The midway point of the season is upon us.
Game No. 615 of 1,230 is scheduled for Thursday night, and there’s still no team with a record within two games of .500. But the disparity between the top 13 teams and the bottom 17 isn’t quite as stark as it was a couple of weeks ago (and the race for eighth in the West is a little more compelling).
There has been some separation in the East, where the eighth-place Orlando Magic aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. But they still have five fewer losses than any of the seven teams behind them.
The first-place Milwaukee Bucks haven’t clinched a playoff berth yet, but stay tuned. Despite a loss in San Antonio on Monday, the Bucks are at No. 1 in the Power Rankings for a seventh straight week.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: San Antonio (3-1) — The Spurs lost to the Grizzlies on Friday, but began the week with a win over the Bucks, and sandwiched the Memphis loss with wins in Boston and Toronto.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Detroit (1-2) — The Pistons won a nail-biter in Cleveland before losing at home to both the Cavs and Bulls. Throw in a knee procedure for their best player and it felt like the beginning of the end for this version of Detroit Basketball.
East vs. West
Schedule strength through Week 12
- Toughest: 1. New Orleans, 2. Atlanta, 3. Cleveland
- Easiest: 1. Brooklyn, 2. Milwaukee, 3. Houston
- 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), Four teams (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-4), Detroit (-3), LA Clippers (-3), Miami (-3)
Week 13 Team to Watch
- Brooklyn — Kyrie Irving is back, and he shot 10-for-11 (with some deft finishes in and around the paint) in his return on Sunday. Now the Nets will play a stretch of five games against teams no worse than the 25-15 Sixers. It starts with a game against the red-hot Jazz on Tuesday. They’ll visit Philly on Wednesday and then host the best team in the league (the Bucks) on Saturday.
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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 108.8 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
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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.
Pace: 104.9 (1) OffRtg: 113.4 (3) DefRtg: 101.6 (1) NetRtg: +11.7 (1)
The Bucks hit the midway point of the season on pace for 70 wins, but not before they lost another game by allowing their opponent (the Spurs on Monday) to register its season high for 3-pointers. Protecting the rim remains priorities Nos. 1, 2 and 3, and no team is even close to the Bucks in regard to opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (54.0% -- Toronto is second at 57.6%) or the percentage of opponent shots that have come from the restricted area (25.2% -- Brooklyn is second at 28.0%).
They're playing just two January games against teams that currently have winning records and one of them is Thursday. But they'll have a rest advantage against the Celtics, who play at home the night before. The Celtics made a season-high 17 3-pointers when they beat the Bucks in the teams' first meeting in October.
Week 13: vs. NYK, vs. BOS, @ BKN
Pace: 100.4 (15) OffRtg: 112.7 (4) DefRtg: 104.5 (4) NetRtg: +8.1 (2)
Maybe the Lakers' aren't so top-heavy after all. With both LeBron James (nursing a cold) and Anthony Davis (bruised buttocks) out on Saturday, they went into Oklahoma City and handily beat the team that had the West's best record since Thanksgiving. The maligned bench duo of Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma started in place of the two stars and combined for 57 points (including 34 in the paint).
Prior to the OKC win, the Lakers had doubled up three straight opponents in fast break points (total score of 82-39). According to Second Spectrum tracking, they're the only team that ranks in the top five in effective field goal percentage in the first six seconds of the shot clock (63.4%, second) and the percentage of their shots that have come in the first six seconds (17%, fifth). Davis has an effective field goal percentage of 71.3% in the first six seconds and 50.8% (a little lower than the league average) in the last 18 seconds of the shot clock.
Week 13: vs. CLE, vs. ORL, @ HOU
Pace: 99.6 (21) OffRtg: 110.1 (11) DefRtg: 106.1 (8) NetRtg: +4.0 (8)
How do you keep a strong stretch of offense going despite the absence of your leading scorer? You play the Wizards, of course. The Jazz were without Donovan Mitchell (illness) on Sunday and trailed by 15 points in the third quarter, but scored 65 points (with zero turnovers) over the final 20:08 in Washington to extend their winning streak (over which they've had the league's No. 1 offense) to nine games.
Joe Ingles has shot 51% from 3-point range (the best mark among players with at least 50 attempts) since moving into the starting lineup in early December, but he hasn't just been shooting well. In six January games, he has 38 assists and just four turnovers. The Utah starting lineup has scored more than 122 points per 100 possessions in its 143 minutes over the winning streak.
The Jazz's only loss in their last 15 games was by three points in Miami (where the Heat are 17-1). This week's three games are the end of a stretch of 10 straight against teams with losing records.
Week 13: @ BKN, @ NOP, vs. SAC
Pace: 99.6 (18) OffRtg: 111.5 (5) DefRtg: 104.5 (3) NetRtg: +7.0 (3)
Though they're the healthiest they've been in almost two months (the last three games have been just the seventh, eighth and ninth times that they've had each of their top five perimeter guys available), the Celtics' first five games of 2020 were their worst stretch of the season, two narrow wins over bad teams and a three-game losing streak in which they barely scored a point per possession. This is not a team that moves the ball like the Warriors of the last several years -- the Celtics rank in the middle of the pack in passes per 24 minutes of possession -- but the ball movement was certainly lacking (271 passes per 24 minutes and assists on just 17 of their 38 buckets) in Philly on Thursday.
A win at home over the Pelicans doesn't put all their issues are behind them, but on Saturday, the ball moved a lot more (328 passes per 24 and one fantastic passing sequence against the zone), the Celtics registered a season-high 74 points in the paint, and Jayson Tatum took just one mid-range shot on his way to a career-high 41 points. Through 37 games, Tatum has taken 19% of his shots from between the paint and the 3-point line, down from 26% over his first two seasons.
Week 13: vs. CHI, vs. DET, @ MIL, vs. PHX
Pace: 104.2 (2) OffRtg: 113.7 (2) DefRtg: 108.6 (16) NetRtg: +5.1 (7)
Russell Westbrook has made more than half of his shots in nine of his 33 games this season, and the Thunder were the opponent on two of the nine occasions. But his teammates couldn't help him get a win in his return to Oklahoma City on Thursday, as Rockets not named Westbrook shot just 32% in what was the team's worst offensive game (92 points on 100 possessions) of the season.
They're one of four West teams with 12 or 13 losses, but they're banged up. Only seven Rockets played more than five minutes in their win in Atlanta on Wednesday, and two of those seven -- Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker -- were unavailable for the final 46 minutes of their win over Minnesota on Saturday. But with the OKC loss and the win over the Wolves being blowouts, James Harden played less than 30 minutes for just the second and third times this season. The four-game homestand that begins Wednesday (with the second game of another back-to-back) includes the Rockets' first meeting with the Lakers and their third (and final) meeting with Chris Paul and the Thunder.
Week 13: @ MEM, vs. POR, vs. LAL
Pace: 97.5 (29) OffRtg: 111.0 (7) DefRtg: 107.1 (12) NetRtg: +4.0 (9)
In the month of January, the Nuggets have losses to the Wizards and Cavs, having shot 15-for-52 (including 1-for-19 from 3-point range) in the first quarter against the two worst defenses in the league and having been unable to get the stops they needed down the stretch. The first part might be more alarming considering the competition, but the second is more indicative of how the Nuggets have been playing of late. They rank 29th defensively since Christmas and had a stretch where five of six opponents shot better than 50%.
The Nuggets are still in second place in the West, with wins against the Pacers, Mavs and Clippers this month. With his game-winner in Dallas, Nikola Jokic has made nine of his last 12 shots (all of them 2-point attempts) to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime (going back to December of 2018).
Week 13: vs. CHA, @ GSW, vs. IND
Pace: 99.0 (25) OffRtg: 110.9 (8) DefRtg: 107.5 (14) NetRtg: +3.4 (10)
Mark your calendars. The next Jimmy Butler-T.J. Warren meeting is March 20 in Indiana. Of course, the Heat have more pressing concerns after falling to 10-11 on the road with two losses in New York over the weekend in which they allowed two bottom-10 offenses to score almost 124 points per 100 possessions.
The Heat are still just percentage points behind the second-place Celtics, but have seemingly lost their defense-first identity a bit. They rank 25th defensively since Christmas, with the one strong defensive game of the nine they've played since then being the one -- Jan. 2 against Toronto -- in which they played zone for most of the final three quarters. They now rank 30th in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area, having allowed a season-high 60 points in the restricted area at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
The good news is that the team that ranks last in the percentage of its shots that have come in the restricted area is the one the Heat face twice this week.
Week 13: vs. SAS, @ OKC, @ SAS
Pace: 103.3 (6) OffRtg: 111.5 (6) DefRtg: 105.8 (7) NetRtg: +5.6 (5)
Healthy or not (they've been without Paul George or Kawhi Leonard in each of their last four games), the Clippers just aren't very good right now. They've won four of their last six, but the last two wins have come at home ... by a total of 12 points ... against the Knicks and Warriors.
In general, their defense has been disappointing. But with George (strained left hamstring) out over the weekend, they were worse than average offensively against Golden State and Denver. With the loss to the Nuggets, the Clippers have dropped into fifth place and are 6-6 in games between the top seven teams in the West.
A road trip might do them some good. With the Grammys coming to Staples Center, both the Lakers and Clippers are hitting the road this weekend and not returning until Jan. 28, when they meet for the third time.
Week 13: vs. CLE, vs. ORL, @ NOP
Pace: 99.6 (20) OffRtg: 109.1 (17) DefRtg: 105.8 (6) NetRtg: +3.3 (11)
Home-court advantage might mean something in the Eastern Conference, where the top six teams are a combined 97-20 at home. In fifth place, the Sixers are in position to start the playoffs on the road, where they've lost five straight after their worst shooting game of the season (effective field goal percentage of 42.3%) in Dallas on Saturday.
The Home Sixers picked up a couple of big wins last week, getting 89 points on 52% shooting from their starters against Oklahoma City and coming back from 15 down against Boston without Joel Embiid, who had surgery on his dislocated finger on Friday. They've been much worse defensively (and have actually played a little slower) in 186 minutes with their other four starters on the floor without Embiid than they've been in 240 minutes with the whole group together. They played a few (unsuccessful) minutes with Ben Simmons at center in the win over Boston.
Week 13: @ IND, vs. BKN, vs. CHI, @ NYK
Pace: 99.3 (22) OffRtg: 108.5 (20) DefRtg: 107.1 (13) NetRtg: +1.5 (13)
The Thunder weren't quite as good as their West-best 16-5 post-Thanksgiving record would have indicated. Twelve of those 16 wins were within five points in the last five minutes (with Chris Paul's Brooklyn takeover on Tuesday being one of the highlights) and they ranked fifth in the West in point differential over that stretch. But losing a 41-19 first quarter to the star-less Lakers on Saturday was a little more of a tumble that we could have expected.
First quarters have been an issue for this team. Even before Saturday, the Thunder had been outscored by 2.3 points per 100 possessions in the opening 12 minutes. Not coincidentally, the first is the quarter in which the trio of Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder has played only four of its 250 total minutes. The Thunder have outscored their opponents by 29 points per 100 possessions in those 250 minutes, and were a plus-13 with the three guards on the floor together in the 15-point loss on Saturday.
Week 13: @ MIN, vs. TOR, vs. MIA, vs. POR
Pace: 99.1 (23) OffRtg: 109.8 (12) DefRtg: 106.7 (10) NetRtg: +3.1 (12)
The Pacers' last two home games have been their two worst defensive games of the season and they've allowed more than 111 points per 100 possessions in the 12 games that Malcolm Brogdon has missed. Against the Heat on Wednesday, they trailed by as many as 31 points and T.J. Warren got baited by Jimmy Butler into an ejection.
But, with their two big men seeing an increase in production and their two back-up point guards totaling 79 assists and just 18 turnovers, the Pacers' offense has scored more than 110 points per 100 possessions in six straight games (two of which came against top-10 defenses). They've won two straight on the road, Brogdon is expected back this week and Victor Oladipo has set a date (Jan. 29) for his return. Their visit to Denver on Sunday is their first game in Mountain or Pacific time zones and the start of a five-game trip (the last five games without Oladipo).
Week 13: vs. PHI, @ MIN, vs. MIN, @ DEN
Pace: 100.2 (16) OffRtg: 108.9 (18) DefRtg: 103.8 (2) NetRtg: +5.1 (6)
The Raptors blew double-digit leads in all three of their games last week, shooting 36% and attempting just five total free throws (and making just one of those) over the three fourth quarters. They somehow survived a 1-for-20 stretch to win in Charlotte (in overtime) on Wednesday, but losses to the Blazers and Spurs were their first defeats at the hands of any of the 17 teams currently under .500.
They've dropped six of their last 10 overall and four of their last five at home, with several more trips through customs remaining in their funky January schedule (five single-game homestands). More important is that they got Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell back from 11-game absences on Sunday, with the one of the two (Powell 20 points, 4-for-7 from 3-point range) showing a little less rust than the other. Marc Gasol and Fred VanVleet remain on the shelf.
Week 13: @ OKC, vs. WAS, @ MIN
Pace: 99.7 (17) OffRtg: 115.3 (1) DefRtg: 108.9 (17) NetRtg: +6.4 (4)
The Mavs' No. 1 offense has held up well, scoring 115.5 points per 100 possessions, without Kristaps Porzingis over the last seven games. Luka Doncic has averaged 30.6 points and 9.0 assists and the Mavs have grabbed more then 30% of their misses over that stretch. Both Dwight Powell (three of his top five) and Maxi Kleber (his top top two) have had some of their highest scoring games of the season in January.
The defense hasn't held up as well, allowing 114.6 per 100, without one of the league's best rim protectors, and the Mavs have continued to struggled in close-game situations. They've lost five of their last seven games that were within five points in the last five minutes, but an easy win over the Sixers (in which they scored 109 points on just 93 possessions, despite a 4-for-15 performance from Doncic) wrapped up a 3-3 homestand. They'll now play 15 of their next 23 games on the road.
Week 13: @ GSW, @ SAC, vs. POR
Pace: 103.7 (3) OffRtg: 109.1 (16) DefRtg: 111.5 (22) NetRtg: -2.4 (20)
Last season, the Grizzlies were outscored by 2.4 points per 100 possessions and finished 15 games out of a playoff spot. This season, the Grizzlies have been outscored by 2.4 points per 100 possessions and are in eighth place in the wacky West with a five-game winning streak that has included wins over the ninth-place Spurs and 10th-place Suns.
Jonas Valanciunas (still just 27 years old) is a big (and skilled) fella who had his fourth game of 30 or more points and his second game of 14 or more second chance points against the Warriors on Sunday. (The rest of the league has one game of at least 14 second chance points). He's also one of three Grizzlies bigs who rank in the top 11 in effective field goal percentage (among 169 players with at least 100 field goal attempts) over the last month.
Dillon Brooks averaged 22.8 points (shooting 18-for-36 from 3-point range) over the first four games of the winning streak, but the Grizz have also had some success (plus-38 in 38 minutes over the five games) playing Morant and De'Anthony Melton together.
Week 13: vs. HOU, vs. CLE
Pace: 101.4 (12) OffRtg: 110.7 (10) DefRtg: 111.5 (21) NetRtg: -0.9 (16)
The Spurs lost what was their most important game of the season to date, allowing the Grizzlies to register 22 fast break points and 25 second chance points on Friday. But they also beat three of the four best teams in the East last week, scoring 130 first-half points against the Bucks' and Celtics' top-three defenses, and then coming back from 18 down in Toronto on Sunday.
DeMar DeRozan has been on fire, averaging 27 points on 63% shooting (including 82% in the restricted area) over his last 11 games. His overall free throw rate isn't quite where it was a few seasons ago, but he's totaled 52 attempts over the last five games, and with 29 assists over the same stretch, he's one of eight players averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. He'll go head-to-head with one of the other seven (Jimmy Butler) twice this week as the Spurs continue to play the best teams in the East.
Week 13: @ MIA, vs. ATL, vs. MIA
Pace: 98.6 (28) OffRtg: 104.8 (27) DefRtg: 104.9 (5) NetRtg: -0.1 (14)
The one thing the Magic have done well offensively is take care of the ball; They rank fifth in turnover rate (13.2 per 100 possessions), set to be the seventh straight Steve Clifford team to rank in the top six. But they rank 26th in clutch turnover rate (15.3 per 100) and they committed a couple of brutal miscues in the final minute in Phoenix on Friday, with the first (an ill-advised pass from Markelle Fultz) allowing Devin Booker to turn a four-point Orlando lead into a two-point Phoenix lead in less than 20 seconds.
The Magic have had the league's best defense (98.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the last three weeks and held three opponents under 90 per 100 on a four-game homestand that pushed them into seventh place for a few days. But they're 5-13 on the road, with five more games to go on a six-game trip.
Week 13: @ SAC, @ LAL, @ LAC, @ GSW
Pace: 102.5 (9) OffRtg: 105.5 (25) DefRtg: 106.8 (11) NetRtg: -1.3 (17)
A win over the Hawks without Trae Young isn't an indication of anything in itself. But Kyrie Irving looked pretty darn good in scoring 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting on Sunday. And more importantly, with Irving and Caris LeVert back and with Rodions Kurucs (19 points on 7-for-9 against Miami on Friday) no longer playing shook, the Nets appear to have a fully competent rotation for the first time in a long time. Over Irving's 26-game absence, they scored a paltry 89.1 points per 100 possessions in 405 minutes with Spencer Dinwiddie off the floor, and Dinwiddie's own limitations were apparent in their overtime loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
If the Hawks weren't a real test, the next five games will be. According to cumulative opponent winning percentage (as teams stand now), it's the toughest five-game stretch of the Nets' season by a healthy margin. The good news is that they don't have to fly for any of the five games (the only road game is down the New Jersey Turnpike) and it's certainly not the worst time to be playing two of your four games against the Sixers.
Week 13: vs. UTA, @ PHI, vs. MIL
Pace: 103.2 (7) OffRtg: 108.6 (19) DefRtg: 112.7 (26) NetRtg: -4.1 (24)
The Pelicans have had a top-10 offense (more than 115 points scored per 100 possessions) going back to their win in Denver on Christmas. They almost beat the red-hot Jazz on Monday (getting thwarted by an erroneous no-call on Brandon Ingram's last-second drive to tie) and, playing without Jrue Holiday, they had more than 30 assists in both of their wins (over Chicago and New York) last week. There's no more doubting the improvement with Ingram's jumper. He shot 41% from 3-point range through November, 41% in December, and is at 40% on more than eight attempts per game so far in January.
There has been progress on defense, but only the Bulls have allowed their opponents to take a greater percentage of their shots in the restricted area, and without both Holiday and Derrick Favors on Saturday, the Pelicans allowed the Celtics to score a season-high 74 points in the paint. They're 11-4 (with six straight wins) when they've allowed fewer than 110 points per 100 possessions and 3-22 when they haven't.
Week 13: @ DET, vs. UTA, vs. LAC
Pace: 102.4 (10) OffRtg: 109.7 (13) DefRtg: 110.5 (19) NetRtg: -0.7 (15)
Devin Booker's streak of seven straight games of more than 30 points came to an end on Friday. But in the span of 18 seconds and just when his team needed them most, Booker hit as many 3-pointers (two) against the Magic as he had made in any of those seven previous games, turning a four-point deficit into a two-point lead with 35 seconds to go. Two nights later, the Suns needed only 12 points from their star as they held a second straight opponent under a point per possession for the first time this season.
After three starts alongside Aron Baynes, DeAndre Ayton was moved back to the bench (in favor of Dario Saric) over the weekend, but still played 38 minutes over two games alongside Booker. The pair seems to have some good chemistry and the Suns have scored 114 points per 100 possessions in their 195 minutes on the floor together. With a 3-2 homestand in the books and having played one of the league's most home-heavy schedules to date, they'll play 13 of their next 19 on the road.
Week 13: @ ATL, @ NYK, @ BOS
Pace: 101.5 (11) OffRtg: 109.5 (14) DefRtg: 111.8 (24) NetRtg: -2.3 (19)
The Blazers remain a picture of inconsistency. After coming back from 14 down in Toronto and picking up their fourth win over the group of teams currently over .500 on Carmelo Anthony's game-winner on Tuesday, they got hammered in Minnesota by the Towns-less Wolves (their 10th loss to the group of teams currently under .500) two nights later.
Inconsistency comes with bad defense and a dependence on jump shots. The Blazers rank last defensively (118 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Christmas and are one of three teams that rank in the bottom 10 in both free throw rate (24 attempts per 100 shots from the field - 23rd) and the percentage of their shots that have come in the paint (45% -- 27th).
After they host the Hornets on Monday, the Blazers will play 11 of their next 13 games against teams currently over .500, with one of the two exceptions being a game against the Spurs, who have won 10 of their last 17.
Week 13: vs. CHA, @ HOU, @ DAL, @ OKC
Pace: 100.8 (14) OffRtg: 104.5 (28) DefRtg: 106.2 (9) NetRtg: -1.7 (18)
Zach LaVine was cookin' last week, totaling 75 points on an effective field goal percentage of 69% against New Orleans and Indiana. He scored all of the Bulls' points (on 8-for-9 shooting) in a 20-10 run spanning the second and third quarters against the Pacers on Friday. With LaVine averaging 31 points, Chicago's bottom-five offense finally has a five-game stretch in which it has scored more efficiently (110.1 points per 100 possessions) than the league average.
But the Bulls didn't put an end to their losing streak (which reached six games) until they faced the depleted Pistons on Saturday. With Wendell Carter Jr. expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a bad right ankle sprain, the bouncy Daniel Gafford is the new starting center. The rookie has been a solid rim protector (opponents have shot 50.5% at the basket when he's been there) and was 7-for-9 in his second start, though he fouled out and was a minus-12 in less than 23 minutes.
Week 13: @ BOS, vs. WAS, @ PHI, vs. CLE
Pace: 103.7 (4) OffRtg: 105.8 (23) DefRtg: 108.5 (15) NetRtg: -2.7 (23)
Though Karl-Anthony Towns has missed the last 13 games, the Timberwolves' two most-used lineups still include their All-Star center. Over Towns' four-week absence, the Wolves have ranked 28th offensively (100.9 points scored per 100 possessions) and haven't had a lineup play more than 58 minutes.
They've stayed somewhat afloat (5-8) with the league's third-ranked defense over that stretch, with the big difference from their first 25 games being opponent 3-point percentage (37.4% over the first 25 games, 32.1% over the last 13) and opponent turnover rate (13.9 per 100 possessions, 16.9 per 100). Robert Covington (4.5) and Gorgui Dieng (4.1) both rank in the top 10 in deflections per 36 minutes and the Wolves have allowed less than a point per possession in 409 total minutes with both of them on the floor.
Towns appears close to a return and the Wolves will play 11 of their next 16 games at home (having played the league's most road-heavy schedule to date). But their loss in Houston on Saturday was the first of six straight games against teams that currently have winning records, and they've lost their last nine against that group.
Week 13: vs. OKC, vs. IND, @ IND, vs. TOR
Pace: 98.7 (27) OffRtg: 106.7 (21) DefRtg: 109.1 (18) NetRtg: -2.5 (21)
After ranking 30th in pace (97.5 possessions per 48 minutes) through Dec. 31, the Kings lead the league in pace (106.8 per 48) in 2020. Not coincidentally, their five January games have been the most productive stretch of the season for De'Aaron Fox, who has averaged 22.2 points and 7.4 assists this month.
The Kings won three of the first four and their bench was the difference - Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza and the disgruntled Dewayne Dedmon were on the floor for all of the game-changing, 30-8 run spanning the third and fourth quarters - as they came back from 21 down to win in Phoenix on Tuesday. They erased an 18-point deficit against the Bucks on Friday, but the bench wasn't nearly as good. They were somehow outscored by 24 points in less than seven pre-garbage-time minutes with Fox (who was one rebound shy his second career triple-double) off the floor. Their next two games are the end of a stretch where they will have played 10 of 12 at home, and their visit to Utah on Saturday is the start of their longest trip of the season (five games over 10 days).
Week 13: vs. ORL, vs. DAL, @ UTA
Pace: 99.6 (19) OffRtg: 105.0 (26) DefRtg: 112.9 (28) NetRtg: -7.9 (27)
The new Knicks looked a lot like the old Knicks over a five-game losing streak in which they were outscored, 237-120, from 3-point range. The Bucks, Knicks and Warriors are all on pace to break Milwaukee's record for 3-pointers allowed, and New York's -10.4 points per game from beyond the arc is the worst differential of the last four seasons. In two head-to-head meetings with the Bucks (who they'll visit on Tuesday), the Knicks have been outscored by 45 points from 3-point range.
They were outscored by 15 from deep on Sunday, but tied their season high with 72 points in the paint, with 20 of those 72 (along with another 14 points at the free throw line) coming in a 40-27 fourth quarter that turned a 10-point deficit into a three-point win over the Heat. RJ Barrett ranks last in restricted-area field goal percentage (52.9%) among the 28 players with at least 200 attempts there, but had some terrific finishes at the basket on his way to 23 points.
Week 13: @ MIL, vs. PHX, vs. PHI
Pace: 103.5 (5) OffRtg: 110.7 (9) DefRtg: 115.4 (30) NetRtg: -4.7 (25)
Ish Smith's run as the best player in the league lasted only two games (when he scored 59 total points in wins over the Nuggets and Celtics), and he has shot just 12-for-40 over the last three. But Smith scored the Wizards' first six points (the third of the three buckets was kind of ridiculous) of the game-deciding 13-2, fourth-quarter run and dished out a season high nine assists against Atlanta on Friday.
The Wizards are finally getting healthier, with Davis Bertans, Bradley Beal and Thomas Bryant all having made their returns from injury over the weekend. Bertans appropriately launched a 29-footer the first time he touched the ball on Friday and Beal scored 25 points in 27 minutes against the Jazz on Sunday. After playing eight of their last nine games at home, the Wizards play six of their next seven on the road, though this is a light week with games on Wednesday and Friday.
Week 13: @ CHI, @ TOR
Pace: 97.1 (30) OffRtg: 106.0 (22) DefRtg: 112.9 (27) NetRtg: -6.8 (26)
The Hornets are the only team that has played 42 games (having squeezed in some extra games with a trip to Paris coming up), and they started the second half of their season the same way they finished the first half, scoring less than a point per possession in a Western Conference arena. At 40.0% (down from 53.8% through his first 27 games), Devonte' Graham ranks 166th in effective field goal percentage among the 169 players who have attempted at least 100 shots over the last month.
Terry Rozier had averaged 27.4 points on 51% shooting over the Hornets' first five January games, and Miles Bridges had the second highest scoring game of his career (26 points, with six threes on nine attempts) against the league's second-ranked defense on Wednesday. But the Hornets' own defense has struggled to get stops and both Graham and Rozier missed shots for the win in Toronto.
Week 13: @ POR, @ DEN
Pace: 98.9 (26) OffRtg: 105.7 (24) DefRtg: 113.9 (29) NetRtg: -8.2 (28)
The Cavs lead the league in locker room leakage, but they've responded well to the latest drama, beginning their six-game trip with wins in Detroit and Denver in which they shot 12-for-18 in the clutch.
Tristan Thompson scored a career-high 35 points on Thursday, with two coming off a huge offensive rebound from Collin Sexton, who hit the go-ahead 3-pointer two nights later. Darius Garland is one of seven players who have shot worse than 50% on at least 75 shots in the restricted area, but didn't need to get all the way to the basket to ice the win in Denver on Saturday, when he made three soft floaters in a two-minute stretch after dishing out seven or more assists for the fourth time in six games.
The rest of their trip is a pair back-to-backs and, given the way the Grizzlies have been playing, the next three games are tough. But the Memphis game is the start of seven straight against teams currently under .500, and the Cavs are 10-9 within that group.
Week 13: @ LAL, @ LAC, @ MEM, @ CHI
Pace: 99.0 (24) OffRtg: 109.1 (15) DefRtg: 111.8 (23) NetRtg: -2.7 (22)
Derrick Rose beat the Cavs with a floater in the final minute on Tuesday and has averaged 24.2 points on 52% shooting over the last five games (starting the second half of all five). The former MVP ranks in the top three in both total points and total assists off the bench, and the Pistons have been almost seven points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor.
But with Blake Griffin having knee surgery last week, the Pistons' season took a big step toward non-competitive mode. With losses at home to the Cavs and Bulls on Thursday and Saturday, they're just 10-13 in games played between the 17 teams currently under .500.
We don't think of them as a young team, but the Pistons do have nine guys on their roster (including their two-way players) under the age of 25. Sekou Doumbouya continues to show flashes (just ask Tristan Thompson) and playmaker-by-attrition Bruce Brown has 22 assists and just six turnovers over his last four games.
Week 13: vs. NOP, @ BOS, @ ATL
Pace: 103.1 (8) OffRtg: 103.0 (29) DefRtg: 112.6 (25) NetRtg: -9.6 (30)
The Trae Young All-Star discussion is kind of fascinating. One one hand, he's in the top five in both points (28.9) and assists (8.4) per game. On the other hand, his team has the worst record in the league, he's clearly a huge defensive liability, and all those points and assists have the Hawks 29th in offensive efficiency.
Back to the first hand ... The Hawks have scored 16.6 more points per 100 possessions with Young on the floor (a below-average, but not-so terrible 107.6) than they have with him off the floor (an anemic 91.0). 16.6! After scoring 86 points on 107 possessions in Brooklyn on Sunday, the Hawks have three of the league's five worst offensive performances of the season. Young was out for two of those three games and played just 15 minutes (before spraining his ankle) in the other one. If he's not available on Tuesday (after missing the Brooklyn loss with hamstring pain), it should be a good night for the Suns' defense.
Week 13: vs. PHX, @ SAS, vs. DET
Pace: 101.0 (13) OffRtg: 102.7 (30) DefRtg: 111.1 (20) NetRtg: -8.3 (29)
The Warriors are the only team without a win in 2020 and their eight-game losing streak (over which they've scored less than a point per possession) is the longest of their season. Only two Warriors have a league-average effective field goal percentage or better on at least 25 shots over the eight games, and one of those two - D'Angelo Russell - has played in only two of the eight.
But the Warriors were down by just five with less than two minutes to go against Milwaukee on Wednesday and they had a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead against the Clippers two nights later. The eye test says they're a lot more organized and cohesive than they were earlier in the season. And Damion Lee, who has used up his allotted two-way-contract days with the team, has clearly earned an NBA deal. He made some nice plays on and off the ball in L.A. on Friday.
Week 13: vs. DAL, vs. DEN, vs. ORL