Power Rankings
Power Rankings

Power Rankings, Week 8: Raptors drop champs, ascend to No. 1 again

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Dec 3, 2018 11:49 AM ET

Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

As we passed the quarter pole of the 2018-19 season, some disappointing teams started to find their footing.

A week ago, the Boston Celtics were 10-10, struggling to find a lineup that would work and/or some consistency on offense. Suddenly, the Celtics have won three straight games, their best offensive stretch of the season.

The Houston Rockets went from the best record in the league last season to 9-11 through their first 20 games in 2018-19, unable to defend at nearly the same level. But they got Chris Paul back over the weekend and are now 11-6 with him in the lineup.

The Philadelphia 76ers, 9-7 after their first game with Jimmy Butler, have won eight of their last nine. And the Minnesota Timberwolves have put themselves in the Western Conference playoff race with a 7-3 mark since the trade.

The teams that have surprised us early in the season -- the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, LA Clippers and Sacramento Kings -- have yet to really fall off. So, while we're supposed to know who's good and who's not by now, things seem more in flux than they usually are, making December a critical month for most of the league.

Previously...

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Denver (2-0) -- The Nuggets beat the Lakers by 32 points on Tuesday and got an important win in Portland on Friday, improving to 10-4 within the Western Conference
  • Something Just Ain't Right: Phoenix (0-4) -- The Suns lost their four games by an average of 14.8 points. The only close one was the one in which they hosted the shorthanded Pacers.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 7

  • Toughest: 1. Phoenix, 2. Utah, 3. Sacramento
  • Easiest: 1. Detroit, 2. Toronto, 3. Miami
  • 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: Boston (+7), Detroit (+6), 3 teams (+3)
  • Free falls of the week: Portland (-6), Orlando (-5), Memphis (-3), Milwaukee (-3)

Week 8 Team to Watch

  • New Orleans -- The 12-12 Pelicans can seemingly go in any direction with a big, three-game homestand beginning Monday, when they host the 15-7 Clippers. They then get visits from the 11-10 Mavs (Wednesday) and the 13-9 Grizzlies (Friday), before heading for an interesting road back-to-back in Detroit (Sunday) and Boston (next Monday).

* * *

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)

The league has averaged 101.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.5 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

Any stats marked with an * below are based on an estimate for possessions. All other stats are based on true possession counts.

* * *

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.

* * *

1
Last week:
3

Record: 20-4
Pace: 101.1 (14) OffRtg: 114.6 (2) DefRtg: 106.4 (9) NetRtg: +8.2 (2)

The Raptors have won eight straight games, with their victory in Memphis on Tuesday (in which they came back from 17 points down in the third quarter) qualifying as their best road win of the season. They did barely hold on at home against a Warriors team that was without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. But how well their starting frontline held up, given the inexperience of one guy and the 2018 playoff performance of the other, was certainly encouraging. Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka combined for 46 points on 16-for-23 shooting on Thursday and the Raptors outscored the champs by 14 points in 35 minutes with the pair on the floor together. They are two of seven players who have shot 75 percent or better on at least 75 shots in the restricted area, and they've combined to shoot 50 percent elsewhere in the paint (where the league average is less than 40 percent). Their tough stretch of schedule continues with three great matchups at Scotiabank Arena this week.

Week 8: vs. DEN, vs. PHI, @ BKN, vs. MIL

2
Last week:
4

Record: 15-7
Pace: 98.6 (27) OffRtg: 111.3 (9) DefRtg: 103.8 (3) NetRtg: +7.6 (3)

The Nuggets' five-game winning streak couldn't be much more impressive. Three of the wins have come on the road against opponents -- Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Portland -- that are otherwise 26-8 at home. The other two have been by a combined 57 points. They were without Gary Harris against the Thunder and Lakers last week, but he returned to score 27 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 17 seconds left in Portland on Friday. The winning streak has been the highest-scoring (17.8 points per game) and best-shooting (effective field goal percentage of 69 percent) five-game stretch of the season for Paul Millsap, who got off to a slow start offensively. The Nuggets are the only team that has yet to trail by 20 points this season.

Week 8: @ TOR, @ ORL, @ CHA, @ ATL

3
Last week:
2

Record: 15-7
Pace: 102.9 (8) OffRtg: 112.5 (4) DefRtg: 107.5 (13) NetRtg: +4.9 (5)

The Clippers' fourth-ranked offense had its worst game since October on Sunday, scoring just 110 points on 106 possessions in Dallas, despite Lou Williams ending a string of 12 straight games in which he made less than half his shots. Williams' effective field goal percentage of 43.5 percent is a career low, but he hasn't needed to carry the offense as much as he did last season, when the Clips were almost 13 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor than they were with him off the floor. Danilo Gallinari (28 points on just 10 shots against Phoenix on Wednesday) and Tobias Harris (28 points on 17 shots in Sacramento on Friday) both had big games last week and Montrezl Harrell has been more efficient in almost nine more minutes per game than he played last season. The Clips rank 28th in the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range, but Williams, Gallinari and Harrell all rank in the top 12 in made free throws per 36 minutes and Harrell ranks second in points in the paint per 36.

Week 8: @ NOP, @ MEM, vs. MIA

4
Last week:
1

Record: 15-7
Pace: 104.0 (5) OffRtg: 115.5 (1) DefRtg: 106.0 (6) NetRtg: +9.6 (1)

With a big week of games on tap, the Bucks are showing signs of slippage. The last five games have been their worst defensive stretch of the season (114.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), even though three of the opponents -- Phoenix, Chicago and New York -- rank in the bottom 10 offensively. They continue to protect the rim pretty well, but fouls have been a problem, a couple of opponents have caught fire from 3-point range, and they remain in the bottom five in regard to forcing turnovers. Malcolm Brogdon is 17-for-25 from 3-point range over the five games, but defensive breakdowns got Khris Middleton (who hit the game-winning shot three nights earlier) benched for all of the fourth quarter and overtime in a brutal loss at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Week 8: vs. DET, GSW, @ TOR

5
Last week:
5

Record: 14-7
Pace: 102.8 (9) OffRtg: 107.9 (17) DefRtg: 101.4 (1) NetRtg: +6.5 (4)

The Thunder certainly didn't have the toughest November schedule (only three of their 15 November opponents are currently over .500), but they took care of business, going 12-3 with the league's best November point differential per 100 possessions (plus-10.5) by a healthy margin. They rank No. 1 defensively and the last five games have been their best defensive stretch of the season (95.5 points allowed per 100 possessions), despite some lineup inconsistency (four different starters alongside Russell Westbrook in the backcourt). Westbrook seems to have found his shot, going 18-for-32 (while totaling 28 rebounds and 25 assists) in wins over the Cavs and Hawks last week. But there was some bad news, with Andre Roberson suffering another setback in his return from his left knee injury.

Week 8: @ DET, @ BKN, @ CHI

6
Last week:
9

Record: 17-8
Pace: 103.1 (7) OffRtg: 108.8 (11) DefRtg: 106.8 (11) NetRtg: +2.0 (11)

The Sixers' first five wins with Jimmy Butler were all within three points in the final minute, and Butler surely showed his value in the clutch. But easy wins are nice too, and the Sixers finally got a couple of those (over the Knicks and Wizards) last week. With their win over the Grizzlies (Butler's highest usage-rate game in his time with Philly) on Sunday, the Sixers have won eight of their last nine and have gone from their worst stretch of defense since the start of last season (five games in which they allowed 122 points per 100 possessions) to holding three straight opponents under a point per possession for the first time since February. So it's a good time for a visit to Toronto (on Wednesday), where they had one of their worst defensive games of the season (and trailed by as many as 26 points) back in October.

Week 8: @ TOR, @ DET

7
Last week:
13

Record: 13-7
Pace: 100.6 (20) OffRtg: 108.6 (13) DefRtg: 106.3 (8) NetRtg: +2.3 (10)

The Pistons are 5-0 on their homestand that ends Monday, having shut down the Warriors' offense (with Stephen Curry back on the floor) on Saturday. They've played one of the league's easiest schedules thus far and still rank just sixth in the East in point differential, but a 9-2 stretch has them sitting comfortably in the top four in the conference, with wins over the champs and the team (Toronto) with the league's best record. The common theme in those two games? The Raptors and Warriors shot 4-for-20 and 6-for-26 from 3-point range, respectively. The Pistons rank No. 1 in opponent 3-point percentage and have seen the league's second biggest drop in the percentage of their opponent shots that have come from 3-point range. A tough week ahead includes their first meeting with the Bucks, who are tied for the league lead with 14.6 made 3-pointers per game.

Week 8: vs. OKC, @ MIL, vs. PHI, vs. NOP

8
Last week:
6

Record: 15-9
Pace: 100.8 (17) OffRtg: 113.9 (3) DefRtg: 109.7 (18) NetRtg: +4.3 (6)

With Kevin Durant catching fire (and getting to the line quite a bit) over the last few games of November, the Warriors ranked 11th offensively over Stephen Curry's 11-game absence, not to their standards (and they came up empty in Detroit upon Curry's return on Saturday), but not terrible. Since Draymond Green started missing games, the champs rank 26th defensively (27th in both opponent turnover percentage and opponent offensive rebounding percentage) and Green now has a bigger on-off-court differential on defense (the Warriors have been 10.3 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the floor) than Curry has on offense (7.6). Games against two of the league's four worst teams on Monday and Wednesday should bring an end to their six-game road losing streak, but it doesn't sound like they'll have Green back before they visit the league's No. 1 offense on Friday.

Week 8: @ ATL, @ CLE, @ MIL

9
Last week:
10

Record: 14-9
Pace: 104.1 (4) OffRtg: 108.0 (15) DefRtg: 106.1 (7) NetRtg: +1.9 (12)

At this point, it's hard to deny the Tyson Chandler effect. The Lakers don't just rank second defensively since Chandler joined them 3 1/2 weeks ago. Over their current three-game winning streak, they've outscored their opponents by 54 points in Chandler's 65 minutes (recovering from brutal starts against the Mavs and Kings over the weekend) and have been outscored by 11 points otherwise. There might be a link between Chandler's reserve role and how, over the last five games, the Lakers have scored just 92.6 points per 100 possessions in 122 minutes with both LeBron James and Brandon Ingram on the floor, but 113.5 in 88 minutes with one on the floor without the other. Though Josh Hart has scored more than six points just once in the last eight games, the Lakers' offense continues to be at its best with him on the floor.

Week 8: vs. SAS, @ SAS, @ MEM

10
Last week:
11

Record: 11-10
Pace: 101.3 (13) OffRtg: 108.7 (12) DefRtg: 107.1 (12) NetRtg: +1.6 (13)

With Maxi Kleber (knee soreness) out on Friday, the Mavs lost some of their bench magic, blew an early 15-point lead to the Lakers, and saw J.J. Barea's seven-game winning streak come to an end. But without both Kleber and Luka Doncic on Sunday, Barea (24 points) and Harrison Barnes (30) both had season highs, Dorian Finney-Smith got the game-winning tip-in, and Dennis Smith Jr. made, perhaps, the best defensive play of his career (blocking Tobias Harris in the post), having lost a tooth to the overzealousness of Patrick Beverley earlier in the second half. (Somewhere, Russell Westbrook is nodding his head.) The Mavs are 2-1 in this critical stretch of six straight games against opponents that are also in the top 10 in the West, with seven guys averaging double-figures over the three so far.

Week 8: vs. POR, @ NOP, vs. HOU

11
Last week:
8

Record: 13-9
Pace: 96.5 (30) OffRtg: 106.2 (23) DefRtg: 104.8 (5) NetRtg: +1.5 (14)

The Grizzlies know drama. Twelve of their last 13 games have been within five points in the last five minutes, and the highlight of that stretch came in Brooklyn on Friday, when Jaren Jackson Jr. scored seven of his 36 points in the final 27 seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime, where Mike Conley scored 17 of their 20 points (outscoring the Nets by himself in the second OT). If it weren't for the rookie's heroics, the Grizz would have a five-game losing streak, because they've shot 2-for-13 on clutch 3-pointers in their other four games over the last 10 days. They've trailed at halftime only four times this season, and two of the four were their two games against Philadelphia. They knocked the Sixers out of the top 10 in offensive efficiency on Sunday, but will play seven of their next nine games against teams that remain in the top 10.

Week 8: vs. LAC, @ NOP, vs. LAL

12
Last week:
19

Record: 13-10
Pace: 100.2 (22) OffRtg: 107.1 (20) DefRtg: 103.1 (2) NetRtg: +4.0 (7)

The Celtics' offense is alive! They've scored 125 points per 100 possessions over a three-game winning streak, three of their four best offensive games of the season. Most encouraging, obviously, were Gordon Hayward's 30 points, 10 free throw attempts, and eight assists in Minnesota on Saturday. The most noteworthy thing might be that the improvement has coincided with Marcus Smart's move into the starting lineup (in place of the injured Jaylen Brown). Smart has totaled just 26 points, but has 15 assists and just one turnover, and the Celtics' offense has been at its best (130 points scored per 100 possessions) with Smart on the floor over the three games. The opposing defenses have not been good (though the Wolves have been much improved on that end of the floor) and will continue to be not good for the next week and a half. The Celtics' next five opponents all rank in the bottom 12 defensively.

Week 8: vs. NYK, @ CHI

13
Last week:
7

Record: 13-10
Pace: 100.8 (18) OffRtg: 111.6 (8) DefRtg: 110.4 (21) NetRtg: +1.2 (16)

The Blazers haven't lost to a bad team since October, and they are an open C.J. McCollum jumper from beating the streaking Nuggets on Friday. But they're 3-7 over the last three weeks, allowing a league-worst 118.2 points per 100 possessions in that stretch (which has taken them from second to seventh in the West). The Denver loss was one of only two in the 3-7 stretch that was within five points in the last five minutes and they needed 41 points from Damian Lillard to edge the Magic (who were without Aaron Gordon) on Wednesday. Their new (old?) starting lineup (with Maurice Harkless back at small forward) is a plus-15 over the last four games, but bench minutes have been a problem. In fact, Zach Collins has registered a negative plus-minus in 10 of his last 11 games.

Week 8: @ DAL, vs. PHX, vs. MIN

14
Last week:
12

Record: 13-10
Pace: 98.7 (26) OffRtg: 107.7 (19) DefRtg: 104.0 (4) NetRtg: +3.7 (8)

Some rough finishes (they shot 2-for-11, with four turnovers, in the clutch) on Thursday and Saturday kept the Pacers from going 4-0 on their trip out West. They're still a solid 4-4 without Victor Oladipo (counting the game in which he was injured in the first quarter) and the trip allowed Doug McDermott to find his shot. He was 11-for-17 from 3-point range over the four games and now gives the Pacers two guys in the top 15 in 3-point percentage. Of course, like the Spurs (the other team with two players in the top 15), they remain the bottom five in the percentage of their shots that have come from beyond the arc. More than half of their games (12 of 23) have been against the Western Conference, but they'll now play 18 of their next 19 within the East, with Saturday's game against the Kings being the lone exception.

Week 8: vs. CHI, @ ORL, vs. SAC

15
Last week:
14

Record: 11-11
Pace: 97.2 (29) OffRtg: 112.2 (6) DefRtg: 111.8 (26) NetRtg: +0.4 (17)

The Rockets fell to 0-5 without Chris Paul before he returned to dish out 23 assists (with only four turnovers) in weekend wins over the Spurs and Bulls that improved Houston to 11-6 in games that's he's played. The much bigger difference has been on defense, where the Rockets have allowed 109.3 points per 100 possessions in the 17 games Paul has played and 120.2 in the five games he's missed. They've allowed just 104.9 with him on the floor and just 100.7 in the 273 minutes he's played without James Harden. Harden, of course, has been doing his thing offensively. He dropped 54 in the Rockets' overtime loss in Washington on Monday, is on pace for the second most 3-pointers in a season in NBA history (332), and has an effective field goal percentage of 54.5 percent, his best mark in his seven seasons with the Rockets.

Week 8: @ MIN, @ UTA, @ DAL

16
Last week:
15

Record: 12-12
Pace: 104.7 (3) OffRtg: 112.5 (5) DefRtg: 111.1 (24) NetRtg: +1.3 (15)

After a game (against Boston) in which the Pelicans tied a season high with 22 turnovers, coach Alvin Gentry made a lineup change. He started Tim Frazier and moved Jrue Holiday back to shooting guard, in part because the Pelicans committed just 11.6 turnovers per 100 possessions with Holiday playing alongside Elfrid Payton (who's out another month or so), compared to 14.6 per 100 with Holiday at the point. Frazier had 30 assists and just five turnovers in his three starts last week, but his teammates still coughed the ball up a good amount. (Julius Randle's 2/15 assist-turnover ratio over the three games is quite something.) The Pelicans did manage to get their third road win of the season in Charlotte on Sunday, and they're still 9-2 at home, where they'll play three important games this week.

Week 8: vs. LAC, vs. DAL, vs. MEM, @ DET

17
Last week:
17

Record: 11-13
Pace: 100.4 (21) OffRtg: 105.1 (27) DefRtg: 107.6 (14) NetRtg: -2.5 (22)

Before they added Kyle Korver via trade, the Jazz added Donovan Mitchell, who had missed 2 1/2 games with a rib contusion. Mitchell's value was pretty apparent on Wednesday and Friday; He carried his team down the stretch in Brooklyn (scoring the first seven points of the game-deciding 9-2 run) and then dropped 30 points in Charlotte. Jae Crowder's second start (over Derrick Favors) in the last five games had the Jazz up 20-6 in Miami on Sunday before Favors checked in, but that lead was gone before halftime and the Jazz remain in 14th place in the West. The good news is that, after a crazy three weeks of travel in which they went 5-7 and scored less than a point per possession, they'll get some nights at home this week.

Week 8: vs. SAS, vs. HOU, @ SAS

18
Last week:
18

Record: 11-12
Pace: 101.5 (12) OffRtg: 111.6 (7) DefRtg: 108.2 (15) NetRtg: +3.4 (9)

The Hornets have been relatively healthy. Prior to Sunday, their top nine guys had missed a total of nine games (all from reserves Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Tony Parker) to injury. But Cody Zeller injured his ribs against the Jazz on Friday (and missed Sunday's game against the Pelicans), Kemba Walker turned his ankle in the first quarter on Sunday (though he would return), and Marvin Williams sprained his shoulder not long after that. It's a reminder that things are fragile in this league and that this particular team blew a lot of opportunities to pick up wins when it was at (close to) full strength. Walker has lost his league lead in total 3-pointers to James Harden, having shot just 4-for-24 from beyond the arc over the last four games.

Week 8: @ MIN, vs. DEN, @ NYK

19
Last week:
21

Record: 11-12
Pace: 101.6 (11) OffRtg: 107.9 (16) DefRtg: 108.9 (17) NetRtg: -0.9 (18)

The Wolves' run of great defense came to an end with their loss to the Celtics on Saturday. They still rank third defensively in the three weeks since the Jimmy Butler trade, with a big improvement in preventing shots at the basket. Prior to the trade, they allowed their opponents to get 34 percent of their shots in the restricted area. In the 10 games since, only 28 percent of their opponents' shots have come from the restricted area. Andrew Wiggins' struggles (29 percent shooting over the last seven games) haven't only been about his jumper. He has shot just 41 percent (17-for-41) in the paint over that stretch, down from 62 percent prior. The post-trade schedule has been home-heavy and the Wolves have two more home games this week. But the next four games are all against top-10 offenses and their visit to Portland on Saturday begins a stretch where they're playing 10 of 13 on the road (where they're 2-8).

Week 8: vs. HOU, vs. CHA, @ POR

20
Last week:
20

Record: 11-11
Pace: 106.0 (2) OffRtg: 107.9 (18) DefRtg: 110.5 (22) NetRtg: -2.5 (23)

Bogdan Bogdanovic has given the Kings another offensive weapon since rejoining the rotation a few weeks ago. He has averaged a team-high 17.6 points per game over the last nine games, has seen a big improvement in his shooting at the rim, and registered a career-high 26 points in their loss to the Clippers on Thursday. But the Kings' last five games have been their worst defensive stretch of the season (116 points allowed per 100 possessions), though their three-game losing streak came to an end when the other Bogdanovic (Bojan) missed a shot for the win on Saturday. Coach Dave Joerger has stuck with his starting lineup, but it has been outscored by 21 points per 100 possessions in its last seven games together.

Week 8: @ PHX, @ CLE, @ IND

21
Last week:
16

Record: 11-12
Pace: 99.7 (23) OffRtg: 106.1 (24) DefRtg: 108.6 (16) NetRtg: -2.5 (21)

The Magic had second-half leads of 18 and 11 points at Golden State and Portland, respectively, last week. But things fell apart against the champs once Aaron Gordon left with back pain, and (without Gordon) they were undone by four turnovers in the last two minutes against the Blazers. The Magic have outscored their opponents by 6.0 points per 100 possessions in 439 minutes with their four full-time starters -- D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Gordon and Nikola Vucevic -- on the floor, but have been outscored by 8.2 points per 100 in 665 minutes otherwise. Even with Terrence Ross continuing to provide some scoring punch off the bench (18.6 points per game on 52 percent shooting over the last five), only Brooklyn (seven) has lost more games after leading by 10 points or more than the Magic (six).

Week 8: @ MIA, vs. DEN, vs. IND

22
Last week:
22

Record: 11-12
Pace: 99.0 (25) OffRtg: 109.6 (10) DefRtg: 112.4 (29) NetRtg: -2.7 (24)

While coach Gregg Popovich was expressing his distaste for 3-pointers, his team was getting outscored by 66 points from beyond the arc by the Wolves and Rockets, two of the four worst defensive games of the season for the team that now ranks 29th defensively. They ranked 14th on that end of the floor just two weeks ago, but have allowed more than 121 points per 100 possessions over their last eight games. They stopped the bleeding with a ridiculous offensive performance (60 percent shooting, 11-for-15 from 3-point range) against Portland on Sunday, and play just one of their next 10 games against a top-10 offense. The second game of their Wednesday-Friday home-and-home with the Lakers is the start of their longest homestand (six games) of the season. This could be their window to stay in the playoff race.

Week 8: @ UTA, @ LAL, vs. LAL, vs. UTA

23
Last week:
26

Record: 9-13
Pace: 102.1 (10) OffRtg: 105.6 (25) DefRtg: 106.8 (10) NetRtg: -1.2 (19)

With apologies to Fernando Lamas, it's better to play good than to look good. After losing their first six games in their black Miami Vice uniforms, the Heat made a last-minute adjustment on Friday, wearing their red uniforms on the Vice court (and with the Vice TV graphics) against the Pelicans. They won the first quarter by 20 points, broke their six-game home losing streak and stuck with the red jerseys for Sunday's win over the Jazz. Hassan Whiteside totaled 35 points and 28 rebounds in the two wins, but in winning the game games by a total of seven points, the Heat were a plus-35 in 35 total minutes with reserves Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo on the frontline. The Heat have outscored their opponents by almost 23 points per 100 possessions in 168 minutes with Olynyk and Adebayo on the floor together this season.

Week 8: vs. ORL, @ PHX, @ LAC

24
Last week:
23

Record: 9-14
Pace: 103.6 (6) OffRtg: 106.9 (21) DefRtg: 112.1 (27) NetRtg: -5.2 (26)

The Wizards have slowly climbed from 14th to 10th in the East, thanks to a home-heavy schedule over the last five weeks. They've won four straight at Capital One Arena, with John Wall averaging 29.5 points and nine assists in the four games. But after losses in Toronto, New Orleans and Philadelphia by a combined 64 points over the last 10 days, they've been outscored by 13.2 points per 100 possessions (the league's second worst mark) on the road, where they'll play nine of their next 12 games. Even with Otto Porter missing their loss in Philly on Friday and Kelly Oubre getting benched on Saturday, coach Scott Brooks kept Markieff Morris out of the starting lineup. Morris has scored more and shot better as a reserve (15.6 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 56 percent) than he has as a starter (9.7, 50 percent).

Week 8: @ NYK, @ ATL, @ CLE

25
Last week:
24

Record: 8-16
Pace: 101.1 (15) OffRtg: 106.6 (22) DefRtg: 111.7 (25) NetRtg: -5.1 (25)

The Knicks have beat the Celtics, Pelicans, Grizzlies and Bucks over the last two weeks, with two of those four wins coming on the road. Their leading scorer (Tim Hardaway Jr.) has shot just 31 percent over the 4-2 stretch, while another starter (Mario Hezonja) has averaged just 2.8 points in the four wins. Damyean Dotson has emerged from a string of DNPs to average 18 points on 19-for-28 shooting over the last three games, Emmanuel Mudiay had one of the best games of his career (28 points and seven assists) on Saturday, and the two combined to shoot 4-for-4 on clutch threes in their overtime win over the Bucks. The Knicks still rank as the league's worst fourth-quarter team (minus-12.2 points per 100 possessions), but came back from 14 points down with 6:50 to go in regulation, thanks to a run sparked by Kevin Knox, who finished with a career-high 26 points.

Week 8: vs. WAS, @ BOS, vs. BKN, vs. CHA

26
Last week:
25

Record: 8-16
Pace: 99.6 (24) OffRtg: 108.3 (14) DefRtg: 110.4 (20) NetRtg: -2.0 (20)

The Nets' defense has allowed just 101.9 points per 100 possessions, the league's sixth best mark, in the first quarter, a reason why they've led 15 of their 24 games by 10 points or more (only four teams have led more games by double-digits). But they've allowed 113.1 points per 100 possessions after the first quarter, a reason why they're just 8-7 in those 15 games. One of those league-high seven losses was their meeting with Memphis on Friday, which turned into their second brutal, last-minute meltdown of the season. It was actually a double-last-minute meltdown, because they lost in double-overtime after blowing a seven-point lead in the final minute of regulation and a four-point lead in the final minute of the first OT. And all that may have carried over into their game in Washington on Saturday, which took their losing streak to six games and was the first of the six losses that wasn't within five points in the last five minutes.

Week 8: vs. CLE, vs. OKC, vs. TOR, @ NYK

27
Last week:
30

Record: 5-18
Pace: 106.9 (1) OffRtg: 100.5 (30) DefRtg: 110.3 (19) NetRtg: -9.8 (29)

The Hawks are 2-2 with their new starting lineup (Kevin Huerter at the two instead of Kent Bazemore), and the lineup has had good offensive numbers (111 points scored per 100 possessions) in its 58 total minutes together. The two losses (Wednesday in Charlotte and Friday in Oklahoma City) were more about bench minutes than than the starts. Bazemore shot 3-for-20 and registered a minus-29 over the two games, which were lost by a total of ... 29 points. The move to the starting lineup hasn't exactly unleashed Huerter offensively. He's 8-for-14 from 3-point range, but over the four games, he ranks last on the team with just 8.2 field goal attempts per 36 minutes.

Week 8: vs. GSW, vs. WAS, vs. DEN

28
Last week:
27

Record: 5-19
Pace: 100.9 (16) OffRtg: 101.0 (29) DefRtg: 110.6 (23) NetRtg: -9.5 (28)

The Bulls' front office must have really disliked the 15 minutes that Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. have played together, because they fired Fred Hoiberg on Monday morning, less than 48 hours after Markkanen made his season debut. (Hey, the team was outscored by 15 points in those 15 minutes.) New coach Jim Boylen has a decision to make about Jabari Parker's ability to play small forward and probably can't make the offense any worse than it was in November (when it ranked 30th and the Bulls were the only team to score less than a point per possession), but his first three games will be against three of the league's top four defenses.

Week 8: @ IND, vs. OKC, vs. BOS

29
Last week:
28

Record: 4-19
Pace: 100.6 (19) OffRtg: 102.0 (28) DefRtg: 112.3 (28) NetRtg: -10.3 (30)

The Suns may have jumped the gun when they waived Isaiah Canaan on Wednesday, because the whole Devin-Booker-at-point-guard thing doesn't work if Devin Booker is injured. After missing Friday's game in against Orlando with a toe injury, Booker came back to play in L.A. on Sunday ... and suffered a hamstring injury late in the second quarter. The Suns have scored an anemic 93 points per 100 possessions with Booker off the floor this season and appear to already have last place in the Western Conference locked up. A second straight season in which they rank last on both ends of the floor isn't out of the question.

Week 8: vs. SAC, @ POR, vs. MIA

30
Last week:
29

Record: 4-18
Pace: 97.5 (28) OffRtg: 105.3 (26) DefRtg: 113.9 (30) NetRtg: -8.6 (27)

The Cavs have added Alec Burks to a backcourt that already features two ball-handling guards -- Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson -- that don't pass a lot and don't shoot particularly well from 3-point range. They did get George Hill back on Saturday, and he started alongside Sexton, but Hill had just one assist and the team had just 14 total on 34 buckets in the loss. The Cavs rank 27th in player movement (10.8 miles traveled per 24 minutes of possession) and 29th in ball movement (299 passes per 24 minutes of possession), and they don't have James Harden to make up for being one of two teams (the Rockets are the other) that rank in the bottom five in both. After scoring 129 points per 100 possessions over a two-game winning streak, they've scored just 96 over a four-game losing streak, with the three guys who have taken the most shots in that stretch -- Sexton, Clarkson and Cedi Osman -- combining to shoot 36 percent.

Week 8: @ BKN, vs. GSW, vs. SAC, vs. WAS

* * *

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.

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