Power Rankings: Houston Rockets ride seven-game winning streak to No. 1
With the first quarter of a season in the books, we’ve seemingly reached survival mode.
A rough count has 20 of the league’s 30 teams dealing with at least one injury to an important rotation player. Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Kristaps Porzingis are the latest stars to go down, suffering some scary, lower-body injuries last week.
The Davis injury (if it’s long-term) and Griffin injury could affect the greater landscape of the league, because their teams haven’t been very good with them off the floor, their frontcourt mates – DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan (who has a player option for next season) will be free agents next summer, and it may be prudent to get something in return before now and the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
Some teams will survive their players’ injuries better than others. Now is the time when depth comes into play, and a good bench can win you more than just a few games.
After losing Chris Paul for 14 games, the Houston Rockets are (relatively) healthy, 13-1 since Nov. 1, and riding a seven-game winning streak (with an average margin of victory of 21.6 points) to the No. 1 spot.
- Last week: Cavs surging at the quarter mark
- This time last year: Warriors on top at the quarter pole — Russell Westbrook’s rebounding averaged climbed above 10 per game for good, J.R. Smith chose to give dap instead of playing defense, and Draymond Green kicked James Harden in the head.
- Plus-minus stud: Tony Snell (MIL) was a plus-66 in three games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Josh Richardson (MIA) was a minus-74 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Cleveland (4-0) — The Cavs’ winning streak continued with double-digit wins in Philly and against Miami (on the second night of a back-to-back).
- Zero team of the week: Chicago (0-3) — The Bulls’ week includes losses at home to the Suns and Kings.
- East vs. West: The East is 72-67 (.518) against the West in interconference games after going 9-8 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Indiana, 3. Charlotte
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Boston, 2. Houston, 3. San Antonio
- 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: Utah (+7), Milwaukee (+5), Orlando (+3), Sacramento (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Denver (-5), L.A. Lakers (-4), Portland (-4)
- Team to watch in Week 8: Utah — Donovan Mitchell is blowing up and Rudy Gobert could be back on Monday. The Jazz have a five-game winning streak and four games against good teams this week. They’ll host the Wizards on Monday before visiting Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Then they’re back home for the Rockets on Thursday before beginning a six-game trip in Milwaukee on Saturday.
* * *
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 100.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.9 points scored per 100 possessions 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: 3 ↑
Pace: 101.6 (8) OffRtg: 112.4 (2) DefRtg: 100.9 (5) NetRtg: +11.5 (2)
The Rockets remain undefeated (8-0) with Chris Paul, with Mike D'Antoni's minutes-staggering plan working to perfection. They've simply destroyed teams in the minutes where they've gone to their bench with either Paul or James Harden still on the floor, even though Eric Gordon hasn't shot particularly well (37 percent) over their seven-game winning streak. Luc Mbah a Moute (plus-132 in 142 minutes over the streak) and P.J. Tucker have been invaluable additions and could be needed even more in the next couple of weeks. Ryan Anderson is dealing with back tightness and the schedule is about to get tougher, with six of the Rockets' next seven games against teams with winning records.
Week 8: @ UTA, @ POR
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 98.4 (24) OffRtg: 105.4 (14) DefRtg: 98.9 (1) NetRtg: +6.6 (4)
Marcus Morris is having the best rebounding season of his career and his best shooting season of the last three. Playing him at the four with Al Horford at the five allows the Celtics to switch at four of five positions. But their Morris-at-the-four starting lineup got destroyed by the Pistons on Monday (getting outscored 25-11 in eight minutes) and has been the league's fourth worst lineup (minus-17.1 points per 100 possessions) among the 55 that have played at least 75 minutes. Aron Baynes was the starter for wins over Philly (even though Joel Embiid wasn't playing) and Phoenix last week, and Marcus Smart has been the closer most often. Kyrie Irving has shot 58 percent over the last eight games and even with the Detroit loss, the last five have been the Celtics' best offensive stretch of the season (115 points scored per 100 possessions).
Week 8: vs. MIL, vs. DAL, @ SAS, @ DET
Last Week: 2 ↓
Pace: 103.7 (5) OffRtg: 114.7 (1) DefRtg: 101.5 (6) NetRtg: +13.2 (1)
Steve Kerr has admitted that the Warriors don't have the same edge that they've had in previous years. The lack of urgency has shown up in the defensive numbers (ranking sixth just isn't up to their standards) and especially in the numbers of the Death Lineup, which has allowed 119 points per 100 possessions in its 56 minutes and is a minus-31 in its last four games together. But the offense is doing just fine, scoring almost 120 points per 100 possessions as they've won five of their last six games. Even without Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant in Monday's loss to the Kings, they shot 50 percent and made 16 threes.
Week 8: @ NOP, @ CHA, @ DET
Last Week: 4
Pace: 100.1 (13) OffRtg: 110.9 (3) DefRtg: 108.3 (26) NetRtg: +2.6 (8)
The Cavs don't only rank fourth in opponent 3-point percentage over their 11-game winning streak after ranking 30th (by a wide margin) through their first 12 games. They've also reduced the percentage of shots their opponents have taken from 3-point range (38 percent in the first 12 games, 34 percent in the last 11). With that and their own increases in both 3-point percentage and 3PA/FGA, they've outscored their opponents from beyond the arc in nine of the 11 games during the streak, having done so just once in their first 12. That's more like the Cavs we know and even Dwyane Wade got into the act on Thursday, hitting three threes in a win in Atlanta. They're in the middle of a stretch where they're playing five straight games against teams in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency, and Friday's visit to Indiana will be one of just three December games against the top 10.
Week 8: @ CHI, vs. SAC, @ IND, vs. PHI
Last Week: 5
Pace: 100.2 (11) OffRtg: 110.8 (4) DefRtg: 103.2 (10) NetRtg: +7.6 (3)
The Raptors have been at their best both offensively and defensively (and have been the league's best team by a wide margin) in the second quarter, which they've won in 12 straight games. They've won their last four second quarters by a combined score of 151-88, with Kyle Lowry making 10 of his 12 second-quarter 3-point attempts over that stretch. Starting the period on the bench (instead of on the floor, like in previous seasons) seems to be agreeing with Lowry, because his second-quarter effective field goal percentage of 79.8 percent is the best mark for any player (with at least 50 field goal attempts) in any period. The league's easiest December schedule continues with eight straight games against teams at least five games under .500.
Week 8: vs. PHX, @ MEM, @ SAC
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 96.8 (29) OffRtg: 104.3 (18) DefRtg: 100.2 (2) NetRtg: +4.2 (5)
Just as LaMarcus Aldridge (32 points per game on 62 percent shooting in his three games last week) is finding his groove, Kawhi Leonard is nearing his return, which should make for an interesting period of adjustment for the Spurs, who almost beat the Thunder with their C team on Sunday. They're playing six games (with two back-to-backs) in the first nine days of December (and have two more back-to-backs before Christmas), a reason why Derrick White was on the floor in the fourth quarter on Sunday and why Kyle Anderson's knee injury really hurts, whether or not Leonard returns this week.
Week 8: vs. DET, vs. MIA, vs. BOS, @ PHX
Last Week: 8 ↑
Pace: 104.3 (4) OffRtg: 104.3 (19) DefRtg: 103.1 (9) NetRtg: +1.2 (13)
The Sixers went 2-2 in their big week against four other Eastern Conference playoff teams (making them 8-8 in games in their league-high 16 games against teams currently over .500), with mixed results on both ends of the floor. Dario Saric (averaging 17.6 points on 52 percent shooting over the last five games) is finding his spots in the starting lineup, which, despite a rough game against Cleveland on Monday, still ranks as one of the league's best high-usage lineups. Saric hit a big three in Saturday's win over Detroit, which gave the Sixers eight wins in their last nine games that have been within five points in the last five minutes. Saric (2-for-3), Robert Covington (5-for-6) and J.J. Redick (3-for-6) have combined to shoot 10-for-15 on clutch threes over that stretch.
Week 8: vs. PHX, vs. LAL, @ CLE, @ NOP
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 98.9 (19) OffRtg: 105.8 (10) DefRtg: 104.4 (13) NetRtg: +1.4 (11)
Shooting 65 percent from the free throw line isn't the only thing new about Andre Drummond. In his first five years in the league, he had never recorded five or more assists in a game, but he's done so eight times this season (with six or more in each of the last four games). He hasn't turned into Nikola Jokic or Arvydas Sabonis, but he is making the right decisions from the high post, with the Pistons running multiple cutters around him. Detroit leads the league in handoff possessions by a wide margin after ranking 14th last season, and, though they've been held under a point per possession in four of their last six games, only three teams - Orlando, Philadelphia and New Orleans - have improved offensively more than the Pistons, who have scored 2.5 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season.
Week 8: @ SAS, @ MIL, vs. GSW, vs. BOS
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 99.6 (15) OffRtg: 106.8 (7) DefRtg: 103.6 (11) NetRtg: +3.2 (6)
Just when things were going downhill with their point guard on the shelf, the Wizards got a couple of bigs wins in Minnesota on Tuesday and against Detroit on Friday, holding two top-10 offenses to less than a point per possession. Given the crazy, Minny-Philly back-to-back and Bradley Beal missing most of the first half after getting elbowed in the face, Wednesday's loss in Philadelphia was seemingly a given, but more good bench minutes (and intentionally fouling Ben Simmons) had them turning a 24-point deficit into a one-possession game before the Sixers escaped. The Wiz ranked 25th in aggregate bench NetRtg (minus-7.2) through their first 10 games, but rank sixth (plus-9.5) over their last 12. Kelly Oubre is the star of the bench, Jodie Meeks has been shooting well, and Ian Mahinmi has been a defensive anchor. Karl-Anthony Towns (3-for-8) and Joel Embiid (2-for-9) shot a combined 5-for-17 with Mahinmi on the floor last week.
Week 8: @ UTA, @ POR, @ PHX, @ LAC
Last Week: 10
Pace: 98.7 (22) OffRtg: 108.8 (5) DefRtg: 108.2 (23) NetRtg: +0.6 (14)
With Nemanja Bjelica (sprained left foot) missing the last six games and Tom Thibodeau giving Shabazz Muhammad just 15 minutes of playing time over the last five, the Wolves have depth issues. They're the only team with four players averaging at least 34 minutes per game (only one other team has more than two) and maybe the extra minutes have hurt them late in games. Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins have all shot worse in the fourth quarter than they have in any other period, and the Wolves have been much worse defensively in the fourth (116 points allowed per 100 possessions) than they've been in any other period. They were 1-4 in their previous five games that were within five points in the last five minutes before Butler scored 20 points in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win over the Clippers, taking 10 of the team's last 12 shots.
Week 8: @ MEM, @ LAC, vs. DAL
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 102.2 (7) OffRtg: 106.2 (9) DefRtg: 106.3 (19) NetRtg: -0.1 (17)
When Anthony Davis was ejected on Wednesday, the Timberwolves went on an 11-0 run and beat the Pelicans by 18. When Davis injured his groin on Friday, the Jazz went on a 10-0 run and beat the Pelicans by six. Through Friday, the Pels were 18 points per 100 possessions better with Davis on the floor (plus-5.0) than they were with him on the bench (minus-13.0). But, without him on Saturday, they somehow came up with one of their best offensive games of the season on the road (and on the second night of a back-to-back) against a top-five defense, getting 38 points from DeMarcus Cousins, 10 assists from Rajon Rondo and hot shooting (4-for-4 from 3-point range) from E'Twaun Moore in a comfortable and important win over the Blazers. That was the first no-assist game for Cousins, who remains the only player averaging at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and could be just the second in the last 13 years to do so over a full season.
Week 8: vs. GSW, vs. DEN, vs. SAC, vs. PHI
Last Week: 19 ↑
Pace: 97.6 (27) OffRtg: 105.2 (15) DefRtg: 102.0 (7) NetRtg: +3.2 (7)
The Jazz have won five straight games thanks to some huge second halves. They've won the final 24 minutes by 18 or more points in four of the five games, scoring a ridiculous 134 points per 100 second-half possessions over the streak. Derrick Favors has seemingly found himself as the starting center and has made 21 of his 23 second-half shots over the five games. The Jazz have been without Rodney Hood for the last three, but Alec Burks has had the best mini-stretch of the season (averaging 22 points on 57 percent shooting over the three games) and Donovan Mitchell blew up on Friday, scoring 41 points (29 in the second half) in what was maybe Utah's most important win of the season. Rudy Gobert's status has been upgraded to "questionable" for Monday's game against Washington.
Week 8: vs. WAS, @ OKC, vs. HOU, @ MIL
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 99.5 (16) OffRtg: 102.9 (22) DefRtg: 100.3 (4) NetRtg: +2.6 (9)
After a 4-1 trip, the Blazers returned home, got some days off (they're playing just four games in a 13-day stretch), and got Al-Farouq Aminu back from a 13-game absence. And then they had one of their worst offensive games of the season against Milwaukee on Thursday and one of their worst defensive games of the season against New Orleans (without Anthony Davis) on Saturday, with the magic of their new starting lineup (Pat Connaughton at small forward) wearing off. After it scored 124 points per 100 possessions in its first three games, the lineup scored 86 in the last two.
Week 8: vs. WAS, vs. HOU
Last Week: 14
Pace: 99.2 (17) OffRtg: 102.6 (23) DefRtg: 100.3 (3) NetRtg: +2.3 (10)
The first step is surviving, which the Thunder have done with home wins over the Wolves and (very) shorthanded Spurs over the weekend. The question remains if they can take the next step with some consistency maybe their first post-Halloween road win. While Carmelo Anthony (18 points in 60 minutes over the last two games) and Paul George (another brutal shooting performance on Sunday) still can't find their way in Russell Westbrook's offense, Steven Adams scored 46 points on 19-for-24 shooting in the two wins, with George assisting on 10 of his 19 buckets. Tuesday's game seems like an important one, and the Jazz will be playing the second game of a back-to-back.
Week 8: vs. UTA, @ BKN (Mexico City), @ MEM
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 97.7 (26) OffRtg: 105.7 (11) DefRtg: 105.2 (16) NetRtg: +0.5 (15)
Jason Kidd put Tony Snell back in the starting lineup last week (after two games with other starters at the two) and the move paid off. The reunited lineup outscored its opponents by 47 points in its 53 minutes as the Bucks beat the Kings, Blazers and Kings again. They're 8-3 (with a top-five defense) with Eric Bledsoe, even though they've been outscored by 12.4 points per 100 possessions with Bledsoe on the bench in those 11 games. The bench almost gave away a 20-point lead against Sacramento on Saturday and will face four of the top eight teams in aggregate bench NetRtg this week.
Week 8: @ BOS, vs. DET, vs. DAL, vs. UTA
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 101.3 (9) OffRtg: 107.7 (6) DefRtg: 106.5 (21) NetRtg: +1.2 (12)
Victor Oladipo had a big week (averaging 27 points on 59 percent shooting), but the Pacers haven't been able to get enough stops to hang with the best teams in the league, allowing 114 points per 100 possessions in losses to Boston, Houston and Toronto over the last nine days. Cory Joseph had a rough night in his return to the 6 on Friday and the Pacers were outscored by 15 points in 10 minutes with Oladipo on the bench in a five-point loss to the Raptors. Though they're still second in 3-point percentage, the Pacers have been outscored from beyond the arc in six of their last seven games. Their longest homestand of the season (six games over 12 days) begins Monday with an important game against the team that's a half game behind Indy for eighth place in the East, and the Knicks will be without both Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Week 8: vs. NYK, vs. CHI, vs. CLE, vs. DEN
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 100.1 (14) OffRtg: 106.7 (8) DefRtg: 106.3 (20) NetRtg: +0.4 (16)
A soft schedule has allowed the Nuggets to go 4-2 without Paul Millsap and even survive their first game (against the Lakers on Saturday) with neither Millsap nor Nikola Jokic, because Will Barton came up big in the fourth quarter for the second straight game. He had a career-high 37 points and the game-winning drive in Thursday's win over the Bulls, and then 13 fourth-quarter points against L.A. Barton has increased his ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts from 2.5 last season to 7.8 this season, and his effective field goal percentage of 56.2 percent is, by far, the highest mark of his career. Jokic (left ankle sprain) is expected to miss at least a few more games, with the Nuggets heading out on a six-game trip (they're 3-7 on the road) and Sunday's visit to Indiana beginning a stretch where they're playing 10 of 11 games against teams that currently have winning records (with the lone exception being a game in Oklahoma City).
Week 8: @ DAL, @ NOP, @ ORL, @ IND
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 99.0 (18) OffRtg: 105.0 (16) DefRtg: 105.2 (17) NetRtg: -0.2 (18)
The Knicks' season may fall apart before their schedule gets tough, because both Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are dealing with injuries that forced them to miss Sunday's loss vs. Orlando and their ensuing trip to Indiana for Monday's game against the Pacers. New York has outscored its opponents by 4.0 points per 100 possessions in 509 minutes with both Hardaway and Porzingis on the floor and by 2.4 in 295 minutes with one of the two on the floor. But in 251 minutes with neither on the floor, they've been outscored by 12.2 per 100. In the last two games that Porzingis has missed, Michael Beasley has totaled 51 points on 24-for-42 shooting.
Week 8: @ IND, vs. MEM, @ CHI, vs. ATL
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (21) OffRtg: 100.7 (27) DefRtg: 104.6 (14) NetRtg: -4.0 (24)
The Heat have been better with Kelly Olynyk on the floor (plus-2.7 per 100 possessions) than with Hassan Whiteside on the floor (minus-2.4), but Whiteside's knee injury means that they're depending on Bam Adebayo every night. The rookie has shown the potential to be a great defender, but with Olynyk keeping his bench role, the Heat's Adebayo-at-center starting lineup has been outscored by 37 points in 37 minutes in the last three games. Josh Richardson's career-high (27 points) and big minutes from the bench helped them recover from an early, 15-point deficit against Charlotte on Friday, but there was no coming back against the Knicks or Warriors. They've still been at their best in the first quarter, which they won against the champs on Sunday before getting thumped over the final 36 minutes.
Week 8: @ SAS, @ BKN (Mexico City)
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 101.0 (10) OffRtg: 104.4 (17) DefRtg: 105.0 (15) NetRtg: -0.6 (19)
It's getting late early for the Hornets, who have lost four straight games and 10 of their last 13, still dealing with serious bench issues. Even with Kemba Walker (bruised left shoulder) out the last two games, their starting lineup (with Michael Carter-Williams at point guard) was a plus-19 in its 30 minutes. But the Hornets were outscored by 37 points in 66 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor, taking their road record to 1-10. They need to turn things around quickly (and will have Walker back on Monday), because they're entering one of their easier stretches of schedule, with 10 of their next 13 games at home and three very winnable games this week.
Week 8: vs. ORL, vs. GSW, vs. CHI, vs. LAL
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 102.7 (6) OffRtg: 105.5 (13) DefRtg: 108.0 (22) NetRtg: -2.6 (21)
The Magic ended their nine game losing streak (in which they allowed 116 points per 100 possessions) with a 26-3, second-half run (in which the Thunder shot 1-for-17) on Wednesday. Their new lineup (Jonathon Simmons instead of Terrence Ross) allowed 122 points per 100 possessions in its first four starts, but there's no turning back, with Ross suffering a right knee injury (that will have him out a "significant" amount of time) in the OKC win. Nikola Vucevic likes New York; Three of his six highest scoring games of his career (and his two highest scoring games this season) have come at Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center, shooting 61 percent (150-for-246) in the two buildings.
Week 8: @ CHA, vs. ATL, vs. DEN, @ ATL
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 104.9 (3) OffRtg: 104.3 (20) DefRtg: 108.3 (27) NetRtg: -4.0 (25)
Averaging 1.5 fewer live-ball turnovers (recorded as opponent steals) per game than they did last season, the Nets should be improved both offensively and defensively. But (though they're allowing a league-low 0.97 points per possession in transition), they've taken a step backward on defense, and have allowed 111 points per 100 possessions over their last 10 games. Only the Heat and Clippers have allowed their opponents to take a lower percentage of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range, but only the Kings have allowed their opponents to shoot better on the shots in between, and Brooklyn ranks in the bottom five in opponent turnover percentage for the second straight season. The last season the Nets were a better-than-average defensive team (2006-07) was their last full season with Jason Kidd (as a player).
Week 8: @ ATL, vs. OKC (Mexico City), vs. MIA (Mexico City)
Last Week: 25 ↑
Pace: 98.1 (25) OffRtg: 100.8 (26) DefRtg: 105.7 (18) NetRtg: -4.9 (26)
After a loss to the Spurs on Monday (in which they allowed 26 points in the last 5:05) and another to Nets on Wednesday (in which they failed multiple times to get the defensive rebound they needed), the Mavs are a league-worst 1-11 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, with the only win coming on Harrison Barnes' Memphis miracle. But they took care of business against the Clippers on Saturday, with Dirk Nowitzki making all five of his threes, Nerlens Noel eating a hot dog, and their veteran guards (J.J. Barea and Devin Harris) once again providing big minutes off the bench. The Mavs have been almost 30 points per 100 possessions better with Harris on the floor (plus-16.4) than they've been with him off the floor (minus-13.3), they have the league's eighth best aggregate bench NetRtg (plus-3.7), and their lineup of J.J. Barea, Yogi Ferrell, Harris, Nowitzki and Dwight Powell is an unfathomable plus-78 in 73 minutes.
Week 8: vs. DEN, @ BOS, @ MIL, @ MIN
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (20) OffRtg: 105.6 (12) DefRtg: 108.2 (25) NetRtg: -2.6 (22)
Now Blake Griffin is hurt, out a couple of months with a sprained MCL in his left knee, and the DeAndre Jordan trade speculation can really ramp up. The Clippers started two guys named C.J. Williams and Jamil Wilson in Minnesota on Sunday, and with Austin Rivers making seven threes, they almost beat a good team on the road. But they couldn't stop Jimmy Butler and have allowed a remarkable 123 points per 100 possessions in the three games without Griffin, with Sunday's game being just the start of a stretch where they're playing five of six against top-10 offenses.
Week 8: vs. MIN, vs. WAS
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 105.3 (2) OffRtg: 99.5 (28) DefRtg: 102.9 (8) NetRtg: -3.3 (23)
The Lakers have lost five straight games, but the wins and losses (and even the 42 turnovers over the last two games) aren't as important as the player development. And Brandon Ingram seemingly took a step forward with his career-high 32 points against the Warriors on Wednesday. He got 14 of the 32 in the restricted area, where he's taken 49 percent of his shots this season, up from just 31 percent as a rookie. The improved ability to get to the rim has resulted in 41 free throw attempts per 100 shots from the field, an increase from 31 last season and the fifth highest rate among non-bigs with at least 200 field goal attempts (right behind that of DeMar DeRozan).
Week 8: @ PHI, @ CHA
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 97.1 (28) OffRtg: 98.0 (29) DefRtg: 109.4 (29) NetRtg: -11.4 (29)
Apparently, there's an eight-game limit on Kings starting lineups, even when they're on a 3-2 stretch that includes a win over the Warriors, because Saturday's game in Milwaukee brought another change: Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos in, Skal Labissiere and Zach Randolph out. The result was a 14-0 start for the Bucks, a full lineup change 190 seconds into the first quarter, and the new starting group not playing together for the rest of the game. Bogdan Bogdanovic had the game-winning bucket in a one-on-one iso against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, scored a career-high 19 points in Chicago on Friday, and has shown some playmaking skills in the pick-and-roll.
Week 8: @ CLE, @ NOP, vs. TOR
Last Week: 26 ↓
Pace: 96.7 (30) OffRtg: 102.1 (24) DefRtg: 104.4 (12) NetRtg: -2.3 (20)
The Grizzlies have made the playoffs in each of the last seven years and have somehow changed coaches in three of the last five. This year's Grizz have been at their best (plus-5.5 points per 100 possessions) with Marc Gasol on the bench, so firing David Fizdale for leaving Gasol on the bench seems a bit unfair, though it's probably more on the coach than the player if their relationship goes cold. In their first three games with Bernie Bickerstaff as the interim coach, the Grizzlies have played slower and taken a much lower percentage of their shots from 3-point range, though playing two of the three games against the Spurs could skew both of those numbers a bit.
Week 8: vs. MIN, @ NYK, vs. TOR, vs. OKC
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 105.3 (1) OffRtg: 101.2 (25) DefRtg: 109.6 (30) NetRtg: -8.4 (28)
Dragan Bender got the first start of his career on Tuesday in Chicago, but picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and ... that was that. Marquese Chriss was back in the starting lineup for the last two games as Jay Triano has gone away from the two-center look he dabbled with the week prior. Now, the Suns' three centers (Tyson Chandler, Alex Len and Greg Monroe) are taking turns as the designated DNP. Devin Booker had another big game (38 points) in Boston and the Suns actually made it a game (cutting a 17-point deficit down to two) this time. Jared Dudley gave them some good minutes (in a rare appearance) and is a plus-18 for the season on a team that's 8-16.
Week 8: @ PHI, @ TOR, vs. WAS, vs. SAS
Last Week: 28 ↓
Pace: 100.2 (12) OffRtg: 103.0 (21) DefRtg: 108.3 (25) NetRtg: -5.3 (27)
The Hawks' three top big men (John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon and Mike Muscala) are all out with injuries. But they outscored Cleveland and Brooklyn, 104-68, in the paint (with their guards doing a lot of the damage) as they took the streaking Cavs down to the final two minutes and beat the Nets with a big game from their bench. Undrafted guys Tyler Cavanaugh (rookie) and Isaiah Taylor (played four career games prior to this season) have both done well with their opportunities, and Miles Plumlee had a solid start in the absence of the other bigs on Saturday.
Week 8: vs. BKN, @ ORL, vs. ORL, @ NYK
Last Week: 30
Pace: 98.7 (23) OffRtg: 95.7 (30) DefRtg: 108.8 (28) NetRtg: -13.1 (30)
The Bulls hosted two of the four worst teams in the West, had a three-point lead in the final minute in Denver, and got two strong games from Kris Dunn last week. Despite all that, they remain winless (0-12) against the other conference, having lost the 12 games by an average of 16.9 points. Nikola Mirotic could make his season debut this week and Zach LaVine has been cleared for contact, but until LaVine is in uniform (maybe late this month), we may see more of Dunn and Jerian Grant together. Despite Dunn's improved play and Grant having some decent games off the bench, that combination has been disastrous (especially defensively), with the Bulls getting outscored by 37 points per 100 possessions in their 63 minutes.
Week 8: vs. CLE, @ IND, @ CHA, vs. NYK