Power Rankings, Week 10: Bucks make statement; Heat enter Top 5
See how all 30 teams ranked heading into Christmas Day's marquee matchups
Six of the nine best teams in the league will match up during this year’s Christmas Day slate. But Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t have to wait until the holiday to make a statement, posting 37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a win over the Lakers on Thursday and crowning himself the new king of the NBA along the way.
That win has the Bucks at the top of the Power Rankings for a fourth straight week, and barring any serious issues with the team that has won 21 of its last 22 games, it could keep them there for a few more. But there’s plenty of intrigue beyond No. 1, and the Western Conference is looking a little stronger as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers push themselves into playoff position with four-game winning streaks.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Enjoy the hoops.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: Khris Middleton (MIL) was a plus-68 in four games last week.
- Wrong Way: Evan Fournier (ORL) was a minus-69 in three games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Oklahoma City (4-0) — The Thunder won the first four games of a five-game homestand, pulling off two crazy comebacks and beating Paul George and the Clippers on Sunday.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Detroit (0-4) — The Pistons were seemingly on a surge, entering Week 9 having won five of their last seven games. Then they dropped four straight, including home games vs. Washington and Chicago, by an average of 15 points.
East vs. West
Schedule strength through Week 9
- Toughest: 1. Cleveland, 2. Atlanta, 3. New Orleans
- Easiest: 1. Brooklyn, 2. San Antonio, 3. Indiana
- 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: Cleveland (+6), Portland (+6), Chicago (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Minnesota (-5), Charlotte (-4), Dallas (-4), Detroit (-4)
Week 10 Team to Watch
- Philadelphia — After hosting the Bucks on Christmas, the Sixers have a weekend back-to-back in Florida, looking to avenge last week’s loss to the Heat on Saturday.
- Last week: Lakers prepare for challenging stretch
- This time last year: Parity keeps Nuggets at No. 1 — James Harden got away with a double-step-back and the Rockets set an NBA record (that they would later break) with 26 3-pointers in a win over the Wizards. The Clippers lost a game to Golden State in which the Clips shot 18-for-23 from 3-point range, with Stephen Curry driving past Montrezl Harrell for the win. The Celtics held a players-only meeting, Victor Oladipo dunked on the Nets, Luka Doncic hit a ridiculous three to send a game to overtime, and Jarrett Allen met LeBron James at the rim.
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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 101.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.5 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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The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
Last Week: 1
Pace: 105.2 (1) OffRtg: 114.4 (3) DefRtg: 101.4 (1) NetRtg: +13.0 (1)
The Bucks had a hiccup on Monday, falling to the Mavs after an uncharacteristic first quarter in which they were outscored, 36-22. But behind five threes from Giannis Antetokounmpo and a defense that just wouldn't let the Lakers get what they wanted on Thursday, they substantiated their position as the best team in the league, and there was no post-crowning letdown. The league's No. 1 defense held the Knicks and Pacers to just 91 points per 100 possessions in a pair of comfortable wins over the weekend. At 34.2%, Antetokounmpo still ranks as a below-average 3-point shooter for the season, but he has shot 24-for-54 (44%) from beyond the arc in December and, among 108 players with at least 100 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons, only Devonte' Graham and Marcus Morris have seen bigger jumps in 3-point percentage. George Hill, who had 21 points off the bench against the Lakers, has seen the biggest jump (from 31.4% to a league-leading 51.6%) among the 176 players with at least 100 attempts last season and at least 50 this season. Wednesday will be the Bucks' first meeting with the Sixers, with Milwaukee holding a 3-2 record in games in which both Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid have played.
Week 10: @ PHI, @ ATL, vs. ORL
Last Week: 2
Pace: 100.2 (19) OffRtg: 111.6 (5) DefRtg: 104.5 (8) NetRtg: +7.1 (4)
The Lakers' three-game losing streak comes with the context that one of the losses (Tuesday in Indiana) came without Anthony Davis, one (Sunday vs. Denver) came without LeBron James, and the third came (on the road) against the best team in the league. They've allowed more than 119 points per 100 possessions over the streak (with fouls and rebounds being issues), sliding from second to eighth in defensive efficiency in the span of six days. They've still allowed just 101.2 per 100 with James and Davis on the floor together, but the Christmas game begins a stretch of four straight games against teams that rank in the top 10 offensively. They rank fourth defensively (having allowed 105.3 points per 100 possessions in nine games) against that group. A win over the Clippers would do a lot to put the streak behind them, but as things stand less than 60 hours before L.A. vs. L.A., there's a little bit of doubt regarding the status of both Davis (who tweaked his knee on Sunday) and James (who missed the loss to Denver with a muscle strain).
Week 10: vs. LAC, @ POR, vs. DAL
Last Week: 5 ↑
Pace: 99.3 (23) OffRtg: 111.5 (6) DefRtg: 103.6 (4) NetRtg: +7.9 (3)
Jayson Tatum is breaking out. With a career-high 39 against Charlotte on Sunday, he's averaged 29.7 points on 51% shooting (including 9-for-12 from mid-range) over the last three games, the first time in his career that's he's scored 20 or more in three straight regular season games. (He had 20-plus in seven straight games in the 2018 playoffs.) Only 10 of Tatum's 35 buckets over the three games have been assisted, but he's not leaving his teammates behind. Jaylen Brown has also averaged 22.7 on 53% shooting over the Celtics' three-game winning streak and the Charlotte win was their second most efficient game (119 points on just 92 possessions) of the season. Now we'll see if Tatum and Brown can keep it going with Gordon Hayward likely to make his return when they visit the Raptors on Christmas. Of the five Christmas games, Celtics-Raps is the only matchup between two teams with fewer than 10 losses.
Week 10: @ TOR, vs. CLE, vs. TOR
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 103.9 (5) OffRtg: 111.1 (7) DefRtg: 104.2 (5) NetRtg: +6.9 (5)
The Lakers aren't the only team stumbling into the Staples Center game on Christmas. The Clippers' win in San Antonio on Saturday was one of their most complete performances of the season, but they've lost three of their last five games, with late-game defense a problem in all three losses. The Bulls, Rockets and Thunder combined to shoot 15-for-22 and rebounded five of their seven misses with the score within five points in the last five minutes over the last nine days. The Clippers now rank 29th (126 points allowed per 100 possessions) in clutch defense, having grabbed just 56% of available defensive rebounds with the score within five in the last five. They rank ninth in defensive rebounding percentage overall, but have grabbed less than 70% of available defensive boards, a rate that would rank last, with Kawhi Leonard off the floor. Bench minutes were a problem again - they were outscored 24-14 in 7:00 with both Paul George and Leonard on the bench - against Houston on Thursday.
Week 10: @ LAL, vs. UTA
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 99.8 (21) OffRtg: 110.7 (8) DefRtg: 105.8 (11) NetRtg: +4.8 (9)
There are nine teams that have gotten more then 30% of their minutes from rookies or second-year players, and eight of the nine (as you would expect from young teams) are at least seven games under .500. The ninth - the team that ranks fourth with 39% of their minutes having come from first or second-year guys - is the 21-8 Heat, who got a game-high 26 points from Kendrick Nunn as they handed the Sixers their first loss at home on Wednesday. Nunn (16.4) and Tyler Herro (13.9) rank second and sixth in rookie scoring, back-up big man Chris Silva leads rookies (by a wide margin) in rebounding percentage, and second-year wing Duncan Robinson ranks fourth in 3-point percentage (45.0%) among players with at least five attempts per game. Amazingly, only one of those four guys was selected in the Draft. The Heat are 20-4 with rest and just 1-4 in the second game of back-to-backs, and they have a tough and important back-to-back this weekend, though the game on Saturday is also the second game of a back-to-back for the Sixers (who will be in Orlando on Friday).
Week 10: vs. UTA, vs. IND, vs. PHI
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 104.4 (3) OffRtg: 114.4 (2) DefRtg: 109.3 (16) NetRtg: +5.2 (8)
Maybe we'll look back at Week 9 as a defining moment in the Rockets' season. After coming back from 25 down to beat the Spurs on Monday, they put together a 15-0, fourth-quarter run to pick up their biggest win to date (in L.A. against the full-strength Clippers) on Thursday. Two nights later, they scored 139 points on 102 possessions (behind 47 from James Harden) in Phoenix. The three games have come with three of Russell Westbrook's four highest scoring totals of the season (31, 40 and 30 points) and while Westbrook's jumper remains an issue (though he was 6-for-9 from mid-range on Saturday), he has shot 89% from the free throw line over his last 12 games (up from 69% through his first 14). The Rockets' defense still isn't consistent enough, but if both Westbrook and Harden are getting to and shooting well from the line, their offense may more impossible to stop than it was before. It's already been the league's most efficient (118.2 points scored per 100 possessions) over the last four weeks.
Week 10: @ SAC, @ GSW, vs. BKN, @ NOP
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 100.3 (18) OffRtg: 108.5 (15) DefRtg: 104.2 (6) NetRtg: +4.2 (10)
A couple of familiar issues popped up as the Sixers lost three straight games, including two at home. They scored just 96.4 points per 100 possessions, shooting 27% from 3-point range and scoring on just 40 of 111 plays against zone defense, according to Synergy tracking, over the three games. And against Dallas on Friday, they were outscored by 24 points in a little more than 15 minutes with Joel Embiid off the floor. They're still a plus-8.7 per 100 possessions in 509 minutes with Al Horford on the floor without Embiid. That number isn't as big, but still a positive (plus-2.1 in 186 minutes) against teams currently over .500. After they host the Bucks on Christmas, the Sixers will play 13 of their next 19 games on the road, where they're just 6-8.
Week 10: @ DET, vs. MIL, @ ORL, @ MIA
Last Week: 8
Pace: 97.5 (30) OffRtg: 109.1 (13) DefRtg: 103.3 (2) NetRtg: +5.9 (6)
The Nuggets may have found their offense. After ranking 22nd offensively (106.4 points scored per 100 possessions) through their first 22 games, they've had the league's most efficient attack (119.3 per 100) over their six-game winning streak. Having grabbed 37% of available offensive boards (and averaged 17.3 second-chance points) over the six games, they've risen from 10th to first in offensive rebounding percentage. After a 5-0 homestand, highlighted by a 31-2 run (in which they had more offensive rebounds than the opponent had defensive rebounds) against the Magic on Wednesday, they took the show on the road, handing the Lakers their worst loss of the season on Sunday. Nikola Jokic (21.8 points on an effective field goal percentage of 64%, 8.3 assists) has led six Nuggets averaging double-figures over the streak and the offense has held up with him off the floor, even as Michael Malone has managed to squeeze in some minutes for an 11th man over the last few games. Malik Beasley had his highest scoring game since Week 1 (16 points) on Sunday.
Week 10: @ PHX, vs. NOP, vs. MEM, vs. SAC
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 101.7 (13) OffRtg: 109.3 (12) DefRtg: 103.5 (3) NetRtg: +5.8 (7)
The Raptors remain the only team that hasn't lost (they're 18-0) after leading by double-digits, because (after leading by 12 points in the first quarter) they came back from a 30-point deficit against Dallas on Sunday, 10 years (almost to the day) since the last time a team won a regular-season game it trailed by 30 or more. Nick Nurse pulled a full-court press out of his bag of tricks and Kyle Lowry put together a 20-point fourth quarter before assisting Chris Boucher on the game-deciding bucket. Most amazing is that the champs pulled off that miracle four days after losing three of their top seven guys to injury in a win over the Pistons. Serge Ibaka stepped up with 43 points and 23 rebounds against Detroit and Washington before assisting Patrick McCaw on the go-ahead bucket on Friday. The win over Dallas was the first of five straight games against teams with winning records, and given how shorthanded the Raptors are, it's not an ideal time for their first two games against the Celtics.
Week 10: @ IND, vs. BOS, @ BOS, vs. OKC
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 100.4 (17) OffRtg: 115.8 (1) DefRtg: 107.7 (15) NetRtg: +8.1 (2)
A 2-3 record without Luka Doncic against the five best teams in the East isn't bad. The Mavs ended the Bucks' 18-game winning streak on Monday and beat the full-strength Sixers in Philly on Friday, scoring 115 points per 100 possessions against two of the best defenses in the league. Kristaps Porzingis has averaged 22.4 points, 13.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks over the five games, taking a greater percentage of his shots in the restricted area (27%) than he did prior (20%). But the Mavs head into the holiday having suffered a historically brutal collapse to a team that's dealing with more injuries than they are, and with more questions about late-game struggles. They're the only team with a winning record overall and a losing record (7-9) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, and Porzingis has the worst effective field goal percentage (23.9%) among 51 players with at least 20 clutch field goal attempts. With the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, he's 3-for-4 in the restricted area and 2-for-19 outside it. The good news is that Doncic looks to be on track to return for the Mavs' game against the Spurs on Thursday.
Week 10: vs. SAS, @ GSW, @ LAL
Last Week: 11
Pace: 99.8 (22) OffRtg: 108.2 (16) DefRtg: 104.2 (7) NetRtg: +4.0 (11)
The Pacers got manhandled by Malcolm Brogdon's old team on Sunday. Brogdon shot 5-for-19 and Indy scored just 34 points on 50 second-half possessions as they lost by 28 in Milwaukee. But the Bucks are just on another level, and Brogdon proved his value as the Pacers beat the Lakers five days earlier, defending LeBron James for much of the night and putting his team ahead with a tough drive around Dwight Howard in the final minute. Domantas Sabonis remains the Pacers' fulcrum offensively, but Myles Turner has shown some progress on that end of the floor, scoring in double-figures in six straight games and shooting 20-for-29 inside the 3-point line over that stretch. On the other end, the Lakers scored just 29 points on 35 possessions with Sabonis and Turner both on the floor on Tuesday. The Pacers are playing both the Raptors and Heat for the first time this week.
Week 10: vs. TOR, @ MIA, @ NOP
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 99.9 (20) OffRtg: 108.6 (14) DefRtg: 107.3 (13) NetRtg: +1.2 (13)
The Thunder have a four-game winning streak, the Western Conference's best record (9-3) since Thanksgiving, and a winning record for the first time this season. Before the Raptors came back from a 30-point deficit on Sunday, the Thunder came back from deficits of 26 and 24 points to beat Chicago and Memphis in consecutive games, with Steven Adams beating the Bulls with a free throw off the glass. The Thunder have scored almost 119 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak as Sixth Man of the Year candidate Dennis Schroder averages 25.3 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 57% (and 25-for-27 from the line). And without Danilo Gallinari, they spoiled Paul George's return to Oklahoma City behind a second straight 32-point game from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the key piece in the trade that sent George to L.A. They could certainly keep the streak going this week, though the Thunder will have a rest disadvantage in Charlotte on Friday, and that game begins a stretch where they're playing six of seven on the road (where they're just 4-9 thus far).
Week 10: vs. MEM, @ CHA, @ TOR
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 100.7 (15) OffRtg: 106.8 (21) DefRtg: 105.4 (10) NetRtg: +1.4 (12)
Mike Conley played less than 20 minutes on Tuesday before reinjuring his hamstring, but the Jazz have won five straight games, their best five-game stretch of offense (115.2 points scored per 100 possessions) this season. Donovan Mitchell scored at least 28 points on better than 50% shooting in the first four wins and his teammates shot 16-for-31 from 3-point range in Charlotte on Saturday. Shooting is the most important thing in this league and the Jazz rank 10th in effective field goal percentage. But their offense is still in the bottom 10 in overall efficiency, because they rank 29th in both offensive rebounding percentage and turnover rate. They've committed more turnovers than their opponents in each their last 10 (and 14 of their last 15) games. The winning streak has come with an easy stretch of schedule and things will be tougher this week. The Jazz have lost their last six games against teams that currently have winning records.
Week 10: @ MIA, vs. POR, @ LAC
Last Week: 13 ↓
Pace: 102.7 (10) OffRtg: 107.7 (18) DefRtg: 107.6 (14) NetRtg: +0.1 (14)
You might not think of the Nets as a team that dominates the paint, but they've now outscored their opponents by at least 10 points in the paint in eight straight games, ranking first in paint offense (58.0 per game) and second in paint defense (38.0) over that stretch. For the season, they rank first in the percentage of their shots that have come in the restricted area (40%) and second in the (lowest) percentage of their opponents' shots that have come in the restricted area (28%). The perpetually aggrieved Spencer Dinwiddie could take a few fewer step-back 3-pointers (like the one he missed at the end of regulation in New Orleans on Tuesday), but since he moved into the starting lineup, he has led the league in points per game scored on drives (14.3), he's had an Antetokounmpo-esque 18 or more points in the paint in five of his last nine games, and has averaged 28.7 on just points in the paint or free throws over the last three. With Dinwiddie rolling, four full days off before the Nets host the Knicks on Thursday could push Kyrie Irving and/or Caris LeVert toward a return.
Week 10: vs. NYK, @ HOU
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 102.4 (11) OffRtg: 109.8 (10) DefRtg: 110.3 (18) NetRtg: -0.5 (15)
Since Rodney Hood was lost for the season and Kent Bazemore was moved into the starting lineup, the Blazers have ranked last in bench scoring (20.3 points per game). But the lineup with Bazemore has been much better defensively than the Hood lineup, and the starters have increased their production on offense. In their four-plus seasons starting together, the Blazers had never gotten at least 25 points from both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in more than two straight games ... before last week, when both guards had more than 25 in each of their four games. More important is that the Blazers won all four to climb from 12th to eighth place in the West. They'll get another game against a bad defense on Monday, but Carmelo Anthony is dealing with a knee contusion and the opposing defenses will be much tougher in their first two games after Christmas.
Week 10: vs. NOP, @ UTA, vs. LAL
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 101.9 (12) OffRtg: 107.8 (17) DefRtg: 111.4 (22) NetRtg: -3.6 (22)
With the Rockets and Nets combining to shoot 18-for-79 (23%) from 3-point range on Monday and Thursday, the Spurs held two straight opponents under a point per possession for the first time this season. But over their three games last week, they were outscored, 182-100, in the paint, allowing the Clippers to register a season-high 74 points in the paint on Saturday. The Spurs have seen the league's third biggest jump in the percentage of their opponents' shots that have come from the restricted area, from 29.0% (third lowest in the league) last season to 32.4% (15th lowest) this season. Dejounte Murray and Derrick White played a little less than five minutes together in the fourth quarter in Houston on Monday (after Murray got into it with James Harden), but didn't play together in the two games since and have totaled just 15 minutes together all season. The Spurs have been outscored by 14 points per 100 possessions in 615 total minutes with either on floor with Bryn Forbes, but Gregg Popovich might not care.
Week 10: @ MEM, @ DAL, vs. DET
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 97.5 (29) OffRtg: 107.1 (20) DefRtg: 109.6 (17) NetRtg: -2.5 (20)
After two games off the bench, De'Aaron Fox returned to the Kings' starting lineup on Saturday and scored 22 points in what was their fastest-paced game since the first week of the season. But the Kings are 0-3 with their point guard back, because they've allowed their opponents - two bottom-10 offenses and the 16th-ranked Pacers - to score more than 119 points per 100 possessions over the three games. And, with Buddy Hield shooting 11-for-46 and attempting just one free throw, the Sacramento offense just couldn't keep up. The Kings rank 29th in free throw rate, but their rate of 20.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field would be the sixth lowest in NBA history (the '17-18 Kings had the lowest). Hield (10.6 attempts per 100 shots from the field) and Nemanja Bjelica (9.6) rank 160th and 163rd among 164 players with at least 200 field goal attempts. After playing 12 of their last 16 on the road, they play 10 of their next 12 at the Golden 1 Center.
Week 10: vs. HOU, vs. MIN, vs. PHX, @ DEN
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 101.6 (14) OffRtg: 103.7 (29) DefRtg: 105.1 (9) NetRtg: -1.4 (17)
Zach LaVine leads the league with 78 total points scored in the clutch (50 more than any other Bull), even though he's shot just 33% on shots with the game within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. He went 5-for-5 from the line in the last six seconds of regulation and then dished to Wendell Carter Jr. for the game-winning bucket in overtime against Washington on Wednesday. The Bulls still rank as the league's second best defensive team in December, with a big improvement in how well their opponents have shot in the paint (51.7% this month vs. 58.0% prior). Their new starting lineup, with Kris Dunn (the league-leader in steals per 36 minutes) in place of Otto Porter Jr., has allowed just 96.3 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among lineups that have played at least 100 minutes this month. The Bulls are tied in the win column with the eighth-place Magic, who they'll visit on Monday in the first of three meetings between the two teams.
Week 10: @ ORL, vs. ATL
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 98.3 (27) OffRtg: 105.0 (25) DefRtg: 107.2 (12) NetRtg: -2.2 (19)
The Magic have lost six of their last seven games, continuing to struggle against good teams. They're still in playoff position and still 11-3 against the other 15 teams currently under .500, but they came out flat in Portland on Friday with a chance to finish their road trip 2-2. They've allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions over their last five games, with all five opponents having registered at least 15 fast break points and shot better than 40% from 3-point range. The Magic outscored their opponents by 2.9 points per game from 3-point range last season, but are a minus-5.9 per game from beyond the arc (the league's fourth worst mark) this season, with D.J. Augustin having seen the biggest drop in 3-point percentage (from 42.1% to 32.7%) among 108 players with at least 100 attempts both seasons. Aaron Gordon, meanwhile has shot 34% from the field over the 1-6 stretch and is registering career-low marks in both effective field goal percentage (45.4%) and true shooting percentage (48.9%).
Week 10: vs. CHI, vs. PHI, @ MIL
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 99.3 (24) OffRtg: 109.3 (11) DefRtg: 110.8 (19) NetRtg: -1.5 (18)
The Pistons have been banged up; Blake Griffin has missed three of the last four games, four other rotation guys have missed games as they've lost four straight (all by 12 points or more), and Reggie Jackson remains out. But healthy or not, the Pistons' defense, which has allowed their opponents to score 118.6 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak, has been a disappointment. Only three teams - Golden State, Memphis and Washington - have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season, and this would be just the second time in the last seven seasons that Dwane Casey has had a worse-than-average defense. The Pistons rank 27th in points allowed in the paint per 100 possessions and no team has been more efficient against Detroit than the Wizards, who have scored 126 per 100 in two wins over Detroit, with the third of four meetings coming Thursday.
Week 10: vs. PHI, vs. WAS, @ SAS
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 103.7 (6) OffRtg: 106.6 (23) DefRtg: 111.6 (23) NetRtg: -5.0 (24)
The Grizzlies got their best win of the season on Monday, beating the Heat with an 11-0 run down the stretch after blowing a 17-point lead. They closed that game with a lineup - Ja Morant, De'Anthony Melton, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke - that was interesting in a couple of ways. Morant and Melton have played just 43 minutes together all season and the Miami game was the first time since the first week of the season that the young big three - Morant, Jackson and Clarke - have played more than six minutes together in a game. The Grizz have a top-10 offense over the last 2 1/2 weeks, having scored almost 112 points per 100 possessions (with those three guys having combined for an effective field goal percentage of 61%) over their last nine games. With their win over the Kings on Saturday, the Grizz have the best record (5-2) in games played between the teams currently sitting from seventh to 13th place in the West. They'll have two more games within that group this week.
Week 10: vs. SAS, @ OKC, @ DEN, vs. CHA
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 103.1 (8) OffRtg: 110.3 (9) DefRtg: 110.8 (20) NetRtg: -0.5 (16)
DeAndre Ayton had 18 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in just 24 minutes in his return from a 25-game suspension, but he turned his ankle in the process and has missed the last two games just as Devin Booker was returning from his forearm injury. More troubling is that the Suns have lost six straight and haven't even won a quarter in any their last three. Those three opponents have each shot better than 50 percent, and the Suns rank 26th defensively (114.0 points allowed per 100 possessions) in December. They seem to be sinking fast, but Santa is bringing them an opportunity to recover with a relatively easy stretch of schedule. Ten of their first 11 games after Christmas will be against teams that currently have losing records. They're 8-7 against that group, though their losing streak began with losses to the Grizzlies, Spurs and Blazers.
Week 10: vs. DEN, @ GSW, @ SAC
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 98.8 (26) OffRtg: 104.9 (26) DefRtg: 114.3 (29) NetRtg: -9.4 (29)
The Cavs have looked pretty terrible and dysfunctional at times this season. They've lost to the Knicks by 18 points and to the Pistons by 33. But they've played the league's toughest schedule and, with a two-game winning streak, they're 7-5 in games between the 16 teams that are currently under .500. Six different Cavs have averaged double-figures over those 12 games, Collin Sexton had 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting against the Hornets on Wednesday, and Jordan Clarkson dropped 33 (shooting 6-for-8 from 3-point range) on the Grizzlies on Friday. But the bigger difference between their games vs. good teams has been on defense, where the numbers haven't been so terrible against their fellow sub-.500 squads. With the Raptors having scored 133 points on 100 possessions on Monday, the Cavs have allowed 119.5 per 100 over the other 17 games. The wins over Charlotte and Memphis began a stretch where they're playing eight of 11 games against teams currently below .500, though the three game trip that begins Friday includes visits to Boston and Toronto.
Week 10: vs. ATL, @ BOS, @ MIN
Last Week: 20 ↓
Pace: 97.9 (28) OffRtg: 106.2 (24) DefRtg: 112.9 (25) NetRtg: -6.7 (26)
After it registered a minus-17 in a little over nine minutes in Cleveland on Wednesday, James Borrego gave up on his funky frontline of Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller, starting Nicolas Batum at the four (and bringing Zeller off the bench) in the Hornets' weekend losses to Utah and Boston. With four days off now, P.J. Washington (who has missed the last five games with a broken finger) could be ready to reclaim the starting job when the Hornets host the Thunder on Friday. They almost survived those ugly Biyombo-Zeller minutes in Cleveland, coming back from 24 points down and giving themselves a chance to win with a well-designed play in the final seconds. But Terry Rozier's catch-and-shoot, game-winning 3-point attempt spun off the rim and, with the weekend losses, the Hornets have dropped out of playoff position. Rozier still ranks third in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (48.3%) among 114 players with at least 75 attempts.
Week 10: vs. OKC, @ MEM
Last Week: 25
Pace: 104.4 (2) OffRtg: 112.1 (4) DefRtg: 116.2 (30) NetRtg: -4.1 (23)
Bradley Beal's numbers are somewhat inflated by the pace that the Wizards play, but his per-100-possession numbers (35.0 points and 8.6 assists) are still career-high marks. Beal totaled 73 points on 25-for-48 shooting on the road against a pair of top-10 defenses (those of the Raptors and Sixers) over the weekend, though he struggled (4-for-19) in a slow-paced game against the Bulls earlier in the week. He seemingly won that game in regulation before Isaac Bonga committed one of the worst fouls of the season with less than a second to go, and Beal then missed a four-foot (and relatively uncontested) jumper for the win in overtime. Beal's effective field goal percentage of 26.1% (5-for-23, 2-for-9 from 3-point range) on clutch shots ranks 50th among the 51 players who have attempted at least 20.
Week 10: @ NYK, @ DET, vs. NYK
Last Week: 26
Pace: 103.5 (7) OffRtg: 106.8 (22) DefRtg: 113.5 (27) NetRtg: -6.7 (25)
The Pelicans put an end to their 13-game losing streak (and extended the Wolves' losing streak) with a comfortable win in Minnesota on Wednesday behind a big game (34 points and five assists) from Brandon Ingram and good minutes from their bench. The last three games have been their best three-game stretch of defense (100.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) this season. But after getting robbed of a final possession in regulation against Brooklyn on Tuesday and blowing a late, six-point lead in San Francisco on Friday, they've lost their last nine games that were within five points in the last five minutes. The Pels rank 11th in 3-point percentage overall (36.1%), but 25th in clutch 3-point percentage (24.5%) and are 4-for-26 (15%) on clutch 3-pointers over those last nine clutch games. Kenrich Williams isn't in the starting lineup for his offense, but has shot 4-for-35 (11%) over the last seven games overall, with only five of those 35 shots having come in the paint.
Week 10: @ POR, @ DEN, vs. IND, vs. HOU
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 103.9 (4) OffRtg: 107.6 (19) DefRtg: 111.0 (21) NetRtg: -3.5 (21)
Defense was the much bigger problem over the first seven games of the Wolves' losing streak. But without Karl-Anthony Towns (left knee injury) last week, their offense was rather anemic (100.7 points scored per 100 possessions) as the streak extended to 10 games. Andrew Wiggins scored 33 points in Portland on Saturday, but the Wolves' other wings have continued to struggle offensively; Robert Covington, Jarrett Culver, Treveon Graham and Josh Okogie have combined to shoot 39-for-138 (28%) from 3-point range over the losing streak. The Wolves have also recorded assists on less than half of their buckets in four of their last six games. With games against the Warriors and Cavs this week, they should be able to avoid a winless December, but they allowed the Pelicans to pick up their only win in their last 15 games on Monday.
Week 10: @ GSW, @ SAC, vs. CLE
Last Week: 28
Pace: 99.0 (25) OffRtg: 103.9 (28) DefRtg: 113.1 (26) NetRtg: -9.3 (28)
Games 3-7 in the Mike Miller era were the Knicks' best five-game stretch of offense (118.0 points scored per 100 possessions) in 5 1/2 years (since March of 2014). No player averaged more than 21 points and they didn't exactly scorch the nets over that stretch (their effective field goal percentage of 53.6% ranked 15th over the 10 days), but they took care of the ball and crashed the glass, averaging 17.2 second chance points. Mitchell Robinson ranks seventh in the league in offensive rebounding percentage and had a stretch of seven games where he committed only 3.2 fouls per 36 minutes. Alas, he's fouled out of each of the last two games and the Knicks' offensive surge came to a screeching halt with a visit from the Bucks' No. 1 defense on Saturday. They can recover with two games against the league's worst defense this week.
Week 10: vs. WAS, @ BKN, @ WAS
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 100.4 (16) OffRtg: 103.3 (30) DefRtg: 112.5 (24) NetRtg: -9.2 (27)
D'Angelo Russell's inability to get to the rim continues to hold him back somewhat. Only 9% of his shots, the fourth lowest rate among 164 players with at least 200 field goal attempts, have come in the restricted area. But a jump in free throw rate (from 14 attempts per 100 shots from the field last season to 25 per 100 this season) has his true shooting percentage at a career-high 54.0%, and he has shot well in the clutch. After going 3-for-3 in the clutch in the Warriors' win over New Orleans on Friday (with the game-winner coming with 32.9 seconds left), Russell's effective field goal percentage of 66.1% ranks seventh among 51 players who have attempted at least 20 clutch shots, with 24 of his 29 clutch field goal attempts having come from outside the paint. The win over the Pelicans was the start of the Warriors' longest homestand of the season (five games over nine days).
Week 10: vs. MIN, vs. HOU, vs. PHX, vs. DAL
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 102.9 (9) OffRtg: 104.4 (27) DefRtg: 113.9 (28) NetRtg: -9.6 (30)
John Collins makes his return from his 25-game suspension when the Hawks play in Cleveland on Monday, and (going back to last season's All-Star break) the Hawks have won 11 of the last 23 games in which they've had both Collins and Trae Young. But, as important as Collins is to the Hawks on both ends of the floor, one guy is probably not going to rescue a team that has lost seven straight games and 18 of its last 20. The Hawks are one of three teams that rank in the bottom five on both ends of the floor and they just lost to one of the other two (the Knicks) by 23 points. (Monday is their first game against the third of those three teams.) They're also the only team without a win (they're 0-6) in the second game of a back-to-back, and they'll have one this week, beginning their post-Christmas schedule by playing the Bucks on Friday and visiting the Bulls on Saturday.
Week 10: @ CLE, vs. MIL, @ CHI