) missed the game in Portland on Sunday. In the span of eight days, the Pacers have slid from eighth to 16th in offensive efficiency.

The seven-game trip wraps with games against the Warriors and Wolves, and the Pacers have a four-game homestand that begins on Friday and includes another game against Brooklyn. But the first two games of that homestand are the end of a stretch of five games in seven nights.

Week 8: @ GSW, @ MIN, vs. WAS, vs. BKN

Last Week:20

Record: 11-13

OffRtg: 111.5 (15) DefRtg: 112.9 (23) NetRtg: -1.4 (22) Pace: 100.5 (13)

Sunday games can be weird, but the Knicks will gladly take the weirdness of their 92-81 victory over the Cavs, because it put an end to a five-game losing streak at home and an overall, seven-game stretch in which they allowed 118 points per 100 possessions, falling into the bottom five in defensive efficiency for a New York minute. The Knicks won the game in which they had their highest turnover rate and their third-lowest effective field goal percentage of the season, because the Cavs were worse in regard to the latter and because they grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. Mitchell Robinson (who had 11 offensive boards against the Bucks on Wednesday) had a big board late, but the game was essentially won by a bench that didn’t include Derrick Rose or Cam Reddish, who both joined Evan Fournier (11 straight games now) on the DNP-CD list.

The Knicks actually have a starting lineup that’s been solid, outscoring opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions (and scoring 119.8 per 100) over the eight games that it has started together. Coach Tom Thibodeau must love Quentin Grimes’ defense, because he played the second-year guard more than 40 minutes on Sunday, even though Grimes shot 2-for-8 with four turnovers. The Knicks have allowed just 105.4 points per 100 possessions in 161 minutes with Grimes and Robinson on the floor together, including (small sample size alert) just 32 points on 51 defensive possessions (63 per 100) with those two on the floor without Jalen Brunson.

The last time the Hawks were at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks led by 23 midway through the second quarter and were then outscored 59-22 over next 17 minutes. Trae Young and company are back on Wednesday as the Knicks close out their four-game homestand.

Week 8: vs. ATL, @ CHA, vs. SAC

Last Week:23

Record: 10-13

OffRtg: 111.0 (21) DefRtg: 112.2 (18) NetRtg: -1.1 (20) Pace: 102.8 (5)

The Thunder got a win without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on Wednesday, mostly because they were playing the Spurs, but also because Jalen Williams filled in well for Gilgeous-Alexander. Williams scored a career-high 27 points on 11-for-15 shooting and then, with Gilgeous-Alexander back, gave the Thunder some good minutes off the bench in another win in Minnesota on Saturday. His effective field goal percentage of 57.5% ranks third among 13 rookies with at least 100 field goal attempts, and while he was 3-for-4 from 3-point range in the two wins, his finishing inside has been the most impressive aspect of his game. Williams’ 64.8% in the paint would be the fifth best mark for a shorter-than-6-foot-8 rookie with at least 75 attempts in the paint over the 27 seasons for which we have shot-location data.

With Gilgeous-Alexander (33 points, including 12-for-12 from the line) leading seven guys in double-figures against the Wolves, the Thunder scored almost 120 points per 100 possessions over the two wins. They’ve actually started the same lineup in the last two games that Gilgeous-Alexander has been available, though that lineup — Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Aleksej Pokusevski and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl — has been outscored by 28.2 points per 100 possessions in its 80 total minutes. The Kenrich Williams plus-minus magic wasn’t working for the first couple of weeks of the season, but over the last month, the Thunder have been 15.9 points per 100 better with him on the floor (plus-8.3) than they’ve been with him on the bench (minus-7.6).

The Thunder have won four of their last six games against the Eastern Conference and Game 2 of their five-game trip is in Atlanta on Monday.

Week 8: @ ATL, @ MEM, @ CLE

Last Week:21

Record: 11-12

OffRtg: 111.2 (19) DefRtg: 111.8 (15) NetRtg: -0.6 (17) Pace: 103.2 (3)

With Karl-Anthony Towns out several weeks after suffering a calf strain in Washington on Monday, the Wolves can be more mobile around Rudy Gobert. Minnesota had 26 steals in its first two games without Towns, with Anthony Edwards accounting for 11 of those 26. Holding the Grizzlies to just a point per possession on Wednesday (and despite getting crushed on the glass), the Wolves got their first win against one of the 10 teams currently ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.

Their second game without Towns came mostly without Gobert, who was ejected for intentionally tripping Kenrich Williams early in the second quarter. The Wolves erased an early, double-digit deficit, but were done in by a 22-5 Thunder run in the fourth quarter. With Jaden McDaniels back from a three-game absence, they started rookie Wendell Moore Jr. (who defended Ja Morant well earlier in the week) instead of Kyle Anderson, and they’ve yet to employ what was the assumed starting lineup — D’Angelo Russell, Edwards, Anderson, McDaniels and Gobert — in Towns’ absence.

Big picture, Towns’ injury delays the timeline in regard to figuring out if the Wolves can really succeed with both of their All-Star big men in the lineup. The Wolves had a good, little run (plus-20 in 64 minutes over three games) with both on the floor around Thanksgiving, but they couldn’t sustain that success in the game-plus before Towns was hurt and are a minus-5 (having scored just 106.6 points per 100 possessions) in their 401 total minutes together for the season.

The Wolves are in the middle of their first three-day break. After they host the Pacers on Wednesday, they’ll embark on their longest road trip of the season: five games over eight days, with two of those in Portland.

Week 8: vs. IND, @ UTA, @ POR

Last Week:22

Record: 11-13

OffRtg: 111.2 (18) DefRtg: 112.8 (22) NetRtg: -1.6 (25) Pace: 98.9 (21)

If you’re having deja vu, it’s because the Wizards started last season 10-3 before losing 12 of their next 17 games. This season, they were 10-7 and have lost six of their last seven. They’ve lost some close games to good teams, but they also lost in Charlotte on Friday, trailing by as many as 22 points (the Hornets’ biggest lead since their opening-night win against the Spurs) before mounting a comeback that came up short when the Wizards went scoreless (with two turnovers) on their final four possessions.

Amazingly, the Wizards have scored much more efficiently over this 1-6 stretch (117.2 points per 100 possessions) than they did over the 6-1 stretch that preceded it (109.4). But, as was the case last year, a defense that had, at one point, ranked in the top 10, has seemingly fallen apart. They’ve allowed 120.7 points over the last seven (up from 103.7 over the previous seven), with their opponents shooting much better from the perimeter and getting to the line a lot more often. Their opponents also had just 13 total turnovers over their 0-2 trip through Brooklyn and Charlotte last week.

One interesting wrinkle from the weekend was Kristaps Porzingis (who had a career-high 41 points in the Wizards’ win over Minnesota on Monday) and Daniel Gafford playing together for the first time this season. The two bigs totaled 22 minutes on the floor together over losses to the Hornets and Lakers, and Wizards outscored their opponents by 32 points (63.4 per 100 possessions) in those 22 minutes.

After they visit the Bulls on Wednesday, the Wizards will play 12 of their next 14 games against teams that currently have winning records. They’re 4-8 against that group thus far, with one of the wins having come in Indiana on opening night. They’re back in Indy on Friday, with that being the first game or a road-home back-to-back.

Week 8: @ CHI, @ IND, vs. LAC

Last Week:24

Record: 9-14

OffRtg: 109.5 (25) DefRtg: 111.0 (12) NetRtg: -1.6 (24) Pace: 101.3 (9)

The Bulls got their first win against the Western Conference on Monday, turning a 10-point deficit into an eight-point lead with a 30-12 run in the third quarter and beating the Jazz even though they got outscored by 39 points (57-18) from 3-point range (the second biggest discrepancy for any team in a win this season). But they lost the last three games of their road trip (shooting less than 29% from 3-point range), because they put themselves in even bigger holes than they dug out of in Utah.

Chicago is the only team that hasn’t lost a game it led at the half, but it’s had a halftime lead just five times total (fewest in the league) and just once in its last 11 games. The difference between the first-half Bulls (minus-7.2 points per 100 possessions) and the second-half Bulls (plus-4.5 per 100) is all about defense, with the first-half Bulls ranking 25th defensively (117.2 allowed per 100) and the second-half Bulls ranking second (104.5 allowed per 100). That discrepancy was even bigger (18.7 per 100) over their six-game road trip.

The Bulls still have the sixth best record (8-6) in games played between Eastern Conference teams. But their 1-8 mark against the West has them in 12th place, which is kind of like last place in regard to teams that haven’t been depleted by injuries.

After two days off, the Bulls will begin a stretch where they’re playing four of five at home, with only one of those five opponents — the Hawks on Sunday — currently over .500. So if there’s a time for them to make a move up the standings, it’s now. They’ll play 20 of their next 26 games within the Eastern Conference, and they’ll have a rest advantage against the Mavs on Saturday.

Week 8: vs. WAS, vs. DAL, @ ATL

Last Week:26

Record: 7-16

OffRtg: 106.0 (30) DefRtg: 112.3 (19) NetRtg: -6.3 (26) Pace: 100.3 (15)

On Friday, the league’s worst offense had the second most efficient half for any team this season, scoring 74 points on 47 first-half possessions (157 per 100) against the Wizards, largely because the Hornets rebounded 13 of the 24 shots they missed (with seven different Hornets responsible for those offensive boards). The Hornets are the only team with an effective field goal percentage under 50%, but they do rank seventh in offensive rebounding percentage and fifth in second chance points per game. Nick Richards ranks fifth in offensive rebounding percentage among 340 players who’ve averaged at least 10 minutes per game, having grabbed 14.1% of available offensive boards while he’s been on the floor.

The Hornets lost almost all of their 22-point lead to the Wizards, but survived when both teams went scoreless over the final 2 1/2 minutes (Kelly Oubre had a big steal in the final minute). At that point, the Hornets had won the last three of their games that were within five points in the last five minutes, even though they shot 2-for-16 on clutch shots over two of those wins (over the Wolves and Wizards).

Twenty-four hours after having one of their best offensive games of the season, the Hornets had one of their worst, scoring just 96 points on 105 possessions (and rebounding just nine of their 53 misses) against the shorthanded Bucks. Still shorthanded themselves, they’ll face two more top-six defenses (those of the Clippers and Sixers) this week. They beat Philly (without its three leading scorers) 11 days ago, but are 1-14 (with 13 straight losses) in games that Joel Embiid has played.

Week 8: vs. LAC, @ BKN, vs. NYK, @ PHI

Last Week:27

Record: 6-19

OffRtg: 109.8 (24) DefRtg: 117.9 (29) NetRtg: -8.1 (29) Pace: 99.9 (17)

As noted above, the Western Conference has a winning record against the East, with more than twice as many teams that are at least two games over .500 (nine vs. four). But the Pistons are 1-14 within the East, with the lone win (vs. Orlando) being their first game of the season. Seven of the 14 losses that have followed have been by more than 15 points, and the worst of them (a 30-point defeat) came Tuesday, when they allowed the Knicks to have the second most efficient game (140 points on 102 possessions) for any road team this season. (The most efficient game was also an East opponent — the Hawks — in Detroit.)

After splitting games against the Mavs and Grizzlies last week, the Pistons are 5-5 against the West, with only one of those wins (vs. the Thunder) having come against one of the five West teams that currently have a losing record. The bigger difference has actually been on offense, where the Pistons have scored 115.1 points per 100 possessions over those 10 games against the West. Bojan Bogdanovic had 30 points on 10-for-14 shooting (including 5-for-6 from 3-point range) in the Pistons’ win over Dallas on Thursday, capped by Killian Hayes’ two pull-up 3-pointers in overtime. (He was 3-for-20 on pull-up 3-pointers prior to that.) For the season, Bogdanovic has the sixth highest true shooting percentage (a career-high 65.2%) among the 46 players who’ve averaged at least 20 points per game.

The Pistons will play three more games against the West this week after trying to end their 14-game in-conference losing streak in Miami on Tuesday.

Week 8: @ MIA, @ NOP, @ MEM, vs. LAL

Last Week:28

Record: 6-17

OffRtg: 109.3 (26) DefRtg: 116.4 (28) NetRtg: -7.1 (28) Pace: 100.5 (14)

The Rockets rank 28th defensively and the last four games have been their worst defensive stretch of the season (126.9 points per 100 possessions), with the opponents (all top-seven offenses) shooting 47% from 3-point range. They lost their two games in Denver by a total of 36 points, and they never led at Golden State on Saturday. For the season, Houston’s starting lineup has allowed 125.8 points per 100, easily the worst mark among the 30 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.

But the Rockets escaped with a win in Phoenix on Friday (ending the Suns’ six-game losing streak) when the Suns missed four shots in the last 20 seconds. The Rockets were outscored by 27 points from beyond the arc, but were a plus-20 in the restricted area (52-32) and a plus-20 at the free throw line (34-14).

Jalen Green shot 4-for-26 from 3-point range over the Rockets’ four games last week, he’s now shooting worse from beyond the arc (33.1%) than he did as a rookie (34.3%), and he’s a pretty brutal 17-for-60 (28%) from mid-range. But he’s finished a little better in the paint, he had 10 of those 52 restricted-area points in Phoenix, and he was also 12-for-16 from the line, making one of two to give the Rockets the lead before that wild sequence on the other end of the floor.

The Rockets have played 15 of their 23 games on the road, and they’ll be in San Antonio on Thursday for their first meeting with the Spurs. But their longest homestand of the season (seven games over 13 days) begins Sunday with a visit from the Bucks. They’ve won their last two games at the Toyota Center.

Week 8: vs. PHI, @ SAS, vs. MIL

Last Week:29

Record: 5-19

OffRtg: 109.1 (27) DefRtg: 115.8 (27) NetRtg: -6.7 (27) Pace: 98.4 (25)

Markelle Fultz made his season debut and Cole Anthony returned from a 16-game absence last week, and it’s nice for the Magic to have some actual guards. Fultz stole the ball from Dejounte Murray twice on Wednesday and had 10 total deflections in just 65 minutes of action. Anthony, meanwhile, scored 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting (including 3-for-4 from 3-point range) on Friday in Cleveland when the Magic were relatively competitive with one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

But the Magic remain shorthanded, and the most critical absence is that of Wendell Carter Jr., who’s missed the last eight games. The Magic have allowed 121 points per 100 possessions as they’ve lost all eight, and they’ve now allowed 13.4 more per 100 with Carter off the floor (120.7) than they have with him on the floor (107.3). That differential is mostly about opponent shooting in the paint (65.2% vs. 53.3%) and defensive rebounding percentage (69.6% vs. 74.6%). Three of their last five opponents have scored more than 60 points in the paint.

The eight-game losing streak has come with eight straight games against teams that currently have winning records. Although they begin a five-game homestand on Monday, the Magic won’t see any relief in regard to the opponents, because their next eight games are also against teams that enter Week 8 above .500. That includes two games each against the Raptors (who the Magic trailed by as many as 33 points on Saturday), Hawks (who they trailed by 25 on Wednesday) and Celtics (who they played close in Week 1).

Week 8: vs. MIL, vs. LAC, vs. TOR, vs. TOR

Last Week:30

Record: 6-18

OffRtg: 107.0 (29) DefRtg: 118.5 (30) NetRtg: -11.6 (30) Pace: 101.9 (7)

The Spurs have the league’s first double-digit (winning or losing) streak of the 2022-23 season, having dropped 11 straight (and 16 of their last 17) games. They had a 20-point lead in Oklahoma City on Wednesday (and were previously 4-0 when leading by at least 15), but scored just 34 points on 50 second-half possessions, losing by eight to a Thunder squad that was playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They followed that up by scoring just 95.1 per 100 over weekend losses to the Pelicans and Suns. Another bad offensive game or two (or if the Hornets got LaMelo Ball back) and the Spurs could rank last on both ends of the floor.

The loss to Phoenix was the seventh game the Spurs have trailed by at least 30 points (no other team has trailed more than three games by 30-plus), but it did come with a little breakout from Keldon Johnson, who scored 27 points on 11-for-23 from the field after shooting 39-for-140 (28%) over his previous seven games. Johnson is tied (with Bones Hyland) for the biggest jump in usage rate (from 21% to 28.1%) among 242 players who played at least 500 minutes last season and have played at least 250 minutes this season (Devin Vassell has seen the fifth biggest jump), and the heavier load has obviously had an adverse effect on his efficiency.

The Spurs have three days off and still have four games left on a stretch where they’re playing eight of 10 at home. They’ve yet to play one of the other three teams — Detroit, Houston and Orlando — that have won less than 30% of their games, but the two worst teams in the Western Conference will meet for the first time in San Antonio on Thursday.

Week 8: vs. HOU, @ MIA