Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 8: Wolves take control of No. 1 spot

Minnesota stays hot to rise to the top while the Lakers and Pacers climb into the Top 10.

Rudy Gobert, Anthony Edwards and the NBA-best Timberwolves face a daunting schedule ahead.

The Los Angeles Lakers now have one up on the Boston Celtics.

Both franchises have 17 NBA championships, but the Lakers also have an NBA Cup, having dominated the paint in the first-ever In-Season Tournament Championship.

They got to celebrate in Vegas, but there’s no time for a parade because the season is still going. And after a week in which every team but the Pacers and Lakers had just two games, it’s time to get busy. There will be 57 games over the next seven days, making this the busiest week of the season until April.

Reminder: The In-Season Tournament championship game doesn’t count toward regular season records or stats.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: L.A. Lakers (3-0) — Defense wins championships.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Denver (0-2) — Nikola Jokic missed a lot of shots.

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East vs. West

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Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: L.A. Lakers (+5), Cleveland (+4), Houston (+4)
  • Free falls of the week: Miami (-4), New York (-4), Phoenix (-4)

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Week 8 Team to Watch

  • Boston It’s a round-robin week for the Celtics, Cavs and Magic, with five games in between those three teams. Four of the five will take place at TD Garden, where the Cs are 10-0. We’ll see if they remain the only unbeaten team at home after two games against a team (Cleveland) that picked up two quality wins last week and another two against the second-place team in the East.

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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 113.8 points scored per 100 possessions and 99.9 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.

Last Week:2

Record: 17-4

OffRtg: 113.5 (17) DefRtg: 106.2 (1) NetRtg: +7.3 (2) Pace: 98.8 (21)

Anthony Edwards re-aggravated his hip injury early on Friday, but the Wolves have still won six straight games and 16 of their last 18. With the Celtics losing last week, Minnesota has the league’s best record.

Three takeaways

  • The last four wins have come against Utah, Charlotte, San Antonio and Memphis, and the Wolves trailed in the fourth quarter of two of those four games. But they also have the best record (8-2) in games played between the 19 teams that are currently over .500, having allowed just 107 points per 100 possessions over those 10 games.
  • The Wolves have allowed 7.6 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average (113.8). That would be tied with the 2019-20 Bucks for the best differential in the last 16 seasons (since the 2007-08 Celtics). They rank first in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (51.2%) and second in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (47.4%). And they’re doing that with one of their best defenders (Jaden McDaniels) having played more than five minutes in only nine of their 21 games.
  • Nine different Wolves have scored in double-figures in at least one of their three December games. Naz Reid was feeling a little saucy against the Spurs on Wednesday, taking a team-high 18 shots in 29 minutes, with the highlight being an in-and-out hesi that flummoxed Victor Wembanyama late in the first quarter.

After four straight games against bad teams, the Wolves will now play their next 16 against teams that are currently over .500. That stretch includes three of their four games against Dallas, who they’ll visit on Thursday.

Week 8: @ NOP, @ DAL, vs. IND

Last Week:1

Record: 16-5

OffRtg: 117.5 (6) DefRtg: 109.0 (3) NetRtg: +8.5 (1) Pace: 98.8 (20)

The Celtics are still undefeated at home (they’ve won 17 straight regular-season games at TD Garden going back to March), but they needed to win on the road to make it to Las Vegas, and they couldn’t get it done.

Three takeaways

  • With their In-Season Tournament quarterfinals loss in Indiana, the Celtics have dropped their last three road games and scored less efficiently than the league average in their last five. And after scoring 133 points on 99 possessions against the Knicks’ top-10 defense on Friday, they’ve scored 15.8 more points per 100 possessions at home (125.9, first) than they have on the road (110.1, 21st). That’s tied (with Houston’s defense) for the biggest home-road differential on either end of the floor.
  • Kristaps Porzingis returned from a four-game absence on Friday, reuniting what’s been the league’s best starting lineup. The Celtics have outscored their opponents by an amazing 27.5 points per 100 possessions in 202 total minutes with their when-healthy starting lineup on the floor, but their other five lineups with five of their top six guys (the starters and Al Horford) have been outscored by 1.3 per 100 in 161 total minutes.
  • By the numbers, the Celtics’ three December games have been their three worst defensive games of the season, with the Sixers, Pacers and Knicks combining to score more than 120 points per 100 possessions. But they won two of the three games, and those are the league’s second, first and 11th-ranked offenses that they were defending.

The Celtics won’t play another top-10 offense (as the rankings currently stand) this month, and their win over the Knicks on Friday was the start of a five-game homestand. But the Cavs arrive for two games with a 7-3 road record and they’ll be followed by the second-place Magic, who beat the Celtics in Orlando less than three weeks ago.

The second game against Cleveland (Thursday) is the start of the Celtics first set of five games in seven days.

Week 8: vs. CLE, vs. CLE, vs. ORL, vs. ORL

Last Week:3

Record: 14-9

OffRtg: 116.3 (9) DefRtg: 112.7 (11) NetRtg: +3.6 (8) Pace: 97.9 (26)

On Wednesday, the Nuggets saw the end of their eight-game winning streak against the Clippers. Two nights later, they saw the end of their 10-game winning streak (going back to Game 5 of The Finals) at home. They now have their first three-game losing streak since April.

Three takeaways

  • Jamal Murray was back for both games and the Nuggets’ starting lineup outscored LA and Houston by 15 points in its 43 total minutes last week. But Denver was outscored by 32 points in 53 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor. It was the fifth and sixth times that the Nuggets have lost a game in which they outscored their opponents with Nikola Jokic on the floor. That’s as many of those losses as they had all of last season.
  • Jokic certainly wasn’t perfect, shooting 18-for-58 (31%) over the two games, two of the nine times in his career that he’s shot worse than 35% on at least 20 field goal attempts (163 total games). The previous instance (8-for-23) was last month and also against the Clippers.
  • Jokic has had a usage rate over 40% three times, as many as he had all of last season. Two of the three were the two times he’s played against the Clips, who Denver won’t play again until April.

Having suffered their first loss at home, the champs will now play a back-to-back in Atlanta and Chicago. They’re 1-2 in Eastern Conference arenas, with the win having come in Detroit by four points.

Week 8: @ ATL, @ CHI, vs. BKN, vs. OKC

Last Week:4

Record: 14-7

OffRtg: 117.3 (8) DefRtg: 110.1 (6) NetRtg: +7.2 (3) Pace: 101.6 (6)

The league’s second-ranked 3-point shooting team had a couple of off nights (13-for-58 combined) from beyond the arc last week. But the Thunder managed to split the two games and win their season series (3-1) against the Warriors.

Three takeaways

  • The Thunder’s biggest weakness is on the glass. They rank 29th in offensive rebounding percentage and 30th in defensive rebounding percentage, and their two games last week were their two worst rebounding games of the season. But Golden State could only get 20 second chance points out of their 24 offensive boards on Friday.
  • The Warriors also committed 29 turnovers. The Thunder now lead the league in turnover differential (3.8 fewer per game than their opponents), with their two games last week coming with two of the six biggest differentials for any team this season (-12 at Houston, -18 vs. Golden State).
  • Chet Holmgren was 8-for-8 from the line on Friday, sending the game to overtime by going 3-for-3 after Draymond Green fouled him with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander over 90% for the second straight season, the Thunder have three of three of the 19 players (Jalen Williams is the third) who’ve shot 87% or better on at least 65 free throw attempts.

The Thunder are 2-3 within the top six in the West, and the only two times they’ve scored less than a point per possession this season were games against the Kings and Nuggets. They’ll visit both this week.

Week 8: vs. UTA, @ SAC, @ DEN

Last Week:5

Record: 14-7

OffRtg: 120.4 (2) DefRtg: 113.2 (15) NetRtg: +7.2 (4) Pace: 100.0 (15)

Joel Embiid returned from a two-game absence and dropped 50 in Washington on Wednesday. The Sixers won both of their games, though they faced fourth-quarter deficits against both the Wizards and the Hawks without Trae Young.

Three takeaways

  • The Sixers attempted 42 more free throws than their opponents last week. Embiid had just one fewer attempt (28) than the Wizards and Hawks combined (29) over the two games.
  • Kelly Oubre Jr. also made his return last week, and he scored eight straight points to help the Sixers take control of their game in Washington. But Nicolas Batum remained in a starting lineup that has outscored opponents by 22.0 points per 100 possessions, the second-best mark among 31 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. It’s in the top two among those lineups in both free throw rate (highest) and turnover rate (second lowest).
  • Former Sixer P.J. Tucker is the only player (who’s played at least 100 minutes) with a lower usage rate than Batum (7.5%), but the current Sixer has shot 21-for-38 (55%) from 3-point range since arriving in the James Harden trade. The Sixers are one of two teams — Denver is the other — with three of the 21 players (Batum, Tyrese Maxey and Marcus Morris) who’ve shot 40% or better on at least 750 3-point attempts over the last four seasons.

The two wins last week began a stretch of seven straight games against teams that currently have losing records, with the Sixers one of five teams that haven’t lost to the bottom 11. They’re 8-0 against that group, with last week’s wins being the only ones that were within five points in the last five minutes.

Week 8: vs. WAS, @ DET, vs. DET, @ CHA

Last Week:6

Record: 15-7

OffRtg: 118.8 (3) DefRtg: 115.6 (22) NetRtg: +3.2 (11) Pace: 102.2 (5)

The Bucks had the most efficient offense (127.4 points scored per 100 possessions) in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the In-Season Tournament. But their defense wasn’t good enough against the Pacers on Thursday.

Three takeaways

  • The Pacers had one of their worst shooting games of the season on Thursday, but committed just 10 turnovers and turned 15 offensive rebounds in 23 second-chance points, with seven of those 23 coming on the 9-2 run that put the game away in the closing minutes. The Bucks have seen the league’s fifth-biggest drop in defensive rebounding percentage, from 74.5% (second) last season to 71.2% (15th) this season.
  • Though Khris Middleton has missed four games and averaged just 21.6 minutes, the Bucks’ starting lineup has played 182 minutes, ninth most among all lineups. It’s outscored opponents by 17.4 points per 100 possessions (second best among 13 lineups that have played at least 150 minutes) and was a plus-15 in a little less than 19 minutes on Thursday. But the Bucks were outscored by 24 points in a little more than 29 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor.
  • We saw some zone from the Bucks in the fourth quarter on Thursday. According to Synergy tracking, they’ve played 97 possessions of zone this season, third-most in the league and almost three times as many as they played last season (33). (They played a lot more – 390 possessions – two seasons ago.)

When the schedule was released in August, the six-game homestand that starts Monday looked like one of the easiest stretches of schedule for any team. But half of the games are against three of the league’s most improved teams, with the Pacers and Rockets in town this week and the homestand (the Bucks’ longest of the season) concluding with a visit from the Magic.

Week 8: vs. CHI, vs. IND, vs. DET, vs. HOU

Last Week:12

Record: 14-9

OffRtg: 111.4 (22) DefRtg: 110.3 (7) NetRtg: +1.1 (15) Pace: 100.6 (9)

The Lakers’ seven In-Season Tournament games weren’t the toughest slate of games in regard to the strength of the opponents. But they did beat three good teams on the way to the NBA Cup, and they’ve certainly found a formula for continued success.

Three takeaways

  • The Lakers can be a great defensive team. On Saturday, they kept Tyrese Haliburton in check and held the Pacers to just 109 points on 106 possessions (102.8 per 100), what would have been their third least-efficient performance of the season thus far. That came two nights after the Pelicans had the third least efficient performance for any team this season (89 on 103).
  • It’s also clear that they can dominate their opponents inside. Over their three Tournament games last week, the Lakers outscored their opponents by 64 points in the restricted area (156-102) and on free throws (70-60). Those opponents combined to shoot just 50.4% in the paint.
  • The Lakers beat the Pacers by 14, despite shooting 2-for-13 (15%) from 3-point range. The last time a team won a game (regular season or playoffs) with fewer than three 3-pointers was Feb. 3, 2020.

The question is if the Lakers can remain healthy and engaged, and maybe make a few 3-pointers once in a while.

They’ll play six of their next seven games on the road, though they’ll have a rest advantage (just their second of the season) when they visit the Mavs on Tuesday.

Week 8: @ DAL, @ SAS, vs. SAS

Last Week:7

Record: 15-7

OffRtg: 113.9 (16) DefRtg: 108.9 (2) NetRtg: +4.9 (5) Pace: 100.6 (11)

The Magic have played the fewest games (6) within the top nine in the Eastern Conference, and they’ve lost the last two of those games, with their loss in Cleveland on Wednesday (despite a career-high 42 points from Paolo Banchero) being their first wire-to-wire defeat of the season.

Three takeaways

  • The Magic shot 2-for-23 from beyond the arc on Wednesday, which was the worst 3-point shooting game for any team in more than two years (since Oct. of 2021). Cole Anthony had a wide-open transition look that would have cut Cleveland’s lead (which was once 23) to five with a little less than seven minutes left. But it was short and the Magic never made things interesting in what was one of the biggest non-Tournament games of the week.
  • The 3-point shooting killed them on a night the Magic outscored the Cavs by 26 points in the restricted area (56-42) and at the free-throw line (27-15). They clobbered the Pistons inside two nights later and lead the league in restricted-area differential (plus-11.3 points per game).
  • The Magic’s second-ranked defense has seen a little slippage. Their five games before their win over the Pistons (in which Detroit shot 6-for-30 from 3-point range) was their worst five-game stretch of defense this season (119.1 points allowed per 100 possessions), even though three of those games came against bottom-10 offenses.

The Magic are still in second place in the East, having a head-to-head advantage (1-0) over the similarly 15-7 Bucks. They’re also 1-0 against the first-place Celtics, who they’ll play twice this week. First, they’ll get another shot at the Cavs.

Week 8: vs. CLE, @ BOS, @ BOS

Last Week:8

Record: 12-8

OffRtg: 114.5 (12) DefRtg: 114.8 (20) NetRtg: -0.3 (19) Pace: 100.6 (10)

The Pelicans remain the kryptonite. Having beat Phoenix on Friday, the Kings are 8-0 against the other 15 teams that are at least two games over .500. But they’re 0-3 against New Orleans after losing (at home) in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals last week.

Three takeaways

  • The Kings began December with a great second quarter against Denver. But they remain the league’s second-worst second-quarter team, having been outscored by 13.9 points per 100 possessions in the 12 minutes before halftime. On Monday, it was a 26-5 Pelicans run spanning the first and second quarters that turned a 15-point lead into a six-point deficit. Four nights later, the Kings had to recover from a 33-26 second period in favor of the Suns and an 11-point deficit early in the third.
  • They did that by outscoring Phoenix by 26 points (36-10) over the next 12 minutes. The last three of those 36 points were the first three of De’Aaron Fox’s 23-point fourth quarter. In the 27 previous seasons for which we have by-quarter data, the highest scoring average in fourth quarters was Kyrie Irving’s 9.5 points per game last season. But with an outburst on Friday, Fox is now averaging 10.9 in the fourth.
  • Perhaps inspired by the competition, the Kings attempted 10 mid-range shots (five more than Phoenix!) for just the fourth time on Friday. They still have the league’s highest ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts (5.6/1).

The Kings are 0-2 in the second game of back-to-backs, with the second of those losses (a 14-point defeat in which the Kings lost the second quarter by 14) having come to the Clippers 12 days ago. Both the Kings and the Clippers will be playing the second game of a back-to-back on Tuesday in L.A.

Week 8: vs. BKN, @ LAC, vs. OKC, vs. UTA

Last Week:13

Record: 12-8

OffRtg: 123.5 (1) DefRtg: 119.8 (28) NetRtg: +3.8 (7) Pace: 104.1 (1)

The Pacers lost the In-Season Tournament finale, but they were 6-0 in the Tournament games that counted toward the regular-season standings, beating the two Eastern Conference favorites (Boston and Milwaukee) to get to the championship game.

Three takeaways

  • The Pacers beat the Celtics from 3-point range (57-36) and beat the Bucks in the paint (74-60), which is pretty amazing when you think about the strengths of those two teams.
  • Tyrese Haliburton totaled 28 assists and zero turnovers over the two wins, picking up his first career triple-double in the Boston game. His 12.1 assists per game would be the highest average for any player in the last 29 seasons (since John Stockton’s 12.3 in 1994-95) and his assist/turnover ratio of 5.43 would be the highest for a player who averaged at least 10 assists per game in the last 34 seasons (since Muggsy Bogues’ ratio of 5.94 in 1989-90).
  • Indiana is not so great at defending the paint. Their opponents have taken 60% of their shots in the paint, the league’s highest opponent rate by a huge margin (the next highest is 54%), and that doesn’t include the game on Saturday, when the Lakers’ 86 points in the paint would have been the most for any team in a game this season.

The Pacers remain on the road, and they’ll face the Bucks again this week. A game in Detroit on Monday offers an opportunity to ease back into the regular schedule, but also a chance for a big post-Tournament letdown.

Week 8: @ DET, @ MIL, @ WAS, @ MIN

Last Week:11

Record: 13-8

OffRtg: 118.8 (4) DefRtg: 115.7 (23) NetRtg: +3.1 (12) Pace: 100.9 (8)

The Mavs have had Maxi Kleber for just five games and they’ve been without Grant Williams for the last two. Now, Kyrie Irving is out with a heel contusion suffered when Dwight Powell landed on him on Friday. But they got to play the Jazz and Blazers last week, they picked up their first two wire-to-wire victories of the season, and they climbed from sixth to third place in the Western Conference.

Three takeaways

  • Their two wins last week were just the fourth and fifth times the Mavs have outscored their opponent in the paint. They went from 30th to 28th (minus-8.7 per game) in paint differential, with the Blazers (minus-12.0 after a 62-30 differential on Friday) now occupying that bottom spot.
  • Dante Exum replaced Williams in the starting lineup for the two games, his first two NBA starts in more than 35 months. His 23 points against Portland on Friday were his second-highest total of his career and they came with six rebounds and seven assists. His minutes have been limited, but the Mavs have been at their best (plus 15.9 per 100 possessions) with Exum on the floor. (That was also true before they beat Utah by 50 in his first start.)
  • The 50-point win over the Jazz came with a season-high 41 transition points. The Mavs have averaged 23.7 transition points per game, sixth in the league and up from 17.7 (29th) last season. That’s the league’s biggest jump, though Dallas has also seen the biggest jump in points per game allowed in transition (from 18.8 to 23.1).

Irving is out for at least the Mavs’ game in Memphis on Monday. They’re 3-1 without him this season, with one of the three wins having come (with 35, 12 and 12 from Doncic) in Memphis in Week 2.

Week 8: @ MEM, vs. LAL, vs. MIN, @ POR

Last Week:16

Record: 13-9

OffRtg: 111.2 (24) DefRtg: 110.5 (8) NetRtg: +0.6 (17) Pace: 99.6 (17)

The Cavs played two big games last week and got two big wins, holding the Magic and Heat to just 103.4 points per 100 possessions. They’ve won five of their last six to climb into the top six in the East.

Three takeaways

  • Mobley (left knee soreness) wasn’t available in Miami on Friday, but the Cavs still held an opponent under a point per possession for just the second time this season, though they were down 16 early in the second quarter. They lost their first seven games they trailed by double digits, but have since won three of their last four.
  • Even though he didn’t play in that game, the Cavs have still allowed 6.2 fewer points per 100 possessions with Mobley on the floor (106.7) than they have with him off the floor (112.9). That’s a significant differential for a starting big.

The big games continue this week, and the Cavs will be without both Mobley and Caris LeVert (who’s missed the last three games) in Orlando on Monday. They were 3-1 against the Celtics last season, with all four games within five points in the last five minutes, and their first two ’23-24 meetings are in Boston on Tuesday and Thursday.

Week 8: @ ORL, @ BOS, @ BOS, vs. ATL

Last Week:9

Record: 12-9

OffRtg: 115.5 (11) DefRtg: 111.9 (9) NetRtg: +3.6 (10) Pace: 97.1 (28)

The Knicks have been one of the best at taking care of business against bad teams. But they’re now 1-7 (with six straight losses) against teams that have a better record than they do, including 0-5 against the Celtics and Bucks.

Three takeaways

  • The Knicks entered Week 7 with the league’s third-ranked defense. They then allowed Milwaukee and Boston (with the league’s third and sixth-ranked offenses, respectively,) to score 138.8 points per 100 possessions. The two opponents combined to shoot 42-for-85 (49%) from 3-point range and over their two In-Season Tournament games in Milwaukee, the Knicks were outscored by 78 points (129-51) from beyond the arc. The differential from Tuesday (66-18) is tied for both the biggest in any game this season and the biggest discrepancy the Knicks have had in the 45 seasons of the 3-point line.
  • Some of that opponent 3-point shooting is just bad luck, but the Knicks’ “at-the-level” pick-and-roll coverage against Damian Lillard and the Bucks was just bad. It was far too easy for Milwaukee (9-for-10 on corner 3s on Tuesday) to get really good shots once Lillard got rid of the ball.
  • The Knicks’ regular starting lineup hasn’t been bad (plus-6.4 points per 100 possessions), but Quentin Grimes expressed frustration with his lack of touches and a change (Grimes out, Donte DiVincenzo in) was made on Friday. With the Celtics making their first five 3-pointers, the Knicks were in a hole early and the new lineup was outscored by 14 points over its 14.1 total minutes.

The Knicks will face the Bucks two more times this month (including their Christmas game at Madison Square Garden), but they’ll face a pair of bottom-10 offenses this week, hosting the Raptors on Monday and beginning a four-game trip out West in Utah.

Week 8: vs. TOR, @ UTA, @ PHX, @ LAC

Last Week:10

Record: 12-10

OffRtg: 116.3 (10) DefRtg: 113.9 (19) NetRtg: +2.4 (14) Pace: 97.7 (27)

The Suns fumbled away a chance at a trip to Las Vegas and they’ve lost four of their last five games overall, having scored just 110.4 points per 100 possessions over that stretch. But help may be on the way.

Three takeaways

  • There have been six games this season where a team has had at least 12 more turnovers than its opponent. Four of those six games were last week (the least-busy week of the season), and two of them were in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals, with the Suns on the wrong side of a 22-10 differential in a game they lost by three points.
  • The Lakers entered that game ranking last (by a healthy margin) in shooting opportunity differential, averaging 5.5 fewer shots from the field or trips to the line than their opponents. But with that turnover differential and a 21-8 edge in offensive rebounds, they had 29 more shooting opportunities than the Suns. Phoenix’s effective field goal percentage (57.3%) was 15.7 percentage points better than that of the Lakers (41.7%), the biggest differential for a losing team in any game in the last six seasons.
  • Their loss to the Kings on Friday (54.8% vs. 53.3%) was the Suns’ fifth in which they had a higher effective field goal percentage than their opponent. The Pistons (five) and Spurs (six) are the only other teams with as many such losses.

Bradley Beal is reportedly ready to return after missing the last 12 games. So Tuesday could be the first time that the Suns have all three of their stars in the lineup. It’s their third meeting with the Warriors (Phoenix won the first two) and Game 2 of a five-game homestand. The Suns are one of 10 teams with a better record on the road (7-4) than they have at home (5-6).

Week 8: vs. GSW, vs. BKN, vs. NYK, vs. WAS

Last Week:17

Record: 11-10

OffRtg: 113.9 (14) DefRtg: 110.0 (5) NetRtg: +3.9 (6) Pace: 98.7 (23)

The Clippers are now 8-3 since that 0-5 start with James Harden, and they’ve climbed back above .500 for the first time since they were 3-2 (right before Harden played his first game).

Three takeaways

  • The Clippers’ bench had a big night against Denver on Wednesday, when the Clips beat the champs with their starting lineup (which has been terrific otherwise) being outscored by 19 points in its 13 minutes. They came back from 15 points down and got just their fourth clutch win of the season. Norman Powell scored 17 points, registered a plus-24 and was on the floor down the stretch.
  • The LA bench still ranks just 21st for the season, and the Clippers have been 17.9 points per 100 possessions better with Paul George on the floor (plus-8.8) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-9.1). P.J. Tucker was excised from the rotation (in favor of Kobe Brown) a couple of weeks ago.
  • The Clippers rank just 17th offensively over this 8-3 stretch, but they’re third (behind only the Lakers and Wolves) on defense, having allowed just 108.2 points per 100 possessions over the 11 games. The opponents have been a pretty even mix of offenses that rank near the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the league.

The Clippers’ two longest homestands of the season are just four games long. The first begins Monday with the league’s 30th-ranked offense (that of the Blazers), which they haven’t seen since opening night. It also includes big games against two teams — Sacramento and Golden State — they’ve beaten recently.

Week 8: vs. POR, vs. SAC, vs. GSW, vs. NYK

Last Week:20

Record: 10-9

OffRtg: 112.8 (20) DefRtg: 109.7 (4) NetRtg: +3.0 (13) Pace: 97.1 (29)

Amazingly, the Rockets’ first road win was the Nuggets’ first home loss. It came just nine days after the Rockets got clobbered in the very same building and with the champs healthier (Jamal Murray played) this time.

Three takeaways

  • The Rockets are 11.1 points per 100 possessions better than they were last season (minus 8.1 per 100). That would be the third biggest season-to-season improvement in the 27 years for which we have play-by-play data, topped only by those of the 2007-08 Celtics (+14.3) and the 1997-98 Spurs (+13.2). When you take David Robinson’s absence in ’96-97 into account, those two teams each added two Hall of Famers to the teams they had the season prior.
  • The bigger improvement has been on the defensive end, and the Rockets have seen a bigger drop in opponent-effective field goal percentage in the paint than they have from the outside. Houston’s opponents have shot 54% (fourth lowest) in the paint, down from 60.4% (third highest) last season. The improvement in their transition defense (noted in this space multiple times) is a big part of that.
  • When we note the veterans that the Rockets added in the offseason, we might omit Aaron Holiday. But the sixth-year guard (who’s on a non-guaranteed contract) has seen an increased roll off the bench over the last few weeks and scored a season-high 22 points (shooting 6-for-7 from 3-point range) in the Rockets’ win over the Thunder on Wednesday. Holiday’s effective field goal percentage of 61.9% would be a career-best mark by a huge margin.

The Rockets are the only team that hasn’t played 20 games, but they’re also the only team that hasn’t yet had a rest-advantage game. The first of their five (fewest in the league) is Sunday in Milwaukee, with the Bucks hosting the Pistons 25 hours earlier. Before that, they’ll have three chances to improve on their 2-3 record against the 11 teams that currently have losing records.

Week 8: vs. SAS, vs. MEM, @ MEM, @ MIL

Last Week:14

Record: 12-11

OffRtg: 113.0 (18) DefRtg: 113.5 (16) NetRtg: -0.5 (21) Pace: 100.5 (12)

The Pelicans got another quality win in Sacramento, and are now one of three teams — the Celtics and Lakers are the others — with at least nine wins against teams that enter Week 8 with winning records. But they got clobbered by the aforementioned Lakers in Las Vegas, scoring just 89 points on 103 possessions, the third least-efficient offensive performance for any team this season.

Three takeaways

  • Early in the fourth quarter on Monday, Malik Monk lofted a pass to Domantas Sabonis, who had established early position against Trey Murphy III. At that point, Zion Williamson came in from the left wing, leaped over the 6-foot-10 Sabonis, and ripped the pass out of his hands. It was the kind of play that the quick and athletic Williamson can make when he’s engaged defensively. But he was more often immobile on that end of the floor, and the Pelicans allowed the Kings and Lakers to score 154 on 115 possessions (134 per 100) with Williamson on the floor last week.
  • The Pelicans have been pretty good defensively (109.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) in 90 minutes with Williamson at center, but have still been outscored (by three total points) in those minutes.
  • The offense in those Williamson-at-five minutes should improve with CJ McCollum and Murphy now available. Murphy seems to know how important his shooting is to the Pelicans, averaging 18.9 shots per 36 minutes, up from 11.8 last season.

The Pelicans have the potential to be a top-five team in the West, but they’re now in 10th place. They had a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead at home against the first-place Wolves a few weeks ago, but lost in the final seconds. Their second meeting is Monday (also in New Orleans), and it’s followed by a three-game trip in which the Pelicans will visit three teams with a combined record of 13-49.

Week 8: vs. MIN, @ WAS, @ CHA, @ SAS

Last Week:19

Record: 12-9

OffRtg: 117.4 (7) DefRtg: 113.8 (18) NetRtg: +3.6 (9) Pace: 99.0 (18)

After winning just six of their first 14 games, the Nets have won six of their last seven, taking advantage of a home-heavy and relatively weak stretch of schedule.

Three takeaways

  • Improvement from the first 14 games to the last seven has been about even on both ends of the floor, though the last five games have been the Nets’ best stretch of defense (108.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season. (That’s despite a loss in which they allowed Charlotte to score 129 on 96.)
  • They’ve benefitted from some bad 3-point shooting, but the biggest defensive difference between the Nets’ first 14 games (57.7%) and their last seven (49.5%) is opponent field goal percentage in the paint. They’ve also seen a big drop in opponent 3-point rate (from 44% to 37%).
  • With two in the win in Atlanta on Wednesday, Mikal Bridges now has four buckets (he’s 4-for-8) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. That’s tied with Alex Caruso (4-for-4) and Stephen Curry (4-for-9) for the league lead.

The Nets have played the league’s most home-heavy schedule to date, with 13 of their 21 games at Barclays Center. They’re 4-4 on the road (six of the eight games have been determined by seven points or less) and now begin a tough, five-game trip out West that will test their defensive improvement. The first three opponents (the Kings, Suns and Nuggets) have been a little disappointing offensively this season, but all have the potential to rank in the top five on that end of the floor.

Week 8: @ SAC, @ PHX, @ DEN, @ GSW

Last Week:15

Record: 12-10

OffRtg: 114.1 (13) DefRtg: 113.0 (13) NetRtg: +1.0 (16) Pace: 98.6 (24)

The Heat are a resilient group, but everybody’s resilience can only go so far. They’ve been without Bam Adebayo for the last three games and are now 2-4 without their starting center, having lost a big game against the Cavs on Friday.

Three takeaways

  • The Heat got off to strong starts in both of their games last week: 22-7 in Toronto and 23-12 against Cleveland. Both leads disappeared and, while they outlasted the Raptors on Wednesday, they now have six losses (they’re 11-6) in games they led by double-digits. That’s tied for second most in the league, with only the Spurs (1-9) having more.
  • Overall, the Heat have been the league’s fifth best first-quarter team, outscoring their opponents by 8.3 points per 100 possessions in the opening period. But they’ve been progressively worse with each ensuing quarter.
  • Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. continues to be one the Heat’s most reliable and consistent players. He’s scored in double-figures in nine straight games, he’s fifth in average minutes (in at least 10 games) off the bench, and he’s shot 63.5% in the paint, a mark which ranks 16th (right between Kevin Durant and Lauri Markkanen) among 106 players with at least 100 paint attempts.

Adebayo remains out for the Heat’s game in Charlotte on Monday, but that’s start of a stretch where they’re playing seven of 10 against teams that currently have losing records. They’re 8-1 against that group thus far, though the one loss came to the Bulls, who’ll be in town for two games this week.

Week 8: @ CHA, vs. CHA, vs. CHI, vs. CHI

Last Week:18

Record: 10-12

OffRtg: 113.9 (15) DefRtg: 113.6 (17) NetRtg: +0.3 (18) Pace: 100.5 (13)

The Warriors have played only three games against the other 10 teams that currently have losing records, while every other team has played at least five games against the bottom 11. But to be a good team, you’ve got to beat good teams, and the Warriors haven’t won two straight games since Nov. 1 and 3.

Three takeaways

  • Have you heard that the Warriors have a turnover problem? They committed 25 more than their two opponents last week, with their 29 in their overtime loss in Oklahoma City on Friday being the most for any team in the last two seasons. That included four in OT, when they fell into a 10-point hole.
  • With that loss to OKC, 18 of the Warriors’ 22 games have been within five points in the last five minutes. They’re 9-9 in those games (no other team has played more than 14 clutch games) and 1-3 otherwise, with their only win in a game that wasn’t close having come in October. The Blazers were without Jerami Grant and Deandre Ayton on Wednesday, and the Warriors beat them by just four points.
  • Turnovers were an issue last season, and shooting is where the Warriors’ offense has seen a big drop-off. The bigger drop-off has come in the paint, where they’ve shot just 55.3% (23rd), down from 60.4% (fourth) last season. Jonathan Kuminga scored a season-high 24 points on Friday, but was just 7-for-15 in the paint, and is one of the Warriors who’ve seen a drop.

The Warriors have three more games against teams with winning records this week, and they’re currently 1-3 against the Suns and Clippers, who they’ll visit on Tuesday and Thursday. Their schedule will get a little easier (and more home-heavy) after that.

Week 8: @ PHX, @ LAC, vs. BKN, @ POR

Last Week:21

Record: 9-12

OffRtg: 118.0 (5) DefRtg: 118.3 (26) NetRtg: -0.3 (20) Pace: 103.1 (3)

The Hawks remain confounding. They’ve lost five of their last six games, with the only win coming by two points over a team (the Spurs) that’s lost 16 straight.

Three takeaways

  • Only the Pistons and Jazz have been outscored by more points per 100 possessions over the last 15 days, but the Hawks’ last three losses (to the Bucks, Nets and Sixers) have all been within five points in the last five minutes. The issue is that they’ve scored just 16 points on 24 clutch possessions over the losing streak.
  • Trae Young is tied for third in total clutch points (61) and is 3-for-5 on shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. But he couldn’t get off a good shot at the end of the Hawks’ loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday and wasn’t available two nights later, when they shot 0-for-6 (with three turnovers) in the clutch in Philadealphia.
  • The Hawks were competitive against a good team without Young. For the season, they’ve been outscored by 1.5 points per 100 possessions with both Young and Dejounte Murray on the floor, but are a plus-2.9 per 100 (with the bigger differential on offense) with one of the two guards on the floor without the other.

The Hawks are only seven games into a stretch where they’re playing 15 of 21 on the road. They enter Week 8 just a half-game ahead of the 12th-place Raptors, who they’ll visit for a two-game series on Wednesday and Friday.

Week 8: vs. DEN, @ TOR, @ TOR, @ CLE

Last Week:23

Record: 9-14

OffRtg: 110.5 (25) DefRtg: 115.0 (21) NetRtg: -4.5 (23) Pace: 96.6 (30)

The 5-14 Bulls are now the 9-14 Bulls, with their longest winning streak of the last two seasons. They got an easy Week 7 schedule and they took advantage, using a couple of big third quarters to beat the Hornets and Spurs.

Three takeaways

  • Over their four-game winning streak, the Bulls have won the third quarter by a total score of 137-86, with Coby White (35 points, eight assists, 7-for-10 from 3-point range) leading the way offensively.
  • It’s good that they’ve been good in the third quarter, because their win in Charlotte on Wednesday was the first time in 12 games that the Bulls had a lead at the half, and they were then down by 11 at halftime in San Antonio two nights later. They remain the league’s worst first-half team, having been outscored by 12.2 points per 100 possessions over the first and second quarters.
  • The much bigger difference between the first-half Bulls and the second-half Bulls (plus-2.3 points per 100 possessions, 14th best) has been on offense, with Ayo Dosunmu (64.0% vs. 50.0%), Torrey Craig, Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic all having shot much more effectively after halftime than they have before it. The Bulls have also taken care of the ball a lot better in second halves.

If the Bulls can continue this winning streak against this week’s schedule, it’ll be time to take notice. But the streak did begin with a win over the Bucks in which they held the league’s third-ranked offense to its second least efficient performance of the season. The third of four meetings is Monday in Milwaukee.

Week 8: @ MIL, vs. DEN, @ MIA, @ MIA

Last Week:24

Record: 7-13

OffRtg: 112.9 (19) DefRtg: 120.7 (29) NetRtg: -7.8 (26) Pace: 100.0 (16)

Three of the five times the Hornets have scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions have come in these last five games without LaMelo Ball. But there have also been a couple of ugly nights on that end of the floor, and the defense hasn’t been good, to put it lightly.

Three takeaways

  • Before Friday, the Hornets were the only team that hadn’t led a game by more than 15 points. They built a 20-point lead against Toronto … and then lost it. But Terry Rozier led them to another clutch win, and they’ve won four of their last five games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having scored 71 points on 53 clutch possessions (1.34 per) over that stretch.
  • One of the biggest shots on Friday was a contested 3-pointer from rookie Brandon Miller, who’s been shooting a good ball from beyond the arc. The rookie is 24-for-45 (53%) from 3-point range over his last eight games, though he’s just 26-for-65 (40%) inside the arc over the same stretch.
  • It was expected that a healthier season from Ball would lead to offensive improvement. And indeed, the Hornets have seen the league’s third-biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions from last season. But they’ve been slightly more efficient with Ball off the floor (112.5 points scored per 100 possessions) than they’ve been with him on the floor (111.0).

The Hornets are just 3-10 against the 19 teams that currently have winning records. They’ll play 11 of their next 12 games against that group, with a home-and-home series against Miami this week. They were without Rozier, Miller and Gordon Hayward when they lost a close game to the Heat about a month ago.

Week 8: vs. MIA, @ MIA, vs. NOP, vs. PHI

Last Week:22

Record: 9-13

OffRtg: 111.3 (23) DefRtg: 113.1 (14) NetRtg: -1.8 (22) Pace: 98.8 (22)

If there’s a winning formula here, the Raptors haven’t found it yet. They’ve lost five of their last six games, with a bottom-five offense over that stretch.

Three takeaways

  • Scottie Barnes had one of the best games of his career on Friday, making shots and making plays on his way to 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, his third career triple-double. As the Raptors came back from a 20-point deficit, he was handling the ball, posting up and setting screens in the pick-and-roll.
  • One roll and kick out gave OG Anunoby (second in the league in corner 3s) an open corner 3 for the lead with 45 seconds left … but Anunoby’s shot was long. Raptors not named Barnes (3-for-6) or Precious Achiuwa (3-for-4) were 0-for-22 from 3-point range, and it was the third time that the team has shot less than 20% from beyond the arc this season. The last time they had three such games was the 2016-17 season.
  • The Raptors faced the Heat without Bam Adebayo on Wednesday, but got off to brutal starts to each half, with their starting lineup being outscored by 23 points in its 17 minutes. It’s been solid defensively for a starting group, but has still ben outscored by 3.9 points per 100 possessions, the second-worst mark among 13 lineups that have played at least 150 minutes.

The Raptors rank 23rd offensively even though they’ve played more games against bottom-10 defenses (10) than they have against top-10 offenses (7). One of the two other times they shot worse than 20% from 3 was against the Knicks’ ninth-ranked defense 10 days ago, and they’ll be at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

Week 8: @ NYK, vs. ATL, vs. ATL

Last Week:26

Record: 6-15

OffRtg: 105.5 (30) DefRtg: 112.5 (10) NetRtg: -7.0 (25) Pace: 98.5 (25)

Anfernee Simons made his return last week, having not played since tearing a ligament in his right thumb on opening night. But the Blazers were without Jerami Grant and Deandre Ayton for both of their games, also losing Malcolm Brogdon for the last game and a half. So those four guys have played a total of 3.1 minutes together through the team’s first 21 games.

Three takeaways

  • They lost both games, scoring just 106.9 points per 100 possessions against defenses (those of the Warriors and Mavs) that rank 17th and 23rd, respectively. The Blazers have scored as efficiently as the league average (113.8 points scored per 100 possessions) just twice this season.
  • The Blazers rank last in paint differential, having been outscored by 12 points in the paint per game. They’ve outscored their opponents in the paint just once in their 21 games, and the discrepancy against Dallas on Friday (62-30) was their worst of the season.
  • They still have a top-10 defense, which would be a remarkable story if they weren’t 6-15. The Blazers have been worse than the league average in three of the four factors on that end of the floor, but they lead the league in opponent turnover rate (16.9 per 100 possessions), having been below average last season. Matisse Thybulle ranks fourth with 3.5 deflections per game.

One of their two better-than-average offensive games and the only time the Blazers outscored their opponent in the paint was Nov. 22, at home against Utah. The Jazz are back in Portland on Thursday for the start of a five-game homestand, with Games 2 and 3 being a weekend back-to-back against the same two teams — Dallas and Golden State — the Blazers lost to last week. Portland is 3-1 in the second games of back-to-backs and 3-14 with rest.

Week 8: @ LAC, vs. UTA, vs. DAL, vs. GSW

Last Week:27

Record: 6-15

OffRtg: 106.8 (29) DefRtg: 112.7 (12) NetRtg: -5.9 (24) Pace: 99.0 (19)

The Grizzlies took advantage of their extra game against the Pistons, outscoring Detroit, 34-18 in the fourth quarter to improve to 5-6 on the road. But despite a career-high 49 points from Desmond Bane against a bottom-10 defense, the Grizzlies have scored less efficiently than the league average in each of their last nine games.

Three takeaways

  • Bane was 7-for-8 from mid-range in Detroit … and then 0-for-4 from mid-range in a loss to Minnesota on Friday. He’s seen a big jump in usage rate and a huge drop in the percentage of his field goals that have been assisted, but his true shooting percentage (58.6%) remains above the league average (57.6%).
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. led the team with 21 points against the league’s No. 1 defense, but shot just 4-for-10 in the paint. His 49.3% in the paint is down from 59.2% last season, with that being the fifth-biggest drop among 101 players with at least 100 attempts in the paint in each of the last two seasons.
  • The Grizzlies’ most-used lineup has played just 67 minutes and includes Marcus Smart, who’s missed the last 10 games. That’s the fewest minutes for any team’s most-used lineup, and the Grizzlies don’t have any lineup that’s played together in more than five of their 21 games.

Smart should be getting close to a return (he’s out vs. Dallas on Monday) and Ja Morant has just four games left on his suspension, but it won’t be an easy climb back to relevancy. The Grizzlies’ loss to Minnesota was the start of seven straight games against teams that currently have winning records.

Week 8: vs. DAL, @ HOU, vs. HOU

Last Week:25

Record: 7-15

OffRtg: 109.4 (26) DefRtg: 118.0 (25) NetRtg: -8.6 (27) Pace: 100.0 (14)

The Jazz have two wins against the Grizzlies, two against the Pelicans and two against the Blazers. Against everybody else, they’re 1-13, and they lost by 50 in Dallas on Wednesday.

Three takeaways

  • Keyonte George continues to start at point guard, building up his reps as the Jazz remain not-so-competitive. His effective field goal percentage of 42.5% ranks last among 162 players with at least 150 field goal attempts (Clarkson and Talen Horton-Tucker are also in the bottom seven), but he had 11 assists for the third time in the 50-point loss. The highlight was a floating lob to Omer Yurtseven after he got by Luka Doncic with a behind-the-back dribble.

Markkanen will be out again when the Jazz play in Oklahoma City on Monday. Walker Kessler was back in the starting lineup (after six games of coming off the bench) on Friday, but he’s now back on the injured list (with a sore foot). The visit to OKC is the fifth game in a stretch where the Jazz are playing six of seven against top-10 defenses.

Week 8: @ OKC, vs. NYK, @ POR, @ SAC

Last Week:28

Record: 3-18

OffRtg: 112.1 (21) DefRtg: 120.7 (30) NetRtg: -8.7 (28) Pace: 103.8 (2)

The Wizards’ only win in the last 32 days remains that losing streak vs. losing streak victory in Detroit in Week 6. They’ve since dropped four straight games, allowing almost 127 points per 100 possessions.

Three takeaways

  • Both the Wizards and Hornets have allowed 6.9 more points per 100 possessions than the league average, what would be the third-worst differential in the last 20 seasons.
  • The Wizards had a fourth-quarter lead against the Sixers on Wednesday, but couldn’t get late stops, allowing Philly to score 18 points on 11 clutch possessions. Washington remains the only team without a clutch win, now 0-7 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, ranking 29th in clutch offense and 30th in clutch defense.
  • Deni Avdija’s offense has been inconsistent, but he looks improved as a playmaker. Overall, he has seen a big jump in effective field goal percentage, from 49.7% last season to 58% this season. That’s the 17th-biggest jump among 204 players with at least 200 field goal attempts last season and at least 100 this season. Landry Shamet, who’s missed the last two games with a rib contusion, has seen the 13th-biggest jump (from 50.2% to 59.4%).

The Wizards are four games into a stretch of nine straight against teams that currently have winning records. They’re now 0-13 against that group, and they’ll face the Sixers for the third time on Monday.

Week 8: @ PHI, vs. NOP, vs. IND, @ PHX

Last Week:29

Record: 3-18

OffRtg: 107.1 (27) DefRtg: 118.9 (27) NetRtg: -11.8 (30) Pace: 102.3 (4)

By the numbers, the Spurs had their best defensive game and their third best offensive game of the season last week. They lost ’em both, and their losing streak has hit 16 games.

Three takeaways

  • More amazing than 16 straight losses is that the Spurs are now 1-9 in games they’ve led by double-digits, having blown a 13-point lead to the Bulls on Friday. In the 27 previous seasons for which we have play-by-play data, the worst record in games led by double-digits was 5-9, by the 2011-12 Bobcats, who had the worst overall record in NBA history (7-59). The Spurs and Lakers, who are 9-1, have led the same number of games by double-digits this season.
  • The Spurs changed up their starting lineup a couple of times last week, starting Victor Wembanyama at center (Zach Collins came off the bench) for the first time on Friday. But they continue to dominate the 2023-24 “Start Anybody But A Point Guard At Point Guard” Challenge. Eight different Spurs have started at least one game this season, and none of them are named Tre Jones (who started 65 of his 68 games last season).
  • For the season, Wembanyama has played 28% of his minutes at the five, with Collins, Charles Bassey and Sandro Mamukelashvili all off the floor. The Spurs have been a little better in those 171 minutes (minus-9.2 points per 100 possessions) than they’ve been in 434 minutes with Wembanyama playing alongside one of the other bigs (minus-11.6). The offense has been much better, while the defense has been worse.

One of the Spurs’ three wins came against the Rockets, a Week 1 victory in which Houston shot just 1-for-13 on shots that Wembanyama defended. Meeting No. 2 is Monday in Houston, the start of a stretch of five straight games against teams that have winning records.

Week 8: @ HOU, vs. LAL, vs. LAL, vs. NOP

Last Week:30

Record: 2-20

OffRtg: 107.1 (28) DefRtg: 117.1 (24) NetRtg: -10.0 (29) Pace: 100.9 (7)

The Pistons were given an extra home game against Memphis, they had a lead going into the fourth quarter, and … welp. They’ve now lost 19 straight games, tied for the ninth-longest single-season losing streak in NBA history.

Three takeaways

  • When the Pistons have been competitive, it’s mostly been with decent defense. They rank in the top 10 in both opponent field goal percentage in the paint (54.8%, ninth) and defensive rebounding percentage (73.0%, seventh).
  • But their last five games have been their worst stretch of offense (101.4 points scored per 100 possessions) this season. They didn’t score more than a point per possession in any quarter in Orlando on Friday.
  • The Pistons rank 29th in both turnover rate (16.9 per 100 possessions) and opponent turnover rate (11.8 per 100). They’ve committed more turnovers in 21 of their 22 games, including each of the last 15.

The Detroit defense has been at its best (111.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Jalen Duren on the floor, but the second-year center (who’s recorded three straight double-doubles) is out a couple of weeks with a sprained ankle.

The Orlando loss began a stretch of five straight games against the top five in the East. But maybe the Pacers (who will be in Detroit on Monday) will be weary after playing an extra game in Las Vegas.

Week 8: vs. IND, vs. PHI, @ PHI, @ MIL