Power Rankings, Week 11: Parity keeps Nuggets at No. 1
December has been a month of parity, with every team having at least three losses, only one (the Knicks) having fewer than three wins, and a bunch of modest winning streaks coming to an end in the last week.
That can make it hard to figure out who goes where in the Power Rankings. It also means that almost every game means something. Look no further than the Christmas Day slate, which features four important games in regard to the standings. The fifth has Giannis Antetokounmpo looking for some revenge on the Madison Square Garden stage.
In addition to being Christmas week, Week 11 is home-and-home week, with six pairs of teams facing in each other on both home floors over the next five days, and three of those six pairings — Nets-Hornets, Mavs-Pelicans and Kings-Clippers — involving teams that are within a game of each other in the win or loss column.
Every game counts. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
- Last week: Three big wins help Nuggets rise to No. 1
- This time last year: Warriors reclaim top spot with Christmas win — Playing without Stephen Curry, the Warriors beat the Cavs on Christmas behind a triple-double from Draymond Green. The Knicks still had a winning record (17-16) and the Lakers put an end to the Rockets’ 14-game winning streak. Dion Waiters played his last game of the season (succumbing to an ankle injury that he still hasn’t recovered from), DeMar DeRozan had made 13 3-pointers in three games, and James Harden scored 51 points against both L.A. teams in the span of three days. Larry Nance Jr. dunked all over Kevin Durant, Jrue Holiday executed a 360 layup, and Russell Westbrook hit a game-winning three against the Hawks. Jason Kidd had Khris Middleton intentionally miss a free throw with the Bucks up three and the Pacers threw away a win against the Celtics.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Paul George (OKC) was a plus-66 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Collin Sexton (CLE) was a minus-55 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Miami (3-0) — The Heat ended the Rockets’ five-game winning streak on Thursday and the Bucks’ four-game winning streak on Saturday, handing the league’s No. 2 offense its worst offensive game of the season.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: New York (0-3) — The Knicks’ 1-9 stretch has included losses to the Cavs, Suns and Hawks.
East vs. West
- The West is 99-72 (.579) against the East in interconference games after going 6-6 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 10
- Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. Phoenix, 3. New Orleans
- Easiest: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Oklahoma City, 3. Charlotte
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Miami (+7), San Antonio (+7), Brooklyn (+5)
- Free falls of the week: New Orleans (-7), Dallas (-6), Detroit (-6)
Week 11 Team to Watch
- L.A. Lakers — The Lakers played the Warriors twice in the preseason, but the Christmas showcase game will be their first regular-season meeting with the champs. They’ll also have their first meeting with the Clippers on Friday, and that game is sandwiched by an important home-and-home set (Thursday and Sunday) against the Kings.
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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 100.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.4 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: 98.4 (26) OffRtg: 111.0 (8) DefRtg: 105.3 (6) NetRtg: +5.8 (5)
The Nuggets won their first four games with their new starting lineup (Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee in place of the injured Gary Harris and Paul Millsap), even though the starting lineup had allowed 127.5 points per 100 possessions (with the opponents shooting 14-for-27 from 3-point range) in its 46 minutes over those four games. The lineup got outscored in a fifth consecutive game in L.A. on Saturday afternoon, but the Nuggets couldn't recover, in part because Nikola Jokic was ejected midway through the third quarter of the loss to the Clippers. They had the league's best record (10-3) between Thanksgiving and Christmas and they're still one of just three West teams with a winning road record, but they've lost three straight away from the Pepsi Center, and the L.A. loss was the start of a stretch where they're playing seven of 11 on the road.
Week 11: @ SAS, vs. SAS, @ PHX
Last Week: 2
Pace: 103.2 (6) OffRtg: 112.6 (2) DefRtg: 104.4 (4) NetRtg: +8.2 (1)
For the second time in 11 days, Giannis Antetokounmpo (season-low nine points on 3-for-12 shooting) and the Bucks' offense (season-low 86 points per 100 possessions) came up empty on the road, and there should be some concern that the Heat (a possible first-round opponent) have the formula for slowing down the Kia MVP front-runner. The Heat have won the last six meetings and since the start of last season, no team has held Antetokounmpo to a lower field goal percentage (38 percent). But in between ugly-offense losses in Indiana and Miami, the Bucks won four straight (with good minutes from their bench) and scored 120 points per 100 possessions on the road against the Celtics' third-ranked defense. They now have wins over each of the other four good Eastern Conference teams and, after their Christmas Day game at Madison Square Garden, will begin their second six-game homestand of the season, which includes their third meeting with the Raptors.
Week 11: @ NYK, vs. NYK, vs. BKN
Last Week: 3
Pace: 100.5 (17) OffRtg: 112.5 (3) DefRtg: 106.4 (9) NetRtg: +6.2 (3)
The Raptors went 7-6 in a 13-game stretch in which 10 of the games were against teams currently over .500, 10 of the 13 were against offenses that rank in the top 12, and in which Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard played together only five times (with additional absences from five other guys in their top 10). The good news (considering last season's biggest issue) was that their defense held up relatively well, allowing 106.9 points per 100 possessions over the 13 games, up from 106.1 through their first 22. The best defense of the stretch may have come in the fourth quarter against Indiana on Wednesday, when they came back from 17 points down by holding the Pacers to 5-for-18 shooting (with five turnovers) in the final 12 minutes. The Raps' next four games are against four teams with bottom-10 offenses.
Week 11: @ MIA, @ ORL, vs. CHI
Last Week: 4
Pace: 101.6 (10) OffRtg: 113.5 (1) DefRtg: 108.6 (14) NetRtg: +4.8 (7)
They've yet to really step on the gas pedal, but the Warriors are 11-4 since Thanksgiving, survived a ridiculous shooting night (18-for-23 from 3-point range) from the Clippers on Sunday, and have been taking care of the ball (averaging just 10.5 turnovers over their four games last week). The champs started Jonas Jerebko (moving Draymond Green to the five) on Sunday, but finished with Andre Iguodala and the Death Lineup in both of their weekend wins, with Kevin Durant hitting a (familiar-looking) dagger against the Mavs on Saturday and Stephen Curry driving for the game-winner against the Clippers. The 77 points the two MVPs combined for on Sunday was their second highest total in 156 games together (including playoffs) since Durant joined the Warriors. Their Christmas Day meetings with LeBron James haven't been all that pretty, but all three were within three points in the final minute.
Week 11: vs. LAL, vs. POR, @ POR
Last Week: 5
Pace: 98.8 (24) OffRtg: 107.3 (20) DefRtg: 101.9 (1) NetRtg: +5.4 (6)
The Pacers remain the best fourth-quarter team in the league (plus-8.8 points per 100 possessions), but a pair of fourth-quarter collapses stand between them and what could be an 11-game winning streak right now. They blew a six-point lead with less than four minutes to go against the Cavs on Tuesday and blew a 13-point lead with less than 10 minutes left in Toronto Wednesday. Despite Domantas Sabonis' ridiculous efficiency, bench minutes have not been great, in part because Tyreke Evans has not given them the boost they were hoping for when they signed him in the summer. Evans (who has missed three of the last five games) had the league's worst effective field goal percentage (minimum 100 field goal attempts) between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Still, the Pacers are 9-2 over their last 11 games with nobody averaging more than 17.4 points over that stretch. The new No. 1 defense in the league will play seven of its next nine games against teams that rank in the bottom 10 offensively.
Week 11: @ ATL, vs. DET
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 103.5 (5) OffRtg: 108.1 (18) DefRtg: 102.0 (2) NetRtg: +6.1 (4)
With how good their defense has been and with the loads that Steven Adams (seeing a jump of more than two points per game for the third straight season), Paul George (averaging career highs in basically everything) and Russell Westbrook (averaging a triple-double again) have been carrying, the Thunder don't often need much offensively from the other guys on the floor. Terrance Ferguson, Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines all rank in the bottom 25 in usage rate among 296 players who have averaged at least 15 minutes in 12 games or more. But late-game situations with this team remain fascinating, and other guys will be left open when the defense collapses on the OKC stars. Westbrook made the right play in the closing seconds against Minnesota on Sunday, but the result was Abrines missing his second potential game-winner of the last two weeks and the Thunder losing at home for just the second time since Week 2. What has been a pretty road-heavy December continues with three road games this week.
Week 11: @ HOU, @ PHX, @ DAL
Last Week: 8 ↑
Pace: 102.6 (8) OffRtg: 110.4 (11) DefRtg: 107.6 (12) NetRtg: +2.8 (8)
The Sixers' win over Toronto on Saturday came with Kawhi Leonard in another country, but the Raptors had won six straight games without Leonard before being held to 42 points in the second half in Philly. The Sixers got smoked in San Antonio on Monday, but there's promise in how well they've been taking care of the ball. Their 45 turnovers over the last four games (with Ben Simmons registering an assist-turnover ratio of 38/7) are the fewest they've committed in any four game stretch since Feb. of 2017. After missing 11 straight 3-point attempts (and going 5-for-35 from 3-point range over an 11-game stretch through last Monday), Joel Embiid has stopped shooting them. All 32 of Embiid's shots on Wednesday and Saturday came from inside the arc, and he's 42-for-47 in the restricted area over his last six games. The Sixers' Christmas game in Boston is the start of their longest road trip of the season (five games).
Week 11: @ BOS, @ UTA, @ POR
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 100.3 (18) OffRtg: 109.7 (13) DefRtg: 103.5 (3) NetRtg: +6.2 (2)
The Celtics suffered another injury (Aron Baynes broke his hand on Wednesday) before they got healthier. But the returns of Al Horford (from a seven-game absence) and Marcus Morris (from a two-game absence), along with a players-only (baby) meeting helped them end a three-game losing streak in which they allowed more than 113 points per 100 possessions. They had the league's best offense (116.7 points scored per 100 possessions) between Thanksgiving and Christmas, in part because eight of those 14 games were against the league's eight worst defenses and only one (their loss to Milwaukee on Friday) was against a team that ranks in the top 10 defensively. Their Christmas game against the Sixers is a chance to pick up their first win over a team that's currently over .500 in more than five weeks. The Milwaukee loss was their first game against that group since they beat Toronto on Nov. 16, though Charlotte was 16-15 before the Celtics beat them on Sunday.
Week 11: vs. PHI, @ HOU, @ MEM
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (20) OffRtg: 110.6 (10) DefRtg: 110.0 (19) NetRtg: +0.6 (15)
The Blazers have been outscored by 87 points over the last five weeks. But they're a survivable 8-9 in that time and have kept their head above water with a 4-1 stretch in which they lost to the Jazz (on Friday) by 30 and won the other four games by a total of 20 points (with Seth Curry having hit five fourth-quarter threes in the four wins). They haven't been consistent on either end of the floor from game to game, even with the last month having been a fairly home-heavy stretch (nine of 14 at the Moda Center). After they visit the team that just beat them by 30, they get two games against the champs, followed by four more against teams with winning records. They're one of five teams that have a winning record (they're 10-9) within that group through Sunday.
Week 11: @ UTA, @ GSW, vs. GSW, vs. PHI
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 103.8 (4) OffRtg: 108.4 (17) DefRtg: 106.9 (10) NetRtg: +1.6 (11)
The Lakers got both Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo back over the weekend and, on Friday, were the first team in more than a month to hold the Pelicans' seventh-ranked offense under a point per possession. But they've scored just 102.4 points per 100 possessions themselves as they've lost three of their last four games. LeBron James has cooled off from 3-point range, Lonzo Ball was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc on Sunday (yet they were still feeding him late in their loss to the Grizzlies), and Josh Hart has had a rough last 10 days. The league's worst free throw shooting team also left a lot of points at the free-throw line last week, both on Sunday and their five-point loss in Brooklyn on Tuesday. They've been without JaVale McGee for the last four games and were also missing Tyson Chandler on Sunday, but there hasn't been an issue with replacement starter Ivica Zubac, who totaled 38 points and registered a plus-28 in his two starts over the weekend.
Week 11: @ GSW, @ SAC, vs. LAC, vs. SAC
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 98.8 (25) OffRtg: 112.1 (5) DefRtg: 110.1 (20) NetRtg: +1.9 (9)
The Spurs outscored their opponents by an amazing 22.5 points per 100 possessions over a 7-1 stretch that ended with their loss in Houston on Saturday (the second game of a back-to-back) and included a 26-point win (Friday against Minnesota) in which LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan combined for just 22 points. The Spurs have taken almost 49 percent of their shots from between the restricted area and the 3-point line, and that's the league's highest rate by a enormous margin, with Cleveland second at 40 percent. Not surprisingly, their success can have something to do with how well they shoot on those shots. They're 10-1 when they've shot 50 percent or better from between the restricted area and 3-point range (which they did in five of those seven wins) and 8-15 otherwise. In two of their wins over that 7-1 stretch (Dec. 13 vs. the Clippers and Dec. 21 vs. the Wolves), they attempted just 10 and eight shots in the restricted area, the two lowest totals for any team in any game this season.
Week 11: vs. DEN, @ DEN, @ LAC
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 102.1 (9) OffRtg: 112.0 (6) DefRtg: 110.8 (24) NetRtg: +1.2 (12)
The Clippers used a late, 15-2 run to beat the Mavs on Thursday, handed the Nuggets their worst loss of the season on Saturday, and shot 18-for-23 from 3-point range at Golden State on Sunday. But they've dropped from 14th to 24th in defensive efficiency over the last two weeks, having allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions in five of their last seven games. Though they have two guys - Avery Bradley and Patrick Beverley - with great reps for on-ball defense, they've forced just 11.7 turnovers per 100 possessions, the lowest rate for any defense in the 23 seasons for which we have play-by-play data. They've forced even fewer (10 per 100 possessions) over this 2-5 stretch of theirs and with the champs committing just one live-ball turnover on Sunday, that 18-for-23 from 3-point range wasn't good enough.
Week 11: vs. SAC, @ LAL, vs. SAS
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 96.8 (29) OffRtg: 112.1 (4) DefRtg: 111.4 (26) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
The Rockets got their first win without Chris Paul (despite shooting 39 percent), slowing down the red-hot Spurs (with help from a rest advantage) on Saturday. But the timing of Paul's latest hamstring injury was not good. The Rockets had scored more than 118 points per 100 possessions (with an NBA-record 26 threes against the Wizards on Wednesday) over a five-game winning streak that came to an end in the game (at Miami on Thursday) in which Paul was injured, and the San Antonio win began a nine-game stretch in which six of the games are against top-10 offenses. The Rockets have been 7.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Paul on the floor than they've been with him off the floor, and they've allowed 118.2 per 100 in the six games he's missed. With Brandon Knight having shot 3-for-20 in his first six games back from a 22-month absence and with Paul seemingly in need of periodic days off when he returns, Austin Rivers is reportedly on his way to Houston.
Week 11: vs. OKC, vs. BOS, @ NOP
Last Week: 11 ↓
Pace: 105.3 (2) OffRtg: 109.4 (14) DefRtg: 110.5 (22) NetRtg: -1.1 (23)
The Kings have the league's eighth worst point differential and its 12th best record, because they're a league-best 13-4 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes after weekend wins over the Grizzlies and Pelicans, having trailed both games by 19 points. They're still a bottom-10 defensive team overall, but have had the league's best clutch defense (83 points allowed per 100 possessions) and held Memphis and New Orleans to 16-for-44 shooting in the fourth quarter in the two games. De'Aaron Fox highlights are mostly about him running the floor and attacking the basket, but his late-game defense has been worth watching and the Kings have been 12.1 points per 100 possessions better with Fox on the floor (plus-2.9) than they've been with him off the floor (minus-9.2). The weekend wins were important, but their next six games are against five of the six teams ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
Week 11: @ LAC, vs. LAL, @ LAL
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 100.3 (19) OffRtg: 105.8 (25) DefRtg: 105.6 (8) NetRtg: +0.2 (18)
The Heat are one of three teams that rank in the top 10 in both 3-point percentage and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range, but they rank just 25th in offensive efficiency. And they haven't exactly been tearing it up offensively as they've won five straight games and nine of their last 12. Their defense has been at a top-five level (and held Giannis Antetokounmpo to a season-low nine points on Saturday), six of the nine wins have been within five points in the last five minutes, and Tyler Johnson has helped make up for the absence of Goran Dragic, who had knee surgery on Wednesday. Johnson had a huge fourth-quarter sequence - scoring off a loose ball for the lead, blocking James Harden, and then draining a three - in the Heat's win over Houston on Thursday, and then made a career-high six threes in Orlando on Sunday.
Week 11: vs. TOR, vs. CLE, vs. MIN
Last Week: 16
Pace: 95.9 (30) OffRtg: 105.1 (26) DefRtg: 105.0 (5) NetRtg: +0.1 (19)
Not breaking news: The Grizzlies need Mike Conley, who scored 11 points (with two huge pull-up threes in the final four minutes) in a 35-24 fourth quarter that brought their five-game losing streak (in which Conley was a plus-10 to an end with a road win over the Lakers on Sunday. In the month of December, the Grizz have been more than 32 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Conley on the floor (scoring 112.8 per 100) than they've been with him off the floor (scoring an anemic 80.7 per 100), with none of his fellow starters having an on-off differential anything close to that. Conley's usage rate (the percent of his team's possessions he finishes while he's on the floor) is a career-high 26.2 percent, and he has the highest assist-turnover ratio (3.65) among 112 players with a usage rate above 20 percent.
Week 11: vs. CLE, vs. BOS
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 100.6 (15) OffRtg: 106.1 (23) DefRtg: 105.3 (7) NetRtg: +0.8 (13)
The Jazz are looking more and more like the defensive team we expected them to be. They held five straight opponents - including the top-10 offenses of the Rockets, Warriors and Blazers - under a point per possession, with their opponents shooting just 44 percent in the paint (compared to 56 percent through their first 28 games). They got hosed on a no-call on James Harden's double-step-back on Monday, but managed to beat Golden State and Portland with Donovan Mitchell shooting 6-for-36 over the two games. Though they came up short against Oklahoma City on Saturday (with Mitchell missing on an opportunity to tie the game at the line after shaking Paul George out of his shoes), they still have an opportunity to get back over .500 by the new year.
Week 11: vs. POR, vs. PHI, vs. NYK
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 101.1 (12) OffRtg: 108.6 (16) DefRtg: 108.1 (13) NetRtg: +0.4 (17)
The Legend of Luka grew with a miraculous 3-pointer to send the Mavs' game in Portland to overtime on Sunday. But it's apparently going to take even greater heroics to end the Mavs' losing streaks, a six-game streak overall and a seven-game streak on the road. And while Doncic is pulling off miracles, the Dallas bench has lost its magic, with the team's worst plus-minus marks over the overall streak belonging to five reserves who have shot a combined 10-for-57 from 3-point range. The good news is that the Mavs' home-and-home opponent this week (New Orleans) has been similarly bad on the road. If either team swept the two games, the other could be in a pretty desperate situation heading into the new year.
Week 11: vs. NOP, @ NOP, vs. OKC
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 99.5 (23) OffRtg: 109.9 (12) DefRtg: 110.2 (21) NetRtg: -0.4 (20)
The Nets' seven-game winning streak came to an end with a flurry of Victor Oladipo buckets on Friday, but they took care of business against the Suns on Sunday and their home-and-home with the Hornets this week provides the opportunity (for a team that had an eight-game losing streak less than three weeks ago) to move into playoff position. Though their current starting lineup's impressive numbers (plus-25 in 61 minutes) are skewed by a blowout win over the Hawks, there's a lot to like about new starter Rodions Kurucs. The energetic rookie has averaged 12.8 points on 51 percent shooting in his six starts, scored a career-high 24 points against Indiana, and registered his first double-double against Phoenix.
Week 11: vs. CHA, @ CHA, @ MIL
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 101.5 (11) OffRtg: 108.8 (15) DefRtg: 109.8 (18) NetRtg: -1.0 (22)
The Wolves are once again struggling defensively and, in regard to playoff contention, appear to be hanging on by a thread. But they got a big win (behind a season-high 30 points from Andrew Wiggins) in Oklahoma City on Sunday and can stay in the Western Conference playoff picture by beating up on the East in the next 11 days. Five of their next six games are against the opposite conference and four of those five are against East teams that are at or below .500. They're 7-4 against the East, but blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Pistons (and lost by shooting 2-for-9 in overtime) on Wednesday. Karl-Anthony Towns fouled out of that game and has scored 20 or more points just once in the last six.
Week 11: @ CHI, vs. ATL, @ MIA
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 104.0 (3) OffRtg: 111.7 (7) DefRtg: 111.1 (25) NetRtg: +0.6 (16)
While they've had to listen to people talk about where Anthony Davis will play next, the Pelicans have sunk to 14th place in the West. What's rough is that they're 5-12 since the day before Thanksgiving, having been outscored by a total of 16 points over the 17 games. Nine of the 12 losses have been within five points in the last five minutes and over that stretch, they have the league's worst clutch field goal percentage (14-for-51, 27 percent), the league's worst clutch 3-point percentage (3-for-23, 13 percent), and the league second worst clutch free throw percentage (13-for-23, 57 percent). Jrue Holiday (2-for-14 with five turnovers) is the main culprit in regard to their late-game offensive struggles over the last month-plus, but overall, the Pels have been almost 20 points per 100 possessions better with Holiday on the floor than they've been with him off the floor.
Week 11: @ DAL, vs. DAL, vs. HOU
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 100.8 (14) OffRtg: 110.9 (9) DefRtg: 109.0 (16) NetRtg: +1.9 (10)
With a pair of wins that bookended a five-game homestand, the Hornets clinched their (seemingly important) season series against the Pistons. But beyond that, they didn't really take advantage of a home-heavy four weeks of schedule, going 7-5 over a stretch in which the only road games were in Minnesota and New York. With their loss in Boston on Sunday, the Hornets are 2-9 on the road since opening the season with back-to-back wins in Florida, with Kemba Walker having shot 38 percent over those 11 games. Malik Monk, who was a catalyst for Charlotte's improved offense early in the season, has shot even worse on the road and has been out of the rotation for the last three games. The Hornets' home-and-home with the ninth-place Nets this week is suddenly pretty important, because the two teams are tied in the win column.
Week 11: @ BKN, vs. BKN, @ WAS
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 100.5 (16) OffRtg: 106.2 (22) DefRtg: 107.1 (11) NetRtg: -0.9 (21)
When the Pistons lost six straight games earlier this month, they were either losing to good teams or on the road, and they were (essentially) without Reggie Bullock for the entire losing streak. They got back over .500 with wins over the Celtics and Wolves (in Minnesota), but with their loss at home to the Hawks on Sunday, it's time to look at their 2-9 slide with more concern. They rank 28th offensively (101.7 points scored per 100 possessions) over the 11 games, having scored less than a point per possession in games this past weekend against teams - Charlotte and Atlanta - that rank 16th and 23rd in defensive efficiency, respectively. The Pistons have been a poor shooting team all season, but rank 25th in turnover rate (15.8 per 100 possessions) over the last three weeks, having ranked 10th (14.0 per 100) prior to that.
Week 11: vs. WAS, @ IND, @ ORL
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 98.3 (27) OffRtg: 103.8 (27) DefRtg: 108.7 (15) NetRtg: -4.9 (25)
The wheels may be coming off in Orlando. Those two ugly games in Mexico City are the Magic's only two wins over the last eight games and while their opponents have scored more efficiently since they returned to the States, the Magic have not. The 93 points per 100 possessions they've scored over their last seven games is the league's worst mark over that stretch by a wide margin. Forwards Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Terrence Ross have combined to shoot 34 percent in the seven games, while starting guards D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier have had as almost as many turnovers (33) as assists (35). If they're going to hang around the Eastern Conference playoff picture, this is an important week, because their game against the eighth-place Pistons on Sunday will be followed by a six-game road trip.
Week 11: vs. PHX, vs. TOR, vs. DET
Last Week: 25
Pace: 102.9 (7) OffRtg: 108.1 (18) DefRtg: 112.7 (28) NetRtg: -4.6 (24)
The Trevor Ariza addition hasn't exactly sparked a turnaround in Washington, because one better defender doesn't necessarily lead to better defense. The Wizards are 1-3 with Ariza, having needed three overtimes, Bradley Beal's first career triple-double, and a perfect, 14-for-14 shooting night from Thomas Bryant to pick up the lone win (at home) against the 8-26 Suns. John Wall missed that game and couldn't give his fatigued teammates a lift in Indiana on Sunday, when he had as many turnovers (seven) as points. With the Rockets setting an NBA record for threes on Wednesday, only Atlanta (53.1 percent) has allowed a higher effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint than the Wiz (52.3 percent).
Week 11: @ DET, vs. CHI, vs. CHA
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 106.3 (1) OffRtg: 102.4 (29) DefRtg: 110.6 (23) NetRtg: -8.2 (27)
The Hawks have their first three-game winning streak of the last two seasons, with seven guys averaging double-figures over the three games and an eighth (Vince Carter) going for a season-high 18 points in their win in Detroit on Sunday. The start of the streak was the result of a little Linsanity, with Jeremy Lin leading a 24-9, fourth-quarter run that turned a two-point deficit into a 13-point lead over the Wizards. The three games have also been the Hawks' best defensive stretch (101.3 points per 100 possessions) since October, and they've allowed just 102.4 points per 100 possessions in 288 total minutes with Kent Bazemore and Kevin Huerter (the starting wings with Taurean Prince still nursing an ankle injury) on the floor together.
Week 11: vs. IND, @ MIN, vs. CLE
Last Week: 28 ↑
Pace: 99.7 (22) OffRtg: 100.3 (30) DefRtg: 109.3 (17) NetRtg: -9.0 (29)
It didn't take Lauri Markkanen too long to start lighting it up offensively. Playing his 10th and 11th games of the season, Markkanen totaled 63 points (on 23-for-38 shooting) in weekend wins over the Magic and Cavs. Given his size, his free throw rate (less than 19 attempts per 100 shots from the field over his 79 career games) probably needs to be higher, but his thunderous dunk on Nikola Vucevic is certainly evidence that he's not afraid of a little contact. The Bulls have scored less than a point per possession in 137 minutes with Kris Dunn and Markkanen on the floor together, but the Cleveland win was the their best offensive game of the season.
Week 11: vs. MIN, @ WAS, @ TOR
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 100.0 (21) OffRtg: 103.1 (28) DefRtg: 111.6 (27) NetRtg: -8.5 (28)
A couple of missed free throws in Washington on Saturday kept the Suns from running their out-of-nowhere winning streak (which featured an impressive win in Boston) to five games. The triple-OT loss was the second straight game in which the Suns grabbed at least 19 offensive rebounds, with DeAndre Ayton doing a lot of that work on the glass. The rookie's defense remains an issue, but he's recorded five straight double-doubles, averaging 22.8 points (on 67 percent shooting) and 15.6 boards over that stretch. Back-up Richaun Holmes, meanwhile, led the league in effective field goal percentage (minimum 100 field goal attempts) between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After they complete their five-game trip in Orlando on Wednesday, the Suns have a seven-game homestand, with the 16-16 Hornets having the worst record among the seven opponents.
Week 11: @ ORL, vs. OKC, vs. DEN
Last Week: 26 ↓
Pace: 96.9 (28) OffRtg: 105.9 (24) DefRtg: 115.4 (30) NetRtg: -9.4 (30)
The Cavs' frontline injuries have given Larry Nance Jr. the opportunity to do some stuff. He ranked fifth in effective field goal percentage (64.3 percent) between Thanksgiving and Christmas, he averaged 15.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals in four games as the starting center last week, and he had the game-winning tip-in that ended the Pacers' seven-game winning streak on Tuesday. That was the first time in more than a month that the Cavs held their opponent under a point per possession, but they went right back to being the worst defensive team in the league, allowing the Hornets, Raptors and Bulls to score almost 125 points per 100 possessions over the last three games. Matthew Dellavedova's plus-minus magic ran out on Sunday when he was a minus-11 in less than 19 minutes in the Cavs' loss to Chicago.
Week 11: @ MEM, @ MIA, @ ATL
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 100.9 (13) OffRtg: 106.5 (21) DefRtg: 113.2 (29) NetRtg: -6.7 (26)
It was not a good week for anybody hoping the Knicks were going to be competitive this season. On Friday, they announced that Kristaps Porzingis is progressing in his recovery from ACL surgery, but that the next update won't come until February. At that point, it would seemingly be in his best interest (given the Knicks' place in the standings and his free agency status next summer) to sit out the rest of the season. On the floor, the Knicks lost to the Suns and Hawks (two of the other four teams that have yet to win 10 games) last week. They've lost nine of their last 10 games and have allowed at least 110 points per 100 possessions in each of their last 12. Only the Cavs have been worse defensively in December and the Knicks have lost to them this month too.
Week 11: vs. MIL, @ MIL, @ UTA