Power Rankings, Week 21: Handful of West teams keep rising
The league passed the three-quarter mark of the season last week, and we’re past time for the teams in playoff races to get serious and teams on their way to the Lottery to coast to the finish.
But the last seven days were a week of parity, with 29 of the 30 teams (the Kings were the one exception) winning at least one game and 28 of the 30 (all except the Rockets and Jazz) losing at least once. Three of the top five teams in last week’s rankings — Golden State, Denver and Oklahoma City — lost two games or more.
The 18-46 Chicago Bulls have won the last five games that Otto Porter Jr. has played in, while the 16-48 Cleveland Cavaliers have won five of the last six that they’ve played with Kevin Love. The bottom four teams in the West all played spoiler last week, winning at least one game against a team in playoff position or still fighting for a playoff spot.
You can look at remaining schedules and project how teams will do over the final six weeks of the season, but nothing is guaranteed.
- Last week: Blazers, Nuggets make their move
- This time last year: West races heat up on both ends of playoff picture — James Harden dropped Wesley Johnson, stared him down, waited, licked his lips, and then drained a three. Anthony Davis dropped 53 points on the Suns, averaging 35.6 points over the Pelicans’ 10-game winning streak. Dwyane Wade hit a game-winner against Philly, Skal Labissiere hit one to beat the Knicks, and J.R. Smith threw soup Cavs assistant at Damon Jones.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Jusuf Nurkic (POR) was a plus-50 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Joe Harris (BKN) was a minus-62 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Utah (3-0) — The Jazz won in Denver in the second game of a back-to-back, and then returned home to beat the Bucks behind a huge game (career-high 46 points) from Donovan Mitchell.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Sacramento (0-3) — The Kings almost beat the full-strength Bucks on Wednesday, but were the only team that didn’t win a game last week, and they lost a critical one to the Clippers on Friday.
East vs. West
- The West is 191-154 (.554) against the East in interconference games after going 14-12 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 20
- Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. Phoenix, 3. New York
- Easiest: 1. Indiana, 2. Oklahoma City, 3. Miami
- 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: Detroit (+3), LA Clippers (+3), Miami (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Oklahoma City (-5), Indiana (-4), Four teams (-3)
Week 21 Team to Watch
- Boston — Sometimes, a team finds itself on the road. The Celtics need to figure some things out, and what better way to do it than with a four-game trip through California. They begin the trip at Golden State on Tuesday, before playing the second game of a back-to-back in Sacramento on Wednesday. Then they head to L.A. for games against the Lakers and Clippers on Saturday and next Monday.
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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 109.5 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: 103.1 (6) OffRtg: 113.4 (3) DefRtg: 104.3 (1) NetRtg: +9.1 (1)
With Eric Bledsoe (back soreness) and Malcolm Brogdon (right foot pain) both out, the Bucks started a huge lineup, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton at guard, in Utah on Saturday. That lineup outscored the Jazz, 29-7, in its 8-plus minutes. But Ersan Ilyasova was in foul trouble most of the night and the Bucks were outscored by 26 points with at least one reserve on the floor in just their second loss (both were in Western Conference arenas) with Antetokounmpo in the lineup over the last eight weeks. Bledsoe is registering career-high marks in effective field goal percentage (55.5 percent), true shooting percentage (58.4 percent) and assist-turnover ratio (2.60), and was rewarded with a contract extension less than 24 hours after scoring a season-high 31 points in L.A.
Week 21: @ PHX, vs. IND, vs. CHA, @ SAS
Last Week: 2
Pace: 102.0 (10) OffRtg: 115.5 (1) DefRtg: 109.3 (16) NetRtg: +6.2 (2)
The Warriors have been resting guys (DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala all sat out one game in a back-to-back last week), but still had Klay Thompson suffer a minor knee injury in Orlando on Thursday. They've now trailed 11 of their last 13 games by double-digits (and are 13-17 after trailing by double-digits this season), and have been 17.6 points per 100 possessions better with DeMarcus Cousins off the floor (plus-11.1) than they've been with him on the floor (minus-6.5) over that 13-game stretch. But they came back from 14 down with a very Warriors-esque 38-23 third quarter, a big contribution from Damion Lee (in Thompson's absence), and some big plays inside from Cousins (who scored 22 of his 25 points in the restricted area or at the free throw line) in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Week 21: vs. BOS, vs. DEN, vs. PHX
Last Week: 5 ↑
Pace: 100.5 (15) OffRtg: 112.3 (6) DefRtg: 107.4 (7) NetRtg: +4.9 (5)
With their easy win over the Celtics last week, the Raptors remained undefeated (now 9-0) on Tuesdays and finished a somewhat inconclusive 8-7 (5-4 in games with both Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard) against the four other good teams in the East. They blew the Boston game open with a formula borrowed from a couple of seasons ago: Kyle Lowry and the bench at the start of the second quarter. That second unit included Marc Gasol, who started games against the Blazers and Pistons later in the week, missed a great look to win the game in Detroit, and has still played just 51 total minutes (and only eight against potential Eastern Conference playoff teams) alongside both of the Raptors' two All-Stars. Leonard continues to have his load managed, but, with his game-winner against Portland on Friday, now leads the league with seven buckets (on 14 attempts) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.
Week 21: vs. HOU, @ NOP. @ MIA
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 99.0 (23) OffRtg: 112.9 (4) DefRtg: 107.9 (10) NetRtg: +5.0 (3)
Every game counts, but some are more important than others, and the Nuggets won one of their most important games of the season, improving to 3-0 against the Thunder behind a huge game (36 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists) from Nikola Jokic on Tuesday. But they then dropped home games to Utah and New Orleans, and bench minutes have become an issue. Jokic has registered a positive plus-minus in nine straight games, but the Nuggets have been outscored by 10 points per 100 possessions in 144 minutes with him off the floor over that stretch. Monte Morris has been on the floor for 84 of Isaiah Thomas' 95 minutes, but the Nuggets have struggled to generate offense, scoring just 97 points per 100 possessions, in those minutes. They're still just a game in the loss column behind the first-place Warriors, with one of their two remaining meetings on Friday.
Week 21: @ SAS, @ LAL, @ GSW
Last Week: 6 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (18) OffRtg: 112.7 (5) DefRtg: 109.2 (15) NetRtg: +3.6 (8)
Despite a harrowing half hour stuck in a Boston elevator, the Blazers are 5-1 on the trip that ends in Memphis on Tuesday, with the only loss coming on Kawhi Leonard's game-winner on Friday. They've been without Evan Turner for most of the trip, but Rodney Hood had a 27-point second half in Charlotte on Sunday and their starting lineup has outscored its opponents by 31.2 points per 100 possessions over the six games. The Blazers have three of the seven league-wide lineups - the other four starters with either Turner, Maurice Harkless, Jake Layman at small forward - that have scored at least 114 points per 100 possessions in 200 minutes or more. The Turner lineup (plus-16.4) is the best among the 29 lineups that have played 200-plus minutes in regard to point differential per 100 possessions. They're still in fourth place, but have a big game against the third-place Thunder on Thursday, with OKC having won the first three meetings.
Week 21: @ MEM, vs. OKC, vs. PHX
Last Week: 8 ↑
Pace: 98.3 (28) OffRtg: 114.5 (2) DefRtg: 112.0 (25) NetRtg: +2.4 (11)
There's no "load management" in Houston, where James Harden leads the league in usage rate (by a wide margin) while ranking fifth in total minutes played, and where Chris Paul played in both games of the Rockets' back-to-back last week. The second game of that back-to-back (against Miami on Thursday) was their third win after trailing by 20 or more points and came with Harden scoring 58 points against a top-10 defense (after shooting 3-for-31 from 3-point range over his previous three games). They've won five straight even though they continue to be outscored with Paul, Harden and Clint Capela on the floor together. The trio is a minus-1 in 84 minutes over the winning streak, with the Rockets having allowed more than 116 points per 100 possessions in those 84 minutes. Success is all about the offense that has scored a league-best 118.1 points per 100 possessions since Feb. 1.
Week 21: @ TOR, vs. PHI, @ DAL
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 100.8 (14) OffRtg: 108.8 (18) DefRtg: 105.6 (4) NetRtg: +3.2 (9)
Against the toughest three-game stretch left on their schedule, the Jazz went 3-0, holding three top-11 offenses -- those of the Clippers, Nuggets and Bucks -- to just 102.6 points per 100 possessions. The Jazz got key offensive contributions from Kyle Korver (22 points in Denver) and Derrick Favors (23 points against Milwaukee). Overall, Donovan Mitchell carried the offense, averaging 34 points over the three games (with 19 of his career-high 46 n the fourth quarter against the Bucks on Saturday). Mitchell's effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage are still both down from last season, but the Jazz are now 24-4 when he's had an effective field goal percentage of 50 percent or better. They're still two games in the loss column out of a top-four seed, but will now play 17 of their next 18 games against teams that are at or below .500.
Week 21: vs. NOP, @ NOP, @ MEM
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 102.9 (7) OffRtg: 111.4 (9) DefRtg: 108.3 (12) NetRtg: +3.1 (10)
With Joel Embiid out, Tobias Harris averaged 26 points on 58 percent shooting over the Sixers' first four post-break games and scored eight straight critical points down the stretch of their win in Oklahoma City on Thursday (that ended a 19-game losing streak against the Thunder). But the Sixers still rank 25th offensively (106.1 points per 100 possessions) since the break, with Jimmy Butler and J.J. Redick having combined to shoot just 33 percent (including 7-for-25 in their loss to the Warriors on Saturday). Only five of their remaining 19 games are against teams that currently have winning records, but two of those are this week and their game against the Pacers on Sunday could be for third place in the East (with the Sixers holding a 2-1 head-to-head advantage thus far).
Week 21: vs. ORL, @ CHI, @ HOU, vs. IND
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 104.1 (3) OffRtg: 109.9 (15) DefRtg: 105.6 (3) NetRtg: +4.3 (7)
The fourth, fifth and sixth-place teams in the West are all, arguably, playing their best basketball of the season. So Paul George's shoulder injury (which has kept him out of the last three games) has come at a bad time for the Thunder, who remain in third place thanks to a narrow escape against Memphis on Sunday. Their offensive struggles began before they lost George (who shot 11-for-43 in the last two games he played), almost the whole team has gone cold from 3-point range, and the last five games have been the Thunder's worst offensive stretch (101.7 points scored per 100 possessions) since the first five games of the season. They're 8-12 on the road within the Western Conference and now head out on a four-game trip that includes important games against the fourth-place Blazers (Thursday) and sixth-place Jazz (next Monday).
Week 21: @ MIN, @ POR, @ LAC
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 102.5 (9) OffRtg: 110.6 (11) DefRtg: 109.8 (17) NetRtg: +0.8 (13)
What's amazing about the Clippers' win in Sacramento on Friday (arguably their most important win of the season) was that they completed the season sweep while getting outscored by eight points in almost 33 minutes with either Lou Williams or Montrezl Harrell on the floor. Their latest starting lineup has now cracked the 100-minute mark and ranks as the fourth best defensive lineup (92.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) among the 97 league-wide lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. The Clippers' win over the Knicks on Sunday, in which Landry Shamet shot 7-for-11 from 3-point range, began a stretch of eight straight games at Staples Center, and their "road" game on Monday is an opportunity to put another nail in the Lakers' coffin.
Week 21: @ LAL, vs. OKC
Last Week: 7 ↓
Pace: 98.7 (27) OffRtg: 110.0 (14) DefRtg: 105.1 (2) NetRtg: +4.9 (6)
Team Resilience has begun to suffer from some slippage. The Pacers have lost three of their last four games, even though it's been one of their best offensive stretches of the season (116.2 point scored per 100 possessions). The league's No. 2 defense hasn't held up, with the Pistons and Mavs combining for 34 3-pointers, and the Wolves and Magic combining for 42 second chance points. They're still in third place, but after the Pacers host the Bulls on Tuesday, they will play 10 of their next 11 games against teams with winning records, with eight of those 10 on the road. Only six of the 28 games they've played without Victor Oladipo have been against those 13 teams currently over .500 (they're 3-3 against that group without their All-Star), and five of those six games have been at home.
Week 21: vs. CHI, @ MIL, @ PHI
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 100.2 (17) OffRtg: 110.9 (10) DefRtg: 105.9 (5) NetRtg: +5.0 (4)
The Celtics are a league-worst 1-5 since the All-Star break, and it's been their worst six-game stretch of offense (102.0 points scored per 100 possessions) since October. They've been getting to the basket more than they were early in the season, but their free throw rate (21 attempts per 100 shots from the field) remains last in the league and Celtics not named Kyrie Irving have shot 24 percent from 3-point range since the break. They've dropped to three games in the loss column behind the fourth-place Sixers and now head to California for a four-game trip, holding a 10-13 record (and having allowed 111.2 points per 100 possessions) against the West after their losses to the Blazers and Rockets at home last week.
Week 21: @ GSW, @ SAC, @ LAL
Last Week: 14 ↑
Pace: 99.2 (22) OffRtg: 112.1 (7) DefRtg: 111.4 (23) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
Earl Weaver said that, in baseball, "Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher." For the Spurs, momentum is apparently the next game's location. After a brutal 1-7 rodeo trip in which they allowed their opponents to score more than 122 points per 100 possessions, the Spurs returned home and held the Pistons and Thunder under a point per possession to hold onto playoff position in the West. They've won six straight games at the AT&T Center, where they have a top-10 defense (106.6 points allowed per 100 possessions) and where they'll play six of their next eight. They're also 22-10 in games in which Derrick White (who missed six of the eight games on the trip) has played at least 25 minutes, though that breaks down to 17-3 at home and 5-7 on the road.
Week 21: vs. DEN, @ ATL, vs. MIL
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 98.7 (26) OffRtg: 107.5 (22) DefRtg: 108.0 (11) NetRtg: -0.5 (16)
A 9-2 stretch, capped by their second win over Dwane Casey's former team, has the Pistons at .500 (for the first time since they were 16-16) and in sixth place in the East. The play of Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond remains most critical, but Luke Kennard has given them another consistent contributor over the last couple of weeks. Since the break, Kennard has an effective field goal percentage of 71.9 percent, the best mark among 124 players with at least 50 post-break field goal attempts. After going 2-for-2 at the line to give the Pistons the lead for good in overtime on Sunday, Drummond is 19-for-23 (83 percent) on clutch free throws for the season, while also leading the league in clutch offensive rebounds (26) and second chance points (28).
Week 21: vs. MIN, @ CHI, vs. CHI
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 104.5 (1) OffRtg: 108.6 (19) DefRtg: 109.9 (19) NetRtg: -1.3 (19)
It's been a rough couple of weeks (at a bad time) for the Kings. They've lost five of their last six games (with starting forwards Bogdan Bogdanovic and Harrison Barnes both shooting 38 percent), lost Marvin Bagley to a knee injury when he was playing his best basketball of the season, and fell to 0-4 against the seventh-place Clippers (having allowed almost 121 points per 100 possessions over the four games) with their loss at home on Friday. There is still time to recover and still another game against the eighth-place Spurs (in San Antonio). That's not until the end of the month and right now, the Kings will play their next eight games (four at home, four on the road) against the East. They have the West's fourth best record (14-7) against the East.
Week 21: vs. NYK, vs. BOS, @ NYK
Last Week: 16
Pace: 98.7 (25) OffRtg: 106.7 (24) DefRtg: 107.7 (9) NetRtg: -0.9 (19)
Since Feb. 1, the Magic have climbed from 11th to eighth in the East with the league's best defense, the league's best point differential per 100 possessions (plus-9.4), and wins over the Bucks, Raptors, Warriors and Pacers. After they visit the Sixers on Tuesday, they will have a couple of days off and then play seven straight games against teams that are currently under .500. But in the last 10 days, the Magic also have losses to the Bulls, Knicks and Cavs that are keeping them from looking like a sure thing to end their six-year playoff drought. In their losses in New York and Cleveland last week, Terrence Ross shot 2-for-22 and the Magic were outscored, 70-34, in the fourth quarter.
Week 21: @ PHI, vs. DAL, @ MEM
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 103.5 (5) OffRtg: 112.0 (8) DefRtg: 111.2 (22) NetRtg: +0.8 (12)
The post-deadline portion of the season seems like a pointless exercise for the Pelicans. But the results could help them determine what kind of package they'd like to get for Anthony Davis this summer. Plus, maybe there's a case for staying competitive around Jrue Holiday. He is under contract for two more seasons, is turning 29 years old in June and is one of the best two-way guards in the league. The Pelicans have won the last three games they've played without Davis, with Holiday and Julius Randle combining for 57 points in Denver on Saturday. Davis' limited minutes have provided additional opportunities for Cheick Diallo, who has averaged 12.7 points (on 77 percent shooting) and 9.5 rebounds in just 20 minutes per game since the All-Star break.
Week 21: @ UTA, vs. UTA, vs. TOR, @ ATL
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 101.0 (13) OffRtg: 108.9 (17) DefRtg: 109.9 (18) NetRtg: -1.0 (20)
The Nets are healthy (Spencer Dinwiddie returned from a month-long absence over the weekend), but have been unable to take care of business before their schedule starts to get really rough. They've lost three straight games to teams below them in the East standings, allowing the Wizards, Hornets and Heat to score more than 118 points per 100 possessions over the three games. Their latest starting lineup has struggled, in part because it's been destroyed on the glass (grabbing less than 42 percent of available rebounds) in its 81 minutes. It's also played at a fast pace and the Nets rank fourth in pace over the last eight weeks (103.7 possessions per 48 minutes) after ranking 22nd prior to that (99.4). But for the second straight season, they rank last in points scored per possession in transition (0.99), and they're now 10-18 in games in which they've played at a pace of 102 possessions per 48 minutes or faster.
Week 21: vs. DAL, vs. CLE, @ ATL
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 98.9 (24) OffRtg: 106.8 (23) DefRtg: 107.5 (8) NetRtg: -0.7 (17)
Dwyane Wade's ridiculous game-winner against the Warriors wasn't just a fun moment from a future Hall of Famer finishing up his career. That shot helped the Heat recover from a 2-9 stretch (that concluded with a loss at home to the Suns) and has them just a half game behind the eighth-place Magic, with 11 of their final 20 games against teams that are currently at or below .500. Their offense has come alive, scoring 121 points per 100 possessions in their four games last week, with Kelly Olynyk finding his rhythm as a starter and averaging 22.3 points on 65 percent shooting. Goran Dragic, meanwhile, totaled 48 points (and was 17-for-17 from the line) against Golden State and Houston before missing the Heat's win over Brooklyn on Saturday with a calf strain.
Week 21: vs. ATL, @ CHA, vs. CLE, vs. TOR
Last Week: 20
Pace: 101.1 (11) OffRtg: 110.6 (12) DefRtg: 111.0 (20) NetRtg: -0.4 (15)
Robert Covington practiced with the Wolves' G League team last week, seemingly close to a return and having yet to play a game in 2019. But even if the team's most important defender were to return on Tuesday, it probably wouldn't be in time to save the Wolves' season. They moved to within two games in the loss column of eighth place with a win (behind another huge game from Karl-Anthony Towns) over Sacramento on Monday. But they then proceeded to lose three straight games against the Eastern Conference, allowing three not-so-great offenses (those of the Hawks, Pacers and Wizards) to score almost 124 points per 100 possessions, with all three opponents getting to the line for more than 30 attempts. With a game in Detroit on Wednesday, the Wolves have lost seven of the last eight games they've played in Eastern Conference arenas.
Week 21: vs. OKC, @ DET, vs. WAS, vs. NYK
Last Week: 21
Pace: 99.8 (20) OffRtg: 110.4 (13) DefRtg: 111.1 (21) NetRtg: -0.7 (18)
Frank Kaminsky has been mostly out of the Hornets' rotation since mid-December, but was dusted off over the weekend and scored 33 points on 12-for-22 shooting against the Nets and Blazers. More important is that he was a plus-17 in 52 minutes. But the Hornets are still in ninth place in the East, having lost four of their last five games, with their new starting lineup having allowed 117 points per 100 possessions in its 54 minutes over that stretch. Late-game execution is an ongoing issue (they suffered two more losses in games that were within five points in the last five minutes last week), but they've now lost the first period in eight straight games (and in 13 of their last 15), with Kemba Walker having shot 36 percent over those eight opening quarters.
Week 21: vs. MIA, vs. WAS, @ MIL
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 103.9 (4) OffRtg: 107.6 (21) DefRtg: 108.9 (13) NetRtg: -1.3 (23)
With no signs of improvement and losses to the Grizzlies and Suns in the last seven days, the idea of LeBron James missing the playoffs for the first time in 14 years is close to becoming a reality. The Lakers' offense has been only slightly worse since James' return than it was before he was injured. But they rank 27th defensively (116.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) since he started playing again on Jan. 31 after ranking 10th (106.5 allowed per 100) through Christmas and seventh (108.1 allowed per 100) over his 17-game absence. The absence of Lonzo Ball has been a factor, and the defense did really start to drop off over the four games between Ball's injury and James' return. In the midst of the Lakers' letdown, James is set to pass Michael Jordan for fourth on the all-time scoring list this week. He needs just 40 points to do it, so Wednesday against Denver could be the day.
Week 21: vs. LAC, vs. DEN, vs. BOS
Last Week: 23
Pace: 99.8 (19) OffRtg: 108.0 (20) DefRtg: 109.1 (14) NetRtg: -1.2 (21)
The Mavs played spoiler on Wednesday, beating the Pacers behind a big game (26 points and seven assists) from Luka Doncic and a career-high 24 points from Jalen Brunson. The No. 33 pick in last year's Draft had an effective field goal percentage of 56.5 percent in February, but was 1-for-10 in an ugly loss to Memphis on Saturday and the Mavs have scored just 103.9 points per 100 possessions in 507 minutes with Brunson and Doncic on the floor together. They rank 27th offensively (105.3 points scored per 100 possessions) since Feb. 1, but with 20 games left to play, Dirk Nowitzki needs only 62 points to pass Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the all-time scoring list.
Week 21: @ BKN, @ WAS, @ ORL, vs. HOU
Last Week: 25 ↑
Pace: 104.4 (2) OffRtg: 106.7 (25) DefRtg: 112.8 (27) NetRtg: -6.2 (26)
Trae Young ranks in the top five in both points (32.0) and assists (9.5) per game since the All-Star break. Those numbers are somewhat aided by the five overtimes that the Hawks played last week, but would also be higher if Young wasn't ejected early in the third quarter of the Hawks' win in Chicago on Sunday. Young has shot ridiculously well -- 51 percent from 3-point range (fourth among 63 players with at least 30 attempts) and 92 percent from the line -- over those six post-break games. He also has a higher assist-turnover ratio (2.38) than he had before the break (1.93), even though his favorite target (John Collins) missed both games of the home-and-home with the Bulls.
Week 21: @ MIA, vs. SAS, vs. BKN, vs. NOP
Last Week: 24 ↓
Pace: 99.4 (21) OffRtg: 104.3 (29) DefRtg: 111.8 (24) NetRtg: -7.5 (27)
The Bulls have finally climbed out of the basement in offensive efficiency, where they'd been since Week 8. They remain a top-five team on that end of the floor (116.2 points scored per 100 possessions) since Feb. 1 and their starting lineup has been the sixth-best offensive lineup (121.6 per 100) of the 97 that have played at least 100 minutes together. They've outscored their opponents (they're a plus-39) with Otto Porter Jr. on the floor and have won the last five games that he's played in, including the wild, four-overtime, 329-point marathon in Atlanta on Friday. That gave them four more wins on the road (11) than they have at home (seven).
Week 21: @ IND, vs. PHI, vs. DET, @ DET
Last Week: 26
Pace: 102.7 (8) OffRtg: 109.6 (16) DefRtg: 112.3 (26) NetRtg: -2.7 (25)
There have been two games this season in which the two teams have combined to score more than 150 points in the paint, and both games (including their win over the Wolves on Sunday) have involved the Wizards, who remain pretty terrible defensively. Since Feb. 1, only the Lakers (117.7) have allowed more points per 100 possessions (117.0). And in the 23 years for which we have shot-location data, only the 1996-97 Celtics (45.6) have allowed more points per game in the restricted area (42.4). But the Wizards' offense has had its moments, and the 135 points it scored on on 103 possessions on Sunday (with seven guys in double-figures and Bradley Beal dishing out eight assists) made it the team's most efficient game of the season.
Week 21: vs. DAL, @ CHA, @ MIN
Last Week: 27
Pace: 97.2 (29) OffRtg: 106.0 (26) DefRtg: 116.1 (30) NetRtg: -10.1 (30)
After losing the first 44 games that they trailed by at least 10 points, the Cavs got their first real comeback win of the season on Thursday, beating the Knicks (after trailing by 14 points early in the fourth quarter) with a 16-3 run over the final three minutes. They've won five of the last six games that Kevin Love has played in and have outscored their opponents by 16.0 points per 100 possessions with Love on the floor over that stretch. They're getting more consistent production from Cedi Osman, who has made at least two 3-pointers in seven straight games and ranks fifth in post-break effective field goal percentage (among 124 players with at least 50 field goal attempts.
Week 21: @ BKN, @ MIA
Last Week: 28
Pace: 96.6 (30) OffRtg: 103.9 (30) DefRtg: 106.3 (6) NetRtg: -2.4 (24)
It's pretty amazing that the Grizzlies still rank sixth in defensive efficiency (with a pretty sizeable gap between them and the seventh-ranked Raptors). It's not all that surprising that they've dropped to 30th in offensive efficiency. Their ability to get stops was on display this weekend, when they held the Mavs and Thunder to just 90.5 points per 100 possessions in a road-road back-to-back. And their ability to get stopped was on display as they missed 13 straight shots from the field and blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead in Oklahoma City on Sunday (playing without Mike Conley). They've played eight games since the trade deadline, but don't have a lineup that's played more than 26 minutes together over that stretch.
Week 21: vs. POR, vs. UTA, vs. ORL
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 101.0 (12) OffRtg: 104.5 (28) DefRtg: 113.9 (29) NetRtg: -9.3 (29)
The Suns went from a 17-game losing streak to winning two out of three, playing spoiler against the Heat and Lakers by finding some offense (120 points scored per 100 possessions in each of the two wins). They've scored 111 points per 100 possessions in 74 minutes over the three games with Devin Booker and Tyler Johnson on the floor together after scoring just a point per possession in their first 115 minutes together. Booker only has a slightly lower usage rate with Johnson on the floor (29.4 percent) than he does overall (career-high 30.8 percent) and has assisted on 13 of Johnson's 25 field goals with the Suns. The Suns are still 0-18 on the road within the Western Conference and 0-9 at home against the East. But they still has home games remaining against New York (Wednesday), Chicago, Washington and Cleveland.
Week 21: vs. MIL, vs. NYK, @ POR, @ GSW
Last Week: 29 ↓
Pace: 100.5 (16) OffRtg: 104.9 (27) DefRtg: 112.9 (28) NetRtg: -7.9 (28)
Among the 282 players who have played at least 750 minutes this season, Mitchell Robinson has blocked the most shots (4.5) per 36. But Robinson has also committed the most fouls (6.0) per 36 minutes among that same group. The rookie has double-doubles and at least four blocks in three of his last four games, and led a impactful bench unit (that included Henry Ellenson) in the Knicks' win over Orlando on Tuesday. Since Robinson came back from an ankle injury in mid-January, the Knicks have been much better with him on the floor (minus-2.6 points per 100 possessions) than they've been with him off the floor (minus-11.7), but the difference has been almost entirely on the offensive end of the floor.
Week 21: @ SAC, @ PHX, vs. SAC, @ MIN