Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 24: Thunder, Wolves and Mavs on the move

Time is dwindling in the regular season, but the intensity and difficulty in the playoff chase remains as tight as ever.

Things are looking up in the West playoff chase for Luka Doncic and the Mavs.

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The Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors remain stuck in the 9-10 slot for the SoFI Play-In Tournament game in the Western Conference, unable to catch the eighth-place Phoenix Suns.

Things would be different, of course, if the Lakers and Warriors were in the Eastern Conference. And it was their wins on Tuesday (over the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat) that clinched a winning record for the West in interconference games this season.

The Eastern Conference had a better record in each of the last two seasons, but the West was dominant before that and this will be the 22nd time in the last 25 years that the West has had the better record.

Just two weeks ago, both the Warriors (35-31) and Lakers (36-32) had worse records than the eighth-best team in the East (37-30), so they would have been in the ninth and 10th spots in either conference.

Now, that’s no longer the case, with the Lakers having the same record as the sixth-place Indiana Pacers and the Warriors having a better record than the eighth-place Philadelphia 76ers.

On top of that, the Warriors (20-10) and Lakers (17-10) are a combined 37-20 against the East, so if they were actually in the Eastern Conference (and playing more games against it), they’d be even higher in the standings.

Alas, it’s just one of those years where staying afloat in the Western Conference is much tougher. And as good as the Lakers and Warriors are playing right now, they will need some help to climb out of that 9-10 Play-In game.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Golden State (4-0) — The Warriors felt the Rockets on their tails and responded.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Portland (0-3) — Making history when it comes to 60-point losses.

* * *

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 23

  • Toughest: 1. Portland, 2. San Antonio, 3. Memphis
  • Easiest: 1. Miami, 2. Orlando, 3. Phoenix
  • Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record.

* * *

Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: Golden State (+3), San Antonio (+3), Brooklyn (+2), Indiana (+2)
  • Free falls of the week: Orlando (-3), Portland (-3), Four teams (-2)

* * *

Week 24 Team to Watch

  • Phoenix The Suns are two games into their season-ending stretch of 10 straight against teams that are all currently at least 12 games over .500. This week, they’ve got two games against the Pelicans along with visits from the Cavs and Wolves.

* * *


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 114.7 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.2 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: 52-23

OffRtg: 117.7 (7) DefRtg: 112.7 (10) NetRtg: +5.0 (6) Pace: 97.3 (27)

The Nuggets have gone 3-2 as they’ve played their last five games without Jamal Murray, slipping out of first place in the Western Conference with losses to the Suns and Wolves last week.

Three takeaways

  • The offense was the issue in the two losses last week, with the Nuggets scoring just 104.3 points per 100 possessions over the two games. Reggie Jackson shot just 9-for-29, while Nikola Jokic wasn’t his normal, uber-efficient self. The duo recovered pretty well against Cleveland on Sunday, with Jackson shooting 5-for-5 from 3-point range and Jokic registering 26 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists as the Nuggets clinched a playoff spot and recorded the second-highest effective field goal percentage (69.5%) for any team against the Cavs this season.
  • Overall, the Nuggets have struggled (minus-15.2 points per 100 possessions) in 441 minutes with Murray on the floor without Jokic. However, they’ve been fine (plus-7.0 per 100) in 1,160 minutes with Jokic on the floor without Murray. The lineup with Jackson in Murray’s place has now played 420 total minutes, having allowed 106.3 per 100, the second-best mark among 20 lineups that have played at least 300 minutes.
  • It’s worth remembering that Jackson played 18 total minutes in the playoffs last year. He’s played in all 75 games this season, registering the second-highest effective field goal percentage (50.7%) of his 13-year career, though that’s still well below both the league average (54.7%) and Murray’s mark of 54.5%.

Only two of the Nuggets’ remaining seven games are against teams with winning records. They have another visit from the Wolves next week and will be in L.A to play the Clippers (whom they haven’t faced since early December) on Thursday.

Week 24: vs. SAS, @ LAC, vs. ATL

Last Week:2

Record: 58-16

OffRtg: 122.3 (1) DefRtg: 110.7 (3) NetRtg: +11.7 (1) Pace: 98.1 (18)

The Celtics do not want to see the 34-40 Hawks in the playoffs, having lost two games in Atlanta last week. They still need three more wins to clinch the overall No. 1 seed in the postseason.

Three takeaways

  • The first loss in Atlanta was more brutal than the second, with Boston becoming the first team in more than two years (since Jan. 25, 2022 – Washington vs. the Clippers) to lose a game it led by at least 30 points. Things are going wrong on both ends of the floor when you go from a 68-38 lead to getting outscored 82-50 over the final 24:07. But in general, the defense had bigger issues (122.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, with the Hawks totaling 46-second chance points) over the two games in Atlanta.
  • Both games went down to the wire, with the two teams combining to score 66 points on 51 clutch possessions. The most brutal of the 51 was probably when the Celtics were down one on Monday and Jaylen Brown wasted a bunch of time before missing a contested, step-back 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer, but as it was in general, the Celtics’ clutch issues were bigger on the other end of the floor. For the season, they’re still one of five teams that rank in the top 10 in both clutch offense and clutch defense.
  • The Celtics led the league in offensive efficiency before the All-Star break, and they’ve been the most improved offensive team since the break by a wide margin. While they’ve scored 6.1 more points per 100 possessions since the break than they did before it, no other team has seen a jump of more than 2.5 per 100.

Before their two losses to the Hawks last week, the Celtics were 28-1 against the bottom 12 teams in the league. The previous loss (Nov. 20) was in Charlotte, where they’ll be on Monday. They’ll have a rest advantage there and against both the Thunder and Kings later in the week.

Week 24: @ CHA, vs. OKC, vs. SAC, vs. POR

Last Week:4

Record: 52-22

OffRtg: 118.7 (4) DefRtg: 111.5 (5) NetRtg: +7.3 (2) Pace: 100.7 (7)

The Thunder lost a nail-biter against Houston last week, but they responded to beat the Suns and Knicks, and they’re back in first place in the Western Conference, having clinched their first playoff berth in Mark Daigneault’s four seasons as coach.

Three takeaways

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed twice as many games last week (two) as he had missed prior (one). The Thunder dropped to 0-2 without the Kia MVP candidate on Wednesday, allowing the Rockets to score 31 points on 19 clutch possessions in the overtime loss. But they beat the Suns without Gilgeous-Alexander two nights later, and (with him back in the lineup) they won in New York over the weekend even though they were outscored by 15 points in his 35 minutes on the floor. Of course, it was Gilgeous-Alexander who drained the game-winning jumper with 1.8 seconds left.
  • Josh Giddey has, amazingly, recorded a triple-double in all three of his career games at Madison Square Garden, having recorded seven triple-doubles in seven of his 202 career games elsewhere. More important is that Giddey continues to shoot the ball well. He was 24-for-58 (41%) from 3-point range and had an effective field goal percentage of 63.9% in March, with that latter mark ranking fifth among 97 players with at least 150 field goal attempts in the month.
  • With their wins over the Pelicans and Knicks last week, the Thunder have the best record (16-7, including 4-1 since the All-Star break) in games played between the top 10 teams in the league.

That includes a win over the Celtics (Jan. 2) in which the Thunder almost blew an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead. The rematch is in Boston on Wednesday, when the Thunder will be at a rest disadvantage, having played in Philadelphia the night before.

Week 24: @ PHI, @ BOS, @ IND, @ CHA

Last Week:5

Record: 51-23

OffRtg: 115.6 (18) DefRtg: 108.2 (1) NetRtg: +6.4 (3) Pace: 97.7 (22)

The Wolves were the West’s No. 1 seed after winning in Denver on Friday, but saw that slip away when they couldn’t complete a comeback from 16 points down against the Bulls over the weekend.

Three takeaways

  • The Wolves split their two games against the Nuggets over the last two weeks, losing at home when they were without Rudy Gobert and winning in Denver (where they were 0-5 last season) when the defending champs were without Jamal Murray. They still have the best record (18-11) in games played between the top 10 teams in the West, with four of their remaining eight games coming against that group. That includes another visit to Denver next week.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has now missed the last 12 games, with the Wolves going 8-4 in that stretch and continuing to be pretty mediocre offensively. Anthony Edwards has missed his last 16 shots from 3-point range, including one attempt for the lead late in the loss to Chicago on Sunday, when the Wolves went scoreless (shooting 0-for-7 and turning the ball over three times) on eight clutch possessions.

The only Western Conference team that the Wolves haven’t beaten is the Suns (0-1), who they’ll face twice in the last 10 days of the season. The first of those in Phoenix on Friday, when it will be interesting to see how Gobert is defending pick-and-rolls involving the Suns’ pull-up shooters.

Week 24: vs. HOU, vs. TOR, @ PHX, @ LAL

Last Week:3

Record: 47-27

OffRtg: 118.4 (5) DefRtg: 115.0 (14) NetRtg: +3.5 (8) Pace: 100.9 (5)

Losses to the Lakers and Pelicans last week put the Bucks in danger of falling out of the No. 2 seed in the East. But they got a win in Atlanta on Saturday and are back to holding a three-game lead in the loss column over the Cavs and Knicks.

Three takeaways

  • The league’s fifth-ranked offense struggled in the two losses last week, scoring just 101.4 points per 100 possessions against L.A. and New Orleans. Khris Middleton totaled just 19 points on 7-for-27 (26%) shooting over the two games, before recovering to go 9-for-10 in Atlanta over the weekend. The Bucks have still scored 125 points per 100 in 731 total minutes with Middleton, Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo on the floor together.
  • The Bucks still rank seventh in clutch offense but shot just 9-for-37 (24%) with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime in their double-OT loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. Of course, Austin Reaves’ go-ahead 3 at the end of the second overtime came when Lillard and Malik Beasley both stayed with the ball on a guard-guard screen and left Reaves wide open.
  • Though he shot 6-for-17 from the free-throw line over those two losses last week, Antetokounmpo has a true shooting percentage of 65.2%, the highest mark of his career and what would be fourth highest mark in NBA history for a player who averaged at least 30 points per game.

The Bucks are just 17-5 (16th best) against the bottom nine teams in the league, but their next three games are against teams that are a combined 13-45 since the All-Star break. After that, their remaining five games are against teams with winning records and top-10 defenses.

Week 24: @ WAS, vs. MEM, vs. TOR, vs. NYK

Last Week:7

Record: 45-29

OffRtg: 117.9 (6) DefRtg: 115.7 (21) NetRtg: +2.2 (12) Pace: 100.6 (9)

The Mavs have won 11 of their last 12 games and their seven straight wins are the longest active winning streak in the league because they put an end to the Rockets’ 11-game streak on Sunday.

Three takeaways

  • The Mavs rank fourth on both ends of the floor over this 11-1 stretch, with the defensive improvement the most significant. They held the Kings to just 102.1 points per 100 possessions and just 40-for-97 (41%) shooting in the paint as they picked up two huge wins in Sacramento last week.
  • Derrick Jones Jr. has started the last 12 games and the Mavs finally have a lineup that’s cracked the 100-minute plateau. They’re 11-0 when the current group has started together (12-1 when it’s played together) and it’s outscored their opponents by 22.0 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-best mark among 95 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.
  • Jones hasn’t been on the floor much to close games, though. Dante Exum was in his place down the stretch in Sacramento on Friday, draining the go-ahead 3 (when Luka Doncic was doubled) with 27.5 seconds left. Exum is now 7-for-10 on clutch 3s this season, having missed all seven of his clutch 3-point attempts before this year.

The Mavs will have a rest advantage against the Hawks on Thursday, but that’s the start of their second and final stretch of five games in seven days. This 11-1 stretch includes a win over the Warriors, who they’ll face twice in the next five days.

Week 24: @ GSW, vs. ATL, vs. GSW, vs. HOU

Last Week:6

Record: 45-29

OffRtg: 116.6 (12) DefRtg: 111.4 (4) NetRtg: +5.2 (4) Pace: 98.8 (16)

Playing without Brandon Ingram, the Pelicans are 1-2 on what is a pretty tough six-game homestand, with the cumulative opponent winning percentage for the first five games is .657.

Three takeaways

  • The Pelicans faced three of the league’s top five offenses last week and allowed just 111.4 points per 100 possessions. They rank second defensively since the All-Star break and have a chance of finishing in the top five on one end of the floor or the other since the franchise moved to New Orleans in 2002.
  • Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 10 rebounds in their win against the Bucks on Thursday, but played less than 26 total minutes in the Pelicans’ losses to the Thunder and Celtics last week, with Larry Nance Jr. starting the second half both nights. Of course, over their three games last week, the Nance lineup was much worse (outscored by 16 points, minus 17.9 per 100 possessions in 39 minutes) than the Valanciunas lineup (minus-4, minus 3.4 per 100 in 23 minutes).
  • For the season, the Pelicans’ regular starting lineup (with Ingram and Valanciunas) has been outscored by 0.2 points per 100 possessions, the fifth-worst mark among 20 lineups that have played at least 300 minutes. They’ve still been better in 963 total minutes with Valanciunas on the floor alongside Zion Williamson (plus-4.9 per 100) than they’ve been in 632 minutes with Nance and Williamson on the floor together (minus-1.4 per 100).

With their 1-2 Week 23, the Pelicans are 13-13 in games played between the league’s top 10 teams (regarding winning percentage). The Suns are outside of that group, but only two games behind the Pels, with the final two meetings this week.

Week 24: vs. PHX, vs. ORL, vs. SAS, @ PHX

Last Week:9

Record: 47-27

OffRtg: 119.0 (3) DefRtg: 115.3 (18) NetRtg: +3.7 (7) Pace: 97.6 (24)

The Clippers are holding onto fourth place in the West, having won the first three games of a four-game trip.

Three takeaways

  • The Clippers’ 29 isolations per 100 possessions are the third most in 11 seasons of Second Spectrum tracking data, trailing only two of James Harden’s teams in Houston. Their 1.06 points per chance when they’ve isolated ranks fourth this season, with Harden’s 1.13 points per chance ranking third among 61 players who’ve isolated at least 200 times.
  • Of course, with a lot of isolation play comes little movement. The Clips rank last in both ball and player movement, having seen the league’s second-biggest drop in the former and its biggest drop in the latter from last season.

After three games out East, the Clippers will complete their road trip in Sacramento on Tuesday. Six of their final seven games will be at home, but their visit from the Nuggets on Thursday is the start of their third stretch of five games in seven days. They’re 1-2 vs. the champs, with the last meeting having come almost four months ago (Dec. 6).

Week 24: @ SAC, vs. DEN, vs. UTA, vs. CLE

Last Week:8

Record: 43-31

OffRtg: 117.1 (9) DefRtg: 114.4 (13) NetRtg: +2.7 (10) Pace: 99.1 (15)

Before they began the gauntlet (their final 10 games against very good teams), the Suns lost to the Spurs for a third time. They got a good win in Denver, but are 1-1 in that final-10 stretch, having been clobbered in Oklahoma City on Friday.

Three takeaways

  • All three of the Suns’ games last week came with the opponent missing its best or second-best player: Victor Wembanyama, Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Suns have had their three stars together for 10 straight games, but are just 6-4 in that stretch, having outscored their opponents by just three total points over the 214 minutes that the three stars have played together.
  • The Suns have committed more turnovers than their opponents in 11 of their last 12 games. They’ve gone from 0.9 fewer turnovers per game than their opponents (eighth best) last season to 2.5 more than their opponents (third worst) this season.

The Suns are now 20-13 when all three stars have been available (plus -3.2 points per 100 possessions in those 33 games), so if they all play in each of their eight remaining games, that will be exactly half the season.

No team has a tougher remaining schedule, but the sixth-place Pelicans’ slate isn’t easy. Phoenix is just two games behind New Orleans, with two head-to-head meetings this week. The Suns won the first meeting (behind 52 points from Devin Booker), so they have the edge for the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Week 24: @ NOP, vs. CLE, vs. MIN, vs. NOP

Last Week:10

Record: 44-30

OffRtg: 117.0 (10) DefRtg: 112.0 (8) NetRtg: +5.0 (5) Pace: 96.1 (30)

The Knicks were getting along fine without both Julius Randle and OG Anunoby (and possibly challenging for the No. 2 seed in the East) until losing a couple of close games over the weekend.

Three takeaways

  • The Knicks’ current starting lineup is small, but it’s been incredibly potent offensively, scoring 140.8 points per 100 possessions, the best mark (by a healthy margin) among 95 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. The 145 points on 93 possessions (155.9 per 100) that the Knicks scored in Toronto on Wednesday was the second most efficient performance (most efficient for a road team) in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. The only game that tops it is the Clippers’ 152 on 94 (161.7 per 100) against the Raptors in March of 1998.
  • Of course, while the offense has been efficient overall, it struggled down the stretch of their two close games last week. The Knicks scored just 29 points on 32 clutch possessions in losses to the Spurs and Thunder, with Jalen Brunson (who scored 61 points on Friday) shooting 5-for-12 on clutch 2-pointers, 1-for-7 on clutch 3s and 1-for-4 on clutch free throws. The Knicks still lead the league in clutch defense (95.7 points allowed per 100 possessions), but are just 15-14 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
  • With the loss to the Thunder on Sunday, the Knicks have the worst record (6-17) in games played between the top 10 teams in the league (they’re No. 10). Of course, in only three of those games (2-1) have they had Anunoby, who’s now missed the last seven and 25 of the last 28.

The Knicks still have a three-game cushion over the seventh-place Heat, but if they don’t want them in the first round of the playoffs, they’d surely like to keep them in the SoFi Play-In Tournament group with a win in Miami on Tuesday. New York has won the first two meetings, with Brunson totaling 56 points on 58% shooting over the two wins.

Week 24: @ MIA, vs. SAC, @ CHI, @ MIL

Last Week:11

Record: 41-33

OffRtg: 113.1 (21) DefRtg: 111.7 (6) NetRtg: +1.5 (16) Pace: 97.0 (28)

The Heat have been inconsistent, but they’re pretty much in the same spot they were a year ago, with a chance to chance to avoid the SoFi Play-In Tournament if they can finish the season strong.

Three takeaways

  • For 12 days, the Heat alternated between games in which they scored less than a point per possession and games in which they scored more than 120 per 100. They broke the pattern on Sunday, taking care of business in Washington behind a big game from Terry Rozier. For the season, they’re 23-4 (with nine straight wins) when they’ve scored at least 117 points per 100 possessions.
  • The defense has been slightly more consistent than the offense, and the Heat rank second on that end of the floor (103.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) as they’ve won six of their last nine games. They continue to start Nikola Jovic at the four and have now allowed just 103.7 per 100 in his 499 minutes alongside Bam Adebayo.

The Heat are 10-11 (with a positive point differential) in games played between the top eight teams in the East, with their last three games within the group coming this week. The biggest of those is in Indiana on Sunday, with the two teams tied both in the loss column and in the season series (1-1). That’s also the middle of the Heat’s only stretch of five games in seven days this season.

Week 24: vs. NYK, vs. PHI, @ HOU, @ IND

Last Week:12

Record: 45-30

OffRtg: 114.7 (17) DefRtg: 111.8 (7) NetRtg: +3.0 (9) Pace: 97.5 (25)

The Cavs got both Max Strus and Donovan Mitchell back last week, but they haven’t exactly gotten back on track. They’re just 9-13 since the All-Star break and they lost in Charlotte last week.

Three takeaways

  • Mitchell returned from a six-game absence on Friday but hasn’t put his shooting issues behind him. He shot just 7-for-25 as the Cavs split games against the Sixers and Nuggets over the weekend and he’s now just 9-for-31 (29%) in the paint since the All-Star break, with the 31 accounting for just 32% of his total field goal attempts, down from 40% before the break.
  • Evan Mobley has been back for five games and has attempted two 3-pointers in all five, draining the go-ahead corner 3 with 28.2 seconds left as the Cavs beat the Sixers on Friday. The Cavs have been outscored by 21.6 points per 100 possessions in 77 minutes with Mobley and Jarrett Allen on the floor together over that stretch and the duo is now in the negative (minus-0.5 per 100 in 630 minutes) for the season, with the Cavs having outscored their opponents by 8.5 per 100 in their 1,418 minutes together last season.

The Cavs need to figure out their road issues now, because their loss in Denver was the start of a five-game trip, and they’ll be at a rest disadvantage in Phoenix on Wednesday and again against the Clippers on Sunday afternoon. If they don’t get back on track, they’ll be starting the playoffs on the road, currently leading the fifth-place Magic by just a game in the loss column.

Week 24: @ UTA, @ PHX, @ LAL, @ LAC

Last Week:13

Record: 43-31

OffRtg: 116.5 (13) DefRtg: 115.2 (17) NetRtg: +1.3 (18) Pace: 99.7 (12)

The Kings lost their two biggest games of the season, scoring just 102.1 points per 100 possessions as they went 0-2 against the Mavs last week. And they lost a key contributor along the way.

Three takeaways

  • The numbers with Monk on the court (115.1 points scored, plus-0.1 per 100 possessions) weren’t great, and he’d seen a drop in true shooting percentage from his previous two seasons. But he’s been an improved playmaker, he was leading the league in total points scored off the bench for a second straight season, and he’s one of eight players who’ve shot better than 50% on at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. Without him, more attention will be on De’Aaron Fox down the stretch of close games.

Having lost those two games to Dallas and with six of their remaining eight games against teams no worse than the Suns, there’s now a chance that the Kings could slide down to the 9-10 Play-In game in the West.

Before the Knicks eviscerated the Raptors last week, the most efficient offensive performance for any team this season was the Celtics’ 144 points on 95 possessions (151.6 per 100) in Sacramento in late December. The Kings will be at a rest disadvantage when they face the most efficient offense in NBA history again on Friday, Game 2 of a four-game trip.

Week 24: vs. LAC, @ NYK, @ BOS, @ BKN

Last Week:16

Record: 42-33

OffRtg: 119.9 (2) DefRtg: 117.8 (24) NetRtg: +2.1 (14) Pace: 102.2 (2)

The Pacers had a weird week, with wins against the Clippers and Lakers sandwiching a 26-point loss in Chicago. They remain in a tight battle for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with a huge game in that regard coming this week.

Three takeaways

  • After they scored 137 points per 100 possessions over their two games in L.A., it seemed like the Pacers’ offense was back. But they came back East and scored just 106 per 100 as they lost in Chicago and beat the Lakers at home. While they’ve been inconsistent and Tyrese Haliburton hasn’t shot well, the Pacers still rank fourth on that end of the floor since the All-Star break.
  • Haliburton is just 39-for-139 (28.1%) from 3-point range since the All-Star break, the fourth worst mark among 67 players with at least 100 post-break attempts. But he continues to shoot well from mid-range, where he’s 25-for-44 (57%) since the break and 78-for-143 (54.5%) for the season. That latter mark ranks second among 78 players with at least 100 mid-range attempts.

The sixth-place Pacers are tied in the loss column with the seventh-place Heat, so their biggest game of the season is Sunday when the head-to-head tiebreaker will be determined in Indiana. The two teams haven’t faced each other since they combined to score 134 points per 100 possessions over a two-game split in Miami on Nov. 30 and Dec. 2.

Week 24: vs. BKN, @ BKN, vs. OKC, vs. MIA

Last Week:15

Record: 42-33

OffRtg: 115.1 (15) DefRtg: 115.0 (15) NetRtg: +0.2 (19) Pace: 101.2 (4)

The Lakers are 3-1 on a six-game road trip and have won six of their last seven overall, but they remain in ninth place in the West, two games in the loss column behind the eighth-place Suns.

Three takeaways

  • With another incredible comeback (without LeBron James) in Milwaukee on Tuesday, the Lakers are 2-15 in games they trailed by at least 19 points in the fourth quarter, while the rest of the league is 2-427. And with that double-overtime win over the Bucks, they’re a league-best 13-3 in clutch games since Jan. 1. This season, they have the league’s fourth biggest differential between their record in clutch games (22-9) and their record in non-clutch games (18-24).
  • James tied his career-high with nine 3-pointers (on just 10 attempts) in Brooklyn on Sunday, when the Lakers took more than half of their shots (40/77) from 3-point range for the first time in the last two seasons. They still have the league’s second-lowest 3-point rate (35.6% of their shots) for the season, but have seen its second-biggest jump in 3-point percentage (37.7%, seventh) from last season (34.6%, 25th). Rui Hachimura (from 31.9% to 42.1%) and James (from 32.1% to 41.6%) have seen the third and sixth biggest jumps, respectively, among 217 players with at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons.
  • Gabe Vincent played for the first time since Dec. 20 on Sunday, but the Lakers still had a short rotation, playing just eight guys for more than three minutes before garbage time in Brooklyn. Anthony Davis’ 70 games played and 35.9 minutes per game are both his highest marks in the last six seasons. The 51:52 he played in Milwaukee on Tuesday was a career-high, and (not surprisingly) he got the night off 24 hours later in Memphis.

With the Warriors having won four straight games, the Lakers have just a one-game lead in the loss column for the 9 seed in the West. The final two games of their trip are against teams – Toronto and Washington – that are a combined 9-31 since the All-Star break, but the schedule will get more serious after that.

Week 24: @ TOR, @ WAS, vs. CLE, vs. MIN

Last Week:19

Record: 40-34

OffRtg: 116.9 (11) DefRtg: 115.0 (16) NetRtg: +1.9 (15) Pace: 100.0 (11)

The Warriors have seemingly heard the Rockets’ footsteps, and they’ve responded by winning four straight games to build a two-game lead over Houston for the final SoFi Play-In Tournament spot in the West.

Three takeaways

  • All four opponents on the winning streak have had bottom-10 offenses, and the Warriors have allowed just 103.9 points per 100 possessions over the streak. That includes a mark of 88.5 allowed per 100 in 53 minutes with Kevon Looney on the floor. Looney had been out of the rotation but has played in all four games, with either Trayce Jackson-Davis (Tuesday in Miami) or Jonathan Kuminga (each of the last three) having been out.
  • All four wins have come on the road, where the Warriors are now 22-15. They still have a chance to finish with a winning record at the Chase Center, but right now, they’re in a position to be just the fifth team in NBA history (though the fourth in the last four seasons) to finish with a losing record (18-19 with four games to play) at home and a winning record on the road. It was just last season when they had the third biggest home-road differential (33-8 vs. 11-30) of the last 30 years.
  • Stephen Curry had a little bit of a breakout in San Antonio on Sunday, scoring 33 points on 12-for-23 shooting. He has a true shooting percentage of just 55.3% since the All-Star break, down from 63.6% before the break, with that being the second biggest drop among 82 players with at least 300 field goal attempts before the break and at least 200 since.

The Warriors have a tougher remaining schedule than the team (the Lakers) they’re chasing for ninth place in the West, but they have an easier remaining schedule than the team (the Rockets) that’s chasing them. They’re back home for just one game and then they’re back on the road for a huge game in Houston on Thursday.

Week 24: vs. DAL, @ HOU, @ DAL, vs. UTA

Last Week:14

Record: 43-31

OffRtg: 112.8 (23) DefRtg: 110.4 (2) NetRtg: +2.4 (11) Pace: 97.1 (26)

The Magic are 4-3 on the eight-game homestand than concludes on Monday, having lost three straight close games before taking care of business against the Grizzlies on Saturday.

Three takeaways

  • The Magic scored just 17 points on 24 clutch possessions over their first three-game losing streak since mid-January. They had a couple of impressive comebacks against the Warriors and Clippers last week but then had almost as many turnovers (five) as points (seven) with the score within five points in the last five minutes. Paolo Banchero had three of the five turnovers, including two straight (with it being a one-point game) against LA on Friday. He has a 1.70 assist/turnover ratio overall, but an 8.15 ratio with the score within five in the last five, with those 15 clutch turnovers leading the league.
  • Franz Wagner had two 3-point attempts for the tie after Banchero’s two turnovers, but he missed them both. The Magic are now 20-for-88 (23%, second worst) on clutch 3-pointers, while Wagner has missed 11 straight attempts from beyond the arc and is 12-for-76 (16%) from deep since Feb. 13.
  • The Orlando defense wasn’t bad in those three losses to three better-than-average offensive teams from the Western Conference. And having held the Grizzlies to just 88 points on 101 possessions on Saturday, they’ve climbed to second in defensive efficiency for the season. The last time they ranked that high on either end of the floor was 2008-09, when they had the league’s No. 1 defense and reached the NBA Finals.

After the eight-game homestand concludes with a game against the Blazers on Monday, the Magic will play five of their next six games on the road. They were just 9-16 on the road at one point, but are 8-3 away from the Kia Center since late January.

Week 24: vs. POR, @ NOP, @ CHA, vs. CHI

Last Week:18

Record: 38-36

OffRtg: 113.6 (20) DefRtg: 112.2 (9) NetRtg: +1.4 (17) Pace: 99.6 (14)

The Rockets’ 11-game winning streak ended Sunday, and because the Warriors have now won four straight, Houston needs a head-to-head win this week.

Three takeaways

  • Only four of the 11 straight wins were within five points in the last five minutes, and the Rockets scored 56 points on 37 clutch possessions (1.51 per) over those four close games. Jalen Green led the way, scoring or assisting on 36 of those 56 clutch points. He missed a game-winning layup at the end of regulation in Oklahoma City on Wednesday but then had two huge buckets down the stretch of overtime.

Now we see if Green’s incredible March carries over into April, with the Rockets set to begin the month with a road game against the league’s No. 1 defense. They’ve scored an anemic 92 points per 100 possessions (the worst mark among all Minnesota opponents) as they’ve lost their first two games against the Wolves.

Week 24: @ MIN, vs. GSW, vs. MIA, @ DAL

Last Week:17

Record: 40-35

OffRtg: 116.4 (14) DefRtg: 114.2 (12) NetRtg: +2.2 (13) Pace: 98.0 (20)

The Sixers got to play the Raptors on Sunday, completing a season sweep of Nick Nurse’s former team. But they’re just 2-5 on a stretch where they’re playing nine of 11 games on the road.

Three takeaways

  • The last five games have been the Sixers’ best stretch of offense (123.5 points scored per 100 possessions) since Joel Embiid last played (Jan. 30). It’s also been an efficient stretch on defense (121.7 allowed per 100). Philly is 11-18 and one of six teams that rank in the bottom 10 on both ends over the 8 1/2 weeks since the reigning MVP’s last game.
  • Tobias Harris hasn’t exactly been tearing it up (he totaled 26 points in losses to the Kings and Clippers early last week), but has seen an uptick in scoring (18.4 points per game) and efficiency (true shooting percentage of 59.8%) over this five-game stretch.
  • Harris had 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting in Toronto on Sunday as the Sixers got just their second win (in nine games) without Embiid or Tyrese Maxey. Kelly Oubre Jr. led the way with 32 points and now has a usage rate of 25.2% since Embiid last played, up from 18.8% prior. That’s still lower than his usage rate with Charlotte last season (25.7%).

The Sixers’ next two games are the end of a stretch where they will have played 13 of 15 against teams with winning records. After they host the Thunder on Tuesday, their final six games will be against teams that rank in the bottom 10 offensively.

Week 24: vs. OKC, @ MIA, @ MEM, @ SAS

Last Week:21

Record: 34-40

OffRtg: 117.4 (8) DefRtg: 118.7 (27) NetRtg: -1.3 (20) Pace: 100.8 (6)

The Hawks couldn’t stop Milwaukee’s offense on Saturday, but the four-game winning streak that preceded that loss has put them in position to possibly take home-court advantage in the 9-10 SoFi Play-In Tournament game from the Bulls.

Three takeaways

  • The last two wins of the streak came against the Celtics, with the Hawks becoming the first team in more than two years (since Jan. 25, 2022) to win a game it trailed by at least 30 points on Monday. They’re 8-10 against the top five teams in the East and have the league’s second smallest differential between their record against the 11 teams currently below .500 (14-13, .519) and their record against the 19 currently above .500 (20-27, .426).
  • Both games went down to the wire, with Dejounte Murray putting the Hawks ahead for good both nights, driving past Al Horford for the lead with a minute left on Monday and draining a step-back for the win three nights later. Murray now ranks fourth with seven buckets (13) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime, having made just one (on four attempts) last season.
  • Murray scored all 11 of the Hawks’ points in overtime on Thursday and ranks second in clutch usage rate (46.3%) throughout Trae Young’s absence. The Hawks are 10-8 over that stretch overall, ranking eighth offensively, which is higher than they ranked when Young got hurt (10th).

The Hawks trail the ninth-place Bulls by just a game in the loss column, and they’ll have a rest advantage when the two teams meet in Chicago on Monday. The Bulls own the tiebreaker having won the first two meetings, with Young having shot just 9-for-31 (29%) over those two games.

Week 24: @ CHI, vs. DET, @ DAL, @ DEN

Last Week:20

Record: 36-39

OffRtg: 113.9 (19) DefRtg: 115.6 (20) NetRtg: -1.7 (21) Pace: 96.9 (29)

There were a few Jekyll-and-Hyde teams last week and the Bulls led the pack, losing to the Wizards (who were without four of their five starters) and Nets, but also beating the Pacers and Wolves.

Three takeaways

  • First quarters have been an issue for the Bulls. Before Sunday, only the Hornets had been worse than Chicago (minus 15 points per 100 possessions) in the opening 12 minutes since Feb. 1. And they had scored just 100.8 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter over the 1-4 stretch that culminated with their loss in Brooklyn on Friday.
  • Coby White had shot just 4-for-19 over those five first quarters, and he was 0-for-1 in the first quarter in Minnesota on Sunday. But his teammates picked up the slack, the Bulls made more first-quarter 3-pointers 6-for-8 than they had over their previous three games (5-for-23), and they scored 33 points on 25 first-quarter possessions against the league’s No. 1 defense. They eventually lost a 16-point lead but came through in the clutch once again.
  • With the win in Minnesota, the Bulls are 25-16 (23-11 since mid-November) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and 11-23 otherwise.

The Bulls have played just six rest-disadvantage games (the fewest in the league) thus far. They have two more remaining, with the first of those (Monday in Atlanta) possibly being their biggest game of the season, as it will go a long way in determining who has home-court advantage in the 9-10 Play-In game in the East.

Week 24: vs. ATL, vs. NYK, @ ORL

Last Week:24

Record: 29-46

OffRtg: 113.1 (22) DefRtg: 115.4 (19) NetRtg: -2.4 (22) Pace: 97.6 (23)

Bad news for the Rockets (who own Brooklyn’s first-round Draft pick): The Nets won three straight games last week, tying the Jazz with 29 wins for the season.

Three numbers on the Nets’ defense

  • The Nets seemingly have the personnel for a good defensive team, but they rank just 19th on defense. After ranking 30th and 29th in defensive rebounding percentage, they’re 17th (having seen the league’s second-biggest jump) this season. But they’ve seen the league’s fourth-biggest jump in opponent field goal percentage in the paint.
  • They ranked 21st defensively before the All-Star break (under Jacque Vaughn), but rank 11th since the break when Kevin Ollie took over as interim coach, having seen a big jump in opponent turnover rate (from 12.5 before the break to 14.9 since).
  • According to Synergy tracking, the Nets have played the fifth most possessions of zone defense. According to Second Spectrum tracking, they’ve switched 40% of ball screens, the league’s highest rate by a healthy margin. Nic Claxton has defended 6.6 isolations per 100 possessions (most among players who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes), with opponents scoring 0.93 points per chance when he’s defended an iso. That mark ranks 52nd among 179 players who’ve defended at least 100 isolations.

The Nets still have some work to do to avoid finishing in the bottom 10 defensively, and they’ll face the league’s second-ranked offense in their next two games, playing with a rest disadvantage in Indiana on Monday.

Week 24: @ IND, vs. IND, vs. DET, vs. SAC

Last Week:26

Record: 18-57

OffRtg: 109.6 (26) DefRtg: 116.5 (22) NetRtg: -6.9 (25) Pace: 101.8 (3)

The Spurs won three straight games and played spoiler last week, beating the Suns without Victor Wembanyama and beating the Knicks behind a career-high 40 points and 20 rebounds from the Kia Rookie of the Year favorite.

Three numbers on the Spurs’ defense

  • The Spurs have seen the league’s fourth-biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions, though they’re still in the bottom 10 on defense because they ranked 30th last season. They’ve seen improvement in opponent effective field goal percentage, opponent free-throw rate and defensive rebounding percentage.
  • According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Spurs have switched only 9% of ball screens, the league’s lowest rate by a wide margin. Their opponents have averaged just 15.6 isolations per 100 possessions, the league’s second-lowest rate.
  • The Spurs have allowed 8.0 fewer points per 100 possessions with Victor Wembanyama on the floor (111.1) than they’ve allowed with him off the floor (119.1). That’s the second-biggest differential on defense among full-time starters (fifth biggest among all players) who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes. The difference is largely about how well (and often) the opponents have shot in the paint: 56.6% (50% of all field goal attempts) with Wembanyama on the floor and 60.3% (53%) with him off the floor.

Even with the three-game winning streak, the Spurs still need two more wins to avoid finishing with the worst record in franchise history. Five of their seven remaining games are against teams with winning records, and two of those are against the Nuggets.

Week 24: @ DEN, @ NOP, vs. PHI

Last Week:22

Record: 29-46

OffRtg: 114.8 (16) DefRtg: 119.3 (30) NetRtg: -4.6 (23) Pace: 100.4 (10)

The Jazz have lost nine straight games and are now 3-20 since the trade deadline, having allowed 4.0 more points per 100 possessions than any other team over that stretch.

Three numbers on the Jazz’s defense

  • They’ve played the second most possessions of zone defense, according to Synergy. And the 0.97 points per possession they’ve allowed in zone ranks fifth among the 24 teams that have played at least 100 possessions.
  • They’ve allowed 14.8 3-pointers per game, second most for any team in the 45 seasons of the 3-point line. Their opponents’ 3-point percentage (39.7%) would be the third-highest mark ever, and they also have the league’s seventh-highest opponent 3-point rate, with 40.7% of opponent shots having come from beyond the arc.

The Jazz are one of two teams — the Blazers are the other — with more wins against the opposite conference (15-14) than they have against their own (14-32), and they’ll play their final interconference game (hosting the Cavs) on Tuesday.

Week 24: vs. CLE, @ LAC, @ GSW

Last Week:23

Record: 24-50

OffRtg: 106.7 (30) DefRtg: 113.9 (11) NetRtg: -7.2 (26) Pace: 98.8 (17)

The Grizzlies are 0-5 with Desmond Bane since his return from injury and they got clobbered in Orlando without him on Saturday.

Three numbers on the Grizzlies’ defense

  • While the Grizzlies have suffered a huge drop-off on offense, they’ve remained somewhat competitive with their 11th-ranked defense. They’ve seen the league’s eighth-biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions, but are seeing that drop from ranking third last season.
  • The Grizzlies rank third in opponent turnover rate (15.1 per 100 possessions), even though they don’t have anybody in the top 30 in total steals. Scottie Pippen Jr. has averaged 5.0 deflections per 36 minutes, third most among 410 players who’ve played at least 250 total minutes, but he’s played just 305.
  • The last two Kia Defensive Player of the Year winners — Marcus Smart and Jaren Jackson Jr. — have played just 422 total minutes together (the team’s 17th most-used combination), with the Grizzlies allowing just 106.9 points per 100 possessions in those 422 minutes. Unlike last season, however, the defense has been better with Jackson Jr. off the floor than it’s been with him on the floor.

There’s a pretty big gap between Denver’s 10th-ranked defense (112.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and that of the Grizzlies (113.9), so it will be tough for them to finish in the top 10 on that end of the floor for a fourth straight season. They have three games remaining against bottom-10 offenses, with two of those being games against the Pistons this week.

Week 24: @ DET, @ MIL, vs. DET, vs. PHI

Last Week:25

Record: 23-51

OffRtg: 112.3 (24) DefRtg: 117.9 (25) NetRtg: -5.6 (24) Pace: 99.6 (13)

The Raptors’ losing streak is at 13 games, and the 145 points on 93 possessions (155.9 per 100) that they allowed the Knicks to score on Wednesday was the second most efficient game for any team in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data.

Three numbers on the Raptors’ defense

  • The Raptors ranked third defensively over Nick Nurse’s five-year tenure as head coach, even though that stretch included a lost season in Tampa. They ranked 11th last season, but have seen the league’s biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions in their first season under Darko Rajakovic.
  • The biggest strength of those defenses under Nurse was their ability to force turnovers. These Raptors rank 12th in opponent turnover rate (13.8 per 100 possessions), but that’s after the league’s biggest drop from last season (16.9 per 100, first). They’ve also seen the league’s second-biggest drop in defensive rebounding percentage.
  • The Raptors ranked 16th defensively (114.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) through OG Anunoby’s last game with the team (Dec. 29), but have ranked 29th (120.1 allowed per 100) since then. Their post-deadline starting lineup – Immanuel Quickley, Gary Trent Jr., RJ Barrett, Scottie Barnes and Jakob Poeltl had good numbers on that end of the floor (109.2 allowed per 100), but played just 164 total minutes over just 10 games together.

The Raptors have a relatively tough remaining schedule, and their best chance to avoid finishing the season with a 21-game losing streak will be Sunday when they host the Wizards (who they lost to in Washington nine days ago).

Week 24: vs. LAL, @ MIN, @ MIL, vs. WAS

Last Week:28

Record: 14-61

OffRtg: 109.9 (25) DefRtg: 118.9 (28) NetRtg: -9.1 (29) Pace: 102.9 (1)

The Wizards have followed their three-game winning streak with three straight losses (including their second home loss to the Pistons) and would somehow need to win five of their last seven games to avoid finishing with the worst record in franchise history.

Three numbers on the Wizards’ defense

  • The Wizards had a bottom-10 defense last season and they’ve seen the league’s fifth-biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions. They rank 26th in opponent effective field goal percentage (56.3%) and last in defensive rebounding percentage (46%).
  • Counting just road games (to account for shot-charting inconsistency from arena to arena), 35.6% of the Wizards’ opponents’ shots have come in the restricted area. That’s the league’s highest opponent rate, and they also rank 25th in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (67.9%).
  • They’ve allowed 122.0 points per 100 possessions with their most-used two-man combination — Tyus Jones and Kyle Kuzma — on the floor. That’s the highest mark among 211 two-man combos that have played at least 1,000 minutes together. Jones does have more steals (71) than personal fouls (48) for the sixth straight season, with that differential being the biggest among 345 players who’ve played at least 500 minutes.

The Wizards are 0-12 in the second games of back-to-backs, set to become the fifth winless team without rest in NBA history and the first in the last 33 seasons (since the 0-17, 1990-91 Kings) … unless they can beat the Lakers on Wednesday.

Week 24: vs. MIL, vs. LAL, vs. POR, @ TOR

Last Week:29

Record: 18-56

OffRtg: 108.3 (28) DefRtg: 119.2 (29) NetRtg: -10.9 (30) Pace: 97.9 (21)

The Hornets were able to play spoiler on Wednesday, beating the Cavs behind 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting (with a career-high seven 3-pointers) from rookie Brandon Miller. But with the Spurs winning three games last week, the two teams are now tied with 18 wins, third-fewest in a scenario where the three worst teams have the best Lottery odds.

Three numbers on the Hornets’ defense

  • Last season, the Hornets saw a big drop-off on offense. This season, they’ve seen a big drop-off on defense, allowing 4.5 more points per 100 possessions than they did in 2022-23, with that being the league’s second-biggest jump. Only the Wizards have seen a bigger jump in opponent field goal percentage in the paint.
  • Only 9.4% of their opponents’ shots, what would be the second lowest opponent rate in the 28 seasons for which we have shot-location data, have come from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line).
  • There was a stretch last season where Mark Williams was healthy (and in the starting lineup) and the Hornets went 7-5 with the league’s fourth-ranked defense. They ranked 29th defensively (120.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) at the point (Dec. 8) when Williams played his last game, but you could certainly argue that the two most impactful defenders on the roster — Grant Williams being the other — haven’t played together.

There are three teams that the Celtics haven’t beaten this season: the Nuggets, the Thunder and … the Hornets! They beat the Celtics in November and will face them twice in the last two weeks, with the first of those meetings in Charlotte on Monday.

Week 24: vs. BOS, vs. POR, vs. ORL, vs. OKC

Last Week:30

Record: 13-61

OffRtg: 109.5 (27) DefRtg: 118.3 (26) NetRtg: -8.8 (27) Pace: 100.7 (8)

The Pistons put an end to an eight-game losing streak with an ugly win over the Wizards on Friday, finishing 2-2 against Washington and improving to 1-11 in games in which they scored less than a point per possession.

Three numbers on the Pistons’ defense

  • Monty Williams coached top-seven defenses in each of his last three seasons in Phoenix, but he hasn’t had much of an impact on that end of the floor with the Pistons, who rank in the bottom five for the second straight season. They’ve seen the league’s biggest jump in defensive rebounding percentage, but have also seen a significant drop in opponent turnover rate.
  • The Pistons are the only team that ranks in the top five in both the percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range (36.7%, fourth lowest) and the percentage of their opponents’ 3-point attempts that have come from the corners (22.8%, fourth lowest).
  • They were better than average defensively (113.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) in 745 total minutes with Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren on the floor together. But they’ve allowed 117.9 per 100 in 1,595 total minutes with one on the floor without the other.

With their win in Washington on Friday, the Pistons are 9-10 in games played between the bottom nine teams in the league. They have four games remaining within the group, three of them this week and two against the Grizzlies, who they lost to in December.

Week 24: vs. MEM, @ ATL, @ MEM, @ BKN

Last Week:27

Record: 19-55

OffRtg: 108.2 (29) DefRtg: 117.2 (23) NetRtg: -8.9 (28) Pace: 98.0 (19)

In all of NBA history, they’re have been only nine games decided by 60 or more points. The 2023-24 Blazers have lost two of the nine, with their second loss by 60-plus coming in Miami on Friday, their ninth straight defeat overall.

Three numbers on the Blazers’ defense

  • They’re in the bottom 10 again, but after four straight seasons of ranking in the bottom four defensively, the Blazers have seen the league’s 10th biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions. They’ve seen the league’s second biggest jump in opponent turnover rate, forcing 14.6 per 100 possessions (fifth), up from 13.6 per 100 (19th) last season.
  • They’re one of four teams – the Bucks, Wolves and Magic are the others – that rank in the top 10 in both opponent 3-point percentage (35.6%, seventh) and the (lowest) percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range (38.1%, seventh lowest). But they rank last in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (61.3%).
  • Matisse Thybulle leads the league in deflections per 36 minutes (5.3) for the third time in the last four seasons. The Blazers allowed just 108.7 points per 100 possessions in 429 minutes with Thybulle and Toumani Camara (out for the season) on the floor together.

Three of the Blazers’ remaining eight games are against teams that rank in the bottom 10 offensively, and those are their next three. They’ll finish their seven-game trip in Boston, having allowed the top-ranked Celtics offense to score 121 points on just 91 possessions (133 per 100) three weeks ago.

Week 24: @ ORL, @ CHA, @ WAS, @ BOS