Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 23: Statement wins propel Warriors to top

As the clear favorite to win their third straight championship, the Golden State Warriors were at the top of the Week 1 Power Rankings. But over the next three months, the Warriors ranked No. 1 just twice — Week 4, when they had won eight straight games, and Week 16, when they had won 10 straight.

It’s not that the Warriors ever lost their status as the favorite to win the title. It’s that they just haven’t been the league’s best team this season. That designation still belongs to the Milwaukee Bucks, who still have the league’s best record and its best point differential by a wide margin. (And really, what fun would it be if the Warriors, because they remain title favorites, remained at No. 1 all year.)

But the Bucks are 5-4 in March and are facing some adversity with the loss of Malcolm Brogdon to a foot injury. The Warriors are just 4-2 (with a mediocre point differential) this month, but the four wins have come against the Sixers, Nuggets, Rockets and Thunder, with three of those four games having been on the road.

The playoffs are less than four weeks away and the Warriors have decided to show a few key opponents that they can take care of business when they want to. They’re back at No. 1 in the rankings and maybe they’ll stay there.


Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Philadelphia (3-0) — The Sixers took care of business at home against the Cavs and Kings, and then got their biggest win of the season, scoring 130 points against the league’s No. 1 defense on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Minnesota (0-3) — On a three-game trip, the Wolves were minimally competitive with three Western Conference playoff teams, losing to the Nuggets, Jazz and Rockets by an average of 20.3 points.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 22

  • Toughest: 1. Phoenix, 2. New York, 3. Utah
  • Easiest: 1. Indiana, 2. Miami, 3. Brooklyn
  • 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: Philadelphia (+4), Washington (+4), Three teams (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Boston (-3), New Orleans (-3), Four teams (-2)

Week 23 Team to Watch

  • San Antonio — The Spurs are a league-best 5-1 since the All-Star break against the 14 teams that currently have winning records, having beat the Pistons, Thunder, Nuggets, Bucks and Blazers over their eight-game winning streak. They put the streak on the line when they host the Warriors (who have also beat some good teams in the last 10 days) on Monday. They’ll then host the Heat (who have won five of seven) on Wednesday, before visiting the Rockets and Celtics on Friday and Sunday. If they can survive this week, they have a chance at a top-four seed in the West.

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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 109.4 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.

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Last Week:4

Record: 47-21

Pace: 102.0 (10) OffRtg: 114.9 (1) DefRtg: 109.0 (14) NetRtg: +5.9 (2)

The Warriors' last four games include a loss at home to the worst team in the Western Conference and three wins (against the Nuggets, Rockets and Thunder) to prove that they're still the best. Their win in Houston on Wednesday was DeMarcus Cousins' best game with the champs (28 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and a plus-7 in a two-point win), and their win in Oklahoma City on Saturday was their best defensive game (88 points allowed on 103 possessions) of the season. Both came without Kevin Durant (right ankle contusion) and with Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup. The Warriors have the five best two-man combinations in regard to on-court point differential per 100 possessions among the 373 that have played at least 700 minutes together, and the best of those has been Iguodala and Stephen Curry, with the champs having outscored their opponents by 14.5 points per 100 possessions in 724 minutes with the two on the floor together. The three statement wins of the last 10 days were extra important, because the Warriors have few opportunities to really prove themselves going forward. They have just five games remaining against teams with winning records, and three of those are part of a five-game week that starts Monday in San Antonio.

Week 23: @ SAS, @ MIN, vs. IND, vs. DAL, vs. DET

Last Week:1

Record: 52-18

Pace: 103.3 (6) OffRtg: 113.5 (3) DefRtg: 104.7 (1) NetRtg: +8.8 (1)

Adversity has found the Bucks, who had been relatively healthy all season, with their starting lineup having played more games than any other lineup in the league through Friday. But a right foot injury has Malcolm Brogdon out a reported 6-8 weeks, taking the league's second-best catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter away from the team that takes the second most 3-pointers. The Bucks should be able to hold onto the No. 1 seed and cruise through the first round without Brogdon, but things could get dicey if Brogdon isn't back by the conference semis. A career-high 52 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo were somehow not enough against the Sixers on Sunday, because the defense was not up to the Bucks' standards. Starting Nikola Mirotic in place of Brogdon keeps four shooters around Antetokounmpo, but obviously hurts the team's mobility on the other end of the floor.

Week 23: vs. LAL, @ CLE, vs. MIA, vs. CLE

Last Week:2

Record: 44-26

Pace: 98.2 (28) OffRtg: 114.1 (2) DefRtg: 111.1 (21) NetRtg: +3.0 (11)

The Rockets couldn't complete a season sweep of the Warriors, because they shot 11-for-41 from 3-point range (not as bad as they shot in Game 7 last year, but still bad) on Wednesday. But over the weekend, the Rockets managed a game (against Phoenix) in which they shot 11-for-40 from beyond the arc (just their fourth win when shooting less then 30 percent from deep) and a game (against Minnesota) in which James Harden didn't shoot a single free throw (for the first time since Game 1 of the 2016 playoffs). They got those wins (and almost beat the Warriors despite the poor shooting), because they now have a somewhat reliable defense. The Rockets have seen the league's biggest drop in points allowed per 100 possessions from before the All-Star break (112.2 - 25th in the league) to after it (106.2 - 6th). They're on the road for four of their next five games, but have won 11 of their last 12, a stretch that includes road wins over the Warriors, Celtics, and Raptors.

Week 23: @ ATL, @ MEM, vs. SAS, @ NOP

Last Week:5

Record: 46-22

Pace: 98.8 (23) OffRtg: 113.0 (4) DefRtg: 108.0 (11) NetRtg: +5.0 (4)

The Nuggets will play nine of their final 14 games on the road and 10 of the 14 against teams that currently have winning records. They're also one of two teams (the Warriors are the other) with four back-to-backs left to play. So it was important to bank three wins on their homestand last week, with Nikola Jokic (on a buzzer-beating leaner) and Paul Millsap (attacking a Myles Turner close-out) providing the last-second heroics against Dallas and Indiana, respectively. Only the Sixers (27-12) have been better than the Nuggets (26-13) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, and no team has been better defensively (Denver has allowed 94.6 points per 100) on clutch possessions. With Isaiah Thomas out of the rotation, the bench minutes were better last week, with the Nuggets outscoring their opponents by 34 points in 53 minutes with Jokic off the floor.


Week 23: @ BOS, @ WAS, @ NYK, @ IND

Last Week:3

Record: 49-21

Pace: 100.7 (15) OffRtg: 112.0 (7) DefRtg: 107.3 (9) NetRtg: +4.7 (5)

When Fred VanVleet was lost for more than a month with a thumb injury, Jeremy Lin seemed like a timely addition for the Raptors. But, with Lin having shot 36 percent (including a brutal 6-for-35 from 3-point range) in his 12 games with his new team, VanVleet's return to health couldn't have come sooner. VanVleet had a careless and costly turnover late in the Raptors' loss in Detroit on Sunday, but played 31 minutes and shot 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, replacing Lin in the starting lineup at the start of the third quarter (with Kyle Lowry missing his second straight game). Their game against New York on Monday is the second half of the Raptors' final back-to-back of the season. But with Lowry dealing with an ankle injury, Serge Ibaka suspended for one more game, and Kawhi Leonard bound to take at least few more games off, it appears that continuity will remain an issue for this team as it enters the postseason in less than four weeks.

Week 23: vs. NYK, @ OKC, vs. OKC, vs. CHA

Last Week:10

Record: 45-25

Pace: 102.7 (7) OffRtg: 111.2 (10) DefRtg: 108.0 (10) NetRtg: +3.2 (10)

Joel Embiid has been back for four games, the Sixers have won all four, and Embiid had 40 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in their most important win of the season. Playing the Bucks (the league's best defensive team) on the road, they had their best offensive game (130 points on 106 possessions) since the All-Star break, because Jimmy Butler added 27 points (with 13 free throw attempts) to Embiid's 40. Butler took a back seat in the offense when the Sixers first added Tobias Harris, but might be turning it up a notch, which is what Brett Brown wants. "I want him to put his thumbprint on a game more and more," Brown said Friday. "We will not be as good as we can be without him playing like he plays." The Sixers have just two games remaining against teams that currently have winning records, but one of those is Wednesday, when they'll try to avoid a season sweep at the hands of the Celtics.

Week 23: @ CHA, vs. BOS, @ ATL

Last Week:6

Record: 42-27

Pace: 100.3 (18) OffRtg: 112.8 (5) DefRtg: 109.3 (16) NetRtg: +3.5 (9)

The Blazers' starting lineup continues to rank near the top of the league in minutes played (both total and per game) and, since the break, has outscored its opponents by 21.2 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 14 lineups that have played at least 100 post-break minutes. But their bench has struggled to maintain leads (Enes Kanter has had a positive plus-minus in just one of his 11 games with Portland) and they'll be without C.J. McCollum (left knee strain) for at least a week. Considering the alternative, the McCollum diagnosis was good news, but the injury was a reminder that this team has been relatively fortunate health-wise. In the 25 months since the Blazers acquired Jusuf Nurkic from Denver, McCollum, Nurkic and Damian Lillard have missed just four, 11 and 12 games, respectively.

Week 23: vs. IND, vs. DAL, vs. DET

Last Week:11

Record: 41-29

Pace: 99.2 (22) OffRtg: 112.1 (6) DefRtg: 110.7 (20) NetRtg: +1.4 (12)

When they returned from the rodeo trip, the Spurs were tied in the loss column with the ninth-place Kings. Since then, they've won eight straight games, and their win over the Blazers on Saturday has them within two games in the loss column of a top-four seed. Home-court advantage would be meaningful, given that they're 1-9 on the road against the West's seven other playoff teams, with only two more opportunities (one of them in Houston on Friday) to improve on that mark. The bigger difference (almost 20 points per 100 possessions) between the rodeo trip and the winning streak has been on defense, with the Spurs having allowed their opponents to shoot a league-low 54 percent in the restricted area over the last eight games, down from 67 percent over the previous eight. Their improve defense will be tested against the league's top two offenses (those of the Warriors and Rockets) this week.

Week 23: vs. GSW, vs. MIA, @ HOU, @ BOS

Last Week:7

Record: 41-30

Pace: 102.5 (9) OffRtg: 111.2 (11) DefRtg: 110.0 (19) NetRtg: +1.2 (13)

Things got a little hairy when the Clippers blew a 10-point lead with less than a minute to go against Brooklyn on Sunday. But Lou Williams saved the day with the first buzzer-beating game-winner of his 14-year career, a shot that illustrates a couple of key Clippers stats. They rank third in clutch offense (having scored 117.6 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime) and have shot a league-best 44 percent from 3-point range in March. They didn't shoot enough 3-pointers (they were 9-for-15) in their loss to Portland on Tuesday, which was their final game in which they had a rest disadvantage (playing the second game of a back-to-back against a rested opponent). They had a rest advantage against the Nets and still have a league-high four rest-advantage games left on their schedule. The last of those is against the Jazz (who they currently trail by a half game in the loss column for seventh place) on the last night of the season. The first of those games is Tuesday against the Pacers, who play in Portland on Monday. The Clips are 8-3 (6-1 at home and 2-2 on the road) in rest-advantage games thus far.


Week 23: vs. IND, @ CLE, @ NYK

Last Week:9

Record: 40-29

Pace: 100.7 (14) OffRtg: 108.9 (17) DefRtg: 105.4 (3) NetRtg: +3.5 (8)

The Jazz have turned things up defensively, holding four of their last six opponents under a point per possession. But they remain in seventh place because their own offense scored just 89 points on 98 possessions (without Ricky Rubio) against the Thunder on Monday, with OKC completing a sweep of the season series. The Jazz proceeded to take care of business against the Suns, Wolves and Nets, and now they play 11 straight games against teams that currently have losing records. They're 22-10 against that group so far, and with seven of those 11 opponents having bottom-10 offenses (and none ranking in the top 10 offensively), they still have a shot at finishing No. 1 in defensive efficiency for the second straight season. But they do already have losses to New Orleans and Memphis (two of their worst defensive games of the season) this month.

Week 23: @ WAS, @ NYK, @ ATL, @ CHI

Last Week:8

Record: 43-27

Pace: 100.6 (16) OffRtg: 111.4 (8) DefRtg: 106.3 (5) NetRtg: +5.1 (3)

Since the All-Star break, the Celtics' starting lineup has been outscored by 9.5 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark among 14 lineups that have played at least 100 post-break minutes. They've had some rough stretches of defense and Marcus Morris has seen one of the league's biggest drops in effective field goal percentage from before the break (57 percent) to after it (47 percent). But Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier have combined for an effective field goal percentage of 64 percent (mostly off the bench) as they've won five of their last six games. Since the break, they've been at their best with Hayward on the floor with either Kyrie Irving or Al Horford, but Hayward suffered a concussion as a result of a John Collins screen early in the Celtics' win over the Hawks on Saturday.

Week 23: vs. DEN, @ PHI, @ CHA, vs. SAS

Last Week:14

Record: 44-26

Pace: 98.6 (26) OffRtg: 109.4 (15) DefRtg: 105.2 (2) NetRtg: +4.1 (6)

Only the Bucks (16-16) have won more games after trailing by double-digits than the Pacers, who got one of their biggest wins of the season (and just their fourth win without Victor Oladipo against a team currently over .500) when they came back from 19 points down to beat the Thunder (on Wesley Matthews' tip-in) on Thursday. But trailing by double-digits is not a good place to be, the Pacers have been down double-digits in 10 of their last 13 games, and they're just 14-21 after trailing by double-digits on the season. Offense has been a struggle, with Myles Turner having seen the league's biggest drop in effective field goal percentage (from 55.3 percent before the break to 41.3 percent after it) among 134 players with 250 field goal attempts before the break and 100 since the break. After their game in L.A. on Tuesday, the Pacers will have played as many games (they're 19-15) without Oladipo as they played with him (25-11).


Week 23: @ POR, @ LAC, @ GSW, vs. DEN

Last Week:12

Record: 42-28

Pace: 103.9 (3) OffRtg: 109.3 (16) DefRtg: 105.6 (4) NetRtg: +3.7 (7)

Getting buckets continues to be a struggle for the Thunder, who have the league's worst post-break offense (104.7 points scored per 100 possessions) outside of Brooklyn. They did enough defensively (holding both opponents under a point per possession) to get wins over the Jazz and Nets last week, but scored just 18 fourth-quarter points as they blew a 19-point lead in Indiana on Thursday and got completely shut down against the Warriors on Saturday. Paul George keeps getting to the line (his free throw rate of 42 attempts per 100 shots from the field since the break is up from 34 prior to the break), but has yet to regain his rhythm from the field. Russell Westbrook went ice cold on Saturday and Dennis Schroder and Terrance Ferguson have been two of the five worst 3-point shooters since the break (minimum 50 attempts). The Thunder have played more post-break games against top-10 defenses (five) than they have against bottom-10 defenses (one), but that's not going to change much going forward. Their next five games are against four of the top 10 teams in defensive efficiency and they have just two games (both in the final four days of the season) remaining against the bottom 10. They'll be without Westbrook (who will be serving a one-game suspension) against Miami on Monday.

Week 23: vs. MIA, vs. TOR, @ TOR

Last Week:17

Record: 33-36

Pace: 98.6 (25) OffRtg: 107.0 (23) DefRtg: 107.1 (7) NetRtg: -0.1 (14)

There were some ugly halves of basketball played in Miami last week. The Heat were almost doubled up (71-36) by the Bucks in the second half (and blew a 23-point lead) on Friday, but were otherwise on the right side of the ugliness. In two of their most important games of the season, they had their two best defensive performances (less than 83 points allowed per 100 possessions), wins against Detroit and Charlotte in which Reggie Jackson and Kemba Walker combined to shoot 7-for-31. The Heat are one of two teams (Milwaukee is the other) that rank in the top five in both opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area and the (lowest) percentage of their opponent shots that come from there, one reason they're set to rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons. They have the league's second-ranked defense on the road, where they will play nine of their final 13 games as they try to hold onto the No. 8 seed in the East.

Week 23: @ OKC, @ SAS, @ MIL, @ WAS

Last Week:13

Record: 36-33

Pace: 98.5 (27) OffRtg: 107.8 (21) DefRtg: 108.2 (12) NetRtg: -0.4 (17)

The Pistons' offense, which had ranked No. 1 since the start of February, went into the tank early last week, scoring an anemic 79 points per 100 possessions in Brooklyn and Miami. But it recovered to score 115 per 100 (despite continued shooting struggles from Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson) over the weekend, as they ran their home winning streak to nine games with wins over the Lakers and Raptors. The Pistons will have to navigate a five-game trip that starts in Cleveland on Monday and includes stops in Portland, Oakland and Denver, but (with Brooklyn 0-3 on its own trip out West) they're looking good for the No. 6 seed. The only problem with that is they probably won't get to play Toronto in the first round, having swept the season series. Sunday was the second time against the Raptors that Andre Drummond put the Pistons up for good with a 2-for-2 trip to the line in the final two minutes.

Week 23: @ CLE, @ PHX, @ POR, @ GSW

Last Week:15

Record: 34-35

Pace: 104.5 (1) OffRtg: 108.7 (18) DefRtg: 109.7 (17) NetRtg: -1.0 (19)

The Kings haven't lost a game that wasn't within five points in the last five minutes since Feb. 6. But they're a league-worst 3-9 in games that were within five in the last five since then, and their playoff chances essentially died on a 1-3 trip through the Northeast Corridor. They did get Marvin Bagley back from a five-game absence last week, and he picked up where he left off, averaging 16.7 points (on 59 percent shooting) in just 20.1 minutes against Boston, Philly and Chicago. Their playoff drought will reach 13 years (tied for the second-longest in NBA history), but the Kings still have a chance to finish with a winning record. They need eight wins to do it and they have eight games remaining (including each of their next six) against teams that are currently at or below .500.

Week 23: vs. BKN, vs. DAL, vs. PHX, @ LAL

Last Week:16

Record: 36-36

Pace: 101.2 (12) OffRtg: 108.6 (19) DefRtg: 108.9 (13) NetRtg: -0.4 (16)

The Nets' top four guards are all healthy, but they've all shot less than 40 percent as they've lost the first three games of their seven-game trip. D'Angelo Russell broke out of a shooting slump in L.A. on Sunday, but has just four free throw attempts over his last four games. Spencer Dinwiddie has been getting to the line and was shooting relatively well before Sunday, but was 2-for-16 in their loss to the Clippers. Caris LeVert has been able to get where he wants to go, but has shot just 44 percent in the paint since returning from his ankle injury (having shot 57 percent in the paint prior). The Nets still have the league's second-ranked defense since the All-Star break, but need some consistency from their guards and (after failing to deny Lou Williams the ball on the final possession on Sunday) desperately need to pick up a couple of wins this week, with the six games after that all against the league's top nine teams.

Week 23: @ SAC, @ LAL

Last Week:19

Record: 33-38

Pace: 98.7 (24) OffRtg: 106.6 (25) DefRtg: 107.2 (8) NetRtg: -0.6 (18)

The Magic' starting lineup, which has played a league-high 56 games together, has been steady and unspectacular. And with that, success for this team continues to be mostly about its bench. The Magic are 30-6 when Terrence Ross has recorded a non-negative plus-minus, which he did in wins over the Cavs and Hawks last week. But they're 3-31 when they've been outscored with Ross on the floor, and he was a minus-17 (shooting 3-for-13) in 29 minutes of a 10-point loss in Washington on Wednesday. (The Magic also lost the only game Ross has missed this season). A favorable schedule still gives them a decent chance at making the playoffs, despite being two games back of both Brooklyn and Miami in the loss column. But they already have five post-break losses to the bottom nine teams in the league, and that 3-for-13 against the Wizards wasn't Ross' worst shooting performance in those losses.

Week 23: vs. NOP, vs. MEM

Last Week:18

Record: 32-38

Pace: 100.8 (13) OffRtg: 110.7 (12) DefRtg: 111.9 (24) NetRtg: -1.1 (20)

The 10-13 group in the Western Conference standings -- Minnesota, the Lakers, New Orleans and Dallas -- feels like the "let go of the rope" division, with the Wolves still somehow leading that group despite the league's worst post-break defense (118.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) and an eight-game road losing streak. They went 0-3 on a trip through Denver, Utah and Houston, allowing an incredible 127 points per 100 possessions and trailing all three games by at least 24 points. Ranking 22nd in opponent 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) and last in opponent 3-point percentage, they're on pace to be the first team in NBA history (Atlanta and Milwaukee could join them) to allow 1,000 3-pointers. And they still have two more games against Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Week 23: vs. GSW, @ CHA, @ MEM

Last Week:21

Record: 31-38

Pace: 99.6 (19) OffRtg: 109.9 (14) DefRtg: 111.1 (22) NetRtg: -1.3 (21)

The Hornets are still just two games out of eighth place, but that (as it has most of the season) says more about the East than it does about the Hornets. They have a tough schedule going forward (with eight of their next 11 games against teams with winning records) and just haven't shown an ability to put wins together. They haven't won two straight games since Feb. 2 and they came up empty offensively in Miami on Sunday, their worst offensive game of the season (75 points on 92 possessions). After going 8-1 (and scoring 114 points per 100 possessions) against the other teams in the No. 6-10 group in the East through January, they're 1-4 (having scored less than a point per possession) against that group in February and March.

Week 23: vs. PHI, vs. MIN, vs. BOS, @ TOR

Last Week:25

Record: 30-40

Pace: 102.6 (8) OffRtg: 110.3 (13) DefRtg: 112.4 (25) NetRtg: -2.1 (24)

Bradley Beal's push to make third team All-NBA has been stronger than the Wizards' push to make the playoffs. With back-to-back 40-point games over the weekend (with 16 total 3-pointers on just 25 attempts), Beal is the only player averaging at least 30 points, six rebounds and six assists since the All-Star break. The Wizards rank fourth offensively since the break (113.6 points scored per 100 possessions), with Beal playing more minutes (40.2 per game) and with Jabari Parker having seen the third biggest increase in effective field goal percentage (from 51.6 percent to 62.3 percent) among 134 players with at least 250 field goal attempts before the break and 100 since the break. The Wizards have won three of their last four and are 22-13 at home, where they'll play three more games this week.

Week 23: vs. UTA, @ CHI, vs. DEN, vs. MIA

Last Week:22

Record: 31-39

Pace: 103.6 (5) OffRtg: 107.5 (22) DefRtg: 109.3 (15) NetRtg: -1.8 (22)

The Lakers' win in Chicago on Tuesday was their first win after trailing by at least 20 points since Dec. 22, 2015, when Kobe Bryant and Roy Hibbert were in their starting lineup. Despite the comeback and a pair of fun alley-oops (one, two) to LeBron James, the Lakers are a league-worst 1-8 in March, with a loss on Sunday to one of the other two teams (the Knicks) with only one win this month. James missed his final four shots at MSG (getting blocked twice in the final minute) and is one of five Lakers who have shot less than 31 percent on at least 15 3-point attempts over the last two weeks.


Week 23: @ MIL, vs. BKN, vs. SAC

Last Week:20

Record: 30-42

Pace: 103.9 (4) OffRtg: 111.3 (9) DefRtg: 111.5 (23) NetRtg: -0.3 (15)

Prior to Saturday, the Pelicans were the only team that hadn't played an overtime game. So maybe we can blame what happened in the final 7.7 seconds of OT against Phoenix -- a five-second inbound violation, failing to foul up three, and calling a timeout they didn't have -- on inexperience. Of course, the Pelicans have been bad in close games all season and are now 14-26 (only the Knicks have been worse) in games that have been within five points in the last five minutes. Jrue Holiday's poor shooting (13-for-51 in the clutch) is to blame for some of that, but the Pelicans have a six-game losing streak, with Holiday having missed the last five, which (not coincidentally) has been their worst stretch of defense (116.2 points allowed per 100 possessions) since early January.

Week 23: @ DAL, @ ORL, vs. HOU

Last Week:24

Record: 24-47

Pace: 104.4 (2) OffRtg: 107.0 (24) DefRtg: 112.4 (26) NetRtg: -5.5 (26)

With a mostly healthy roster (apologies to Miles Plumlee), the Hawks have reunited a group that was the worst high-usage lineup before the All-Star break. The lineup of Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Taurean Prince, John Collins and Dewayne Dedmon was outscored by 14.2 points per 100 possessions (with brutal defensive numbers) in its 204 pre-break minutes. But, with four of those five guys combining to shoot 31-for-50 (with 11 3-pointers), that lineup was a plus-25 in a little more than 18 minutes in a win over Memphis on Wednesday. In regard to point differential per 100 possessions, the Hawks (plus-7.1) rank as the league's second most improved team since the break, with the bulk of that improvement having come on offense. Pace has something to do with it, but they've made just one fewer 3-pointer than the Rockets (in the same number of games) since the break.

Week 23: vs. HOU, vs. UTA, vs. PHI

Last Week:23

Record: 28-42

Pace: 96.9 (30) OffRtg: 104.7 (28) DefRtg: 106.9 (6) NetRtg: -2.2 (25)

If there was such a thing as a Power Rankings jinx, the Grizzlies would be last week's victims. After it was noted in this space last Monday that the Grizzlies had the league's best defense since the All-Star break, they allowed the Hawks and Wizards to score almost 130 points per 100 possessions in a pair of road losses. The game in Washington on Saturday was their second-most efficient scoring game of the season (128 points on 105 possessions, with 35 assists and just 10 turnovers) and came with one of Chandler Parsons' best games in his three seasons with Memphis. He registered 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes, the most he's played since Dec. 2017. The Grizzlies still have a chance for a winning record at home, where they're 18-17 and where they'll play four of their next five games.

Week 23: vs. HOU, @ ORL, vs. MIN

Last Week:27

Record: 17-54

Pace: 101.4 (11) OffRtg: 104.8 (27) DefRtg: 113.2 (29) NetRtg: -8.4 (29)

Kelly Oubre Jr. came off the bench in his first 28 games with the Suns, but has started all 12 games since the All-Star break and averaged 20.2 points (with slightly better-than-average marks in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage) over the 12 games, with some highlight dunks and non-dunks throw in. He's been getting to the basket more since the break (42 percent of his post-break shots have come in the restricted area, up from 36 percent prior) and scored a career-high 32 points in New Orleans on Saturday. The Suns have been at their best offensively, scoring more than 111 points per 100 possessions, with Oubre and Devin Booker on the floor together.

Week 23: vs. CHI, vs. DET, @ SAC

Last Week:28

Record: 28-41

Pace: 99.5 (20) OffRtg: 108.1 (20) DefRtg: 109.9 (18) NetRtg: -1.8 (23)

It was a rough week for Luka Doncic, who had, perhaps, the worst game of his NBA career on Tuesday, committing nine turnovers and shooting 5-for-18 from the field and 1-for-9 from the line in a game the Mavs had a chance to win down the stretch. Two nights later, Doncic's incredible go-ahead dunk over Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee was undone by another missed free throw and Nikola Jokic's game-winner. Doncic saw a big drop in turnover rate in January (when he committed just 8.5 per 100 possessions), but has the highest post-break turnover rate (13.8 per 100) among 49 players with a usage rate higher than 25 percent. The Mavs put an end to their 1-12 slide with a Doncic-less win over Cleveland on Saturday in which Dirk Nowitzki pulled to within three points of Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list. Nowitzki should move into sixth place (for the second time) against the Pelicans on Monday.

Week 23: vs. NOP, @ POR, @ SAC, @ GSW

Last Week:26

Record: 19-52

Pace: 99.5 (21) OffRtg: 104.6 (29) DefRtg: 112.5 (28) NetRtg: -8.0 (27)

Jim Boylen added to his legend by getting both coaches ejected (at the same time) from the Bulls' loss to the Clippers on Friday. Unfortunately, Boylen's reputation as a defensive coach has taken a hit with a five-game losing streak in which the Bulls have allowed almost 124 points per 100 possessions, their worst defensive stretch in more than two months (with none of the five games having come against a top-10 offense). The streak has included some bad numbers inside and out. Two of the opponents have shot 50 percent or better from 3-point range, three of them have registered more than 20 second-chance points, and the Kings scored a season-high 80 points in the paint on Sunday.

Week 23: @ PHX, vs. WAS, vs. UTA

Last Week:29

Record: 17-53

Pace: 97.3 (29) OffRtg: 106.3 (26) DefRtg: 116.1 (30) NetRtg: -9.8 (30)

Collin Sexton has scored at least 23 points in each of the Cavs' last five games, and he's done it with a true shooting percentage of 68.5 percent, the fifth-best mark among 96 players that have totaled at least 50 field goal attempts over their last five games. As noted in this space last week, Sexton has cut down on his mid-range shots since the All-Star break. That's resulted in more 3-pointers, but the 20 buckets he's had in the restricted area over the last five games are also four more than he's had in any five-game stretch prior. The Cavs have still seen the league's biggest drop in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (from 38 percent last season to 33 percent this season), but they've made 16 3-pointers three times in March, having done so just three times prior. They had 18 threes in their biggest win of the season, a 25-point victory over the Raptors on Monday.

Week 23: vs. DET, vs. MIL, vs. LAC, @ MIL

Last Week:30

Record: 14-56

Pace: 100.4 (17) OffRtg: 104.5 (30) DefRtg: 112.5 (27) NetRtg: -8.0 (28)

After ranking 29th in 3-point percentage (33.6 percent) before the All-Star break, the Knicks rank third (38.6 percent) since the break. But their 3-point volume has remained relatively low (they rank 24th since the break in the percentage of their shots that have come from beyond the arc) and they rank 30th in restricted-area field goal percentage, both for the full season (57.4 percent) and since the break (55.1 percent). Despite 24 turnovers on Sunday, they put an end to their third losing streak of eight or more games by shooting well (both inside and out) against the Lakers and getting a game-saving block from Mario Hezonja, who know has signature plays against both Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James.


Week 23: @ TOR, vs. UTA, vs. DEN, vs. LAC