After two shortened weeks around the NBA All-Star break, Week 20 brings us a full seven days of basketball. And it's an important seven days in regard to playoff seeding.
Through Sunday's games, there are 11 teams with 25-27 losses. Seven of them are in the Western Conference, currently seeded 3-9. Each of those seven teams will play a game within the group this week, with the Blazers hosting both the Wolves and Thunder.
In the East, we have the Wizards, Pacers, Bucks and Sixers all with 25 or 26 losses. One of those teams will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and another will get to play that team and avoid the Raptors, Celtics and Cavs. This week, there will be four games between those four teams seeded 4-7 (with Milwaukee playing three of the four at home). There's also an important game between the eighth-place Heat and ninth-place Pistons in Miami on Saturday.
Maybe the next seven days will help sort out the jumble behind the top three teams in the rankings. The Rockets, Warriors and Raptors remain the cream of the crop.
- Last week: Spotlight remains on Cavs, Warriors
- This time last year: Deadline doesn't change title picture -- Less than three weeks after bringing him in as a consultant and just two days before the traded deadline, the Lakers hired Magic Johnson as team president. At the deadline, the Raptors added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, while the Thunder added Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. The Sixers traded Nerlens Noel to Dallas, ruled Ben Simmons out for the season, and lost at Madison Square Garden on a last-second Carmelo Anthony game-winner. Lou Williams went to Houston and hit two 3-pointers in his first 33 seconds as a Rocket.
- Plus-minus stud: Jeremy Lamb (CHA) was a plus-53 in three games last week.
- Plus-minus duds: Harrison Barnes and Wesley Matthews (DAL) were each a minus-57 in two games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Charlotte (3-0) -- The Hornets won all three games by at least 15 points, and that includes a win in Washington on the second night of a back-to-back.
- Zero team of the week: Memphis (0-2) -- The Grizzlies lost to the Cavs and Heat (teams that were otherwise 0-3 last week) by a total of 49 points.
- East vs. West: The West is 180-162 (.526) against the East in interconference games after going 4-2 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Dallas, 2. Chicago, 3. Philadelphia
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Houston, 2. Indiana, 3. Washington
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
- High jumps of the week: Washington (+5), Boston (+3), Charlotte, Denver & New Orleans (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Cleveland (-5), Philadelphia (-3), Detroit & Utah (-2)
- Team to watch in Week 20: Washington -- The Wizards are 9-3 since losing John Wall and are just a half game behind the Cavs (who they beat on the road on Thursday) for third place in the East. But they're just a game in the loss column ahead of the sixth-place Bucks (who they'll visit on Tuesday) and tied in the loss column with the fifth-place Pacers (who they'll host on Sunday). In between, they'll get visits from the Warriors (Wednesday) and Raptors (Friday).
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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 99.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 106.1 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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