Power Rankings, Week 13: Spurs surging at midway point
Believe it or not, we’re going to hit the halfway mark of the 2018-19 season this week. When nine of Wednesday’s 10 games are complete, the league will have played 615 of 1,230.
It seems like we just passed the quarter mark of the season and it’s not clear that anything has been sorted out since then. Though things are starting to get desperate for a few of them, there are still 14 teams with a chance to reach the postseason in the Western Conference, where the Golden State Warriors continue to tread water (relative to expectations).
In the East, five teams have clearly separated themselves from the pack. But in the 20 games played between them, each of those five teams has at least three losses.
No team has clearly established itself as the clear best team in the league. The Milwaukee Bucks have the league’s best pace-adjusted point differential by a wide margin, but have played the league’s most home-heavy schedule in a season with a higher winning percentage for home teams (.600) than usual (.593 over the last 10 full seasons).
The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have made big runs over the last month, but both started those runs from 14th place in the West and, if the playoffs started today, neither would be hosting a first-round playoff series.
The three longest winning streaks in the league this season have been just eight games long, and the most recent of those — that of the Boston Celtics, who were .500 when the streak started — ended 3 1/2 weeks ago. There have been 89 games (less than six per team) played since Christmas and every team has at least one loss over those 12 days.
With the trade deadline exactly one month away (Feb. 7), parity continues to be the story of the 2018-19 season. For now, the Denver Nuggets are at the top of the rankings, with a five-game winning streak that began with a win over the No. 2 Spurs.
- Last week: Bucks are No. 1 as start of 2019 looms
- This time last year: Warriors lead steady top 10 at season’s midway point — The Eastern Conference had a better record than the West and the Jazz were five games in the loss column out of a playoff spot. Isaiah Thomas made his season debut for the Cavs and DeMar DeRozan set a Toronto franchise record with 52 points against the Bucks. Marquese Chriss had an incredible (and game-saving) block against the Hawks, C.J. McCollum had two game-winners (one, two) that looked remarkably similar, and Stephen Curry beat the Mavs with a pull-up 3-pointer.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Taj Gibson (MIN) was a plus-65 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Cedi Osman (CLE) was a minus-77 in three games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: San Antonio (3-0) — The Spurs scored more than 118 points per 100 possessions in a 3-0 homestand against three top-10 defenses (those of the Celtics, Raptors and Grizzlies).
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Cleveland (0-3) — The Cavs lost three home games by 25 points or more, and it wasn’t exactly a murderer’s row of opponents (Miami, Utah and New Orleans).
East vs. West
- The West is 116-87 (.571) against the East in interconference games, though the East was 12-10 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 12
- Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. New York, 3. Chicago
- Easiest: 1. Miami, 2. Indiana, 3. Oklahoma City
- 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: San Antonio (+8), Brooklyn (+5), Houston (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Memphis (-5), Four teams (-3)
Week 13 Team to Watch
- Minnesota — Tom Thibodeau is gone, but the Wolves still have a season to save, and they enter Week 13 just two games out of eighth place in the West. After one day to absorb the loss of their coach, they’ll host the Thunder on Tuesday and, after a couple of days to maybe change some things up in practice, they have a Friday-Saturday back-to-back in which the Mavs and Pelicans (two teams on their tail) come to town.
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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 100.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.6 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: 2 ↑
Pace: 98.3 (26) OffRtg: 111.9 (7) DefRtg: 106.4 (9) NetRtg: +5.4 (5)
The Nuggets' continue to have issues defensively, but they've scored almost 119 points per 100 possessions, with Nikola Jokic averaging 25.6 points (on 59 percent) shooting) and 9.0 assists, over a five-game winning streak. We'll see if coach Mike Malone dares to make a lineup change mid-streak, but Gary Harris and Paul Millsap, who combined for 35 points in their win over the Hornets on Saturday, might be ready to start again (they've each come off the bench since returning from their injuries) and would be leaving the bench in the hands of Malik Beasley, who has had the three highest scoring games of his career over the last 12 days. The Nuggets are playing a relatively easy January schedule, but the next nine days are relatively rough. Five of the six games (the five below plus a game against the Warriors next Tuesday) are against teams that are .500 or better, and the opponents (the Heat and Blazers) will be rested in the second game of both of their back-to-backs this week.
Week 13: @ HOU, @ MIA, vs. LAC, @ PHX, vs. POR
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 99.0 (23) OffRtg: 112.2 (5) DefRtg: 109.1 (16) NetRtg: +3.1 (8)
The Spurs (with a blowout win) and DeMar DeRozan (with his first career triple-double) got a measure of revenge on Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors on Thursday. But more important is that they're in competition for a top-four seed in the West, having been in 14th place exactly one month ago. Since then, they've had both the league's best offense (117.4 points scored per 100 possessions) and its best defense (101.9 allowed). Their success has been about both the starters and the bench, as all nine rotation guys rank in the top 13 in cumulative plus-minus (plus-112 or better) over the last month. Ten of the 15 games have been against teams that are currently .500 or better, but 11 of the 15 have been at home, and the Spurs will be on the road for seven of their next 10 (and 15 of their next 22) games. In each of their four games in their current winning streak, they've had a quarter that they've won by at least 16 points.
Week 13: @ DET, @ MEM, vs. OKC, @ OKC
Last Week: 4 ↑
Pace: 100.2 (18) OffRtg: 112.2 (6) DefRtg: 107.3 (10) NetRtg: +4.9 (6)
The Raptors got their butts handed to them by DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs on Thursday, but they recovered about as well as they could have hoped, shooting 51 percent (including 31-for-64 from 3-point range) as they swept a weekend back-to-back against two of the league's top three defenses (and the second-and third-place teams in the East). Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard still haven't played in the same game since Dec. 9, but Leonard scored a career-high 45 points against Utah's top-five defense last week, Lowry returned from a six-game absence to dish out eight assists in 32 minutes against Indiana on Sunday, and the pair should be in the lineup together against Atlanta on Tuesday. Leonard has yet to play both games of a back-to-back, but because they've played the league's busiest schedule to date, the Raptors have the fewest back-to-backs (four) left on their schedule. They also have the league's easiest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage, with 27 of their final 40 games against teams that are currently at or below .500.
Week 13: vs. ATL, vs. BKN, @ WAS
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 103.1 (6) OffRtg: 113.5 (2) DefRtg: 104.3 (3) NetRtg: +9.2 (1)
The last five games have been the best five-game offensive stretch (121.5 points scored per 100 possessions) for the league's No. 2 offense, with the Bucks' five starters combining for an effective field goal percentage of 64 percent over that stretch. But they couldn't get the stops they needed against Toronto on Saturday, allowing the Raptors to shoot 25-for-52 from outside the paint and get to the line for 31 free throw attempts. The Bucks' defense ranks No. 1 in both opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (56.6 percent) and in the (lowest) percentage of their opponents' shots that come from there (26 percent). But they rank 25th in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (50.6 percent). Their game against the Jazz on Monday is the conclusion of a six-game homestand and they have the league's most road-heavy remaining schedule, with their visit to Houston on Wednesday being the start of a nine-week stretch where they'll play 21 of 30 games away from Fiserv Forum.
Week 13: vs. UTA, @ HOU, @ WAS, @ ATL
Last Week: 8 ↑
Pace: 96.9 (28) OffRtg: 112.9 (4) DefRtg: 111.6 (25) NetRtg: +1.3 (13)
After averaging 40.1 points on an effective field goal percentage of 55.4 percent over the Rockets' 11-1 stretch and capping a 44-point triple-double against the champs with a ridiculous game-winner, James Harden may have run out of gas. Oh, he still scored 38 points in Portland on Saturday, but was just 5-for-17 from 3-point range in his highest usage game of the season. As was the case last season, Harden's effective field goal percentage has been highest in the first quarter (58 percent) and lowest in the fourth (47.2 percent). The Rockets are home for six of their next seven games, but that stretch starts with two of the best teams in the league coming to the Toyota Center on Monday and Wednesday. The Rockets also have just two rest advantage games (tied for fewest in the league) left on the schedule, and one of those is Sunday in Orlando.
Week 13: vs. DEN, vs. MIL, vs. CLE, @ ORL
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (25) OffRtg: 108.7 (16) DefRtg: 102.9 (2) NetRtg: +5.8 (3)
The Pacers took a six-game winning streak into the weekend, but the streak was definitely schedule-aided (all six opponents had losing records) and they were playing with fire toward the end of it. On Monday, they allowed the Hawks to make things interesting in a fourth quarter that they went into with a 16-point lead. On Friday, they needed overtime and Victor Oladipo's game-winning 3-pointer off the glass to win in Chicago. And on Sunday, they lost all four quarters as the streak came to an end (without Myles Turner) in Toronto. The last five games have been both their best offensive stretch and their worst defensive stretch of the season, with the Pacers and their opponents combining to score 113.6 points per 100 possessions over the five games. Their visit to Boston on Wednesday is another test hidden between games against two of the worst teams in the league.
Week 13: @ CLE, @ BOS, @ NYK
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 104.0 (4) OffRtg: 107.4 (21) DefRtg: 101.7 (1) NetRtg: +5.6 (4)
The Thunder got important wins over the Mavs, Lakers and Blazers last week, holding the three Western Conference opponents to just 94 points per 100 possessions. But they lost at home to the Wizards on Sunday and their own offense has been a struggle. Paul George scored 37 points in each of the two road wins last week, but their last five games have been their worst offensive stretch (101.9 points scored per 100 possessions) since the first five games of the season (99.6). Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double for the third straight season, but his shooting (both from the field and from the line) remains an issue. Dennis Schroder and Westbrook have combined to shoot 7-for-43 (16 percent) from 3-point range over the last five games and now rank 131st and 135th, respectively, in effective field goal percentage among 139 players with at least 300 field goal attempts. The Thunder have the league's toughest remaining schedule in regard to opponent winning percentage (and when adjusted for home-away and rest days), though they have just one back-to-back between now and the All-Star break.
Week 13: vs. MIN, @ SAS, vs. SAS
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 101.6 (10) OffRtg: 113.6 (1) DefRtg: 109.3 (18) NetRtg: +4.3 (7)
The Warriors are just 8-5 over the 13 games that they've had both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green back from their injuries, having allowed more points per 100 possessions over those 13 games (110.3) than they did over Green's 11-game absence (109.0). Defense was an issue at times last season, but they ranked fourth on that end of the floor at this point last year and didn't fall out of the top 10 until April. From last season, the champs have seen the league's second biggest increase in the percentage of their opponents' shots that have come from 3-point range (their opponents have combined for 41 3-pointers over the last two games) and the third biggest increase in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (where they rank 27th this season). The loss to Houston on Thursday dropped them to 187-2 in games they've led by 20 points in their five seasons under Steve Kerr.
Week 13: vs. NYK, vs. CHI, @ DAL
Last Week: 7 ↓
Pace: 100.0 (20) OffRtg: 110.4 (10) DefRtg: 104.5 (4) NetRtg: +5.9 (2)
The Celtics' offense kept on rolling without Kyrie Irving (eye inflammation) on Wednesday and Friday (in two games that the Celtics never trailed), scoring 116 points per 100 possessions against Minnesota and Dallas. Jaylen Brown started to break out prior to that and his effective field goal percentage of 70 percent in five games since Christmas ranks sixth among 133 players with at least 50 post-Christmas field goal attempts. The Celtics have had the league's best offense (116.0 points scored per 100 possessions) since Thanksgiving, even though they haven't seen much of an increase in their shots in the paint or their trips to the line. They've just shot much better and have seen an increase in ball movement (passes per 24 minutes of possession) with each passing month, with their two January games (without Irving) bringing two of their four highest marks in assist percentage (AST/FGM) this season. They'll play a back-to-back this week (Wednesday and Thursday) against two other top-10 defenses, with the first game (vs. Indiana) being pretty important in the standings.
Week 13: vs. BKN, vs. IND, @ MIA, @ ORL
Last Week: 10
Pace: 100.2 (17) OffRtg: 109.8 (12) DefRtg: 108.9 (15) NetRtg: +0.9 (16)
The Blazers just completed a 15-game stretch in which all 15 games were against the non-Phoenix division of the Western Conference or against a top-four team in the East. They went 9-6 over that stretch (though with below-average numbers on both ends of the floor) and now get three home games against East teams that are a combined 5-12 in West arenas. C.J. McCollum has been struggling. He had one big game against Philadelphia on Dec. 30, but the last 10 games have been his worst 10-game shooting stretch (effective field goal percentage of 44.1 percent) in his four seasons as a starter. He has shot much worse from 3-point range, but also hasn't been getting to the basket as much as he was through mid-December. Jusuf Nurkic has picked up some of the slack, averaging 22.2 points on 59 percent shooting over the last six games.
Week 13: vs. NYK, vs. CHI, vs. CHA, @ DEN
Last Week: 12 ↑
Pace: 102.9 (7) OffRtg: 109.7 (13) DefRtg: 107.6 (11) NetRtg: +2.1 (10)
Joel Embiid wasn't happy about catching an elbow from Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler hasn't been happy about his role in the offense, but the Sixers have won six of the last seven games they've played with Embiid (with the lone exception being their overtime loss in Boston on Christmas) and are 17-8 (only the Pacers and Nuggets have been better) since adding Butler in mid-November. They haven't been all that consistent on either end of the floor, but have had at least one starter missing in eight of their last 16 games. Their regular starting group has outscored its opponents by 15.3 points per 100 possessions, the third best mark among 22 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes together. If Butler and Wilson Chandler return (from illnesses) against this week's soft slate of games, those numbers should only improve.
Week 13: vs. WAS, @ WAS, vs. ATL, @ NYK
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 102.6 (8) OffRtg: 111.6 (8) DefRtg: 110.1 (21) NetRtg: +1.6 (11)
The Clippers are 10 games through a stretch where they're playing 12 of 16 at home and two games into a stretch where they're playing five of six against teams with losing records. The favorable schedule has allowed them to regain their footing (after losing six of seven in early December), and they've scored more than 115 points per 100 possessions as they've won six of their last nine. Their starting lineup had some better minutes in weekend wins over the Suns and Magic (take that for what it's worth), with Marcin Gortat having his best game of the season (18 points and 13 rebounds) in Phoenix on Friday. Gortat has played in the fourth quarter in all three of the Clippers' January games, having only touched the floor in the fourth quarter for a single free throw (that went in) prior to that.
Week 13: vs. CHA, @ DEN, vs. DET
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 100.5 (15) OffRtg: 107.4 (20) DefRtg: 105.2 (5) NetRtg: +2.2 (9)
Two big second halves (they outscored the Cavs and Pistons by a total score of 131-94 after halftime on Friday and Saturday) have the Jazz back at .500 ... in every fashion. They're 8-8 at home, 12-12 on the road, 12-12 against the West, and 8-8 against the East. They're an uneven 10-8 since they added Kyle Korver, ranking 11th offensively (110.8 points scored per 100 possessions) over those 18 games. They've seen a huge jump (from 31.9 percent in the 22 games prior to 37.5 percent over the 18) in 3-point percentage, and Korver's 40 percent from beyond the arc is part of that. But another big part of that improvement has come from Jae Crowder (from 29.2 percent to 42.0 percent), who has shot better with Korver off the floor. Derrick Favors continues to start (nine straight games now), but the Crowder-at-power-forward lineup has played more minutes and has been 17.2 points per 100 possessions better offensively (having scored 114.8) than the Favors lineup (97.6). After they finish their four-game trip in Milwaukee on Monday, the Jazz will play 12 of their next 15 games at home.
Week 13: @ MIL, vs. ORL, vs. LAL, vs. CHI
Last Week: 11 ↓
Pace: 104.4 (3) OffRtg: 107.4 (19) DefRtg: 106.4 (8) NetRtg: +0.9 (15)
The Lakers have dropped to 1-5 (and to eighth place in the West) without LeBron James, who will miss at least two more games as he recovers from a groin strain. Not surprisingly, they've missed their star most on the offensive end of the floor, where they ranked 23rd last season and where they've scored less than a point per possession (the worst mark in the league) over the six games. Brandon Ingram shot 21-for-58 (36 percent) over their three losses last week and it might be noteworthy that the one win came with his lowest usage rate in the six games. Kyle Kuzma, meanwhile, has been one of the league's worst 3-point shooters since Christmas (he has shot much better with James on the floor than he has with James off the floor) and has missed the last 2 1/2 games, having suffered a lower back contusion against Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Week 13: @ DAL, vs. DET, @ UTA, vs. CLE
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 99.4 (22) OffRtg: 110.2 (11) DefRtg: 110.4 (22) NetRtg: -0.3 (20)
The Nets are in seventh place in the East, with a three-game winning streak and the league's fourth best offense (113.4 points scored per 100 possessions) over the last month. D'Angelo Russell has been shooting better (effective field goal percentage of 57 percent over his last four games) and playing more minutes, even with Shabazz Napier (averaging 16.6 points over the last five) back in the rotation and combining with Ed Davis (the league's leader in rebounding percentage) and DeMarre Carroll (15-for-28 from 3-point range over the last four) to give the Nets a lift off the bench. Their game in Boston on Monday is the second half of their 10th back-to-back. No team has played more, but the Nets are about to get some relief in that regard, with only one back-to-back (with the second game of that one being at home against the Bulls) in the next 7 1/2 weeks. They still have the East's toughest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage, with 24 of their final 41 games against teams currently at or above .500.
Week 13: @ BOS, vs. ATL, @ TOR
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 104.9 (2) OffRtg: 109.6 (14) DefRtg: 111.2 (24) NetRtg: -1.6 (22)
The Kings' last 13 games have all been against teams in the top 14 in the West and their last eight have all been within five points in the last five minutes. They've lost four straight (with their opponents shooting 60 percent in the clutch) to fall (from eighth to 10th place and) below .500 for the first time since they were 10-11 in late November. They got edged by the champs from distance in a historic game (most combined 3-pointers) on Saturday, but free throws have been a bigger issue. Only the Suns and Hawks have been outscored by more points per game at the line than the Kings (minus-3.1 per game) and over the five games leading up to the Golden State game, Sacramento had attempted 51 fewer free throws than their opponents. Their chance to stay in the West playoff picture is right now, because seven of their next eight games are against teams with losing records and five of the next seven (including their three home games this week) come with a rest advantage.
Week 13: vs. ORL, @ PHX, vs. DET, vs. CHA
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 99.7 (21) OffRtg: 106.5 (22) DefRtg: 105.8 (7) NetRtg: +0.7 (17)
Fortunately for the Heat, they have just one more game (in early March) against the Hawks, who have beat them three times this season. The loss in Atlanta on Sunday was a reminder that offense doesn't necessarily come easy for this team. The Heat had scored 112.5 points per 100 possessions (with four guys averaging 3.5 assists or more) over an 8-2 stretch leading into the game, but just lead an egg offensively on Sunday. Now, having played four of their last five games against bottom-10 defenses, they'll play four straight against top-10 defenses, though they'll have a rest advantage against both Denver (on Tuesday) and Boston (on Thursday) this week. Dion Waiters registered a plus-14 (in a little less than 11 minutes) in his first game in more than a year on Wednesday, but joined Wayne Ellington in the DNP-CD club for both of the Heat's games over the weekend.
Week 13: vs. DEN, vs. BOS, vs. MEM
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 101.3 (11) OffRtg: 108.1 (18) DefRtg: 107.9 (13) NetRtg: +0.2 (19)
The Mavs finally got road win No. 3 last week, but still went 1-3 on their trip, with their bench coming up empty (they were outscored by 20 points in 20.1 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor) in Boston on Friday and their starting lineup getting destroyed (it was a minus-21 in 15.5 minutes) in Philadelphia on Saturday. The bigger difference (8.5 points per 100 possessions) between the Home Mavs (still 15-3) and the Road Mavs (now 3-18) has been on the offensive end of the floor, where they scored less than a point per possession in each of their three losses last week. Among 202 players with at least 100 field goal attempts both at home and on the road, Dorian Finney-Smith (62.3 percent at home, 44.0 percent on the road) has the second-biggest home-road differential in effective field goal percentage, with J.J. Barea (53.1 percent, 41.0 percent) having the ninth-biggest. The Mavs play four of their next five games at home and will have a rest advantage against both the Lakers and Suns this week.
Week 13: vs. LAL, vs. PHX, @ MIN, vs. GSW
Last Week: 19
Pace: 101.1 (12) OffRtg: 109.4 (15) DefRtg: 109.1 (17) NetRtg: +0.3 (18)
And just like that, with the Wolves having won two straight games (including an important one over the eighth-place Lakers) with two key rotation guys on the shelf, the Tom Thibodeau era in Minnesota is over. Thibodeau helped end the Wolves' 13-year playoff drought, but never got his team to defend consistently and was obviously undone by the impatience and insolence of Jimmy Butler. Karl-Anthony Towns has scored 25 points or more in five straight games for the first time in his career (his streak is actually 28 points or more in six straight games), but new coach Ryan Saunders has been handed the league's second-toughest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage. Starting with their visit to Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the Wolves have eight games left against the top three teams in the West (the Nuggets, Warriors and Thunder).
Week 13: @ OKC, vs. DAL, vs. NOP
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 103.2 (5) OffRtg: 113.0 (3) DefRtg: 111.6 (26) NetRtg: +1.4 (12)
Elfrid Payton returned last week, he shot 18-for-32 (and was a plus-30 in 81 minutes), and the Pelicans scored a ridiculous 127 points per 100 possessions in their three games. They got a win without Anthony Davis over Minnesota on Monday and an easy road win in Cleveland on Saturday, but in between, the offense wasn't enough in Brooklyn, when they allowed the Nets to score 105 points on 73 possessions through the first three quarters and were outscored by 23 points in Payton's 14 1/2 minutes on the bench. Lineup continuity has been a problem -- in their 11 games since Nikola Mirotic last played, no lineup has played more than 39 minutes together -- but urgency remains high. A easy stretch of 10 games (nine of the 10 against teams that are currently under .500) comes to an end this week. The schedule gets tougher (and more road-heavy) after that.
Week 13: vs. MEM, vs. CLE, @ MIN
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 100.6 (14) OffRtg: 110.8 (9) DefRtg: 109.5 (19) NetRtg: +1.3 (14)
Injuries to Jeremy Lamb (day-to-day with a hamstring strain) and Cody Zeller (out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand) have Devonte' Graham (the 34th pick in last year's Draft) and Bismack Biyombo (who hadn't sniffed the rotation since October) in the Hornets' starting lineup. They've outscored their opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions in 230 minutes with Marvin Williams at center, but that's more of a closing configuration than a starting one and, apparently, Frank Kaminsky hasn't earned himself consistent burn. After registering a minus-20 in 16 minutes against Dallas on Wednesday (a game the Hornets trailed by 47 points), Kaminsky was DNP'd in the first two games of their six-game trip. They closed with Willy Hernangomez at center on Sunday as Kemba Walker pick-and-rolled DeAndre Ayton into submission and scored 18 of the Hornets' final 19 points. They have the toughest remaining schedule in regard to both back-to-backs (they have a league-high nine) and games against opponents playing the second game of a back-to-back (they have a league-low three). One of their eight remaining rest-disadvantage games is Saturday in Sacramento.
Week 13: @ LAC, @ POR, @ SAC
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 96.0 (30) OffRtg: 104.5 (27) DefRtg: 105.6 (6) NetRtg: -1.1 (21)
That the Grizzlies are still just two games in the loss column out of eighth place is a testament to how good they were (15-9) through their first 24 games. Only the Knicks (2-11) have been worse since then, and the Grizz (3-12) have seen about equal drop-offs on both ends of the floor. A tough schedule could be blamed for most of their December struggles, but they opened January with losses at home to the Pistons and Nets, part of a five-game stretch in which they shot less than 27 percent from 3-point range in all five games. They finally got some long-distance shots to go down in San Antonio on Saturday, but shot a brutal 15-for-39 in the paint. Though that game was relatively ugly on both ends of the floor, their current, five-game losing streak has been their worst defensive stretch (111.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) of the season. If Chandler Parsons' tenure with the Grizzlies is over, he will have played 73 total games for the $94 million they guaranteed him 2 1/2 years ago.
Week 13: @ NOP, vs. SAS, @ MIA
Last Week: 23
Pace: 98.2 (27) OffRtg: 104.7 (26) DefRtg: 108.5 (14) NetRtg: -3.8 (25)
To say that the Magic had a roller coaster week would be an understatement. On Monday, they had an early 10-point lead in a game (in Charlotte) they eventually trailed by 35. Two nights later in Chicago, they never trailed in a game they led at one point by 30. Two nights after that, a 19-point lead turned into a 21-point deficit (and eventually a 17-point loss) thanks in part to a 44-12 Minnesota run spanning the second and third quarters. And on Sunday in L.A., they led by 15 points early before falling behind by as many as 18. The bottom line is that they're 1-3 with two more tough games left on their six-game trip. They're a bottom-five team on offense, but also haven't been able to defend well after the opening 12 minutes of games. They rank sixth in first-quarter defense (103.6 points allowed per 100 possessions), but 14th in the second, 21st in the third, and 25th in the fourth.
Week 13: @ SAC, @ UTA, vs. BOS, vs. HOU
Last Week: 24
Pace: 100.0 (19) OffRtg: 105.7 (24) DefRtg: 107.8 (12) NetRtg: -2.1 (23)
The Pistons have managed to fall out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference with a 4-13 record (only the Cavs and Knicks have been worse) over the last five weeks. Their problems have been mostly about their offense (they've scored an anemic 95.9 points per 100 possessions with Blake Griffin off the floor), but the last five games have been their worst five-game stretch of defense (114.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season. With their opponents shooting better than 72 percent in the restricted area, they've allowed a league-high 60.8 points in the paint (while playing at a relatively slow pace) over that week-and-a-half stretch, and three of those five games have been against teams (Orlando, Memphis and Utah) that rank in the bottom 11 offensively. They have the most back-to-backs (nine) remaining on the schedule and one of those is this week, when (after playing a top-five offense on Monday) they begin a four-game trip with games against the Lakers and Kings on Wednesday and Thursday.
Week 13: vs. SAS, @ LAL, @ SAC, @ LAC
Last Week: 27 ↑
Pace: 102.4 (9) OffRtg: 108.3 (17) DefRtg: 111.9 (27) NetRtg: -3.7 (24)
The Wizards' playoff hopes might not be dead just yet. They've won three of their last four games, scoring almost 115 points per 10 possessions (with six players averaging more than 14 points) over that stretch. Their win in Oklahoma City on Sunday was both their first win there ever, one of their best defensive games of the season, and their first road win over a team that's currently over .500 since they won in Portland on Oct. 22. Markieff Morris (neck) is out until at least the All-Star break, but Otto Porter returned last week and scored 20 points (in less than 24 minutes off the bench) on Sunday, when the Wizards outscored the Thunder by 23 points in a little more than 32 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor. Their current starting lineup, meanwhile, has scored 122.2 points per 100 possessions in its 153 minutes, the best mark among 66 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together.
Week 13: @ PHI, vs. PHI, vs. MIL, vs. TOR
Last Week: 25 ↓
Pace: 105.5 (1) OffRtg: 103.4 (29) DefRtg: 110.9 (23) NetRtg: -7.5 (27)
The road was unkind to the Hawks last week. They got outscored by more than 18 points per 100 possessions as they went 0-3 on a trip within the Eastern Conference, and they have another tough trip coming over the next five days. But their win over the Heat on Sunday was, statistically, their best defensive game of the season (82 points allowed on 98 Miami possessions). The team that leads the league in pace is now 8-6 in its 14 slowest-paced games of the season (104 possessions per team per 48 minutes or slower) and 4-21 otherwise, with the much bigger difference coming on offense. The Hawks have scored 109.2 points per 100 possessions (with Trae Young shooting 38 percent from 3-point range) in the 14 slowest games (10 of which have come over the last month) and just 100.3 (with Young shooting just 26 percent -- and more often -- from beyond the arc) in the 25 fastest.
Week 13: @ TOR, @ BKN, @ PHI, vs. MIL
Last Week: 26 ↓
Pace: 98.9 (24) OffRtg: 100.5 (30) DefRtg: 109.9 (20) NetRtg: -9.5 (29)
The departure of Justin Holiday (traded to Memphis for a pair of second-round picks) has Chandler Hutchison (the No. 22 pick in last year's Draft) in the Bulls' starting lineup with the team's four young Lottery picks (not named Jabari Parker). There were some flashes of offense over the weekend, with the other four starters combining for an effective field goal percentage of 64 percent against Indiana and Brooklyn, and with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine hitting some big shots down the stretch of their overtime loss to the Pacers. But the Bulls have allowed more than 115 points per 100 possessions in three straight games (including one in which they trailed the Magic by 30 points) for the first time since October.
Week 13: @ POR, @ GSW, @ UTA
Last Week: 28
Pace: 100.5 (16) OffRtg: 104.3 (28) DefRtg: 112.8 (28) NetRtg: -8.5 (28)
The Suns rank 11th offensively (111.2 points scored per 100 possessions) in the three-plus weeks since Devin Booker last missed a game, but they're 0-6 on a seven-game homestand that ends on Tuesday and back spasms forced Booker to leave in the first half of their loss to Charlotte on Sunday. Over the course of the homestand, the Suns have allowed an amazing 137 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, and they rank 30th in opponent effective field goal percentage (59.4 percent), 29th in opponent free throw rate (0.379), and 29th in opponent offensive rebounding percentage (32.9 percent). The first four opponents shot 54 percent or better, the Sixers got to the line 54 times on Wednesday, and the Clippers registered 26 second-chance points on Friday.
Week 13: vs. SAC, @ DAL, vs. DEN
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 101.0 (13) OffRtg: 105.9 (23) DefRtg: 113.2 (29) NetRtg: -7.3 (26)
The end of the Knicks' eight-game losing streak came with their best defensive game in about two months, though they still allowed the Lakers to score 60 points in the paint. Kevin Knox ranks 133rd in effective field goal percentage among 139 players with at least 300 field goal attempts, but coach David Fizdale has been rolling with the rookie, who has averaged more than 38 minutes over the last 10 games (fourth most in the league over that stretch). Over the four games since Luke Kornet moved into the starting lineup, the Knicks have scored 123 points per 100 possessions in 63 minutes with the four guys who have started every game (Tim Hardaway missed one) on the floor. The Knicks still rank last in assist percentage (having assisted on just 51 percent of their buckets), but that group has 39 assists on 59 field goals (66 percent) in those 63 minutes.
Week 13: @ POR, @ GSW, vs. IND, vs. PHI
Last Week: 29 ↓
Pace: 96.7 (29) OffRtg: 104.9 (25) DefRtg: 116.1 (30) NetRtg: -11.2 (30)
The Cavs are the first team to have matched either their win total or their loss total from last season (guess which one it is) and are on pace for the fourth-biggest drop in winning percentage in NBA history (with the biggest belonging to the 2010-11 Cavs). They hit a new low last week, extending their losing streak to nine games with three home losses by an average of 28.7 points. The league's worst defense has only gotten worse, and their opponents' effective field goal percentage of 55.5 percent would be the highest opponent mark of all time. They rank last in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (59.4 percent) and 28th in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (51.7 percent). A loss to the Pacers on Tuesday would give them a tie (with streaks from the Hawks and Pacers) for the longest losing streak of the season.
Week 13: vs. IND, @ NOP, @ HOU, @ LAL