Boston’s stars are setting the tone as the Celtics’ offense continues to shine.
While things remain a little muddled at the top of the league, all is clear at the bottom.
The bottom seven teams in last week’s rankings went 2-20 last week, with the only wins (Memphis over San Antonio and Utah over Portland) coming within the group. As we enter Week 5, the Pistons (11), Spurs (8), Blazers (7), Wizards (5) and Hornets (4) all have losing streaks of at least four games. They’re joined by the Grizzlies in the group of six teams that have yet to win four games.
Maybe one of those teams — Memphis is obviously the best candidate — will make a turnaround. But we seem to have more punching bags this season than in years past.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Oklahoma City (4-0) — The Thunder won two games in Golden State, also beating the Spurs and Blazers by a total of 79 points.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Golden State (0-3) — On the other hand, maybe wins over the Warriors aren’t that big of a deal.
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East vs. West
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Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Sacramento (+10), Milwaukee (+5), New Orleans (+5), New York (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Golden State (-12), Houston (-7), Atlanta (-6)
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Week 5 Team to Watch
- Philadelphia — The Sixers stumbled a bit last week, but have multiple chances to pick up quality wins in the next seven days. They host the Cavs in In-Season Tournament action on Tuesday, before visiting the first and second place teams in the Western Conference. They’ll be in Minnesota on Wednesday and in Oklahoma City on Saturday.
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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 113.0 points scored per 100 possessions and 100.1 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 Twitter.
OffRtg: 118.4 (4) DefRtg: 106.5 (1) NetRtg: +11.9 (1) Pace: 98.2 (26)
The Celtics were the first team to 10 wins and the first team with multiple winning streaks of at least five games. Their current streak is at six, though things got a little crazy down the stretch in Toronto and Memphis over the weekend.
- The offense was the bigger story early in the season, but the Celtics’ defense has climbed to No. 1 in the league. They’re the only team that ranks in the top five in three of the four factors on that end of the floor: opponent effective field goal percentage, opponent free throw rate and defensive rebounding percentage.
- They’ve also had the league’s No. 1 clutch defense (48 points allowed on 55 possessions), though they were fortunate that Scottie Barnes and Santi Aldama missed open 3s in the final seconds on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Their opponents have shot 5-for-19 on clutch 3s and just 7-for-14 on clutch free throws.
- Though the Celtics were healthy, Joe Mazzulla played just eight guys in two of his team’s four games last week, using only Sam Hauser, Al Horford and Payton Pritchard off the bench. But the starters weren’t over-extended, with Jayson Tatum’s 37.7 minutes per game leading the team over the week.
You’d certainly hope for a more decisive victory in Memphis, but the Celtics have shown they can win with both offense and defense. And they began the week with double-digit wins over both New York and Philadelphia, moving into first place in the East as a result.
Jrue Holiday faces his former team for the first time on Wednesday. Two nights later, the league’s top two defenses will meet for the first time in an In-Season Tournament game in Orlando.
Week 5: @ CHA, vs. MIL, @ ORL*, vs. ATL
OffRtg: 112.4 (14) DefRtg: 107.0 (3) NetRtg: +5.3 (6) Pace: 99.3 (19)
The Wolves went 4-1 on their road trip and remain one of three teams with fewer than four losses. Their defense has taken a small step backward, but their last two games have been their second and third most efficient offensive performances of the season.
- The Wolves had played five rest-advantage games before playing with a disadvantage. And in their first rest-disadvantage game, what was the league’s No. 1 defense allowed the most efficient offensive performance for any team this season, with the Suns scoring 133 points on just 91 possessions on Wednesday.
- The Wolves have allowed 111.7 points per 100 possessions in 261 minutes with Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor together, but just 99.5 per 100 in 268 total minutes with one on the floor without the other. Naz Reid has been on the floor for 82% of those one-or-the-other minutes.
Towns hasn’t gotten lost in the Anthony Edwards ascendance. He averaged 29 points over three games last week, he’s seen a small jump in usage rate from last season, and (with Edwards having fouled out) he was the guy with the ball in his hands when the Wolves needed a bucket with 10 seconds left in New Orleans on Saturday. He came through.
The Wolves will play five of their next six games at home, where they’re currently 5-0. The first four of those home games — vs. the Knicks, Sixers, Kings and Thunder — should be great tests, with their In-Season Tournament game against Sacramento on Friday being a matchup of two 2-0 teams in West Group C.
Week 5: vs. NYK, vs. PHI, vs. SAC*, @ MEM
OffRtg: 120.1 (2) DefRtg: 111.2 (11) NetRtg: +8.9 (2) Pace: 100.3 (14)
The Sixers’ eight-game winning streak came to an end as the Pacers and Celtics both avenged losses from the previous week. Philly’s defense has taken a step backward over the last eight days, but their offense was ridiculous as they got road wins in Atlanta and Brooklyn over the weekend.
- They lost the league leader in assists per game and the Sixers have seen the league’s fourth biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions (+3.0) from last season. Among 270 players who played at least 500 minutes last season and have played at least 100 minutes this season, Tyrese Maxey (from 3.8 to 6.7) and Joel Embiid (from 4.3 to 6.6) have seen the fourth and seventh biggest jumps in assists per 36 minutes, while James Harden has seen the biggest drop.
- In each of those two losses last week, the Sixers were outscored by 21 points from 3-point range. They’ve seen the league’s biggest drop in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA), from 38.9% (12th highest) last season to just 33.6% (third lowest) this season.
- They’re still one of two teams — the Celtics are the other — that haven’t lost a game that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes. In their two losses last week, they allowed Indiana and Boston to total 24 points on 14 clutch possessions.
While all three of their losses have been close down the stretch, only one of their 10 wins (vs. Boston the previous week) was within five in the last five, and that one had just a brief dalliance with clutch time when the Celtics made a late run from 15 down with three minutes left. Their nine non-clutch wins are three more than any other team has.
This could be a big week for the Sixers, especially if Donovan Mitchell is available for their In-Season Tournament game on Tuesday. After that, they’ll visit the first-and second-place teams in the Western Conference.
Week 5: vs. CLE*, @ MIN, @ OKC
OffRtg: 116.7 (8) DefRtg: 110.3 (7) NetRtg: +6.5 (5) Pace: 97.7 (27)
The Nuggets remain undefeated (7-0) at home, though they had to make a late run to beat the Clippers in the In-Season Tournament on Tuesday. But they’ve now lost their last four road games and have slid into third place in the West with their first losing streak of the season.
- The bigger difference between the Home Nuggets and the Road Nuggets has been on offense. They’ve scored 122.2 points per 100 possessions (second best) at home, but just 110.4 (17th) on the road.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has, by far, the most distinctive home-road splits among the seven Nuggets with at least 75 total field goal attempts. After shooting 5-for-16 over the weekend, he has an effective field goal percentage of 65.1% in Denver and just 45.0% elsewhere.
- Christian Braun scored a career-high 25 points off the bench in New Orleans on Friday, but that was the second time in six days that the Nuggets lost a game in which Nikola Jokic recorded a triple-double and registered a positive plus-minus. They actually used a five-man bench unit late in the first quarter of that game.
This is not new, of course. The Nuggets had a losing record (19-22) on the road last season, with only the Grizzlies having a bigger home-road differential in regard to point differential per 100 possessions. Denver went on to win six of its nine road games in the playoffs, including all four in the final two rounds.
The schedule remains road-heavy for these last two weeks before the as-yet-unscheduled Week 7. The Pistons have lost 11 straight overall, so something has to give on Monday, when both teams will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Week 5: @ DET, @ ORL, @ HOU*, vs. SAS
OffRtg: 116.9 (7) DefRtg: 108.4 (6) NetRtg: +8.5 (3) Pace: 101.5 (7)
We’re still at the stage of the season where a couple of games can skew a team’s numbers. And the Thunder had a couple of those games last week, beating the Spurs and Blazers by a total of 79 points. They’ve won seven of their last eight, with the league’s No. 1 defense over that stretch, climbing into second place in the Western Conference.
- In between those blowouts were two wins over the Warriors over which the Thunder shot 21-for-36 (58%) from mid-range and 27-for-55 (49%) from 3-point range. Isaiah Joe was 7-for-7 from beyond the arc in the first game, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put on an iso clinic down the stretch of the second one.
- Chet Holmgren also scored a career-high 36 points on Saturday and has now shot 62% inside the arc, 46% from 3-point range and 91% from the line. His true shooting percentage of 69.7% is the highest among 138 players with at least 100 field goal attempts.
- Kenrich Williams made his season debut last week and the Thunder have appropriately outscored their opponents by 38.9 points per 100 possessions in his 63 minutes on the floor.
The Thunder didn’t get their 10th win until Game No. 23 last season. This group is different.
Their game against the Bulls on Wednesday is the end of a stretch of five straight games against teams that are currently under .500, though the Thunder obviously escorted the Warriors into that club. Their visit from the Sixers on Saturday is the start of a much tougher (and interesting) stretch: vs. Philly, at Minnesota, vs. the Lakers and at Dallas.
Week 5: vs. CHI, vs. PHI
OffRtg: 116.9 (6) DefRtg: 114.6 (21) NetRtg: +2.3 (11) Pace: 101.9 (6)
After a two-game absence, Damian Lillard has been back for four games, and the Bucks have won all four. They’ve won the last seven in which Lillard has been available, and their best win of the season may have come on Saturday, when they were at a rest disadvantage against the Mavs.
- The Bucks scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions in just two of their first nine games, but have done so in all four games of their winning streak, scoring 125.7 per 100 over the four games combined.
- Lillard’s shooting from the field has remained inconsistent, but he’s averaged 30.3 points and 10 assists (with just seven total turnovers) over the last three games.
- The Bucks’ offensive success will often come down to other guys making shots and, over the winning streak, rotation guys not named Lillard or Giannis Antetokounmpo have shot 52-for-116 (45%) from 3-point range.
Their win in Charlotte on Friday was the first time that the Bucks held their opponent under a point per possession, but after their 132-125 win over Dallas the following night, that Charlotte game seems more like an anomaly than the start of a trend for the league’s 21st-ranked defense.
The Bucks’ first meeting with the Celtics and their fourth-ranked offense will be Wednesday in Boston. The Celtics won two of the three meetings last season, with the two losses being two of the Bucks’ five worst defensive games of the year.
Week 5: @ WAS, @ BOS, vs. WAS*, vs. POR
OffRtg: 114.7 (11) DefRtg: 112.1 (14) NetRtg: +2.6 (9) Pace: 100.3 (12)
The Kings have won six straight games to climb into the top four in the Western Conference, and four of those six wins have come against teams — the Thunder, Cavs, Lakers and Mavs — who also have winning records.
- The Kings are also now 6-1 with De’Aaron Fox, who returned from a five-game absence and averaged 32.3 points over their four games last week. They’ve scored 122.1 points per 100 possessions in the seven games he’s played and just 103.8 per 100 in the five games he’s missed.
- Domantas Sabonis has seemingly enjoyed the return of his point guard, shooting 43-for-57 (75%) over these last four games. That includes a 7-for-11 mark from outside the paint.
- Even with Fox’s return, Sabonis has averaged 7.5 assists over the four games. It’s early, but he’s on pace for his third season of averaging at least 18 points, 12 rebounds and six assists per game. Only one other player — Wilt Chamberlain, two times — has done that more than once.
The offense is great when the point guard’s healthy and the defense might be legitimately improved. The Kings might be following up last season’s success with something better.
Prior to Sunday, the Kings were one of two teams (the Rockets were the other) that had yet to play a back-to-back. The second game of their first back-to-back is the first of two straight games in New Orleans. And with both teams currently 2-0 in the In-Season Tournament, the Kings’ game in Minnesota on Friday will be for first place in West Group C.
Week 5: @ NOP, @ NOP, @ MIN*
OffRtg: 114.9 (10) DefRtg: 108.3 (5) NetRtg: +6.6 (4) Pace: 96.7 (30)
The Knicks went 4-1 in their only stretch of five games in seven days this season, with the only loss coming with a rest disadvantage in Boston. They’ve won six of their last seven overall, with the league’s second-ranked offense over the last two weeks.
- Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have combined for an effective field goal percentage of 53.1% (still a little below league average) over the last seven games, up from a brutal 41.2% through the first six.
- The regular starting lineup has outscored opponents by 20.5 points per 100 possessions, the second best mark among 14 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. But it hasn’t played together in the last four games, with RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes both missing time. Donte DiVincenzo started for Grimes over the weekend and totaled 39 points, shooting 11-for-18 from 3-point range.
- The Knicks have averaged 51 points in the paint over their last six wins. Their 18 points in the paint in their loss in Boston on Monday (when they had more attempts from mid-range than in the paint) were the fewest for any team in a game this season.
The Knicks’ defense has remained in the top five, while their offense has climbed from 29th to 10th in the last two weeks. The Celtics, Nuggets and Thunder are the only other teams that currently rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor.
That improved offense will face the league’s third-ranked defense on Monday when the Knicks conclude their five-game trip in Minnesota. Then they have three days off before facing the Heat for the first time since Game 6 of the conference semis.
Week 5: @ MIN, vs. MIA*, vs. PHX
OffRtg: 120.0 (3) DefRtg: 118.2 (26) NetRtg: +1.8 (x) Pace: 102.0 (5)
Defense remains an issue for the Mavs, who allowed 124.8 points per 100 possessions as they lost three of their four games last week. The last two were against improving offenses in Milwaukee and Sacramento, but the first two were against the Pelicans and Wizards.
- The Mavs’ defense issues start inside. Their opponents have shot 64% in the paint, the league’s highest opponent mark by a huge margin. (The Blazers have the second highest at 60.6%.) Playing some zone late in the second quarter in New Orleans on Tuesday helped them trim a 19-point deficit down to 10, but things got out of hand in the second half.
- An 11-point, fourth-quarter lead in Milwaukee on Saturday turned into the Mavs’ first clutch loss of the season when they allowed the Bucks to score 17 points on 10 clutch possessions. They were previously 6-0 (the only undefeated team) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.
- The Mavs have averaged 102.0 possessions per 48 minutes, fifth in the league and up from 97.2 (28th) last season. That’s been the league’s biggest jump in pace.
The Mavs and Pacers both rank in the top five on offense, in the bottom five on defense, and in the top five in pace. Unfortunately, they’re not scheduled to play each other until after the All-Star break, and the Pacers’ In-Season Tournament success makes it unlikely that Dallas-Indy will be one of the two inter-conference games scheduled for Week 7.
Their loss to the Kings on Sunday actually began a stretch where the Mavs are playing 17 straight games within the West (as long as they get two conference games in Week 7). They can get in some practice time over the next two weeks, as they’ll have two days off before each of their next four games, with an extended stay in L.A. this week.
Week 5: @ LAL, @ LAC
OffRtg: 110.9 (20) DefRtg: 110.8 (9) NetRtg: +0.1 (18) Pace: 98.9 (22)
The Heat’s seven-game winning streak came to a surprising end in Chicago on Saturday, when the Heat had a rest advantage and led 22-1 after the first seven minutes. They had won their previous 68 games (including playoffs) that they led by at least 20 points, with the last loss having come (to Oklahoma City) in the bubble in August of 2020.
- The Heat’s win over Brooklyn on Thursday was easily their best offensive game of the season, with Jimmy Butler scoring a season-high 36 points. Butler hasn’t turned into Duncan Robinson, but he’s taken 18% of his shots from 3-point range, up from 14% over his first four seasons with the Heat (and in line with his postseason rate over those four seasons). He’s made at least one 3 in seven straight games after making one total through his first four.
- Butler is one of four Heat players who’ve shot 40% or better on at least 25 3-point attempts. The Bucks (4) and Jazz (4) are the only other teams with as many (three teams have zero).
- The Heat were outscored, 24-10, in the restricted area in Chicago on Saturday, taking only 24 (31%) of their 77 shots in the paint. Only the Blazers (-10.8) and Suns (-8.0) have been outscored by more points per game in the restricted area than the Heat (-6.6), though Miami ranks third in free throw differential (+4.8 points per game).
Tyler Herro remains out, but Eastern Conference finals hero Caleb Martin returned from a 10-game absence last week. That means the Heat are a little more whole as they continue a five-game trip that began with the loss in Chicago on Saturday.
East Group B is the only one where we could possibly have two 3-0 teams — Miami and Milwaukee — facing each other on the final day of the In-Season Tournament (next Tuesday). The Heat will have a tougher time remaining undefeated, visiting New York for their third tournament game on Friday.
Week 5: @ CHI, @ CLE, @ NYK*, @ BKN
OffRtg: 120.7 (1) DefRtg: 118.4 (27) NetRtg: +2.3 (10) Pace: 104.3 (1)
The Pacers took control of East Group A with an impressive In-Season Tournament win in Philadelphia on Tuesday when Tyrese Haliburton (7-for-12) made more 3-pointers than the Sixers (6-for-22). Obi Toppin also had a big game (27 points on 12-for-15 shooting) and Myles Turner had multiple big buckets down the stretch.
- In (at least) the last 40 years, no other player had had more than one game of at least 25 points, at least 15 assists and zero turnovers. Haliburton had two in the span of three days in Philly. He had four turnovers and just three assists in the Pacers’ loss to Orlando on Sunday, but would still have the highest assist/turnover ratio (5.12) for a player who averaged at least eight assists per game in the last 16 seasons.
- The starting lineup wasn’t the entire problem as the Pacers fell in a 40-point hole on Sunday, but they were down 14-5 before the first sub and their regular lineup has been outscored by 2.8 points per 100 possessions in its 132 minutes. (Only Detroit, Utah and Washington lineups have been worse in at least 100 minutes.)
- Though they shot just 8-for-31 from 3-point range on Sunday, the Pacers still outscored the Magic from beyond the arc. But they were a minus-11 at the free throw line, dropping their season-long free throw discrepancy to minus-6.8 points per game.
The Philly victory was impressive, but the loss to Orlando may ultimately be more important. The Pacers will play two more potentially important games this week, visiting the Hawks (who rank fourth in free throw differential) on Tuesday and hosting the Raptors the following night.
Week 5: @ ATL*, vs. TOR, vs. DET*
OffRtg: 110.4 (23) DefRtg: 112.1 (15) NetRtg: -1.8 (21) Pace: 99.8 (17)
The Lakers have won five of their last six games to climb back over .500 and into the top six in the Western Conference. Three of the five wins have come against the Blazers (x 2) and Grizzlies, but they’ve also beaten the Suns and Rockets, with LeBron James hitting the game-winning free throw against Houston on Sunday.
- Their recent success has mostly been about defense. They’ve climbed out of the bottom 10 on that end of the floor by allowing just 107.8 points per 100 possessions over their last five games.
- The Lakers are once again winning games at the free throw line, literally (like on Sunday) and statistically. They rank second in free throw rate, first (by a wide margin) in opponent free throw rate, and first in free throw differential, having outscored their opponents by 6.4 points per game at the stripe.
- While the overall offense hasn’t been good, James has been rather remarkable, registering career-best marks for effective field goal percentage (65.2%) and true shooting percentage (67.1%). And while he’s 29-for-73 (40% – the second best mark of his career) from 3-point range, this isn’t just about a hot streak from the perimeter. At the age of 38, he’s also shot 88-for-117 (75%) in the paint. That’s the best mark of his career (topping his 73% in 2013-14) and the second best mark among 128 players with at least 50 paint attempts through Sunday.
James’ value to the Lakers has never been greater. They played the Kings even in his 35 minutes on Wednesday, but were outscored by 15 in his 12:42 on the bench. For the season, they’ve 23.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (plus-7.1) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-16.7).
The Lakers can clinch a spot in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals with a win over the Jazz on Tuesday.
Week 5: vs. UTA*, vs. DAL, @ CLE
OffRtg: 115.9 (9) DefRtg: 114.2 (20) NetRtg: +1.7 (14) Pace: 98.7 (24)
Wednesday was supposed to be the debut of Phoenix’s new big three. But with Bradley Beal out for at least another three weeks with a back issue, the first time that the Suns have him, Devin Booker and Kevin Durant all in uniform will be no sooner than Game 22.
- The Suns’ win over the Wolves (who had the league’s No. 1 defense) on Wednesday was still the most efficient offensive performance (133 points on just 91 possessions) for any team this season. It’s nice when Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks and Josh Okogie combine to shoot 5-for-5 from 3-point range.
- Durant shot 26-for-37 (including 17-for-25 from outside the paint) over the Suns’ first two games last week. He cooled off a bit on Sunday, but still scored 39 points (to go along with 10 assists) on 14-for-27 shooting as they completed a two-game sweep in Utah. Ochai Agbaji and Keyonte George are good young defenders. But they’re 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4, respectively, and though they made good contests, Durant was unbothered as he drained huge 3s (from nearly the exact same spot) on Friday (over Agbaji) and Sunday (over George).
A three-game winning streak has the Suns back on the right side of .500, but the win over Minnesota was a rest-advantage game, and the Jazz are 4-9 with the league’s 28th-ranked defense. Tougher tests will come this week when the Suns play the Warriors and Knicks.
But their In-Season Tournament games against Portland and Memphis are opportunities for the Suns (1-1) to pad their point differential and make a play for the Western Conference wildcard.
Week 5: vs. POR*, vs. GSW, @ MEM*, @ NYK
OffRtg: 111.8 (18) DefRtg: 111.5 (12) NetRtg: +0.3 (16) Pace: 99.5 (18)
The Cavs have had their starting backcourt together for just six of their 13 games, and either Darius Garland or Donovan Mitchell (last two) has missed each of the last three. But they have their first winning streak of the season, which includes a victory over the Nuggets on Sunday.
- Rebounding remains an issue, and the Cavs have still been a worse-than-average defensive rebounding team in the 139 minutes when Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen have been on the floor together. But they’ve outscored their opponents by 12.4 points per 100 possessions in those 139 minutes.
- Denver had nine offensive rebounds on Sunday, but converted those into just four second chance points, both their low for the season and the fewest the Cavs have allowed. Denver shot below 50% in the paint (23-for-49) for the first time this season and the Cavs are now No. 1 in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (52.7%).
- Opponents have shot 26-for-58 (44.8%) at the rim when Allen has been there to protect it. That’s the second best mark among 47 players who’ve defended at least 50 shots at the rim, and Mobley has the ninth best mark (51.8%).
The Cavs got to play the Blazers and Pistons last week, but eight of their 13 games have come against other teams that are currently over .500. Their next three are also within that group, and they’ll be at a rest disadvantage when they host the Heat on Wednesday, the start of their longest homestand of the season (five games over nine days).
Week 5: @ PHI*, vs. MIA, vs. LAL, vs. TOR
OffRtg: 111.3 (19) DefRtg: 107.8 (4) NetRtg: +3.5 (7) Pace: 97.3 (29)
The Rockets’ played a couple of ugly games in L.A. over the weekend, combining with their opponents to score just 104.8 points per 100 possessions. Both games went down to the wire and the Rockets lost them both, getting beat by a step-back 3 from James Harden and a free throw from LeBron James. So their season has been a six-game winning streak sandwiched by five losses.
- The Rockets’ go-to action down the stretch of the two L.A. games? Alperen Sengun in the post against both Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James. The 21-year-old has shot 11-for-16 on post-ups, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
- While Sengun has seen a big jump in usage rate (from 21.1% to 26.1%), he’s also seen big jumps in effective field goal percentage and assist/turnover ratio. He’s been handling the bigger load just fine.
While all of the above is about the offense, where the Rockets have made enormous strides is on defense, allowing 10.8 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season, by far the league’s biggest drop.
Of course, only one of their 11 games has come against a team that currently ranks in the top 10 offensively. They’ll face that same top-10 offense on Friday, when they host the Nuggets in their third In-Season Tournament game. Houston won the first meeting eight days ago, one of five games in which their opponent has shot less than 30% from 3-point range.
Week 5: @ GSW, vs. MEM, vs. DEN*
OffRtg: 110.6 (21) DefRtg: 113.8 (19) NetRtg: -3.1 (22) Pace: 101.5 (8)
Entering last week, the three best teams in the West were the Mavs, Nuggets and Wolves. The Pelicans came within 10 seconds of beating all three, but couldn’t get a last-second stop after blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead to Minnesota on Saturday.
- The loss to the Wolves was the Pelicans’ first rest-disadvantage game of the season and came without Zion Williamson, who has sat out the second game of both of their back-to-backs (plus one other game). He had one of his best offensive games of the season the night before, scoring 26 points and dishing out six assists against the Nuggets, capping the performance with a huge and-one bucket down the stretch.
- Williamson made a 3-pointer on Saturday, but is still registering the worst effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage marks of his career by wide margins. It hasn’t helped that he’s 12-for-26 from the free-throw line over the last three games.
- Despite a slew of injuries, the New Orleans bench has been solid, ranking 13th through Week 4. Matt Ryan has shot 12-for-20 from 3-point range over the first four games of a six-game homestand and the Pelicans have been at their best (plus-4.8 points per 100 possessions) with him on the floor.
The Pelicans have been on a roller coaster, starting 4-1, losing five straight, and then having a strong week against the best teams in the West. CJ McCollum has now missed the last seven games.
They’ve also played a tough schedule and still have two games left on a stretch of nine straight against teams that currently have winning records. Both games are against the Kings (who’ve won six straight), and the Pelicans will have a rest advantage on Monday.
Week 5: vs. SAC, vs. SAC, @ LAC*, @ UTA
OffRtg: 109.6 (25) DefRtg: 106.5 (2) NetRtg: +3.0 (8) Pace: 100.0 (16)
The Magic’s first In-Season Tournament game came with their worst defensive performance of the season, 124 points allowed on just 95 defensive possessions in Brooklyn on Tuesday. But they’ve since won three straight games, holding their opponents (including the team with the league’s No. 1 offense) to just 101.3 per 100.
- The Magic’s half-to-half differential remains amazing. They’ve lost their last four second halves by a total of 69 points. But they had halftime leads of 17, 15 and 34 over the last three games. For the season, they’ve been an incredible 39.2 points per 100 possessions better in the first halves of games (plus-22.0 per 100, best by a wide margin) than they’ve been in second halves (minus-17.2 per 100, second worst).
- The Magic have outscored their opponents by 8.9 points per game in the restricted area, the league’s biggest differential.
- Wendell Carter Jr. has missed the last eight games, but the Magic haven’t experimented with Paolo Banchero at the five. He’s basically played all his minutes alongside Carter, Goga Bitadze or Jonathan Isaac. Isaac’s minutes have been limited, but he did play in both games of the Magic’s back-to-back last week.
The Orlando defense is legit. The Magic’s win in Indiana on Sunday was just the second time (first time at home) that the Pacers have scored less than 118 points per 100 possessions.
Only four of the Magic’s 13 games have been at home. They now begin a six-game homestand that features two games this week against offenses — those of the Nuggets and Celtics — that rank in the top eight.
Week 5: vs. TOR*, vs. DEN, vs. BOS*, vs. CHA
OffRtg: 117.0 (5) DefRtg: 115.2 (22) NetRtg: +1.8 (13) Pace: 102.4 (3)
After an impressive four-game winning streak, the Hawks have lost four of their last six to return to familiar territory (.500). The only wins in that stretch have come by a total of seven points over the Magic (in Mexico City) and Pistons (in Detroit).
- The Hawks got a win without Trae Young, going on a late run to beat Detroit on Tuesday. But Young continues to struggle with his shot, going 9-for-26 (including 2-for-10 from 3-point range) in the loss to New York and Philly. He is 50-for-54 (93%) from the line over his last five games.
- Jalen Johnson is not struggling with his shot. He has an effective field goal percentage of 75.5% over the last five games, and went 6-for-6 from 3-point range in games against Detroit and New York last week. For the season, he’s 15-for-34 (44.1%) from deep, up from 28.8% last season. That’s the fifth biggest jump among 188 players with at least 100 3-point attempts last season and at least 25 this season.
Four of the Hawks’ six losses were within five points in the last five minutes, eight of their 12 games have come against teams that currently have winning records, and they have a positive point differential for the season.
This week brings the Hawks’ first meetings with the 7-5 Pacers and the 11-2 Celtics, as well as their third and fourth back-to-backs of the season. But it also brings their first of eight rest-advantage games (down from a league-high 15 last season). That’ll be on Saturday, when they begin a five-game trip in Washington.
Week 5: vs. IND*, vs. BKN, @ WAS, @ BOS
OffRtg: 112.2 (16) DefRtg: 112.2 (16) NetRtg: -0.1 (19) Pace: 100.3 (13)
The Warriors are the only team with both a five-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak, and the latter hit six games when they blew an 18-point, second-half lead against the Thunder on Saturday.
- Andrew Wiggins made as many 3s on Saturday (5-for-8) as he’d made in the first 13 games combined (5-for-37), with three of those five coming in clutch time. Unfortunately, what looked like the game-winner was followed by an incredible shot by Chet Holmgren on the other end of the floor and the Warriors’ offense came up empty (six points on 10 possessions) in overtime.
- With Wiggins finding his shot on Saturday, Jonathan Kuminga (from 37.0% to 17.2%) has seen the biggest drop in 3-point percentage among 188 players with at least 100 attempts last season and at least 25 last season. Wiggins (from 39.6% to 22.2%), Klay Thompson (from 41.2% to 32.9%) and Chris Paul (from 37.5% to 30.2%) have seen the second, 20th and 26th biggest drops, respectively.
- The good news is that Stephen Curry only missed two games with a knee issue. But Draymond Green still has three games left on his five-game suspension for putting the Asuka lock on Rudy Gobert, and the Warriors’ issues go beyond the absences. They’ve been outscored by 4.9 points per 100 possessions in 195 minutes with both Curry and Green on the floor.
The defensive numbers are worse in those Curry-Green minutes, but the Dubs have scored just 107.7 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak, down from 115.5 through their first eight games.
The Warriors get to play the similarly-streaking Spurs on Friday, and games against Houston and Phoenix earlier in the week will be their first two rest-advantage games of the season.
Week 5: vs. HOU, @ PHX, vs. SAS*
OffRtg: 110.5 (22) DefRtg: 110.3 (8) NetRtg: +0.2 (17) Pace: 98.8 (23)
The Raptors’ first In-Season Tournament game (they were the last team to play one) was, perhaps, a moral victory. They came back from a 16-point deficit against the best team in the league, but couldn’t close the deal and are now 1-5 against the three teams — Milwaukee, Boston and Philadelphia — that finished at the top of the Eastern Conference last season.
- The Raptors had lost six straight first quarters before getting off to a much better start against the Celtics on Friday. They still fell into a 16-point hole and with that, had trailed six of their last seven games by at least that much. Then they got to play the Pistons on Sunday and got their second wire-to-wire victory of the season.
- They still won two of those six games they trailed by 16-plus. In fact, the Raptors’ win over the Wizards on Monday made them the only team with multiple wins in games they trailed by at least 20 points. They were down 23 in the third quarter and by 16 with a little more than seven minutes left, then finishing the game on a 21-1 run. They were 1-37 after trailing by 20-plus over the last three seasons and are 2-2 this season
- The offense has changed quite a bit, but the Raptors still depend heavily on transition and offensive rebounds. The percentage of their points that have come on fast breaks or second chances (28.9%) is down from a league-high 30.3% last season, but still ranks second (behind Portland). Their 27 fast break points against Detroit on Sunday were their most since opening night.
Playing the Pistons helped an offense that’s seen the league’s fourth-biggest drop in points scored per 100 possessions from last season. The defense has been improved, and it got OG Anunoby back from a three-game absence on Sunday.
The Raptors are still the only team that’s played just one In-Season Tournament game, so they’ll have three in the next nine days. Losing to the Celtics by just three will help the ‘ol point differential and make them a wildcard contender if they can beat the Magic, Bulls and Nets.
Week 5: @ ORL*, @ IND, vs. CHI*, @ CLE
OffRtg: 114.0 (12) DefRtg: 115.3 (23) NetRtg: -1.3 (20) Pace: 99.0 (21)
The Nets got a good, In-Season Tournament win against the Magic on Tuesday, with Mikal Bridges boosting their point differential with a steal and layup in the closing seconds. But their defense, despite a plethora of good defenders, remains an issue. Brooklyn allowed Miami and Philadelphia to combine for 129.3 points per 100 possessions as it fell back below .500.
- The Brooklyn defense has been solid-ish in regard to opponent shooting, rebounding and free throws. But they have the league’s lowest opponent turnover rate (11.2 per 100 possessions) by a healthy margin. Miami and Philly had just 14 total turnovers in their last two games.
- Those losses were also just the third and fourth times this season that the Nets have been outscored from 3-point range. They rank sixth in 3-point rate (43.8% of their shots have come from beyond the arc), but also have the league’s third highest opponent 3-point rate (43.7%), having had the second lowest rate (36.4%) last season.
- A lot of 3-pointers and few turnovers point to a lack of perimeter pressure. The Nets have done well to protect the paint without fouling a lot, but they now have a bottom-10 defense overall.
Maybe the Nets are the new Hawks, as they’ve been within one game of .500 after each of their last 11 games. In order to keep that streak alive, they’ll have to beat the actual Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday. They’ll have a rest advantage for that game and when they meet the Heat for the third time on Saturday night.
Week 5: @ ATL, vs. MIA, vs. CHI
OffRtg: 112.3 (15) DefRtg: 110.8 (10) NetRtg: +1.5 (15) Pace: 99.1 (20)
After an 0-5 start, the Clippers finally got their first with James Harden, and Harden drained the game-winner against the Rockets on Friday. It was an ugly game overall, but the Clippers’ new starting lineup had some much-needed offensive success.
- Terance Mann only scored a single point, but the Clippers’ new lineup (with Mann in Russell Westbrook’s place) outscored the Rockets by 20 points (scoring 43 points on 33 offensive possessions) in its 15.7 minutes on Friday. The Westbrook lineup had scored just 90 points per 100 possessions over the previous five games.
- That was also the Clippers’ first clutch win, as they were 0-5 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Kawhi Leonard (who passed the ball to Harden after being unable to shake Jabari Smith Jr.) is 5-for-21 (24%) on clutch shots, the second-worst mark among 22 players who’ve attempted at least 15.
- Harden leads the team in time of possession over his six games, but his 4.9 minutes of possession per game rank just 30th over the last two weeks and are down from his 8.6 minutes (second in the league) last season.
Friday was a little bit of a breakthrough, but the Clippers still rank 28th offensively (only the Blazers and Spurs have been worse) over the two weeks that they’ve had Harden available. Two of their six games in that stretch have been against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 defensively, and they’ll have three more games against bottom-10 defenses — those of the Spurs and Mavs — this week.
The Clippers are one of three teams — Boston and Utah are the others — with three sets of five games in seven nights this season. Their first begins with a home back-to-back (vs. New Orleans and Dallas) on Friday and Saturday.
Week 5: @ SAS, @ SAS, vs. NOP*, vs. DAL
OffRtg: 108.5 (27) DefRtg: 111.9 (13) NetRtg: -3.5 (23) Pace: 97.3 (28)
The Bulls are reportedly open for business in regard to trading Zach LaVine and pivoting from a situation where they continue to be outscored with their three best players on the floor. They got a good win on Saturday, ending the Heat’s seven-game winning streak, but that was preceded by a three-game losing streak over which they scored just 102.4 points per 100 possessions.
- The Bulls have been outscored by 13.9 points per 100 possessions (scoring an anemic 102.3 per 100) in 296 minutes with LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic on the floor together. That breaks down to minus-0.3 per 100 in 117 minutes with Alex Caruso also on the floor and minus-22.6 per 100 in 179 minutes with Caruso off the floor.
- Caruso was moved into the starting lineup over the weekend, but the Bulls got off to a brutal start against the Heat on Saturday, trailing 22-1 after seven minutes. All five starters finished in double-figures and Patrick Williams continues to struggle offensively, but it was the bench that led the comeback.
- Their loss to the Magic on Wednesday (the first game of a two-game series) was the first (and only) time this season that the Bulls committed more turnovers than their opponent. It was also one of only three times that they outscored their opponent from 3-point range.
That first Orlando game was ugly (both teams scored less than a point per possession), and the Bulls’ defense is trending in the right direction, having allowed just 103.5 per 100 over their last three games. But it’s pretty amazing how bad their offense has been given the skills of LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic.
The Bulls’ win over the Heat on Saturday was the first of (at least) four games against Miami over the course of 29 days, with the two teams set to meet again at the United Center on Monday.
Week 5: vs. MIA, @ OKC, @ TOR*, @ BKN
OffRtg: 113.9 (13) DefRtg: 118.7 (28) NetRtg: -4.8 (24) Pace: 101.9 (9)
The Jazz’s first Sunday home game in almost 23 years was a thriller, the first double-overtime game this season. But it was also their second straight three-point loss to the Suns.
- The Jazz had a bottom 10 defense last season and only three teams — the Hornets, Bucks and Wizards — have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions. While the Rockets have seemingly solved their transition defense issues, the Jazz have not, and they rank 29th in transition points allowed (24 per game) for the second straight season.
- The Jazz’s new starting lineup (with Keyonte George and Ochai Agbaji) has been outscored by 5.3 points per 100 possessions, the second-worst mark among 14 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.
Three of the Jazz’s four wins are against the Grizzlies and Blazers. They’ll play three more games against those teams (both currently 3-10) in the next two weeks.
But first (and because two of those three wins were In-Season Tournament games), they have a chance to take over first place in West Group A when they visit the Lakers on Tuesday.
Week 5: @ LAL*, @ POR, vs. NOP
OffRtg: 107.8 (28) DefRtg: 113.2 (18) NetRtg: -5.4 (25) Pace: 100.1 (15)
The Grizzlies are 0-6 at FedExForum, giving them as many home losses as they had all of last season (35-6). But that sixth one was by two points in a rest-disadvantage game against the best team in the league. They’re still hanging in there, despite suffering another critical injury (sprained ankle for Marcus Smart) last week.
- The Grizzlies have seen the league’s biggest jump in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range, from 37.2% (16th) last season to 44.6% (fifth) this season. That’s mostly about personnel (no Steven Adams or Ja Morant), but it also gives their 28th-ranked offense greater variance and a chance to beat more talented teams on occasion. The Celtics rank third in 3-point differential, but the Grizzlies outscored them by 15 points from beyond the arc on Sunday.
- Jaren Jackson Jr. scored 27 points in a win in San Antonio on Saturday, despite committing three fouls in a little more than seven first-half minutes. He didn’t commit any in the second half and his 3.9 fouls per 36 minutes this season would be a career low. (The Grizzlies still rank 27th in opponent free throw rate.)
- That game turned with an amazing, 44-14 run spanning the third and fourth quarters in which Desmond Bane scored only two of the 44 points. In Derrick Rose’s first game back from a seven-game absence, the bench provided the spark.
Santi Aldama was a part of that bench unit, and then was in the starting lineup on Sunday, when he scored a career-high 28 points, but missed the game-winning 3 after a blunder on the other end by Jrue Holiday.
The Grizzlies are the only team that doesn’t have a homestand of at least four games this season. Their first of seven three-game stands begins Friday with their last In-Season Tournament game, a visit from the Suns.
Week 5: @ HOU, vs. PHX*, vs. MIN
OffRtg: 106.9 (29) DefRtg: 119.8 (29) NetRtg: -12.9 (30) Pace: 102.2 (4)
It’s not about the results in San Antonio, but it would be nice if the results were better. The Spurs have lost nine straight games and now have three of the five worst losses (36 points or more) for any team this season.
- The other 29 teams are 163-45 (.784) in games they’ve led by double-digits, but the Spurs are 1-6 after blowing leads of 18 and 19 points against the Kings and Grizzlies last week. The last team to have a losing record over a full season in games they led by double-digits was the 2018-19 Knicks (12-16).
- The Memphis bigs went at Victor Wembanyama on Saturday (the 20 shots he defended were a season-high) and did score through him on a couple of occasions. But he also blocked eight shots, tied for the most for any player in a game this season.
- Wembanyama scored 27 points against the Kings on Friday, but offensive consistency has been an issue. He shot just 4-for-15 (1-for-11 outside the restricted area) in his much-hyped matchup with Chet Holmgren earlier in the week. For the season, the No. 1 pick has shot 75% in the restricted area and just 31% outside it. Those are Antetokounmpo-esque numbers, but with higher volume from the perimeter.
Last season, when they ranked 29th offensively and 30th defensively, was the first since they drafted Tim Duncan in 1997 in which the Spurs ranked in the bottom five on either end of the floor. Right now, they’re in the bottom two on both ends for the second straight season.
Having lost to the Grizzlies on Saturday, the Spurs will play three more games against teams with losing records. But those teams – the Clippers and Warriors – have a lot more (healthy) talent.
Week 5: vs. LAC, vs. LAC, @ GSW*, @ DEN
OffRtg: 103.2 (30) DefRtg: 113.0 (17) NetRtg: -9.8 (29) Pace: 98.4 (25)
The Blazers are chasing the Pistons (11 straight) and Spurs (eight straight), having lost seven straight games themselves. There have been some flashes of competence, but the last four losses have all come by double-digits, and their game against the Thunder on Sunday provided the second biggest margin of defeat for any team this season.
- It was clear from the jump that this wasn’t going to be a good team, but it’s hard to fully judge the Blazers with Malcolm Brogdon, Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons having missed five, eight and 12 games, respectively.
- Even having one of those guys available (along with current starting point guard Skyler Mays) would probably help Shaedon Sharpe, who has an effective field goal percentage of 47.4%, down from 55.1% last season. He actually has a higher effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (52.0%) than he did last season (51.1%), but his field goal percentage in the paint has dropped from 60.9% to just 42.9%, the third worst mark among 128 players with at least 100 paint attempts.
- The Blazers have scored 9.8 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average. That would be the third worst differential in the 28 seasons for which we have play-by-play data.
The defense (the one that’s ranked in the bottom five in each of the last four seasons) was in the top 10 … until the Thunder registered the highest effective field goal percentage (74.1%) for any team this season on Sunday.
The Blazers still have five games left on a stretch where they’re playing nine of 11 against teams that currently have winning records, with the lone exceptions being two games against the Jazz. The first (last Tuesday) was close until early in the fourth quarter and the second was Wednesday in Portland.
Week 5: @ PHX*, vs. UTA, @ MIL
OffRtg: 111.9 (17) DefRtg: 121.4 (30) NetRtg: -9.5 (28) Pace: 101.0 (10)
The Hornets led the Bucks by 13 points in the second quarter on Friday, but were then outscored by 58 (137-79) over their next 48 minutes of basketball, losing by 31 to Milwaukee and falling into a hole that they couldn’t climb out of against New York.
- According to Synergy tracking, the Hornets have played 40 possessions of zone defense (mostly after free throws on the other end) over their last four games, having not played any zone through their first eight (and only 65 possessions all of last season). It hasn’t really helped, as they’ve lost all four, allowing 126.8 points per 100 possessions overall.
- The Hornets rank in the bottom three in 3-point percentage for the second straight season. Their loss to the Bucks on Friday was the sixth time that they’ve shot less than 30% on at least 25 3-point attempts. That’s the most such games for any team.
- LaMelo Ball has shot 50% in the paint, not great, but up from 45% last season. He had some nifty drives and finishes against Brook Lopez’s drop coverage on Friday.
The Hornets were outscored by 48 points from 3-point range in that Milwaukee game, the worst differential for any team this season. They had positive differentials for just the second and third times this season against Miami and New York, but still lost both games.
The Hornets and Wizards split a home-and-home series earlier this month, with the road team winning both games and Charlotte taking the In-Season Tournament game. They’ll play again on Wednesday, when 13th place in the East will be on the line.
Week 5: vs. BOS, vs. WAS, @ ORL
OffRtg: 109.8 (24) DefRtg: 118.2 (25) NetRtg: -8.4 (27) Pace: 104.0 (2)
The Wizards don’t have the worst record in the league, because the Pistons have played more games. Washington has lost nine of its last 10 and, unsurprisingly, defense remains a problem.
- Last season, the Wizards were 25-1 when they held a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. This season: 2-2. They were up 16 with 7:15 to go in Toronto on Monday, and going 0-for-10 from the field wasn’t the only problem as the Raptors finished the game on a 21-1 run. The Wizards also committed five turnovers and had Kyle Kuzma in the backcourt asking for a replay as Toronto got a 5-on-4 layup. They’re the only team that hasn’t won a clutch game.
- They’ve been outscored by an amazing 25.6 points per 100 possessions in 272 total minutes with Kuzma and Jordan Poole on the floor together, but have been outscored by just 5.0 per 100 in 168 total minutes with one on the floor without the other. The bigger difference has actually been on offense.
Is it already time to start focusing on the young guys on the roster? Johnny Davis has played just 65 total minutes, but rookie Bilal Coulibaly has been a pleasant surprise, with more offensive polish than expected. He’s shot 20-for-26 (77%) in the restricted area and 9-for-17 (53%) on corner 3s.
That collapse in Toronto was at the end of the Wizards’ first back-to-back. Their second back-to-back is Friday and Saturday, when they host the Hawks a night after completing In-Season Tournament play in Milwaukee.
Week 5: vs. MIL, @ CHA, @ MIL*, vs. ATL
OffRtg: 109.3 (26) DefRtg: 115.7 (24) NetRtg: -6.4 (26) Pace: 100.7 (11)
The Pistons’ losing streak has reached 11 games, tied with their longest streak(s) from last season. Six of the 11 losses have been by single digits, but they continue to struggle in the clutch and in the margins.
- The Pistons led Atlanta by one with two minutes left on Tuesday, but then gave up an 8-0 run. Six of their games (one win and five losses) have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they’ve scored less than a point per clutch possession in all six, totaling just 27 points on 45 clutch possessions, with Cade Cunningham having shot 3-for-17.
- The Pistons’ defense ranks 10th in opponent effective field goal percentage and fifth in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (53.2%). But they’re 30th in opponent free throw rate and 29th in opponent turnover rate. They’ve committed more turnovers than their opponents in 13 of their 14 games.
- Jalen Duren has missed the last four games and, after starting Marvin Bagley in his place for the first two of those, the Pistons went to a smaller lineup over the weekend, with Isaiah Stewart at the five and Kevin Knox at the four. They’ve only been outscored by 1.6 points per 100 possessions in 348 total minutes with Stewart at the four (alongside Duren, Bagley or James Wiseman), but are a minus-12.0 per 100 in 99 minutes with Stewart on the floor without any of the other bigs.
With Killian Hayes out, Jaden Ivey also got his first start of the season on Sunday. It’s kind of amazing that Ivey, Cunningham and Ausar Thompson have played just 39 total minutes together.
The Pistons had two 11-game losing streaks last season and both came to an end with wins over the Pacers. They’ll be in Indiana on Friday, but first face the Nuggets, who they beat in Denver a few days before Thanksgiving last year.
Week 5: vs. DEN, @ IND*