Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 15: Clippers reign as new No. 1 team

LA surges ahead of Boston while Denver rises to No. 3 in another week of changes to the Top 10.

Kawhi Leonard vs. Celtics

Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers are making it look easy this season against teams over .500.

Things are heating up at the top of the Western Conference with the midway point of the season in the rearview mirror.

With the Oklahoma City Thunder’s stunning loss in Detroit on Sunday, there are four teams within a game in the loss column of each other at the top of the West standings:

  • The 32-14 Thunder have the conference’s best point differential.
  • The 32-14 Minnesota Timberwolves have the league’s best defense.
  • The 30-14 LA Clippers have the league’s best record over the last 10 weeks.
  • The 32-15 Denver Nuggets are the defending champs.

They’re four great teams, they all have at least two wins and two losses in games played between the four, and there will be two more of those games in the next three days. The Thunder (5-3) have played the most games within the group and have just three left, but two of those three are Monday (vs. Minnesota) and Wednesday (vs. Denver).

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: New York (3-0) — That OG Anunoby trade is working out pretty well.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Miami (0-3) — We’ve learned never to write off the Heat, but uh… Yikes!

* * *

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 14

  • Toughest: 1. Golden State, 2. San Antonio, 3. Orlando
  • Easiest: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Phoenix

Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

* * *

Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: New York (+4), Sacramento (+4), Golden State (+2), Memphis (+2)
  • Free falls of the week: Dallas (-4), Miami (-3), New Orleans (-3), Toronto (-3)

* * *

Week 15 Team to Watch

  • Oklahoma City The Thunder may have lost in Detroit on Sunday, because they were looking forward to their next two games. If you focus on that top four in the West, they’re two of the three biggest games remaining on their schedule.

* * *


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 115.2 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes this season.

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

Last Week:2

Record: 30-14

OffRtg: 119.7 (4) DefRtg: 113.4 (11) NetRtg: +6.3 (4) Pace: 98.3 (26)

The Clippers continue to roll. They’re 13-2 since Christmas, with the two losses having come by a total of just seven points. And they got their most impressive win of the season on Saturday, when they were at a rest disadvantage in Boston and won by 19.

Three takeaways

  • The Clippers’ 27-7 record since Nov. 17 (Game 6 with James Harden) includes a 15-6 mark (best in the league over that time) against other teams that are currently over .500, having scored more than 122.1 points per 100 possessions over those 21 games. Kawhi Leonard missed two of them, but has averaged 24.9 points on 55%/46%/92% shooting splits in the 19 he’s played in.
  • With the win in Boston, the Clippers have avenged six of their seven overall losses since mid-November, having beat the Pelicans, Nuggets, Warriors (twice), Thunder, Celtics and Lakers after losing to them. The only loss since Nov. 17 that they haven’t since avenged is their last one (Jan. 14 in Minnesota), with their next game against the Wolves coming Feb. 12.
  • The Clippers have had a center on the floor for about 2/3 of their clutch minutes over this 27-7 stretch. Overall, they’ve outscored their opponents by 19.3 points per 100 possessions in 417 total minutes with their other four starters on the floor alongside either Ivica Zubac (who’s now missed the last six games) or Mason Plumlee.

The Clips still have five games left on their longest road trip of the season (seven games over 11 days). The toughest remaining game is Monday in Cleveland, where the Clippers lost by 23 (without Leonard or Paul George) exactly one year ago.

Week 15: @ CLE, @ WAS, @ DET, @ MIA

Last Week:1

Record: 35-11

OffRtg: 120.2 (3) DefRtg: 110.6 (2) NetRtg: +9.7 (1) Pace: 99.0 (17)

The Celtics have been careful with Kristaps Porzingis, sitting him for one of their two games in five of their last six back-to-backs. But they can’t put him in bubble wrap for the next three months, and an ankle sprain kept him out of their game against the Clippers on Saturday, their second (and worst) home loss of the season.

Three takeaways

  • While their regular starting lineup has outscored opponents by 16.4 points per 100 possessions in its 362 minutes, the lineup with Al Horford in Porzingis’ place has been outscored by 0.8 per 100 in 195 after getting destroyed (minus-19 in 16.5 minutes) on Saturday. Overall, the difference between the two lineups has been nearly even on both ends of the floor.
  • The loss to the Clippers was more about the Boston offense, which scored less than a point per possession for the third time this season (the first time since November). They took only 40% of their shots from 3-point range (their seventh-lowest rate of the season), but also made less than half of their shots in the paint (24-for-51) for just the third time. Overall, the Celtics rank fifth in field goal percentage in the paint (59.7%), but 29th in the percentage of their shots (43%) that have come there.
  • The loss to the Clippers was preceded by good road wins in Dallas and Miami, with the latter being the most efficient offensive game (143 points on just 96 possessions) the Heat have allowed in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. With the Thunder’s loss in Detroit on Sunday, the Celtics are now, statistically, both the league’s best home team (plus-13.6 points per 100 possessions) and its best road team (plus-6.1).

Porzingis is listed as questionable for the Celtics’ game against the Pelicans on Monday, Game 2 of a seven-game homestand (their longest of the season), so the injury doesn’t seem to be a long-term thing. The Celtics are 2-2 against the Pacers and will be at a rest disadvantage when they decide the season series on Tuesday night.

Week 15: vs. NOP, vs. IND, vs. LAL, vs. MEM

Last Week:4

Record: 32-15

OffRtg: 118.2 (7) DefRtg: 113.8 (12) NetRtg: +4.4 (7) Pace: 97.5 (29)

The Nuggets are 5-2 on a stretch of eight straight games against the Eastern Conference that ends with a visit from the Bucks on Monday. The last two games have been rather disappointing, as they got clobbered in New York on Thursday (the final matchup of a five-game trip that didn’t include any back-to-backs) and faced the Sixers’ B Team two nights later.

Three takeaways

  • The Nuggets have been staggering the minutes of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, and the non-Jokic minutes were solid (plus-4 in 11:20) against the shorthanded Sixers on Saturday. But for the season, they’ve been outscored by 90 points (18.1 per 100 possessions) in 207 total minutes with Murray on the floor without Jokic. That’s not a lot of minutes (no Murray-only lineup has played more than 65), but it’s not good.
  • With neither DeAndre Jordan nor Zeke Nnaji having earned the backup center job, we may see a frontline of Aaron Gordon and Peyton Watson when Jokic is off the floor and the stakes are high. That was the case in the Nuggets’ win in Boston 10 days ago, though they’ve played just over 30 total minutes (and have been outscored by 26 points) with Murray on the floor without Jokic, Jordan or Nnaji.
  • The Nuggets probably shouldn’t have played close games against the Pacers (without Tyrese Haliburton) and Sixers (without their three best players) last week, but they’ve now won eight of their last 10 games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having allowed just 54 points on 67 clutch possessions (81 per 100) over that stretch. They now lead the league in clutch defense, having allowed 96.5 per 100 with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.

The Nuggets are 1-2 vs. the first-place Thunder (whom they trail by just a half-game), with the road team having won all three games and Oklahoma City having scored 10 points on just five clutch possessions to win the close one. The final meeting is in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Week 15: vs. MIL, @ OKC, vs. POR, vs. POR

Last Week:3

Record: 29-15

OffRtg: 119.6 (5) DefRtg: 111.9 (6) NetRtg: +7.7 (3) Pace: 99.6 (14)

Joel Embiid scored 70 points (in less than 37 minutes) against the Spurs on Monday, but the Sixers are 0-2 on their five-game road trip, with Embiid having missed their game in Denver for the fourth straight season.

Three takeaways

  • Embiid is now averaging 37.9 points per 36 minutes, the most for any player in any season in NBA history. As noted in this space last week, it’s as much about his usage as his efficiency. His usage rate of 38.7% is the third highest for any player in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data, topped only by seasons from Russell Westbrook (40.2% in 2016-17) and James Harden (39.6% in 2018-19).
  • Maybe it’s a good sign (regarding the postseason) that Embiid has the stamina to still score efficiently while registering such a high usage rate. His true shooting percentage of 65% is down a bit from last season (65.5%), but would still be the fifth highest in NBA history for a player who averaged at least 30 points per game (87 total instances).
  • Of course, Embiid has now missed 11 of the Sixers’ 44 games, and he’d be ineligible for postseason awards if he misses seven more. The Sixers are 3-8 without the reigning Kia MVP after going 13-5 without him last season, though they have outscored their opponents by 8.5 points per 100 possessions in 684 total minutes with Tyrese Maxey (who also missed the Denver game) on the floor without Embiid.

The rest of the road trip should be easier than the first two games, though the Sixers lost at home (without Embiid) to the Jazz, who they’ll visit on Thursday. Both Maxey and Embiid are listed as questionable for their game in Portland on Monday.

Week 15: @ POR, @ GSW, @ UTA, vs. BKN

Last Week:5

Record: 32-14

OffRtg: 119.4 (6) DefRtg: 111.3 (4) NetRtg: +8.1 (2) Pace: 101.1 (8)

With home games against the Wolves and Nuggets coming in the next three days, the Thunder’s visit to Detroit on Sunday afternoon was a trap game. And boy did they get trapped, suffering only their third double-digit loss of the season to an opponent that was previously 0-25 against the 18 teams that currently have winning records.

Three takeaways

  • The Thunder also had a too-close-for-comfort game in Portland last week, but were saved by two technical fouls on Blazers coach Chauncey Billups and two pull-up jumpers from Jalen Williams, with the second giving them the lead with two seconds left. It certainly says a lot about the 22-year-old Williams that the Thunder are giving him the ball in those situations with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also on the floor.
  • But maybe Williams is their best option, especially if they can get a small defender (like Anfernee Simons on Tuesday) switched onto him. He’s shot 75-for-140 (53.6%) on pull-up 2-pointers, the second-best mark among 77 players who’ve attempted at least 75 (Gilgeous-Alexander has the fifth-best mark) and up from 41.2% last season.
  • The Thunder lost five of their first seven games against the other teams currently in the top eight in the West, but have since gone 6-1 against that group. Before their hiccup in Detroit, they went to New Orleans and held what was the league’s eighth-ranked offense to just 83 points on 99 possessions, its least efficient performance of the season.

Ten of the Thunder’s 14 games within the top eight in the West have been on the road, but they’ll begin a four-game homestand with huge games against the Wolves and Nuggets. They’ll be at a rest disadvantage against Minnesota on Monday, but benefitting from the Lions having won a playoff game for the first time in 33 years, because that Sunday loss in Detroit was moved up from a 6 p.m. to a 2 p.m. ET start.

They’re 2-1 against both the Wolves and Nuggets, but 4-0 against them since Dec. 1, having allowed just 104.0 points per 100 possessions over the four wins.

Week 15: vs. MIN, vs. DEN, vs. CHA, vs. TOR

Last Week:7

Record: 32-14

OffRtg: 120.4 (2) DefRtg: 116.3 (19) NetRtg: +4.0 (9) Pace: 102.6 (3)

After their win in Detroit last Monday, the Bucks were tied for the league’s second-best record. But they had its 10th-best point differential and the 22nd-ranked defense, having played the league’s easiest schedule. Wins are good, but two single-digit wins over the Pistons are not great, and Adrian Griffin was fired on Tuesday.

Three takeaways

  • The Bucks’ three games under interim coach Joe Prunty were their best three-game stretch of defense (110.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Christmas and allowed them to climb out of the bottom 10 on that end of the floor. Their opponents didn’t shoot poorly (37.1%) from 3-point range, but there was a small improvement in both rim protection and defensive rebounding percentage.
  • They still lost one of the three games, shooting just 17-for-37 (46%) in the paint as they scored less than a point per possession against the Cavs on Friday. It was a 12-point loss in which they were outscored by 20 points in a little more than 12 minutes with Giannis Antetokounmpo off the floor. His on-off differential for the season (the Bucks have been 14.3 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor) is the biggest of his career.
  • In his last 16 seasons as a head coach (starting with his championship season in 2007-08), Doc Rivers (who takes over on Monday) has had 11 top-10 defenses, with eight of those 11 (five with Boston, two with the Clippers and one with the Sixers) ranking in the top five. The Bucks don’t need to be that good defensively, but they need to be better.

Though their last three games have come against the Cavs (x 2) and Pelicans, the Bucks have still played the league’s easiest schedule regarding cumulative opponent winning percentage. The three games last week began a stretch (that extends past the All-Star break) where they’re playing 12 of 15 against teams that currently have winning records.

Additionally, the Bucks are the only team that hasn’t played in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. They begin a five-game trip in Denver on Monday, with the third game of that trip (in Dallas on Saturday) being the start of their only stretch of five games in seven nights.

Week 15: @ DEN, @ POR, @ DAL, @ UTA

Last Week:6

Record: 32-14

OffRtg: 114.2 (19) DefRtg: 108.9 (1) NetRtg: +5.2 (6) Pace: 98.5 (24)

The Wolves have hit a rough patch. They had four games against four of the eight worst teams in the league last week, and they went 2-2, barely escaping Brooklyn with one of the two wins.

Three takeaways

  • The Wolves have allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions just 12 times this season, and two of those instances have been against the Hornets’ 28th-ranked offense. They won the first of those two games against Charlotte, but lost last Monday despite getting a franchise-record 62 points from Karl-Anthony Towns. They couldn’t even get stops after an 18-point lead was cut to three with less than five minutes left (and the urgency was obvious), as they then allowed Charlotte to score 13 points on its next six possessions.
  • Before last week, the Wolves were 22-1 (with 21 straight wins) in games they led at the half. Now, they’re 23-3, having lost to the Hornets and Spurs after taking leads into halftime. They also blew a 17-point lead in Brooklyn before escaping with a win when Mikal Bridges missed free throws with 2.4 seconds left. The cumulative score of their four fourth quarters last week was Opponents 118, Wolves 83.
  • Having Rudy Gobert and putting him in drop coverage to protect the rim is the best way to have a top-10 defense for 82 games against 29 different opponents, but the Wolves can be beaten on non-restricted-area 2-point shots. And their two losses last week came with the two best shooting games on non-restricted-area 2s from their opponents this season, with the Hornets going 24-for-34 (71%) and the Spurs going 18-for-25 (72%). The Wolves are now 2-6 when their opponent has made at least half of its non-restricted-area 2-point shots.

One of those six losses was to the Thunder, who rank second in field goal percentage on non-restricted-area 2-pointers (47.7%) and were 12-for-21 on Dec. 26, also beating the Wolves (in Minnesota) nine days ago. The Wolves will look to earn a split of the season series with their visit to Oklahoma City on Monday.

Week 15: @ OKC, vs. DAL, vs. ORL, vs. HOU

Last Week:12

Record: 29-17

OffRtg: 117.9 (8) DefRtg: 112.1 (7) NetRtg: +5.8 (5) Pace: 97.9 (27)

The Knicks’ 12-2 record with OG Anunoby (11-1 with both Anunoby and Jalen Brunson) now includes wins over the Wolves, Sixers, Nuggets (by 38 points) and Heat.

Three takeaways

  • They didn’t need a ton of offense from Brunson against the champs, but he had 32 points and eight assists (with no turnovers) against the Heat and continues to shoot better than 40% on pull-up 3-pointers. The Knicks have scored 15.2 more points per 100 possessions with Brunson on the floor than they have with him off the floor, and he should be a lock to be selected for his first All-Star game on Thursday.
  • The win over the Heat improved the Knicks to 5-10 against the other seven East teams that currently have winning records, but was marred by a right shoulder injury to Julius Randle. The Knicks have played just 203 total minutes with Brunson on the floor without Randle, but have outscored their opponents by 11.1 points per 100 possessions in those minutes.

The Knicks’ last game before they added Anunoby was a loss in Indiana and one of their worst defensive games of the season. They’ll host the Pacers twice on a six-game homestand (their longest of the season) that begins Tuesday.

Week 15: @ CHA, vs. UTA, vs. IND, vs. LAL

Last Week:9

Record: 26-20

OffRtg: 117.3 (10) DefRtg: 115.3 (16) NetRtg: +2.0 (11) Pace: 98.5 (23)

The Suns won seven straight games, coming back from big deficits to beat the Bulls and Mavs last week. But the streak ended with two losses over the weekend in which a season-long problem reared its ugly head.

Three takeaways

  • It’s rather amazing how bad the Suns have been in the last 12 minutes of regulation. They’ve been outscored by 15.7 points per 100 possessions in the fourth period, which would be the worst fourth-quarter mark for any team in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. They were up 11 early in the fourth in Indiana on Friday, only to be outscored 26-13 over the final nine minutes. Two nights later in Orlando, they led by three before being outscored 24-6 over the final 10 minutes. Six points!
  • The fourth-quarter issues are on both ends of the floor, but a little more on offense, where their 103.4 points scored per 100 possessions ranks last in the fourth. Neither Devin Booker nor Kevin Durant have shot terribly in the fourth quarter, but it’s been the worst shooting quarter for both of them and they were a combined 9-for-24 in the fourth over these last two games. Bradley Beal was 0-for-9 and now has the 12th-worst fourth-quarter effective field goal percentage (42.3%) among 230 players with at least 50 field goal attempts. Jordan Goodwin (41.4%) has the seventh worst.
  • The Suns attempted just 14 3-pointers in their loss in Orlando on Sunday, one fewer than Durant attempted himself against the Bulls earlier in the week. His 15 3-point attempts on Monday tied his career high and his 43 points (capped by the game-winning jumper) were his most in 58 total games with the Suns (including playoffs). Booker topped that with 46 two nights later and 62 on Friday.

The last three games of the Suns’ seven-game trip are against three of the bottom six teams in the East. They’ll first be at a rest disadvantage in Miami on Monday, but are currently 4-1 (only the Bucks have been better) in rest-disadvantage games.

Week 15: @ MIA, @ BKN, @ ATL, @ WAS

Last Week:11

Record: 27-16

OffRtg: 114.9 (16) DefRtg: 110.7 (3) NetRtg: +4.2 (8) Pace: 98.7 (21)

The Cavs’ eight-game win streak came to an end on Wednesday, but they earned a split of two games in Milwaukee by holding the league’s second-ranked offense under a point per possession for the second time in 10 days.

Three takeaways

  • The Cavs’ current starting lineup (with Isaac Okoro and Dean Wade in place of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley) has just topped the 200-minute mark and has outscored its opponents by 18.6 points per 100 possessions, the second-best mark among 20 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes.
  • Part of that success is their opponents shooting just 31.3% from 3-point range, the lowest opponent mark among those 20 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes. The Cavs had the league’s No. 1 defense last season while ranking just 23rd in opponent 3-point percentage. This defense is a little more dependent on its opponents shooting poorly from deep, though it’s not all luck. Okoro impressively blocked a Damian Lillard step-back 3 on Friday.
  • The Cavs’ offense hasn’t been too bad, either. Their three most efficient games of the season have come in January, with the third of those having come against the league’s fifth-ranked defense in Orlando last Monday. They rank eighth offensively since mid-December, up from 25th prior to that.

The Cavs will play their third straight game against a top-five offense, their first meeting with the Clippers, on Monday. Then it’s three straight games against teams that rank in the bottom five on that end of the floor. They’re 17-2 (only the Knicks have been better) against the 12 teams that are currently below .500.

Week 15: vs. LAC, vs. DET, @ MEM, @ SAS

Last Week:8

Record: 26-20

OffRtg: 117.0 (13) DefRtg: 113.0 (9) NetRtg: +4.0 (10) Pace: 99.7 (13)

The Pelicans had the toughest January schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage (entering the month), and they’ve seemingly felt it. After winning four of their first five January games, they’ve lost five of eight, slipping out of the top six in the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • The Pelicans’ win over the Jazz on Tuesday was their most efficient offensive game of the season (153 points on 105 possessions) and came with a career-high 11 assists from Zion Williamson. The 23-year-old has seen a jump in assist ratio each season he’s been available to play, from 9.1% as a rookie to 19% this season. That ranks 21st among 51 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher.
  • Williamson missed the Pels’ next game (against the Thunder on Friday), which was their least efficient offensive game of the season (83 on 99) and ended a four-game winning streak in games in which they were without him. They’ve still seen the league’s fifth-biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions from last season (113.8, 20th).
  • With the win over Utah, the Pelicans are a league-best 14-1 (7-0 since Christmas) when they’ve outscored their opponent from 3-point range. But that total of 15 games is tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. They were only a minus-3 from beyond the arc when they lost by 24 to the Thunder, but were a minus-33 from deep (tied for their worst discrepancy of the season) in another 24-point loss the following night in Milwaukee.

The toughest game in a tough month is a visit to Boston on Monday, with the Pelicans having lost their last four games against the Celtics.

Week 15: @ BOS, @ HOU, @ SAS

Last Week:13

Record: 27-20

OffRtg: 121.2 (1) DefRtg: 119.4 (26) NetRtg: +1.8 (12) Pace: 102.9 (2)

Tyrese Haliburton has missed five straight and 10 of the last 11 games. But the Pacers have won six of those 10 games he’s missed and their current, three-game winning streak includes victories against the Sixers and Suns.

Three takeaways

  • With their win over the Sixers on Thursday, the Pacers are 11-4 against the five teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference, though their total point differential over those 15 games is exactly zero, because one of the four losses (without Haliburton in Boston on Nov. 1) came by 51 points.
  • The Pacers were 1-7 in the second games of back-to-backs and 0-5 in rest-disadvantage games before Friday, when they won a rest-disadvantage game against the Suns. They came back from a 17-point deficit (still down 11 early in the fourth quarter) and got three huge buckets from Andrew Nembhard before Obi Toppin got the put-back game-winner with 3.4 seconds left. They still have the league’s biggest differential between their record with rest (25-13) and their record in the second games of back-to-backs (2-7).
  • Pascal Siakam has averaged 25.3 points on 65% shooting over the winning streak, with the Pacers having outscored their opponents by 22.7 points per 100 possessions in his 98 minutes over the three games. Even though he’s played only 26 of his 195 total Indiana minutes alongside Haliburton, Siakam has a slightly lower usage rate with the Pacers (24%) than he did with the Raptors (24.8%).

That 11-4 record against the top five in the East includes a 2-2 mark against the Celtics, and the season series will be decided in Boston on Tuesday. Then it’s on to New York for the first of two big games against the fourth-place Knicks in 10 days.

Week 15: @ BOS, @ NYK, vs. SAC, @ CHA

Last Week:17

Record: 26-18

OffRtg: 117.0 (12) DefRtg: 116.3 (18) NetRtg: +0.7 (14) Pace: 100.3 (11)

The Kings have followed a four-game losing streak with three straight wins, rising to fifth place in the Western Conference with an important victory in Dallas on Saturday.

Three takeaways

  • Five of their last six games have been within five points in the last five minutes, so there’s not a huge difference between the Kings that lost four straight and the Kings that have won three straight. But they have scored 124.9 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak, their best three-game stretch of offense since Christmas.
  • The surprise scoring leader has been Harrison Barnes, who’s averaged 30.3 points over the three games, having totaled 34 points over the previous six. It’s the highest-scoring three-game stretch of Barnes’ career, with his 32 points against the Hawks and his career-high 39 against the Warriors being just the fifth and sixth times (in 944 career games, including postseason) that he’s scored 32 or more.
  • Another interesting development is Keegan Murray’s floater. He had two high-and-soft ones against the Hawks and more against the Warriors and Mavs. Murray hasn’t shot as well from 3-point range as he did last season, but his 63.2% in the paint is up from 56.3% as a rookie.

The Kings have five games left on their seven-game road trip. They had rest advantages at Golden State and Dallas and they’ll have two more (in Memphis and Indiana) this week.

Week 15: @ MEM, @ MIA, @ IND, @ CHI

Last Week:10

Record: 25-21

OffRtg: 117.6 (9) DefRtg: 117.4 (23) NetRtg: +0.3 (16) Pace: 100.9 (9)

Luka Doncic scored 73 points, tied for the fourth highest-scoring game in NBA history, as the Mavs won in Atlanta on Friday. But that’s their only win in their last five games, as they continue to struggle against other good teams.

Three takeaways

  • Doncic ranked second in scoring last season, so it’s not like he couldn’t go off in the past. But he’s a little more potent this season because he’s shot better and more often from beyond the arc. His 37.5% from 3-point range is easily the best mark of his career and his 3-point rate (43.2% of his shots have come from deep) is his highest since his rookie season. He was 8-for-13 from 3-point range on Friday, while also shooting 17-for-20 inside the arc and 15-for-16 from the line. He had more 2-pointers (19-for-25) and more free throws (16-for-22) in his 60-point game against the Knicks in Dec. of 2022, but was just 2-for-6 from deep that night.
  • With losses to the Celtics, Suns and Kings (all at home) last week, the Mavs are 10-17 in games played between the 18 teams that are currently over .500, and they have the worst record (5-12) in games played between the top eight teams in the West, having allowed 123 points per 100 possessions over those 17 games.
  • Defense remains the theme, as this 1-4 stretch has been the Mavs’ worst five-game stretch of defense this season (126.4 allowed per 100). They’ve seen improvement in both opponent free throw rate and opponent turnover rate from last season, but their opponents have averaged 27.2 free throw attempts and just 10.8 turnovers over these last five games.

The Mavs’ schedule remains difficult (though a little East-heavy) through the next two weeks. One of their three 2024 wins over a winning team was against the Wolves on Jan. 7, when Doncic and Kyrie Irving (who’s missed the last three games) combined for only 69 points. The fourth and final meeting is in Minnesota on Wednesday.

Week 15: vs. ORL, @ MIN, vs. MIL

Last Week:14

Record: 24-22

OffRtg: 112.2 (24) DefRtg: 111.5 (5) NetRtg: +0.7 (15) Pace: 98.6 (22)

The Magic have won just three of their last 10 games, but the three wins have come against the Knicks, Heat and Suns, with the opponents having barely scored a point per possession over those three games.

Three takeaways

  • The Magic have fallen back to 30th in 3-point percentage (34%), having shot just 30.5% from beyond the arc over the last three weeks. Joe Ingles has been one of the only guys who’s shot decently from deep over that stretch, but missed a good look for the win in Memphis on Friday and the Magic lost by one in a game in which they were outscored by 18 points from 3-point range by the team that ranks 28th in 3-point percentage.
  • They were a plus-24 from 3-point range on Sunday, because Phoenix shot 4-for-14 from deep. The Suns also committed 23 turnovers and their 98 points on 98 possessions was their second least efficient offensive performance of the season. They scored just 39 points on 47 possessions with Jonathan Isaac on the floor and the big man had one terrific possession in the fourth quarter where he blocked two straight shots. Isaac has still played less than 400 total minutes this season, but the last two games were the first and second times in the last four years (since Dec. 2019) that he’s cracked the 20-minute mark.
  • The Magic have twice as many wins in the second games of back-to-backs (2-7) as they did last season (1-12). But, with their 27-point loss to the Cavs last Monday, they’ve now lost their last six games without rest. They have the league’s second-biggest differential between their record with rest (22-15) and their record in the second games of back-to-backs.

Their win over Phoenix on Sunday was the first game of their 10th back-to-back. The back end (Monday in Dallas) is the start of a five-game trip, with the Magic currently 3-7 in Western Conference arenas.

Week 15: @ DAL, @ SAS, @ MIN, @ DET

Last Week:16

Record: 24-23

OffRtg: 115.5 (15) DefRtg: 117.1 (22) NetRtg: -1.7 (21) Pace: 100.9 (10)

A three-game losing streak took the Jazz back below .500, but they’ve since won two straight and remain in the Play-In club in the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • Lauri Markkanen’s per-game scoring (24 ppg) is down from his 25.6 points per game last season, which was a huge leap from the season prior. But he’s scoring a little more efficiently, registering career-highs for both 2-point percentage (59.4%) and 3-point percentage (40.2%), while seeing his 3-point rate rise back above 50%. He was 13-for-24 from beyond the arc in totaling 62 points over the Jazz’s wins over the Wizards and Hornets last week.
  • Markkanen is one of two players — Kevin Durant is the other — who’ve shot 58% or better on at least 500 2-pointers, 39% or better on at least 300 3-pointers and 85% or better on at least 300 free throws over the last two seasons.
  • Transition defense remains an issue. The Jazz’s loss in New Orleans on Tuesday was the Pelicans’ most efficient offensive game of the season (153 points on 105 possessions). Utah had only five live-ball turnovers, but still allowed 35 fast break points (the Pels’ second highest total). Even as they beat the Wizards and Hornets, the Jazz allowed 55 total fast break points, with Kris Dunn (one of the best perimeter defenders in the league) in the middle of one brutal breakdown in transition early in Washington.

The wins in Washington and Charlotte improved the Jazz to 12-5 (12-2 since Dec. 1) against the Eastern Conference, needing just one more win to match their interconference total from last season (13-17). Their six-game trip concludes with a Monday-Tuesday back-to-back in New York, with the second of those games being the start of five straight against teams that rank in the top 10 offensively.

Week 15: @ BKN, @ NYK, vs. PHI, vs. MIL

Last Week:18

Record: 24-23

OffRtg: 113.5 (20) DefRtg: 114.4 (14) NetRtg: -0.9 (18) Pace: 101.2 (7)

The Lakers have won five of their last seven games to climb above .500 for the first time since they were 17-16, and their double-overtime win at Golden State on Saturday was a big one in regard to the standings.

Three takeaways

  • The 5-2 stretch has been fueled a little more by offense (121 points scored per 100 possessions) than defense. In fact, the last five games have been the Lakers’ worst five-game stretch of defense this season (120.9 allowed per 100). Wins over the Blazers and Bulls in the last eight days have been the third and fourth times they’ve scored more than 130 per 100.
  • It’s been a big three on that end of the floor, with LeBron James, D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Davis all averaging between 24.6 and 27.2 points per game on better than 50% shooting over the 5-2 stretch. James and Russell have also combined to shoot 47-for-91 (52%) from 3-point range and 43-for-48 (90%) from the free-throw line over the seven games. One of the two losses (Tuesday against the Clippers) was in a game that James missed, and the Lakers are now 2-3 (with three straight defeats) without the all-time leading scorer.
  • The Lakers are one of three teams — the Heat and Jazz are the others — with a winning record and a negative point differential. With the double-OT win over the Warriors, they’re 13-6 (third best) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and 11-17 otherwise. James (5-for-7 on Saturday) has shot 28-for-44 (64%) on clutch shots, the second best mark among 55 players who’ve attempted at least 25.

The win over the Warriors was the start of a six-game road trip and while Lakers-Celtics on Thursday is the marquee matchup, the biggest game of the six is Monday, when the ninth-place Lakers visit the 11th-place Rockets (their opposite regarding record and point differential) for their fourth and final meeting. The home team has won each of the first three, with the Lakers’ two wins having come by a total of 11 points and the Rockets’ win (which Davis missed) having come by 34.

Week 15: @ HOU, @ ATL, @ BOS, @ NYK

Last Week:15

Record: 24-22

OffRtg: 113.1 (22) DefRtg: 114.1 (13) NetRtg: -1.0 (19) Pace: 97.5 (28)

The Heat made a trade to upgrade the point guard position, but the new guy (Terry Rozier) hasn’t shot any better than the old one (Kyle Lowry), and the Heat have lost six straight games for the first time in the last three seasons.

Three takeaways

  • The struggles were initially about the offense, with the Heat scoring an anemic 101.8 points per 100 possessions over the first four games of the losing streak. Bam Adebayo (career-high six blocks) shut down Jaren Jackson Jr. (5-for-21 shooting) on Wednesday, but the Heat still lost at home to the Grizzlies, scoring less than a point per possession for the second straight game.
  • Their last two games were the Heat’s worst and third worst defensive games of the season, with the Celtics and Knicks combining to score more than 141 points per 100 possessions, both shooting better than 50% from 3-point range. Boston’s 143 points on just 96 possessions was the most efficient game the Heat have allowed in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data.
  • Rozier has shot no better than 33% in his three games with the Heat, and going back to his time with the Hornets, he’s 3-for-29 (10.3%) from 3-point range over his last six. That’s his worst six-game stretch of 3-point shooting since a 2-for-20 stretch in March of 2019.

The last time the Heat lost seven straight games was, amazingly, almost 16 years ago (April of 2008). They’ll now have to beat the Suns on Monday to stop this streak at six, and they have the worst record (7-15) in games played between the 18 teams that are currently over .500.

The good news is that, with Jaime Jaquez returning from a six-game absence on Sunday, they’re as healthy as they’ve been in a long time. The loss in New York was just the third time this season that the Heat have had all five of Adebayo, Jaquez, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Caleb Martin in uniform.

Week 15: vs. PHX, vs. SAC, @ WAS, vs. LAC

Last Week:19

Record: 22-25

OffRtg: 112.9 (23) DefRtg: 114.6 (15) NetRtg: -1.7 (22) Pace: 96.9 (30)

The Bulls went 1-2 on a trip out West, with their worst offensive game of the three being the one they won, because it was against the Blazers and not the Suns or Lakers.

Three takeaways

  • The two teams that rank 29th and 30th in 3-point differential met in L.A. on Thursday, when the Lakers shot 20-for-31 (65%) and outscored the Bulls from 24 points from beyond the arc. It was the sixth time this season that the Bulls’ opponent has made at least 20 3s, with that total leading the league (the Lakers are next with five) and the Bulls 0-6 in those games.
  • The Bulls have the league’s 19th best record for the second straight year, but they’ve seen the seventh biggest drop in point differential per 100 possessions from last season (plus-1.3, 13th) to this season (minus-1.7, 22nd). Once again, their success in games that were within five points in the last five minutes (14-10 vs. 15-23 last season) has been the difference.
  • They lost a close game in Phoenix on Monday, with Kevin Durant hitting a pretty incredible shot under Alex Caruso’s rear contest and DeMar DeRozan missing a Rex-Chapman-esque 3-point attempt at the buzzer. The Bulls still rank second in clutch 3-point percentage (27-for-65, 42%), with Ayo Dosunmu having hit a dagger in Portland.

The Bulls are in the middle of a (larger) road-heavy stretch, but will play three of their next four at home. They’re 10-4 at the United Center (where they’ve been much better defensively) since Thanksgiving.

Week 15: vs. TOR, @ CHA, vs. SAC

Last Week:20

Record: 21-24

OffRtg: 113.3 (21) DefRtg: 112.5 (8) NetRtg: +0.8 (13) Pace: 98.8 (20)

The Rockets have won just three of their last 11 games, with two of those three wins having come against the Pistons and Hornets. The stretch has dropped them to two games (one in the loss column) behind the 10th-place Jazz.

Three takeaways

  • Through their first 22 games, the Rockets were 13-9 and ranked second defensively (107.4 points allowed per 100 possessions). Over their last 23 games, they’re 8-15 and rank 17th defensively (117.1 allowed per 100). The difference has largely been about opponent 3-point shooting, but their opponents have also shot much better in the paint (57.7% vs. 53.8%) and they’ve gone from ranking second (73.7%) in defensive rebounding percentage through those first 22 games to ranking 23rd (70.8%) over the last 23.
  • They allowed five offensive boards in clutch time on Wednesday as the Blazers scored 27 points on 18 clutch possessions. With that loss and another in Brooklyn on Sunday (in which they cut a 28-point deficit down to one), the Rockets are 9-14 (tied with the Nets for fifth worst) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and the only team with a positive point differential and a losing record overall.
  • Jalen Green scored 29 points in the Portland loss, had a season-high 36 in Charlotte on Friday, and broke out of a 3-point-shooting slump (5-for-38 over his previous six games) in Brooklyn. The Rockets have still been much better with Fred VanVleet and Alperen Sengun on the floor without Green (plus-14.2 points per 100 possessions in 292 minutes) than they’ve been with all three on the floor together (plus-1.2 in 995 minutes).

Their loss in Brooklyn on Saturday was the Rockets’ first chance to become the first team to match its win total from last season. Their second opportunity is Monday against the Lakers, with the home team having won the first three meetings.

Week 15: vs. LAL, vs. NOP, vs. TOR, @ MIN

Last Week:23

Record: 19-24

OffRtg: 117.2 (11) DefRtg: 117.9 (24) NetRtg: -0.6 (17) Pace: 99.9 (12)

The Warriors’ chances of just making the Play-In Tournament are seemingly slipping away, with their 4-10 record since (and including) Christmas Day being the worst mark in the Western Conference. But six of those 10 losses were within five points in the last five minutes.

Three takeaways

  • A 21-22 record would look a lot better than 19-24, but the Warriors’ last two games were one-point losses to the Kings and Lakers. They weren’t terrible on either end of the floor in clutch time in either game, but just couldn’t make the one play they needed to get a win. They’re now 15-17 in clutch games (with the 32 being four more than any other team has played) and 4-7 otherwise. Only the Hornets (zero), Blazers (two) and Pistons (three) have fewer non-clutch wins.
  • Over the four games since his return, the Warriors have been an amazing 60.5 points per 100 possessions better with Draymond Green on the floor (plus-23.8) than they’ve been with him on the bench (minus-36.7). He’s registered a positive plus-minus in all four games (including a plus-31 in their double-overtime loss to the Lakers on Saturday), and they’ve won just one of the four.
  • The teammate whom Green has played the most minutes with over these four games is Jonathan Kuminga. The two power forwards have played 97 minutes together (in which the Warriors have outscored their opponents by 20.8 per 100) over these two weeks, more than twice as many as they played before Green’s 16-game absence (46, minus-9.4 per 100).

The five-game trip that begins Friday in Memphis is not only the Warriors’ longest trip of the season to date but also their only stretch of five games in seven days. They’re 5-3 (though with two straight losses) in the second game of back-to-backs.

Week 15: vs. PHI, @ MEM, @ ATL

Last Week:21

Record: 19-27

OffRtg: 116.8 (14) DefRtg: 119.8 (27) NetRtg: -3.0 (24) Pace: 102.2 (5)

The Hawks’ last three wins have all come on shots in the last two seconds, with Saddiq Bey providing the heroics on Sunday. In between, they lost four straight.

Three takeaways

  • The Hawks have somehow lost two of the three games in which they scored more than 130 points per 100 possessions. The second of those losses was Friday, when Luka Doncic dropped 73 on ’em. The Warriors are the only other team with multiple losses in games in which they scored more than 130 per 100.
  • De’Andre Hunter has missed the last 19 games and (when everybody else has been available) the Hawks have been starting a lineup with Bey in Hunter’s place. That lineup has been outscored by 13.5 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark (by a huge margin) among the 20 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes.
  • Among the 28 two-man combinations that have played at least 250 minutes together, the Hawks’ best on-court numbers (plus-4.6 points per 100 possessions) belong to Trae Young and Bogdan Bogdanovic. With Dejounte Murray out on Sunday, Bogdanovic started alongside Young, the Hawks got off to a strong start, and the starting lineup outscored the Raptors by 17 points in its 26.2 minutes.

The remainder of the Hawks’ six-game homestand is visits from four Pacific-Division teams. They’ve had just two rest-advantage games (fewest in the league) thus far, but will had advantages against the Lakers on Tuesday and again against the Clippers next week.

Week 15: vs. LAL, vs. PHX, vs. GSW

Last Week:25

Record: 18-28

OffRtg: 108.1 (29) DefRtg: 113.1 (10) NetRtg: -5.1 (23) Pace: 99.3 (16)

The super-shorthanded Grizzlies keep winning games. They beat the Raptors, Heat and Magic last week before coming up a little short in Indiana on Sunday.

Three takeaways

  • The Grizzlies rank 29th offensively and weren’t much better (111.1 points scored per 100 possessions) on that end of the floor over the three-game winning streak. But they kept things uglier on the other end, with their opponents (teams that rank 17th, 22nd and 24th offensively) shooting just 53.4% in the paint over the three games.
  • For the season, Memphis ranks fifth in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (54.8%), with that number being slightly lower (54.6%) with Jaren Jackson Jr. on the floor. And even after playing the league’s No. 1 offense on Sunday, they’re in the top 10 defensively for the first time since just after Christmas.
  • The Grizzlies don’t have a point guard for all but Jacob Gilyard’s 15 minutes per game, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have assists. They’ve recorded assists on 70.6% of their field goals (the league’s third highest rate) over Desmond Bane’s eight-game absence, with no one player having averaged more than 4.7 assists over that stretch. Ten of the 11 guys who’ve been available have averaged at least two per game.

The Grizzlies are in the middle of a tough stretch of schedule in regard to the both the opponents and the calendar (eight games over 14 days). They’re 1-6 in the second games of back-to-backs and will have rest-disadvantage games against both the Kings and Warriors this week.

Week 15: vs. SAC, vs. CLE, vs. GSW, @ BOS

Last Week:24

Record: 18-27

OffRtg: 114.4 (18) DefRtg: 115.8 (17) NetRtg: -1.5 (20) Pace: 98.4 (25)

It seems that no Nets lead is safe, and they’ve suffered some brutal collapses in the last few weeks. But they managed to hold on after seeing a 28-point lead cut to one against Houston on Saturday.

Three takeaways

  • The Nets have now led eight of their last 10 games by double-digits, and they’re just 3-7 in that stretch. They’ve been outscored by an amazing 28.8 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter over those 10 games.
  • Offense, overall, has been a struggle. The Nets rank 27th on that end of the floor in January, in part because they’re not getting much in transition. They’ve outscored their opponents on fast breaks in just one of their last 17 games, an issue that goes back to their inability to force turnovers.
  • One guy who can help them force turnovers is Ben Simmons, and coach Jacque Vaughn said this weekend that there’s a “high likelihood” that Simmons will return from a 38-game absence (he last played on Nov. 6) when the Nets host the Jazz on Monday. He’s thus far played in just 48 (29%) of a possible 163 games (including playoffs) since the Nets traded for him two years ago, and the team wasn’t very good (minus-7.1 points per 100 possessions) in Simmons’ early-season minutes.

The Nets are three games into a stretch where they’re playing 10 of 11 at home. They’re already one of the Eastern Conference teams that have played the most games (they’re 5-13) against the West, and they’ll have four more interconference games in the next nine days. Kevin Durant makes his return to Barclays Center (with the worst fourth-quarter team in the league) on Wednesday.

Week 15: vs. UTA, vs. PHX, @ PHI

Last Week:22

Record: 16-30

OffRtg: 114.6 (17) DefRtg: 116.8 (20) NetRtg: -2.2 (23) Pace: 99.4 (15)

The Raptors won three of their first four games with RJ Barret and Immanuel Quickley. Since then, they’re 1-9, and their loss in Atlanta on Sunday has them three games out of the last Play-In spot in the Eastern Conference.

Three takeaways

  • Quickley has missed the last two games with a quad contusion, and Barrett (knee swelling) was also unavailable in Atlanta on Sunday. With the injuries and with no clear solution at center (Jakob Poeltl remains out), the Raptors don’t have a lineup that’s played more than 33 minutes over their six games since trading Pascal Siakam. The offense has been pretty bad (107.7 points scored per 100 possessions) in the 83 minutes that Barrett, Quickley and Scottie Barnes have played over that stretch.
  • Overall, defense has been the bigger issue. The 120.6 points allowed per 100 possessions the Raptors have allowed in January ranks 28th and, for the season, Toronto has seen the sixth biggest jump in points allowed per 100 from last season (113.1, 11th). The Raptors haven’t ranked in the bottom 10 on that end of the floor since 2014-15, but they’re on the brink of sliding into the bottom 10 right now.
  • Barnes might be as good a candidate as Victor Wembanyama to have the first 5 x 5 game since Jusuf Nurkic had one five years ago. With his six blocks against Memphis on Monday, Barnes is the only player with multiple games of at least five steals and multiple games of at least five blocks this season. And with him shooting 5-for-25 from 3-point range over his last seven games, Andrei Kirilenko (three career 5 x 5 games) is again a pretty good comp.

The Raptors trail the ninth-place Bulls by five games in the loss column, set to play Game 2 of their six-game trip in Chicago on Tuesday. The Bulls have won two of the first three meetings, with the Raptors having blown late leads (17 points with less than five minutes left in October, four points with less than five to go 11 days ago) in both of their losses.

Week 15: @ CHI, @ HOU, @ OKC

Last Week:26

Record: 13-33

OffRtg: 107.8 (30) DefRtg: 116.9 (21) NetRtg: -9.1 (28) Pace: 98.9 (18)

The Blazers continue to be a box of chocolates. Their two best games last week were against the two strongest opponents, as they went down to the wire (losing under crazy circumstances) in Oklahoma City before winning in Houston (under more crazy circumstances) the following night.

Three takeaways

  • Given how it ended (with a pair of Malcolm Brogdon turnovers and a pair of Chauncey Billups technical fouls), the game in Oklahoma City on Tuesday was rough, but not as rough as the Blazers’ first games against the Thunder, losses by 43 and 62 points. Scoot Henderson (19 points and seven assists) played well as the Portland bench gave the team a big lift.
  • Seven teams have won less than 40% of their games. The Blazers won their first three games against the other six, but are 1-5 within the group since then. Their loss in San Antonio on Friday, in which they were almost doubled up (50-26) in the restricted area, was just the third time the Spurs have held their opponent under a point per possession.
  • With their overtime win in Houston on Wednesday, the Blazers are 5-3 in the second games of back-to-backs and 8-30 otherwise. Their offense has been almost average (114.4 points scored per 100 possessions) over those eight games, with Jerami Grant (the only guy who’s started all eight) averaging 24.3 points on an effective field goal percentage of 59.7%.

So watch out, Sixers. Their game against Philly on Monday is the end of the Blazers’ first stretch of five games in seven nights, but also Game 2 in a stretch (that extends past the All-Star break) where they’re playing 10 of 12 at home. Prior to their loss to the Bulls on Sunday, they had won five of their last eight at the Moda Center.

Week 15: vs. PHI, vs. MIL, @ DEN, @ DEN

Last Week:28

Record: 10-36

OffRtg: 109.7 (27) DefRtg: 118.1 (25) NetRtg: -8.4 (26) Pace: 102.4 (4)

Victor Wembanyama played in both games of a back-to-back for the first time since mid-November, and the Spurs won both games, holding the Blazers to less than a point per possession and then scoring efficiently against the Wolves’ top-ranked defense.

Three takeaways

  • Wembanyama isn’t averaging more than a point per minute like Joel Embiid. But over his last 11 games, he’s averaging 34.2 per 36, second in the league (behind Embiid) over that stretch. His usage rate of 37.4% over those 11 games is also second and up from 28.9% (19th) prior.
  • Over that same stretch (13 games total), the Spurs have been 17.8 points per 100 possessions better with Wembanyama on the floor (plus-9.4) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-8.4).
  • Jeremy Sochan has shot just 46.8% on 2-pointers, down from 51.9% last season. But his 3-point percentage has gone from 24.6% to 38.0%, he’s already made 16 more 3s than he did as a rookie, and he was 4-for-7 from beyond the arc as he scored 31 points (second most in his career) in the Spurs’ win over the Blazers on Friday.

The Spurs have a good chance for their first three-game winning streak of the season, hosting the Wizards on Monday in Game 4 of their seven-game homestand. Of course, Washington is surely looking at that game as a great opportunity to register its first two-game winning streak of the season. One of these teams is about to make history.

Week 15: vs. WAS, vs. ORL, vs. NOP, vs. CLE

Last Week:27

Record: 10-34

OffRtg: 109.6 (28) DefRtg: 121.3 (30) NetRtg: -11.7 (30) Pace: 98.9 (19)

The Hornets got one of their best wins of the season on Monday, coming back from 18 points down (15 down in the fourth quarter) to beat the Wolves in Minnesota. Less than 12 hours later, they traded Terry Rozier for what could be a pretty good first-round pick four years from now.

Three takeaways

  • Rozier had two clutch buckets in the Minnesota win, is one of the most-clutch shooters in the 28 years for which we have clutch data, and still has almost as many clutch points (50) as any two other Hornets this season. Without him in Detroit on Wednesday, the Hornets went scoreless over the last two minutes as a three-point lead turned into a seven-point loss.
  • The Detroit loss dropped the Hornets to 10-12 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. And with losses to the Rockets and Jazz, they’re 0-22 (remaining the only winless team) in games that weren’t within five in the last five. Three teams have worse records overall, but the Hornets have been outscored by 11.6 points per game, which would be the sixth-worst mark in NBA history (worst since the 2011-12 Bobcats at minus 13.9).
  • P.J. Washington was a bright spot in the loss to Utah on Saturday, scoring 43 points, the most for any bench player this season. With both Mark Williams and Nick Richards having dealt with injuries, Washington has played 44% of his minutes at the five, and the Hornets have been pretty brutal defensively (allowing 125.1 points per 100 possessions) in those minutes.

The Hornets are two games into a stretch (that takes them into the All-Star break) where they’re playing 10 of 12 at home. The Minnesota win was their fourth against teams that are currently over .500, with one of the others having come against the Pacers, who will be in Charlotte twice in the next 15 days.

Week 15: vs. NYK, vs. CHI, @ OKC, vs. IND

Last Week:29

Record: 8-37

OffRtg: 111.5 (25) DefRtg: 120.1 (29) NetRtg: -8.6 (27) Pace: 103.4 (1)

The Wizards weren’t expected to compete for a playoff spot this season, but they probably weren’t expecting to be this bad, especially offensively. They were well on their way to a third straight season in the bottom 10 on both ends of the floor when Wes Unseld Jr. was … promoted! He was moved to the front office on Thursday, with Brian Keefe acting as the interim coach for the remainder of the season.

Three takeaways

  • The 8-37 record might be easier to accept if the Wizards were developing more young players. But they rank 17th in the percentage of their minutes that have come from rookies or second-year players (14%), while the other four teams that have won fewer than 15 games all rank in the top six in first-or-second-year percentage (29% or higher).
  • Keefe’s first game as coach (vs. Utah on Thursday) was the Wizards’ seventh straight loss and the 21st time that they grabbed less than two-thirds of available defensive rebounds. That’s two more instances than they had last season (19) and four more than any other team has through Week 14.
  • Tyus Jones had 14 assists and zero turnovers in that loss to the Jazz and is a big reason why the Wizards rank fifth in turnover differential (1.2 fewer per game than their opponents), up from 26th (plus-1.8) last season. They had seven fewer than the Pistons as Keefe got his first win on Saturday afternoon.

The Wizards remain the only team that hasn’t won two straight games. The last time they had a chance at a second straight win, they lost at home to the Pistons. Now, having won in Detroit, they can have their first winning streak if they can win in San Antonio on Monday. After that, they’ll play 11 straight games against teams that currently have winning records, currently 1-25 against that group.

Week 15: @ SAS, vs. LAC, vs. MIA, vs. PHX

Last Week:30

Record: 6-40

OffRtg: 110.6 (26) DefRtg: 120.0 (28) NetRtg: -9.5 (29) Pace: 101.3 (6)

The Pistons have won two out of three for the first time since they won games 2 and 3, and they’re now on pace for 11 wins, up from an eight-win pace (what would be the worst record in NBA history) six days ago.

Three takeaways

  • Prior to Sunday, the Pistons were 0-17 against the Western Conference, 0-25 against the 18 teams that are currently over .500, and 0-3 (having allowed more than 130 points per 100 possessions) in rest-disadvantage games. But then they stunned the Thunder, who were rested and on a five-game winning streak. (That’s as many wins as the Pistons had all season.) The 16-point loss was the Thunders second worst of the season and just their second double-digit defeat since Halloween.
  • The Pistons now have as many wins in nine games without Cade Cunningham (3-6) as they do in 37 games with him (3-34). He returned from an eight-game absence on Saturday, but committed seven turnovers in a loss to the Wizards and was then a late scratch against the Thunder. Detroit has committed just 12.5 turnovers per 100 possessions in the nine games Cunningham has missed, compared to 15.9 per 100 in the 37 games he’s played.
  • Jalen Duren had just six assists (and just one turnover) in the win on Sunday, also recording the first 20-20 game of his career. For the season, he’s grabbed 18.9% of available rebounds while he’s been on the floor, a rate which ranks second (behind only Jusuf Nurkic’s 19.0%) among 225 players who’ve averaged at least 20 minutes per game.

The game on Sunday began a stretch where the Pistons are playing 14 of 16 against teams that currently have winning records, a daunting task if they were still winless against that group. But now that they’ve broken the seal…

Week 15: @ CLE, vs. LAC, vs. ORL