Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 9: Pelicans keep soaring, reach No. 2

See where all 30 teams rank as we enter Week 9 of the 2022-23 season.

Back-to-back wins against the Suns have helped the Pelicans rise fast in the Power Rankings.

There’s always been a home-court advantage in the NBA. But over the three seasons prior to this one (perhaps because of how COVID-19 affected things), home teams won just 54.6% of their games, down from 58.5% of their games over the previous three seasons.

Now, in 2022-23, home teams are better than they’ve been in a long time. Through Sunday, home teams are 249-152 (.621), the best mark in the last 20 years (since home teams won 62.8% of their games in 2002-03) and the first time in the last 10 years that home winning percentage has been over 60%.

The defending champs are Exhibit A. After their win against the best team in the league on Saturday, the Golden State Warriors are 12-2 (.857) at home and 2-11 (.154) on the road, which would be the biggest home-road differential (by a comfortable margin) in NBA history. The difference has been mostly about defense, with the Warriors having the league’s third-ranked home defense (106.1 points allowed per 100) and its 29th-ranked road defense (119.2 allowed per 100).

And guess what? With that win against the Celtics (Boston’s worst offensive game in more than a month) in hand, the Warriors now begin their longest road trip of the season. It’s six games over nine days, it begins in Milwaukee (where the Bucks have been much better offensively than they’ve been on the road) and it ends in Brooklyn, where the Nets just had a 6-1 homestand.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: New York (3-0) — Their opponents can’t shoot, and a four-game winning streak has the Knicks back above .500.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Phoenix (0-4) — The return of the Point God did not lead to a return to the win column, and the Suns have dropped four straight (in the regular season) for the first time since before the bubble.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 8

  • Toughest: 1. Houston, 2. Detroit, 3. Chicago
  • Easiest: 1. Milwaukee, 2. New Orleans, 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 York (+5), Brooklyn (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Miami (-4), Phoenix (-4), Atlanta (-3), Charlotte (-3)

Week 9 Team to Watch

  • Golden State — See above regarding the Warriors’ home-road differential. Their six-game trip begins in Milwaukee on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT), with a game in Indiana the following night. They’re in Philly for another marquee game on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and then in Toronto (where the Raptors are 10-3) on Sunday.

Previous Power Rankings

  • This time last year: Suns overtake Warriors for No. 1 spot — Stephen Curry was struggling with his shot as he approached the all-time 3-point record. The Jazz had won seven straight games, while the Pistons had lost 12 straight, a streak that included a game in which Kevin Durant scored 51 points in Detroit. The Wolves’ starting lineup had outscored its opponents by 106 points in its 108 minutes, CJ McCollum suffered a collapsed lung, and the Bulls had nine players in Health and Safety Protocols. Reggie Jackson hit a game-winning step-back against the Magic, Kyle Kuzma hit a game-winning 3 in Detroit, and Cody Martin committed one of the biggest mental mistakes of the season, intentionally fouling De’Aaron Fox in the backcourt with the Hornets up one, the Kings in the bonus, and only 2.4 seconds left … only for Fox to miss both free throws.

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 112.2 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.

Last Week:1

Record: 21-6

OffRtg: 119.3 (1) DefRtg: 111.1 (8) NetRtg: +8.2 (1) Pace: 99.9 (17)

It seems that the Celtics didn’t show their best cards against the Warriors on Saturday, playing drop coverage against Stephen Curry and allowing Curry and Klay Thompson to shoot 19-for-35 from outside the paint. Prior to that game, the Celtics had played drop coverage on only 32% of opponent ball-screens, according to Second Spectrum tracking. The absence of Al Horford (out the last three games in Health and Safety Protocols) had something to do with the change (switching with Blake Griffin probably wouldn’t have been a better option), but there also may have been some gamesmanship involved. Either way, the Celtics had their worst defensive first half (68 points allowed on 53 possessions) since the first week of the season, trailed by 20 points for just the third time, and suffered their first loss to the Western Conference.

With the Celtics having shut down the Suns’ second-ranked offense three nights earlier, their five December games have still been their best five-game stretch of defense (105.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season. They’ve also been their worst five-game stretch of offense (109.7 scored per 100), with Jayson Tatum having his two worst shooting games of the season in their losses to Miami and Golden State. It’s possible that their 3-point shooting was unsustainable, it’s possible that the Warriors have their number (they’ve scored just 101.4 per 100 over their last six games against the champs), and it’s possible that this is just a blip on the radar.

The Celtics’ six-game trip wraps up with a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back in L.A., and their longest homestand of the season (seven games over 14 days) begins Friday with a two-game series against the Magic. There appears to be a chance that Robert Williams III will make his season debut this week, though we know it won’t be Monday against the Clippers.

Week 9: @ LAC, @ LAL, vs. ORL, vs. ORL

Last Week:4

Record: 18-8

OffRtg: 115.3 (5) DefRtg: 108.4 (3) NetRtg: +6.9 (2) Pace: 100.5 (12)

The Pelicans have had two starters — Brandon Ingram and either CJ McCollum (two) or Herb Jones (last five) — out for each of their last seven games. But they’ve won all seven to climb into first place in the Western Conference and into the top five on both ends of the floor (where they reside alone). Amazingly, the Pelicans have shot worse than 33% from 3-point range in five of the seven wins. And it’s not like McCollum has been on fire (he’s 7-for-22) from mid-range. But they’ve outscored their opponents by 15.4 points per game in the paint and by another 9.0 per game at the free throw line. The total score on restricted-area buckets and free throws over the Pelicans-Suns two-game series over the weekend was 153-84 in favor of the home team. Zion Williamson has averaged 30 points over the streak, with only six of those 210 total points (he made two 3s on Sunday) coming from outside the paint.

The Pelicans did have some narrow escapes last week. They almost lost all of a 16-point lead to the Pistons on Wednesday, and they blew two double-digit, fourth-quarter leads to the Suns over the weekend. But they scored 45 points on 31 clutch possessions (145 per 100) over the three games, with Williamson, McCollum and Naji Marshall each contributing at least four clutch buckets and Larry Nance Jr. making a couple of big defensive plays down the stretch on Sunday. With the Bucks’ loss in Houston on Sunday, the Pels are now the only team without a loss (they’re 15-0) when taking a lead into the fourth quarter.

Of course, they’ve now ticked off two opponents (the Rockets and Suns) by making plays — a Jose Alvarado steal and a Zion Williamson, dunk-contest-worthy 360 — in the closing seconds of a game that’s been decided. They’ll see the Suns again on Saturday, the end of a three-game trip that also includes two games against a team (the Jazz) that beat them in overtime Week 1.

Week 9: @ UTA, @ UTA, @ PHX

Last Week:2

Record: 19-7

OffRtg: 111.3 (18) DefRtg: 106.8 (2) NetRtg: +4.5 (5) Pace: 99.8 (18)

The Bucks have a relatively small home-road differential in regard to winning percentage, currently 12-3 at Fiserv Forum and 7-4 elsewhere. But their home-road differential in regard to points scored per 100 possessions is, by far, the biggest in the league, and even bigger than the Warriors’ differential (13.1 per 100) on defense. The Bucks have the league’s fifth-ranked home offense (117.2 points scored per 100 possessions) and its 30th-ranked road offense (103.4 per 100).

Milwaukee has a worse-than-average offense overall, but has scored more than 120 points per 100 in each of its four home games since Thanksgiving (topping 130 per 100 in each of its last two), with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading six guys averaging double figures with 35.8 points in 32 minutes over those four games. But things have been pretty ugly on the road, and they haven’t been any uglier than they were in Houston on Sunday, when the Bucks scored just 92 points on 98 possessions in a loss to the league’s 28th-ranked defense. Antetokounmpo had just 16 points in 37 minutes, Khris Middleton turned his ankle in the first half, and the Bucks came up empty down the stretch, scoring just three points on their final 13 possessions, with some brutal blunders — a missed dunk, basket interference on a lob that went in the hoop, and a lob that came up two feet short — included within.

The Bucks’ offense has been significantly worse on the road in regard to shooting, free throw rate, turnovers and offensive rebounding. Among 168 players with at least 75 field goal attempts both at home on the road, Brook Lopez (65.6% vs. 47.7%) has the sixth biggest home-road differential in regard to effective field goal percentage. Grayson Allen hasn’t taken quite enough shots to qualify for that list, but also has a big differential (61.4% vs. 51.4%). And Antetokounmpo’s differential (61.6% vs. 54%) isn’t insignificant.

The Bucks are three games into a stretch of seven straight against the Western Conference, and their first meeting with the champs is Tuesday at Fiserv Forum. Given both teams’ home-road differentials on that end of the floor, the Bucks should score approximately 183 points.

Week 9: vs. GSW, @ MEM, vs. UTA

Last Week:5

Record: 17-9

OffRtg: 113.3 (10) DefRtg: 110.4 (6) NetRtg: +2.9 (7) Pace: 100.7 (10)

For the second straight season, the Grizzlies got off to a rough start defensively. And for the second straight season, they’ve recovered quickly and demonstrably to climb into the top 10 (joining the Celtics and Pelicans as teams that rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor). The Grizzlies’ current, five-game winning streak has been their best defensive stretch of the season (102.0 points allowed per 100 possessions) and they’ve held three straight opponents under a point per possession, having done so just once through their first 23 games.

Jaren Jackson Jr. has obviously been key to the turnaround, and the defense has been at its best (103.8 allowed per 100) with him on the floor. Grizzlies opponents have shot 48.7% in the paint with Jackson on the floor and 57.3% otherwise, and Jackson has recorded four or more blocks in three of his last four games. He’s back to having more total blocks (32) than personal fouls (30) for the season, having had a ratio of just 0.48 blocks per foul through his first four years in the league.

With Jackson’s defensive impact, with Ja Morant continuing to attack the basket relentlessly, and with a ton of second chances, the Grizzlies have outscored their opponents by an average of 24 points in the paint (62-38) over the winning streak that has them just a game behind New Orleans for first place in the Western Conference. This is the third straight season they’ve led the league in points in the paint differential (plus-9.1 per game).

The schedule has been relatively soft in regard to opposing offenses. The Grizzlies haven’t faced a team that currently ranks in the top 10 offensively since they beat the Pelicans the day after Thanksgiving, and their game against Atlanta on Monday will end a stretch of five straight games against teams in the bottom 10 offensively. They’ll have a rest advantage against the Hawks and again in Oklahoma City on Saturday, though they’re currently 0-2 in rest-advantage games (both took place before Jackson’s season debut).

Week 9: vs. ATL, vs. MIL, @ OKC

Last Week:6

Record: 17-10

OffRtg: 112.7 (12) DefRtg: 106.7 (1) NetRtg: +6.0 (3) Pace: 96.4 (30)

The Cavs are the only team that doesn’t rank in the top 10 or the bottom 10 in any of the four factors (shooting, free throw rate, turnovers or rebounds) on offense, and (though they’re not a high-volume team from 3-point range) they’ve been incredibly inconsistent on that end of the floor, from game to game and from quarter to quarter. The highs have included the game-deciding, fourth-quarter, 21-6 run (21 points on 11 possessions) against the Lakers on Tuesday. And the lows have included the game-ending drought (zero points on their last 10 possessions) against the Kings on Friday.

The loss to Sacramento came without Donovan Mitchell, who had 13 of the 21 points (plus an assist) in that run against the Lakers, and that game produced some of the most efficient minutes in which the Cavs had both Mitchell and Darius Garland on the floor. But they’ve still been much more efficient in 701 total minutes with only one of their All-Star guards on the court (114.4 points scored per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in 447 minutes with both of them on the court together (107.5 per 100). Garland had just 13 points in the Cavs’ win over the Thunder on Saturday, but three other starters — Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen — had 20 apiece, with some big fourth-quarter buckets included. Because their defense has been so good, the Cavs have won nine of the last 10 games in which they’ve scored at least a point per possession (a low bar), with the only loss coming in Milwaukee. The issue is that they’ve scored less than a point per possession three times in the last 14 days.

The Cavs have had a home-heavy schedule for the last few weeks, and they have just a two-game trip through Texas before beginning their longest homestand of the season. It’s six games over 13 days (taking them past Christmas) and it begins Friday with the first of their four games against the Pacers.

Week 9: @ SAS, @ DAL, vs. IND, vs. DAL

Last Week:7

Record: 16-10

OffRtg: 116.3 (3) DefRtg: 114.8 (27) NetRtg: +1.5 (11) Pace: 98.6 (23)

Jamal Murray shot just 8-for-28 (29%) as the Nuggets went 0-2 over the first two games of a stretch where they were playing four other teams in the West’s top 10, and he was just 6-for-19 through the first 47 minutes in Portland on Thursday. And at that point, Murray was also 2-for-14 on clutch shots this season. But he hit two shots for the lead in the final minute, including the step-back 3 over Jerami Grant that gave the Nuggets the win in a game in which they allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions (they were previously 0-5 when allowing 120-plus per 100). Two nights later, Murray had his best shooting game of the season, scoring 30 points on 13-for-19 from the field in another narrow win against the Jazz.

The Nuggets have shot better than 50% from the field in seven straight games, tied (with a Nets streak in November) for the longest such streak in the league this season. And their starting lineup (with Bruce Brown in place of Michael Porter Jr.) continues to have strong offensive numbers. But they were having some turnover issues before committing just nine against Utah, and their defense remains in the bottom five. Their opponents also shot 50% or better in three straight losses prior to the game in Portland, and the 115.5 points per 100 possessions that Denver and its opponents have combined to score is the league’s highest combined mark.

The Nuggets will face three worse-than-average offenses this week, but it should be noted that their first visit to L.A. was the opponents’ first win of the season, with the Lakers scoring 121 points on 99 possessions after scoring just 96.2 per 100 over their 0-5 start.

Week 9: vs. WAS, @ LAL, vs. CHA

Last Week:3

Record: 16-11

OffRtg: 116.4 (2) DefRtg: 111.6 (12) NetRtg: +4.8 (4) Pace: 99.0 (19)

Chris Paul is back and he had a patented, clutch, pull-up jumper from the right side of the lane on Sunday to send the Suns’ second game in New Orleans to overtime. But Paul also had 10 turnovers over his three games back (he had just 15 over his 10 pre-injury games), including the offensive foul that fouled him out of that game on Sunday. The Suns are now 0-4 in clutch games that Paul has played and 4-7 in clutch games overall after going 33-9 in games that were within five in the last five last season.

More important than the clutch struggles is that the Suns have allowed 125.5 points per 100 possessions as they’ve lost four straight games for the first time since Games 3-6 of the 2021 Finals and the first time in the regular season since just before the league shut down in March of 2020. They’re 1-5 in December with the only win having come against the Spurs. Paul missed two of those losses and Devin Booker was out on Sunday, but the Suns were also outscored by 37 points in their 45 minutes on the floor together last week. This was the best team in the West through the first seven weeks of the season. Now it’s in fourth place, and it’s got a pretty tough (and road-heavy) schedule over the next month.

The CP3 Reunion Tour continues through Houston and L.A. this week, and the Suns’ second rest-advantage game of the season is their second rest-advantage game against the Clippers. The first was a comfortable, wire-to-wire victory (also in L.A.) in Week 1.

Week 9: @ HOU, @ LAC, vs. NOP

Last Week:8

Record: 14-11

OffRtg: 115.0 (6) DefRtg: 112.0 (16) NetRtg: +2.9 (6) Pace: 102.2 (6)

The Kings have been just about as good with De’Aaron Fox off the floor (plus-3.4 points per 100 possessions) as they’ve been with him on the floor (plus-3.5 per 100). But when a starter is missing, a reserve has to start and somebody else (generally) has to step into the rotation. With Fox out over the weekend, Davion Mitchell started and Matthew Dellavedova (still just 32 years old) became the backup point guard. In Dellavedova’s 29 minutes on the floor in Cleveland and New York, the Kings were outscored by 25 points, scoring just 54 points on 65 offensive possessions.

The Kings managed to split the two games because the starting lineup (with Mitchell) outscored the Cavs by 24 points (shooting 12-for-17 from 3-point range) in its 20.3 minutes on Friday. The Kings turned the ball over a ton, but so did the Cavs, and it was the third time in four games that Sacramento held its opponent under a point per possession. With their defensive improvement during the last two weeks, the Kings are now one of seven teams that have been better than the league average (112.2 points per 100 possessions) on both ends of the floor. (They’ve been worse than average on both ends in 14 of the last 16 seasons.)

Two nights after the Cleveland win, the Kings themselves were held under a point per possession for the first time this season. With the Knicks climbing the charts rapidly, that was Game 5 of a stretch of seven straight against teams that currently rank in the top 11 defensively. Fox was listed as questionable for Sunday, so it’s possible he’ll be back as the Kings’ six-game trip concludes this week. They’ll have a rest disadvantage in Toronto on Wednesday, having gone 1-2 (1-0 at home, 0-2 on the road) in rest-disadvantage games thus far.

Week 9: @ PHI, @ TOR, @ DET

Last Week:9

Record: 14-12

OffRtg: 112.2 (14) DefRtg: 109.5 (4) NetRtg: +2.7 (8) Pace: 97.7 (27)

Count the Sixers in on this home-road discrepancy stuff. James Harden made his return from a 14-game absence on Wednesday, but he shot just 4-for-19 and had three of the team’s seven clutch turnovers as the Sixers lost a double-overtime game in Houston. And then the Sixers came home and (somewhat) righted the ship, beating the Lakers (in overtime) and Hornets to climb into fifth place in the East.

The Sixers don’t have a big home-road discrepancy (in regard to winning percentage or point differential) overall, because they lost four of their first five home games. But they’ve since won eight of their last nine at the Wells Fargo Center, with Joel Embiid averaging 39.9 points over the eight home games he’s played over that stretch. It includes his 59 points a month ago against Utah and his 53 on Sunday against Charlotte.

Philly is still waiting on Tyrese Maxey and bench minutes remain an issue; They were a minus-26 in 30 minutes with Embiid off the floor over those two overtime games. But their latest starting lineup (with De’Anthony Melton in Maxey’s place) has been good in its limited (74) minutes, outscoring opponents by 16.4 points per 100 possessions. Melton had some struggles early in the season, but he and Tobias Harris are two of the six players who’ve shot better than 50% on at least 25 3-point attempts in December.

Four of the seven opponents on the Sixers’ homestand rank in the bottom 10 offensively, and the Sixers have played just five of their 26 games against offenses that currently rank in the top 10. But this week brings two more top-10 offenses – those of the Kings and Warriors – to the Wells Fargo Center.

Week 9: vs. SAC, vs. GSW

Last Week:10

Record: 14-12

OffRtg: 113.2 (11) DefRtg: 113.8 (23) NetRtg: -0.5 (18) Pace: 97.4 (28)

The Blazers are one of three teams — the Mavs and Suns are the others — that have lost multiple games that they led by double-digits in the fourth quarter. The second of their two such losses came Thursday against Denver, when (with mostly reserves on the floor) they lost an 11-point lead early in the fourth. The game went down to the wire, but Damian Lillard was out-dueled by Jamal Murray in the final seconds, spoiling a game in which Lillard had 40 points and 12 assists with just one turnover. (The Blazers had won 12 of their previous 13 regular season games in which Lillard had scored at least 40.)

The Blazers also have the league’s best record (9-9) in games they trailed by double-digits (at any point). The most recent of those nine wins came Saturday, when they trailed by 10 midway through the third quarter before outscoring the Wolves by 19 points (27-8) over the next eight minutes. With Lillard healthy (and 22-for-22 from the line) and with Anfernee Simons having a big game (31 points on 13-for-22 shooting) on Saturday, the two games last week were just the fifth and sixth times that the Blazers have scored at least 120 points per 100 possessions (and the first time they’ve done it in consecutive games). Another one like that against the Wolves on Monday and they’ll probably crack the top 10 in offensive efficiency.

The Blazers’ second six-game trip of the season begins Wednesday with the first Texas Triangle excursion (three straight games in the three Texas arenas) for any team since Dec. of 2019 (the Knicks will have one later this month). The last team to go 3-0 on a Texas Triangle trip was the 2007-08, eventual-champion Celtics.

Week 9: vs. MIN, @ SAS, @ DAL, @ HOU

Last Week:11

Record: 14-13

OffRtg: 113.7 (8) DefRtg: 112.4 (19) NetRtg: +1.3 (12) Pace: 103.0 (3)

The Warriors had a couple of rough finishes last week. They came back from two double-digit deficits against the Pacers on Monday, but then lost a late lead when Indiana (playing without Tyrese Haliburton) scored on five straight possessions down the stretch. Two nights later in Utah, after coming back from another double-digit deficit, the Warriors (playing without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green) turned the ball over twice and missed two free throws in the final minute, with the final turnover turning into Utah’s game-winning fast break. With those two losses, the Warriors are 5-9 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, with nobody in the league having shot worse than Klay Thompson (4-for-19) on at least 15 clutch field goal attempts.

But you could still say it was a good week for the champs, because the Celtics came to town on Saturday and the Warriors held the league’s No. 1 offense to just 107 points on 104 possessions, Boston’s worst offensive performance in more than a month. The Warriors still rank just 19th defensively this season (only the Spurs have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from ’21-22), but it was their defense that won The Finals (the last three games were the Celtics’ worst stretch of offense all season) and a big defensive performance against the most efficient offensive team in NBA history could be a good way to begin a run up the standings. Thompson (Jayson Tatum’s primary defender on Saturday) being a critical component of that defensive performance is also a noteworthy development. The Warriors are now 11-0 when they’ve held their opponent under 110 points per 100 possessions.

The Warriors go from one Eastern Conference contender to another. Their longest road trip of the season — six games over nine days — begins Tuesday in Milwaukee. The home team won both meetings between the last two NBA champions last season, with the Bucks leading the game at Fiserv Forum by 39 points (77-38) at halftime.

Week 9: @ MIL, @ IND, @ PHI, @ TOR

Last Week:15

Record: 16-12

OffRtg: 113.6 (9) DefRtg: 112.3 (18) NetRtg: +1.3 (13) Pace: 98.7 (22)

The Nets weren’t exactly dominant on a seven-game homestand in which they faced mostly shorthanded opponents. They outscored those opponents by just 5.3 points per 100 possessions (and by just 4.2 per 100 with Kevin Durant on the floor) over the seven games, and four of the wins were within five points in the last five minutes. But a 6-1 homestand, over which they scored 38 points on 25 clutch possessions (with Kevin Durant 3-for-3 on clutch 3s), had the Nets three games over .500 and in fourth place in the East.

They were seemingly willing to concede that position (and the season-series tiebreaker) to the Pacers by resting their top eight players in Indiana on Saturday. But the Nets’ skeleton crew produced their second-best offensive performance of the season (136 points on 105 possessions) and a fourth-quarter comeback to hold onto their spot in the East’s top four. The Nets were the league’s worst rebounding team on both ends of the floor prior to Saturday, but they had 29 offensive boards (most for any team in regulation in more than 10 years) and 37 second-chance points (tied for second most in the 27 years of the stat) on Saturday. It seems that, whether they’re the team getting clobbered on the glass or the team doing the clobbering, the Nets are consistently here to remind you that the more talented team doesn’t always win in this league.

With both Ben Simmons and Yuta Watanabe back from their injury absences, and with some big performances from guys that were outside of the rotation on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how minutes are distributed if everybody’s available this week (Royce O’Neale is out Monday in Washington). The win in Indiana began a stretch where the Nets are playing 15 of 20 games on the road, and three of the five home games are against the Warriors, Bucks and Celtics.

Week 9: @ WAS, @ TOR, @ DET

Last Week:13

Record: 15-13

OffRtg: 108.6 (28) DefRtg: 110.1 (5) NetRtg: -1.5 (22) Pace: 98.8 (21)

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard both made their returns from extended absences on Monday, and they subbed in and out together for the first seven quarters of the Clippers’ road trip, perhaps to accelerate chemistry building. George has clearly been the sharper of the two, as well as the one who was able to play both games of their Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back. Leonard missed their game in Miami on Thursday, and he still seems a ways from being his best self, especially when it comes to shooting from long distance. He was 3-for-14 from 3-point range during the trip and is now 5-for-29 (17%) for the season.

But it was Leonard who got the ball more often down the stretch, with all four games on the trip being within five points in the last five minutes. He had the game-winning jumper in Charlotte, a go-ahead drive in Washington, and four clutch assists, including one (after drawing a double-team) on the Nicolas Batum 3-pointer that gave the Clippers the lead for good on Saturday. But he also had a couple of rough-looking pull-ups down the stretch in the Clippers’ overtime loss in Orlando. A 2-2 trip against the Southeast Division isn’t great, but the Clippers are 5-2 in games that both George and Leonard have played, having outscored their opponents by 12.5 points per 100 possessions (and having allowed just 101.3 per 100) in their 150 minutes on the floor together.

The Clippers’ longest homestands this season are just five games long. The first of three begins Monday and includes visits from Boston and Phoenix. The game against the Suns (who are off on Wednesday) is the second game of another Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back, and the Clippers are 0-4 in rest-disadvantage games thus far.

Week 9: vs. BOS, vs. MIN, vs. PHX, vs. WAS

Last Week:12

Record: 15-14

OffRtg: 115.9 (4) DefRtg: 114.1 (24) NetRtg: +1.8 (9) Pace: 100.7 (11)

The Jazz now lead the league with 19 games that were within five points in the last five minutes. They’ve lost seven of their last eight that were within five in the last five, but the one win was a thriller, with Nickeil Alexander-Walker stripping Jordan Poole and Michael Beasley feeding Simone Fontecchio for the game-winning dunk with 1.4 seconds left.

Of course, those guys (Alexander-Walker and Fontecchio, especially) were on the floor because other guys were unavailable. Mike Conley returned from a nine-game absence on Friday against Minnesota, but the Jazz were without four of their top seven guys (including Conley) the following night in Denver. They still made that game close, but the absences of Jordan Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen were pretty glaring as the Jazz scored just six points (shooting 2-for-9 with three turnovers) on 12 clutch possessions, struggling to even get a shot off with a chance to tie in the final minute. They’ve lost eight of their last 11 games overall, even though they have the league’s fourth-ranked offense and have been outscored by just 1.7 points per 100 possessions over that stretch.

Defense has been an issue for Utah. The Jazz have slid from eighth to 24th on defense over the last four weeks, and they’ll play two games against the league’s fifth-ranked offense on Tuesday and Thursday. Their first meeting with the first-place Pelicans was in Week 1 and went to overtime, with Kelly Olynyk hitting the game-winning shot on a clumsy drive to the rim.

Week 9: vs. NOP, vs. NOP, @ MIL

Last Week:17

Record: 13-13

OffRtg: 114.0 (7) DefRtg: 112.5 (20) NetRtg: +1.5 (10) Pace: 96.7 (29)

Week 8 was a big one for the Mavs, and they won the two more important games, demolishing the Suns and then edging the Nuggets in Denver (and with a rest disadvantage). Since Thanksgiving, the Mavs have taken a league-high 51.3% of their shots from 3-point range, up from 47% (third) prior to that. And over those two wins last week, they shot 37-for-77 (48%) from beyond the arc, with Dorian Finney-Smith draining the game-winner in Denver when Luka Doncic was doubled.

But the Mavs were just 13-for-40 (33%) from 3-point range against the Bucks on Friday, when free throws were a bigger issue. Tim Hardaway Jr. went 0-for-3 from the line with a little less than three minutes left, Finney-Smith went 0-for-2 with the Mavs up one and 11 seconds to go, and Dallas was 10-for-24 (42%) from the stripe altogether in a game they lost by one. There have been three instances this season where a team has shot less than 50% on at least 20 free throw attempts, the Mavs have accounted for two of the three, and the other one was an overtime loss in Detroit earlier this month. Overall, the Grizzlies (69.8%) have still shot worse from the line than the Mavs (72.3%), but Memphis has had six fewer games that were within five points in the last five minutes and no team has shot worse on clutch free throws than Dallas (62.3%).

Doncic got a day off on Saturday and the Mavs got blown out in Chicago, just the second time this season they’ve been outscored from 3-point range. They’ve lost the last five games they’ve played against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively, and both of their games against the league’s No. 1 defense (that of the Cavs) are this week.

Week 9: vs. OKC, vs. CLE, vs. POR, @ CLE

Last Week:21

Record: 14-13

OffRtg: 112.1 (15) DefRtg: 111.4 (11) NetRtg: +0.7 (15) Pace: 100.3 (13)

Eight days ago, the Knicks ranked 26th in defensive efficiency. Today, they rank 11th (0.02 points per 100 possessions out of the top 10), having allowed just 94.4 per 100 over their four-game winning streak. The four opponents (including the Kings’ sixth-ranked offense) have shot a brutal 30-for-136 (22%) from 3-point range, but the Knicks have also forced more turnovers and done a much better job on the glass (grabbing 74.9% of available defensive boards – sixth in the league) than they had prior (69.0%, 27th). Sunday was the first time this season that Sacramento has been held under a point per possession.

The Knicks continue to rebound well on the other end of the floor as well. Mitchell Robinson has grabbed 23 offensive boards over the winning streak and Julius Randle now ranks third in second-chance points per game (4.1). The Knicks scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions against both the Hawks and Hornets last week, even though Jalen Brunson shot just 5-for-27 over the two games. Brunson (who suffered a foot injury late in their win over the Kings on Sunday) has played a positive role (going 19-for-20) in the Knicks shooting 89-for-102 (87.3%) from the free throw line over the winning streak. (Take note of his former team’s recent struggles in that regard.)

The winning streak has taken the Knicks back above .500 and into a three-way tie with the Hawks and Pacers for sixth place in the East. New York is set to meet Indiana for the first time on Sunday. The Knicks will first play two games in Chicago, and all three of their meetings are actually taking place in the next 12 days. Though they’ve won three straight at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks remain one of three teams — the Blazers and Spurs are the others — with a better record on the road (7-6) than they have at home (7-7).

Week 9: @ CHI, @ CHI, @ IND

Last Week:14

Record: 14-13

OffRtg: 110.3 (23) DefRtg: 111.4 (10) NetRtg: -1.1 (20) Pace: 101.5 (9)

In a tightly packed Eastern Conference, there’s a big difference between 14-13 and 13-14. And for the Hawks, the difference was the last 0.5 seconds of overtime against the Bulls on Sunday, when assistant coach Joe Prunty drew up a somewhat familiar play and for AJ Griffin to get his second alley-oop, buzzer-beating game-winner of the season (that might be a rookie record).

Big picture, the Hawks are struggling a bit as they deal with injuries. Even with the Sunday escape, they’re 3-6 since Thanksgiving, with losses to Houston, Miami, Oklahoma City and New York. Trae Young hit a big 3 against the Bulls on Sunday, but is just 9-for-49 (18%) from beyond the arc over his last seven games and ranks 130th in effective field goal percentage (45.6%) among the 135 players with at least 200 field goal attempts. John Collins has missed the last five games and Dejounte Murray has missed (almost all of) the last three.

De’Andre Hunter did return from a four-game absence on Sunday, and the recently-returned Bogdan Bogdanovic was on fire over the weekend, shooting 13-for-23 from 3-point range and totaling 59 points off the bench. But seeing Atlanta in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency is weird; Only the Hornets (-6.6) have seen a bigger drop in points scored per 100 possessions from last season than the Hawks (-5.0), who ranked second on that end of the floor in ’21-22.

The Hawks’ second rest-disadvantage game is in Memphis on Monday, but after that, they’ll play five straight games against four of the bottom five teams in the East. They’re 5-1 against the East’s bottom five after their escape against the Bulls on Sunday.

Week 9: @ MEM, @ ORL, @ CHA

Last Week:18

Record: 13-14

OffRtg: 112.1 (16) DefRtg: 111.1 (9) NetRtg: +0.9 (14) Pace: 98.6 (24)

The Raptors have serious road issues. They’ve lost nine of their last 10 games in the United States, with the only win coming (by four points) in Detroit, a city very close to Canada that’s home to the team with the league’s worst record. The Magic had fewer wins than the Pistons prior to Friday, but the Raptors went 0-2 in Orlando over the weekend, allowing a bottom-five offense to register two of its six most efficient performances of the season. The Raptors forced 38 turnovers over the two games (because that’s what they do), but the Magic shot 59% on Friday and had 31 free throw attempts (tied for their second most this season) on Sunday. Through Week 8, only the Warriors (12-2, 2-11) have a bigger home-road winning percentage differential than the Raptors (10-3, 3-11).

The Toronto offense is now a tick below the league average, with the Raptors having shot a brutal (and league-worst) 28.4% from 3-point range over the last month. Fred VanVleet is 22-for-92 (24%) over that stretch, just unable to find any kind of rhythm from deep. Nobody else in the rotation has been much better, and there weren’t enough offensive rebounds (just 14 total) in the two Orlando games to make up for the poor shooting.

The Raptors are home for 12 of their next 16 games, but they’re about to begin a stretch of 13 straight against teams that currently have winning records. They’re currently 4-8 against that group (that the Raptors are no longer a part of), including 0-3 against Brooklyn, having scored just 104.4 points per 100 possessions over the three games and trailed each of the last two by more than 20 points. The Nets are in Toronto on Friday, with the champs in town two nights later.

Week 9: vs. SAC, vs. BKN, vs. GSW

Last Week:19

Record: 11-15

OffRtg: 110.6 (21) DefRtg: 111.8 (14) NetRtg: -1.2 (21) Pace: 103.1 (1)

The Lakers’ resurgence fizzled out with Anthony Davis missing (almost all of) two games (with an illness) and with 24% shooting from 3-point range over a three-game losing streak. There was an amazing, 23-7 run over the final four minutes of regulation in Philly on Friday, but it was immediately followed by a scoreless four minutes in overtime. The offense bounced back in Detroit two nights later, but the Lakers still struggled to put away the Pistons, needing an Austin Reaves 3 with 12 seconds left to seal their second single-digit win over the team with the league’s worst record. That victory in Milwaukee still resonates, but five of their 11 wins have come against San Antonio and Detroit.

This Lakers season has been wild in that they’re tied for the second most games in which they’ve scored fewer than 105 points per 100 possessions (11), but also tied for the fourth most games in which they’ve scored at least 120 per 100 (9). So their offense has been either anemic or super-efficient, with very little in between. Overall, they’ve been a little worse offensively (scoring 1.5 fewer per 100 than the league average) than they were last season (1.4 fewer than average). And the defense has slipped out of the top 10, having allowed 117.6 per 100 over the 3-3 road trip.

The Lakers have played nine of their last 11 games on the road, but they’re home for just three before hitting the road again. They will have rest advantages against both the Celtics (on Tuesday — their first meeting with the league’s No. 1 offense) and Wizards (on Sunday) this week, and they’re 4-1 in rest-advantage games thus far.

Week 9: vs. BOS, vs. DEN, vs. WAS

Last Week:16

Record: 12-15

OffRtg: 109.7 (24) DefRtg: 111.7 (13) NetRtg: -2.0 (24) Pace: 97.8 (26)

Jimmy Butler’s return from a seven-game absence sparked a big win in Boston, but the Heat have since lost three of four, with two of those losses coming (at home) to the Pistons (without Butler) and Spurs (with him). The Detroit loss came with an anemic offensive performance, but the Heat also allowed those two teams (that both rank in the bottom six offensively) to score more than 120 points per 100 possessions, with San Antonio shooting 27-for-36 (75%) in the paint on Saturday.

Bench minutes were also a major issue. In fact, over this 1-3 stretch, the Heat have been outscored by 35 points (44.9 per 100 possessions) in just 39 minutes with Tyler Herro off the floor. Gabe Vincent has been out the last three games, but his absence has coincided with Victor Oladipo’s first three games of the season. Alas, the Heat allowed more than 122 points per 100 possessions in Oladipo’s 63 minutes, Dewayne Dedmon (who’s 6-10) has shot 5-for-21 over his last four games, and Max Strus was a DNP-CD for the second half against San Antonio on Saturday. Duncan Robinson, of course, has barely played. We can think of the Heat as a team that’s going to get good production no matter who they have to turn to, but that hasn’t been the case of late. For the season, the Heat’s bench ranks 27th in aggregate point differential per 100 possessions, down from seventh last season.

The Heat are just 3-9 on the road, but five of those nine losses were within five points in the last five minutes, they’ve got the league’s sixth-ranked road defense (110.4 points allowed per 100), and the four-game trip that they have this week is certainly one on which they can pick up multiple wins.

Week 9: @ IND, @ OKC, @ HOU, @ SAS (Mexico City)

Last Week:23

Record: 13-13

OffRtg: 111.9 (17) DefRtg: 112.0 (15) NetRtg: -0.2 (17) Pace: 103.0 (2)

The Wolves’ offense has done OK without Karl-Anthony Towns, scoring 114 points per 100 possessions over the five games since he injured his calf. And it’s been D’Angelo Russell, not Anthony Edwards, who’s seen the big jump in his numbers, averaging 24.8 points on an effective field goal percentage of 68% over the five games. The highlight of that stretch was a 20-point fourth quarter (on 7-for-7 shooting) in Utah on Friday, with two of his six fourth-quarter 3s pushing the Wolves to an eight-point lead with a little more than two minutes to go.

Edwards had 14 of the Wolves’ 35 first-quarter points against Indiana on Wednesday, and he had some moments of relentlessness in Portland on Saturday, but his usage rate over the last five games is actually a little lower (25.8%) than his season-long rate (26.3%). And though there’s now only one big on the floor, he’s averaged slightly fewer drives per game over the last five (11.4) than he averaged prior (11.9. But the Wolves have found a way to score without their second-leading scorer, and their starting lineup (with Kyle Anderson in Towns’ place) scored 128.4 points per 100 possessions in its 50 minutes last week.

They just couldn’t defend the Blazers in the second game of a back-to-back. Portland’s 124 points on 99 possessions on Saturday was its second most efficient offensive performance of the season, and the Wolves have now allowed 121.5 per 100 in going 1-3 in the second games of back-to-backs (the win was against the Rockets).

They got a day off before their second game in Portland, but the Wolves have played just four of their 14 back-to-backs, and the next one begins Sunday with a visit from the Bulls.

Week 9: @ POR, @ LAC, @ OKC, vs. CHI

Last Week:20

Record: 14-13

OffRtg: 112.6 (13) DefRtg: 113.4 (22) NetRtg: -0.8 (19) Pace: 102.9 (4)

The Pacers haven’t lost a game when they’ve been ahead or tied after the first quarter, which is kind of amazing. But they’ve been ahead or tied after the first quarter in only six of their 27 games, which is even more amazing. Their first-quarter issues have been more about offense, and one of their worst offensive first quarters came with Tyrese Haliburton returning from a two-game absence on Wednesday, when they scored just 17 points on 27 opening-period possessions in Minnesota, falling into a 23-point deficit. They climbed all the way out of that hole (pretty quickly, actually), but came up short when they couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch.

On Saturday, the Pacers allowed the super-shorthanded Nets to score 40 points on 27 first-quarter possessions. They again climbed out of a hole and again couldn’t get stops down the stretch, blowing a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead. Over the two losses, their opponents scored 34 points on 20 clutch possessions (170 per 100). The Pacers have the second most wins (they’re 8-12) in games trailed by double-digits, but 8-12 is not a good record, and first-quarter issues are holding them back. All told, they’ve been outscored by 20.6 points per 100 possessions in the opening period, the worst mark for any team in any quarter.

And that kind of makes their Monday win at Golden State (where the Warriors are otherwise 12-1) even more incredible. Playing without Haliburton, the Pacers had, by far, their best first quarter of the season (34-21) and the roles were reversed throughout. They blew two double-digit leads, but shot 4-for-4 in the clutch and Andrew Nembhard looked more like Stephen Curry than Stephen Curry. The rookie had eight points and an assist on the 13-2 run that won the game, finishing with 31 and 13.

That was a rest-disadvantage game for the Pacers, who will have a rest advantage when they face the champs (who are 1-3 in rest-disadvantage games) again on Wednesday. Their first meeting with the Cavs will be two nights later.

Week 9: vs. MIA, vs. GSW, @ CLE, vs. NYK

Last Week:22

Record: 11-15

OffRtg: 110.4 (22) DefRtg: 112.2 (17) NetRtg: -1.8 (23) Pace: 102.8 (5)

The Thunder lead the league in losses (they’re 7-5) in games they led after the third quarter. But they’re also tied for the second most wins (they’re 4-9) in games they’ve trailed after the third. And the latest of those four wins came Monday in Atlanta, when a 23-8, fourth-quarter run turned a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 35 points (he was 15-for-15 from the line) on Monday, but had only two of the 23 on that run, which was mostly fueled by Josh Giddey (eight points and two assists). The end of the run came with a Jokic-esque dime from Giddey to Jalen Williams cutting off a Gilgeous-Alexander back-screen.

Giddey can be a little careless with the ball (he’s a candidate for the “Player who looks most like he’s playing pick-up at the YMCA” award), his turnover ratio (13.7 per 100 possessions used) is the seventh highest among 103 players with a usage rate of 20% or higher, he still doesn’t shoot very well in the paint (51.5%) or outside it (3-for-18 from mid-range, 30.1% from 3), and he probably needs to be more engaged defensively. But the flashes of offensive brilliance are there almost every night, and a 6-foot-8 guard who can pass like that (and who’s willing to rebound) can be a serious weapon once he cleans up the turnovers and becomes somewhat of a threat to shoot.

The Thunder are certainly rewarding their fans’ patience a little more than they did last year, though those fans haven’t seen them in person much over the last month. Their current, five-game trip wraps Monday in Dallas, and they’ll then play 11 of their next 13 games at home, with their longest homestand of the season (seven games over 14 days) beginning Wednesday.

Week 9: @ DAL, vs. MIA, vs. MIN, vs. MEM

Last Week:25

Record: 11-15

OffRtg: 110.7 (20) DefRtg: 110.8 (7) NetRtg: -0.1 (16) Pace: 101.5 (8)

The Bulls actually got a clutch win on Wednesday, scoring 27 points on a stretch of 13 fourth-quarter possessions, capped by a couple of big buckets from DeMar DeRozan in the final two minutes against Washington. The win (which came with the Bulls’ sixth halftime lead of the season) moved them up a rung in the Eastern Conference, and then they busted out offensively. Against the Doncic-less Mavs on Saturday, and with Patrick Williams and Derrick Jones Jr. shooting 8-for-10 from 3-point range, Chicago (which ranked 25th offensively through Friday) registered the most efficient game (144 points on 100 possessions) for any team this season.

But the following night in Atlanta was just another frustrating defeat. Chicago erased a double-digit deficit and shot relatively well (8-for-17) in the clutch, but Jones missed a free throw that would have won the game at the end of regulation, and then he got beat on the Hawks’ game-winning alley-oop at the end of overtime. The Bulls still have the league’s worst clutch record (3-10), and they’re 11-15 overall, having outscored their opponents (by a point) over their 26 games.

The Bulls have had a relatively tough schedule of late, with 11 of their last 14 games having come against teams currently at or above .500. And with the Knicks now climbing above .500, their next couple of weeks look a little tougher than they did a few days ago. But (if you include the loss to the Hawks on Sunday), six games against Atlanta (x 2), Miami and New York (x 3) over the span of 13 days is also an opportunity to right the ship and make up lost ground.

Week 9: vs. NYK, vs. NYK, @ MIN

Last Week:24

Record: 11-16

OffRtg: 111.1 (19) DefRtg: 113.3 (21) NetRtg: -2.1 (25) Pace: 99.0 (20)

Delon Wright has been out since the fourth game of the season, but Jordan Goodwin has had some nice moments backing up Monte Morris. The second-year, undrafted guard (who played a total of six minutes last season) can get after it defensively, he had six steals in his second career start on Saturday, and his 3.2 steals + blocks per 36 minutes rank fourth among non-bigs who’ve played at least 250 minutes total. the Wizards have allowed just 103.8 points per 100 possessions in 175 minutes with Goodwin and Daniel Gafford (eighth overall with 3.8 steals + blocks per 36) on the floor together.

But overall, the Wizards’ defense has not been good. As they’ve lost nine of their last 10 games, they’ve ranked 29th on that end of the floor, allowing 119.5 points per 100 possessions. They were 9-0 when leading after the third quarter until Wednesday in Chicago, when the Bulls scored 27 points on a stretch of 13 fourth-quarter possessions. Two nights later in Indiana, the Wizards suffered their third loss in a game in which they scored at least 120 per 100. (The Suns are the only other team with three losses when they’ve been that efficient offensively.) And over this 10-game stretch, the Wizards have had more games against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 offensively (5) than they’ve had against teams that rank in the top 10 (2).

Things are about to get tougher in that regard, as they’ll face five top-10 offenses over their next seven games. The Wizards have been on the road for most of the last few weeks and their longest road trip of the season (six games over 10 days) begins Wednesday in Denver. The last five games of the trip are also their only stretch of five games in seven days.

Week 9: vs. BKN, @ DEN, @ LAC, @ LAL

Last Week:28

Record: 8-18

OffRtg: 109.3 (27) DefRtg: 115.4 (28) NetRtg: -6.1 (27) Pace: 100.0 (15)

The Rockets don’t rank last defensively like they did last year, but they’re in the bottom five for what would be the third straight season, and they’re breaking their own record for most transition points allowed per game (26.7). The Spurs had scored just 103.1 points per 100 possessions over their 11-game losing streak, but the Rockets allowed them to score 118 on 98 as the streak came to an end on Thursday.

But over these first 11 days of December, the Rockets also have wins over the Suns, Sixers and Bucks. The win over Milwaukee was much uglier than the other two. In fact, it was the first time in almost three years (since Dec. 16, 2019) that the Rockets won a game in which they scored less than a point per possession. But a common thread in all three games was Jalen Green leading the way offensively. His shooting remains erratic, but he got to the line a bunch against both Phoenix and Philly. And against the Bucks on Sunday, he was 12-for-21 from the field (including 7-for-11 from outside the paint) before snaking into the paint and drawing a foul on Brook Lopez for the go-ahead free throws with 35 seconds left. The Rockets are now 7-3 when Green has scored 25 points or more and 1-15 when he hasn’t.

Even with the loss to the Spurs, the Rockets have played only four games (they’re 2-2) against the 11 teams currently under .500 (they’re one of the 11, obv.), while every other team has played at least seven games against that group. Their seven-game homestand (which began with the win over the Bucks on Sunday) will give them three more, with the 12-15 Heat in Houston on Thursday.

Week 9: vs. PHX, vs. MIA, vs. POR

Last Week:29

Record: 8-20

OffRtg: 109.5 (26) DefRtg: 114.5 (26) NetRtg: -5.0 (26) Pace: 98.1 (25)

The Magic went from a nine-game losing streak to their first three-game winning streak since Feb. of 2021 (about a month before they traded their three highest-paid players). Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero have combined to average 46 points (shooting 50% from the field and 43-for-50 from the line) over the three games, just the seventh, eighth and ninth times this season that the Magic have scored more points per 100 possessions than the league average (112.2 per 100). Bench minutes have also been key, with Cole Anthony shooting 12-for-19 against Toronto over the weekend and Mo Bamba registering a team-best plus-26 over the streak.

The Magic have missed Jalen Suggs and Wendell Carter Jr. on defense, but Banchero had some good defensive moments last week. He defended Kawhi Leonard for much of Leonard’s 4-for-15 performance on Wednesday and on the Raptors’ last possession on Friday, Banchero stayed in front of both Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, forcing a near-impossible shot out of the latter. Banchero obviously came into the league as a terrific offensive player, but he has the tools (size and mobility) to be a very good defender as well.

The Magic remain one of three teams in the bottom five on both ends of the floor, and there are still four games left on what’s been a *tough stretch of schedule, with all four against the Hawks (who haven’t been playing particularly well of late) and Celtics. The Magic actually played a close game against Boston (one of the Celtics’ worst defensive games of the season) in Week 1.

* At one point, it was 16 straight games against teams with winning records, but the Magic’s two wins over the Raptors dropped Toronto under .500 and made that just 13 of 16.

Week 9: vs. ATL, @ BOS, @ BOS

Last Week:27

Record: 7-22

OffRtg: 109.6 (25) DefRtg: 116.8 (29) NetRtg: -7.2 (29) Pace: 99.9 (16)

Whether this stop is short or long-term, Bojan Bogdanovic is having himself a nice offensive season in Detroit, with some highlights coming last week. He scored 31 points (shooting 7-for-9 from 3-point range) in a win in Miami on Tuesday and had another 38 (including 25 in the third quarter) against the Lakers on Sunday. His effective field goal percentage (60.2%) and true shooting percentage (65.8%) are both career-high marks, with the former ranking 15th among 135 players with at least 200 field goal attempts (three teammates are in the bottom eight) and the latter ranking fifth among 50 players who’ve averaged at least 20 points per game. Bogdanovic has made his last 26 free throws and if can make his next 13 (while keeping his shooting from the field where it is), he’ll be at 50/40/90 for the season.

Bogdanovic’s strong shooting includes a career-best 58.6% in the paint. But he’s done most of his shooting from the perimeter, and as a whole, the Pistons have been dominated inside. In losses in New Orleans and Memphis last week, they were outscored by 62 points (130-68) in the paint, and their points-in-the-paint discrepancy for the season (minus-9.9 per game) would be the worst mark for any team in the last 10 years.

The Grizzlies (who the Pistons have played twice this month) and Pelicans rank first and third in points-in-the-point differential, and the Pistons have also played three games against the team (New York) that ranks second. They’ve played only one of their 12 scheduled games against the other four teams that have fewer than 10 wins through Week 8, and that one was opening night, when they beat the Magic by four. Their first of four meetings with the Hornets is Wednesday in Charlotte.

Week 9: @ CHA, vs. SAC, vs. BKN

Last Week:26

Record: 7-20

OffRtg: 107.0 (30) DefRtg: 114.1 (25) NetRtg: -7.1 (28) Pace: 100.1 (14)

The Hornets have lost five straight games and, while offense has been their larger problem this season, they’ve allowed a brutal 125.1 points per 100 possessions over the last four losses. And only one of those four opponents (Brooklyn) currently ranks higher than 14th offensively. But, despite the terrible defensive numbers, the Hornets only lost to the Clippers and Nets by a total of eight points on Monday and Wednesday. As they continue to play without LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward, their 30th-ranked offense has seen a bit of an uptick, and three of their five most efficient games of the season have come in December.

Terry Rozier has led the way, averaging 25.8 points this month (up from 20.0 in November) and registering an effective field goal percentage of 73% over his last three games. Mason Plumlee remains one of the best back-door passers in the league, and P.J. Washington (though he’s shot poorly) had some good moments of playing big against smalls in Brooklyn. One issue on that end of the floor was free throws. The Hornets lost those two games to the Clippers and Nets by eight total points, having shot 23-for-40 (58%) from the line.

The five games on the Hornets’ losing streak come against teams currently above .500, and they’ll get a bit of schedule relief with visits from the Pistons and Hawks (who stayed above .500 by the thinnest of margins on Sunday) this week. But a six-game road trip (that includes two back-to-backs) begins Sunday in Denver.

Week 9: vs. DET, vs. ATL, @ DEN

Last Week:30

Record: 8-18

OffRtg: 107.9 (29) DefRtg: 118.1 (30) NetRtg: -10.2 (30) Pace: 101.6 (7)

The Spurs still rank last defensively by a healthy margin, but they’ve done OK when they’ve been un-terrible on that end of the floor. Wins over the Rockets and Heat put an end to their 11-game losing streak and made them 8-7 when they’ve held their opponent under 120 points per 100 possessions. The 30th-ranked defense actually ranks seventh in opponent free throw rate and the Spurs held the Rockets (who rank seventh in free throw rate) to just 15 attempts from the stripe on Thursday, while also holding Houston to just 53% shooting in the paint.

The Spurs still rank 29th offensively, but they’ve avoided falling into the basement by scoring more than 120 points per 100 in the two wins. It was noted in this space last week that Keldon Johnson sort of broke out of his slump in loss No. 11 of the streak, and he was the leading scorer over the two wins, totaling 53 points on 21-for-36 (58%) shooting. Getting Doug McDermott (6-for-10 from 3-point range) back from a two-game absence was key, and Romeo Langford had himself a night (career-high 19 points) in Miami. The Spurs’ starting frontline – Jeremy Sochan and Jakob Poeltl – has been out the last five games, but Zach Collins has been healthy and totaled 26 points over the two wins. For the season, Collins is one of 15 players who’ve shot better than 70% on at least 50 shots in the paint.

The Rockets and Heat both have bottom-10 offenses, and the Spurs will play them both again over the next eight days. That includes the NBA Mexico City Game (vs. Miami) on Saturday.

Week 9: vs. CLE, vs. POR, vs. MIA (Mexico City)