Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 17: Celtics on top, Cavs enter Top 5 before All-Star break

Boston returns to No. 1 while Dallas and Cleveland surge forward as the Top 10 shakes up before All-Star weekend.

Jaylen Brown and the Celtics are looking sharp as the All-Star break comes into view.

The trade deadline is behind us, with no major moves going down last week. The big action took place earlier in trade season when the Toronto Raptors parted ways with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.

There were still some deals made that will affect playoff races. A lot of players have already made their debuts with their new teams, but it’s too early to know if the landscape has shifted much.

There won’t be much data to collect this week, as we have just four days (32 games) of hoops before we hit the All-Star break. It’ll be a good time for a reset before the stretch run.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Golden State (4-0) — Maybe this isn’t the end.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Houston (0-3) — The Rockets are the exception to the rule that West is best.

* * *

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 16

  • Toughest: 1. Golden State, 2. Memphis, 3. L.A. Lakers
  • Easiest: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Phoenix, 3. Cleveland
  • 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: Dallas (+7), Cleveland (+3), Golden State (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Philadelphia (-4), Four teams (-2)

* * *

Week 17 Team to Watch

  • Milwaukee The Bucks are just 2-5 under Doc Rivers and don’t have a lot of big wins under their belt, currently 3-5 against the six teams that have better records than they do. One of those teams is the Nuggets, who they’ll face for the second time in 15 days on Monday night. Twenty-four hours later, they’ll face the team – Miami – to whom they’ve lost the most over the last five years.

* * *


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 115.3 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.7 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: 41-12

OffRtg: 120.3 (2) DefRtg: 110.8 (3) NetRtg: +9.5 (1) Pace: 99.2 (16)

The Celtics took care of business over the last three games of their seven-game homestand and then hit the road, picking up an important win in Miami on Sunday afternoon.

Three takeaways

  • Half of the Celtics’ 12 losses have come (in 19 games) against the Western Conference. With their win over the Heat on Sunday, they’re 16-5 against the other seven East teams that have winning records. Both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have scored slightly more efficiently in those games than they have otherwise.
  • As great as Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis have been, the Celtics’ starting lineup hasn’t been quite as dominant (plus-10.6 points per 100 possessions) as last year’s group with Marcus Smart and Al Horford (plus-12.2 per 100). It was outscored by the Wizards (who didn’t have a center) on Friday, when Washington made things a little too interesting down the stretch. The Celtics beat the Grizzlies by 40 points eight days ago, but that’s their only double-digit win in their last eight games (nitpicking, but they’ve set a high standard for themselves).
  • As was the case last season, the Celtics have been much better when Tatum has been on the floor without Brown (plus-15.4 per 100 in 681 total minutes) than they’ve been when the two All-Stars have been on the floor together (plus-6.6 in 1,112) or when Brown has been on the floor without Tatum (plus-8.9 in 521). That Brown-only number is much better than it was last season (plus-3.3).

The Celtics have won 12 of their last 13 games against the Nets, set to finish their pre-break schedule with home-and-home back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Week 17: @ BKN, vs. BKN

Last Week:1

Record: 35-16

OffRtg: 119.8 (3) DefRtg: 113.9 (12) NetRtg: +5.9 (5) Pace: 98.5 (23)

The Clippers haven’t been quite so dominant over the last eight days, but they remain tied with the Wolves in the loss column atop the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • The Clippers have scored less than 110 points per 100 possessions in three of their last four games, having done just once in their previous 31. In their other game (last Monday in Atlanta), they scored 149 on 103, including an amazing 42 points on their final 20 possessions, with Russell Westbrook (essentially operating as the center on offense) making some big plays down the stretch.
  • The Clippers’ 27-6 record since Dec. 1 includes a 12-3 mark in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, with the Clippers having scored 117 points on just 82 clutch possessions (143 per 100) over those 15 close games. They were 2-10 in clutch games through Nov. 30.
  • James Harden is the only Clipper to have played in all 15 of those close games, though he’s attempted 18 fewer clutch shots (and seven fewer clutch free throws) than Kawhi Leonard (15-for-24 from the field, 12-for-13 from the line) since Dec. 1.

One of those three clutch losses since Dec. 1 was in Minnesota about a month ago. The Clips are 2-4 (2-1 at home, 0-3 on the road) within the top four in the West and will host the Wolves in a huge game on Monday.

Week 17: vs. MIN, @ GSW

Last Week:6

Record: 35-16

OffRtg: 116.0 (15) DefRtg: 110.0 (2) NetRtg: +6.0 (4) Pace: 98.7 (21)

While Milwaukee, New York and Philadelphia have all slid back a little, the Cavs keep winning and now lead the third-place Bucks by three games in the loss column.

Three takeaways

  • The Cavs have won 17 of their last 18 games and the one loss (Jan. 24 in Milwaukee) was avenged two nights later. Only five of the 17 wins have come against teams that currently have winning records, but eight have come on the road (plus another in Paris) and taking care of business against bad teams is certainly better than the alternative.
  • They’ve had their entire starting lineup for six of their last seven games, but the lineup averaged just 10.6 minutes per game over those six, down from 13.2 per game prior to the extended absences of Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, who’ve both averaged less than 26 minutes since their returns.
  • Staggering has worked, as the Cavs have been ridiculously good when Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen have been on the floor without Garland or Mobley (plus-21.0 points per 100 possessions in 89 minutes) and when Garland and Mobley have been on the floor without Mitchell or Allen (plus-23.9 in 61 minutes) over the five straight games when all five have been available. The defense has been particularly good (94.6 allowed per 100) in those 150 total minutes.

The schedule gets a little tougher this week, with the Cavs hosting the Sixers and Bulls to close out their pre-break schedule. They’re 1-0 against the Sixers, having won in overtime in Philadelphia (without Mitchell) in November.

Week 17: vs. PHI, vs. CHI

Last Week:3

Record: 36-17

OffRtg: 117.9 (10) DefRtg: 114.0 (13) NetRtg: +3.9 (9) Pace: 97.3 (29)

The Nuggets stood pat at the deadline and will have to see what shakes loose on the buyout market if they’re going to improve a bench that currently ranks 26th in the league.

Three takeaways

  • With a 29-point loss in Sacramento on Friday, the Nuggets are 0-2 against the Kings, with both losses having been rest-disadvantage games on the road. Denver is 3-4 (with three straight losses) in rest-disadvantage games, having scored just 107.6 points per 100 possessions over those seven games. They also have the league’s second-biggest home-road differential on offense, ranking just 19th in road efficiency (113.8 scored per 100).
  • Among 237 players with at least 100 field goal attempts both at home and on the road, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (63.3% vs. 46.3%) and Aaron Gordon (64.3% vs. 52.1%) have the second and seventh biggest home-road differentials in effective field goal percentage.
  • Gordon shot 5-for-8 on Friday, when the Nuggets were without both Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. They’ve outscored their opponents by 9.0 points per 100 possessions in 1,264 total minutes with four or five of their regular starters on the floor, but have been outscored by 1.3 per 100 in 1,280 total minutes with three or fewer on the floor.

The Nuggets will be the team with the rest advantage when they face the Kings again (at home) on Wednesday. First, they’re in Milwaukee, having spoiled Doc Rivers’ debut with the Bucks two weeks ago.

Week 17: @ MIL, vs. SAC

Last Week:4

Record: 36-16

OffRtg: 114.7 (18) DefRtg: 108.6 (1) NetRtg: +6.1 (3) Pace: 98.2 (26)

The Wolves have had eight players that coach Chris Finch could trust, and one of those eight (Kyle Anderson) is a perimeter player who’s shot 6-for-31 from 3-point range this season. Monte Morris (acquired on Thursday) shot 39% from deep over the last five seasons and is another steady hand, but has played just 68 total minutes since making his season debut with the Pistons 19 days ago.

Three takeaways

  • The Wolves are 3-8 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes since Jan. 1 after going 12-1 through Dec. 31. They’ve scored just 94 points on 102 clutch possessions over that 3-8 stretch, with poor shooting numbers and more turnovers (17) than assists (15).
  • They had a 23-point lead early in the third quarter in Chicago on Tuesday and when that lead was down to one with a little more than three minutes left in regulation, they came out of a timeout and got the ball to Rudy Gobert, who tried to go to work against Nikola Vucevic in the post. That somehow didn’t result in a good shot, the Wolves also allowed the Bulls to score 25 points on just 17 clutch defensive possessions, and they lost in overtime.
  • The Wolves did make a season-high 20 3-pointers in the loss, and they topped that with 21 in a comfortable victory in Milwaukee, easily their most efficient offensive performance (129 points on just 91 possessions) of the season. In addition to making 21 3s, they turned the ball over just eight times, though they still rank 28th in turnover rate, something Morris can help with. His career assist/turnover ratio of 4.91 is the second-highest mark among players with at least 1,000 assists in the 47 years since turnovers started being counted.

With the Milwaukee win, the Wolves are 20-11 (second best) in games played between the 17 teams that currently have winning records. They have six games left within the top four in the West, three (two on the road) against the Clippers and then three (two on the road) against the Nuggets. The first of those is Monday in L.A., with the Wolves having won the first meeting (with an eight-man rotation) four weeks ago.

Week 17: @ LAC, @ POR, @ POR

Last Week:5

Record: 36-17

OffRtg: 119.1 (5) DefRtg: 112.0 (5) NetRtg: +7.2 (2) Pace: 100.6 (10)

The Thunder did not get a big man at the deadline. They got Gordon Hayward in a trade that was sandwiched by two games in which they got absolutely clobbered on the glass.

Three takeaways

  • The Thunder grabbed just 39.4% of available rebounds (their third lowest rate of the season) in their loss in Utah on Tuesday. They barely topped that mark as they lost by 35 in Dallas on Saturday and are now 8-14 when they’ve had a rebounding percentage lower than 47%. They’re 28-3 otherwise.
  • Really, it’s rather amazing how good this team is considering it ranks in the bottom three on both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage (28th and 29th). The only other teams to do so in the last five seasons are last season’s Nets (29th and 29th) and this season’s Wizards (30th and 30th).
  • Mark Daigneault has been playing 11 or 12 guys (before garbage time) of late, perhaps searching for answers with a struggling bench. The Thunder bench ranked second (in regard to point differential with reserves on the floor) through Jan. 27, but has ranked 24th as they’ve gone 4-4 over the last 15 days. Hayward should help, but not until after the All-Star break.

They lost to the Pistons 15 days ago, but the Thunder are still tied with the Clippers for the league’s best record (14-4) in interconference games, set to finish their pre-break schedule in Orlando on Tuesday. They beat the Magic by 12 last month despite grabbing just 46% of available rebounds and shooting 8-for-36 (22%) from 3-point range.

Week 17: @ ORL

Last Week:14

Record: 30-23

OffRtg: 118.0 (7) DefRtg: 117.1 (22) NetRtg: +0.8 (15) Pace: 100.7 (8)

Kyrie Irving has been back for four games and the Mavs have won all four. Road wins over the Sixers and Knicks came with the context that those teams were missing Joel Embiid and Jalen Brunson, but the Mavs clobbered the healthy Thunder on Saturday afternoon.

Three takeaways

  • The four wins have all come by double-digits and the streak has been one of the Mavs’ strongest stretches of the season on both ends of the floor. Irving and Luka Doncic have been brilliant offensively, but allowing just 107.5 points per 100 possessions over the four games is much more noteworthy, given that the Mavs allowed 126 per 100 over the previous 11. (Plus, that defensive success hasn’t been about 3-point shooting.)
  • Even with the win over the Thunder, the Mavs have the worst record (6-13) in games played between the top eight teams in the West, having allowed more than 122 points per 100 possessions over those 19 games. But they’re 4-4 (with two straight wins) within the top eight when they’ve had both Doncic and Irving in uniform.
  • On Thursday, the Mavs traded more future assets for two veterans — Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington — who might not move the needle much, especially if Dereck Lively II (whom Gafford will presumably back up) returns soon and stays healthy. It’s fair to wonder if Washington (below-average effective field goal percentage in each of the last two seasons) is an upgrade at all over Grant Williams, let alone one worth a lightly-protected first-round pick. But he was efficient and productive the last time (2021-22) he had a healthy point guard, and he’s got two guys in Dallas who will get him easier opportunities.

The Mavs have a golden opportunity to go into the break with a six-game winning streak, hosting the Wizards and Spurs in their last two games, though Dallas (just 15-13 at American Airlines Center) and Washington are two of the four teams that have better records on the road than they do at home.

Week 17: vs. WAS, vs. SAS

Last Week:7

Record: 33-20

OffRtg: 118.0 (9) DefRtg: 112.7 (7) NetRtg: +5.3 (6) Pace: 97.5 (27)

The Knicks were, seemingly, the biggest winners at the trade deadline, acquiring two rotation players — Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks — without surrendering a first-round pick. Of course, with OG Anunoby and Julius Randle out, they need those guys to take on larger roles than they’ll have when everybody’s available.

Three takeaways

  • The Knicks have lost three of their last four games, with the only win coming over a team (Memphis) that’s lost eight straight. Jalen Brunson (ankle) was out against Dallas on Thursday, but defense has been the bigger issue. Their five February opponents have combined to shoot 45.3% from 3-point range, outscoring the Knicks by 75 points from beyond the arc.
  • They’re still 4-2 with Brunson in the lineup without Anunoby or Randle, with the All-Star having averaged 33.8 points over the six games. He’s shot just 6-for-17 (35%) from mid-range and 8-for-33 (24%) from 3-point range in that stretch but has averaged an amazing (and league-high) 21.3 points in the paint and another 6.5 at the free throw line.
  • Through Jan. 1 (Anunoby’s first game), Brunson shot just 138-for-278 (49.6%) in the paint. Since then: 129-for-208 (62.0%).

Having played 12 of their last 14 games at home, the Knicks will finish their pre-break schedule on the road. They’ll have a rest advantage in Orlando on Wednesday, having scored just 105.2 points per 100 possessions as they’ve lost the first two meetings. They were without Brunson for the loss (at home) last month.

Week 17: @ HOU, @ ORL

Last Week:9

Record: 31-22

OffRtg: 118.0 (8) DefRtg: 114.8 (15) NetRtg: +3.1 (11) Pace: 99.0 (19)

The Suns remain very good, but not quite elite. They’ve had Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant in the lineup for 17 of their last 18 games (Booker missed a comfortable win over Utah on Thursday), and are 12-6 in that stretch.

Three takeaways

  • Each of the last five losses has come on the road, where the Suns will begin the playoffs if they don’t kick it into high gear soon. One continuing issue is rebounding, with their opponents having registered at least 20 second-chance points in each of their last three games and in three of their last four losses.
  • This season, they’ve grabbed 74.6% of available defensive rebounds with Jusuf Nurkic on the floor and just 65.7% with him off the floor. Overall, the Suns have been at their best (plus-9.3 points per 100 possessions) with Nurkic on the floor, though they continue to go small down the stretch of close games. They played five full minutes of clutch time in their loss to the Warriors on Saturday, when Eric Gordon was on the floor a little more than Nurkic in those last five minutes
  • The addition of Royce O’Neale gives the Suns a little more size and defense at the four when they play Kevin Durant at the five. Though they’ve been at their best with Nurkic on the floor, they have outscored their opponents in 57 minutes with their three stars on the floor without a center. Of course, that differential is just seven total points, with both the Suns and their opponents scoring more than 120 points per 100 possessions, in those minutes.

The Suns have won their last five games at home, a streak that began with a comeback from 22 points down in the fourth quarter against the Kings, who are back in Phoenix on Tuesday. The two teams are tied in the loss column and this will be Game 4 in the five-game season series, which Sacramento can clinch with a win.

Week 17: vs. SAC, vs. DET

Last Week:8

Record: 34-19

OffRtg: 119.6 (4) DefRtg: 116.1 (17) NetRtg: +3.4 (10) Pace: 102.2 (4)

The Bucks are 2-5 under Doc Rivers, but got to play the Hornets at the end of their only stretch of five games in seven days. With that, they followed their worst defensive game of the season (129 points allowed on 91 possessions vs. Minnesota) with (statistically, at least) their best defensive game of the season (84 allowed on 99 vs. Charlotte).

Three takeaways

  • The Bucks scored just 113.0 points per 100 possessions over their first six games under Rivers. That’s not terrible, but it was their worst six-game stretch of offense this season, and three of those games came against teams — Portland, Dallas and Utah — that rank in the bottom 10 defensively. Malik Beasley had a few rough shooting nights and Giannis Antetokounmpo (who attempted half of their free throws over the six games) shot just 59.7% from the stripe.
  • The good news is that the Bucks have allowed just 14.3 transition points per game in their seven games under Rivers, down from 23.2 per game before that, according to Synergy tracking. Better defense starts in transition, though they still ranked in the bottom 10 defensively under their new coach … until they played the Hornets.
  • The Bucks have been without at least one of their starters for each of the last five games, so their regular lineup has still played just 42 total minutes since Rivers took over. The group has outscored opponents by 15.3 points per 100 possessions (with great numbers on both ends of the floor) for the season, so, as much as a perimeter defender was needed, it will be interesting to see if Patrick Beverley (who played 12 minutes on Friday) is on the floor down the stretch of close games. Non-starters haven’t played many clutch minutes thus far.

The Rivers Era opened with a loss in Denver and the Bucks will face the champs again on Monday. Milwaukee (22-6 vs. 12-13) and Denver have the third and fourth biggest home-road differentials regarding winning percentage.

Week 17: vs. DEN, vs. MIA, @ MEM

Last Week:12

Record: 31-22

OffRtg: 117.3 (13) DefRtg: 112.9 (8) NetRtg: +4.3 (8) Pace: 99.3 (14)

The Pelicans split two big games in Los Angeles last week and have won five of their last six games overall, continuing to take care of business against the bottom half of the league.

Three takeaways

  • The Pelicans still have a top-10 defense, and they’ve held their opponents (including the Clippers’ third-ranked offense) to just 105.2 points per 100 possessions over their five wins in the last 12 days. But they had a rough defensive night against the Lakers on Friday, forcing just eight turnovers while putting L.A. on the line for 32 free throw attempts. They’re 29-5 when their opponent has scored 117 points per 100 possessions or less, and 2-17 when their opponent has scored more than 116 per 100.
  • They remain the only team they haven’t won a game it trailed after the third quarter, now 0-13 after falling into a 16-point hole by allowing the Lakers to score 51 points on 27 possessions in the second quarter on Friday. For the season, New Orleans has been progressively worse with each ensuing quarter, from plus-11.1 per 100 possessions (third best) in the first to minus-3.7 per 100 (fifth worst) in the fourth.
  • Whether they’re winning or losing, the Pelicans haven’t played a lot of close games. Only 17 of their 53 (and only three of their last 21) games have been within five points in the last five minutes, putting them on pace for 26, what would be the lowest total in the last five full (82-game) seasons. They scored just 93 points in Portland on Saturday and still won one of the slowest-paced games of the season relatively comfortably, having taken back the lead just before the end of the third quarter.

Two of their 17 clutch games (both losses) have come against the Grizzlies, who the Pels will visit on Monday.

Week 17: @ MEM, vs. WAS

Last Week:11

Record: 30-22

OffRtg: 116.9 (14) DefRtg: 116.4 (19) NetRtg: +0.5 (17) Pace: 100.5 (11)

There are two teams – Oklahoma City and Sacramento – that have lost to the Pistons and beat the Nuggets this season. The Kings pulled off that Jekyll-and-Hyde act in about 51 hours last week.

Three takeaways

  • The Kings are playing their final four pre-break games against three of the top five teams in the Western Conference. After splitting games against the Nuggets (home win) and Thunder (road loss) over the weekend, they’re 7-5 against that group, having allowed just 112.8 points per 100 possessions over the 12 games.
  • The Kings’ starting lineup has not been good as they’ve lost three of their last four games overall. It’s allowed more than 129 points per 100 possessions over its 63 minutes over that stretch, with both De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis registering a minus-17 against the Pistons on Wednesday. The Kings trailed by nine late in the first quarter against Denver two nights later, but then Trey Lyles, Malik Monk and Sasha Vezenkov all hit 3-pointers in a 15-second stretch spanning the first and second periods, with the floodgates opening after that. For the season, the Kings have been at their best (plus-7.3 per 100 possessions) with Lyles on the floor.
  • With four in his last five games, Sabonis now has a league-leading 17 triple-doubles, three more than he had all of last season. The Kings won seven of the first nine, but have lost six of the last eight, now 9-8 when Sabonis has recorded a triple-double.

Their last two pre-break games are back-to-back in Phoenix and Denver, and the Kings will be at a rest disadvantage against the champs on Wednesday. They were 0-4 in the second games of back-to-backs through Dec. 31, but are 3-0 (2-0 on the road) in 2024.

Week 17: @ PHX, @ DEN

Last Week:13

Record: 30-24

OffRtg: 120.8 (1) DefRtg: 119.4 (26) NetRtg: +1.5 (12) Pace: 102.6 (2)

The Pacers have a chance to finish in the top four in the Eastern Conference, but they were sellers at the deadline, trading Buddy Hield for Doug McDermott and two second-round picks.

Three takeaways

  • It might have been tough to re-sign Hield this summer, but he had great offensive chemistry with Tyrese Haliburton, who assisted him 335 times in their 3 1/2 seasons together in Sacramento and Indiana. There was a jump in Haliburton’s assists to Hield per 36 minutes on the floor together in every season, with that number being 3.4 per 36 this season.
  • Hield’s 25.7 minutes per game with the Pacers this season was his lowest average in the last six years. He had started a game just a week before he was traded, but Indiana might now have a starting lineup that Rick Carlisle will stick with for more than just a few games. That lineup had a couple of rough outings earlier last week (Hield’s minutes were critical in a win over Houston) and has played just 78 total minutes together, but it was a plus-10 in 21.3 minutes in New York on Saturday.
  • The win over the Knicks gave the Pacers the (three-game) season series and improved them to 12-6 against the five teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings. Saturday was just the fourth of those 12 wins that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes and their total point differential over those 18 games is just plus-5.

The Pacers are just 11-7 against the nine teams below them in the East, set to complete their pre-break schedule with visits to Charlotte (2-1) and Toronto (0-1).

Week 17: @ CHA, @ TOR

Last Week:10

Record: 31-21

OffRtg: 118.6 (6) DefRtg: 113.8 (10) NetRtg: +4.7 (7) Pace: 99.6 (13)

The Sixers were able to stop the bleeding with a win in Washington on Saturday, but they had lost eight of nine before that and are now 5-13 without Joel Embiid.

Three takeaways

  • When a team is missing its two best players (Embiid and Tyrese Maxey) and trying to integrate new ones, offensive issues can be expected. The Sixers actually scored an efficient 121 points on 100 possessions against the Hawks on Friday, when Cameron Payne and Buddy Hield went from the plane to the starting lineup. But as has been the case for most of the games when they’ve been without the reigning MVP, they couldn’t get enough stops.
  • It’s kind of wild that the Sixers made deadline trades with two other teams – the Bucks and Pacers – within the top six of the Eastern Conference. But it’s a nice thing for the team that ranks last with just 7.9 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers per game to have added the guy who’s made more 3-pointers over the last five seasons (1,248) than anybody else. Hield likes to shoot on the run as well (he had 14 more fast-break 3s than any other player last season), so he should complement Maxey in transition.
  • Hield and Payne give the Sixers more firepower as they wait for Embiid to eventually return, but (though Hield had four steals on Saturday) they won’t help the defense a ton. What would help on that end of the floor are the returns of Nicolas Batum (who’s missed the last seven games) and De’Anthony Melton (15), which could happen this week.

The Sixers are 5-9 when they’ve had Maxey but not Embiid, a record that includes a 2-4 mark against teams that currently have winning records. Their next six games are against that group (and all within the Eastern Conference), with their pre-break schedule concluding with what could be a pretty big game against the Heat on Wednesday.

Week 17: @ CLE, vs. MIA

Last Week:17

Record: 28-25

OffRtg: 113.1 (23) DefRtg: 113.4 (9) NetRtg: -0.3 (18) Pace: 97.5 (28)

The Heat won four out of five, with an important win over the Magic included. They were competitive against the Celtics on Sunday afternoon, but fell to 0-3 against the best team in the league, unable to get over the hump.

Three takeaways

  • The Heat allowed just 103.9 points per 100 possessions over the 4-1 stretch, their best five-game stretch of defense this season. That included a loss in which they held the Clippers’ third-ranked offense in check and a wire-to-wire victory over the Magic that gave Miami the tie-breaker. It was the fourth time this season (all since Jan. 1) that the Heat have held their opponent under a point per possession.
  • But with their loss to the Celtics (without Butler) on Sunday, the Heat are just 2-8 against the top five teams in the East. They’ve actually been more efficient offensively in those 10 games (114.4 points scored per 100 possessions) than they’ve been otherwise, but have allowed 119.1 per 100 and haven’t been able to close some close ones. Last season, they were 9-10 against the (same) top five in the regular season, going on to eliminate the Bucks (1), Knicks (5) and Celtics (2) on their way to The Finals.
  • Everybody was available for the Orlando win, when the starting lineup was Terry Rozier, Tyler Herro, Jimmy Butler, Caleb Martin and Bam Adebayo. The group had success against the Magic and Spurs, outscoring them by 21 points in 31 total minutes. But Butler (personal reasons) missed the Boston game on Sunday, when Rozier suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter. The Heat’s most-used lineup includes Kyle Lowry and played just 79 minutes together, with the Grizzlies being the only other team that doesn’t have a lineup that’s played at least 85 minutes.

The Heat will have two more games against the East’s top five this week. One of their two wins against the group was against the Embiid-less Sixers on Christmas, when Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored a career-high 31 points.

Week 17: @ MIL, @ PHI

Last Week:16

Record: 28-26

OffRtg: 114.0 (20) DefRtg: 114.8 (14) NetRtg: -0.8 (19) Pace: 101.3 (6)

The Lakers didn’t make a trade (not even a small move to duck the luxury tax) at the deadline and have now lost seven straight games against the Nuggets, unable to finish a comeback from 15 points down on Thursday. But they’ve won four of their last five overall, picking up a big, rest-disadvantage win over the Pelicans the following night.

Three takeaways

  • The Lakers scored just 106.8 points per 100 possessions over their first seven rest-disadvantage games, but the win over the Pelicans on Friday was their second most efficient game of the season (139 on 101). They turned the ball over just eight times, shot 14-for-31 (45%) from 3-point range and attempted 32 free throws. They’re 20-5 (with six straight wins) when they’ve scored at least 112 per 100.
  • You don’t have to be great offensively if you’re great defensively and their five February games have been the Lakers’ best five-game stretch of defense (113.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) since mid-December, with three of the five opponents having been teams that rank in the top 10 on offense. Their opponents have shot just 53.8% in the paint, down from 62.9% over the previous five games.
  • Rui Hachimura has started the last four games and, with D’Angelo Russell having missed the Denver loss, the Lakers are 4-0 (including a win over Portland last month) when Russell, Hachimura and Austin Reaves have started alongside their two All-Stars. But the lineup has outscored the Knicks, Hornets and Pelicans by just three points in 60 total minutes since Hachimura began starting again and bench minutes have been critical over this 4-1 stretch, with L.A. outscoring its opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions in 138 total minutes with Jaxson Hayes and/or Christian Wood on the floor.

The Lakers are still just a game in the loss column ahead of the 11th-place Jazz, and they’ll be at another rest disadvantage when they close their pre-break schedule in Utah on Wednesday.

Week 17: vs. DET, @ UTA

Last Week:15

Record: 29-24

OffRtg: 112.6 (24) DefRtg: 111.7 (4) NetRtg: +0.9 (14) Pace: 98.4 (24)

The Magic had a month-long stretch (Dec. 31 to Jan. 29) where they went 5-11. They’ve since gone 5-1 to remain in competition for a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference.

Three takeaways

  • Not surprisingly, the Magic have been winning with defense. Their win over the Spurs on Thursday was their fourth most efficient offensive performance of the season (127 points on 98 possessions) and came with 34 points on 13-for-17 shooting from Franz Wagner, but they rank just 24th offensively over this 5-1 stretch.
  • A big issue has been turnovers: 15.8 turnovers per 100 possessions (30th) over the last 12 days. They still rank 11th in turnover differential for the season (minus-0.5 per game), but have committed 16 more than their opponents over their last three games. They had six in both the first and third quarters in Miami on Tuesday (the one loss), losing those two periods by a combined score of 66-45.
  • The defensive success (109.5 points allowed per 100 possessions over the six games) comes with the context that five of the six opponents rank in the bottom 10 offensively, with the sixth being the Wolves, who rank 18th. But the Magic have allowed just 113.8 points per 100 possessions (well below the league average) in 19 total games against teams that rank in the top 10 on offense.

Their worst defensive game against that group (two weeks ago in Dallas) was the second game of a back-to-back, and the Magic are just 2-8 (with seven straight losses) without rest. Their last two pre-break games are a tough, home-home back-to-back against two top-10 offenses (those of the Thunder and Knicks).

Week 17: vs. OKC, vs. NYK

Last Week:21

Record: 25-25

OffRtg: 117.4 (12) DefRtg: 116.4 (20) NetRtg: +1.0 (13) Pace: 100.1 (12)

The Warriors have won four straight games to climb back to .500 for the first time since they were 15-15. They’re, amazingly, just three games in the loss column behind the fifth-place Suns, who they just beat on Saturday. But they’re much further away in the win column, with some games to make up.

Three takeaways

  • The Warriors have allowed just 104.2 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak, easily their best stretch of defense since the first five games of the season. And three of the four games have come against teams — Philadelphia, Indiana and Phoenix – that rank in the top 10 offensively, though the Sixers were obviously without Joel Embiid on Wednesday.
  • Of the four opponents, only the Pacers made at least a third of their 3-point attempts, but there was also a drop in how well the Warriors’ opponents shot in the paint. Both Indiana and Phoenix also grabbed less than 20% of available offensive rebounds, with their respective marks being among their worst of the season.
  • The new Warriors starting lineup cracked the 100-minute mark last week and has allowed just 97.1 points per 100 possessions, the best defensive mark among 61 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. That number is not much higher (99.1 per 100) in 207 total minutes with Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga and Draymond Green on the floor together.

The Warriors are tied (with the Blazers) for the fewest games played (they’re 14-3) against the 12 teams that are currently below .500. They’ll play their first two games against the barely-below-.500 Jazz this week, with a big test of their defensive improvement on Wednesday, when they’ll host the Clippers.

Week 17: @ UTA, vs. LAC, @ UTA

Last Week:18

Record: 26-27

OffRtg: 115.7 (16) DefRtg: 118.1 (24) NetRtg: -2.4 (23) Pace: 100.7 (9)

The Jazz still feel like they can go in either direction at any time, though they (once again) seemingly made moves at the deadline to go backward.

Three takeaways

  • For the second straight season, the Jazz traded a starter at the deadline. Simone Fontecchio doesn’t move the needle as much as Mike Conley, but the Jazz were 20-14 in games Fontecchio started and their pre-trade starting lineup had scored 125.9 points per 100 possessions. That was the third-best offensive mark among 27 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes.
  • With Fontecchio gone, Walker Kessler was back in the starting lineup and Lauri Markkanen was back at “small” forward in Phoenix on Thursday. The Jazz’s starting lineup got outscored by 13 points in a little more than 10 points in a 14-point loss to the Suns, and Utah has now been outscored by 19.0 points per 100 possessions in 131 total minutes with Kessler, Markkanen and John Collins on the floor together.
  • Kessler was on the floor down the stretch as the Jazz beat the Thunder on Tuesday and has 18 blocks (6.1 per 36 minutes) in the last five games. For the season, opponents have shot 48% at the rim when he’s been there to protect it, with that being the second best rim protection mark among 175 players with at least 100 field goal attempts against.

The Jazz are in 11th place, a game in the loss column behind the ninth-place Lakers and two in the loss column behind the 10th-place Warriors (who’ve played three fewer games). They’ll go into the break with three home games against those two teams, with the home team having won their first two meetings against L.A. and with Monday bringing their first meeting with Golden State.

Week 17: vs. GSW, vs. LAL, vs. GSW

Last Week:19

Record: 24-29

OffRtg: 117.8 (11) DefRtg: 119.8 (28) NetRtg: -2.0 (22) Pace: 102.5 (3)

Dejounte Murray is still on the Hawks, who haven’t been too bad over the last couple of weeks.

Three takeaways

  • The Hawks have won six of their last eight games, and in the two losses, they were ahead or within two points of the two teams at the top of these rankings in the fourth quarter. But on Monday, they allowed the Clippers to score 42 points on their final 20 possessions of the game. Two nights later, they saw the Celtics go on a 16-5 run to create separation. Over their last three games (the loss to Boston and close wins over the Sixers and Rockets), the Hawks have scored 124.1 points per 100 possessions through the first three quarters, but just 100 per 100 (78 on 78) in the fourth, with Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and Bogdan Bogdanovic combining to shoot 1-for-12 on fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
  • For the season, only the Pelicans have seen a bigger drop-off than the Hawks from the first half (plus 2.4 points per 100 possessions, 14th) to the second half (minus 6.8, 26th). Atlanta is 17-9 (ninth worst) in games it led at the half.
  • With Clint Capela missing the last four games with an adductor strain, Onyeka Okongwu has started an averaged 17.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and two blocks. The Hawks have been outscored by 9.8 points per 100 possessions in 482 minutes with Capela on the floor alongside Young, Murray and Jalen Johnson, but are a plus-3.6 per 100 in 133 minutes with Okongwu on the floor alongside the other three.

The Hawks have played the league’s 10th easiest schedule regarding cumulative opponent winning percentage, but 33 of their 53 games (tied for second most) have come against the 17 teams that currently have winning records. Their win over the Rockets began a stretch where they’re playing seven of eight against other teams below .500, though they’re 0-1 against both the Bulls and Hornets, who they’ll face this week.

Week 17: vs. CHI, @ CHA

Last Week:22

Record: 25-28

OffRtg: 113.3 (21) DefRtg: 114.9 (16) NetRtg: -1.6 (21) Pace: 96.8 (30)

The Bulls had an opportunity to climb within one game of .500 (for the first time since they were 2-3) on Saturday, holding a double-digit lead in the second half. But they couldn’t close the deal and remain solidly entrenched in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament group.

Three takeaways

  • With a comeback from 23 points down in Minnesota on Tuesday and the loss in Orlando, the Bulls have played a league-high eight overtime games. Twelve of their last 16 games have been within five points in the last five minutes and they now have more clutch wins (16-13) than they did last season (15-23). They have the league’s fifth biggest difference between their clutch record and their record (9-15, 11th in the East) in games that weren’t within five points in the last five minutes.
  • The Bulls rank second in clutch defense, having allowed just 98.5 points per 100 possessions with the score within five in the last five. That comeback against Minnesota came with some terrific defense, including one fantastic possession after they had climbed to within one. On the next trip down the floor, Torrey Craig blocked a Karl-Anthony Towns 3-point attempt.
  • The Bulls were seemingly showcasing Andre Drummond in that game, starting him alongside Nikola Vucevic. But the starting lineup outscored the Wolves by 15 points in a little more than 16 minutes and both bigs played well. Ayo Dosunmu has started (instead of Drummond) the last two games, but Drummond is still here and still played 29 minutes alongside Vucevic in Memphis and Orlando. For the season, the Bulls have outscored their opponents by 14.8 points per 100 possessions and grabbed an amazing 45.2% of available offensive rebounds in 84 total minutes with the two centers on the floor together.

The Bulls’ four-game trip continues with a big game against the 10th-place Hawks on Monday. Chicago won the first meeting with Drummond starting (in place of Vucevic) and tallying 24 points, 25 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Week 17: @ ATL, @ CLE

Last Week:20

Record: 23-29

OffRtg: 113.2 (22) DefRtg: 112.5 (6) NetRtg: +0.7 (16) Pace: 99.2 (15)

The Rockets’ hopes for making the Play-In Tournament seem to be slipping away. As the ninth-place Lakers and 10th-place Warriors show improvement, Houston has lost four straight to fall six games below .500.

Three takeaways

  • Amazingly, the Rockets still have a positive point differential (plus-0.7 points per game), better than those of three teams — the Kings, Heat and Lakers — that have winning records. Right now, theirs would be the fifth-worst record in NBA history for a team that outscored its opponents. Only the Wizards, Pistons and Spurs have been worse in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, with the Rockets (9-17) having lost five straight.
  • Just as amazing as the 23-29 record with the positive point differential is that the Rockets have the sixth-best record (16-13) in games played within the Western Conference. But after losing in Indiana, Toronto and Atlanta last week, they’re 7-16 against the East, a record that breaks down to 5-4 at home and 2-12 (with one game remaining) on the road. They continue to have the league’s biggest home-road differential overall.
  • Fred VanVleet has missed the last three games and rookie Amen Thompson has started in his place, handling the ball a little bit while guarding Tyrese Haliburton and Trae Young. He remains more of a rebounder (33 total boards over the three games) than a playmaker (13 assists) or shooter (0-for-3 from 3-point range).

The Rockets face another Eastern Conference opponent on Monday, but their game against the Knicks is at home. Then they’ll visit a place (Memphis) where they got one of their five road wins.

Week 17: vs. NYK, @ MEM

Last Week:23

Record: 21-31

OffRtg: 114.9 (17) DefRtg: 116.2 (18) NetRtg: -1.3 (20) Pace: 98.5 (22)

The Nets got three second-round picks for Royce O’Neale, but more interesting was their swap of Spencer Dinwiddie (a free agent in the summer) for Dennis Schroder, who’s under contract for another season and gives them a little more juice off the dribble.

Three takeaways

  • It will be interesting to see if the Nets’ offense improves significantly over the final three months of the season, because the two best passers they’ve had on the roster are Ben Simmons (who missed 39 of the first 45 games) and Schroder (who just made his debut on Saturday). Having good passers isn’t just good for the passes themselves, but also because other guys will run and cut harder knowing that they’ll get the ball when they do so.
  • Simmons still isn’t looking to shoot, but the Nets have scored 135 points per 100 possessions (and outscored their opponents by 35 points) in his 57 minutes on the floor without Nic Claxton since his return two weeks ago. Schroder had 12 assists and they scored 70 points on 53 possessions in his 27 minutes as they ended a three-game losing streak with an easy win over the Spurs on Saturday.
  • The Nets are just two games in the loss column behind the 10th-place Hawks and their roster still tilts more toward winning now than developing talent for the future. But rookie Jalen Wilson (the 51st pick last year) has been in the rotation for the last few games and has shot 6-for-9 from 3-point in that stretch.

They finish their pre-break schedule with two games against the Celtics, having lost both of the first two meetings by double-digits.

Week 17: vs. BOS, @ BOS

Last Week:24

Record: 19-34

OffRtg: 114.2 (19) DefRtg: 117.7 (23) NetRtg: -3.5 (24) Pace: 99.1 (18)

For the second straight year, the Raptors (who were still the big sellers this season) surprised us by being a buyer at the trade deadline, sending a first-round pick to Utah for Ochai Agbaji and Kelly Olynyk.

Three takeaways

  • The Raptors played the hottest team in the league on Saturday and their starting lineup (playing just its fourth game together) outscored the Cavs by five points in a little less than 15 minutes. But the bench (which included Agbaji and Olynyk) was not good and Cleveland outscored Toronto by 26 points (38-12) over 10 minutes spanning the first and second quarters. The bench issues didn’t arrive in Olynyk’s suitcase, though. Over their last 11 games, the Raptors have been outscored by an amazing 30.5 points per 100 possessions in 143 minutes with Scottie Barnes off the floor.
  • Barnes was named an All-Star on Tuesday and recorded his fourth career triple-double (24, 10 and 10) on Saturday. The Raptors are 0-4 in those games (three this season), though he’s recorded a positive plus-minus in all four.
  • The Raptors did win two games last week (their first winning streak in more than a month), but the Cleveland loss was the fifth time in their last six games that they’ve allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions. While the Knicks rank second defensively since adding OG Anunoby on Jan. 1, the Raptors rank 29th, ahead of only the Pistons.

That struggling defense will wrap its pre-break schedule with a visit from Pascal Siakam and the league’s No. 1 offense on Wednesday.

Week 17: vs. SAS, vs. IND

Last Week:25

Record: 15-37

OffRtg: 108.8 (29) DefRtg: 117.1 (21) NetRtg: -8.2 (26) Pace: 98.2 (25)

The Blazers have been banged up and have lost four straight, but the last three losses (including two to good teams) have been by single digits.

Three takeaways

  • The Blazers were without both Malcolm Brogdon and Scoot Henderson for both of their games last week. Anfernee Simons sprained his ankle against the Pistons on Thursday, leaving the game with the Blazers up 23 midway through the third quarter. That left the point guard position in the hands of Ashton Hagans, who had signed a 10-day contract earlier in the day. The transition did not go well. The Blazers blew all of that 23-point lead and they lost in overtime, where they scored two points on the first possession and zero thereafter. They’ve now lost five of their last six games (and are 3-5) against the other five teams with 18 or fewer wins this season.
  • Jerami Grant lost the ball when the Blazers had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but scored a career-high 49 points against his former team. He was 18-for-20 from the free throw line and is shooting better than 40% from 3-point range for the second straight season. (He shot 30% from deep through his first four years in the league. Trust the Process.)
  • The thing the Blazers do best on offense is rebound, ranking fifth in offensive rebounding percentage. And the thing they do worst on defense is rebound, ranking 28th in defensive rebounding percentage. Their opponents have totaled 83 second-chance points over their four-game losing streak.

The Blazers have a seemingly comfortable lead over the Grizzlies for 29th in offensive efficiency, but Portland has 15 games remaining against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively, while Memphis only has nine. The first two of those 15 are their second and third meetings with the Wolves’ top-ranked defense, with the Blazers having shot 18-for-41 in the paint in an ugly loss exactly one month ago.

Week 17: vs. MIN. vs. MIN

Last Week:26

Record: 18-35

OffRtg: 107.6 (30) DefRtg: 113.9 (11) NetRtg: -6.2 (25) Pace: 99.1 (17)

There are a few teams with long losing streaks entering Week 17 and the Grizzlies have the longest. They’ve dropped eight straight and probably hit the low point of their season on Saturday, when they lost a rest-advantage game in Charlotte, marking the Hornets’ first win that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes.

Three takeaways

  • Offense remains a struggle. The Grizzlies rank in the bottom 10 in all four of the four factors on that end of the floor, with a lack of free throws being a real issue over their last six games. They’ve attempted just 16.9 free throws per 100 shots from the field in February, which would be the lowest rate for any team in any month (not including October) in the last two seasons.
  • But the defense has also fallen out of the top 10, suffering some slippage of late. The last five games (123.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) have been the Grizzlies’ worst five-game stretch of defense this season. They scored rather efficiently (113 on 95) in New York on Tuesday, but (playing without Jaren Jackson Jr.) allowed 72 points in the paint, tied for the Knicks’ season high and eight more than the Grizzlies have allowed in any other game.
  • It was written in this space last week that trading Steven Adams was a sign that the Grizzlies felt good about playing Jackson at the five more than they have in the past. Two days later, they traded a healthy center. Xavier Tillman was on an expiring contract, but is only 25 years and certainly could have been re-signed if Memphis wanted to keep a useful five man.

The Grizzlies have multiple wins over three teams, with one of those being the Pelicans. The road team has won all three meetings thus far and the Pels will be in Memphis on Monday.

Week 17: vs. NOP, vs. HOU, vs. MIL

Last Week:27

Record: 9-43

OffRtg: 111.1 (26) DefRtg: 119.7 (27) NetRtg: -8.6 (27) Pace: 103.4 (1)

The Wizards have lost six straight overall and still haven’t won a home game in 2024.

Three takeaways

  • The Wizards have lost 13 straight games at home, one shy of the Pistons’ streak of 14 straight home losses earlier this season. (The all-time record is 19.) Only three of the first 11 were within five points in the last five minutes, but they played close games against the Cavs, Celtics (in Boston) and Sixers last week.
  • They lost all three, shooting 0-for-4 on clutch shots and allowing 22 points on 14 clutch possessions on the other end of the floor. With the Pistons having won two clutch games last week, the Wizards now have what would be the worst clutch record (3-16) in the 28 seasons for which we have clutch data.
  • It was a little surprising that the Wizards traded Daniel Gafford, who’s only 25 years old and on a reasonable contract for the next two seasons. That leaves the center position in the hands of Marvin Bagley III, who (though he shot 1-for-7 against Philly on Saturday) has been their leading scorer on a per-minute basis (21.9 points per 36) since arriving from Detroit.

The home losing streak is on pause until after the All-Star break and the Wizards will finish their pre-break schedule in Dallas and New Orleans, currently 0-9 against the nine West teams that have winning records.

Week 17: @ DAL, @ NOP

Last Week:30

Record: 8-44

OffRtg: 111.5 (25) DefRtg: 120.1 (29) NetRtg: -8.7 (28) Pace: 101.0 (7)

The Pistons traded two of their five top scorers on Thursday, but might be playing their best basketball of the season.

Three takeaways

  • The Pistons won the first two games of their five-game trip, and then had a 13-point, second-half lead against the Clippers on Saturday, losing when LA went on a 24-6 run in the fourth quarter. Two of the opponents have had winning records (the first win came in Sacramento) and statistically, it’s been their best three-game stretch (plus-5.3 points per 100 possessions) since October.
  • Jaden Ivey continues to be the offensive star, averaging 28.7 points and shooting 14-for-20 (70%) from 3-point range over the trip thus far. He’s had a much higher usage rate since his move into the starting lineup in mid-December (26.0%) than he did prior (20.9%), though he’s been taking a higher percentage of his shots from outside the paint.
  • Detroit is now 4-38 with Cade Cunningham and 4-6 without him, with the offense having been much more efficient (118.0 points scored per 100 possessions) in those no-Cunningham games. One difference is a higher 3-point rate, and the Pistons were 17-for-31 from beyond the arc on Wednesday, when they registered their most efficient offensive game of the season and beat the Kings without Cunningham.

The Pistons need just one more win to guarantee that they won’t finish with the worst record in NBA history, but their final two pre-break games are a tough back-to-back against the Lakers and Suns.

Week 17: @ LAL, @ PHX

Last Week:29

Record: 11-41

OffRtg: 109.2 (28) DefRtg: 121.1 (30) NetRtg: -11.9 (30) Pace: 98.8 (20)

With a 10-game losing streak and having traded much of their core, the Hornets were looking like a good candidate to be last in these here rankings. But they suddenly have a lot more healthy bodies and a motley crew of veterans put an end to the losing streak on Saturday.

Three takeaways

  • It was only two seasons ago when the Hornets went 43-39 with a top-10 offense. But they saw the league’s biggest drop in points scored per 100 possessions from 2021-22 to ’22-23 and have seen its biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season to this season. And so, three key guys from that ’21-22 rotation have been traded in the last three weeks, with Gordon Hayward and P.J. Washington being dealt away on Thursday.
  • Miles Bridges remains (but will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer) and had back-to-back 40-point games last week. He’s averaging a career-high 21.7 points, but the jump from two seasons ago is mostly about minutes and usage. His true shooting percentage (56.5%) is down from 59.3% in ’21-22 and ranks 45th among 58 players with a usage rate of 24% or higher.
  • The Hornets got five healthy vets when they traded Washington and Hayward, who’s been out since Dec. 26. All five played on Saturday (the end of the Hornets’ only stretch of five games in seven nights), and a lineup featuring three of them — Davis Bertans, Vasilije Micic and Grant Williams — did the key damage as the Hornets beat the Grizzlies by nine, their largest margin of victory this season. The Hornets remain the only team without a double-digit win, with every other team having at least three.

The win ended both the Hornets’ 10-game losing streak and an eight-game home losing streak. Their last two games before the All-Star break are the end of a stretch where they’re playing 10 of 12 at the Spectrum Center, with the first five weeks after the break being very road heavy.

Week 17: vs. IND, vs. ATL

Last Week:28

Record: 10-43

OffRtg: 109.3 (27) DefRtg: 118.1 (25) NetRtg: -8.9 (29) Pace: 102.0 (5)

The Spurs’ latest losing streak has hit seven games and they’ve trailed each of their last four by at least 19 points.

Three takeaways

  • The Spurs are one of five teams that rank in the bottom 10 on both ends of the floor, but they continue to have more issues on offense, where they’ve scored just 106.3 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak. Starting forwards Julian Champagnie and Jeremy Sochan have combined to shoot 38-for-100 (including 7-for-43 from 3-point range) over the seven games.
  • The Spurs still rank as the league’s fourth most improved defensive team, having allowed 1.5 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season, though that’s more about how bad they were (30th) on that end of the floor in ’22-23. In losing their last two games in Orlando and Brooklyn, they allowed two below-average offenses to each score more than 129 per 100.
  • The Spurs were outscored by 40 points (86-46) in the restricted area over those two games, with only three of Victor Wembanyama’s 28 total shots coming at the basket. For the season, 29% of his shots on the road* have come in the restricted area, a rate which ranks 70th among 188 players with at least 150 total field goal attempts on the road.

* Using just road shots here to account for shot-charting discrepancies from arena to arena.

The Spurs will face another below-average offense in Toronto on Monday. Then the Rodeo Trip comes back to Texas for their final game before the All-Star break and their third of four meetings with the Mavs.

Week 17: @ TOR, @ DAL