Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 20: Nuggets rise to No. 2 as Celtics roll along

Boston has won 11 straight to open Week 20, with Denver, Milwaukee and Miami among the teams hitting their stride.

Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets are rolling, going 6-0 since the All-Star break.

The 2023-24 season is just about *75% complete. And as we hit the three-quarter mark, there isn’t a single team within three games of .500 … on either side.

* We’ll be there after Tuesday’s games.

On the day before the All-Star break, the Golden State Warriors won in Utah, improving to 27-26 and giving us 18 teams with winning records. Since then, those 18 teams have stayed clear of .500, while the other 12 haven’t come close.

(We miss you, 2022-23 Hawks.)

Ten of the 18 teams with winning records reside in the Western Conference, and two of them won’t make the playoffs. As things stand right now, the ninth-place Warriors and 10th-place Lakers would face each other just to stay alive in the SoFI Play-In Tournament, with the winner still needing to win on the road (Dallas or Phoenix) to make the playoffs.

Of course, while the West is having its strongest season in the last five years, the Warriors would also be in ninth place in the East with the same record they have in the West. If you mixed conferences and seeded teams 1-16, you’d still have eight teams from each side.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Boston (3-0) — Who made the Celtics mad?
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Memphis (0-4) — Two losses to another bottom-six team will do it.

* * *

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 19

  • Toughest: 1. Houston, 2. San Antonio, 3. Golden State
  • Easiest: 1. Phoenix, 2. Milwaukee, 3. Cleveland
  • Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record.

* * *

Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: Miami (+5), Denver (+3), Milwaukee (+3), San Antonio (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Indiana (-6), Four teams (-3)

* * *

Week 20 Team to Watch

  • Boston There’s no doubt that the Celtics are the best team in the league and that they’ll finish with the best record. But this week – games at Cleveland, Denver and Phoenix – provides three opportunities for some playoff-like hoops on national TV.

* * *


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 114.9 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.6 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:1

Record: 48-12

OffRtg: 121.7 (1) DefRtg: 110.2 (2) NetRtg: +11.6 (1) Pace: 98.8 (19)

The Celtics have the first double-digit winning streak this season, and it hit 11 games (with the largest point differential for any 11-game stretch in NBA history) on Sunday with a 52-point win over a team (Golden State) that had been playing pretty well.

Three takeaways

  • The Celtics have now outscored their opponents by 11.4 points per game, which would be the fifth-best mark in NBA history, with the four teams with better marks all having gone on to win the championship. They’ve outscored their opponents by 11.6 points per 100 possessions, the best mark since that of the 1996-97 Bulls (plus 11.8 per 100).
  • On Tuesday, the Celtics shot 5-for-22 (23%) from 3-point range against the Sixers, getting outscored from beyond the arc for just the 16th time this season. They still won by 18, outscoring Philly by 20 points in the restricted area and by 23 at the free-throw line. If you’re going to beat this team, you need it to shoot poorly from deep; After weekend wins over the Mavs and Warriors, Boston is 30-2 when it’s shot the league average or better from 3-point range. But it also has the league’s best record (18-10) when it’s shot worse than the league average.
  • Jrue Holiday has seen a huge drop in points per game this season but is registering a career-best true shooting percentage of 59.8%. He’s shot an amazing (and league-best) 43-for-65 (66%) on corner 3s, shooting better than 60% (on 38 and 27 attempts) from each corner.

The Celtics will play 12 of their next 15 games on the road, and the first three games of that stretch might be their best remaining chances to test their playoff chops before they clinch the league’s best record. They lost a playoff-like game to the Nuggets in January and the rematch will be Thursday in Denver.

Week 20: @ CLE, @ DEN, @ PHX

Last Week:5

Record: 42-19

OffRtg: 117.4 (8) DefRtg: 113.0 (9) NetRtg: +4.5 (7) Pace: 97.6 (27)

The Nuggets remain undefeated (6-0) since the All-Star break, with the last four wins having come against teams with winning records. They’re still very much in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the West (again), currently a half-game behind the first-place Thunder.

Three takeaways

  • Their first five games out of the break were the Nuggets’ best five-game stretch of defense (103.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season. The context is that three of those five games came against teams that rank in the bottom 10 offensively, but with this post-break stretch, the Nuggets are one of 10 teams that have allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season (113.5, 15th).
  • The defense wasn’t great on Saturday, but they’ve been able to turn it on when they need to. The Nuggets continue to lead the league in clutch defense and, with their wins over the Heat and Lakers last week, they’re 12-4 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes since mid-December, having allowed a paltry 86.2 points per 100 clutch possessions (94 on 109) over that stretch.
  • The offense was pretty good in the closing minutes on Saturday as well, with the Nuggets scoring an amazing 25 points on their final 12 possessions in L.A. Nikola Jokic has made just six shots from outside the paint since the break, but Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. (who made all 10 of his shots on Saturday) have combined to shoot 28-for-41 (68%) from mid-range. Porter’s 52.7% for the season ranks fourth among 58 players with at least 100 mid-range attempts and is up from 42.4% last season.

The Nuggets held the most efficient offense in NBA history to just four points on nine clutch possessions when they won in Boston in January. The rematch is on Thursday in Denver.

Week 20: vs. PHX, vs. BOS, vs. UTA

Last Week:3

Record: 42-18

OffRtg: 119.3 (3) DefRtg: 111.4 (4) NetRtg: +8.0 (2) Pace: 100.9 (7)

The Thunder saw their six-game winning streak come to a (surprising) end in San Antonio on Thursday, but they responded well by responding well in Phoenix over the weekend.

Three takeaways

  • The Thunder remain the second team in the top five on both ends of the floor. Most of their losses over the last couple of months have been more about defense than offense, with the Spurs registering their most efficient offensive performance of the season (132 points on 99 possessions) on Thursday. Oklahoma City has the league’s fourth highest opponent 3-point rate (41.5%) and San Antonio shot 19-for-39 (49%) from deep.
  • The Thunder’s maturity was on display in Phoenix on Sunday, when they blew a 24-point lead, only to outplay the veteran Suns down the stretch, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams coming up with most of the big buckets. They’re now 17-12 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and, while that ranks just eighth in the league, it’s a huge difference from last season, when they were 17-26 (26th). Williams (18-for-26, 69%), Gilgeous-Alexander (30-for-51, 59%) and Chet Holmgren (19-for-36, 53%) rank first, fifth and 16th in clutch field goal percentage among 74 players with at least 25 field goal attempts.
  • He got outplayed by Victor Wembanyama on Thursday, but Holmgren has an overall effective field goal percentage of 68.8% since the All-Star break, the fourth best mark among 129 players with at least 50 post-break field goal attempts and up from 60.6% before the break.

The Thunder have two games left on their four-game trip and they’ll be at a rest disadvantage against the Lakers on Monday. But they’re 6-3 in rest-disadvantage games thus far, having scored an amazing 128.1 points per 100 possessions over those nine contests.

Week 20: @ LAL, @ POR, vs. MIA, vs. MEM

Last Week:4

Record: 39-20

OffRtg: 118.9 (5) DefRtg: 114.2 (12) NetRtg: +4.7 (6) Pace: 98.4 (21)

The Clippers suffered a brutal collapse against the Lakers, but won their more important game of the week, edging the Wolves (on the road) on Sunday.

Three takeaways

  • The Clippers had a big offensive night against the Wizards’ 30th-ranked defense on Friday, but have scored just 107.3 points per 100 possessions against their five Western Conference opponents since the All-Star break. They’ve been less of a jump-shooting team this season (they’ve seen the league’s biggest jump in the percentage of their shots that have come in the paint from last season), but haven’t been getting to the line much of late.
  • Paul George has missed a couple of games (including the loss to the Lakers) and he combined with James Harden to shoot 5-for-26 in Minnesota on Sunday. But Kawhi Leonard has been pretty good, and (with Ivica Zubac also back in the lineup) the Clippers’ defense held it down in one of the ugliest games between good teams we’ve seen all season. The go-ahead bucket came with great execution on a play involving all three stars, with Harden making a great pass to Leonard after George set a back-screen.
  • Russell Westbrook suffered a fractured left hand on Friday, forcing the Clippers to turn to Bones Hyland, who hasn’t been in the rotation since early November and has shot an amazing 10-for-50 (20%) in whatever minutes he’s gotten since then. That includes 1-for-10 after replacing Westbrook this weekend, but (discounting garbage time against the Wizards) the Clippers outscored Washington and Minnesota by 14 points in Hyland’s 23 1/2 minutes on the floor.

The defense will have a tougher challenge when the Clippers’ three-game trip continues in Milwaukee on Monday, their first of two meetings with the Bucks next week. They’ll have two days off after the trip concludes in Houston on Wednesday, but they’ll then begin their second of three stretches of five games in seven days.

Week 20: @ MIL, @ HOU, vs. CHI, vs. MIL

Last Week:2

Record: 42-19

OffRtg: 114.4 (18) DefRtg: 107.8 (1) NetRtg: +6.6 (3) Pace: 98.1 (24)

The Wolves have matched their win total from last season (42-40), but are just 3-3 on the seven-game homestand that ends Monday, with the three losses having come by a total of 10 points.

Three takeaways

  • The Wolves scored just 26 points on 30 clutch possessions in those narrow losses to the Bucks, Kings and Clippers, shooting 2-for-14 on clutch 3-pointers. They’re now 15-12 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, ranking 22nd in clutch offense (105.4 points scored per 100 possessions). Anthony Edwards (6-for-24) and Karl-Anthony Towns (6-for-23) both missed late 3s for the lead over the weekend and are two of the 11 players who’ve shot worse than 30% on at least 20 clutch 3-point attempts.
  • The Wolves were without Edwards down the stretch of their overtime loss to the Kings (who were without De’Aaron Fox) on Friday, when Naz Reid missed a great corner-3 look for the tie with 10 seconds left in the extra period. Reid, Towns and Rudy Gobert were all on the floor in clutch time and the Wolves have outscored their opponents by 16 points in their 26 total minutes together. Overall, Reid’s minutes with one of the other two bigs (plus 10.7 points per 100 possessions) have been a total reversal from last season (minus 11 per 100), when the sample size was much smaller.
  • It was noted in this space last week that the Wolves are not a running team, despite all the stops they get with the league’s No. 1 defense. They were outscored 19-0 on fast break points in both of their losses over the weekend.

The Wolves wrap up the homestand and their only stretch of five games in seven nights with a game against the Blazers on Monday. Three nights later, they begin their longest road trip of the season (six games over 12 days), which includes another big game against the Clippers next week.

Week 20: vs. POR, @ IND, @ CLE, @ LAL

Last Week:9

Record: 40-21

OffRtg: 119.1 (4) DefRtg: 114.8 (15) NetRtg: +4.4 (8) Pace: 101.5 (5)

The Bucks remain one of three undefeated teams since the All-Star break, with a quality win in Minnesota and four blowouts of below-.500 or shorthanded opponents giving them a winning record (8-7) under Doc Rivers.

Three takeaways

  • The Bucks have been one of the league’s best clutch teams, but they haven’t had to worry about that over the last nine days, winning their last four first halves by an average of 21.5 points. They’ve allowed just 86.7 points per 100 possessions over those four first halves, with their opponents shooting just 37-for-76 (48.7%) in the paint.
  • The defense is better when the offense isn’t turning the ball over and the Bucks have turned the ball over 11.3 turnovers per 100 possessions (second fewest) over their five post-break games. They’ve allowed 14.4 transition points per game since the break, down from 21.7 per game before it, according to Synergy tracking.
  • The last four games, of course, have come against the Joel-Embiid-less Sixers and two teams – the Hornets (x 2) and Bulls – that rank 28th and 23rd offensively. But it’s still a good thing that the Bucks are taking care of business against bad (or shorthanded) opponents. Before the All-Star break, they were just 18-8 (tied for the league’s 16th-best record) against the 12 teams with losing records.

Now we’ll see just how legit the Bucks’ improvement is. They’ll play their next eight games against teams with winning records, with some potent offenses included within. They’ll have a rest advantage in both of their games against the Clippers this week.

Week 20: vs. LAC, @ GSW, @ LAL, @ LAC

Last Week:6

Record: 39-21

OffRtg: 115.6 (15) DefRtg: 110.6 (3) NetRtg: +5.0 (4) Pace: 98.3 (22)

The Cavs are 3-4 since the All-Star break, dealing with some familiar issues and needing a miracle to get one of those three wins.

Three takeaways

  • Max Strus is a below-average 3-point shooter, having made just 34.0% of his attempts from beyond the arc. And prior to last week, he was 2-for-12 on clutch 3s. But he caught fire at the right time against the Mavs on Tuesday, first draining four straight on a 15-3 run that turned a 10-point deficit (with less than four minutes left) into a two-point lead, and then draining the game-winner from 59 feet away.
  • Against the Mavs and again the following night in Chicago, the Cavs had Caris LeVert on the floor down the stretch instead of one of their bigs. Since Evan Mobley’s return from an extended absence, Cleveland has outscored opponents by just 1.0 points per 100 possessions in 232 minutes with Mobley and Jarrett Allen on the floor together, but is plus-16.0 per 100 in 329 minutes with Allen on the floor without Mobley.
  • The defensive rebounding numbers are about the same, but the Cavs got absolutely destroyed on the glass (allowing 32 second-chance points) in Chicago. The double-overtime loss (in which they missed their first seven shots in the second OT) was the end of their first stretch of five games in seven days. They now have the league’s third biggest differential between their record with rest (35-15, second to the Celtics) and their record in the second games of back-to-backs (4-6), having scored just 108.1 points per 100 possessions over those 10 no-rest games.

And they’ll begin another five-in-seven stretch on Tuesday with a visit from the Celtics, having lost the first two meetings (a two-game series in Boston). The Cavs do have two rest-advantage games (vs. Minnesota and Brooklyn) this week, currently the only undefeated team (7-0) with a rest advantage.

Week 20: vs. BOS, @ ATL, vs. MIN, vs. BKN

Last Week:13

Record: 34-26

OffRtg: 113.4 (21) DefRtg: 112.6 (8) NetRtg: +0.7 (15) Pace: 97.4 (28)

The Heat lost in Denver on Thursday, but still have the league’s third-best record (10-3) and its second-best defense (106.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Jan. 31.

Three takeaways

  • The Heat still don’t have a lineup that’s played more than 79 total minutes. They have eight guys who’ve averaged at least 25 minutes per game and have been without at least two of the eight in each of their last seven games. But they won in Sacramento with only four of the eight and Jimmy Butler suspended, getting big offensive performances from Bam Adebayo, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Kevin Love. They’ve won five of the last six games they’ve played without Butler (12-7 without him for the season), with the only exception being a four-point loss to the Celtics.
  • It’s not like Butler is hurting them, though. He’s averaged 24.3 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 61%), 6.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.1 steals over this 10-3 stretch. He scored a season-high 37 points against the Jazz on Saturday, making three 3-pointers for the fourth time this season, having done so just four times over the previous three regular seasons combined. (Six times in the playoffs over the last two years.)
  • Jaquez’s offense has been inconsistent and the Heat rank 26th in clutch offense (exactly one point per possession), but the rookie had two impressive (and huge) one-on-one buckets – a post-up turnaround against Kevin Huerter and an iso step-through against Domantas Sabonis – down the stretch of the Sacramento win

The Heat have five games remaining against the two worst teams in the league, set to host both the Pistons and Wizards this week. In between is a tough back-to-back in Dallas and Oklahoma City, with the Heat currently 7-5 in Western Conference arenas after their 3-1 trip coming out of the break.

Week 20: vs. DET, @ DAL, @ OKC, vs. WAS

Last Week:7

Record: 34-27

OffRtg: 117.6 (7) DefRtg: 117.0 (22) NetRtg: +0.6 (16) Pace: 100.9 (8)

The Mavs have had Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving together for 12 straight games, the longest such streak since Irving arrived in Dallas 13 months ago. They won the first seven of those games, but have since dropped four of five, falling into eighth place in the West.

Three takeaways

  • Over their last five games before the All-Star break, the Mavs allowed 101.9 points allowed per 100 possessions, their best stretch of defense this season. And over their first six games since the break, they’ve allowed a league-worst 124.4 per 100. Four of the opponents rank in the top 11 offensively, but the Sixers’ 120 points on 98 possessions on Sunday was their fifth most efficient performance in 26 games without Joel Embiid.
  • Doncic (averaging a triple-double) and Irving have combined to average 60.5 points on a true shooting percentage of 64% over these last 12 games together. Not surprisingly, the Mavs rank last in assist percentage over that stretch, having recorded assists on only 55.5% of their buckets. The percentage of Doncic’s buckets that have been assisted this season (19.6%) the highest mark since his rookie year, but still the lowest (by a healthy margin) among 262 players with at least 100 total field goals.

The Mavs are five games through a stretch of nine straight against the Eastern Conference, and they’ll now face the league’s second-ranked offense for the second time in 10 days, having lost by 22 in Indiana.

Week 20: vs. IND, vs. MIA, @ DET

Last Week:11

Record: 34-25

OffRtg: 116.7 (14) DefRtg: 116.4 (21) NetRtg: +0.3 (17) Pace: 100.2 (12)

The Kings continue to have success against potential playoff opponents and are 8-5 (4-3 on the road) against the top four teams in the Western Conference after splitting games in Denver and Minnesota last week.

Three takeaways

  • The Kings’ success in those 13 games has been more about defense (113 points allowed per 100 possessions) than offense (113.3 scored per 100), though they’ve scored 126 per 100 in road wins over the Clippers and Wolves in the last two weeks.
  • With De’Aaron Fox (knee contusion) out for both games, Davion Mitchell got the start in Denver, when the Kings scored less than a point per possession for the fifth time this season. They’ve scored just 105.9 per 100 with Mitchell on the floor this season and Keon Ellis got the start in Minnesota on Friday. Of course, it was Malik Monk on the floor instead of Ellis down the stretch, and he capped his 39-point performance with two big 3s in overtime. Monk leads the league in total points scored off the bench for the second straight season, though (overall) the Kings have worse-than-average offensive numbers when he’s shared the floor with their starters.
  • The Kings have now been outscored from the free throw line in 11 straight games. After ranking fourth in free throw differential (plus-1.7 points per game) last season, they rank 28th (minus-3.2) this season, having seen the league’s biggest drops in both free throw rate (FTA/FGA) and free throw percentage. Harrison Barnes (from 52.2 to 25.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field) and Domantas Sabonis (from 46.7 to 37) have seen the biggest and 21st biggest drops in free throw rate among 186 players with at least 300 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons.

The Kings have spent much of the last two months on the road, where they have a winning record for the second straight season. Fifteen of their remaining 23 games will be at home, with their second six-game homestand of the season beginning with a rest-disadvantage game against the Spurs on Thursday.

Week 20: vs. CHI, @ LAL, vs. SAS, vs. HOU

Last Week:8

Record: 35-26

OffRtg: 117.1 (11) DefRtg: 114.3 (13) NetRtg: +2.8 (11) Pace: 99.6 (11)

The gauntlet is here. Beginning with their game against the Thunder on Sunday, the Suns were playing 15 of their final 22 games against the top eight teams in the league.

Three takeaways

  • Having come back from 24 points down only to blow a six-point, fourth quarter lead, the Suns are 3-5 against those eight teams that have outscored opponents by more than four points per 100 possessions this season, having allowed more than 123 points per 100 possessions over the eight games. That does include a 2-1 mark (wins over the Pelicans and Bucks) when all three of Bradley Beal, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant have been available, but Booker (ankle) was out against Oklahoma City on Sunday.
  • The Suns have turnover issues. They committed 22 (16 more than the Thunder) on Sunday and have now seen the league’s third biggest jump in turnover rate from last season (13.6 per 100 possessions, 10th) to this season (15.0, 25th). They’ve averaged 3.7 fewer shooting opportunities than their opponents, the league’s worst discrepancy by a healthy margin.

Next up is a date with the champs. Both teams were missing two starters (Beal and Booker for the Suns) when the Nuggets won in Phoenix on Dec. 1.

Week 20: @ DEN, vs. TOR, vs. BOS

Last Week:14

Record: 36-25

OffRtg: 117.0 (12) DefRtg: 112.2 (6) NetRtg: +4.8 (5) Pace: 99.3 (16)

After a couple of ugly losses at home, the Pelicans have seemingly found their offense, to the point that they scored 48 points on 24 possessions (and on 20-for-22 shooting) in the first quarter on Friday.

Three takeaways

  • The difference between their two games against the Pacers (both won by the home team) last week was the first quarter: 40-24 in favor of the Pacers on Wednesday and 48-26 in favor of the Pelicans two nights later. This is not a comeback team, currently 4-20 (only the Pistons and Wizards have fewer wins) when it’s trailed by double-digits and still, the only team that hasn’t won a game it trailed after the third quarter (0-15).
  • The Pelicans were playing without either Brandon Ingram or CJ McCollum in their first four games out of the All-Star break and, with that brutal first quarter on Wednesday, Jonas Valanciunas sat the final 41 minutes and their reunited starting lineup didn’t get much time together. At that point, the group had been outscored by 23 points in its 354 minutes. But it registered a plus-23 in 12.5 minutes in the Friday rematch to draw even for the season. The Pels continue to have much better numbers with only two of McCollum, Ingram or Zion Williamson on the floor (plus-9 points per 100 possessions in 971 total minutes) than they do with all three on the floor together (minus-1.5 per 100 in 583 minutes).
  • It helps when Herb Jones makes his open shots and Jones is now 55-for-102 (54%) from 3-point range since Dec. 31, the best mark among 169 players with at least 75 3-point attempts in that time.

The Pelicans’ stretch of nine straight games against the Eastern Conference continues with a three-game trip this week. Their first meeting with the Raptors (who they’ll visit on Tuesday) was their third most efficient offensive game of the season, with Ingram scoring 41 points (making eight of his 11 3-point attempts) in less than 30 minutes.

Week 20: @ TOR, @ PHI, @ ATL

Last Week:10

Record: 36-25

OffRtg: 117.3 (9) DefRtg: 113.3 (10) NetRtg: +4.0 (9) Pace: 96.8 (30)

The Knicks were already struggling without Julius Randle and OG Anunoby, and then Jalen Brunson suffered a knee injury early in the first quarter in Cleveland on Sunday. They managed to beat the Cavs without their All-Star, but Brunson’s timeline going forward is a huge variable in the non-Boston division of the Eastern Conference.

Three takeaways

  • Precious Achiuwa and Isaiah Hartenstein have combined to shoot 10-for-46 from outside paint for the Knicks this season. But they’ve been starting together on the Knicks’ frontline and the offense hasn’t been bad (118.5 points scored per 100 possessions) in 228 total minutes with both on the floor. The issue is that the offense on the other end of the floor has been better (123 per 100).
  • Brunson, of course, has been on the floor for 190 (83%) of those 228 minutes. Overall, the Knicks have scored 14.6 more points per 100 possessions with Brunson on the floor (120.6) than they have with him off the floor (106.0). That’s the third biggest on-off differential on offense (trailing only those of Nikola Jokic and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) among players who’ve played at least 750 minutes for a single team. And that differential hasn’t gone down much (it’s 12.3 per 100) since the Knicks added Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks to their bench.
  • The first quarter means a lot to the Knicks, who were down 14-0 to the Warriors (going scoreless in the first 5:20) on Thursday. They have the league’s biggest differential between their record when they’ve won the first quarter (25-5) and their record when they’ve lost the first quarter (8-19).

The Knicks’ win in Cleveland was sandwiched between two four-game homestands, with the second one — visits from the Hawks, Magic and Sixers (twice) — being a little easier than the first regarding the opponents.

Week 20: vs. ATL, vs. ORL, vs. PHI

Last Week:15

Record: 35-25

OffRtg: 117.8 (6) DefRtg: 114.4 (14) NetRtg: +3.4 (10) Pace: 99.1 (17)

Joel Embiid remains out, but the Sixers remain in the top five in the East, having picked up a pair of critical wins over the weekend.

Three takeaways

  • The Sixers’ rest-advantage win over the similarly shorthanded Hornets on Friday wasn’t particularly impressive, but it was much needed, especially with Tobias Harris breaking out of a slump (10.8 points per game, 31% shooting over the previous five) with 31 points. He had two big buckets down the stretch, with the second of those being a right-corner 3 for a five-point lead with a little more than a minute left. Over the last four seasons (including playoffs), Harris is 93-for-190 (49%) from the right corner and just 50-for-161 (31%) from the left corner.
  • But he was 2-for-2 from the left corner as he scored another 28 points in an impressive win in Dallas on Sunday afternoon. The Sixers’ last five games of February were their worst five-game stretch of offense this season (103.3 points scored per 100 possessions), but they’ve scored 129.6 per 100 as they’ve won their first two games of March.

The Sixers enter the week a half-game behind the Knicks for fifth place in the East and having scored just 95.4 points per 100 possessions (easily their worst mark vs. any opponent) in the two head-to-head meetings thus far. They’ll play a two-game series at Madison Square Garden starting Sunday.

Week 20: @ BKN, vs. MEM, vs. NOP, @ NYK

Last Week:16

Record: 35-26

OffRtg: 113.1 (22) DefRtg: 111.4 (5) NetRtg: +1.8 (12) Pace: 97.9 (26)

The Magic are the third team to surpass its win total from last season (34-48). More important is that they’ve climbed into sixth place in the East, having won 11 of their last 14 games.

Three takeaways

  • Perimeter shooting doesn’t matter as much when you’re destroying your opponents inside. The Magic continue to lead the league in restricted-area differential (plus-6.8 points per game), having outscored the Nets, Jazz and Pistons by 62 points (148-86) in the restricted area over their three-game winning streak.
  • The 11-3 stretch roughly coincides with Gary Harris’ return from a one-month absence. Harris has shot 18-for-37 (49%) from 3-point range since his return and has been in the starting lineup (instead of Markelle Fultz) for the last five games he’s been available, with the Magic winning all five. The new lineup has played just 79 total minutes over that stretch (Paolo Banchero also missed a game), but has good numbers on both ends of the floor thus far.

Games against the Knicks and Pacers this week are the only exceptions in a stretch where the Magic are playing 11 of 13 games against teams with losing records, and they’re currently 5-0 against New York (3-0) and Indiana (2-0), having scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions against both of them.

Week 20: @ CHA, @ WAS, @ NYK, vs. IND

Last Week:17

Record: 32-28

OffRtg: 116.8 (13) DefRtg: 115.7 (18) NetRtg: +1.1 (14) Pace: 100.4 (11)

The Warriors had a good road trip … until they lost by 52 points in Boston on Sunday.

Three takeaways

  • The third-quarter Warriors are back. They lost the third period by nine points (after losing the first half by 44) on Sunday, but the Warriors have still been the league’s best third-quarter team (plus-23.2 points per 100 possessions) since Jan. 1. They put the Wizards away with a 38-17 third on Tuesday and turned a five-point deficit into a 12-point lead with a 24-7, third-quarter run in Toronto three nights later.
  • Jonathan Kuminga is 2-for-19 from 3-point range over the last month, but that hasn’t mattered much. He averaged 23.3 points over the first three games of the road trip, with 58 of the total 70 points coming in the paint and one particularly vicious baseline move to help put the Knicks away on Thursday, when the Warriors were running offense through him down the stretch.
  • Chris Paul returned from a 21-game absence last week, shooting 8-for-15 from 3-point range, registering a 17/3 assist/turnover ratio and adding nine steals in his first three games back. His minutes are staggered with those of Stephen Curry, but his 3.2 assists to Curry per 36 minutes on the floor together is a rate that Draymond Green has topped just once (4.0 in 2020-21) in his 12 seasons.

They got waxed by the best team in the league on Sunday, but the Warriors have done a good job of taking care of business, currently 19-3 (tied for fourth best) against the 12 teams currently under .500. They’ll host the improved Bucks on Wednesday, but then play three games against the Bulls and Spurs (x 2).

Week 20: vs. MIL, vs. CHI, vs. SAS

Last Week:18

Record: 33-29

OffRtg: 114.7 (17) DefRtg: 115.3 (17) NetRtg: -0.6 (19) Pace: 101.2 (6)

The Lakers had some late-game adventures last week, coming back from 21 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Clippers, going to overtime with the Wizards, and coming up short against the defending champs.

Three takeaways

  • The fourth quarter against the Clippers was the Lakers’ second most efficient quarter of the season (37 points on 22 possessions). They ranked 20th offensively (113.4 points scored per 100 possessions) through Jan. 1, but they’re third (119.7 scored per 100) since Feb. 1.
  • They’ve shot much better (39.0%, fifth best) from 3-point range, with the four guys with at least 45 attempts since Feb. 1 all shooting better than 40% from deep. They’ve also seen a big drop in turnover rate, from 14.0 per 100 possessions (21st) through January to just 10.8 (second) in February and March.
  • Of course, the defense that has been so good at times this season has let them down a bit. The Lakers are a league-best 9-2 in clutch games since Jan. 1, with both losses having come to the Nuggets (to whom they’ve lost eight straight overall) and with Denver scoring 27 points on 14 clutch possessions over the two games.

The Lakers are now 5-7 against the top four teams in the West, 5-2 against the Clippers and Thunder, but 0-5 against the Nuggets and Wolves. They have three games remaining against the group, with two of those three this week. More important could be their two games against the sixth-place Kings (whom they trail by four games in the loss column) over the next 10 days.

Week 20: vs. OKC, vs. SAC, vs. MIL, vs. MIN

Last Week:12

Record: 34-28

OffRtg: 120.1 (2) DefRtg: 118.9 (26) NetRtg: +1.2 (13) Pace: 102.6 (2)

The Pacers have two wins over good teams since the All-Star break. They also have two losses to bad ones, not that that’s a new problem.

Three takeaways

  • The difference between the Pacers getting a guaranteed playoff spot and fighting through the Play-In Tournament could be their inability to take care of business. With losses to the Raptors and Spurs last week, they’re 17-11 against the 12 teams currently below .500, with that being the worst such mark among the 18 teams above .500.
  • In between those two losses, the Pacers split a home-and-home series with the Pelicans, going from an efficient offensive performance (at home) against the league’s sixth-ranked defense to their second-worst offensive performance of the season (102 points on 102 possessions). The loss in New Orleans and the ensuing loss in San Antonio were just the 17th and 18th times the Pacers have been outscored from 3-point range. They’re 4-14 (with six straight losses) in those 18 games, mostly because they’re not stopping teams from scoring in the paint..
  • Andrew Nesmith returned from a four-game absence over the weekend, pushing Bennedict Mathurin back to the bench. The Nesmith lineup has still played just 126 minutes over seven games together, having been outscored by 9.0 points per 100 possessions after registering a minus-34 in 25 minutes against the Pels and Spurs.

One of those post-break, quality wins came against the Mavs when Myles Turner (33 points) matched Luka Doncic in scoring. The rematch is in Dallas on Tuesday, one of five games remaining on the schedule where the Pacers’ bottom-five defense will face a top-10 offense.

Week 20: @ DAL, vs. MIN, @ ORL

Last Week:19

Record: 28-32

OffRtg: 113.1 (23) DefRtg: 114.8 (16) NetRtg: -1.8 (20) Pace: 96.9 (29)

A 1-2 homestand for the Bulls was not unexpected, given the competition. But they flipped the script a bit.

Three takeaways

  • The Bulls have the league’s fourth biggest differential between their record against the 12 teams currently below .500 (17-6) and their record against the 18 teams above .500 (11-26). But they lost (with a rest advantage) to the Pistons on Tuesday, shooting a brutal 2-for-29 (7%) from 3-point range, the worst 3-point shooting performance for any team in the last six seasons and the second worst in history for a team with at least 25 attempts. The Bulls (1-2) and Hornets (0-2) are the only teams with multiple losses to Detroit.
  • They seemingly made up for that loss by beating a good team the following night, ending both a seven-game losing streak to the Cavs and Cleveland’s 11-game winning streak in games that went to overtime. With Alex Caruso out, the Bulls started Andre Drummond alongside Nikola Vucevic and destroyed the Cavs on the glass (the 35-rebound differential was the biggest in a game in the last three seasons), turning 25 offensive boards into 32 second-chance points. While the rebounding numbers have been great in 158 total minutes with Drummond and Vucevic on the floor together this season, the defensive numbers (119.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) have not.
  • Coby White struggled in both of those games and, despite a little bit of a recovery against the Bucks on Friday, has an effective field goal percentage of 36.1% since the All-Star break. That’s the worst mark among 129 players with at least 50 post-break field goal attempts and comes with an 11-for-31 (35%) mark in the paint.

The Bulls still have a winning record (12-10) against the Western Conference, with five of their final eight games against the West coming in the next eight days. A four-game trip begins Monday in Sacramento, with the Bulls having almost come back from 30 points down against the Kings a month ago.

Week 20: @ SAC, @ UTA, @ GSW, @ LAC

Last Week:20

Record: 26-34

OffRtg: 112.1 (24) DefRtg: 112.5 (7) NetRtg: -0.3 (18) Pace: 99.7 (14)

The Rockets aren’t getting any closer to competing for a Play-In Tournament spot in the West, but they did get a road win (against a good team) last week.

Three takeaways

  • Offense remains a struggle. Jalen Green scored 34 points in the first of the Rockets’ two games in Phoenix, but it wasn’t an efficient 34 points (he took 28 shots). The Rockets have scored fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in each of their last 10 games, with only Grizzlies, Blazers and Hornets having been worse offensively over that stretch.
  • Green (44.2%), Jabari Smith Jr. (44.5%) and Dillon Brooks (45.3%) are all in the bottom six in effective field goal percentage among 85 players with at least 100 field goal attempts over these last 3 1/2 weeks. Brooks is still registering a career high (52.6%) for the season, but Green has now seen a drop in each of the last two seasons, with his 47.7% ranking 123rd among 126 players with at least 500 field goal attempts.
  • The Rockets’ defense is holding up. They played their last five games against the Suns (2-1) and Thunder (0-2), allowing just 108.5 points per 100 possessions, with the two opponents combining to shoot just 49.6% in the paint. Houston has seen the league’s biggest drop in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (55.8%, seventh) from last season (60.4%, 28th).

Having played their first six post-break games against teams in the West’s top seven, the Rockets will play eight of their next 11 against teams with losing records. One exception is a game against the Clippers on Wednesday when the Rockets will be at a rest disadvantage.

Week 20: vs. SAS, vs. LAC, @ POR, @ SAC

Last Week:21

Record: 23-38

OffRtg: 114.0 (19) DefRtg: 117.1 (23) NetRtg: -3.1 (23) Pace: 99.7 (13)

The Raptors won three straight games for the first time this season … and then lost Scottie Barnes indefinitely (who had played in their first 60 games and ranks fifth in total minutes played) to a fractured finger.

Three takeaways

  • The Raptors’ starting lineup with Barnes had outscored opponents by 10.3 points per 100 possessions in its 164 minutes, though the team was just 4-6 in the 10 games those five guys played together. The Raptors were plus-2.9 per 100 in 439 total minutes with Barnes, Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett on the floor together, but have been outscored by 18.6 per 100 in 180 minutes with the two former Knicks on the floor together without the All-Star.
  • Ochai Agbaji started in Barnes’ place on Sunday, when the Raptors then lost Jakob Poeltl to a finger injury. They blew a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Hornets, but Quickley made a bunch of free throws in the final minute and they got just their third win (after 17 straight losses) in a game in which they scored less than 110 points per 100 possessions.
  • Gary Trent Jr. sealed the victory by ripping the ball out of Vasilije Micic’s hands, Charlotte’s 17th turnover of the night. This generally isn’t the havoc-causing defense it has been in the past, with the Raptors having seen the league’s biggest drop (by a healthy margin) in opponent turnover rate, from 16.9 per 100 possessions (first) last season to just 13.5 (18th) this season.

If it’s not Barnes’ injury that will keep the Raptors from competing for a Play-In spot, it’s a rough schedule. Fifteen of their remaining 21 games are against teams that currently have winning records and though they got a win in Indiana last week, they’re just 9-25 against that group.

Week 20: vs. NOP, @ PHX, @ POR

Last Week:24

Record: 24-36

OffRtg: 113.6 (20) DefRtg: 115.8 (19) NetRtg: -2.2 (21) Pace: 98.2 (23)

The Nets have suddenly won three out of four, with their two wins over Atlanta last week giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker and putting them within two games of the final Play-In Tournament spot in the East. Maybe, just maybe, they’ve realized that they can be a good defensive team if they play with some energy.

Three takeaways

  • In their first game after the All-Star break (and under interim head coach Kevin Ollie), the Nets allowed Toronto to score 46 fast break points. Their five games since then have been their best five-game stretch of defense this season, with their opponents scoring just 103.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s certainly helped that those opponents (none of them good offensive teams, especially with Trae Young out) have shot just 31% from 3-point range. But the Nets have also seen a jump in opponent turnover rate and rank third in defensive rebounding percentage since the break (up from 18th prior).
  • Some defensive possessions on Saturday afternoon passed the eye test (lots of energy, alert switching and help), when the Nets had an uglier offensive start than they did in the first game against Atlanta and came back from 13 points down. They were previously 4-28 (fourth worst and with 11 straight losses) in games they trailed by double-digits.
  • Nic Claxton anchored some of those great defensive possessions, had one nasty block on Jalen Johnson, and ranks fourth in rim protection (opponent field goal percentage of 51.3%) among 208 players who’ve defended at least 100 shots at the rim.

The Nets are in the middle of a relatively easy run regarding the strength of their opponents, but this week brings their only stretch of five games in seven days, and Game 3 of that stretch (in Detroit on Thursday) is the start of one where they’re playing 10 of 11 on the road.

Week 20: vs. MEM, vs. PHI, @ DET, @ CHA, @ CLE

Last Week:22

Record: 26-34

OffRtg: 117.2 (10) DefRtg: 119.4 (29) NetRtg: -2.2 (22) Pace: 102.1 (4)

The Hawks won their first two games after Trae Young’s injury by 17 and 27 points, respectively, but then went to Brooklyn and lost two games to the team that now trails them by two games for the final Play-In Tournament spot in the East.

Three takeaways

  • After allowing less than a point per possession for just the second and third times this season, they allowed 127.3 per 100 in the two games in Brooklyn. The Hawks are now 3-7 in games played between the four below-.500 East teams with a chance for the bottom two Play-In spots, having allowed the other three teams (who rank no better than 19th offensively) to score 121.7 per 100 over those 10 games.
  • The Hawks continue to have starting-lineup issues, with their latest group (Bogdan Bogdanovic in Young’s place) having scored just 99 points on 105 offensive possessions (95.2 per 100) over these last four games. Dejounte Murray, Saddiq Bey and Jalen Johnson are a combined 27-for-105 (26%) from 3-point range over the last four weeks, though the lineup together has shot well (38.5%) from deep. It has just taken only 27% of its shots from beyond the arc and, while the Hawks made one more 3 than the Jazz in a win on Tuesday, they were outscored by 54 points from deep over the two games in Brooklyn.
  • Young, of course, takes a lot of 3s, having seen a huge jump in his 3-point rate (46.4%) from last season (33.1%). He also ranks third with four assists on 3-pointers per game, with his teammates having shot 38.2% from 3-point range off Young’s passes and 34.5% otherwise.

The two losses in Brooklyn began a stretch where the Hawks are playing nine of 11 on the road, where they’re just 6-16 since late November. The two exceptions in that stretch are home games against the Cavs (against whom they’re 0-3) and Pelicans (1-0).

Week 20: @ NYK, vs. CLE, @ MEM, vs. NOP

Last Week:23

Record: 27-34

OffRtg: 115.4 (16) DefRtg: 118.6 (25) NetRtg: -3.2 (24) Pace: 100.9 (9)

The Jazz are suffering a familiar, post-trade-deadline swoon. They’re 1-8 (only the Wizards have been worse) since the deadline, with the only win having come against the Spurs.

Three takeaways

  • The Jazz rank last defensively (122.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) since the deadline. They were 20-0 (the last undefeated team) in games they led at halftime … until Saturday, when they had a four-point lead at the half in Miami and allowed the Heat to score 68 points on 49 possessions (with 20-for-27 shooting in the paint) in the second half, losing by six.
  • Their new starting lineup (with two rookies) has been outscored by 16 points in its 66 minutes since the All-Star break. The Jazz’s most-used two-player combination remains John Collins and Lauri Markkanen, but they’ve been much, much better in 664 minutes with Markkanen on the floor without Collins (plus-9.0 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in their 1,013 minutes on the floor together (minus-3.4), with the bigger difference on defense.
  • The Jazz have lost six straight games on the road. They have the league’s biggest home-road differential regarding point differential per 100 possessions (plus-4.7 vs. minus-10.5) and its second biggest regarding winning percentage (18-11 vs. 9-23), with this is the third time in the last four seasons that they’ve been in the top two regarding the latter.

They’ll play 12 of their next 19 games at the Delta Center, hosting the Wizards and Bulls this week. The Jazz are 14-7 (7-1 at home) in games played between the 12 teams currently under .500, having split their two road games against Washington and Chicago.

Week 20: vs. WAS, vs. CHI, @ DEN

Last Week:28

Record: 13-48

OffRtg: 109.5 (27) DefRtg: 117.3 (24) NetRtg: -7.8 (26) Pace: 102.2 (3)

The post-break Spurs have looked a lot more competitive, even when they haven’t won. But they have won their last two games, ending the Thunder’s six-game winning streak on Thursday.

Two takeaways

  • The Spurs have scored 114.5 points per 100 possessions (13th) over their six games since the All-Star break, up from 109.0 per 100 (28th) before the break. Only the Celtics have seen a bigger jump and seven different Spurs have averaged double-figures over the six games.
  • Those seven Spurs are led by Victor Wembanyama, who’s shot 29-for-64 (45%) from 3-point range over his last 12 games and blocked 43 shots over his last eight. Over that latter stretch, the Spurs have been 27.5 points per 100 possessions better with the rookie on the floor (plus-9.4) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-18.1), with big differentials on both offense and defense.

This is the fourth time that the Spurs have won two straight games. Their next chance for their first three-game winning streak will come in the building (the Toyota Center) in which they shot a season-worst 5-for-41 (12%) from 3-point range in early December.

Week 20: @ HOU, @ SAC, @ GSW

Last Week:27

Record: 17-42

OffRtg: 108.3 (29) DefRtg: 116.3 (20) NetRtg: -8.1 (27) Pace: 98.1 (25)

The Blazers were one of two winless teams (0-9) in February, but they began the month of March with a pair of wins in Memphis, one in which they led by as many as 33 points and one in which they trailed by 18 in the fourth quarter.

Two takeaways

  • The two games in Memphis (in which the Grizzlies were without Jaren Jackson Jr.) were the Blazers’ first two wins (they were previously 0-18) without Malcolm Brogdon, for whom there was a positive injury update (though no timetable for a return) last week. With Scoot Henderson also out, rookie Kris Murray has started alongside Anfernee Simons in the backcourt since the All-Star break, shooting just 12-for-39 (31%) over the five games. But the Blazers have outscored their opponents by 8.3 points per 100 possessions in 73 total minutes with their four perimeter starters on the floor.
  • Simons hasn’t shot much better than Murray from the field and has (not surprisingly) seen a drop in efficiency from last season. But he scored 16 of his 30 points in that fourth quarter on Saturday and continues to be money (91.4%) at the free-throw line. He’s one of three players — Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving are the others — who’ve shot 88% or better on at least 100 free-throw attempts in each of the last three seasons.

The next two games could be a lot different than the last two. The Blazers are 0-6 against the Wolves and Thunder, with the six losses having come by an average of 29.8 points. They’ll complete both season series this week.

Week 20: @ MIN, vs. OKC, vs. HOU, vs. TOR

Last Week:26

Record: 15-46

OffRtg: 108.7 (28) DefRtg: 119.3 (28) NetRtg: -10.6 (30) Pace: 98.6 (20)

The Hornets had a 5-1 stretch straddling the All-Star break, but have dropped four straight and have had more injuries piling up.

Two takeaways

  • The good news is that the Hornets don’t have to play the Bucks again, having been outscored by 117 points over their four meetings (including a 38-point loss on Tuesday). That’s the largest total point differential for any regular-season matchup in the last 27 seasons (since Sonics-Warriors in 1996-97).
  • Maybe it’s just gravity when they’re in big holes, but the Hornets’ fourth quarters continue to be pretty remarkable. Since the start of that 5-1 stretch, they’ve been outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions through the first three quarters of games, but are a plus-20.7 in the fourth. Miles Bridges has averaged 33.3 points per 36 minutes on an effective field goal percentage of 80% over those 10 fourth quarters, and we’ve also seen some flurries of Davis Bertans.

The Hornets have seven games remaining against other teams with losing records, including a stretch of four straight that begins with a visit to Washington on Friday. Charlotte won two of the first three meetings, with all three having taken place in November.

Week 20: vs. ORL, @ WAS, vs. BKN

Last Week:25

Record: 20-41

OffRtg: 108.3 (30) DefRtg: 113.4 (11) NetRtg: -6.6 (25) Pace: 98.9 (18)

The Grizzlies are one of two teams without a win (0-5) since the All-Star break, and the offense has been rough to say the least.

Two takeaways

  • The Grizzlies have had a 29 or 30 next to their offensive efficiency mark in this space every week since Thanksgiving, and their five games since the break have been their worst stretch of offense this season (96.5 points scored per 100 possessions). Much of their offense has been Jaren Jackson Jr. (still leading the league in usage rate since mid-January) forcing his way into the paint, and he’s missed the last two games with a quad issue.
  • They’ve remained competitive for most of the season by ranking in the top 10 defensively. But the Grizzlies allowed Portland’s 29th-ranked offense to score 122 points on just 96 possessions on Friday and then 46 on 31 over the last 17 minutes as they blew an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead the following night. They’ve now scored 1.5 fewer points per 100 possessions than the Blazers for the season, in position to finish last on offense for the first time since their first season in Memphis (2001-02).

Those two games against the Grizzlies pushed Portland out of the bottom 10 in defensive efficiency. Memphis still has eight games remaining against (current) bottom-10 defenses, with the first of those against the 29th-ranked Hawks on Friday.

Week 20: @ BKN, @ PHI, vs. ATL, @ OKC

Last Week:29

Record: 9-51

OffRtg: 110.6 (25) DefRtg: 119.3 (27) NetRtg: -8.7 (28) Pace: 100.9 (10)

The Pistons got their ninth win of the season, tying them with the Wizards and guaranteeing that they won’t finish with the worst record in NBA history.

Two takeaways

  • The win (in Chicago on Tuesday) came with Isaiah Stewart’s return from a three-game suspension and with the Pistons’ starting lineup — Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, Stewart and Jalen Duren — outscoring the Bulls by 23 points in a little more than 23 minutes. That group probably could have played more together early in the season, but it just cracked the 100-minute mark over the weekend and (after getting clobbered in Orlando on Sunday) has been outscored by 9.7 points per 100 possessions.
  • The Pistons have climbed out of the basement (where the Jazz now reside) in turnover differential, having committed 17 fewer than their two opponents over the weekend. The losses to the Cavs and Magic (in which Detroit shot 18-for-72 from 3-point range) were the 10th and 11 times that Cunningham has had at least seven assists with zero or one turnover, and he had a couple of real dimes to Duren on Sunday.

The Pistons’ visit to Miami on Tuesday will end a stretch where they will have played 10 of 12 on the road. They’ll begin their second of two six-game homestands with a visit from the Nets on Thursday night.

Week 20: @ MIA, vs. BKN, vs. DAL

Last Week:30

Record: 9-51

OffRtg: 110.6 (26) DefRtg: 119.9 (30) NetRtg: -9.3 (29) Pace: 103.6 (1)

The Wizards have lost 14 straight games (the third longest streak in the league this season) and are now tied with the Pistons for the ninth worst record in NBA history.

Two takeaways

  • Eight of the 14 games on the losing streak have been within five points in the last five minutes. The Wizards went down to the wire against the Lakers on Thursday (the second time in eight days they allowed at least 84 points in the paint), but went scoreless over the last 3 1/2 minutes of overtime and continue to have the worst record in games that were within five in the last five (3-20, .130) in the 28 seasons for which we have clutch data. The previous low is 5-24 (.172) from the 1997-98 Nuggets, so the Wizards would need two straight clutch wins to climb above that mark.
  • Marvin Bagley III totaled 43 points on 19-for-25 shooting (including 2-for-2 from deep) in his first two games last week. He had a quieter night against the Clippers, but still picked up his seventh double-double in 17 games with Washington, having recorded one in 26 games with Detroit this season. The Wizards outscored the Warriors and Lakers by 19 points in Bagley’s 67 minutes over those first two games, but are still minus-10.6 per 100 possessions (with worse numbers on offense than on defense) in 264 total minutes with Bagley and Kyle Kuzma on the floor together.

The next couple of weeks are the Wizards’ best opportunity to climb out of 30th in defensive efficiency. After they finish their three-game trip in Utah on Monday, they’ll play six straight games against teams that rank in the bottom 10 offensively, though they’ve already allowed more than 125 points per 100 possessions as they’ve lost their first three against the 22nd-ranked Magic.

Week 20: @ UTA, vs. ORL, vs. CHA, @ MIA