Week 10 Power Rankings: Houston Rockets still No. 1 entering big week for Western Conference
Christmas Day is the NBA’s showcase, featuring a Finals rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, a game that might help us sort out the surprising East-West dynamic we have this season. (As noted below, the East is still on top.)
But the week leading up to Christmas is huge in regard to how things stand within the Western Conference, specifically. Right now, we appear to have nine playoff contenders in the West. The Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are once again at the top of the standings, and the third-place Spurs are three games ahead of the fourth-place Minnesota Timberwolves.
But there are just three games separating the Wolves from the ninth-place Utah Jazz, and every team from 4-9 in the West has had its ups and downs.
This week would be a good time for more ups, because from Monday to Saturday, there are 10 games to be played between the top nine teams in the West. Throw in a Christmas game between the Rockets and Thunder, and we have 11 big Western Conference games in the next eight days.
The Nuggets and Jazz will play four games against their fellow West contenders, while the Blazers will play three. The only team exempt from the action is the seventh-place New Orleans Pelicans, who are playing three games Southeast Division.
Maybe all those games will help sort out the Power Rankings, because putting teams 7-19 in order right now is proving to be difficult. We’ll try to do better next week, when we come at you on Tuesday, Dec. 26. Happy Holidays!
- Last week: Leonard returning to already-elite Spurs
- This time last year: Rockets, Jazz continue runs toward the top — The Spurs retired Tim Duncan’s No. 21, the Rockets won 10 straight games, and the Raptors led the league in offensive efficiency. Jabari Parker dunked on Robin Lopez and Larry Nance Jr. dunked on Brook. Nikola Jokic became the Nuggets’ starting center, Blake Griffin had knee surgery, Rodney Hood beat the Mavs with a last-second three, and Russell Westbrook pulled a Shammgod on his way to a career-high 22 assists.
- Plus-minus stud: DeMar DeRozan (TOR) was a plus-70 in four games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Joe Harris (BKN) was a minus-77 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Chicago (3-0) — Break up the Bulls! They’ve won five straight, with a 23-point win over the Celtics and a road win over the Bucks last week.
- Zero team of the week: Orlando (0-3) — Remember when the Magic were 8-4? Since then, they’re 3-16.
- East vs. West: The East is 99-92 (.518) against the West in interconference games after going 15-13 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Charlotte, 3. Detroit
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Houston, 2. Cleveland, 3. Boston
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
- High jumps of the week: Detroit (+6), Chicago (+5), LA Clippers (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Minnesota (-4), Oklahoma City (-4), Milwaukee (-3), Orlando (-3)
- Team to watch in Week 10: Denver — The sixth-place Nuggets have Nikola Jokic back and are in the middle of their most important stretch of the first half of the season. Their week includes games against the eighth-place Thunder, fourth-place Wolves and fifth-place Blazers. They also get a shot at the Warriors while they’re a little banged up.
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 99.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.1 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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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.
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Last Week: 1
Pace: 101.7 (8) OffRtg: 113.2 (2) DefRtg: 102.4 (8) NetRtg: +10.8 (2)
As their schedule has gotten a little tougher, the Rockets' defense has taken a small step backward and their games have gotten a little closer. But their winning streak is at 13 games and they've joined the Warriors in eclipsing the all-time marks for offensive efficiency (113.2 points scored per 100 possessions) and effective field goal percentage (56.3 percent), both set by the champs last season. You would think that Chris Paul's scoring would drop with his move to Houston and it has overall, but the 26.0 points he's averaged over the last five games is his highest scoring five-game stretch since April of 2015. His ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range shots is 2.8, up from 0.9 (which had been the highest mark of his career) last season.
Week 10: vs. UTA, vs. LAL, vs. LAC, @ OKC
Last Week: 2
Pace: 103.0 (5) OffRtg: 114.0 (1) DefRtg: 101.3 (2) NetRtg: +12.7 (1)
When you're missing three starters (as the Warriors were last week), it's nice when the other two are Kevin Durant (averaging 34 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists over the last four games) and Klay Thompson (19-for-36 from 3-point rage over the last five). It also helps when you have replacement starters - Omri Casspi (shooting 60 percent this season) and Jordan Bell (one of the league's best finishers at the rim) - that are surpassing expectations. With Shaun Livingston at point guard, the Warriors' temporary starting lineup could switch every screen, but allowed the Blazers and Mavs (two below-average offensive teams) to score 65 points in less than 27 minutes, only forcing four turnovers in that time. Still, the champs have won eight straight, have the league's best defense (by a solid margin) since Nov. 1, and are shooting better than ever. They've had an effective field goal percentage of better than 60 percent in five of their last seven games.
Week 10 + Christmas: @ LAL, vs. MEM vs. LAL, vs. DEN, vs. CLE
Last Week: 4 ↑
Pace: 99.1 (16) OffRtg: 111.5 (3) DefRtg: 107.9 (27) NetRtg: +3.6 (5)
LeBron James is on some sort of tear, recording a triple-double in four of his last five games and averaging a triple-double over his last eight. After steady improvement in November, the Cavs' defense has showed some slippage, but it hasn't mattered, because their offense has been better than that of the Warriors as they've won 18 of their last 19 games. James has yet to take a day off and still ranks second in minutes per game, but Ty Lue has been willing to go a little deeper in his rotation this season, with Cedi Osman getting regular minutes of late. Tristan Thompson returned last week and Isaiah Thomas is reportedly just a couple of weeks away.
Week 10 + Christmas: @ MIL, vs. CHI, @ GSW
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 97.5 (25) OffRtg: 105.6 (11) DefRtg: 100.7 (1) NetRtg: +4.9 (4)
Steady offensive improvement has given way to more inconsistency on that end of the floor for the Celtics. As they've alternated wins and losses over their last seven games, they've been held under a point per possession in four of the seven. Though he has shot worse from outside the paint than he did last season, Kyrie Irving is having the best shooting season of his career, because he has finished in the restricted area (67 percent) much better than he ever has (58 percent over his first six seasons). But the Celtics have scored a paltry 90 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor over these last seven games (including a loss in Chicago that he missed). Like Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier has given the Celtics good energy, but his shooting has been inconsistent.
Week 10 + Christmas: @ IND, vs. MIA, @ NYK, vs. CHI, vs. WAS
Last Week: 5
Pace: 100.3 (10) OffRtg: 110.6 (4) DefRtg: 102.2 (6) NetRtg: +8.4 (3)
The Raptors would be on a 10-game winning streak if they didn't blow a seven-point lead in the last 6:05 in L.A. on Monday. Their young bench had some issues at the end of their road trip (keeping both the Clippers game and Wednesday's game in Phoenix too close for comfort), but got a boost over the weekend with the return of Delon Wright from a month-long absence. Jonas Valanciunas has had some big games of late and has actually played in the fourth quarter in three of the last four. Though the strength of their opponents remains mediocre for the rest of the month, the Raptors do have two back-to-backs in the next 10 days, starting with games at Charlotte and Philadelphia on Wednesday and Thursday.
Week 10: @ CHA, @ PHI, vs. PHI
Last Week: 6
Pace: 96.4 (29) OffRtg: 105.1 (14) DefRtg: 101.9 (5) NetRtg: +3.2 (6)
The Spurs went 0-2 with Kawhi Leonard (on a minutes limit), because their bench had another rough night in Dallas on Tuesday and there was no stopping the Rockets on Friday. But they improved to 20-8 without Leonard with a 13-0 run to close Saturday's game against the Mavs and Manu Ginobili's second game-winner in nine days. Ginobili is registering a career-low in effective field goal percentage, but has already scored more points in the clutch (17 on 5-for-7 shooting) than he did last season (10 on 2-for-9). The Spurs have won nine straight games at home, but will spend most of the next five weeks (and play 12 of their next 17 games) on the road. They are getting Christmas off for the first time since 2012.
Week 10: vs. LAC, @ POR, @ UTA, @ SAC
Last Week: 7
Pace: 100.2 (11) OffRtg: 108.1 (6) DefRtg: 105.7 (17) NetRtg: +2.4 (8)
The Pacers know how to take care of business. With Sunday's win in Brooklyn, they remain the only undefeated team (8-0) against the league's 12 worst (those currently at least two games under .500). But their recent string of late-game success came to an end as ended their six-game homestand by losing close games to Oklahoma City and Detroit, with Thaddeus Young (a solid free throw shooter early in his career and a pretty bad one of late) missing a critical free throw in each game. After hosting the Celtics on Monday, the Pacers will play four of their next five games against those bottom 12 teams. And with little travel (just four, one-game road trips) over the next four weeks, they can really solidify their spot as a top-five team in the East.
Week 10: vs. BOS, @ ATL, vs. BKN
Last Week: 14 ↑
Pace: 98.2 (21) OffRtg: 104.4 (16) DefRtg: 104.4 (14) NetRtg: -0.1 (18)
The Pistons have recovered from a seven game losing streak (in which they scored just 95 points per 100 possessions) with a three-game winning streak (in which they've scored 109). Reggie Bullock has shot well (9-for-15 from 3-point range) in his four games as a starter and Langston Galloway has been terrific (13-for-28 from 3-point range, plus-44 in those same four games) with extended minutes off the bench. Their lineup issues still aren't resolved and they still rank as the league's second worst defensive team in the first quarter, but with Luke Kennard starting for the injured Avery Bradley, they got off to two strong starts (plus-6 and plus-9 after the first six minutes) against Indiana and Orlando over the weekend.
Week 10: @ DAL, vs. NYK
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 99.1 (14) OffRtg: 105.3 (13) DefRtg: 103.4 (10) NetRtg: +1.9 (9)
John Wall's return from a nine-game absence didn't exactly give the Washington offense a boost. They scored less than a point per possessions as they won a couple of ugly games against bad teams and lost to the Cavs again. Otto Porter is now banged up (so their regular starting lineup has still played just three minutes together since Thanksgiving), but Mike Scott is now shooting 74 percent (including 15-for-17 from mid-range) over the last seven games and the Wiz have scored 115 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor over that stretch. If they're healthy, the opportunity is there to get back on track offensively, as the Cleveland loss began a stretch where six of eight games are against bottom-10 defenses.
Week 10 + Christmas: vs. NOP, @ BKN, vs. ORL, @ BOS
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 102.2 (6) OffRtg: 107.8 (7) DefRtg: 107.7 (26) NetRtg: +0.1 (16)
Fourth quarters have been kind of important for the Pelicans of late. The winner of each of their last five games has come back from a deficit of seven or more points in the fourth. The Pels have been on the wrong side of three of those comebacks. They rank 27th defensively in the fourth quarter and 30th defensively over the last three weeks. Even over that 10-game stretch, they've allowed a reasonable 105.7 points per 100 possessions with both Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis in the game, but they've been pretty dreadful defensively with one or both off the floor. Their 68.2 percent in Monday's game in Houston was the highest effective field goal percentage for any team in a loss this season. The opposing offenses won't be as strong over the next couple of weeks, a critical stretch even though five of their next six games are against the Eastern Conference.
Week 10: @ WAS, @ ORL, @ MIA
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 97.6 (23) OffRtg: 107.3 (9) DefRtg: 106.6 (19) NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
The Bucks' three-game losing streak has been characterized by bad defense (114 points allowed per 100 possessions) and bad 3-point shooting (29 percent). They have five guys who have shot better than the league average (36.4 percent) on at least two 3-point attempts per game, and have been without three of them - Tony Snell, Matthew Dellavedova and Mirza Teletovic - for five, 15 and 18 games, respectively. Khris Middleton has gone cold from deep and their two primary ball-handlers - Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe - have shot a combined 29 percent from beyond the arc this season. The Bucks amazingly lead the league in corner 3-point percentage (48 percent) and rank 29th on above-the-break threes (32 percent).
Week 10: vs. CLE, vs. CHA, @ CHA
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 103.1 (4) OffRtg: 104.2 (17) DefRtg: 104.2 (13) NetRtg: -0.0 (17)
The Sixers have the league's highest turnover rate for the fourth time in the last five seasons (they had the second highest rate two seasons ago), and the problem is not going away. They've had at least 10 live-ball turnovers in each of their last six games, a 1-5 stretch where all six games were within five points in the last five minutes. They had four clutch-time turnovers in Friday's triple-overtime loss to Oklahoma City, with Joel Embiid accounting for three of the four. But he played almost 49 minutes in that game (and had enough in the tank to deny Russell Westbrook late in the third OT), eclipsing his career high by more than 10. He won't play on Monday in Chicago, the first game of the Sixers' fourth back-to-back of the season.
Week 10 + Christmas: @ CHI, vs. SAC, vs. TOR, @ TOR, @ NYK
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 98.2 (20) OffRtg: 108.8 (5) DefRtg: 107.6 (25) NetRtg: +1.2 (10)
Tom Thibodeau added a ninth man to his rotation last week, though Marcus Georges-Hunt played less than six minutes in a brutal loss to Phoenix (which the Wolves led by 15 points) on Saturday, the seventh game in their last eight that has been within five points in the last five minutes. They continue to confound and could be without Jimmy Butler (sore back - there's an easy joke to be made here) for Monday's game against Portland, which will be for fourth place in the West. They're 0-2 without Butler so far (both games were in October) and have been more than 16 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (plus-5.9) than off the floor (minus-10.3), with the bigger drop-off coming on defense.
Week 10 + Christmas: vs. POR, @ DEN, @ PHX, @ LAL
Last Week: 16 ↑
Pace: 99.1 (15) OffRtg: 102.7 (21) DefRtg: 101.5 (4) NetRtg: +1.2 (11)
The Blazers are simply better on the road (9-5) than they are at home (7-8), especially defensively, where they've allowed 4.9 fewer points per 100 possessions away from the Moda Center after a pair of ugly wins in Orlando and Charlotte over the weekend. Zach Collins hasn't shot very well, but has proven himself to be a solid rebounder (16 boards in 34 minutes over the weekend), and has remained in the rotation with the return of Jusuf Nurkic. After a couple of DNPs, Shabazz Napier has returned and has given the Blazers some good minutes over their three-game winning streak. They've outscored their opponents by 22 points per 100 possessions with Napier on the floor with both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum this season. That's the team's best mark among three-man units that include the two starting guards.
Week 10: @ MIN, vs. SAS, vs. DEN, @ LAL
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 99.5 (13) OffRtg: 107.5 (8) DefRtg: 107.4 (24) NetRtg: +0.2 (15)
The Nuggets survived a six-game trip without Nikola Jokic (going 2-4) and got him back in time for a stretch where they're playing six of seven games against the other five teams that sit between fourth and ninth place in the West. That stretch began with a comeback, overtime win in New Orleans on Friday, with Trey Lyles scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter and Will Barton scoring 11 in the extra five minutes. The trade that sent the No. 13 pick (Donovan Mitchell) to Utah still doesn't look too good, but Lyles has had the four highest scoring games of his career this month, has been the league's fifth best December 3-point shooter, and has seen the league's biggest increase in effective field goal percentage from last season.
Week 10: @ OKC, vs. MIN, @ POR, @ GSW
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 98.1 (22) OffRtg: 102.2 (25) DefRtg: 101.4 (3) NetRtg: +0.8 (12)
The energy the Thunder expended to get to .500 (with Friday's triple-overtime win in Philadelphia) probably hurt them as they fell back below (with Saturday's loss in New York). They're 6-3 in December, but rank 24th offensively this month, with Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook ranking 44th and 45th in effective field goal percentage among the 45 players who have taken at least 100 shots in December. Patrick Patterson showing some signs of life (10-for-17 from 3-point range and some good defensively moments over the last six games) is a positive development, especially if Anthony (who has shot better with Westbrook off the floor) ever accepts a move to the bench.
Week 10 + Christmas: vs. DEN, vs. UTA, vs. ATL, @ UTA, vs. HOU
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 97.4 (26) OffRtg: 105.4 (12) DefRtg: 102.4 (7) NetRtg: +3.1 (7)
If you include Friday's win in Boston (when he went down with another knee injury in the second minute), the Jazz are 8-5 (and have been much better offensively) without Rudy Gobert. Donovan Mitchell had another big game (26 points on 11-for-16 shooting) and they shot 17-for-34 from 3-point range in Cleveland on Saturday, but with Derrick Favors also out, they were a minus-10 and shot 8-for-28 in 15 minutes with Ekpe Udoh (the only true big remaining) off the floor. Playing four games against top-eight defenses this week could have an effect on their strong, no-Gobert offensive numbers, though they rank seventh offensively (106 points scored per 100 possessions in nine games) against the league's top-10 defenses thus far.
Week 10: @ HOU, @ OKC, vs. SAS, vs. OKC
Last Week: 18
Pace: 98.5 (19) OffRtg: 105.8 (10) DefRtg: 105.2 (15) NetRtg: +0.6 (14)
With Michael Beasley ready to get buckets when Kristaps Porzingis can't play and their bench giving them a big lift, the Knicks have won their last five games in the five boroughs and four straight overall to match their record through 29 games last season. They went from 16-13 to 16-19 (and never got back to .500) a year ago, but that 16-13 team had a negative point differential and a bottom-10 defense. This one has had one of the league's easiest schedules over the last few weeks and a tougher one going forward, but its record is more legit, its ball movement has been better, and its defense has done a better job of protecting the basket. Only two teams (Philadelphia and Oklahoma City) have seen a greater reduction in the percentage of their opponents' shots that have come from the restricted area, where the Knicks rank second in opponent field goal percentage.
Week 10 + Christmas: @ CHA, vs. BOS, @ DET, vs. PHI
Last Week: 19
Pace: 97.6 (24) OffRtg: 102.3 (24) DefRtg: 104.0 (11) NetRtg: -1.7 (20)
The Heat's injury issues got worse (Justise Winslow and James Johnson suffered leg injuries last week) before they got better (Hassan Whiteside is still out). But they've won four of their last five to climb back over .500, holding their opponents under a point per possession over that stretch. Only the Rockets have taken a greater percentage of their shots from 3-point range this season, and the Heat have improved from 19th in 3-point percentage through November (35.6 percent) to fifth in December (40.6 percent), even though Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters haven't shot particularly well. Josh Richardson (58 percent), Tyler Johnson (56 percent) and Wayne Ellington (46 percent) are three of the 25 players who have shot better than 45 percent on at least 30 3-point attempts this month.
Week 10: @ ATL, @ BOS, vs. DAL, vs. NOP
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 98.9 (17) OffRtg: 104.6 (15) DefRtg: 106.6 (20) NetRtg: -2.0 (21)
Milos Teodosic is back (and was undefeated in the NBA until Saturday) and DeAndre Jordan continues to grab a ton of rebounds (averaging 17.3 over his last nine games), but without Blake Griffin, the Clips need a lot of offense from Lou Williams. In the nine games since Griffin's injury, they're 2-0 when Williams has scored at least 30 points and 1-6 when he hasn't. They've played six of their last seven against teams with winning records and the schedule isn't doing them any favors this week. After finishing a four-game trip in San Antonio on Monday, they travel home for a single game on Wednesday, and then go back to Texas for a Friday-Saturday, road back-to-back.
Week 10: @ SAS, vs. PHX, @ HOU, @ MEM
Last Week: 21
Pace: 103.8 (3) OffRtg: 102.9 (20) DefRtg: 107.2 (22) NetRtg: -4.4 (26)
The Nets had the league's best December defense through their first five games this month, but have allowed 116 points per 100 possessions (to three top-10 offenses) as they've lost three straight. Nik Stauskas' (5-for-7 from 3-point range) Nets debut came a day late, because Thursday's loss to New York was winnable before Brooklyn missed its first 10 threes of the fourth quarter. With almost all their perimeter players going cold, they've been the league's worst 3-point shooting team since their trip to Mexico, not good when only the Rockets have attempted more of their shots from beyond the arc over that stretch.
Week 10: vs. SAC, vs. WAS, @ IND
Last Week: 20 ↓
Pace: 104.6 (1) OffRtg: 100.5 (28) DefRtg: 103.3 (9) NetRtg: -2.8 (22)
Brook Lopez's rough second quarter in Cleveland on Thursday (including two airballed free throws and a missed dunk) was the nadir of what has been a disappointing season in L.A. Lopez has made at least half his shots only once in his last 10 games, he has shot 30 percent from 3-point range, and his true shooting percentage of 53.5 percent is the worst of his career (not including the season in which he played only five games). Lopez has shown he can be a floor-spacer in modern NBA offenses, but, with free agency coming next summer, is having a down year at the wrong time. The Lakers have been a bottom-five defensive team over their last nine games and now play three straight against the league's two best offenses.
Week 10 + Christmas: vs. GSW, @ HOU, @ GSW, vs. POR, vs. MIN
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 97.2 (27) OffRtg: 101.9 (26) DefRtg: 106.0 (18) NetRtg: -4.1 (24)
More late-game struggles ruined Maxi Kleber's breakout game (21 points on 9-for-10 shooting) on Saturday. The Mavs shot 0-for-7 and had two turnovers as they blew a 12-point lead in four minutes to the Spurs. That dropped them to an unfathomable 1-15 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, with their opponents having shot 58 percent on clutch shots, including 25-for-35 (71 percent) in the restricted area. If the Mavs were 8-8 in those 16 games, they would be 15-15 overall and tied for seventh place in the West. Instead, they're 15th, with the second worst record in the league. All of Kleber's nine buckets on Saturday were off the catch and he dribbled just seven times in his 34 minutes, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
Week 10: vs. PHX, vs. DET, @ MIA, @ ATL
Last Week: 24
Pace: 101.1 (9) OffRtg: 102.4 (23) DefRtg: 104.0 (12) NetRtg: -1.6 (19)
The Hornets had a big offensive game in a much-needed road win in Oklahoma City on Monday and finally got a good shooting game from Nicolas Batum in a loss to Portland on Saturday. But they remain the league's worst offensive team (98 points scored per 100 possessions) since Thanksgiving and rank last in effective field goal percentage for the season, with the Bulls having moved up over their winning streak. The Hornets have shot worse both in and outside the paint than they did last season, and have also seen the league's biggest drop in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range, from 34 percent (eighth in the league) to 29 percent (25th). Their bench remains terrible; Their starting lineup is a plus-24 in its 60 minutes over their three-game losing streak, when they've been outscored by 44 points in 84 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor (featuring a 25-0 run by the Rockets on Wednesday).
Week 10: vs. NYK, vs. TOR, @ MIL, vs. MIL
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 98.6 (18) OffRtg: 98.3 (30) DefRtg: 107.1 (21) NetRtg: -8.8 (29)
The Bulls have won five straight games and three of the wins have come against teams with winning records. Defense had been the bigger factor in the turnaround, but they broke out out offensively against Boston and Milwaukee behind big games from best buds Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis. Mirotic has made 15 of his 30 3-point attempts, but the Bulls have taken only 25 percent of their shots from beyond the arc during the winning streak, down from 36 percent during the 10-game losing streak that preceded it. Kris Dunn's 17.2 drives per game during the streak rank fifth in the league over that time, and David Nwaba has gotten 17 of his 20 buckets in the restricted area.
Week 10: vs. PHI, vs. ORL, @ CLE, @ BOS
Last Week: 26
Pace: 96.8 (28) OffRtg: 98.5 (29) DefRtg: 109.1 (30) NetRtg: -10.7 (30)
With the Bulls healthy and improving, the Kings are close to ranking last in both offensive and defensive efficiency, something that has never been done in a full, 82-game season in a 30-team league (the '11-12 Bobcats, '92-93 Mavs and '86-87 Clippers did it in shortened seasons with fewer teams). They have a better record than four other teams, but Sunday's loss in Toronto was their 12th by 15 or more points. They only had 13 all of last season and no other team has more than seven this year. Even with Zach Randolph getting a rest day, they started four guys over the age of 27 on Sunday, allowing Vince Carter to get some love from the ACC crowd.
Week 10: @ PHI, @ BKN, vs. SAS
Last Week: 28 ↑
Pace: 104.1 (2) OffRtg: 102.4 (22) DefRtg: 109.1 (29) NetRtg: -6.7 (28)
T.J. Warren has shot progressively worse in each the five games the Suns have been without Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss is 4-for-17 over the last three. But the Suns got their first Booker-less win on Saturday, getting a huge game from their motley bench crew in Minnesota. Dragan Bender and Troy Daniels combined to hit nine threes; Alex Len had 19 rebounds, six assists and the game-saving block; and Isaiah Canaan (in his first game with the team) hit the game-winning free throws. That was the 14th time in their last 16 games that the Suns have won the fourth quarter, though the fourth quarter hasn't meant much most of the time. They've been outscored by 10.3 points per 100 possessions in quarters 1-3.
Week 10: @ DAL, @ LAC, vs. MEM, vs. MIN
Last Week: 25 ↓
Pace: 102.1 (7) OffRtg: 103.7 (18) DefRtg: 107.3 (23) NetRtg: -3.6 (23)
With Aaron Gordon suffering a calf strain in his first game back from a concussion, and with Marreese Speights shooting a league-worst 4-for-33 in December, Magic coach Frank Vogel has had little choice but to go with Mario Hezonja at the four last week. As a starter over the last four games, Hezonja has been positively Jeff-Green-like in his consistent inconsistency, but scored a career-high 28 points, shooting 8-for-12 from 3-point range (including a meaningless runner at the final buzzer), in Detroit on Sunday. The Magic have still lost five straight and are still 3-16 since Nov. 11, because when their offense has had the occasional breakout, their defense hasn't been able to get stops.
Week 10: @ CHI, vs. NOP, @ WAS
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 95.5 (30) OffRtg: 101.4 (27) DefRtg: 105.6 (16) NetRtg: -4.3 (25)
The Grizzlies finally got a win against the Eastern Conference by escaping against the Hawks on Friday. But Marc Gasol's 30 points (including 21 in the third quarter) in a loss to Boston on Saturday may have been more important for the team's well-being. The Grizzlies need both a healthy Mike Conley and a better supporting cast to return to relevance, but some life from Gasol could go a long way as the schedule gets a little easier over the next couple of weeks. Not only is he having the worst shooting season of his career, but opponents have shot 62 percent at the rim when Gasol has been there to protect it, up from 54 percent over the last two seasons.
Week 10: @ GSW, @ PHX, vs. LAC
Last Week: 29 ↓
Pace: 99.7 (12) OffRtg: 103.2 (19) DefRtg: 108.4 (28) NetRtg: -5.1 (27)
The Bulls' winning streak, combined with the Hawks' own four-game losing streak, has Atlanta holding the league's worst record. The Hawks got John Collins back from a six-game absence on Thursday, but he was one of just two guys who could make a shot against Detroit. Taurean Prince has had better nights (averaging 15.2 points on 54 percent shooting over his last six games) and had success attacking a variety of Cavs off the dribble on Tuesday. But Tuesday was also the fourth time in the last 20 months that the Hawks have allowed Cleveland to make at least 20 threes in a game.
Week 10: vs. MIA, vs. IND, @ OKC, vs. DAL