The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t get get their best win of the season this past weekend. They got their two best wins of the season on Friday and Sunday, holding the top-five offenses of the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers to less than a point per possession over 96 minutes. They faced the biggest test of their post-break schedule and they passed it with flying colors.
The Lakers are a league-best 13-2 since Feb. 1, and they have the signature wins they needed to end the Bucks’ 14-week run at the top of the Power Rankings. More tests await, but there are no longer any pressing questions that need to be answered before the postseason begins on April 18.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: Avery Bradley (LAL) was a plus-60 in three games last week.
- Wrong Way: P.J. Tucker (HOU) was a minus-66 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: L.A. Lakers (3-0) — They got their two biggest wins of the season in the span of 48 hours.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Houston (0-4) — Caution: Fragile. Handle with care.
East vs. West
- The West is 198-161 (.552) against the East in interconference games after going 21-14 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 20
- Toughest: 1. New Orleans, 2. Atlanta, 3. Golden State
- Easiest: 1. Toronto, 2. Milwaukee, 3. Washington
- 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: Indiana (+3), Oklahoma City (+3), Toronto (+3), Utah (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Houston (-6), Denver (-4), Boston (-3), Detroit (-3)
Week 21 Team to Watch
- Denver — The Nuggets are 4-4, with the league’s 29th-ranked defense, since the All-Star break. Last week, they lost to two of the three worst teams in the league (Golden State and Cleveland) and needed a last-second shot to beat another team (Charlotte) heading to the Lottery. This week’s schedule, though the Bucks will be without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Monday, is much tougher. After they host the first place team in the East, the Nuggets will head out on a three-game trip, visiting the Mavs on Wednesday, the Spurs on Friday, and the Lakers on Sunday.
- Last week: Clippers climb back into Top 5; big week lies ahead for Lakers
- This time last year: Spoiler season is here — The last-place Suns beat the Bucks and Warriors, becoming the first team to beat Milwaukee twice. The Rockets and Spurs were both in the process of winning nine straight games, and LeBron James passed Michael Jordan for fourth place on the all-time scoring list. Brandon Ingram was shut down for the season with a deep venous thrombosis in his right arm, Gordon Hayward hit a fading floater to beat the Kings, and Derrick Jones Jr. had the Thrunk of the Year.
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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 100.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.9 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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