Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 3: Celtics take hold of top spot

The Hawks, Timberwolves and Spurs make the biggest leaps, and there's a new No. 1 team in our weekly survey.

Much like last season, Jayson Tatum and the Celtics are off to a strong start on offense to open 2023-24.

Over the last few years, about 50% of all regular-season games have been within five points in the last five minutes. On Friday, the first night of the In-Season Tournament, it was five of seven, and none of those five games had just a brief dalliance with clutch time. They went down to the wire.

According to the NBA, Friday’s average margin of victory (4.9 points) was the second smallest on a single night (with at least seven games) in the last 10 seasons.

Was it a coincidence, or did the Tournament stakes make the games more competitive? We’ll know more after nine more In-Season Tournament games, including Clippers-Mavs and Lakers-Suns, on Friday.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Atlanta (3-0) — The Hawks are 3-0 (no other team is better than 2-2) against the other 10 teams that have winning records entering Week 3
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Detroit (0-4) — A promising Week 1 turned into a pretty ugly Week 2.

* * *

East vs. West

* * *

Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: Atlanta (+12), Minnesota (+9), San Antonio (+6)
  • Free falls of the week: Phoenix (-9), Sacramento (-7), Detroit (-6)

* * *

Week 3 Team to Watch

  • LA Clippers — Paul George, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook all in the same lineup. The adventure begins with two games in New York, as the Clips visit the Knicks on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass) and Nets on Wednesday.

* * *


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 111.1 points scored per 100 possessions and 100.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes this season.

* = In-Season Tournament game

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

Last Week:2

Record: 5-0

OffRtg: 124.7 (1) DefRtg: 106.5 (7) NetRtg: +18.1 (1) Pace: 101.4 (10)

Last season, the Celtics started 21-5, with their offense having scored an amazing 3.6 more points per 100 possessions than any other team. They’re off to a similarly hot start this year, having scored 4.8 more points per 100 than any other team.

Three takeaways

  • The Celtics’ first two games last week came with a combined first-quarter score of 86-46 and leads of 37 and 53 points. In only one other game this season (Clippers-Spurs eight days ago) has a team led by more than 35.
  • They rank last (by a healthy margin) in the percentage of their 3-point attempts (59%) that have come off the catch, but lead the league in pull-up 3-point percentage at 46.3%, up from 33.7% (15th) last season.
  • Derrick White missed their win in Brooklyn on Saturday, but the Celtics’ regular starting lineup has held opponents to just 88.7 points per 100 possessions in its 72 minutes.

For the second straight season, the Celtics look like a regular-season machine. And this starting lineup looks stronger than anything they’ve had in the Brown-and-Tatum era.

While the Celtics have the league’s best point differential by a wide margin, the second-best mark belongs to the team they’ll visit (for the first of three meetings in the next four weeks) on Wednesday. Jayson Tatum set a Game-7 record with 51 points the last time that Boston and Philly met in a game that counted.

Week 3: @ MIN, @ PHI, vs. BKN*, vs. TOR

Last Week:1

Record: 6-1

OffRtg: 117.1 (6) DefRtg: 106.4 (6) NetRtg: +10.7 (4) Pace: 98.1 (27)

The Nuggets got blown out in Minnesota on Wednesday, but handed the Mavs their first loss of the season two nights later. More important than the results is the strained hamstring suffered by Jamal Murray in the first half of their win against the Bulls on Saturday, which was the end of a stretch of five games in seven nights.

Three takeaways

  • The Nuggets’ offense ranks sixth, but is depending a little more on great shooting than it did last season. They’ve seen a big drop in free throw rate, as well as a jump in turnover rate.
  • Nikola Jokic’s effective field goal percentage of 67.5% is the best mark of his career (he’s seen a jump in each of the last five seasons), but his free throw rate of 27.6 attempts per 100 shots from the field is down from 40.6 per 100 last season.

Murray has been ruled out of the Nuggets’ game against the Pelicans on Monday, when Reggie Jackson (who started the second half on Saturday) should get his third start since coming to Denver in February. (The Nuggets lost both of his previous starts — both games were in Phoenix — last season.) Collin Gillespie, who earned a ring without playing a single minute last season, appears to be the back-up point guard.

If Murray can’t go on Wednesday, that would spoil a marquee matchup between the last two NBA champions.

Week 3: vs. NOP, vs. GSW, @ HOU

Last Week:6

Record: 4-1

OffRtg: 117.3 (5) DefRtg: 105.5 (4) NetRtg: +11.8 (2) Pace: 99.2 (24)

The two teams that rank in the top five on both ends of the floor: The Sixers and Clippers. Yet they both felt the need to make a trade!

Three takeaways

  • The Sixers have four players averaging at least 20 points per game. Only one other team – the Pelicans (3) – has more than two.
  • Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey are two of the five players who’ve averaged at least 25 points and six assists per game. Embiid has recorded assists on 18.0% of his possessions, by far the highest rate of his career.
  • Tobias Harris has an effective field goal percentage of 71.9%, the fourth best mark among 139 players with at least 50 field goal attempts. It’s also his third best five-game stretch in his 4 1/2 seasons with the Sixers.

We can’t really grade the James Harden trade for the Sixers until we see if they can use the Draft assets they received in another deal between now and Feb. 8. Though the shooting of Harris and Kelly Oubre Jr. is probably unsustainable, this team is good right now, having won four straight games and having lost just one … by a single point.

The Sixers are three games into a stretch where they’re playing eight of nine at home, with two of those eight home games — this Wednesday and next Wednesday — against the undefeated Celtics. The last time they met (in a game that counted), the Sixers lost Game 7 by 24 points, in part because Embiid got absolutely torched when the Celtics made him defend the pick-and-roll.

Week 3: vs. WAS, vs. BOS, @ DET*, vs. IND

Last Week:4

Record: 5-2

OffRtg: 114.4 (9) DefRtg: 109.9 (12) NetRtg: +4.5 (9) Pace: 100.8 (14)

The Warriors had one of the more impressive wins of the season on Monday, winning in New Orleans by 28 points on the second night of a back-to-back. But they needed late-game heroics from Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to eke out wins over the Kings (without De’Aaron Fox) and Thunder (without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) before seeing their five-game winning streak come to an end in Cleveland on Sunday.

Three takeaways

  • The Warriors scored just 104 points on 102 possessions against the Cavs, and the problem wasn’t turnovers or 3-point shooting. Their 12-for-32 (38%) shooting in the paint was the second worst shooting performance for any team in the paint this season.
  • The Warriors have seen the league’s biggest drop in ball movement, from 381 passes per 24 minutes of possession (first) last season to 352 (sixth) this season.
  • Last season, Nikola Jokic (24.5 points per game) set the record for highest true shooting percentage (70.1%) for a player who averaged at least 20 points. Through seven games this season, Stephen Curry is averaging 30.4 on a true shooting percentage of 75.3%.

Chris Paul is on the opposite end of the spectrum, ranking 138th in true shooting percentage among the 139 players with at least 50 field goal attempts. But there are a lot of positives — fewer turnovers, fewer fouls, a better bench and a 4-1 road record — when you compare this season with last.

The Nuggets won all three games against the Warriors last season (though Nikola Jokic missed one of the three) and no Western Conference team scored more efficiently against Golden State’s defense. The Warriors didn’t get a chance for revenge in the postseason and will face the champs for the first time on Wednesday.

Week 3: @ DET, @ DEN, vs. CLE, vs MIN

Last Week:17

Record: 4-2

OffRtg: 119.3 (3) DefRtg: 111.8 (19) NetRtg: +7.4 (6) Pace: 103.0 (4)

After an 0-2 start, the Hawks have won four straight games, with three of those wins coming against teams — Milwaukee, Minnesota and New Orleans — that also have winning records through Week 2. They’ve scored a remarkably efficient 124.9 points per 100 possessions, with all eight of their core rotation guys averaging double-figures, over the winning streak.

Three takeaways

  • The Hawks have struggled early (losing the first quarter by at least five points in each of their last three games), but are the only team with three wins in games they trailed by double-digits. Their win over the Wolves on Monday (in which they were at a rest disadvantage) was also the first win by a team that trailed by at least 20 points.
  • While Trae Young is still struggling with his shot, Dejounte Murray has shot 13-for-23 (56.5%) from mid-range, the second best mark among 19 players with at least 20 attempts. He’s also shot 30-for-49 (61.2%) in the paint, up from 53.4% over the last three seasons.
  • Jalen Johnson has been in and out of the starting lineup, but the Hawks have been at their best (plus-18.3 points per 100 possessions) with him on the floor. He tied his career highs with 21 points and 11 rebounds (adding four assists) in the Hawks’ win in New Orleans on Saturday.

Johnson (who turns 22 next month) is proving the Hawks right for trading John Collins, even if they only got a second-round pick in return. His next test could be a matchup with Paolo Banchero in Mexico City on Thursday.

Though they lost to the Hornets on opening night, the Hawks can establish themselves as the best team in the Southeast Division this week. They’re 4-10 against the Heat (who they’ll host on Saturday) over the last two seasons when you count a playoff series defeat (2022) and a Play-In game victory (2023).

Week 3: @ OKC, @ ORL (Mexico City), vs. MIA

Last Week:11

Record: 5-1

OffRtg: 119.9 (2) DefRtg: 114.6 (22) NetRtg: +5.3 (8) Pace: 101.3 (11)

The Mavs haven’t won a game that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes and they didn’t have much of a chance against the champs on Friday. But they’re 5-1, having scored 58 points on 41 clutch possessions (141 per 100) over their five close games.

Three takeaways

  • Luka Doncic leads the league in clutch scoring (25 points on 8-for-11 shooting). But Grant Williams was a hero on Sunday, going 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter against Charlotte. Williams has taken 76% of his total shots from 3-point range (up from 60% over the last two years) and is an amazing 23-for-41 (56%) from beyond the arc.
  • Williams’ shot profile fits with the Mavs, who rank last in the percentage of their shots (41%) that have come in the paint. (They ranked 29th at 42% last season.) They’ve been outscored by 13.3 points in the paint per game, easily the league’s biggest discrepancy.

Four of those six have come against teams that rank in the bottom 10 defensively, and the Mavs will now play three straight games against top-10 defenses, with their In-Season Tournament game against the Clippers on Friday being the obvious highlight.

Week 3: @ ORL, vs. TOR, vs. LAC*, @ NOP

Last Week:16

Record: 3-2

OffRtg: 110.8 (14) DefRtg: 101.2 (1) NetRtg: +9.5 (5) Pace: 98.5 (26)

The Wolves had two 19-point leads at halftime last week. The first (in Atlanta on Monday) turned into a rest-advantage loss in which they scored just 27 points on their final 44 possessions. The second was a wire-to-wire victory over the Nuggets, the champs’ only defeat of the season.

Three takeaways

  • The Wolves have held their opponent under a point per possession in four of their five games, having done so in just seven of 82 last season.
  • Jaden McDaniels made his season debut on Monday and the Wolves’ reunited starting lineup has scored 106 points on 83 offensive possessions (128 per 100), compared to just 55 on 59 (93 per 100) for the lineup with Nickeil Alexander-Walker in McDaniels’ place.
  • Anthony Edwards has an effective field goal percentage of 67.9% over the last three games, his most effective three-game stretch of shooting (minimum 50 total attempts) since Jan. of 2022.

The minutes with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert on the floor together were much better (especially offensively) in Week 2 (plus-25.5 per 100 possessions) than they were in Week 1 (minus-18.0).

The Wolves have the league’s No. 1 defense even though two of the five teams they’ve played — Atlanta and Denver — rank in the top six offensively. That No. 1 defense will take on the No. 1 offense when the Celtics visit the Target Center on Monday. That’s the start of a stretch where the Wolves are playing four of five against teams that enter Week 3 with winning records.

Week 3: vs. BOS, vs. NOP, @ SAS*, @ GSW

Last Week:5

Record: 3-2

OffRtg: 112.0 (12) DefRtg: 116.0 (25) NetRtg: -4.1 (23) Pace: 102.1 (7)

About 28 hours before the end of daylight savings time, it was Dame Time in Milwaukee, with Lillard scoring six straight points to beat the Knicks after the Bucks blew a double-digit lead in their first In-Season Tournament game. That it was (statistically) their best defensive game of the season may be just as important.

Three takeaways

  • The Bucks’ three wins have come by a total of 14 points, while their two losses have come by 17 and 19 points. Lillard is now 3-for-4 on clutch 3-pointers and Jae Crowder (not a starter) has been on the floor at the end of each of their two clutch games.
  • Lillard’s go-ahead 3 on Friday came on a handoff from Giannis Antetokounmpo. And when you combine ball-screens and handoffs, Antetokounmpo set 18 screens for Lillard in the win, as many as he set for Lillard in the previous three games combined (including just three in the Bucks’ loss in Toronto two nights earlier), according to Second Spectrum tracking. The Bucks have scored just 102. points per 100 possessions in their 112 minutes on the floor together.
  • The Bucks rank 28th in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (63.1%), having ranked third (55.1%) last season. They do rank third in the (lowest) percentage of opponent shots (44%) that have come in the paint.

Given the Knicks’ offensive struggles, we’ll hold off on believing that the Bucks have figured things out defensively. They’ll face a couple of top-10 offenses (those of the Nets and Pacers) on the road this week, having allowed more than 130 points per 100 possessions in their only road game thus far.

Week 3: @ BKN, vs. DET, @ IND, @ ORL

Last Week:9

Record: 4-2

OffRtg: 107.3 (24) DefRtg: 110.3 (13) NetRtg: -3.0 (18) Pace: 100.8 (15)

The Pelicans got two wins without Brandon Ingram last week, including a win against Detroit without Zion Williamson (rest) as well. But with both of them back in the lineup on Saturday, the Pelicans allowed the Hawks to score 123 points on just 95 possessions, with a third of those coming on a 41-14 Atlanta run that turned a 10-point lead into a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.

Three takeaways

  • Last season, the Pelicans were 0-14 (one of nine teams without a win) in games they trailed by at least 20 points. This season, they’re 1-1, having come back from 22 down in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. After scoring just 25 points on their first 44 possessions (57 per 100), they scored 85 on their last 60 (142 per 100).
  • The Pelicans have still scored just 90.4 points per 100 possessions in 61 total minutes with Ingram, Williamson and CJ McCollum on the floor together. Only 29% of their shots (33/112) have come from 3-point range and only 46% of their field goals have been assisted in those minutes. (League average rates are 39% and 61%.)
  • A lineup that includes Ingram (two made 3s in three games), Herb Jones (6-for-21 from deep) and Jonas Valanciunas (one made 3 per game) obviously isn’t the best way to complement Williamson (who airballed his only 3-point attempt of the season) offensively. When he draws a crowd and puts the defense into rotation, the opponent isn’t too upset if it’s Jones or Valanciunas left open on the perimeter. And sometimes Williamson will force a shot in that crowd instead of passing out.

And now McCollum, the one real 3-point shooter they have in the starting lineup, is going to miss time with a pneumothorax in his right lung. Trey Murphy III, meanwhile, said on the local broadcast on Saturday that he’s “probably about three weeks out.” The Pelicans have done well to start 4-2 without him (and with both Ingram and Williamson missing games), but have been outscored by 17 points over their six games and now have more questions offensively.

After playing four of their last five games at home, they’ll begin a three-game trip with tough games in Denver and Minnesota.

Week 3: @ DEN, @ MIN, @ HOU*, vs. DAL

Last Week:8

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 108.2 (21) DefRtg: 112.1 (20) NetRtg: -3.9 (22) Pace: 99.8 (22)

The Lakers won the Monday-Wednesday, round-robin with the Magic and Clippers last week. Both games were close and Christian Wood was on the floor down the stretch both nights, sealing the overtime win over the Clippers with a tip dunk.

Three takeaways

  • The Lakers have been outscored by an amazing 39.2 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, the worst mark for any team in any quarter. They won the opening period against the Magic early last week, but have lost each of their other five first quarters by at least 12 points. Things got worse after that as they opened a four-game trip with a 19-point loss in Orlando on Saturday.
  • The Lakers have outscored their opponents by 58 points (56.3 per 100 possessions) in just 54 minutes with Wood, LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the floor together. They’ve allowed just 76 points on 114 defensive possessions (66.7 per 100) in those minutes and though that’s partially about bad 3-point shooting (8-for-38), Davis shut down two Magic drives for the lead in the final minute of the Lakers’ win on Monday.
  • Before the season, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said he wanted Davis to attempt six 3-pointers per game. Through six games, Davis has attempted seven … total. He does rank second in the league (behind only Nikola Jokic) with 17.7 points in the paint per game, though his 60.2% shooting in the paint would be his lowest mark in the last seven seasons.

Davis and James have generally looked terrific as they’ve combined to average 50.8 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 59.4%), 22.2 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 4.5 blocks per game. But they need a little more help than they’ve been getting. Austin Reaves did have a couple of huge buckets in overtime against the Clippers and scored a season-high 20 points in Orlando on Saturday.

The Lakers’ four-game trip concludes with their first In-Season Tournament game and their second meeting with the Suns. The first meeting was ugly, with both teams scoring less than a point per possession.

Week 3: @ MIA, @ HOU, @ PHX*, vs. POR

Last Week:10

Record: 3-2

OffRtg: 117.4 (4) DefRtg: 105.8 (5) NetRtg: +11.6 (3) Pace: 101.2 (12)

The Clippers have been pretty good, with three wins by a total of 68 points and two losses by a total of seven. But they weren’t good enough, so they’ve rolled the dice with a trade for James Harden.

Three takeaways

  • The Clippers have outscored their opponents by 31.8 points per 100 possessions in 143 total minutes with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the floor together. They were a plus-24 in 31 minutes together in their overtime loss to the Lakers on Wednesday.
  • Russell Westbrook’s usage rate of 21.1% would be the lowest mark of his career, while his true shooting percentage of 57.2% would be the highest.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday was just the ninth time since Kawhi Leonard left San Antonio in 2018 that he played in both games of a back-to-back. He totaled 74:28 of playing time in the two games, the most he’s played in a back-to-back since March 4, 2017.

Harden appears set to make his debut Monday night at Madison Square Garden, and the big questions will be how much of the offense he commandeers and how willing he is to play off the ball. The Clippers are the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both ball and player movement, so he’s not going necessarily throw a wrench in things. And he can make things easier for George and Leonard, who are a combined 17-for-38 (45%) on catch-and-shoot 3s this season.

Harden won’t play in Philadelphia until late March, but he’ll be back in Brooklyn on Wednesday, currently 6-0 (including a first-round sweep) against the Nets since his last ugly exit.

Week 3: @ NYK, @ BKN, @ DAL*, vs. MEM

Last Week:3

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 111.4 (13) DefRtg: 109.6 (10) NetRtg: +1.7 (10) Pace: 100.6 (16)

Devin Booker came back from a three-game absence and put up 31 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists against the Spurs on Thursday. But his return was short-lived and Booker missed both games of the Suns’ weekend back-to-back. Bradley Beal still hasn’t played, so the Suns have been without two of their three stars in five of their seven games.

Three takeaways

  • The Suns lost both of their home games to San Antonio, despite shooting better than 50% from the field both nights. Over the two games, they committed 13 more turnovers and grabbed six fewer offensive rebounds than the Spurs. The first game was lost when Durant failed to box out Victor Wembanyama and subsequently got stripped by Keldon Johnson.
  • With those two losses to the Spurs, the Suns are 1-3 in clutch games, having scored just 31 points (with seven turnovers and just one free throw attempt) on 36 clutch possessions.
  • The Suns have seen a jump in overall 3-point rate (from 36.2% to 38.1%), even though Durant has taken only 11.1% of his shots from beyond the arc. That’s his lowest rate since his second season in the league and down from 34.4% last season.

You can never have enough shooting around the stars, but Eric Gordon (36.4%) and Grayson Allen (48.5%) are the only members of the supporting cast who’ve shot the league average (35.5%) or better on at least 10 3-point attempts. Josh Okogie (four made 3s in 156 minutes) got bumped from the starting lineup in favor of Keita Bates-Diop over the weekend.

Starting Monday, the Suns are playing just three games over nine days, a helpful stretch in regard to Booker’s ankle issue.

Week 3: @ CHI, vs. LAL*, vs. OKC

Last Week:13

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 107.0 (26) DefRtg: 109.9 (11) NetRtg: -2.9 (17) Pace: 100.0 (20)

Jarrett Allen (who missed the first five games) and Darius Garland (who missed four) were back in the Cavs’ lineup for their two games over the weekend. They lost the first (in Indiana on Friday), but ended a 16-game losing streak to the Warriors on Sunday, outscoring Golden State by 34 points in the paint (tied for the biggest differential in a game this season).

Three takeaways

  • Though the Cavs have the league’s leading scorer (Donovan Mitchell at 32.5 points per game), they rank 26th offensively. After Mitchell, the four Cavs who’ve attempted the most shots have combined for an effective field goal percentage of just 45%. (The league average is 53.4%.) Those four players, of course, do not include Allen and Garland.
  • The two shooters the Cavs signed to help their offense — Max Strus and Georges Niang — have combined to shoot 22-for-81 (27.2%) from 3-point range.
  • The Cavs are one of three teams — the Thunder and Wizards are the others — that rank in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. But their win over the Warriors on Sunday came with their best rebound differential of the season, with Allen grabbing a couple of key offensive boards in the fourth quarter.

Now that the Cavs are whole (though Isaac Okoro missed the Golden State game), it seems time for them to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Alas, the win on Sunday began a stretch of five straight games against the West.

They were just 6-9 in Western Conference arenas last season and begin a four-game trip in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Week 3: @ OKC, @ GSW

Last Week:7

Record: 2-3

OffRtg: 109.9 (15) DefRtg: 110.9 (14) NetRtg: -0.9 (14) Pace: 101.0 (13)

The Kings closed out a win over the Lakers after De’Aaron Fox sprained his ankle eight days ago, but they’ve gone 0-2 without him since then. They hung with the Warriors on Wednesday until the final second, but the two losses were the Kings’ two worst offensive games (just 99.0 points scored per 100 possessions over the two) of the young season.

Three takeaways

  • The Kings’ regular starting lineup has scored 120.4 points per 100 possessions. The lineup with Davion Mitchell in Fox’s place has scored just 93.5 per 100.
  • The Kings have led four of their five games by double-digits, with their loss in Houston on Saturday (in which they trailed 32-15) being the exception.
  • In that overtime win over the Lakers, Kings coach Mike Brown was set to pull Keegan Murray out of the game for not shooting an open 3-pointer … but Murray shot and made one before the sub could enter. He’s attempted at least seven 3s in every game, but Murray was 1-for-15 from beyond the arc last week. Meanwhile, Kevin Huerter’s 5-for-25 from 3-point range is the second-worst mark among 103 players with at least that many attempts.

The Kings rank 15th in offensive efficiency, but only three teams have seen a bigger drop from last season. Fox is critical to their offensive success, but his injury is a reminder of how healthy this team was last year.

The point guard could be back on Monday, when the Kings play their second game in Houston. Then it’s back to Cali for a three-game homestand that includes what could be a great In-Season Tournament game against the Thunder on Friday

Week 3: @ HOU, vs. POR, vs. OKC*

Last Week:12

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 113.2 (10) DefRtg: 114.4 (21) NetRtg: -1.2 (15) Pace: 102.3 (5)

The Thunder are 3-0 against the Eastern Conference, but 0-3 vs. the West after losing nail-biters at home to the Pelicans and Warriors last week. They were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander against Golden State, but did have Jaylin Williams available for the first time.

Three takeaways

  • The 139 points on 105 possessions (132.4 per 100) the Thunder scored against the Warriors on Friday was both the most efficient performance (by a wide margin) for any team in a loss this season and the most efficient performance by the Sonics/Thunder in a loss in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data.
  • The Thunder are the only team to have allowed more than 130 points per 100 possessions in multiple games (at home vs. Denver and Golden State). They allowed more than 130 per 100 just six times in 82 games (only once at home) last season.
  • Chet Holmgren has an effective field goal percentage of 74.1%, the second-highest mark among 139 players with at least 50 field goal attempts. He (13-for-23) and Lu Dort (16-for-30) are two of the 10 players who’ve shot better than 50% on at least 20 3-point attempts.

Hanging with the Warriors offensively without Gilgeous-Alexander is an accomplishment, even if Dort needed to go 6-for-6 from deep (while guarding Stephen Curry on the other end of the floor) for it to happen. No. 10 pick Cason Wallace started in Gilgeous-Alexander’s place, didn’t look out of place and has made 19 (73%) of his 26 shots, including 6-of-7 on corner 3s.

The Thunder’s six-game homestand concludes with two more games against the East. There’s no indication how long Gilgeous-Alexander will be out, though the issue (left knee sprain) doesn’t seem serious.

Week 3: vs. ATL, vs. CLE, @ SAC*, @ PHX

Last Week:15

Record: 2-4

OffRtg: 103.9 (29) DefRtg: 103.7 (3) NetRtg: +0.2 (12) Pace: 99.6 (23)

The Knicks beat up the Cavs (who were without two starters) on the glass again, totaling 28 offensive rebounds and 36 second chance points in their home-and-home back-to-back last week. But they split the two games, because New York continues to be the worst shooting team in the league.

Three takeaways

  • The Knicks have averaged 10.1 more shooting opportunities per game than their opponents. That’s the league’s biggest differential by a huge margin, and it would be the biggest in NBA history.
  • Their loss to the Cavs on Wednesday was the second time that the Knicks scored less than a point per possession. That happened in just six of 82 games last season.
  • Julius Randle’s effective field goal percentage of 31.8% is the worst mark among 193 players with at least 35 field goal attempts and his worst mark for any six-game stretch in his career since April of 2016 (the last six games of his first full season).

A lack of ball movement is partially to blame for the Knicks’ offensive issues. With the ball-stopping and forcing of tough shots, it’s like this team just isn’t in the right mind set offensively.

The Knicks will face a couple of bottom-five defenses this week and it should be a fun few days at Madison Square Garden. James Harden makes his Clippers debut on Monday and Victor Wembanyama makes his only visit of the season on Wednesday.

Week 3: vs. LAC, vs. SAS, vs. CHA

Last Week:19

Orlando went 0-2 in the early-week, Clippers-Lakers-Magic round-robin in L.A., scoring just 101 points per 100 possessions over the two losses. But the Magic are otherwise 4-0 and they got some revenge by clobbering the Lakers on Saturday, when they turned 19 offensive rebounds into 36 second-chance points.

Three takeaways

  • The Magic rank seventh in offensive rebounding percentage (31.4%) and first in second-chance points per game (18.8). But their work on the offensive glass hasn’t hurt their transition defense, as they’ve allowed just 17 transition points per game, the fewest in the league.
  • Defensive improvement has come on the perimeter. The Magic lead the league in opponent turnover rate and have seen the third biggest drop in the percentage of their opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range.

Perimeter shooting remains a concern, but the Orlando defense has been terrific, especially with the starting lineup on the floor (95.1 points allowed per 100 possessions).

After hosting the Mavs (with a rest advantage) and their second-ranked offense on Monday, the Magic will finally play some games within their own conference. But they’ll begin their Eastern Conference schedule in Mexico City.

Week 3: vs. DAL, vs. ATL (Mexico City), vs. MIL

Last Week:20

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 107.8 (23) DefRtg: 107.3 (8) NetRtg: +0.5 (11) Pace: 96.9 (30)

The Raptors have had some confounding losses, but also some impressive wins, like a wire-to-wire blowout of the Bucks on Wednesday and a comeback from 22 points down in San Antonio on Sunday.

Three takeaways

  • After a disappointing second season, Scottie Barnes is looking like a Kia Most Improved Player candidate, averaging 22.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks.
  • The confidence Barnes has in his jumper is remarkable given how shaky it was last season. He’s 16-for-38 (42%) from 3-point range (up from 29% over his first two seasons), having drained a huge step-back to tie the game in the final minute of the fourth quarter on Sunday.

If this is who Barnes is going to be, the Raptors’ outlook, both short and long-term, feels different.

The Raptors have only two games this week, but they provide Anunoby’s defense with two incredible tests: Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum. The Raps will have a rest advantage in Boston on Saturday, though they’re currently 0-1 with a rest advantage having lost an ugly game to the Blazers on Monday.

Week 3: @ DAL, @ BOS

Last Week:14

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 116.5 (7) DefRtg: 119.5 (30) NetRtg: -3.1 (19) Pace: 103.3 (3)

The Pacers’ offense had two of the three most efficient games in Week 1. And then their defense allowed the most efficient game of the season thus far, with the Celtics scoring 155 points on 107 possessions on Wednesday. The overall numbers weren’t nearly as bad two nights earlier, but the Bulls beat Indy by attacking Tyrese Haliburton multiple times down the stretch.

Three takeaways

  • The Pacers lead the league in 3-point differential, having outscored their opponents by 13 points per game from beyond the arc. Against Charlotte on Saturday, that differential was 42 points (with Haliburton making as many 3s as the Hornets) … and the Pacers lost, getting outscored by 36 points in the restricted area and by 11 at the free throw line. The plus-42 differential from deep was tied for the fifth highest for a losing team in the 45 years of the 3-point line.
  • The Pacers rank fifth in ball movement (354 passes per 24 minutes of possession) and first in player movement (13.0 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession). Their assist/turnover ratio of 2.31 would be the highest in NBA history.
  • Bruce Brown has shot better on corner 3s (8-for-11, 73%) than he has in the restricted area (9-for-13, 69%).

The talent was upgraded and the offense is entertaining, but the Pacers will need to play some defense if they’re going to take a step forward. It would be one thing if the Boston game was an outlier, but allowing 50 restricted-area points to the Hornets is not a good sign.

The Charlotte loss was the start of four straight games against teams that currently rank in the bottom six defensively. The next three are the last three games of a five-game, seven-day homestand.

Week 3: vs. SAS, vs. UTA, vs. MIL, @ PHI

Last Week:22

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 115.4 (8) DefRtg: 115.6 (24) NetRtg: -0.2 (13) Pace: 100.6 (17)

The Nets won three straight games, though they were set up for more heartbreak when Ben Simmons (who probably didn’t want to get fouled) tapped a defensive rebound straight to Zach LaVine with the Nets up two in the closing seconds in Chicago on Friday. They also hung around with the undefeated Celtics for about 3 1/2 quarters in a rest-disadvantage game on Saturday.

Three takeaways

  • The Nets have been missing two starters (Cam Johnson and Nic Claxton), but have the league’s top-ranked bench. They’ve been at their best with reserves on the floor, Lonnie Walker IV has averaged 14.8 points on an effective field goal percentage of 61%, and they got 17 points (including 5-for-6 from 3-point range) from two-way player Armoni Brooks in Miami on Wednesday.
  • They’re the only team that ranks in the top sixth in both field goal percentage in the paint (59.8%, sixth) and 3-point percentage (39.4%, third).
  • Among 138 players with at least 50 field goal attempts, Royce O’Neale (81%) and Dorian Finney-Smith (73%) rank first and third in 3-point rate, having combined to take 77% of their shots from 3-point range. O’Neale was 2-for-13 from deep in the Nets’ loss to Boston on Saturday.

The Nets’ three wins have all come on the road, and two of their three losses (all except the one to the Celtics) were decided in the closing seconds. Those are decent results considering the absences of Johnson (for all six games) and Claxton (for all but one).

But the loss to Boston was the start where they’re playing seven of nine against teams that currently have winning records.

Week 3: vs. MIL, vs. LAC, @ BOS*, vs. WAS

Last Week:18

Record: 2-4

OffRtg: 107.2 (25) DefRtg: 110.9 (16) NetRtg: -3.7 (21) Pace: 100.6 (17)

The Heat got an In-Season Tournament win against the Wizards on Friday, registering the second highest effective field goal percentage (68.1%) for any team this season. But the four-game losing streak that preceded matched their longest losing streak of last season.

Three takeaways

  • Having shot 13-for-27 (48%) from beyond the arc on Friday, the Heat have seen the league’s biggest jump in 3-point percentage from last season. But they’ve seen its sixth biggest drop in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA).
  • Tyler Herro is one of five players averaging at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. His 25.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 5 apg would all be career-high marks.

The Heat were 2-4 after six games last season (and lost Game No. 7, too), and they eventually reached the NBA Finals. It’s not time to worry just yet, but their game in Atlanta on Saturday (vs. a second-tier team in the East) could tell us a lot.

After they host the Lakers on Monday, the Heat will play nine of their next 10 games on the road. They’re 0-3 away from Biscayne Bay thus far, even though they had early leads in all three games.

Week 3: vs. LAL, @ MEM, @ ATL, @ SAS

Last Week:28

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 109.2 (18) DefRtg: 116.1 (26) NetRtg: -6.9 (28) Pace: 101.6 (9)

The Spurs lost a game by 40 points, and their other five games have been within three points in the last five minutes. They got two impressive clutch wins in Phoenix last week, scoring 19 points (with nine coming from Victor Wembanyama) on just 12 clutch possessions. But they also blew a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead against Toronto on Sunday.

Three takeaways

  • With Devin Vassell suffering a groin injury on Thursday, the Spurs had an opportunity to put a point guard in their starting lineup. Instead, they went with Malaki Branham, who shot 8-for-9 against the Raptors. The loss was still the Spurs’ second worst offensive performance of the season, and they’ve scored a paltry 94.8 points per 100 possessions in 127 minutes with Jeremy Sochan on the floor without Tre Jones.
  • Opponents have shot just 16-for-62 (25.8%) when Wembanyama has been the closest defender when their expected field goal percentage on those shots would be 49.1%, according to Second Spectrum tracking. That (-23.3%) is the biggest differential (by a wide margin) among 158 players who’ve defended at least 50 shots. The Spurs still have a bottom-five defense, mostly because they’ve been so bad (123.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) in his 117 minutes off the floor.
  • Wembanyama has got some savvy offensively. Note how he nudged Kevin Durant under Zach Collins’ cross-screen so he could flash into open space and drain a dagger jumper in the second win in Phoenix.

The Spurs’ overall numbers are still suffering from that 40-point loss to the Clippers, and Vassell’s absence hurts. But the two wins in Phoenix (with Vassell missing the second half of the second one) show that they can compete on any given night.

The loss to Toronto on Sunday was the first half of the Spurs’ first back-to-back, and Wembanyama played a season-high 38 minutes. We’ll see if there’s any kind of maintenance program with the rookie when they play in Indiana on Monday night.

Week 3: @ IND, @ NYK, vs. MIN*, vs. MIA

Last Week:23

Record: 2-5

OffRtg: 106.2 (27) DefRtg: 115.0 (23) NetRtg: -8.8 (29) Pace: 97.4 (29)

The Bulls probably needed to get off to a good start. They have not. Five of their seven games have come against teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively, but getting buckets has been as much of an issue as getting stops.

Three takeaways

  • The Bulls have scored just 98.1 points per 100 possessions (and have been outscored by 20.8 per 100) in 150 total minutes with Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic on the floor together. This would be the third straight season in which they’ve been outscored with their three best players all on the floor.
  • Chicago has been outscored by 17.1 points per game from beyond the arc, what would be the worst 3-point differential in the 45 seasons of the 3-point line.
  • The Bulls are one of two teams — the Hornets are the other — that rank in the bottom five in both 3-point percentage (31%, 27th) and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (33.4%, 27th). They also have the league’s highest opponent 3-point rate, with 46.5% of their opponents’ shots having come from beyond the arc.

The Bulls did get a good win in Indiana on Monday, their second victory in a game they trailed after the third quarter. Coby White also had a nice game attacking the basket against Brooklyn, but it’s tough to find bright spots in the Bulls’ first two weeks.

Some winnable games are coming this week, though the Bulls have already lost to the Pistons, who will be at the United Center on Sunday.

Week 3: vs. UTA, vs. PHX, vs. DET

Last Week:24

Record: 2-5

OffRtg: 109.4 (17) DefRtg: 116.2 (27) NetRtg: -6.8 (27) Pace: 102.1 (8)

The Jazz have lost four of their last five games, with the one victory coming against the 1-6 Grizzlies. But other than that game, their opening two weeks have been a tough stretch (both in regard to rest and opponent strength).

Three takeaways

  • The Jazz have outscored their opponents by 3.9 points per game from 3-point range, and their 22 3s (on just 43 attempts) against Memphis on Wednesday were two more than they had in any game last season. Jordan Clarkson (just 7-for-30 from deep otherwise), Lauri Markkanen and Collin Sexton were all 4-for-6 from beyond the arc against the Grizzlies.
  • But the Jazz have been outscored by 11 points per game on 2-pointers (minus-5.7) and free throws (minus-5.3).
  • They’ve seen the league’s biggest jump in opponent free throw rate, with only the Pistons allowing their opponents to attempt more free throws per 100 shots from the field. Reserves Kelly Olynyk (5.7) and Kris Dunn (5.4) are both in the top 10 in fouls per 36 minutes among 250 players who’ve played at least 75 total minutes.

Games 2-6 were a stretch of five games in seven nights for the Jazz, who don’t get their first multi-day break until after their four-game trip ends with an In-Season Tournament game in Memphis on Friday.

But beginning with their visit to Chicago on Monday, they’re playing eight straight against teams that are currently at or below .500. (Of course, three of those eight are against the Suns and Lakers.)

Week 3: @ CHI, @ IND, @ MEM*

Last Week:30

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 103.8 (30) DefRtg: 109.2 (9) NetRtg: -5.4 (25) Pace: 99.0 (25)

The Blazers were less than eight minutes from a four-game winning streak (which would have matched their longest from either of the last two seasons), but amazingly missed their last 14 shots (while committing four turnovers) and allowed the Grizzlies to come back from a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit on Sunday. It’s still a pleasant surprise to see a ‘3’ in the win column for a team that looked pretty bad in Week 1 while losing a starter in the process.

Three takeaways

  • There have been seven games this season where a team lost (teams are 60-7) after holding a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Two of the seven were Grizzlies-Blazers this past weekend, with the Blazers coming back (and winning in overtime) on Friday and the Memphis returning the favor two nights later.
  • There have been three games this season where a team has attempted at least 20 more free throws than its opponent. Two of the three were Blazers advantages in wins over the Pistons (33-11) and Grizzlies (36-13) last week.
  • The team that has ranked in the bottom four defensively in each of the last three seasons currently ranks ninth on that end of the floor. Their last four games have come against Toronto, Detroit and Memphis (all bottom 10 in effective field goal percentage last season), but there are some signs of legit improvement in regard to opponent turnover rate and opponent free throw rate.

Last season, the Blazers held their opponent under a point per possession in just two of their 82 games. They did it twice (on the road) last week.

Next up is the team that had the most efficient offense in NBA history last season.

Week 3: @ SAC, @ LAL

Last Week:29

Record: 2-3

OffRtg: 108.0 (22) DefRtg: 111.6 (18) NetRtg: -3.6 (20) Pace: 97.6 (28)

After an 0-3 start, the Rockets have won two straight games. They almost lost an 18-point lead against Charlotte and did lose a 17-point lead against Sacramento, but held on both nights, getting balanced scoring from their starters.

Three takeaways

  • Dillon Brooks has an effective field goal percentage of 71.7%, fifth among 139 players with at least 50 field goal attempts. It is also the highest mark for any five-game stretch in his career. Lastly, he’s 13-for-14 from the free-throw line.
  • The Rockets, who set records (for the 19 seasons of Synergy tracking) for transition points allowed per game in each of the last two seasons (25 in 2021-22, 27.2 last season), have allowed just 17.8 per game (third fewest) this season.

Brooks’ shooting is certainly unsustainable (he hasn’t had an effective field goal percentage close to the league average since his rookie season). But that transition defense number is super encouraging, even if the Kings were without De’Aaron Fox when the Rockets beat them on Saturday.

The Rockets’ seven-game homestand continues with another game against the Kings on Monday, with Fox a possibility to return.

Week 3: vs. SAC, vs. LAL, vs. NOP*, vs. DEN

Last Week:21

Record: 2-5

OffRtg: 109.0 (19) DefRtg: 111.1 (17) NetRtg: -2.1 (16) Pace: 100.6 (19)

After putting together their first winning streak since before Thanksgiving of last year, the Pistons have lost four straight games. In the first, they had a rest-advantage. In the second, they blew an 18-point lead to the Blazers at home. And their last two losses have come against teams — New Orleans and Phoenix — that were each missing two All-Stars.

Three takeaways

  • The league has averaged 14.6 turnovers per 100 possessions. The Pistons have committed at least 16 per 100 in each of their seven games. They were up six early in the fourth quarter against Portland on Wednesday, but then went scoreless on nine straight possessions, with Cade Cunningham committing three of their six turnovers on that stretch.
  • The good news in that regard is that, even with all those turnovers, they’ve allowed just 19.1 transition points per game, the league’s sixth lowest opponent mark.
  • Last season, the Pistons had more wins against the Western Conference (9-21) than they did against the East (8-44). This season, they’re 0-3 against the West, with a visit from the Warriors (who they beat twice last season) coming on Monday.

As talented as their young guys are, the Pistons need their vets. Bojan Bogdanovic (not due to be re-evaluated for another two weeks) and Monte Morris (next week) have yet to play. Veteran Alec Burks has missed the last three games with a forearm contusion.

One of the Pistons’ two wins came against Chicago, who they’ll visit on Sunday. But before that, they’ve got to play Golden State, Milwaukee and Philly.

Week 3: vs. GSW, @ MIL, vs. PHI*, @ CHI

Last Week:27

Record: 2-4

OffRtg: 112.4 (11) DefRtg: 117.7 (28) NetRtg: -5.3 (24) Pace: 103.4 (2)

After a rough first five games (effective field goal percentage of just 36.5%), LaMelo Ball broke out in Dallas on Sunday, scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter and finishing with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. Of course, that wasn’t enough, as the Hornets couldn’t get stops down the stretch and committed a five-second inbounds violation when they had a chance to tie with eight seconds left.

Three takeaways

  • After holding the Hawks and Pistons to 104.7 points per 100 possessions in Week 1, the Hornets have allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions in each of their last four games. Only two other teams (Chicago and Utah, three times each) have allowed more than 120 per 100 more than twice this season.
  • The Hornets have outscored their opponents by 14 points in the paint per game, the league’s biggest differential by a wide margin. The differential in their win in Indiana on Saturday (in which Mark Williams had two huge buckets inside) was 34 points (74-40), tied for the biggest in any game this season.
  • They’ve taken 58% of their shots, the league’s highest rate, in the paint. They also have the league’s biggest differential between their field goal percentage in the paint (60.4%, fourth best) and their effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (43.6%, second worst).

Terry Rozier’s 8-for-31 (26%) from 3-point range is the seventh-worst mark among 103 players with at least 25 attempts, and he suffered a groin strain on Saturday. But it was a positive sign that (though he didn’t play) he was initially listed as “questionable” for the Hornets’ game in Dallas the following night.

The Hornets have a league-high five home-and-home series, with the first of those (against the Wizards) on Wednesday and Friday. The latter game (in Washington) is their first In-Season Tournament game.

Week 3: vs. WAS, @ WAS*, @ NYK

Last Week:25

Record: 1-4

OffRtg: 108.3 (20) DefRtg: 118.3 (29) NetRtg: -10.1 (30) Pace: 106.0 (1)

The Wizards’ only win was against the 1-6 Grizzlies. None of their last three games were as competitive as the final margin (an average of 11.7 points per game) would indicate.

Three takeaways

  • The Wizards are the only team that hasn’t played a clutch game, which isn’t a good thing when you’ve lost four of five. They’ve trailed by at least 25 points in all four of those defeats. (They also led the Memphis game by 25.)
  • They rank 29th defensively, even though they rank first in opponent free throw rate and second in opponent turnover rate. Their opponents have had an effective field goal percentage of 59.3%, which would be the highest opponent mark in NBA history.
  • Kyle Kuzma actually has a higher usage rate (31.1%, eighth in the league) than Jordan Poole (29.2%). Both have seen drops in assist rate from last season.

A team with lesser talent can surpass expectations by becoming a good defensive team. The Wizards have a long way to go in that regard.

The 28th and 29th-ranked defenses (those of the Hornets and Wizards) will play a home-and-home series on Wednesday and Friday, with the game in Washington counting toward the In-Season Tournament standings.

Week 3: @ PHI, @ CHA, vs. CHA*, @ BKN,

Last Week:26

Record: 1-6

OffRtg: 104.4 (28) DefRtg: 110.9 (15) NetRtg: -6.5 (26) Pace: 102.2 (6)

The Grizzlies were looking at an 0-7 start to the season until they ran off an incredible 26-2 run to close their game in Portland on Sunday night and get off the schneid. They’re undefeated with Bismack Biyombo in the starting (and closing) lineup.

Three takeaways

  • The Blazers scored just 45 points on 56 possessions (80 per 100) with Biyombo on the floor on Sunday. They scored 55 on 44 (125 per 100) with him off the floor.
  • The Grizzlies are 1-6 with a better-than-average defense. The win was the first time this season that they’ve scored more than 107 points per 100 possessions.
  • The Grizzlies have seen the league’s biggest jump in 3-point rate, but their best 3-point shooter wasn’t making his 3-point shots. Luke Kennard made twice as many 3s on Sunday (4-for-6) as he’d made in his first three games total (2-for-17).

Maybe getting win No. 1 takes some pressure off the Grizzlies. But, even with Santi Aldama making his season debut on Sunday, most of these guys are being asked to do too much. In the first game in Portland, we saw an ATO for Vince Williams Jr. and pick-and-rolls with Ziaire Williams handling the ball. A big jump in 2-point percentage (from 53% to 58%) has allowed Desmond Bane to remain somewhat efficient, despite higher usage and sub-par shooting from deep.

They have two more games on a stretch of five straight against teams that are currently under .500, and it’s a good time to be playing the Heat, who they’ll host on Wednesday. Then it’s another shot at the Jazz, who are responsible for the Grizzlies’ only wire-to-wire defeat of the six.

Week 3: vs. MIA, vs. UTA*, @ LAC