Week 11 Power Rankings: Golden State Warriors reclaim top spot with Christmas win
Christmas has come and gone. The games were good and not without important developments.
Most important was that the Oklahoma City Thunder got a quality win and a strong offensive performance against what had been a top-10 defense going into the day’s action. OKC now sits just two games out of a top-four seed in the Western Conference, with wins against all four teams ahead of them in the standings.
The Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers picked up important wins on the road. Washington still has consistency issues, but a road win over the (relatively) healthy Celtics has the Wizards just a half game behind the fourth-place Indiana Pacers in the East with a home-heavy schedule over the next few weeks. And with the playoffs being the goal this season, the Sixers’ win in New York was huge.
Cavs-Warriors was fun and not without controversy. But with point guard Stephen Curry and Isaiah Thomas on the shelf, it might not have much value going forward … except that the win helped the Warriors climb back to No. 1 in the Power Rankings for the first time in six weeks.
- Last week: Rockets still No. 1 entering big week for West
- This time last year: Cavs rally to beat Warriors again — Richard Jefferson threw one down on Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving hit the game-winner as the Cavs won their fourth straight game against the Warriors. Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor were starting games together in Philadelphia and, at 13-17, the Sacramento Kings were in eighth place in the West. Malcolm Brogdon dunked on both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, Blake Griffin had knee surgery, Patty Mills beat the Rockets with a three, Thaddeus Young beat the Wizards with a floater, and Marcus Smart hit the game-winner on Christmas in New York.
- Plus-minus stud: Russell Westbrook (OKC) was a plus-78 in five games over the last eight days.
- Plus-minus dud: Ricky Rubio (UTA) was a minus-63 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the last eight days: Oklahoma City (5-0) — The Thunder, once 8-12, are 11-3 in December, playing their best offense of the season, and within striking distance of a top-four seed in the Western Conference.
- Zero team of the last eight days: Orlando (0-3) — The depleted Magic are the only team that hasn’t won a game in the last eight days, and they’ve lost their three by an average of 19.7 points.
- East vs. West: The East is 102-99 (.507) against the West in interconference games, but the West has closed the gap by going 7-3 over the last eight days.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. L.A. Lakers, 3. Charlotte
- 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: Oklahoma City (+9), Toronto (+3), Miami (+2), Minnesota (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Dallas (-4), Detroit (-4), New Orleans (-3), Philadelphia (-3)
- Team to watch in Week 11: New York — At 17-16, the Knicks are in playoff position. But they’ve just finished a stretch in which they played 19 of 28 games at home, where they’re 15-6. And now, they’ll begin a stretch in which they’ll play 14 of 17 games on the road, where they’re 2-10. It begins with visits to Chicago, San Antonio and New Orleans this week.
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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 99.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.3 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday (except this 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: 2 ↑
Pace: 102.3 (5) OffRtg: 112.2 (2) DefRtg: 100.8 (1) NetRtg: +11.4 (1)
Zaza Pachulia was healthy on Monday, but Steve Kerr kept Jordan Bell in the starting lineup for the Finals rematch, and it's possible that the rookie will stay there (and torture Bulls fans) long-term. Bell had a rough turnover down the stretch and the Cavs were happy to leave him open on the perimeter on another big possession in the final minute, but he also grabbed the offensive rebound that led to Klay Thompson's go-ahead three. The Warriors have outscored their opponents by 28 points per 100 possessions in 123 minutes with Bell and Draymond Green on the floor together, with the defense helping them climb to No. 1 on that end of the floor for the first time this season. Their offensive chemistry was on display as Green assisted Bell on three of his four Christmas buckets.
Week 11: vs. UTA, vs. CHA, vs. MEM
Last Week: 5 ↑
Pace: 100.6 (10) OffRtg: 110.6 (4) DefRtg: 101.8 (6) NetRtg: +8.8 (3)
The Raptors have won 12 of their last 13 games and have been cruising through the league's easiest December schedule, essentially tied with the Warriors for the league lead in defensive efficiency (just under a point allowed per possession) this month. It helps that only one of their 11 December games has been against a team that ranks in the top 10 offensively (and that game was Dec. 1), while six have been against teams that rank in the bottom 10. C.J. Miles has missed four of the last five games and Pascal Siakam has missed his last 25 3-point attempts, but DeMar DeRozan is filling the void. His 13 makes and 20 attempts from 3-point range are both highs for any three-game stretch of his career, and the six in Philadelphia on Thursday were part of a career-high 45 points (with the Raptors coming back from 22 points down in the third quarter). The Raps' stretch of 11 straight games against teams that currently have losing records comes to an end with Tuesday's visit to Dallas.
Week 11: @ DAL, @ OKC, vs. ATL
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 101.4 (8) OffRtg: 113.6 (1) DefRtg: 104.1 (11) NetRtg: +9.5 (2)
James Harden dropped 51 on both L.A. teams last week, but injuries have quickly dropped the Rockets out of the top 10 on defense. With Chris Paul out again, Clint Capela missing two games before coming back on Monday, and Luc Mbah a Moute having missed the last six; the Rockets allowed almost 120 points per 100 possessions (putting the Lakers, Clippers and Thunder on the line for 38 free throws per 100 shots from the field) over a three-game losing streak. As was the case with last season's Clippers, the Rockets' best two-man DefRtg belongs to Paul and Mbah a Moute. They've allowed just 92 points per 100 possessions in 120 minutes with both on the floor, 102 in 865 minutes with one of the two on the floor, and 109 in 551 minutes with neither on the floor.
Week 11: @ BOS, @ WAS, vs. LAL
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (17) OffRtg: 111.6 (3) DefRtg: 108.4 (27) NetRtg: +3.1 (6)
The Cavs ranked 28th defensively over an eight-game stretch leading into the Christmas game (hello, regression), and they allowed both the Bucks and Bulls to shoot better than 50 percent as they split a couple of games that went down to the wire last week. On Monday though, the story was on the other end of the floor, where they shot 10-for-38 in the paint against the Warriors' length (and some interesting no-calls). The bench was a story too; The Cavs have the league's most improved bench NetRtg from last season, but the second unit wasn't good enough (shooting 6-for-26 and registering a minus-9 in 21-plus minutes with at least two reserves on the floor) against the league's best bench on Monday. The rematch (hopefully featuring both Stephen Curry and Isaiah Thomas) is less than three weeks away.
Week 11: @ SAC, @ UTA
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 97.5 (24) OffRtg: 105.6 (11) DefRtg: 101.0 (2) NetRtg: +4.7 (4)
The play of the week was a steal by Terry Rozier, but the Celtics are not the league's No. 1 defensive team for the first time since before Halloween, and rebounding has been an issue. They led the league in defensive rebounding percentage (grabbing 82 percent of available defensive boards) through Thanksgiving and it seemed like their added length had fixed a problem that plagued them last season. But they rank 28th since then (75 percent), with Al Horford seeing the biggest drop (from 23 percent to 18 percent) in individual defensive rebounding percentage, and allowed 18 second chance points to both New York and Washington last week. The Wizards had 10 in the fourth quarter alone on Christmas, the Celtics' third loss in their last four games.
Week 11: @ CHA, vs. HOU, vs. BKN
Last Week: 6
Pace: 96.4 (29) OffRtg: 104.9 (14) DefRtg: 101.5 (4) NetRtg: +3.4 (5)
Pau Gasol isn't shooting 54 percent from 3-point range like he did last season and hasn't been quite as consistent either, but he's still doing stuff. He has totaled 40 rebounds in his last three games and recorded a triple-double in the Spurs' win in Sacramento on Saturday. The Spurs have been better defensively with Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge together on the floor this season (100 points allowed per 100 possessions) than they were last season (107), and that's with Kawhi Leonard having played just 24 minutes with the duo. Leonard has played in just six halves over the seven games since he made his season debut, as the Spurs take things very slowly with his recovery. They're 22-8 without him and don't play another game against a top-five team in the West until Feb. 1 (not that they base playing-time decisions on who they're playing).
Week 11: vs. BKN, vs. NYK, @ DET
Last Week: 16 ↑
Pace: 97.6 (23) OffRtg: 104.0 (18) DefRtg: 101.5 (3) NetRtg: +2.5 (8)
Offense! The Thunder have scored more than 110 points per 100 possessions in four straight games for the first time this season, with Russell Westbrook shooting 58 percent from the field and both Carmelo Anthony and Paul George shooting 48 percent from 3-point range over the four games. Westbrook hit the game-winning three against Atlanta on Friday, but he's been otherwise reticent to shoot from beyond the arc. Since his 1-for-12 performance on Dec. 9, only 11 percent of his shots have come from 3-point range, down from 29 percent through his first 25 games. And over the last 10 days, the mid-range has been good to him; He's 33-for-60 (55 percent) from between the paint and the 3-point line over the last six games. Time will tell how sustainable this hot shooting is, but the Thunder are picking up quality wins. They're 11-3 in December and only two of the wins have come against teams (Memphis and Atlanta) that have no shot of making the playoffs.
Week 11: vs. TOR, vs. MIL, vs. DAL
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 99.4 (13) OffRtg: 105.7 (10) DefRtg: 103.8 (9) NetRtg: +2.0 (10)
The Wizards had an embarrassing loss in Brooklyn (in which they trailed by 40) on Friday, but got a big win in Boston on Monday and have climbed back into the top 10 on both ends of the floor (where they join the Warriors and Raptors). John Wall (1-for-10) and Bradley Beal (2-for-13) have been two of the three worst 3-point shooters in the clutch, but both hit big shots inside the arc late in the Christmas win, with Kelly Oubre hitting the three that put the Wiz ahead for good. The Wizards' Oubre-instead-of-Markieff-Morris lineup remains one of the best in the league, but Monday (when it was a plus-1 in eight-plus minutes) was just the second time it has played together since before Thanksgiving.
Week 11: @ ATL, vs. HOU, vs. CHI
Last Week: 7 ↓
Pace: 99.7 (11) OffRtg: 108.7 (6) DefRtg: 106.1 (17) NetRtg: +2.6 (7)
The Pacers continue to take care of business, now 10-0 against the 11 worst teams in the league, though Saturday's overtime escape against Brooklyn may have induced flashbacks to Monday's collapse against Boston (where they blew a four-point lead in less than 10 seconds). They trailed both games by 19 points and have now trailed 10 of their last 13 home games by more than 10, recovering to take the lead in seven of the 10 games and winning five of those seven. They're playing their best offense of the season, with Victor Oladipo (29.9 points per game - third in the league - in December) doing the heavy lifting and Darren Collison (effective field goal percentage of 65.2 percent and assist/turnover ratio of 3.9 over his last eight games) playing more efficiently.
Week 11: @ DET, vs. DAL, @ CHI, vs. MIN
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 97.6 (22) OffRtg: 107.9 (8) DefRtg: 107.2 (22) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
The Bucks got Matthew Dellavedova and Tony Snell back last week and have Jabari Parker practicing with their G League team. Though Parker isn't expected back soon, any additional depth is critical with Giannis Antetokounmpo up to 39.4 minutes per game in December and missing Saturday's loss in Charlotte with knee soreness. Since Nov. 1, the Bucks have been more than 23 points per 100 possessions better with Antetokounmpo on the floor (plus-7.6) than they've been with him off the floor (minus-15.8), and they've yet to win a game (they're 0-10) in which he had a negative plus-minus. Jason Kidd made another ... interesting ... late-game decision, having Khris Middleton intentionally miss a free throw that would have put the Bucks up four with less than two seconds to go against Cleveland. That game was won with
" target="stats">a go-ahead three from Snell, and Friday's game against Charlotte was won with attacks of the basket. After Tuesday's game against Chicago, the Bucks will play 11 of 12 against the other 16 teams that currently have winning records, with a 7-9 record against those teams so far.
Week 11: vs. CHI, vs. MIN, @ OKC
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 98.2 (20) OffRtg: 109.7 (5) DefRtg: 107.5 (25) NetRtg: +2.2 (9)
Tom Thibodeau got a ninth rotation player (Nemanja Bjelica, back from a month-long absence) for Christmas, but the Wolves' bench has been pretty good throughout their four-game winning streak. Jamal Crawford's shots have gone in the basket more often than not (and he had 16 fourth-quarter points as they came back from 10 down against Portland last Monday), Tyus Jones has a 12/1 assist-turnover ratio, and the defense has been solid with Gorgui Dieng on the floor. No matter how many minutes Thibodeau plays his starters, bench minutes are critical. The Wolves are 12-1 when Dieng has a non-negative plus-minus and 7-11 when they've been outscored with him on the floor. The Wolves also have three back-to-backs in the next 12 days.
Week 11: vs. DEN, @ MIL, @ IND
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 98.0 (21) OffRtg: 104.2 (16) DefRtg: 104.9 (14) NetRtg: -0.7 (18)
Considering the opponent, Wednesday's game in Dallas (with the Mavs' 43 points in the second quarter being their season high for any period) was the Pistons' worst defensive performance of the season. But the offense has been trending up as they've won four of their last five. It's been a balanced attack, with seven guys averaging between 10 and 16 points over that stretch, and they've also cut down on mistakes. Only New Orleans has seen a bigger increase in turnover percentage from last season to this season, but the Pistons have committed just 12.7 per 100 possessions over the five games (down from 14.9 through their first 27). Reggie Jackson's turnovers are up a little, but he had the game-tying bucket and go ahead free throw in Friday's win over New York, and Reggie Bullock made them stand with a big block on Courtney Lee.
Week 11: vs. IND, @ ORL, vs. SAS
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 101.8 (7) OffRtg: 108.1 (7) DefRtg: 107.3 (24) NetRtg: +0.8 (12)
The Pelicans have been a first-half team this season, 9.2 points per 100 possessions better before halftime (plus-5.3) than they've been after halftime (minus-3.9, when you include overtime). Only the last place teams in each conference (Atlanta and Dallas) have more losses after leading at halftime than the Pelicans, who are 11-7 with a halftime lead. But thanks to big second halves from Jrue Holiday and Ian Clark, they held onto halftime leads in a Florida back-to-back over the weekend. If the Western Conference standings were determined by games played within the conference, the Pels would be in 11th place. But they're 8-4 against the East after those two wins, with home games this week against two East teams that are a combined 7-20 on the road.
Week 11: vs. BKN, vs. DAL, vs. NYK
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 98.9 (16) OffRtg: 107.2 (9) DefRtg: 106.4 (18) NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
The Nuggets have late-game issues (they rank 29th in clutch offense) and depth issues (they rank 27th in bench NetRtg). The former showed up when they scored two points in the final five minutes of a one-point loss in Oklahoma City on Monday. The latter showed up when they played only eight guys and were outscored by 28 points in less than 33 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor in an eight-point loss to Minnesota on Wednesday. They also have defense issues from time to time, but held the Blazers and Warriors to just 88 points per 100 possessions as they won both games of an important road back-to-back over the weekend. They started Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee together over the last three games, and the pairing was a plus-29 in its 49 minutes over that stretch, with Jokic taking it to Jusuf Nurkic (the other half of a two-big combination that didn't work) to the tune of 27 points, nine boards and six assists on Friday.
Week 11: vs. UTA, @ MIN, vs. PHI
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 103.3 (3) OffRtg: 103.4 (20) DefRtg: 103.7 (7) NetRtg: -0.3 (17)
The Sixers' five-game losing streak featured some brutal offense (97 points scored per 100 possessions) and a couple of brutal collapses. They were outscored 52-30 over the final 20 minutes of a six-point loss to Sacramento on Tuesday and 60-33 over the final 21 minutes of a five-point loss to Toronto on Thursday. Their numbers still get progressively worse as the game goes on (from plus-5.1 NetRtg in the first quarter to minus-4.1 in the fourth), but having both Joel Embiid and J.J. Redick healthy for the first time since their triple-OT loss to OKC made a difference on Christmas in New York, when they won both the third and fourth quarters for just the third time in the last month. They were a plus-25 in less than 27 minutes with both Redick and Embiid on the floor and a minus-18 in about 21 minutes with one or both on the bench.
Week 11: @ POR, @ DEN, @ PHX
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (18) OffRtg: 102.1 (26x) DefRtg: 101.7 (5) NetRtg: +0.4 (15)
The Blazers' offense has been pretty anemic (93 points scored per 100 possessions) in two games without Damian Lillard, but was pretty anemic in the first place (scoring 97 per 100 over the previous four). They haven't shot much worse over those six games, but rank last in free throw rate (just 16 attempts per 100 shots from the field) over that stretch. Lillard was on pace to become just the eighth player in NBA history to shoot 90 percent or better on at least seven free throw attempts per game (four of the previous seven have done it multiple times), but he had just 10 total attempts over his last four games and without him, the Blazers don't have anybody who can get to the line consistently. Considering Lillard's hamstring strain, the Blazers' best Christmas present was four days off around the holiday.
Week 11: vs. PHI, @ ATL
Last Week: 19 ↑
Pace: 97.0 (25) OffRtg: 102.9 (23) DefRtg: 104.8 (13) NetRtg: -2.0 (21)
The Heat have been as depleted by injuries as the other team in Florida. But while the Magic have lost eight straight games, the Heat have found a way to go 6-3 over the last 2 1/2 weeks, ranking fifth defensively over that stretch. Two days after a loss in Atlanta, strong defense and a big game from Kelly Olynyk (32 points on 12-for-15 shooting against his old team) fueled a signature win in Boston on Wednesday. Goran Dragic (elbow) and James Johnson (ankle) both came back before they were 100 percent on Saturday, but not before Dion Waiters' sprained ankle was added to the list on injuries on Friday. Their relatively light holiday schedule (three breaks of two or more days and no games outside Florida for almost three weeks) does allow for some recovery, but Waiters' injury means that the guy who ranks fourth in the league in threes per 36 minutes (Wayne Ellington) gets to shoot even more.
Week 11: vs. ORL, vs. BKN, @ ORL
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 96.8 (26) OffRtg: 104.7 (15) DefRtg: 103.7 (8) NetRtg: +1.0 (11)
Thanks to four wins of 29 or more points and a 4-7 record in games that were within five in the last five minutes, the Jazz are the only team with a positive point differential and a losing record. But the first attribute might not hold for long, because they still have seven more games in a stretch where they're playing 18 of 19 against teams that currently have winning records and they've lost eight of their last 10, with the league's 28th-ranked defense over the 10 games. Though they've been better offensively without Rudy Gobert (with Donovan Mitchell and Rodney Hood taking turns with big games), the defensive impact of his absence has been clear. They've allowed 25 points per 36 minutes in the restricted area with Rudy Gobert on the floor, compared to 20 per 36 with him on the floor.
Week 11: @ DEN, @ GSW, vs. CLE
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 98.5 (19) OffRtg: 104.9 (13) DefRtg: 105.1 (15) NetRtg: -0.2 (16)
The Knicks have become confounding beyond their home-road splits. With Kristaps Porzingis shooting 0-for-11, they beat the Celtics on Thursday. And with Porzingis scoring 29 points and registering a plus-13, they lost in Detroit a night later, unable to get him the ball on three straight possessions down the stretch. Their bench came up empty again against Philly on Monday and now it's time to see how legit their 17-16 record really is. Between now and March 10, they will play 24 of their 33 games on the road. They currently have the league's third worst road record (2-10) and rank last in road offense (98 points scored per 100 possessions).
Week 11: @ CHI, @ SAS, @ NOP
Last Week: 20
Pace: 99.1 (14) OffRtg: 105.3 (12) DefRtg: 106.9 (20) NetRtg: -1.6 (20)
The Clippers needed some offense beyond what they were getting from Lou Williams, and Austin Rivers has begun to provide it. He set career highs in each of his last two games, going for 36 in Houston and 38 in Memphis, with only five of his 25 total field goals being assisted. Only the Blazers (48 percent) and Suns (52 percent) have assisted on a lower percentage of their buckets than the Clippers (53 percent), but with Rivers on fire and with turnovers down, the 117 points per 100 possessions they've scored over their last three games is their best stretch of offense this season. Each of their two-way contract guys (C.J. Williams and Jamil Wilson) have now played in more games than Danilo Gallinari, who is out for at least another month after getting more bad news regarding his gluteus maximus.
Week 11: vs. SAC, @ LAL, vs. CHA
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 104.3 (1) OffRtg: 100.9 (28) DefRtg: 103.8 (10) NetRtg: -2.9 (22)
The Lakers went to Houston and ended the Rockets' 14-game winning streak, but that was their lone win their last seven games. They've played the Warriors tough, but have come up empty down the stretch, with three losses to the champs by a total of 13 points. Kyle Kuzma (averaging 25.4 points on an effective field goal percentage of 63 percent over his last seven games) continues to impress, but a shoulder injury has put Lonzo Ball's development on pause just when he was playing with some consistency. Brandon Ingram and Brook Lopez are also on the shelf with the Lakers two games into a stretch in which they're playing nine of 11 at home, where they've lost five straight (six if you count a "road" loss to the Clippers). The Lakers' starting lineup was seemingly breaking out offensively (scoring 26 points in a little over nine minutes) against the Warriors before Lopez turned his right ankle last Monday.
Week 11: vs. MEM, vs. LAC, @ HOU
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 102.9 (4) OffRtg: 103.8 (19) DefRtg: 107.1 (21) NetRtg: -3.3 (23)
Among the league's 50 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes, only the Mavs' Dirk-plus-bench supergroup has been better than the Nets' current starters, who have outscored their opponents by more than 24 points per 100 possessions in their 145 minutes together, with numbers better than both the league's best offense and its best defense. But, after ranking 13th in bench NetRtg (plus-1.0) through their first 13 games, the Nets have ranked 28th (minus-8.1) since Spencer Dinwiddie became the starting point guard. Caris LeVert has averaged 14.1 points on an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent over his last 10 games, but the Nets have been outscored by 11.2 points per 100 possessions (scoring less than 99) in his 282 minutes as point guard.
Week 11: @ SAS, @ NOP, @ MIA, @ BOS
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 101.0 (9) OffRtg: 103.1 (21) DefRtg: 104.6 (12) NetRtg: -1.5 (19)
The Hornets have stopped the bleeding somewhat, picking up home wins over the Knicks (playing without Kristaps Porzingis) and Bucks (playing without Giannis Antetokounmpo) last week, even though Kemba Walker shot 9-for-28 in the two games. They still rank 28th in bench NetRtg, but got some good minutes from their reserves in the two wins. Frank Kaminsky came up big (24 points, plus-18) against New York (his plus-minus remains a bellwether for his team) and they were a plus-24 in 35 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor against Milwaukee, a game that ended a string of seven straight losses in games that were within five points in the last five minutes. Despite Nicolas Batum's struggles (he didn't score and took just one shot in 26 minutes against Toronto on Wednesday), the last four games have been the Hornets' best offensive stretch (108 points scored per 100 possessions) since Thanksgiving.
Week 11: vs. BOS, @ GSW, @ LAC
Last Week: 25 ↑
Pace: 99.0 (15) OffRtg: 99.3 (29) DefRtg: 107.2 (23) NetRtg: -7.9 (29)
The Bulls' winning streak reached seven games before their defense came apart in road losses to the Cavs and Celtics. Lauri Markkanen had a big game (25 points on 11-for-17 shooting) on Thursday, but Kris Dunn went from dishing out 14 assists in Cleveland to shooting 1-for-12 in Boston. Despite the losses, they remain the league's most improved team (both offensively and defensively) this month, 15.2 points per 100 possessions better in December (plus.1.6) than they were through November 30 (minus-13.6). Of course, they're just two games into a stretch where they're playing 14 of 15 against teams with winning records.
Week 11: @ MIL, vs. NYK, vs. IND, @ WAS
Last Week: 26 ↑
Pace: 96.6 (28) OffRtg: 99.1 (30) DefRtg: 109.0 (30) NetRtg: -9.8 (30)
How do you have a better record than six other teams while ranking last on both ends of the floor? A 10-6 record in games that were within five points in the last five minutes helps. League-wide, the 15 guys who have taken the most clutch shots are all perimeter players. But the two Kings who have attempted the most shots with the score within five in the last five are Zach Randolph and Willie Cauley-Stein, who are starting together again, with Skal Labissiere now getting DNP'd. De'Aaron Fox's injury also has Buddy Hield back in the starting lineup, from where he scored 24 points against San Antonio on Saturday. Hield has recovered from an ugly first few weeks, but his effective field goal percentage (54.3 percent) is still lower than it was post-trade last season (57.9 percent) and he remains allergic to the free throw line. He has the eighth lowest free throw rate (nine attempts per 100 shots from the field) among 176 players with at least 200 field goal attempts this season.
Week 11: @ LAC, vs. CLE, vs. PHX, vs. MEM
Last Week: 27 ↑
Pace: 103.4 (2) OffRtg: 102.2 (25) DefRtg: 108.7 (28) NetRtg: -6.5 (28)
Even though their starting lineups (with either Tyson Chandler or Greg Monroe at center) have been outscored by 65 points in their 112 minutes over the nine games since Devin Booker's injury, eight of the nine (including five against good teams) have been within five points in the last five minutes. And over that stretch, 13 different Suns have been on the floor in clutch time. Troy Daniels hit the game-winning three (off a big offensive rebound from Monroe) against Memphis on Thursday, but the other end of the floor, where the Mavs and Grizzlies shot a combined 3-for-22 and attempted no free throws in the clutch, was more important in the Suns' two close wins last week. They're on their way to a bottom-five defensive ranking for the third straight year, but only Indiana has seen a bigger drop in opponent free throw rate from last season.
Week 11: vs. MEM, @ SAC, vs. PHI
Last Week: 23 ↓
Pace: 96.7 (27) OffRtg: 102.8 (24) DefRtg: 106.7 (19) NetRtg: -3.9 (24)
The Mavs have found offense, scoring 117 points per 100 possessions over their last three games. Harrison Barnes is the leading scorer, getting to the basket a little more often than usual and shooting 72 percent in the restricted area over that stretch. But the offense continues to be at its best with reserves on the floor. Yogi Ferrell has shot 9-for-15 from 3-point range, J.J. Barea has 27 assists and just three turnovers over the three games, and Devin Harris continues to have plus-minus magic. Of course, the Mavs lost three more games that were within five points in the last five minutes last week (dropping them to 1-18 for the season), shooting 5-for-18 in the clutch.
Week 11: vs. TOR, @ IND, @ NOP, @ OKC
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 95.2 (30) OffRtg: 101.6 (27) DefRtg: 106.1 (16) NetRtg: -4.5 (26)
The Grizzlies are hoping to find a few players of value in the nine guys under the age of 25 they have on their 17-man roster. But only two of the nine - Dillon Brooks and Andrew Harrison - are regularly getting to play at least 15 minutes a night. Brooks (11-for-17 over his last four games) is one of eight rookies who have shot better than the league average (36.4 percent) on at least 50 attempts from 3-point range, and Kobi Simmons (on a two-way contract) got to play 25 minutes in Saturday's win over the Clippers. But the pace remains slow and the offense remains in the hands of Tyreke Evans and Marc Gasol.
Week 11: @ PHX, @ LAL, @ GSW, @ SAC
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 99.4 (12) OffRtg: 104.3 (17) DefRtg: 108.8 (29) NetRtg: -4.5 (25)
John Collins has shot 73 percent since returning from his shoulder injury, but is still coming off the bench, in part because the Hawks' current starting lineup (Ersan Ilyasova and Miles Plumlee on the frontline) is a plus-32 in its last seven games together (having scored 116 points per 100 possessions). They almost won in Oklahoma City without Dennis Schroder on Friday (coming back from 16 points down), but lost on a 3-pointer in the league-high 20th game in which they've allowed 12 or more threes. Schroder returned to score 33 points (tying his career high) in Saturday's win over Dallas, the fifth time in their last nine games that both the Hawks and their opponent have scored more efficiently than the league average. They rank seventh offensively and 26th defensively over that stretch.
Week 11: vs. WAS, @ TOR, vs. POR
Last Week: 28 ↓
Pace: 102.0 (6) OffRtg: 103.0 (22) DefRtg: 108.2 (26) NetRtg: -5.2 (27)
Mario Hezonja is playing a little more consistently and Elfrid Payton has shot 64 percent over the last five games, but Payton is now the Magic's only healthy opening-night starter, with Nikola Vucevic having broken his hand on Saturday. They've been outscored by just 17 points in 818 minutes with at least three of the original starters on the floor and by 171 points in 817 minutes with two or fewer on the floor. As they struggle through their sixth straight season as a below-average team on both ends, not only are they on an eight-game losing streak, but they've held a lead for just 51 total seconds over their last 21 quarters and have trailed by double-digits for 71 percent of their last four games.
Week 11: @ MIA, vs. DET, vs. MIA