Power Rankings, Week 6: Mavs rise to No. 5, Lakers hold top spot
Luka Doncic has Dallas climbing up the latest ranking of all 30 teams
Through Week 5, there are, basically, 13 good teams in the league. (We’ll keep the 8-8 Suns in that group because they still have a strong point differential – plus-2.9 per 100 possessions.)
The other 17 have been … well, not good.
It makes for an interesting landscape, one where almost every team seemingly has a lot of winnable games on the horizon. Some of those not-good teams will begin to take advantage of the others and eventually arise from the morass. But there’s no telling which of the 17 that will be. The quarter pole of the season is coming soon (next week) and every game counts.
Among the teams already taking advantage of an easy schedule is the Los Angeles Lakers, who are No. 1 in the Power Rankings for a second straight week.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: Kristaps Porzingis (DAL) was a plus-100 in four games last week.
- Wrong Way: Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. (CLE) were each a minus-66 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Denver (3-0) — The Nuggets’ first two wins came against teams – Houston and Boston – that arrived in Denver with 11-3 records. And on Sunday, Denver took care of business against the frisky Suns.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Portland (0-4) — After starting their trip with a win in San Antonio, the Blazers have lost four straight, dropping games in New Orleans and Cleveland and in desperate need of a win in Chicago on Monday.
East vs. West
- The West is 45-39 (.536) against the East in interconference games after the East went 6-5 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 5
- Toughest: 1. New Orleans, 2. Cleveland, 3. Memphis
- Easiest: 1. Indiana, 2. Dallas, 3. L.A. Lakers
- 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: Dallas (+7), Washington (+6), Chicago (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Portland (-8), Houston (-6), Boston (-4), Charlotte (-4)
Week 6 Team to Watch
- Dallas — The Mavs are on fire, with Luka Doncic having averaged 34.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 10.8 assists over their five-game winning streak, which they take into a matchup with the Clippers on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV). After that, they’ll head out for a three-game trip visiting the Suns on Friday and the Lakers on Sunday. The last time Doncic and LeBron James met, they both had 30-point triple-doubles.
- Last week: Lakers jump to No. 1, Rockets enter top 5 and Clippers face big week
- This time last year: Quarter pole a good time to assess playoff chances — Markelle Fultz’s own camp shut him down for what turned out to be the remainder of the season, and Anthony Davis recorded the first 5 x 5 game in almost three years. The Suns got their first road win of the season when Jamal Crawford hit the game-winner in Milwaukee, Danny Green hit a game-winner in Orlando, and Jimmy Butler hit his second step-back game winner in nine days.
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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 102.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.9 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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The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
Last Week: 1
Pace: 100.3 (23) OffRtg: 110.5 (8) DefRtg: 102.5 (5) NetRtg: +7.9 (3)
The Lakers have played one of the league's easiest schedules and they have three more games on a stretch of nine straight against teams with losing records. They've won seven straight, but with some defensive slippage, five of those seven wins (including each of the last three) have been within five points in the last five minutes. They're a league-best 7-1 in clutch games overall, with their opponents having scored just 58 points on their 70 clutch possessions. The biggest shots of the week were 3-pointers from Anthony Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers have shot 41% from beyond the arc - with Caldwell-Pope, Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma a combined 44-for-88 - over the winning streak. Their 3-point volume remains relatively low, but they have two of the nine guys who have averaged double-figures in the restricted area. LeBron James' 20 restricted-area points in Memphis on Saturday were a season high and tied for the second most he's had in 71 total games with the Lakers.
Week 6: @ SAS, @ NOP, vs. WAS, vs. DAL
Last Week: 3 ↑
Pace: 107.2 (1) OffRtg: 111.0 (4) DefRtg: 102.1 (2) NetRtg: +8.9 (1)
Giannis Antetokounmpo's 3-point percentage has dipped back below 30% and his free throw percentage is a career-low 59%, and it still doesn't really matter (at this point in the season, at least). The Bucks have won seven straight games, with Antetokounmpo registering at least 20 points in the paint in five of of the seven. They could have done a better job of taking care of business against some lesser opponents last week; Antetokounmpo was needed on the floor down the stretch to push the Bucks past the Bulls on Monday, after the Hawks climbed back from 19 points down on Wednesday, and when the Blazers just wouldn't go away on Thursday. But the MVP's minutes (32.6 per game) are still down a tick from last season and the schedule is still soft for another few weeks. On Monday though, the Bucks play the only team - the Jazz - that has beat them in November. That was an ugly game in which both teams scored less than a point per possession and in which Antetokounmpo shot just 4-for-9 in the restricted area (where he has shot 78% overall) with Rudy Gobert on the floor.
Week 6: vs. UTA, vs. ATL, @ CLE vs. CHA
Last Week: 4 ↑
Pace: 97.8 (30) OffRtg: 107.6 (15) DefRtg: 102.6 (6) NetRtg: +5.0 (9)
The Nuggets' defense continues to hold up. They've held seven of their last 10 opponents (including the Rockets on Wednesday) to no more than a point per possession. As was the case last season, their defense is not the best at protecting the restricted area. But the Nuggets rank second in opponent field goal percentage on other paint shots, first in opponent mid-range field goal percentage, and second in opponent 3-point percentage. Missed shots and a top-10 mark in defensive rebounding percentage should lead to opportunities to run, and the Nuggets have been efficient in transition, according to Synergy tracking. But they're going to take their time, thanks. Only 12.5% of their possessions, the league's lowest rate, have been in transition. Nikola Jokic is still dazzling us with his passing and weird shots, but only the Jazz, Magic and Pacers have played uglier games in regard to combined efficiency (team and opponents). A game against the Wizards on Tuesday should juice things up.
Week 6: vs. WAS, @ SAC
Last Week: 7 ↑
Pace: 102.7 (11) OffRtg: 110.7 (6) DefRtg: 103.8 (10) NetRtg: +6.8 (5)
The Clippers had Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell on the floor down the stretch against the Celtics on Wednesday, but it was Patrick Beverley (who made just seven of his first 49 3-point attempts of the season) that scored 12 points (all on 3-pointers) in the final 11:01 as they came back from 10 points down to win in overtime. George, Williams and Leonard provided the more conventional heroics (four buckets in the final 1:19) against the Rockets on Friday and the Clippers are 3-0 with both of their star acquisitions in the lineup. The pairing passes the eye test, but the numbers with both George and Leonard on the floor (plus-3 in 73 minutes) have been unremarkable so far and there will be more days off coming. The Clippers will play 11 of their next 15 games on the road before returning him for their Christmas Day game against the Lakers, and that stretch includes four back-to-backs. The first of the four is in Dallas and Memphis, so we may not see both George and Leonard against Luka Doncic and the league's No. 1 offense on Tuesday.
Week 6: @ DAL, @ MEM, @ SAS, vs. WAS
Last Week: 12 ↑
Pace: 100.7 (21) OffRtg: 117.4 (1) DefRtg: 108.5 (17) NetRtg: +8.9 (2)
The Mavs' wins over the Warriors and Cavs on Wednesday and Friday were the two most efficient games for any team this season, and the latter was the most efficient game (143 points on 95 possessions) for any team since the Mavs scored 140 on 92 possessions in a game against the Lakers five years ago. With another efficient performance (137 points on 111 possessions) in a big win in Houston on Sunday, they've had offensive success at whatever pace the opponent wants to play and have scored an incredible 117.4 points per 100 for the season. Both that mark and the difference between it and the league average (9.5 per 100) would qualify this as the best offensive season in the 24 years for which we have play-by-play data, topping last season's Warriors (115.0 per 100) and the 2003-04 Mavs (9.0 more than the league average), respectively. These Mavs have played twice as many games against bottom-10 defenses (eight) as they've played against top-10 defenses (four) and will face two of the latter in a couple of marquee games this week (Tuesday against the Clippers and Sunday against the Lakers).
Week 6: vs. LAC, @ PHX, @ LAL
Last Week: 2 ↓
Pace: 101.0 (18) OffRtg: 108.9 (11) DefRtg: 102.1 (3) NetRtg: +6.8 (6)
Before they left for their five-game trip, the Celtics had the league's No. 1 offense, having scored more than 116 points per 100 possessions over their previous nine games. Now, they rank 11th offensively, having scored less than a point per possession - with Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker all shooting less than 40% - in going 2-3 on the trip. More concerning is the condition of Walker after a nasty collision with Semi Ojeleye in Denver on Friday, though back-up Brad Wanamaker has had his best stretch of basketball in his 13 months with the Celtics. He's totaled 38 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 60%) and 15 assists (with only five turnovers) over the last three games. The Cs have come back to earth a bit, but they were a possession away from beating (and defended pretty well against) the two-star Clippers on the road on Wednesday.
Week 6: vs. SAC, vs. BKN, @ BKN, @ NYK
Last Week: 11 ↑
Pace: 101.2 (17) OffRtg: 108.2 (13) DefRtg: 103.1 (8) NetRtg: +5.1 (8)
Saturday's game against the Heat was the Sixers' first against one of the other good teams in the Eastern Conference since their opening-night rock fight with the Celtics. And it was another display of the full strength of the Philadelphia defense (unmatched size enhanced with strong effort and communication), which held Miami to just 59 points on 72 possessions through the first three quarters. The Sixers' offense has had its best five-game stretch of the season - 115 points scored per 100 possessions, 42% from 3-point range, and their top six scorers all shooting 50% or better - just in time for their first trip north of the border since their Game 7 heartbreak in May. Ben Simmons didn't need four bounces to make his shot from the right corner on Wednesday.
Week 6: @ TOR, vs. SAC, @ NYK, vs. IND
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 102.2 (13) OffRtg: 110.5 (7) DefRtg: 103.2 (9) NetRtg: +7.3 (4)
The Raptors have two of the eight league-wide lineups (their starters with and without Kyle Lowry) that have played at least 100 minutes and outscored their opponents by more than 10 points per 100 possessions. And their bench (the guys that Nick Nurse had a tough time trusting early in the season) continues to show improvement. Terence Davis totaled 35 points (shooting 7-for-10 from 3-point range) in wins over Charlotte and Orlando last week, Chris Boucher has averaged a double-double in less than 18 minutes over their three-game winning streak, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ranks in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage and in the top 20 in deflections per 36 minutes. According to aggregate (estimated) NetRtg, only the Mavs' bench has been better than that of the champs, which should get Serge Ibaka (who has missed the last seven games with an ankle injury) back this week as the schedule gets a little tougher. The Raptors host the Sixers on Monday and after facing the Knicks and Magic, they'll play four straight games against teams that currently have winning records.
Week 6: vs. PHI, vs. NYK, @ ORL, vs. UTA
Last Week: 6 ↓
Pace: 101.5 (16) OffRtg: 108.2 (14) DefRtg: 102.5 (4) NetRtg: +5.7 (7)
The winner of the first quarter has won each of Heat's last 13 games, and the Heat have continued to take care of business (early) against bad teams. Their starting lineup has allowed just 91 points per 100 possessions in its 118 minutes together, they've had the league's second best first-quarter offense (114.9 per 100), and they won the first quarter by a cumulative score of 157-99 over their five-game winning streak. But their offense has looked rather anemic in its last three games (all on the road) against top-10 defenses (those of the Nuggets, Lakers and Sixers), scoring less than 91 per 100 in all three. Three nights after dropping a career-high 29 points on his old coach, Duncan Robinson was 0-for-6 in Philly on Saturday, an illustration of how the Heat have struggled from 3-point range (24%, with Robinson 1-for-15 and Jimmy Butler 0-for-9) in those three losses.
Week 6: vs. CHA, @ HOU, vs. GSW, @ BKN
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 100.8 (20) OffRtg: 105.6 (21) DefRtg: 101.4 (1) NetRtg: +4.2 (11)
The Jazz's visit to Milwaukee on Monday is the start of their longest road trip of the season (five games in eight days). The question is whether they'll have the two-time Defensive Player of the Year to protect the rim against the reigning MVP. With Rudy Gobert (sprained left ankle) out on Saturday, the Jazz had both their worst defensive game of the season and their best offensive game of the season, with Utah and New Orleans combining for 147 points on 117 possessions (1.26 per) with Jeff Green at center (behind replacement starter Tony Bradley). The Jazz have had a couple of clunkers offensively (like their loss to the Wolves last Monday), but have generally been trending in the right direction on that end of the floor. Donovan Mitchell has averaged 27.4 points as the Jazz have scored 111 points per 100 possessions over their last seven games, despite the continued shooting struggles of Joe Ingles. Maybe he's having issues with coming off the bench, but Ingles hasn't shot well (he's 5-for-18) in his minutes on the floor (in place of Royce O'Neale) with the other four starters.
Week 6: @ MIL, @ IND, @ MEM, @ TOR
Last Week: 5 ↓
Pace: 105.9 (2) OffRtg: 111.7 (3) DefRtg: 108.7 (18) NetRtg: +3.1 (12)
With a tough stretch of schedule, with a lack of depth, and with opponents defending James Harden more aggressively, the Rockets have lost three straight games for the first time since last December. Their losses to the Nuggets, Clippers and Mavs last week came with three of Harden's five lowest usage rates of the season, and the Rockets are now 1-4 when he's registered a usage rate lower than 36%. Rockets not named Harden have shot 29% from 3-point range over the losing streak and Russell Westbrook has shot a brutal 23% from beyond the arc for the season. The Houston offense has scored 108.6 points per 100 possessions in 364 minutes with both Harden and Westbrook on the floor, 102.8 in 138 minutes with Westbrook on the floor without Harden, and 115.1 in 270 minutes with Harden on the floor without Westbrook.
Week 6: vs. MIA, vs. ATL
Last Week: 14 ↑
Pace: 99.7 (26) OffRtg: 107.3 (17) DefRtg: 102.7 (7) NetRtg: +4.6 (10)
Last season, the Pacers had the league's biggest differential between their record against the 15 teams that finished at or below .500 (35-9) and their record against the 15 teams that finished over .500 (13-25). They're taking care of business again, now 9-4 (after an 0-3 start) against teams currently at or below .500, having thumped the Nets in Brooklyn on Monday and held off the Magic on Saturday. The latter win was their first (after an 0-3 start) in a game that was within five points in the last five minutes, and it was the Holiday connection (Justin to Aaron) that put them ahead in the closing seconds. The younger Holiday has averaged 14.0 points on an effective field goal percentage of 54% in eight games as a starter, and will have some fun matchups - Ja Morant, Mike Conley and Trae Young - at the point as the Pacers complete their four-game homestand, with Malcolm Brogdon (back) back to help in the backcourt. Indiana has outscored its opponents by more than 15 points per 100 possessions in 121 total minutes with Brogdon and Aaron Holiday on the floor together.
Week 6: vs. MEM, vs. UTA, vs. ATL, @ PHI
Last Week: 10 ↓
Pace: 103.0 (10) OffRtg: 109.8 (9) DefRtg: 106.9 (14) NetRtg: +2.9 (13)
The Suns' win in Minnesota on Saturday, in which they held on after shooting 6-for-26 in the fourth quarter, was an important one against a team they're currently tied with in the standings. But it was also the only win in their five-games-in-seven-days stretch in which they were clearly missing Aron Baynes (for the last four games) and Ricky Rubio (for all but 16 minutes of the five). Elie Okobo and Cheick Diallo gave them some life off the bench in Denver on Sunday, but they've been outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions in 223 total minutes with replacement starters Tyler Johnson and Frank Kaminsky on the floor together. Time will tell if the 1-4 week was the start of the downfall or just a hiccup fueled by a couple of key injuries, but the Suns have a good chance to rebound, with only two of their next 10 games against teams that currently have winning records. They had won their first six games against the 18 teams currently at or below .500 before losses to the Kings and Pelicans last week.
Week 6: vs. WAS, vs. DAL
Last Week: 13 ↓
Pace: 105.6 (3) OffRtg: 105.5 (22) DefRtg: 107.1 (15) NetRtg: -1.6 (18)
On Monday in Utah, the Wolves got a big win, behind a big game (29 points, 7-for-15 from 3-point range) from Karl-Anthony Towns and a big spark (14 points, plus-21 in 24 minutes) from two-way player Kelan Martin. But they blew a six-point, fourth-quarter lead in the second half of the home-and-home and have lost four straight at the Target Center, having lost the first and third quarters in all four of those games. Lineup continuity has been an issue; Their four returning starters - Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington and Towns - have played together in just one of their 12 games in November. But Covington's absence (along with Noah Vonleh's ineffectiveness as a spot starter) on Saturday did lead to a long look at a Towns-Jordan Bell frontline, which was a plus-8 (with Phoenix scoring just 21 points on 30 possessions) in less than 16 minutes. The Wolves are the only team with a losing record (3-6) at home and a winning record (5-2) on the road, where they'll play six of their next seven games.
Week 6: @ ATL, @ SAS, vs. MEM
Last Week: 19 ↑
Pace: 104.1 (7) OffRtg: 107.2 (18) DefRtg: 108.4 (16) NetRtg: -1.2 (17)
The Nets have allowed just 102.3 points per 100 possessions (a top-five mark) over their last six games, climbing from 26th to 16th in defensive efficiency over that stretch. They haven't forced as many mid-range shots as they were previously (though the Knicks were happy to indulge on Sunday), but they've forced a few more turnovers (14.6 per 100 possessions vs. a league-low 12.0 over their first 10) and they've held their opponents under 50% shooting in the paint (something only the Bucks and Raptors have done for the full season) over the six games. The quality of the opposing offenses hasn't been great and Kyrie Irving (who has missed the last five games) will have to prove that he can contribute defensively when he returns some time after his new team visits Boston on Wednesday. A three-game winning streak has the Nets at .500, but they're in the middle of their second back-to-back of the season (the first came with a loss in Detroit in the second game) and will have three tougher games later in the week.
Week 6: @ CLE, @ BOS, vs. BOS, vs. MIA
Last Week: 18 ↑
Pace: 99.0 (27) OffRtg: 106.7 (19) DefRtg: 110.2 (20) NetRtg: -3.6 (23)
The Kings are still without De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley (who will be reevaluated after the trip that ends in Philly on Wednesday), but they've won seven of the nine November games in which they've had Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has an effective field goal percentage of 65.2% (best among 116 players with at least 100 field goal attempts) this month. The 7-3 mark in 10 total November games, over which they rank fifth offensively, has taken them to within a half game of the eighth-place Wolves and they appear to be in good shape long term, having played one of the league's toughest schedules and bound to get healthier. But Bogdanovic is still dealing with the hamstring issue that kept him out of their loss in Brooklyn on Friday and this week's opponents have a cumulative record of 34-12. The Kings beat Boston eight days ago, but the Celtics will have a rest advantage on Monday.
Week 6: @ BOS, @ PHI, vs. DEN
Last Week: 16 ↓
Pace: 100.9 (19) OffRtg: 105.6 (20) DefRtg: 106.0 (12) NetRtg: -0.4 (14)
The Thunder were right there with the Clippers and Lakers (twice) last week; All three games were within two points in the final minute. But the three losses dropped OKC to 0-6 on the road, 4-8 in games that were within five in the last five, and 1-5 in a stretch of six straight games against teams no worse than the 9-6 Pacers. Now they'll play four straight against teams with losing records, with a decent chance to get their first road win on Monday in San Francisco. They got some good bench minutes last week (Dennis Schroder was a team-best plus-17 over the three games), but their starting lineup allowed more than 122 points per 100 possessions in its 38 minutes against the two L.A. teams. Among the 18 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes this season, only the Wizards' starting lineup (121.4 points allowed per 100) have been worse defensively than the that of the Thunder (117.0), who continue to await an eventual return from Andre Roberson.
Week 6: @ GSW, @ POR, vs. NOP, @ NOP
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 98.5 (29) OffRtg: 103.6 (29) DefRtg: 104.7 (11) NetRtg: -1.1 (16)
Last season, the Magic were able to wait until February to make their run at a playoff spot. And according to the standings, they remain in the Eastern Conference. So they can probably survive ankle injuries to Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic (both suffered in the second quarter of their loss in Toronto on Wednesday). The spotlight turns to Jonathan Isaac, who had a career-high 25 points (with several coming as a weak-side floor spacer), nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks as the Magic lost a nail-biter in Indiana on Saturday. Though the Magic have been outscored by 10.8 points per 100 possessions in 275 total minutes with either Mo Bamba or Khem Birch on the floor, Isaac has played just 13 minutes (none on Saturday) at center. Some offense from Al-Farouq Aminu - one of the league's more disappointing free agent additions, shooting just 31% - might give Steve Clifford a little more confidence in an Isaac-at-the-five look. The Magic are 0-6 on the road, but get to finish their four-game trip in Detroit and Cleveland.
Week 6: @ DET, @ CLE, vs. TOR, vs. GSW
Last Week: 21 ↑
Pace: 105.0 (4) OffRtg: 109.7 (10) DefRtg: 114.0 (28) NetRtg: -4.2 (24)
With only six teams over .500 in the West, the Pelicans' injuries haven't put them in a hole that they can't climb out of. They rebounded from a 1-7 start with a 5-2 stretch in which they showed an ability to put some points on the board. They're the only team that ranks in the top five in both 3-point percentage (38.2%, fourth) and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (42.0%, fifth). Brandon Ingram's improvement has mostly come from the outside and J.J. Redick is 36-for-73 (49%) from beyond the arc in his eight games since being moved back into the starting lineup, where he should probably stay no matter who else is healthy. The question is if this team can take any kind of step forward on defense, where they allowed more than 123 points per 100 possessions (putting the Suns, Jazz and Clippers on the line for 98 total free throw attempts) over a three-game trip which ended with losses to two of those six good teams in the West.
Week 6: vs. LAL, @ OKC, vs. OKC
Last Week: 26 ↑
Pace: 104.9 (5) OffRtg: 113.6 (2) DefRtg: 114.6 (29) NetRtg: -1.0 (15)
With a 2-1 week, the Wizards rose from 14th to ninth place in the Eastern Conference and within a half game of the eighth-place Magic. They got the two wins (over the Spurs and Hornets) with comebacks from two double-digit, second-half deficits and over a five-game stretch, they scored almost 140 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter, with Bradley Beal totaling 53 points, 11 assists and just one turnover in his 48 fourth-quarter minutes over the five games. But Beal didn't get much help (and missed all four of his 3-point attempts) in the fourth quarter against Sacramento on Sunday. We'll see if a more fatiguing schedule takes a toll on the Wizards' second-ranked offense. Through Monday, they will have played just 14 games (fewest in the league) in the first 35 days of the season. And now they'll play half as many (seven) over an 11-day stretch starting with their game in Denver on Tuesday, which is also the start of a stretch (that ends the day after Christmas) where they're playing 12 of 16 on the road.
Week 6: @ DEN, @ PHX, @ LAL, @ LAC
Last Week: 20 ↓
Pace: 102.0 (14) OffRtg: 110.7 (5) DefRtg: 113.1 (26) NetRtg: -2.4 (19)
Madison Square Garden is a good place for an ailing team to feel better, and facing the Knicks' 30th-ranked offense is a good way for a bad defense to have its best game (statistically) in three weeks. The Spurs almost blew a 28-point lead on Saturday, but they put an end to their longest losing streak - eight games in which they allowed more than 121 points per 100 possessions - in 23 seasons under Gregg Popovich. Though they play the Lakers and Clippers on Monday and Friday, the next three weeks, with six of their eight games at home and another (against the Suns in Mexico City) at a neutral site, could be their best (or last) chance at saving their playoff streak. They've staggered the minutes of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge in two of the last three games (on Wednesday and Saturday) more than they had previously.
Week 6: vs. LAL, vs. MIN, vs. LAC, @ DET
Last Week: 27 ↑
Pace: 103.5 (8) OffRtg: 104.1 (27) DefRtg: 106.8 (13) NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
Zach LaVine had an interesting weekend, being subbed out unusually early by Jim Boylen as the Bulls were getting hammered by the Heat on Friday, saying "it's hard to trust someone who doesn't trust you" in the wake of that game, and then hitting 13 threes (including the ridiculous game-winner) in a miracle win in Charlotte on Saturday. LaVine has taken his ratio of 3-point attempts to mid-range attempts from 1.6 last season to 4.5 this season, and his 39.6% on pull-up threes is the third best mark among the 11 guys who have attempted at least 50. But the Bulls have been 13.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him off the floor (96.4 allowed) than they've been with him on the floor (109.9) and his effective field goal percentage is still down from last season, because he has shot just 45% in the paint (down from 55%). The door is still wide open for the Bulls to move up in the Eastern Conference. They play their next six games against the West, but all six are against teams - Portland (twice), Golden State (twice), Sacramento and Memphis - with losing records.
Week 6: vs. POR, @ GSW, @ POR
Last Week: 24 ↑
Pace: 100.0 (24) OffRtg: 107.6 (16) DefRtg: 110.9 (21) NetRtg: -3.4 (22)
After losing their first three games with their star (and five straight overall), Blake Griffin and the Pistons broke out offensively against Atlanta on Friday. Griffin led seven guys in double-figures with 24 points (getting to the basket off the dribble often) and Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard combined to dish out 16 assists as Detroit registered its highest effective field goal percentage (70%) since Nov. of 1994 (when Joe Dumars hit 10 threes against the Wolves). Griffin sat the second game of a back-to-back (in Milwaukee) on Saturday, but this week's schedule (with no back-to-backs) provides an opportunity for the Pistons to keep things going, climb out of the bottom 10 on defense (where they ranked 12th last season), and beat a couple of teams that are ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Week 6: vs. ORL, @ CHA, vs. CHA, vs. SAS
Last Week: 23 ↓
Pace: 99.8 (25) OffRtg: 104.4 (25) DefRtg: 112.0 (24) NetRtg: -7.6 (27)
Going into their game against Portland on Saturday, the Cavs didn't just have a six-game losing streak. They had trailed each of their last five games by at least 27 points and allowed the Mavs to register the most efficient game (more than 1.5 points per possession) in five years on Friday. But apparently, the Blazers are in worse shape than the Cavs, who (without Kevin Love) got a big game from their bench to end both their six-game streak and an 11-game losing streak (going back to February) against the Western Conference. Jordan Clarkson led the way with 28 points (on just nine shots and 12 free throw attempts) and is registering a career-high true shooting percentage of 57.6%. He has more than doubled his free throw rate (38.1 attempts per 100 shots from the field) from last season (16.3) and, after attempting more than 200 mid-range shots in each of his last four seasons, he's attempted only 10 this season.
Week 6: vs. BKN, vs. ORL, vs. MIL
Last Week: 17 ↓
Pace: 103.4 (9) OffRtg: 108.4 (12) DefRtg: 111.6 (22) NetRtg: -3.2 (21)
The Blazers are in a bad way, and neither the arrival of Carmelo Anthony nor the return of Damian Lillard (from a two-game absence) was enough to resolve their issues, which start on defense. Over their four-game losing streak, they've allowed their opponents to averaged 45.5 points per game in the restricted area, where the league averages 35.9 and the Blazers themselves average just 29.6 points per game (29th). Anthony looked decisive in his debut, the Blazers were running plays for him early and often, and his 18 points helped them hang around with the Bucks on Thursday. But overall, both his own numbers and those of his team with him on the floor look a lot like they did last season in Houston. Over the last 20 full seasons, no Western Conference team that has won fewer than seven of its first 20 games has gone on to make the playoffs. The Blazers certainly have the opportunity to get to seven over their next three, but they'll have to start playing better than they did in a loss to the Love-less Cavs on Saturday.
Week 6: @ CHI, vs. OKC, vs. CHI
Last Week: 22 ↓
Pace: 100.4 (22) OffRtg: 105.2 (24) DefRtg: 112.7 (25) NetRtg: -7.5 (26)
The Hornets were probably due for some bad luck, given that, even after losing their previous three games, their record strongly belied their point differential. But what happened in the final 10 seconds on Saturday was the work of the most ruthless of the basketball gods. The good news is that we can no longer say that they've trailed every game by double-digits, because they never trailed by more than seven in Washington on Friday. They committed seven turnovers as they were outscored, 29-9, over the final 8:33 to turn a 13-point lead into a seven-point loss. Terry Rozier (effective field goal percentage of 50.4%) hasn't shot much worse than Kemba Walker did last season (51.1%), but neither Rozier (13.5 turnovers per 100 possessions used) nor Devonte' Graham (12.6) have taken care of the ball nearly as well as Walker did (8.2). As a team, the Hornets have seen, by far, the league's biggest jump in turnover percentage from last season, from 12.2 per 100 possessions (second) to 16.8 (27th).
Week 6: @ MIA, vs. DET, @ DET, @ MIL
Last Week: 25 ↓
Pace: 104.4 (6) OffRtg: 103.8 (28) DefRtg: 111.8 (23) NetRtg: -8.0 (28)
Through their first six games, the Grizzlies ranked last in 3-point percentage at 26.5%. Since then, with Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Marko Guduric and Jaren Jackson Jr. all shooting better than 43% on at least 25 attempts, only the Raptors and Knicks have shot better than the Grizzlies (40.4%) from 3-point range. They hit 14 threes to hang with the Lakers on Saturday, but missed their last three attempts from beyond the arc to finish 1-3 on a four-game homestand. Ja Morant has averaged 21.4 points over his last five games and has made his bones with his drives to the basket (this and-one in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Lakers was particularly ridiculous), but he could afford to shoot more from deep, having made 13 of his 31 attempts thus far.
Week 6: @ IND, vs. LAC, vs. UTA, @ MIN
Last Week: 29 ↑
Pace: 98.7 (28) OffRtg: 103.4 (30) DefRtg: 110.1 (19) NetRtg: -6.7 (25)
The Knicks have a knack for the comeback, folks. (And that will be it for the Clyde-isms this week.) After blowing a 17-point lead in Philly on Wednesday, they came back from 28 points down to get within seven with a few minutes left against the Spurs on Saturday. And a night later, they came back from 11 down in the fourth to get within one against the Nets. Both comebacks fell short, but the Knicks might make note of how well (and how often) they've shot from 3-point range to get back in those games. They're the only team that ranks in the top 10 in 3-point percentage - they rank sixth at 37.8%, with Marcus Morris the only player who has shot better than 50% on at least 50 attempts - and in the bottom 10 in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (25th at 33.8%). That latter number has increased with each quarter, from less than 27% in the first (when they've scored an anemic 90.8 points per 100 possessions) to 41% in the fourth. At the end of this week, they will have played half of their 16 games within the Atlantic Division, having gone 0-5 within the division thus far.
Week 6: @ TOR, vs. PHI, vs. BOS
Last Week: 28 ↓
Pace: 102.6 (12) OffRtg: 104.4 (26) DefRtg: 113.9 (27) NetRtg: -9.6 (29)
As the Hawks have lost six straight games, De'Andre Hunter has provided some hope for the future. The No. 4 pick has averaged a team-best 23.7 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 65% over the last three, showing a deft catch-and-shoot game as the Hawks hung around with the champs on Saturday. Alas, Hunter has yet to make the defensive impact that the Hawks were hoping for (he ranks below Jabari Parker in deflections per 36 minutes), and this has been the league's worst defensive team (by a wide margin) in November. Six of their 11 November games have come against top-10 offenses, but they face two more of those (on the road) this week. Trae Young broke out of a slump (7-for-33 from 3-point range over his previous five games) and recorded his second career triple-double (30, 10 and 10) against Toronto.
Week 6: vs. MIN, @ MIL, @ IND, @ HOU
Last Week: 30
Pace: 102.0 (15) OffRtg: 105.3 (23) DefRtg: 115.9 (30) NetRtg: -10.6 (30)
The Warriors still move and move the ball. They're one of five teams that rank in the top 10 in both player movement (they rank sixth at 11.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and ball movement (second at 386 passes per 24 minutes of possession), according to Second Spectrum tracking. They had 33 assists on 43 buckets as they ended a seven-game losing streak with a win in Memphis on Tuesday. The young guys are more intriguing, but Alec Burks is a vet for whom this situation (the Warriors had just eight healthy bodies on Wednesday and Friday) has provided an opportunity to return to relevance. His five games of 20 or more points (with 29 in that win in Memphis) are his most since the 2015-16 season and his free throw rate (43 attempts per 100 shots from the field) ranks 18th among 186 players with at least 100 field goal attempts.
Week 6: vs. OKC, vs. CHI, @ MIA, @ ORL