Power Rankings, Week 14: Playoff chase intensifies as second half begins
We’re into the second half of the 2018-19 season and things remain wide open in the Western Conference. And things have become a little more interesting in the Eastern Conference, where teams 9-11 in the standings have shown some signs of life.
The ninth-place Orlando Magic had lost nine of their previous 12 games before sweeping a home-and-home back-to-back against the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets over the weekend. The 10th-place Detroit Pistons had lost 16 of 20 before Blake Griffin took revenge on the Clippers on Saturday. The 11th-place Washington Wizards, meanwhile, have beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Milwaukee Bucks in the last eight days, and almost knocked off the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
The West has remained dominant. Its winning percentage in interconference games (.587) is its second highest in the last 15 years, and the 11th-place Minnesota Timberwolves have a better record (against a tougher schedule) than the team (Brooklyn) that sits in seventh place in the East. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy a little drama for those last few playoff spots in the weaker conference.
And it’s not that weak at the top, where the Toronto Raptors sit with a five-game winning streak in hand and a big game in Boston this week.
- Last week: Spurs surging at midway point
- This time last year: Changes afoot outside of top four spots — The Celtics came back from a 22-point deficit to beat the Sixers in London and a well-executed ATO from the Knicks sent their game against Chicago to double-overtime. Lou Williams scored 50 points as the Clippers beat the Warriors in Oakland and Damian Lillard took issue with Chris Paul’s late layup. Lance Stephenson floored himself, Zach LaVine made his debut with the Bulls, and Kawhi Leonard played his last game with the Spurs.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Stephen Curry (GSW) was a plus-84 in three games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Noah Vonleh (NYK) was a minus-84 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Golden State (3-0) — Home wins over the Knicks and Bulls aren’t exactly noteworthy on the surface, but the Warriors won those two games by a total of 64 points, before picking up a road win in Dallas on Sunday. The offense is starting to hum.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Charlotte (0-3) — The Hornets have been on a tough trip out west, but they lost to the Clippers and Blazers by a total of 50 points before looking more competitive in Sacramento.
East vs. West
- The West is 132-93 (.587) against the East in interconference games after going 16-6 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 13
- Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. New York, 3. Chicago
- Easiest: 1. Miami, 2. Indiana, 3. Philadelphia
- 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: Golden State (+4), Washington (+3), Six teams (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-4), L.A. Lakers (-4), San Antonio (-3)
Week 14 Team to Watch
- Golden State — It’s a big week in the world of the Warriors. They’ll be playing for first place in the Western Conference on Tuesday in Denver and DeMarcus Cousins is expected to make his season debut on Friday in L.A. In between, they’ll host Anthony Davis and the Pelicans.
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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 108.8 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: 3 ↑
Pace: 100.5 (16) OffRtg: 111.8 (7) DefRtg: 106.9 (9) NetRtg: +4.9 (7)
The Raptors went down to the wire against the Hawks and Wizards last week, but they've won five straight games and have a couple of days off before visiting the Celtics on Wednesday. That seems important with Kawhi Leonard having played a season-high 45 minutes and through leg stiffness in Washington. Pointing to Leonard's lack of assists (3.1 per game) is nitpicking a Kia MVP candidate, but 26 dimes over his last five games (the most he's had over any five-game stretch in his career) is encouraging. He assisted Serge Ibaka for the game-winner on Sunday, but 16 of those 26 dimes have gone to Pascal Siakam, who has now played 116 minutes at center. The Raptors have outscored their opponents by 10.7 points per 100 possessions in those Siakam-at-center minutes, though they were a minus-9 in 10 minutes with the spicy one at the five in their two close games last week. Two of the their four remaining back-to-backs are in the next 10 days, but the second game of the first one is at home against the Suns on Thursday.
Week 14: @ BOS, vs. PHX, vs. MEM
Last Week: 4 ↑
Pace: 103.2 (5) OffRtg: 113.5 (2) DefRtg: 104.4 (3) NetRtg: +9.1 (1)
The Bucks lost in Washington without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday, but prior to that, they beat two Western Conference teams that have been playing pretty well, outscoring the Jazz and Rockets, 138-60, in the paint. Their dominance inside is about more than just Antetokounmpo, who's still averaging the most points in the paint per game (17.5) in the last 16 years. Malcolm Brogdon (7.8) and Eric Bledsoe (7.4) rank seventh and eighth among guards in restricted-area points per game, having combined for 52 in the wins over Utah and Houston. The Bucks have been outscored in the paint just once this season, and that was by the team -- Miami (on Dec. 22) -- they play on Tuesday. They're on the road for much of the next two months, but their visit to Memphis on Wednesday is the start of a stretch where they're playing 11 of 13 games against teams that currently have losing records.
Week 14: vs. MIA, @ MEM, @ ORL
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 98.1 (27) OffRtg: 112.0 (6) DefRtg: 107.0 (10) NetRtg: +5.0 (6)
The Nuggets got Will Barton back over the weekend, though they still weren't whole (Gary Harris and Trey Lyles were out) and had depth issues (they were outscored by 29 points in less than 26 minutes with Nikola Jokic off the floor) as they lost in Phoenix and held off the Blazers. Jokic, who made an appropriately awkward game-winner in Miami on Tuesday and threw a ridiculous full-court assist to Jamal Murray on Thursday, ranks sixth in usage rate (having used 31.9 percent of the Nuggets' possessions while he's been on the floor) in January, having ranked 39th (25 percent) through Dec. 31. But while its good that their best player is being more aggressive, the other end of the floor has become a real concern. The Nuggets rank 28th defensively over the last four weeks, having allowed 113.4 points allowed per 100 possessions in their 13 games in that time. Six of the 13 have been against top-10 offenses and they'll face No. 1 on Tuesday with first place on the line.
Week 14: vs. GSW, vs. CHI, vs. CLE
Last Week: 8 ↑
Pace: 101.4 (10) OffRtg: 114.6 (1) DefRtg: 109.1 (16) NetRtg: +5.6 (3)
As uninspiring as the Warriors' season has been thus far, they're playing for first place in the Western Conference in Denver on Tuesday. And really, their offense has been pretty inspiring of late, scoring almost 126 points per 100 possessions as they've won six of their last seven games. Klay Thompson scored 43 points (with just four dribbles) against the Knicks on Tuesday, only to be outdone by Stephen Curry (48 points, 11-for-19 from 3-point range in Dallas) five nights later. In between, both guys had 30 points as the Warriors registered an effective field goal percentage of 67.4 percent (the highest mark in a game in 2019) in Chicago. Four of the opponents in this seven-game stretch rank in the bottom 10 defensively and the 10th-ranked Nuggets will be the highest-ranked defensive team they've faced since they lost to the Lakers on Christmas. The first Warriors-Nuggets meeting was one of the Warriors' worst offensive games of the season, but it took place in Week 1.
Week 14: @ DEN, vs. NOP, @ LAC
Last Week: 2 ↓
Pace: 99.1 (24) OffRtg: 112.3 (5) DefRtg: 109.5 (18) NetRtg: +2.8 (8)
The Spurs don't always need LaMarcus Aldridge to score 56 points, like he did in their double-overtime win against the Thunder last week. Twenty points is usually enough. The Spurs' improved defense (they still rank third defensively over the last five weeks) makes them a little less dependent on Aldridge's mid-range shooting, but they allowed the Thunder to score 118.5 points per 100 possessions in their home-and-home set, and with that 56-point game on Thursday, they're 20-4 when Aldridge has scored 20 or more points. After he had a couple of relatively quiet nights in Memphis and Oklahoma City last week, they're 5-15 when he's scored less than 20 and also 3-12 on the road within the Western Conference, with a pair of important road games this week.
Week 14: vs. CHA, @ DAL, @ MIN, vs. LAC
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 97.4 (28) OffRtg: 113.4 (3) DefRtg: 111.7 (26) NetRtg: +1.7 (13)
The Rockets' third-ranked offense can't always cover for their 26th-ranked defense, especially when James Harden shoots 1-for-17 from 3-point range (as he did in Orlando on Sunday). They've lost three of their last five games, having allowed more than 117 points per 100 possessions in the three losses. They've seen the league's biggest increase in defensive efficiency, having allowed 6.1 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season, even though their opponents haven't shot that much better than they did last season. They've seen big increases in both opponent free throw rate (going from sixth last season to 26th this season) and opponent offensive rebounding percentage (from fourth to 28th). Among 204 individuals who played at least 1,000 minutes last season and have played at least 500 minutes this this season, Clint Capela has seen the sixth biggest drop (from 27.8 percent to 22.7 percent) in defensive rebounding percentage.
Week 14: vs. MEM, vs. BKN, vs. LAL
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 98.9 (25) OffRtg: 109.3 (14) DefRtg: 104.1 (2) NetRtg: +5.2 (5)
The Pacers went 3-2 on a road trip through the Eastern Conference, taking care of business in Chicago, Cleveland and New York. But, playing without Myles Turner for the last four games, their defense continues to have its worst stretch of the season. It has protected the paint well, but defending the 3-point line has been an issue and their opponents have shot 43 percent from beyond the arc over their last six games. Their defensive numbers have been best-in-the-league level (102.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) in 459 minutes with their regular starting lineup on the floor, but just a little better than average (108.4) in 133 minutes with Domantas Sabonis in Turner's place. After losses in Toronto and Boston over the last eight days, they're 3-5 (1-4 on the road) against the other four good teams in the East, with visits from the Sixers and Raptors on a five-game homestand that begins Tuesday.
Week 14: vs. PHX, vs. PHI, vs. DAL, vs. CHA
Last Week: 7 ↓
Pace: 103.8 (4) OffRtg: 108.2 (19) DefRtg: 102.9 (1) NetRtg: +6.2 (4)
Russell Westbrook remains the least effective, high-volume jump shooter in the league. His effective field goal percentage of 34.3 percent on shots from outside the paint is the lowest mark (by a healthy margin) among 115 players who have attempted at least 200. But after missing two threes for the win against Minnesota on Tuesday, Westbrook recorded seven of his career-high 24 assists (including a wicked, cross-court dime for a game-tying Terrance Ferguson 3-pointer) in clutch time of the Thunder's double-overtime loss in San Antonio on Thursday. With Ferguson shooting 13-for-17 from 3-point range, the Thunder scored 118 points per 100 possessions in their three games last week. But they had lost three straight before getting some revenge against the Spurs on Saturday, and the last five games have been their worst defensive stretch (114.4 allowed per 100) of the season (and not just because the Spurs shot 16-for-19 from 3-point range in the double-OT game).
Week 14: @ ATL, vs. LAL, @ PHI
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (19) OffRtg: 110.7 (9) DefRtg: 108.8 (15) NetRtg: +1.9 (11)
Jusuf Nurkic shot 68 percent over the Blazers' four-game winning streak, averaged 14.9 rebounds per 36 minutes over the four games, and tied a career high with eight assists against Charlotte on Friday. But the Blazers' loss in Denver on Sunday was their fifth straight to Nurkic's old team (after winning the first two post-trade meetings) and featured the Nuggets shooting 18-for-26 in the restricted area. A big part of the Blazers' sixth-ranked defense last season was the league's lowest opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area by a wide margin (55.4 percent). They still rank sixth there this season (60.8 percent), but have seen the biggest increase in how well their opponents have shot near the basket, though Nurkic still ranks as one of the league's better high-volume rim protectors.
Week 14: @ SAC, vs. CLE, vs. NOP
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 100.1 (18) OffRtg: 110.6 (10) DefRtg: 104.5 (4) NetRtg: +6.1 (2)
After destroying the Pacers in their most important game of 2019 thus far, the Celtics had an interesting trip to Florida. In Miami on Thursday, there was some timeout-huddle shoving between Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown. And in Orlando on Saturday, Kyrie Irving didn't get the ball on the final possession and sounded off afterward. The bottom line is that, though they have the league's second-best pace-adjusted point differential, the Celtics remain in fifth place in the East. They are just 10-10 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, and have just one road win in the last month, having allowed more than 115 points per 100 possessions in their last six games away from TD Garden. We're halfway through the season and it's not clear that this team -- the East's preseason favorite to reach The Finals -- has figured itself out. But a win over the Raptors on Wednesday would certainly improve morale.
Week 14: @ BKN, vs. TOR, vs. MEM, @ ATL
Last Week: 11
Pace: 102.8 (7) OffRtg: 110.1 (12) DefRtg: 108.2 (12) NetRtg: +1.8 (12)
The Sixers' visit from the Wolves (and some familiar faces) on Tuesday is the conclusion of a streak of seven straight games against teams that currently have losing records. Though Ben Simmons has averaged 20.7 points (on 61 percent shooting), 10.5 rebounds and 9.7 assists over the first six games of that stretch, the Sixers haven't exactly been taking care of business, allowing 122 points per 100 possessions in losses to the Wizards and Hawks last week before almost blowing a 24-point lead in New York on Sunday. Lineup continuity has been an issue. The win in New York was the first time in six games that their regular starters played together. But the Sixers have played the fewest games in the league (and are 7-8) against teams that currently have winning records. Starting with their visit to Indiana on Thursday, they'll play 12 straight against that group. They're healthy, they've had Jimmy Butler for two months now, and it's time to see just how good this team can be.
Week 14: vs. MIN, @ IND, vs. OKC
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 100.6 (15) OffRtg: 107.2 (20) DefRtg: 104.8 (5) NetRtg: +2.5 (9)
Donovan Mitchell has answered the call and the Jazz have taken advantage a softer stretch of schedule. With Ricky Rubio out, Mitchell has scored 33, 33 and 34 points over Utah's three-game winning streak (he had never before scored 30-plus in two straight games) and averaged 28.3 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 58 percent) as the team has won five of six for the first time this season. He has shot 14-for-27 on pull-up 3-pointers over the six games, having ranked 19th in pull-up 3-point percentage (29.3 percent) among 23 players with at least 100 attempts prior to that. The Jazz are in a tie for eighth place with the Lakers (who they thumped on Friday), have a lot more home games to play between now and the All-Star break, and are 9-2 at Vivint Smart Home Arena since the start of December.
Week 14: vs. DET, @ LAC, vs. CLE
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 102.4 (9) OffRtg: 111.6 (8) DefRtg: 110.3 (22) NetRtg: +1.3 (14)
The Clippers have slowly slid from first to fifth place in the West since the start of December. They rank 28th defensively over the course of that slide, with their starting lineup having allowed 120.6 points per 100 possessions in its 241 minutes since Dec. 1. Only Brooklyn (105.7) has gotten more minutes per game from reserves than the Clippers (104.6), but with their opponents having scored 47 points per 48 minutes in the restricted area (the league average is less than 37) against the starters over these last six-plus weeks, the Clippers' bench has been trying to dig out of some big holes. Three of their next four games are against top-five offenses, the next two are particularly critical in regard to holding on to a playoff spot, and their visit to San Antonio on Sunday begins a stretch where they're playing 14 of 19 games on the road.
Week 14: vs. NOP, vs. UTA, vs. GSW, @ SAS
Last Week: 16 ↑
Pace: 104.7 (2) OffRtg: 109.3 (15) DefRtg: 110.1 (20) NetRtg: -0.8 (21)
The Kings took care of business at home against three East teams with losing records last week, holding the Magic, Pistons and Hornets to less than 96 points per 100 possessions. But as they sit just a half game out of eighth place in the West, their loss in Phoenix on Tuesday really hurts. They had their second best 3-point shooting game of the season (15-for-29), led by 21 points in the third quarter, and were up five with a little more then two minutes left in the fourth. But they had 26 turnovers (18 of the live-ball variety), including two from De'Aaron Fox as they blew that late lead. Even with another 20 against Detroit on Thursday, the Kings remain in the top five in turnovers per 100 possessions, with Fox ranking fifth in assist-turnover ratio (2.37) among the top 50 players in usage rate. They also remain one of three teams with a better point differential per 100 possessions on the road (minus-0.6) than they have at home (minus-0.9) and, after they host the Blazers on Monday, they leave for their longest trip of the season (six games).
Week 14: vs. POR, @ CHA, @ DET
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 99.3 (22) OffRtg: 107.1 (21) DefRtg: 106.1 (8) NetRtg: +1.0 (15)
The Heat rank 29th in free throw percentage and left some points at the line (shooting 15-for-25) in a four-point loss to the Nuggets on Tuesday. They weren't much better on freebies against Boston and Memphis later in the week, but still scored 120 points per 100 possessions in wins over those top-10 defenses, because their starting backcourt was ridiculously good. Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson combined for 71 points, 30 assists and just four turnovers over the two games and the Heat have outscored their opponents by more than 10 points per 100 possessions with the pair on the floor as they've won 10 of their last 14. They play six of the next seven games on the road, but are one of three teams with a better point differential per 100 possessions on the road (plus-1.8) than at home (plus-0.4).
Week 14: @ MIL, @ DET, @ CHI
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 100.0 (20) OffRtg: 109.2 (16) DefRtg: 110.0 (19) NetRtg: -0.8 (20)
Since following an eight-game losing streak (in which they lost to the Wizards and Cavs) with a seven-game winning streak (in which they beat the Raptors and Sixers), the Nets have settled in to basically beating bad teams and losing to good ones. Their last five games have been both their fastest-paced stretch of the season (104.2 possessions per 48 minutes) and their best defensive stretch of the season (103.5 points allowed per 100 possessions), with improvement in opponent 3-point percentage (28 percent over the five games) and opponent free throw rate (19 attempts per 100 shots from the field). But they scored just 92 points per 100 in losses in Boston and Toronto, and they had more turnovers (62) than assists (60) in their three games last week. They play two more tough games on Monday and Wednesday before the schedule eases up a bit.
Week 14: vs. BOS, @ HOU, @ ORL
Last Week: 19 ↑
Pace: 101.1 (11) OffRtg: 109.7 (13) DefRtg: 109.4 (17) NetRtg: +0.3 (17)
Ryan Saunders' tenure as Wolves coach began with his dad's favorite play and with three games that were within two points in the final minute. Andrew Wiggins carried them offensively down the stretch in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, but Dario Saric and Derrick Rose both passed up wide-open shots for the win against Dallas on Friday. The following night, the team that ranks 29th in clutch defense got some stops down the stretch against New Orleans, with Karl-Anthony Towns blocking Anthony Davis twice in the last three minutes. The Wolves are one of three teams with a positive point differential and a losing record, are just two games out of a playoff spot, and have a big three-game stretch against the eighth-place Lakers and ninth-place Jazz later this month. But before they play nine straight within the Western Conference, they have their reunion with Jimmy Butler on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
Week 14: @ PHI, vs. SAS, vs. PHX
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 104.1 (3) OffRtg: 106.9 (22) DefRtg: 105.9 (7) NetRtg: +0.9 (16)
Brandon Ingram had 29 points (with 20 coming in the restricted area) in Dallas on Monday, Kyle Kuzma dropped a career-high 41 (in just three quarters) against Detroit on Wednesday, and those two wins have the Lakers still in playoff position (by virtue of their conference record). But they're 3-7 and rank last offensively (100.4 points scored per 100 possessions) over LeBron James' absence, having hit a new low with a brutal loss on Sunday. They scored less than a point per possession (even though they had 27 free throw attempts and just 11 turnovers) at home against the team (Cleveland) that had allowed more than 124 points per 100 possessions over its 12-game losing streak. Josh Hart has shot just 36 percent from the field over the 10 games without James and Lonzo Ball has somehow shot worse than that (5-for-19, 26 percent) from the free throw line. They're set to get another update on James on Wednesday, before they head out on a tough two-game trip.
Week 14: vs. CHI, @ OKC, @ HOU
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 101.0 (12) OffRtg: 108.2 (18) DefRtg: 108.1 (11) NetRtg: +0.1 (18)
The Mavs have a lot of guards, especially with Luka Doncic starting at the point (with Dennis Smith Jr. out) the last few games. But the loss of J.J. Barea (to a torn Achilles) for the season is still a tough blow, especially when you consider that we may have seen the last of the Barea-Nowitzki two-man game. Barea has been, perhaps, the most important component of one of the league's best benches over the last two seasons and the Mavs had outscored their opponents by 15.8 points per 100 possessions with he and Doncic on the floor together. The defense has been good (less than a point per possession allowed) with a frontline of DeAndre Jordan and Maxi Kleber (who's been starting instead of Smith and ranks ninth in blocks per 36 minutes) on the floor together, but the offense has struggled (104.1 points scored per 100 possessions) in 126 minutes with Doncic at the point.
Week 14: vs. SAS, @ IND
Last Week: 20
Pace: 103.1 (6) OffRtg: 113.4 (4) DefRtg: 111.3 (25) NetRtg: +2.1 (10)
The Pelicans' first five games with Elfrid Payton back were their best offensive stretch (126.7 points scored per 100 possessions, 46 percent from 3-point range) and best overall stretch (plus-16.0 per 100) of the season, despite the absence of Anthony Davis for one of the five games (though it helped that they played the Cavs in two of them). They got Nikola Mirotic back from a 12-game absence on Wednesday, but shot just 5-for-25 from beyond the arc in Minnesota on Saturday, their 10th straight road loss within the Western Conference. Seven of those 10 losses have been within five points in the last five minutes and the Pelicans have still outscored their opponents by 16.3 points per 100 possessions in 260 minutes with Payton and Jrue Holiday on the floor together. But they have seven more road games within the West in the next 20 days (and none of those seven are in Phoenix).
Week 14: @ LAC, @ GSW, @ POR
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 98.4 (26) OffRtg: 104.5 (26) DefRtg: 108.4 (13) NetRtg: -3.9 (25)
The Magic went 1-5 on a road trip that ended in Utah on Wednesday with their sixth loss (most in the league) in a game they led by 15 or more points. But after a couple of days off, they went and beat both the Celtics and Rockets over the weekend, with Aaron Gordon finally breaking through offensively. He shot 15-for-29, scored 20-plus points in two straight games for the first time in more than two months, and had 13 free throw attempts (most for an Orlando player in more than two years) in the win over Boston. The Magic are just a half game out of eighth place and have a pair of big games this week, visiting the 10th-place Pistons on Wednesday and hosting the seventh-place Nets on Friday. That game is the first of three Brooklyn-Orlando meetings in the next three weeks.
Week 14: @ DET, vs. BKN, vs. MIL
Last Week: 25 ↑
Pace: 102.5 (8) OffRtg: 108.8 (17) DefRtg: 111.9 (27) NetRtg: -3.1 (24)
The Wizards are 5-4 since John Wall played his last game of the season, and the last six of those games have been against teams with winning records. They've picked up wins over the Thunder, Sixers and Bucks (teams that rank first, 12th and third defensively) over the last nine days, scoring almost 115 points per 100 possessions over those three games. They have the league's 10th-ranked offense, with Bradley Beal averaging 30.2 points and 6.4 assists (while shooting 41 percent from 3-point range), over the nine-game stretch. Otto Porter is still coming off the bench, but had two of his three highest scoring games of the season last week. The Wizards may have let one get away against Toronto on Sunday, but eight of their 14 remaining pre-break games are against teams that currently have losing records. Five of those eight (including the London game on Thursday) are against the four teams below them in the East.
Week 14: vs. NYK (London)
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 96.0 (30) OffRtg: 104.5 (27) DefRtg: 105.8 (6) NetRtg: -1.3 (22)
The Grizzlies stopped the bleeding with an ugly win over the Spurs on Wednesday and had their most efficient offensive game in more than six weeks in Miami on Saturday. But that was also their worst defensive game (112 points allowed on just 93 possessions) over the same time frame and Marc Gasol airballed an open 3-pointer for the lead in the final minute. The Grizzlies are the new Worst Western Conference Team Outside of Phoenix as we head into Week 14 and, amazingly, even as they've gone 3-12 over the last month, their starting lineup has outscored its opponents by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Beyond JaMychal Green, their bench has been dreadful, and the starters lost Kyle Anderson to an ankle injury on Saturday. He's out 2-4 weeks and will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Justin Holiday, who has shot 4-for-22 in his four games with his new team. The schedule only gets tougher this week, though the Grizz will have a rest advantage in Houston on Monday and again against Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Week 14: @ HOU, vs. MIL, @ BOS, @ TOR
Last Week: 24
Pace: 99.7 (21) OffRtg: 105.9 (23) DefRtg: 108.6 (14) NetRtg: -2.7 (23)
The Pistons would be the best team in the league if all games were revenge games. Dwane Casey got his win in Toronto back in November and, after (seemingly) snubbing Steve Balmer, Blake Griffin dropped 44 points (on 13-for-23 shooting) in a win over the Clippers on Saturday. If they can't come up with reasons why this week's four opponents have done them wrong, they'll at least get some help from the return of Ish Smith, who has missed the last 19 games with a groin strain. Over the first 22 games of the season (before Smith got hurt), the Pistons were outscored by just 2.0 points per 100 possessions with Griffin off the floor. Over the last 19 games, they're 5-14 and have been outscored by 12.5 points per 100 possessions with Griffin off the floor.
Week 14: @ UTA, vs. ORL, vs. MIA, vs. SAC
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 100.6 (14) OffRtg: 110.1 (11) DefRtg: 110.3 (21) NetRtg: -0.2 (19)
Among Eastern Conference teams, only the Cavs (2-13, minus-14.2 points per 100 possessions) have been worse against the West than the Hornets (2-11, minus-12.9), who are 1-4 on a trip that concludes Monday in San Antonio. Their six games since Cody Zeller's hand injury have been their worst stretch of defense (119.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season, even though they've allowed just 105.5 per 100 in Bismack Biyombo's 129 minutes on the floor over the six games. The first five were also Kemba Walker's worst shooting stretch (effective field goal percentage of just 38.6 percent) in more than a year. He shot better in Sacramento on Saturday, but didn't get much help, with Tony Parker sitting out the second game of a back-to-back. Parker makes his return to San Antonio on Monday and the Hornets enter Week 14 just a half game ahead of both Detroit and Orlando for the final playoff spot in the East.
Week 14: @ SAS, vs. SAC, vs. PHX, @ IND
Last Week: 26
Pace: 105.5 (1) OffRtg: 103.4 (29) DefRtg: 111.0 (24) NetRtg: -7.6 (26)
Vince Carter was the recipient of some farewell tributes in Toronto and Brooklyn last week, though it's not clear if he's really ready to say farewell. Carter ranks 15th in the league in made 3-pointers per 36 minutes, having shot better than the league average from beyond the arc. One of the two Hawks who have shot better from 3-point range is Kevin Huerter, who had 29 points and the game-tying 3-pointer in their win in Philadelphia on Friday. The other is Taurean Prince, who returned from an 18-game absence to score seven points in just 11 minutes in the Hawks' loss to the Bucks on Sunday. That was the third time in the last four games (and the seventh time this season) that the Hawks had more turnovers than assists.
Week 14: vs. OKC, vs. BOS
Last Week: 28 ↑
Pace: 100.5 (17) OffRtg: 104.2 (28) DefRtg: 112.0 (28) NetRtg: -7.8 (27)
The Suns have scored just 97.6 points per 100 possessions with Devin Booker off the floor. But they've won three of the last four games they've played without their star, because they've held the the Mavs (back in mid-December), Kings (on Tuesday) and Nuggets (on Saturday) to just 96.4 points per 100 possessions in those three games. Kelly Oubre Jr. tied his career high of 26 points in each of the two wins last week, had a big tip dunk (after the Suns came back from a 21-point deficit) against the Kings, and registered just his second career double-double against the Nuggets. All three of the Booker-less wins have come at home and a four-game trip that tips off in Indiana on Tuesday is the start of a stretch (through the end of February) where the Suns are playing 13 of 18 on the road.
Week 14: @ IND, @ TOR, @ CHA, @ MIN
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 99.1 (23) OffRtg: 100.9 (30) DefRtg: 110.9 (23) NetRtg: -10.0 (29)
The Bulls gave their defensive-minded coach a raise at a time (Saturday) when they had lost six straight games (they made it seven straight Saturday night), had allowed 124.6 points per 100 possessions over the last five (their worst defensive stretch of the season), and were coming off a 37-point loss in Oakland. They've quickly fallen to 22nd in defensive efficiency (two weeks ago, they were eighth) since Jim Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg, though their new starting lineup's issues (it has been outscored by more than 25 points per 100 possessions in the five games since Justin Holiday was traded) start with anemic offense. Bobby Portis was providing some production off the bench before injuring his elbow at Golden State on Friday, and the Bulls' loss in Utah a night later was his 31st absence of the season.
Week 14: @ LAL, @ DEN, vs. MIA
Last Week: 29
Pace: 101.0 (13) OffRtg: 105.4 (25) DefRtg: 113.3 (29) NetRtg: -7.9 (28)
The Knicks aren't taking Enes Kanter or Kristaps Porzingis, but they are taking the league's second worst defense to London. The 42.2 points per game they've allowed in the restricted area would be the most any team has allowed in the last 22 years (since the Celtics allowed 45.6 in 1996-97), and they've allowed 47.4 over their last 10 games. Coach David Fizdale says that the problems start with the help-side defense and opponent restricted-area points have been highest (43.4 per 48 minutes) with rookie Kevin Knox on the floor. The youth movement continues, of course. Veterans Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas rank 12th and 14th, respectively, on the team in total minutes over a brutal 2-17 stretch, though Thomas did get his first start since October on Sunday.
Week 14: vs. WAS (London)
Last Week: 30
Pace: 97.2 (29) OffRtg: 105.5 (24) DefRtg: 116.7 (30) NetRtg: -11.2 (30)
The Cavs' league-worst defense was absolutely awful (124.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) over their 12-game losing streak (the longest streak of any kind this season). But their offense started to pick up at the end of it, with Alec Burks (16.5 points per game on 56 percent shooting in four games last week) finding some consistency in the starting lineup. And then they put an end to the streak by holding an opponent (the James-less Lakers) under a point per possession for just the fourth time this season. Tristan Thompson has recorded at least five assists in three of his last nine games (somebody has to pass the ball on this team) and has seen the league's second biggest increase in usage rate (from 11.9 percent to 17.3 percent) among 230 players who have played at least 500 minutes each of the last two seasons. Only Orlando's Terrance Ross has seen a bigger jump.
Week 14: @ POR, @ UTA, @ DEN
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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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