Power Rankings, Week 5: Lakers jump to No. 1, Rockets enter top 5 and Clippers face big week
Los Angeles takes over the top spot in the latest ranking of all 30 teams
The Los Angeles Lakers are pushing full speed ahead.
Anthony Davis is clearly dealing with a shoulder injury and shot 2-for-14 from outside the paint over the weekend, but he played 64 total minutes after missing just one game. And LeBron James, set to turn 35 next month, has played in all 13 games thus far.
The schedule is about to get a little more grueling; The Lakers will be on the road for most of the next four weeks. But with so much roster turnover all around the league, the Lakers are in a good place in regard to building chemistry and, even more important, developing good habits defensively.
They’re also in a good place in this week’s Power Rankings.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: LeBron James (LAL) was a plus-54 in four games last week.
- Wrong Way: Cam Reddish (ATL) was a minus-75 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Orlando (3-0) — The Magic may have righted the ship, and their 3-0 week included a 15-point win over the Sixers.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: San Antonio (0-4) — The four teams that the Spurs lost to — Memphis, Minnesota, Orlando and Portland — haven’t exactly been playing their best basketball themselves.
East vs. West
- The West is 40-33 (.548) against the East in interconference games after going 12-9 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 4
- Toughest: 1. Milwaukee, 2. Sacramento, 3. New Orleans
- Easiest: 1. Houston, 2. Phoenix, 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: Houston (+7), Orlando (+6), Sacramento (+5)
- Free falls of the week: San Antonio (-6), Cleveland (-5), Detroit (-5)
Week 5 Team to Watch
- LA Clippers — With the hope that we’re going to see Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the floor together this week, the Clippers’ five-game homestand continues with some very interesting games. They host the Thunder on Monday, the Celtics on Wednesday, the Rockets on Friday, and the Pelicans on Sunday.
- Last week: Celtics grab No. 1 spot, Lakers rise and Sixers fall
- This time last year: Quality wins help Clippers take over top spot — Kevin Durant and Draymond Green had a blowup on the bench during a Warriors’ loss to the Clippers, Caris LeVert suffered a nasty injury in Minnesota, and LeBron James passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list. The league’s best record belonged to the eventual champs, and the Mavs beat the Jazz by 50 points. Dwane Casey’s Pistons won at the buzzer in his return to Toronto, DeMar DeRozan pulled off one of his 360 layups, and Jimmy Butler hit his first game-winner with the Sixers.
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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 102.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.3 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: 2 ↑
Pace: 100.2 (23) OffRtg: 109.3 (9) DefRtg: 99.9 (1) NetRtg: +9.3 (1)
The Lakers still have the league's top-ranked defense, and now their offense has climbed into the top 10, having scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions in three of their last four games. Full-strength small-ball lineups -- with Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James and Anthony Davis up front -- have been underwhelming offensively (112 points scored on 111 possessions) thus far. But Kuzma (12-for-25 from 3-point range last week) has been heating up and though James' 3-point numbers are mediocre, a 49% mark from mid-range has him registering the highest effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (50.4%) of his career. Their game in Oklahoma City on Friday is the start of a stretch where the Lakers are playing 12 of 15 on the road, but they're currently 4-0 outside of Staples Center and they're just three games into a stretch of nine straight against teams that are currently under .500.
Week 5: vs. OKC, @ OKC, @ MEM
Last Week: 1 ↓
Pace: 101.7 (18) OffRtg: 112.0 (2) DefRtg: 103.9 (10) NetRtg: +8.0 (3)
The Celtics' 10-game winning streak ended rather dramatically, with Marcus Smart's runner rolling off the rim after the buzzer sounded in Sacramento on Sunday. Maybe it was also symbolic, as the first two games of the Celtics' five-game trip have been their two worst offensive games since their opening-night clunker in Philadelphia. How efficiently they were scoring (more than 128 points per 100 possessions over the previous three games) obviously wasn't sustainable, but their offensive improvement hasn't been about just makes and misses. They've seen the league's biggest improvement in the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area, its biggest improvement in free throw rate, and its biggest improvement in turnover percentage. Of course, the next three defenses they're set to face all rank higher than any that they've faced in their last eight games.
Week 5: @ PHX, @ LAC, @ DEN
Last Week: 3
Pace: 107.5 (1) OffRtg: 109.6 (8) DefRtg: 101.0 (3) NetRtg: +8.6 (2)
The last five games have been the Bucks' worst five-game stretch of offense (105.5 points scored per 100 possessions) this season, with three games in which they've shot worse than 30% from 3-point range, where only the Rockets have taken a greater percentage of their shots. Khris Middleton's absence (he's out 3-4 weeks with a thigh contusion) clearly hurts them on that end of the floor. But over their three-game winning streak, they've doubled up their opponents in the paint (192-96), and the 23.5 points per game they've allowed in the restricted area would be the fewest allowed since the Rockets allowed 23.4 in 2006-07 (when they had both Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo). After visits to Chicago and Atlanta this week, the Bucks will have played 10 of their 14 games on the road, and Thursday's game against the Blazers begins a stretch where they're playing 12 of 15 at home.
Week 5: @ CHI, @ ATL, vs. POR, vs. DET
Last Week: 4
Pace: 98.3 (30) OffRtg: 106.9 (16) DefRtg: 103.0 (6) NetRtg: +3.9 (10)
The Nuggets are apparently that team that, in the span of three days, will lose a game (against Atlanta's 29th-ranked offense) in which they scored 121 points on 100 possessions and win a game (against Brooklyn's better-than-average offense) in which they scored just 101 on 99. It's not clear what you're going to get from this team from day to day (take Jamal Murray's last two games, for example), but the bottom line is that they're just a game in the loss column behind the Lakers and they have the best record (4-1) in games played between the 14 teams that are currently over .500, having held their opponents to less than a point per possession over those five games. The defense will continue to be tested, because in the span of seven days (starting Wednesday), four of the league's top-five offenses will visit the Pepsi Center.
Week 5: vs. HOU, vs. BOS, vs. PHX
Last Week: 12 ↑
Pace: 106.0 (3) OffRtg: 111.9 (4) DefRtg: 107.6 (16) NetRtg: +4.3 (9)
The Rockets' seven-game winning streak has been highlighted by James Harden's 43 points per game, but it's been defined by the other end of the floor. After allowing 116.2 points per 100 possessions (the league's second-worst mark) through their first six games, they've allowed less than a point per possession over the streak. The biggest difference has been how well their opponents have shot from 3-point range (43% vs. 27%), so their defense is probably not as bad as it was early nor as good as its been of late. They're playing shorthanded -- Clint Capela, Eric Gordon (out six weeks after knee surgery) and Danuel House have all be dealing with injuries and Russell Westbrook isn't playing both games of back-to-backs -- but are off to a 3-0 start in a stretch where they're playing seven of eight against teams that currently have winning records, getting good contributions from Ben McLemore (41 points over the last two games) and Tyson Chandler. Their next back-to-back isn't until Dec. 13 and 14, but the schedule gets a little tougher this week.
Week 5: vs. POR, @ DEN, @ LAC, vs. DAL
Last Week: 8 ↑
Pace: 102.2 (16) OffRtg: 107.7 (14) DefRtg: 101.1 (4) NetRtg: +6.5 (5)
The Heat, who played a league-high 98 clutch games over the previous two seasons, haven't had a game within five points in the last five minutes since Week 1. The winner of the first quarter has won each of their last 10 games, that's been the Heat in each of the last three, and they've trailed for a total of just 69 seconds over the winning streak. Justise Winslow has missed the last five games and Goran Dragic was out with an illness on Saturday, but Jimmy Butler is here to handle the playmaking duties. Two of the three highest assists games of his career came last week when he dished out 13 dimes against both Detroit and New Orleans. Nine of the 26 went to Bam Adebayo, who is one of only three players who have shot 70% or better on at least 25 attempts in the restricted area and 50% or better on at least 25 attempts elsewhere in the paint. After averaging almost 107 possessions per 48 minutes over their first six games, the Heat have slowed down quite a bit, averaging less than 98 per 48 over the last six.
Week 5: vs. CLE, @ CHI, @ PHI
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 103.4 (11) OffRtg: 110.9 (6) DefRtg: 104.4 (11) NetRtg: +6.5 (6)
Paul George was dominant in his first two games as a Clipper, scoring 70 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 72% and a perfect 21-for-21 from the line) in just 44 minutes. But the Clippers got more banged up before they got healthier, losing Landry Shamet, Patrick Beverley and Kawhi Leonard to injuries last week. George's debut was their worst defensive game of the season, but they had more than enough against the Hawks on Saturday and are 7-1 at home, where they've been 17.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively than they've been on the road. The Clippers have four games to go on their current homestand, Leonard (knee contusion) is day-to-day, and they don't have a back-to-back this week, so we should see the two stars in the same lineup for the first time in the next few days.
Week 5: vs. OKC, vs. BOS, vs. HOU, vs. NOP
Last Week: 7 ↓
Pace: 100.2 (24) OffRtg: 104.4 (24) DefRtg: 100.0 (2) NetRtg: +4.4 (8)
Despite the shooting struggles of Mike Conley (132nd in effective field goal percentage among 137 players who have taken at least 100 shots) and Joe Ingles (28% from 3-point range after shooting 42% over the last three seasons), the Jazz have scored more than 110 points per 100 possessions in 267 total minutes with five of their top six guys on the floor. There's a big drop-off after that (though Emmanuel Mudiay had some good minutes early last week), and the Jazz were outscored by 11 points in 11:31 with Rudy Gobert off the floor in a loss in Memphis on Friday that dropped them to 2-4 on the road. Gobert -- who leads the league in free throw rate (88 attempts per 100 shots from the field) -- has shot just 61% from the line, but was 11-for-12 on clutch free throws before missing the one to tie in the final minute on Friday. The Jazz are 11-3 against the Wolves in games in which both Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns have played, with their first meetings of the season coming Monday and Wednesday.
Week 5: vs. MIN, @ MIN, vs. GSW, vs. NOP
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 103.0 (12) OffRtg: 107.5 (15) DefRtg: 103.0 (5) NetRtg: +4.5 (7)
Pascal Siakam had another monster game on Wednesday, putting up 36 in Portland, with nine of the 36 coming in the Raptors' game-deciding, 14-0, fourth-quarter run. But that game was sandwiched by two (in L.A. and Dallas) in which Siakam looked somewhat mortal, and without Kyle Lowry, the Raptors might not have enough to overcome an off night from their star. They did go 3-2 on their five-game trip and they'll be home for the holidays. They play 15 of their 22 games between now and Jan. 1 at Scotiabank Arena, where they're 4-0 so far. Siakam has a legit shot at a second straight Kia Most Improved Player award and he's not the only Raptor who has taken a step forward. OG Anunoby has seen the league's second biggest jump in effective field goal percentage (from 53.6% to 66.9%) among 210 players with at least 250 field goal attempts last season and at least 50 this season.
Week 5: vs. CHA, vs. ORL, @ ATL
Last Week: 9 ↓
Pace: 104.4 (9) OffRtg: 111.6 (5) DefRtg: 105.0 (13) NetRtg: +6.5 (4)
It feels like the Suns shouldn't be able to sustain this level of offense. Devin Booker has been assisted on a much higher percentage of his buckets than he was last season (as was noted in this space two weeks ago) and he's getting to the basket more, but his 3-point shooting numbers -- he leads the league in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (50%) and ranks second in pull-up 3-point percentage (56%) -- are probably unsustainable. Aron Baynes finally had a game without a 3-pointer (going 0-for-3 against Atlanta on Thursday). But the Suns scored 115 points on 100 possessions against the league's No. 1 defense in a loss to the Lakers on Tuesday and after a slow start, Dario Saric -- 41 points on 16-for-23 shooting over the last two games -- may be finding his rhythm. After three days off, they now play one of their two stretches of five games in seven nights. It includes two back-to-backs (and two more games against top-10 defenses), but they'll have a rest advantage against the Celtics on Monday.
Week 5: vs. BOS, @ SAC, vs. NOP, @ MIN, @ DEN
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 102.1 (17) OffRtg: 106.7 (18) DefRtg: 103.6 (9) NetRtg: +3.1 (11)
The last four games have produced four of the Sixers' five lowest turnover totals of the season. That should lead to success, but they're only 2-2 in that stretch because they shot 8-for-30 from 3-point range in Orlando on Wednesday and put the Thunder on the line for 41 free throws in Oklahoma City on Friday. Joel Embiid has been the best 3-point shooter in their starting lineup, Tobias Harris (who missed 23 straight 3-point attempts before draining a few in OKC) hasn't been the J.J. Redick that Brett Brown wants him to be, and Furkan Korkmaz's run as "a bomber" seems to have been short-lived (he has just three 3-pointers in 72 minutes over the last three games). Since their 5-0 start, the Sixers rank just 25th offensively (106.2 points per 100 possessions), with the lack of free throws -- they rank 24th in free throw rate and have been outscored by almost seven points per game at the line over that stretch -- being a concern. But their starting lineup has played just 33 minutes together over those eight games and there was an uptick offensively (114 points scored per 100 possessions) over the weekend. Their visit from the Knicks on Wednesday will be their sixth straight game against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency.
Week 5: vs. NYK, vs. SAS, vs. MIA
Last Week: 11 ↓
Pace: 100.7 (20) OffRtg: 112.0 (3) DefRtg: 109.3 (18) NetRtg: +2.7 (12)
Rick Carlisle keeps going back and forth with his starting lineup, and not much has worked. Only the Spurs and Wizards have been worse in the first six minutes of the first quarter, and one of the Mavs' better starts (plus-5 before their first sub) was eventually erased against Toronto on Saturday. But they've had the best bench in the league and despite getting outscored 38-21 in the second quarter by the champs, they still rank as the league's best second-quarter team (plus-15.9 points per 100 possessions). Tim Hardaway Jr. and Delon Wright gave them good minutes against their former teams last week and the Mavs have outscored their opponents by 24 points per 100 possessions in their 132 total minutes on the floor together. The Mavs' defense didn't hold up against either the league's second best offense (that of Boston) or its worst offense (that of New York) last week, but they began a four-game homestand by holding the champs to just 42 second-half points on Saturday.
Week 5: vs. SAS, vs. GSW, vs. CLE, @ HOU
Last Week: 13
Pace: 106.5 (2) OffRtg: 106.7 (17) DefRtg: 108.5 (17) NetRtg: -1.7 (19)
The Andrew Wiggins Renaissance continued last week, with the sixth-year wing totaling 63 points (on 56% shooting), 14 rebounds and 12 assists in wins over the Pistons and Spurs. Wiggins' big increase in drives per game (from 7.9 to 13.8) has come with a big improvement in how well he's shot in the paint (from 50% last season to 58% this season), though that latter mark is in line with how well he shot in the paint two seasons ago. The real renaissance has come from outside the paint, where he has an effective field goal percentage of 49%, up from 40% over his first five seasons. Swapping some mid-range shots for 3-point attempts has come with better shooting both inside and outside the arc. With Wiggins out for personal reasons over the weekend, the Wolves lost seven of eight quarters, allowed the Wizards and Rockets to score more than 124 points per 100 possessions, and were somehow outscored by 42 points in Robert Covington's 36 minutes off the floor.
Week 5: @ UTA, vs. UTA, vs. PHX
Last Week: 15 ↑
Pace: 100.0 (25) OffRtg: 106.0 (20) DefRtg: 103.4 (8) NetRtg: +2.6 (13)
Before the Pacers got Myles Turner back, they lost Malcolm Brogdon (back), who's absence coincided with their first two games against teams that currently have winning records. The two losses, in which the five Pacers with at least 20 total field goal attempts all shot less than 40%, dropped them from ninth to 20th in offensive efficiency. Though Brogdon ranks ninth in drives per game, they've become slightly more mid-range heavy -- 21.4% of their shots (the league's second highest rate) have come from between the paint and the 3-point line -- than they were last season (21.1%). Their loss to the Bucks on Saturday came with a season-high 27 mid-range attempts and dropped them to 0-4 when they've shot less than 40% from mid-range. James Harden dropped 44 on them on Friday, but the Pacers' defense mostly held up without Turner, and after they visit Brooklyn on Monday, they play seven of their next nine games against teams that rank in the bottom 10 offensively.
Week 5: @ BKN, vs. ORL
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 98.6 (28) OffRtg: 103.6 (27) DefRtg: 103.1 (7) NetRtg: +0.5 (14)
The Magic went 4-1 and scored 114.7 points per 100 possessions on what will be their longest homestand of the season. It helped that three of the five opponents had bottom-10 defenses and that the shots are starting to fall (Evan Fournier and Nicola Vucevic were a combined 28-for-48 from 3-point range over the homestand), but their starting lineup change -- Markelle Fultz for D.J. Augustin -- appears to have worked, and they kept things going with Al-Farouq Aminu (who was out of the rotation on Wednesday) starting in place of the injured Jonathan Isaac over the weekend. With the other three starters -- Fournier, Vucevic and Aaron Gordon -- on the floor, the Magic have scored more than 110 points per 100 possessions with Fultz at the point, and the former No. 1 pick had the best game of his career on Sunday, scoring 19 points (on 8-for-10 shooting), draining two 3-pointers, and sealing the win with a steal and fast break in the final minute. A four game trip begins in Toronto on Wednesday and with two games against top-10 defenses.
Week 5: @ TOR, @ IND
Last Week: 16
Pace: 101.3 (19) OffRtg: 104.8 (23) DefRtg: 104.7 (12) NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
Only the Grizzlies have been worse in the third quarter than the Thunder, who have been outscored by 20.7 points per 100 possessions in the first 12 minutes after halftime and were outscored 112-68 in the third over a three-game stretch prior to Friday. They allowed another 34 points in the third that night, but were able to recover by shooting 11-for-16 from the field and 17-for-17 from the line as they outscored the Sixers, 42-25, over the final 12:06 of their overtime win. After going 0-4 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes in October, the Thunder are 4-1 in clutch games in November, having shot 7-for-11 from 3-point range with the score within five in the last five this month. They've scored 26.0 more points per 100 possessions with Danilo Gallinari on the floor (113.3) than they have with him off the floor (87.3), in part because they haven't staggered his minutes with those of their starting guards that much. After getting hammered by the Pacers on Tuesday, they're 0-4 on the road, where they'll play nine of their next 13 games, starting with games at Staples Center on Monday and Tuesday.
Week 5: @ LAC, @ LAL, vs. LAL
Last Week: 17
Pace: 103.4 (10) OffRtg: 108.4 (13) DefRtg: 109.3 (19) NetRtg: -0.9 (16)
Reportedly signing Carmelo Anthony doesn't quite qualify as a "desperate measure," but these are pretty desperate times for the Blazers, who have seen the league's third-biggest drop in point differential per 100 possessions (5.1) from last season. In comparison to the league average, the drop-off has been only slight bigger on offense, but that's obviously the end of the floor where Anthony has made his bones. He isn't going to help them inside -- the Blazers are the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both field goal percentage in the restricted area (57.8%, 28th) and the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area (28%, 27th) -- but there's also a need for floor spacing, with Mario Hezonja, Skal Labissiere and Nassir Little having combined to shoot just 17-for-61 (28%) from outside the paint. Little, perhaps inspired by the pending arrival of Anthony, gave the Blazers some good minutes in his second career start on Saturday. Four of their five wins have come on the road and they've got five more games on their current trip, with Anthony potentially making his debut in New Orleans on Tuesday.
Week 5: @ HOU, @ NOP, @ MIL, @ CLE
Last Week: 23 ↑
Pace: 98.5 (29) OffRtg: 106.2 (19) DefRtg: 109.9 (20) NetRtg: -3.7 (24)
A disappointing start to the season seemingly got worse when De'Aaron Fox sprained his ankle in practice last Monday. But, given the strength of the competition (the last two have come against the league's two best teams), the three games since they lost their point guard have been the Kings' best stretch of the season. Neither the offense nor the new starting lineup has been great (Cory Joseph has shot 3-for-20 in his three starts), but the defense and the bench have been strong, and Buddy Hield caught fire (35 points, 7-for-12 from 3-point range) to help beat the Celtics on Sunday. Richaun Holmes has played well as the starting center and won the game on Sunday with his block of Marcus Smart and the free throws that put the Kings ahead with 13 seconds left. But Marvin Bagley (fractured thumb) could be back soon; Thursday will be four weeks since he was ruled out for 4-6 weeks. It's also when the Kings fly to Brooklyn for the start of a stretch where they're playing 12 of 16 on the road.
Week 5: vs. PHX, @ BKN, @ WAS
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 106.0 (4) OffRtg: 108.4 (12) DefRtg: 110.1 (21) NetRtg: -1.7 (17)
The Nets had a pretty rough five-game trip, losing Caris LeVert (long term) and Kyrie Irving (short term) to injuries, losing two games they led by 15 points or more in the second half, and shooting just 28% from 3-point range (they missed their last 19 attempts in Denver on Thursday). They fell out of the top 10 in offensive efficiency, but finished the trip with a 43-point fourth quarter (without Irving) in Chicago and allowed the Nuggets and Bulls to score just 101 points per 100 possessions over the last two games. They've been a top-six team in the first half (plus-6.1 points per 100 possessions) and a bottom-six team in the second half (minus-9.3 per 100), with the much bigger difference coming on defense, and that's not really about how well their opponents have shot from the perimeter. They've allowed 5.2 more restricted-area points per game in the second half (18.5) than they've allowed in the first half (13.3).
Week 5: vs. IND, vs. CHA, vs. SAC, @ NYK
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 102.5 (13) OffRtg: 109.8 (7) DefRtg: 111.5 (24) NetRtg: -1.7 (18)
OK. Now is it time to wonder if the Spurs' playoff streak is coming to an end? They've lost five straight and have allowed 120 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak, with two of the five opponents -- Memphis and Orlando -- being teams that rank in the bottom five offensively. They had fourth-quarter leads in three of their four games last week, but gave up game-changing runs of 10-2, 12-0 and 10-0 to the Grizzlies, Magic and Blazers, respectively. Last season's Spurs were three games under .500 (11-14) and in 14th place on Dec. 6, but the turnaround (a 13-3 stretch) began with a six-game homestand. These Spurs are heading out on a four-game trip, having already lost games in Atlanta and Orlando this month.
Week 5: @ DAL, @ WAS, @ PHI, @ NYK
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 105.5 (5) OffRtg: 108.9 (10) DefRtg: 112.8 (28) NetRtg: -3.9 (25)
The Pelicans had seven unavailable guys in Miami on Saturday and then lost two more before the end of the first quarter. And so somebody named Zylan Cheatham was the ninth man in the rotation over their weekend back-to-back. But they've won three of their last five games, with Jrue Holiday breaking out of his shooting slump to put up 36 points (adding seven assists and six steals) against the Clippers on Thursday. J.J. Redick was one of the guys out vs. Miami, but came back to drain six 3-pointers against the Warriors on Sunday and is 28-for-55 (51%, third best in the league) from beyond the arc in November, with Holiday having assisted on half of those 28 3-pointers. The Pelicans lead the league in both ball movement (391 passes per 24 minutes of possession) and player movement (12.5 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking.
Week 5: vs. POR, @ PHX, @ UTA, @ LAC
Last Week: 22
Pace: 100.3 (22) OffRtg: 105.4 (21) DefRtg: 111.1 (23) NetRtg: -5.7 (26)
Devonte' Graham's move into the starting lineup (with an injury to Dwayne Bacon) on Wednesday had the Hornets ahead at the end of the first quarter for the first time since the second game of the season. Of course, they still trailed that game against Memphis by double-digits (because they trail all their games by double-digits) before a late comeback that fell short. Comebacks against Detroit and in New York over the weekend were capped off by game-winners from Malik Monk and Graham, who already has as many 3-pointers to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime (he's 2-for-3) as Kemba Walker had over his last two seasons in Charlotte (2-for-19). This whole thing doesn't seem very sustainable (their current record and point differential has the Hornets projected for a 27-win season), but it's fun! And just two games into a stretch where they're playing 16 of 18 within the Eastern Conference, the Hornets have the opportunity to stay competitive for a while longer.
Week 5: @ TOR, @ BKN, @ WAS, vs. CHI
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 100.4 (21) OffRtg: 103.9 (25) DefRtg: 107.3 (15) NetRtg: -3.4 (22)
After opening some eyes with two comfortable wins on the road against the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference, the Cavs have dropped three straight to the Sixers (twice) and Heat. They've scored just 97 points per 100 possessions over the losing streak, with more turnovers (47) than assists (45) and with Cavs not named Kevin Love (who missed the game-winning 3-pointer in Philly on Tuesday) having shot 12-for-58 (21%) from 3-point range. There's still reason for optimism with the league's most improved defense and that they've played one of the league's toughest schedules in regard to opponent strength. But they were the only team that hadn't played a back-to-back prior to Sunday, and the loss to the Sixers in Cleveland (in which they trailed by 31 points and had just 14 assists on 34 buckets) began one of their two stretches of five games in seven nights.
Week 5: @ NYK, @ MIA, @ DAL, vs. POR
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 100.0 (26) OffRtg: 108.8 (11) DefRtg: 112.2 (27) NetRtg: -3.5 (23)
Blake Griffin didn't shoot well (he was 12-for-31) in his first two games of the season, but the Pistons' offense was fine (137 points on 112 possessions) in his 54 minutes on the court. Alas, the other end of the floor has been the issue as they've lost four straight games, allowing the four opponents to score more than 117 points per 100 possessions. They're playing six of their last seven games of November against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency, but allowing the Hornets (who they'll play two more times this month) to score a season-high 50 points in the restricted area was not a good start to that stretch. And then Andre Drummond left Marvin Williams open in the corner for the 3-pointer that tied it up before Malik Monk's game-winner. The Pistons have gone from 10th in the (lowest) percentage of their opponents' shots that came in the restricted area last season (32%) to 26th this season (36%).
Week 5: @ CHI, vs. ATL, @ MIL
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 105.2 (6) OffRtg: 103.8 (26) DefRtg: 111.9 (27) NetRtg: -8.0 (27)
It was noted in this space a week ago that Ja Morant had just four assists to Jaren Jackson Jr. in their 112 minutes on the floor together. Maybe the rookie read that, because in his 70 minutes on floor with Jackson over the last seven days, Morant had eight assists to the big man, with the best being a left-handed (and one-handed) dime from the top of the 3-point arc to the left corner in the Grizzlies' win in Charlotte on Wednesday. The Grizzlies scored more than 118 points per 100 possessions in those 70 minutes with their two foundational pieces on the floor together and won three straight games (also beating the Spurs and Jazz) before getting throttled by the Nuggets on Sunday. While Morant has been looking for Jackson more, he still called his own number for the game-winner in Charlotte and it was Jackson who fed Morant for the go-ahead bucket against Utah.
Week 5: vs. GSW, vs. LAL
Last Week: 25 ↓
Pace: 105.0 (7) OffRtg: 112.4 (1) DefRtg: 114.4 (29) NetRtg: -2.0 (20)
With the season more than 15% complete, the league's No. 1 offense belongs to the Washington Wizards. And the league leader in both effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage (among 198 players with at least 75 field goal attempts) is Mo Wagner, who had 30 points and 15 rebounds in just over 25 minutes in the Wizards' win in Minnesota on Friday. All of the above is really real, and the Wizards' offense kept rolling (scoring 121 points on 101 possessions) against the league's seventh-ranked defense (that of the Magic) on Sunday. Alas, on the same floor, the Magic joined the Rockets, Celtics and Pacers as teams who have had their best offensive game of the season against the Wizards' defense, and a flurry of Bradley Beal buckets down the stretch was not enough for Washington to climb out of 14th place in the East.
Week 5: vs. SAS, vs. CHA, vs. SAC
Last Week: 26 ↓
Pace: 104.5 (8) OffRtg: 102.9 (28) DefRtg: 106.3 (14) NetRtg: -3.3 (21)
Coby White appears to be made for the role of aggressive-but-not-so-efficient scorer off the bench, and the rookie caught fire last week. In the span of three days, he more than doubled the number of 3-pointers he's made this season, hitting seven in the fourth quarter on Tuesday as the Bulls turned an early fourth-quarter deficit into an 18-point win over the Knicks. That was their most efficient scoring game (120 points on 103 possessions) since opening night, but their offense returned to form in losses to Milwaukee and Brooklyn. They've seen one of the league's biggest jumps in pace, but they're in the bottom three in offensive efficiency for a third straight season and are the only team that ranks in the bottom 10 in field goal percentage in the paint (51.1%, 27th), mid-range field goal percentage (36.6%, 24th), and 3-point percentage (32.5%, 25th). White (43.3%) and Lauri Markkanen (45.0%) are both in the bottom 20 in effective field goal percentage among 137 players with at least 100 field goal attempts, and Markkanen has shot more effectively than the league average (51.8%) in just three of his 13 games.
Week 5: vs. MIL, vs. DET, vs. MIA, @ CHA
Last Week: 27 ↓
Pace: 102.3 (15) OffRtg: 102.9 (29) DefRtg: 111.9 (26) NetRtg: -9.0 (28)
Give the Hawks some credit for showing some fight on Sunday and not getting totally embarrassed for a second straight night at Staples Center. But after losing by 49 points to the Clippers, they were down 30-6 to the Lakers less than 24 hours later. It was so bad that Chandler Parsons (making his season debut) was a minus-10 in less than 2 1/2 minutes. After a 2-0 start, the Hawks have lost nine of their last 11 games, and after allowing less than 103 points per 100 possessions through their first seven, they've allowed more than 122 over the last six, with their opponents averaging more than 20 fast break points and shooting 41% from 3-point range over that stretch. They're going back home for three of their next four games, but the schedule doesn't ease up in regard to the strength of the opponents. The L.A. back-to-back was just Games 3 and 4 of a stretch where they're playing 10 of 11 against teams that currently have winning records.
Week 5: vs. MIL, @ DET, vs. TOR
Last Week: 30 ↑
Pace: 99.1 (27) OffRtg: 101.1 (30) DefRtg: 110.2 (22) NetRtg: -9.1 (29)
This summer, the Knicks added four players (more than any other team) who had shot better than the league average on at least 100 3-point attempts last season. After Marcus Morris' game-winner against Dallas on Thursday and a late three from RJ Barrett against Charlotte on Saturday, they're an amazing 10-for-15 on clutch threes. But, though the triangle offense is long gone, their ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts (1.7) is the third lowest in the league. The other big issue with their 30th-ranked offense is that they're the only team that has made less than half of its shots in the paint, with Barrett (44%), Bobby Portis (43%) and Morris (38%) ranking 120th, 121st and 128th, respectively, in paint shooting among 130 players with at least 50 attempts in the paint. But they did beat the Mavs twice, and for some, that might be the most important thing.
Week 5: vs. CLE, @ PHI, vs. SAS, vs. BKN
Last Week: 28 ↓
Pace: 102.4 (14) OffRtg: 105.3 (22) DefRtg: 115.6 (30) NetRtg: -10.4 (30)
With D'Angelo Russell suffering a sprained right thumb on Friday, we've come to the point where the Warriors' starting point guard is Draymond Green, not that offense has been the real problem as the Dubs' Subs have lost seven straight. They did almost end the Celtics' winning streak after Russell's injury in a game in which the league's No. 1 offense (at the time) barely scored a point per possession against the league's worst defense, but Green didn't really touch the ball as the Celtics won the game with an 11-0 run down the stretch. Back-up point guard Ky Bowman scored 19 points in the Depleted Roster Bowl on Sunday and could be an interesting project, with some juice off the dribble and jumper that looks a lot better than his hair. The 111.4 points per 100 possessions that the Warriors have scored with Bowman and Eric Paschall on the floor is the best on-court OffRtg mark among their two-man combinations that have played at least 100 minutes.
Week 5: @ MEM, @ DAL, @ UTA