Power Rankings, Week 6: Quality wins help Clippers take over top spot
LeBron James’ move from Cleveland to Los Angeles this summer appeared to exacerbate the NBA’s conference imbalance. With the Western Conference having had a better record than the East in interconference games in 18 of the previous 19 seasons, the best player in the world was going from weaker conference to the stronger one.
And wouldn’t you know it, the West has been dominant thus far this season, having won 49 of the 74 interconference games through Sunday. After a 31-22 start, the West has won 18 of its last 21 games against the East and is on pace for 298 interconference wins, 32 more than its had in any of the last 20 seasons.
It helps that the two West teams that have played the most games against the East are the Golden State Warriors (6-1) and Portland Trail Blazers (5-2), who are a combined 11-3 against the other conference. The two East teams that have played the most games against the West are the Brooklyn Nets (2-6) and Washington Wizards (1-7), so things haven’t exactly been even in that regard.
Still, the imbalance has 10 West teams and only seven East teams with winning records. Six of the league’s seven worst records belong to Eastern Conference teams and as the season goes on, calls for a 1-16 playoff format could get louder than ever.
A new format isn’t happening this year, and the increased imbalance will likely make for another crazy playoff race in the West. Maybe Jimmy Butler’s move from Minnesota to Philadelphia will help the East’s record, though the Wolves might be better than they were 10 days ago, having added depth and subtracted a headache.
- Last week: Raptors reclaim No. 1 spot as Butler heads East
- This time last year: Celtics climb to No. 1 with comeback win over Warriors — The Warriors blew a 17-point lead in Boston, and then came from 24 points down to beat the Sixers. The Celtics had won 15 straight games (with one more to go) and the Pistons were 11-5. Joel Embiid had a pair of huge games (totaling 78 points, 31 rebounds and eight blocks) at Staples Center, Dion Waiters did the double-spin, and Mike Conley played his last game of the season, succumbing to an Achilles injury.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Danny Green (TOR) was a plus-62 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Derrick White (SAS) was a minus-71 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Houston (3-0) — The Rockets got an important road victory in Denver, followed by easy wins over the Warriors and Kings at home.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Charlotte (0-2) — Before they fell victim to more late-game heartbreak, the Hornets suffered their worst loss of the season … to the Cavs.
East vs. West
- The West is 49-25 (.662) against the East in interconference games after going 12-2 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 5
- Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. Milwaukee, 3. Minnesota
- Easiest: 1. Toronto, 2. Golden State, 3. Dallas
- 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: Houston (+6), LA Clippers (+5), Memphis (+4), Orlando (+4)
- Free falls of the week: San Antonio (-8), Charlotte (-7), Sacramento (-7)
Week 6 Team to Watch
- Utah — With their 50-point loss in Dallas on Wednesday, the Jazz’s start to the season went from “disappointing” to “concerning.” They have plenty of time to find some consistency on one end of the floor or the other, but this could be a big week. They finish their five-game trip in Indiana on Monday, return home to play Sacramento on Wednesday, and then head back out on the road, visiting the Lakers and Kings on Friday and Sunday.
* * *
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 101.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.9 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
Any stats marked with an * below are based on an estimate for possessions. All other stats are based on true possession counts.
* * *
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.
* * *
Last Week: 6 ↑
Pace: 102.8 (9) OffRtg: 112.5 (4) DefRtg: 107.7 (16) NetRtg: +4.8 (7)
The Clippers aren't going away. They've had a favorable early schedule in regard to rest-advantage games, but 12 of their 15 opponents are currently over .500. Their four-game-winning streak includes wins over Milwaukee, Golden State (in which they played a role in possibly breaking up the Warriors' dynasty) and San Antonio, along with a comeback from 15 points down in Brooklyn. They blew double-digit, fourth-quarter leads against both the Warriors and Spurs, but have shot well in the clutch (effective field goal percentage of 55 percent, 20-for-22 from the line) as they've won their last five games that were within five points in the last five minutes. They rank second offensively in November (they're the only team that has shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range this month) and finish their three-game trip against two of the six worst teams in the league.
Week 6: @ ATL, @ WAS, vs. MEM, @ POR
Last Week: 3 ↑
Pace: 104.3 (5) OffRtg: 115.3 (1) DefRtg: 104.4 (5) NetRtg: +10.9 (1)
The Bucks suffered their first loss at home because the Grizzlies shot 6-for-7 in the clutch, but also because Memphis had a 10-point lead after the first quarter. The Bucks have lost their last four first quarters by a total score of 137-103 (and have been at their worst both offensively and defensively in the opening 12 minutes this season), but were able to come back from 22 points down on Friday because they were playing the Bulls. With John Henson out for a significant chunk of the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist, Thon Maker gets another chance to realize his potential. The Bucks rank third in *aggregate bench NetRtg, though Henson's minutes haven't been that great. They've been really good (plus-24 in 68 minutes) with Ersan Ilyasova at center, a look they could go to more if Maker isn't working out.
Week 6: vs. DEN, vs. POR, vs. PHX, vs. SAS
Last Week: 2 ↓
Pace: 101.5 (15) OffRtg: 112.3 (6) DefRtg: 105.7 (8) NetRtg: +6.7 (3)
Coach Terry Stotts has changed up his substitution pattern this season, sitting Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum together for a few minutes per half, instead of having one of the two on the floor at all times. Thus far, the Blazers have survived (outscoring their opponents 2.1 points per 100 possessions) those no-Lillard-or-McCollum minutes (with Evan Turner running the point) pretty well and Stotts stuck with a 10-man rotation over the weekend, giving rookie Anfernee Simons some burn in place of the injured Seth Curry. The Blazers lost the first two games of their trip (their loss in Minnesota on Friday was the first time they've been held under a point per possession), but an easy win in Washington on Sunday and the Warriors' three-game losing streak has Portland in first place in the Western Conference. Their first meeting with the champs is Friday in Oakland, the conclusion of a six-game excursion in which they will have changed time zones four times.
Week 6: @ NYK, @ MIL, @ GSW, vs. LAC
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 102.4 (11) OffRtg: 113.1 (3) DefRtg: 105.4 (7) NetRtg: +7.7 (2)
The Raptors' three-game losing streak, in which Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry combined to shoot 3-for-26 from 3-point range (and which ended in Chicago on Saturday) was longer than any losing streak that they had last season. They're banged up on the wings. Their bench unit -- Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby with a center -- has played just 32 total minutes, 11th man Norman Powell is out for an extended time with a shoulder injury and they rank 16th in *aggregate bench NetRtg (after ranking first last season). But they still have the best record in the league, with what has been the league's easiest schedule remaining easy for another week.
Week 6: @ ORL, @ ATL, vs. WAS, vs. MIA
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 102.6 (10) OffRtg: 108.1 (13) DefRtg: 102.9 (2) NetRtg: +5.2 (6)
The Thunder have both the league's best record and its best point differential per 100 possessions (plus-10.9) in November, even though Russell Westbrook has missed six of their nine games this month. They've allowed less than 97 points points per 100 possessions with Paul George and Steven Adams on the floor together in November, and both guys have increased their production on the other end of the floor. George has scored at least 30 points in three straight games for the first time since joining the Thunder and Adams has averaged at least 20 points over a five-game stretch for the first time in his career. The Thunder have taken advantage of a soft schedule as they've won 10 of their last 11 games (the 11 opponents have a cumulative winning percentage of 0.363), so this week's schedule, with three of the four opponents having top-10 offenses and Westbrook possibly returning Wednesday in Oakland (he's healthy, but his wife just gave birth to twins), will be a good measuring stick.
Week 6: @ SAC, @ GSW, vs. CHA, vs. DEN
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 101.0 (18) OffRtg: 114.7 (2) DefRtg: 108.8 (18) NetRtg: +6.0 (5)
This week -- with the Draymond Green-Kevin Durant relationship taking center stage in the wake of Green's blow-up in L.A. on Monday -- was either the beginning of the end for the Warriors' dynasty or just something that's giving the rest of the league false hope. The Warriors may eventually recover and the absences of Green (in five of the last seven games) and Stephen Curry (in each of the last six) have been felt, but either way, the basketball has not been to the Warriors' standards ... on either end of the floor. The champs rank 16th offensively and 27th defensively as they've lost five of their last seven games and their loss in Houston on Thursday was a reminder that the Rockets' switch-everything defense can, at times, get their offense out of sorts.
Week 6: vs. OKC, vs. POR, vs. SAC
Last Week: 7
Pace: 100.1 (23) OffRtg: 103.9 (27) DefRtg: 101.3 (1) NetRtg: +2.6 (11)
Kyrie Irving's 43 points and 11 assists pushed the Celtics to a big win over the Raptors on Friday, but the offense did not carry over to Saturday's game against the Jazz, in which the Celtics shot 5-for-32 from 3-point range. They've yet to score more efficiently than the league average in two straight games and remain 30th in the percentage of their shots that have come from the paint and 29th in free throw rate. Gordon Hayward is still trying to get his explosion back and Jaylen Brown continues to struggle. He has seen the fourth biggest drop in effective field goal percentage (from 54.0 percent to 41.4 percent) among 147 players with at least 300 field goal attempts last season and 100 this season. But a huge opportunity for the offense to gain some traction is coming. After they visit the Hornets on Monday, the Celtics will play 10 of their next 11 games against teams that rank in the bottom 10 defensively.
Week 6: @ CHA, vs. NYK, @ ATL, @ DAL
Last Week: 12 ↑
Pace: 96.7 (30) OffRtg: 106.2 (23) DefRtg: 103.6 (4) NetRtg: +2.6 (10)
JaMychal Green returned from a broken jaw on Sunday, but he might not ever get his starting job back, because the Grizzlies have outscored their opponents by 10.8 points per 100 possessions (allowing just 90 per 100) with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Marc Gasol on the floor together. Gasol had a huge game (29 points, 6-for-12 from 3-point range) in a huge win in Milwaukee on Wednesday, and Jackson followed that up with a career-high 27 points (on 11-for-16 shooting) in a win over the Kings on Friday. And with Garrett Temple and Kyle Anderson in the starting lineup, the Grizz could use that offensive potential at the four. They rank 23rd offensively overall, but sixth offensively in the clutch after shooting 6-for-7 with the score within five points in the last five minutes in Milwaukee.
Week 6: vs. DAL, @ SAS, @ LAC, vs. NYK
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 98.2 (28) OffRtg: 106.8 (17) DefRtg: 103.2 (3) NetRtg: +3.5 (9)
The Pacers rank 28th offensively (scoring less than a point per possession) over the last two weeks, but have held four of their last five opponents under a point per possession on the other end of the floor (in their fastest-paced stretch of the season). Victor Oladipo left Saturday's game against Atlanta in the first quarter with sore knee, but that provided rookie Aaron Holiday his first non-garbage-time minutes, and he took advantage, scoring 12 points and dishing a fancy assist to Domantas Sabonis, while registering a game-changing plus-10 in 15 minutes (all played alongside Cory Joseph). Last season, Joseph had the second worst on-off NetRtg differential (minus-5.3 points per 100 possessions) among Pacers rotation players. This season he has the best (plus-12.3), which probably has something to do with the departure of the guy (Lance Stephenson) with whom he played the most minutes last season.
Week 6: vs. UTA, @ CHA, vs. SAS
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 98.8 (26) OffRtg: 111.8 (8) DefRtg: 105.3 (6) NetRtg: +6.5 (4)
The Nuggets' defense has suffered some slippage as they've lost five of their last six games, allowing 117 points per 100 possessions in the five that weren't against the Hawks. A big issue has been how much they've put their opponents on the line; After ranking 11th in opponent free throw rate (26 attempts per 100 shots from the field) through their first 10 games, they rank last (34 per 100) over their last six. Mason Plumlee's 6.7 fouls per 36 minutes rank second among players that have played at least 200 minutes total. The Nuggets' loss in New Orleans on Saturday (in which Anthony Davis attempted 21 free throws) began a stretch where they're playing nine of 11 games on the road, with six of the 11 coming against teams that currently rank in the top 10 on offense.
Week 6: @ MIL, @ MIN, vs. ORL, @ OKC
Last Week: 13 ↑
Pace: 103.4 (7) OffRtg: 106.7 (18) DefRtg: 106.6 (10) NetRtg: +0.1 (16)
Jimmy Butler played both games of a back-to-back (general soreness be damned) over the weekend, had 28 points and seven points against Utah on Friday, and capped off his first week with the Sixers by winning Saturday's overtime game in Charlotte with huge plays on both ends of the floor. Butler and Ben Simmons have basically played all their minutes together; They're the Sixers' pairing that has played the most minutes, by a wide margin, over the three games, and time will tell if that's the long-term plan (instead of staggering their minutes) or just a way for the two playmakers to develop some chemistry in the early stages of Butler's time in Philly. The game-winner in Charlotte was a clear-out, but 17 of Butler's 22 buckets with the Sixers have been assisted, with Simmons already having more assists to Butler (nine) than anybody on the Wolves did this season. The Sixers are 8-0 at home, where they'll play nine of their next 12 games.
Week 6: vs. PHX, vs. NOP, vs. CLE, @ BKN
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 97.3 (29) OffRtg: 108.4 (11) DefRtg: 108.5 (17) NetRtg: -0.1 (17)
Carmelo Anthony is gone and the Rockets have won four straight games, with the league's best offense (124 points scored per 100 possessions) over that stretch. Chris Paul has caught fire from 3-point range (18-for-30 over the last five games) and James Harden has been getting to the line (54 attempts over the last five), though the team has been much more efficient offensively with just one of the two on the floor (138 points scored per 100 possessions in 103 minutes) than with both on the floor (106 in 83 minutes) over the winning streak. The Rockets have averaged the fewest minutes per game from reserves (essentially using an eight-man rotation), but the bench minutes have been pretty good since Anthony's departure, which coincided with Eric Gordon returning from a three-game absence.
Week 6: vs. DET, @ DET, @ CLE
Last Week: 16 ↑
Pace: 104.9 (4) OffRtg: 110.7 (9) DefRtg: 109.2 (20) NetRtg: +1.4 (14)
The Lakers' defense suffered some regression in Orlando on Saturday, but they're 7-2 (with the league's 12th-ranked defense) since Halloween. LeBron James dropped 44 points on Portland on Wednesday (passing Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list along the way), had 51 in Miami on Sunday, and the two games on the trip which ends in Cleveland on Wednesday have been his two highest usage-rate games of the season. The Lakers have allowed less than 95 points per 100 possessions with Tyson Chandler on the floor and less than 91 with Chandler and James on the floor together. They have two wins over the Blazers, but their schedule has been relatively weak otherwise, and after James' return to Cleveland, they'll play six of their next seven games at home.
Week 6: @ CLE, vs. UTA, vs. ORL
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 105.2 (3) OffRtg: 112.4 (5) DefRtg: 110.6 (23) NetRtg: +1.8 (12)
The Pelicans have won five of their last six games, highlighted by wins over the Raptors and Nuggets. E'Twaun Moore scored 30 points in Toronto and added 31 two nights later in Minnesota, shooting 12-for-17 on shots from 5-14 feet over the two games, and has the best November effective field goal percentage (65.2 percent) among 63 players with at least 100 field goal attempts this month. Anthony Davis took over on the weekend, totaling 83 points (with 60 coming in the restricted area or at the free throw line) against New York and Denver. More important is that the defense has been much better over the last six games (105 points allowed per 100 possessions) than it was over their six-game losing streak (117). Wednesday's game in Philadelphia begins a stretch of seven straight against the Eastern Conference.
Week 6: vs. SAS, @ PHI, @ NYK, @ WAS
Last Week: 15
Pace: 100.3 (21) OffRtg: 106.4 (20) DefRtg: 107.5 (13) NetRtg: -1.1 (20)
The Jazz laid an egg in Dallas on Wednesday, but were able to out-ugly both the Grizzlies and Celtics last week in games that Utah and its opponents scored a combined 95 points per 100 possessions. They're 2-2 on the trip that ends Monday in Indiana (and 2-0 against Gordon Hayward, for those who care about vendettas), even though they've shot a brutal 24 percent from 3-point range over the four games. They rank second in the percentage of their 3-point attempts that have come from the corners (28 percent), but 29th in corner 3-point percentage (29.4 percent) after ranking fifth (41.7 percent) last season. Donovan Mitchell is 1-for-10 and Jae Crowder (7-for-28), Dante Exum (5-for-18) and Ricky Rubio (5-for-17) have all shot worse than 30 percent on at least 18 attempts from the corners. The Jazz's most-used lineup (with Crowder instead of Derrick Favors at power forward) has still scored 116.6 points per 100 possessions, the third best mark among 24 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.
Week 6: @ IND, vs. SAC, @ LAL, @ SAC
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 98.6 (27) OffRtg: 107.7 (14) DefRtg: 107.6 (14) NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
The Spurs are the only team that has lost to the Suns in the last two weeks and the only team that has lost to the Kings in the last nine days. They're 2-5 in their last seven games and only the Hawks and Bulls have shot worse over that stretch. But the Spurs are also the last team to have beaten the Rockets, and the 95 points per 100 possessions that they allowed in their win over the Warriors on Sunday were the fewest that the champs have scored all season. This team remains somewhat of enigma, right around the league average on both ends of the floor, with a cumulative point differential of zero. They rank fifth in 3-point percentage and 29th in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA), with the two guys responsible for 40 percent of their scoring -- DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge -- having combined to make just five 3-pointers all season. Monday's game in New Orleans is the second game of a back-to-back. They're 0-2 in those and have lost four straight on the road.
Week 6: @ NOP, vs. MEM, @ IND, @ MIL
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 100.4 (20) OffRtg: 107.0 (16) DefRtg: 109.1 (19) NetRtg: -2.1 (22)
A 7-2 stretch, which includes wins over the Spurs, Sixers and Lakers, has pushed the Magic over .500 and into seventh place in the East. They rank third offensively over the nine games, with Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon averaging a combined 42 points on an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent and D.J. Augustin registering an assist-turnover ratio of 4.6. With the starting lineup (with Wesley Iwundu at small forward and Gordon at the four) having scored 122 points per 100 possessions since his injury, Jonathan Isaac has come off the bench in his three games back. Isaac appears to be a better fit in the reserve group led by Terrence Ross, who leads the league with 39 3-pointers off the bench, having shot 25-for-52 (48 percent) from beyond the arc over the 7-2 stretch. The highlight, of course, was his game-winner over Joel Embiid on Wednesday.
Week 6: vs. TOR, @ DEN, @ LAL
Last Week: 11 ↓
Pace: 101.3 (16) OffRtg: 111.9 (7) DefRtg: 107.4 (12) NetRtg: +4.5 (8)
The Hornets had another heart-breaking loss on Saturday (they're now 1-6 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes and 6-2 otherwise), with Kemba Walker's 60-point performance getting trumped by Jimmy Butler's overtime heroics. But they began last week with an inexplicable loss in Cleveland in which they lost all four quarters and the two games were their two worst offensive performances of the season, with players not named Walker shooting 11-for-51 (22 percent) from 3-point range. Not only has Walker attempted more than four times as many clutch shots as any of his teammates, but coach James Borrego has yet to figure out who else to call on down the stretch. Twelve different Hornets have been on the floor with the score within five in the last five, with only Walker playing more than 24 of their 42 clutch minutes. They don't have to play the Sixers (the opponent in three of their six close losses) again until March, but their next three games are against the league's top three defenses.
Week 6: vs. BOS, vs. IND, @ OKC, @ ATL
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 101.8 (13) OffRtg: 105.3 (25) DefRtg: 106.1 (9) NetRtg: -0.8 (18)
In their only game last week, the Pistons got Dwane Casey a win in his return to Toronto, coming back from a 19-point deficit, with Reggie Bullock hitting the buzzer-beating game-winner. Their new starting lineup (with Glenn Robinson III at small forward) hasn't been great (outscored by 8.4 points per 100 possessions in its four starts), but Stanley Johnson has had some good games off the bench, scored eight points in that big fourth quarter in Toronto, and held Kawhi Leonard in check as well. This week's home-and-home with the Rockets (Wednesday and Friday) are the Pistons' first games against the Western Conference, and the second game is the start of their longest homestand of the season (six games).
Week 6: vs. CLE, @ HOU, vs. HOU, vs. PHX
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 101.6 (14) OffRtg: 108.3 (12) DefRtg: 106.8 (11) NetRtg: +1.6 (13)
The Mavs have won five of their last six games to make things more crowded in the Western Conference. Along with a 50-point win, a more consistent Harrison Barnes, and J.J. Barea averaging almost 25 points per 36 minutes, they also have the league's best defense (97 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the six-game stretch -- though four of the six opponents rank in the bottom 11 in offensive efficiency. They'll play two more bottom-10 offenses (those of the Grizzlies and Celtics) this week and they'll have a rest advantage (with their opponent playing the second game of a back-to-back) in four of their next five games, though their win over the Warriors on Saturday began a stretch where they're playing 10 of 11 against teams that are currently over .500.
Week 6: @ MEM, vs. BKN, vs. BOS
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 106.3 (2) OffRtg: 107.1 (15) DefRtg: 109.3 (21) NetRtg: -2.2 (23)
The Kings got a good win over the Spurs on Monday (with Harry Giles rejoining the rotation to score 12 points in 16 minutes), but they've still gone from 6-3 (ranking eighth offensively through those nine games) to 8-8 (ranking 26th offensively over the last seven). Nemanja Bjelica has cooled off after a hot start and the Kings' starting lineup has scored less than 94 points per 100 possessions over the 2-5 stretch. That doesn't mean that dissatisfaction with the job that coach Dave Joerger has done isn't silly. As was the case last season, no team has gotten a greater percentage of its minutes (43 percent) from first-and second-year players.
Week 6: vs. OKC, @ UTA, @ GSW, vs. UTA
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 102.9 (8) OffRtg: 106.3 (22) DefRtg: 111.1 (26) NetRtg: -4.8 (24)
The Wolves' first four games since the Jimmy Butler trade have been four of their five best defensive games of the season (100.5 points allowed per 100 possessions over the four games), and three of the four opponents rank in the top 10 offensively. They put together their first three-game winning streak of the season before coming up empty against the Grizzlies on Sunday. Karl-Anthony Towns has shot 57 percent (including 7-for-11 from 3-point range) in the four games, but has actually seen a small drop in usage rate (with Andrew Wiggins having taken 20 more shots than him) since the trade. With the two-starters-for-one deal, the Wolves now have 11 capable players, but coach Tom Thibodeau played just nine over the weekend, with Josh Okogie (who played well with Derrick Rose out against New Orleans on Wednesday) and Anthony Tolliver out of the rotation.
Week 6: vs. DEN, @ BKN, vs. CHI
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 102.1 (12) OffRtg: 106.4 (19) DefRtg: 107.7 (15) NetRtg: -1.3 (21)
A visit to Brooklyn (and a 37-21 first quarter) on Wednesday helped the Heat stop the bleeding, but they've lost five of their last six games, allowing 112 points per 100 possessions in the five losses. Amazingly, Josh Richardson is a plus-28 over that stretch, but the team has been outscored by 63 points in Richardson's 85 minutes on the bench (or in the locker room after getting ejected for throwing a shoe). James Johnson's return (he was a plus-4 in 15 minutes in his season debut on Sunday) could help the bench problem; The Heat outscored their opponents by almost 12 points per 100 possessions with Johnson and Kelly Olynyk on the floor last season.
Week 6: vs. BKN, @ CHI, @ TOR
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 99.7 (24) OffRtg: 109.8 (10) DefRtg: 110.7 (24) NetRtg: -0.9 (19)
Considering how his injury looked on Monday night in Minnesota, the Nets got great news regarding Caris LeVert (only moderate ligament damage in his right ankle) less than 24 hours later, and they still have four capable guards -- D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Shabazz Napier -- to turn to. But the bottom line is that they'll be without their best player for the foreseeable future and their defense has been dreadful (121 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Dinwiddie and Russell on the floor together, a look they've used more since LeVert's injury. The absence of of Jarrett Allen (who returned over the weekend) was also felt as the Nets allowed Miami to score a season-high 70 points in the paint on Wednesday. They've lost four of their last five games, with the league's second worst defense over that stretch.
Week 6: @ MIA, @ DAL, vs. MIN, vs. PHI
Last Week: 25
Pace: 103.6 (6) OffRtg: 106.3 (21) DefRtg: 112.2 (29) NetRtg: -6.0 (25)
Playing in the Eastern Conference will keep the Wizards from falling too far in the standings. At any point, they could (theoretically, at least) figure things out and climb as high as sixth place with a strong stretch of 8-10 games. They did win three straight with six guys averaging double-figures and their bench providing a big lift. But that step forward was followed by a step back, and their starting lineup got outscored by 23 points in just 25 minutes as they lost at home to the Nets and Blazers over the weekend. Since Dwight Howard made his Wizards debut 17 days ago, the starters have allowed 117 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark among 24 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together. Howard is injured again, the Portland loss began a string of seven straight games against teams that currently have winning records, and the Wizards are currently 2-7 against that group.
Week 6: vs. LAC, @ TOR, vs. NOP
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 100.2 (22) OffRtg: 101.3 (28) DefRtg: 112.0 (27) NetRtg: -10.8 (30)
Mikal Bridges has started the last two games with Trevor Ariza out (personal reasons) and maybe the rookie doesn't have to go back to the bench when Ariza returns, because Devin Booker (though he hasn't shot well of late) is looking more like a Harden-esque point guard, having dished out at least six assists in 11 of his 12 games and 24 over the last two. The Suns have scored 111 points per 100 possessions and assisted on 72 percent of their buckets in 98 minutes with Booker on the floor without either of their nominal point guards (Isaiah Canaan or Elie Okobo). T.J. Warren has averaged 25 points on 55 percent shooting over the last five games and is giving Booker more space, having taken 30 percent of his shots from 3-point range, up from just eight percent last season. Three more 3-pointers and he'll have as many as he's had in any previous season.
Week 6: @ PHI, @ CHI, @ MIL, @ DET
Last Week: 26 ↓
Pace: 100.6 (19) OffRtg: 100.5 (29) DefRtg: 110.9 (25) NetRtg: -10.4 (29)
The Bulls have a four-game losing streak, with more turnovers than assists in three of the games and two of them being two of the three worst offensive performances (less than 80 points scored 100 possessions) for any team this season. The first (at Boston on Wednesday) came with Zach LaVine taking just 11 shots in 32 minutes (credit Jaylen Brown) and the second came with LaVine out with an illness. They're the only team that doesn't have a win that wasn't within five points in the last five minutes, but host the only team with a worse point differential on Wednesday.
Week 6: vs. PHX, vs. MIA, @ MIN
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 101.0 (17) OffRtg: 105.5 (24) DefRtg: 112.1 (28) NetRtg: -6.5 (26)
As coach David Fizdale continues to tinker with lineups (Emmanuel Mudiay, Allonzo Trier and Kevin Knox starting together over the weekend was a new one), the Knicks have lost five straight games, never even holding a lead in three of the last four. They led the other one (in New Orleans on Friday) by 19 points and by 11 in the fourth quarter before getting outscored, 26-10, over the final 6:40. The Knicks rank last in 3-point percentage, assist-turnover ratio, and defensive efficiency in November, and they're just five games into a string of 12 straight against teams that currently have winning records (a group they're 0-9 against thus far). Trey Burke (55 points on 21-for-33 shooting over the weekend) has been the lone bright spot.
Week 6: vs. POR, @ BOS, vs. NOP, @ MEM
Last Week: 28 ↓
Pace: 107.0 (1) OffRtg: 100.0 (30) DefRtg: 109.7 (22) NetRtg: -9.7 (28)
John Collins made his 2018-19 debut on Saturday, scoring 12 points and registering a plus-14 in just 12 minutes in Indiana (the Hawks' seventh straight loss). And with Dewayne Dedmon also returning from a three-game absence, Atlanta has the pieces to eventually get to a starting lineup that includes Collins, Dedmon, Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince. That group played just 127 minutes together last season, but had good numbers (plus-9.7 points per 100 possessions, less than a point per possession allowed on defense) in that limited action. The Hawks have dropped to 30th in offensive efficiency, in part because Trae Young hasn't made a 3-pointer (missing his last 15 attempts from beyond the arc) since he pointed to where he shot from in L.A. eight days ago.
Week 6: vs. LAC, vs. TOR, vs. BOS, vs. CHA
Last Week: 30
Pace: 99.1 (25) OffRtg: 104.2 (26) DefRtg: 112.8 (30) NetRtg: -8.7 (27)
The Cavs are undefeated when they shoot better than 50 percent from 3-point range, which they did for the second time in thumping the Hornets on Tuesday. Collin Sexton has averaged 18.8 points (making seven of his 10 3-point attempts), but just 2.5 assists in his four games as a starter. The Cavs have committed at least 20 turnovers in three of the four games, though the turnover rate has been worse and the offense has been brutal (82 points scored per 100 possessions) with Sexton off the floor. With George Hill (sprained right shoulder) out at least a couple of more games, Sexton's audition continues.
Week 6: @ DET, vs. LAL, @ PHI, vs. HOU
* * *
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.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.