It was impossible to predict what would happen during the season restart after 4 1/2 months off. But even expecting the unexpected, we have to be surprised by the performances of some teams in Orlando.
The title favorites have seemingly had a tough time adjusting. The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers are a combined 7-10. The Lakers have had the worst offense in the restart, and the Bucks ranking 11th defensively over the last 11 days may be more shocking than that. Both Milwaukee and the Clippers lost to the Brooklyn Nets last week.
The Phoenix Suns probably shouldn't have been invited to the restart. But they were, they have their first five-game winning streak in 5 1/2 years, and they're still very much alive in the chase for eighth and ninth place in the Western Conference. The San Antonio Spurs went to Orlando to develop their young players and they've found themselves in the middle of that same chase.
Two playoff series in the East are set. The No. 1 seed Bucks will face the No. 8 seed Orlando Magic, while the No. 2 seed and defending-champion Toronto Raptors will face Brooklyn, the 7 seed. We also know that the Boston Celtics are the No. 3 seed in the East, while the Lakers are No. 1 in the West.
Everything else will be determined in the next seven days, with the Western Conference play-in series taking place on Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.
With the top teams all stumbling, there's no obvious No. 1 in this week's rankings. Fortunately, this isn't college football or basketball, and the rankings don't really matter. Feel free to disagree with the order below anyway.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: T.J. Warren (IND) was a plus-63 in four games last week.
- Wrong Way: Troy Brown Jr. (WAS) was a minus-41 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Phoenix (3-0) -- Prior to the restart, Devin Booker had never (played in and) won more than three straight games. Now, he's won five straight. The Suns are still alive and somehow, Cam Payne is a big part of their success.
- Something Just Ain't Right: New Orleans (2-2) -- The Pelicans had a favorable seeding-game schedule and it didn't matter.
East vs. West
- The West is 207-173 (.545) against the East in interconference games after going 6-5 last week.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Brooklyn (+4), Phoenix (+4), Denver (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Orlando (-5), Five teams (-2)
Week 24 Teams to Watch
- Memphis and Portland -- The two spots in the play-in series are the Grizzlies' and Blazers' to lose, and they both play on Tuesday and Thursday. Memphis faces the Celtics and Bucks (two teams locked into their playoff positions), while Portland plays the Mavs (who would be locked into the West's 7 seed if they lose on Monday) and the Nets (who are already locked into the East's 7 seed).
- Last week: Raptors rise, Lakers hold top spot
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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 100.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 110.0 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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