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Power Rankings, Week 10: Three big wins help Nuggets rise to No. 1

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Dec 17, 2018 11:52 AM ET

Center Nikola Jokic (right) helped Denver rack up critical wins last week.

The last time that the league's three best teams in regard to per-game point differential were all in the Eastern Conference was the 1983-84 season. The top of the East is strong, with the Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers joining the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics in the top eight in point differential.

The Western Conference remains ridiculously deep, with the 14th-place Minnesota Timberwolves only three games below .500. We could eventually have six teams in the West that will miss the playoffs with a better record than the No. 7 and 8 seeds in the East.

If things are going to eventually get sorted out in the West, performance on the road could be what does it. Only three teams in the West's top 14 -- Denver, Golden State and Sacramento -- have winning records on the road. The ninth-place Mavericks are 2-10 on the road, and the 10th-place Spurs (4-10) and 12th-place Pelicans (4-11) haven't been much better. The Minnesota Timberwolves are 2-12, having just returned from an 0-4 trip.

There is still plenty of season left, and in Week 10, there will be 21 games played between the top 14 teams in the West. Every game counts.

Previously...

  • Last week: Big win in Toronto gets Bucks back to No. 1
  • This time last year: Rockets still No. 1 entering big week for Western Conference -- The East had a better record than the West, with the Knicks (16-13) and Pistons (17-13) both holding winning records. The Bulls were in the process of winning their first seven games with Nikola Mirotic, the Warriors were in the middle of an 11-game winning streak, and the Rockets were at the end of a 20-1 stretch. Kawhi Leonard made his season debut with the Spurs, but the Jazz lost Rudy Gobert to his second knee injury of the season. The Thunder outlasted the Sixers in triple-overtime, with Russell Westbrook still at peak athleticism 60 minutes into the game, and Trey Lyles threw one down on Jayson Tatum.

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Indiana (4-0) -- The Pacers got Victor Oladipo back and have run their winning streak to seven games, picking up wins over the Bucks and Sixers last week.
  • Something Just Ain't Right: LA Clippers (1-3) -- The Clips are sliding. They're only win last week was in overtime in Phoenix, and they then lost games to the Raptors and Spurs by a combined 62 points.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 9

  • Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. Phoenix, 3. Chicago
  • Easiest: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Dallas, 3. Charlotte
  • 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: Sacramento (+8), Houston (+7), Indiana (+6)
  • Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-5), Minnesota (-5), Atlanta (-4), Memphis (-4)

Week 10 Team to Watch

  • Sacramento -- A 6-2 record in December has taken the Kings from 12th to seventh in the West. They've already picked up important wins over the Wolves and Mavs this month, and a stretch where they're playing 13 straight games within the top 14 in the West continues this week. They'll visit Minnesota on Monday (a rest disadvantage game), before returning home to play the Thunder on Wednesday. They'll then have a Saturday-Sunday home back-to-back, with the Grizzlies and Pelicans coming to the Golden 1 Center.

* * *

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 101.0 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.3 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:
2

Record: 20-9
Pace: 98.2 (27) OffRtg: 110.6 (8) DefRtg: 104.1 (4) NetRtg: +6.6 (4)

Despite all their injuries, the Nuggets recovered pretty well from back-to-back losses in Charlotte and Atlanta, beating the Grizzlies, Thunder and Raptors at the Pepsi Center to remain atop the Western Conference standings and improve to 11-4 (with seven straight wins) against the other 14 teams that have winning records through Sunday. They've allowed just 103.9 points per 100 possessions (with their opponents shooting just 30 percent from 3-point range) in those 15 games. Trey Lyles has the league's worst effective field goal percentage (minimum 50 field goal attempts) in December, but their bench minutes have continued to be strong. Monte Morris averaged 15.3 points (and maintained his ridiculous assist/turnover magic) in the three wins last week, and the Nuggets were better with one center on the floor (plus-36 in 80 minutes) than with two (minus-3 in 55 minutes with Nikola Jokic and new starter Mason Plumlee together). Their next two games are against two more winning teams, but they're the only two games they're playing in the next nine days.

Week 10: vs. DAL, @ LAC

2
Last week:
1

Record: 19-9
Pace: 103.4 (5) OffRtg: 113.2 (2) DefRtg: 104.6 (5) NetRtg: +8.6 (1)

After missing a game on Monday, Giannis Antetokounmpo had his quietest night of the season on Wednesday, getting just six shots (and six free throw attempts) in the Bucks' loss in Indiana. He rebounded by tying his career high of 44 points in Cleveland on Friday, with 42 of the 44 coming in the restricted area (26) or from the free throw line (16). They're 28 games in and the Bucks have yet to be outscored in the paint this season. After a hot start, Khris Middleton has seen his effective field goal percentage drop from 65 percent in October to 52 percent in November and now 34 percent (second-worst among 170 players with at least 50 field goal attempts) in December. It may not be a coincidence that he missed the win in Cleveland with a sprained finger on his shooting hand.

Week 10: @ DET, vs. NOP, @ BOS, @ MIA

3
Last week:
3

Record: 23-9
Pace: 100.4 (18) OffRtg: 113.0 (3) DefRtg: 106.0 (7) NetRtg: +7.0 (3)

A 2-2 trip through L.A., Oakland, Portland and Denver isn't bad, given that the Raptors didn't have both Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard in any of the four games. Lowry got his shot back before missing the last two games with a thigh contusion, though it would be nice to see him shooting well (and aggressively) again in a game he plays with Leonard. Lowry has a higher effective field goal percentage (57 percent on 149 shots) with Leonard off the floor than he does with Leonard on the floor (49.7 percent on 179 shots), though the Raptors' offense has been just fine (117.1 points scored per 100 possessions) in the pair's minutes together. When the offense has struggled (scoring less than a point per possession) has been when Lowry has been off the floor. After that trip out West, the Raps have a couple of important games within the East this week. They've already played the Celtics, Bucks and Sixers two times each, but Wednesday will be their first meeting with the third-place Pacers.

Week 10: vs. IND, vs. CLE, @ PHI

4
Last week:
4

Record: 20-10
Pace: 101.5 (10) OffRtg: 113.6 (1) DefRtg: 108.7 (15) NetRtg: +4.9 (7)

The Warriors haven't exactly been tearing through the league now that both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are healthy. They got thumped by the Leonard-less Raptors (who were playing the second game of a back-to-back) on Wednesday and they needed a wild final three minutes to escape Sacramento with a win on Friday. They did outscore their opponents by 40 points (and allowed less than 90 points per 100 possessions) in 57 minutes with all four All-Stars on the floor last week, and the group was even a plus-1 in the 20-point loss to Toronto. But they were outscored by 48 points in 87 minutes (allowing more than 120 per 100) with at least one of the four on the bench. Andre Iguodala (hip tightness) missed all three games, Shaun Livingston (pelvic contusion) missed the Sacramento game, and the rest of the reserves couldn't hang. They have more quality opponents on the slate this week, but both Iguodala and Livingston are expected to play Monday.

Week 10: vs. MEM, @ UTA, vs. DAL, vs. LAC

5
Last week:
11

Record: 20-10
Pace: 98.9 (26) OffRtg: 107.9 (18) DefRtg: 102.4 (2) NetRtg: +5.5 (6)

The Pacers got Victor Oladipo back (from an 11-game absence) on Wednesday and didn't break stride, extending their winning streak to seven games with wins over the Bucks, Sixers and Knicks. Oladipo was pretty quiet offensively until Sunday (when he scored 26 points against New York), but Myles Turner has had his best scoring stretch of the season (averaging 16.9 points over the streak), Thaddeus Young had a couple of huge games against Milwaukee and Philly, and the defense has allowed just 97.4 points per 100 possessions (with their opponents shooting 29 percent from 3-point range) over the seven games. They shut down one top-10 offense last week (holding Giannis Antetokounmpo to a season-low 12 points) and will face two more (those of the Raptors and Nets) on Wednesday and Friday.

Week 10: vs. CLE, @ TOR, @ BKN, vs. WAS

6
Last week:
9

Record: 18-11
Pace: 100.5 (17) OffRtg: 109.6 (14) DefRtg: 102.5 (3) NetRtg: +7.0 (2)

The Celtics scored a remarkable 123.4 points per 100 possessions on their eight-game, Marcus-Smart-as-a-starter winning streak. But they scored just 24 points on 32 possessions with Kyrie Irving on the bench as the streak came to an end in Detroit on Saturday. Though Irving has seen drops in both usage rate and true shooting percentage, the Celtics have been 14 points per 100 possessions better offensively with him on the floor (scoring 112.2 per 100) than they've been with him off the floor (98.2) this season. One might have argued (in this space, perhaps) that Al Horford was their most important player going into this season, but they were 6-0 without Horford before Saturday and the offensive issues of Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier (all in the bottom 40 in effective field goal percentage among 172 players with at least 200 field goal attempts) have made Irving's bucket-getting all the more critical.

Week 10: vs. PHX, vs. MIL, vs. CHA

7
Last week:
6

Record: 18-10
Pace: 103.2 (7) OffRtg: 107.6 (20) DefRtg: 102.1 (1) NetRtg: +5.5 (5)

The Thunder schedule saw an increase in difficulty last week and they split four games within the top 14 of the Western Conference, winning two at home and losing two on the road. Russell Westbrook has been struggling again with his shot (both from the field and from the line), but Paul George (24 points per game) and Steven Adams (16 ppg) are both averaging career-highs while combining for an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent in December and anchoring the league's No. 1 defense. With their losses in New Orleans and Denver last week, the Thunder are 5-9 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes (only the Knicks, Hornets and Cavs have been worse), but it's a positive that they've had only one loss (Nov. 10 at Dallas) that wasn't within five in the last five.

Week 10: vs. CHI, @ SAC, @ UTA, vs. MIN

8
Last week:
5

Record: 20-11
Pace: 102.6 (8) OffRtg: 109.9 (13) DefRtg: 107.5 (14) NetRtg: +2.4 (8)

The Sixers went 0-2 (at home) without Jimmy Butler last week, allowing the Nets and Pacers to score 117.6 points per 100 possessions on Wednesday and Friday. As was the case last season, they've been at their best in the first quarter (plus-10.8 points per 100 possessions) and at their worst in the fourth (minus-5.6), and they got thumped in the second half against Indiana. But they had their best fourth quarter of the season (39-20) in Cleveland on Sunday, with most of the damage being done with Butler (back from his two-game absence) on the bench and the J.J. Redick-Joel Embiid combo on the floor. They've struggled in two games in Toronto (and are now 1-5 against the other four good teams in the East), but will get the Raptors in their building for the first time on Saturday.

Week 10: @ SAS, vs. NYK, vs. TOR

9
Last week:
8

Record: 18-12
Pace: 103.9 (3) OffRtg: 108.9 (15) DefRtg: 107.0 (11) NetRtg: +1.9 (9)

Lonzo Ball remains one of the league's worst 3-point shooters, he struggles late in the clock, and his free throw rate (less than 10 attempts per 100 shots from the field) ranks 169th among 172 players with at least 200 field goal attempts. But he's been an improved finisher in the restricted area, he's one of the league's best rebounding guards, and he joined LeBron James to make a little history on Saturday. They became the eighth pair of teammates in NBA history to record triple-doubles in the same game as the Lakers clobbered the Hornets in Charlotte, part of a seven game stretch in which the Lakers scored 114 points per 100 possessions. Having struggled to defend James Harden (with or without their hands) on Thursday and having turned the ball over 22 times in Washington on Saturday, the Lakers are still 1-2 on the four-game trip that ends in Brooklyn on Tuesday before they begin a big stretch of seven straight games against teams in the top 12 in the West.

Week 10: @ BKN, vs. NOP, vs. MEM

10
Last week:
7

Record: 17-12
Pace: 102.2 (9) OffRtg: 110.0 (12) DefRtg: 109.4 (17) NetRtg: +0.7 (15)

The cushion that the Clippers built through their first 23 games has kept them in the West's top five, but they've lost five of their last six, with the only win having come in overtime against the Devin-Booker-less Suns. The Clippers have been missing Lou Williams for the last three games themselves, but their offense started showing some regression before he went down with a hamstring injury. The last six games have been their worst offensive stretch of the season (97.7 points scored per 100 possessions), with turnovers (18.3 per 100 possessions) being a problem beyond almost every rotation guy seeing a dip in effective field goal percentage. They have played 17 of their last 26 games on the road, and will now play 12 of their next 16 at home, with only two games outside of California between now and Jan. 20.

Week 10: vs. POR, vs. DAL, vs. DEN, @ GSW

11
Last week:
19

Record: 16-13
Pace: 105.3 (2) OffRtg: 110.0 (11) DefRtg: 110.0 (20) NetRtg: +0.0 (16)

The Kings are not going away. They blew a 10-point lead with a little more than three minutes to go against the Warriors on Friday, but they've climbed back into playoff position with a 6-2 December that has included wins over the Pacers, Wolves and Mavs. They have the league's third-ranked offense (115.1 points scored per 100 possessions) this month, with Buddy Hield and De'Aaron Fox both averaging more than 21 points per game on a combined effective field goal percentage of 58 percent. Fox taken more 3-pointers (91) than mid-range shots (82) this season, having attempted 1.6 times more mid-range shots than 3-pointers as rookie. At 39.6 percent, he's one of four Kings in the top 35 in 3-point percentage, joined by Nemanja Bjelica (second at 48.5 percent) and Hield (16th at 42.5 percent).

Week 10: @ MIN, vs. OKC, vs. MEM, vs. NOP

12
Last week:
10

Record: 15-13
Pace: 101.2 (13) OffRtg: 107.8 (19) DefRtg: 106.6 (10) NetRtg: +1.2 (13)

Dirk Nowitzki made his season debut last week, but took just six shots in less than 15 minutes of action against the Suns and Kings. Nowitzki's return won't be complete until he's running pick-and-roll with J.J. Barea, who missed both games with an ankle sprain. It's not a coincidence that, with Barea out, the Mavs have lost two straight for the first time since early November. It remains rather inexplicable that they now have two losses to the Suns, even if both games were in Phoenix. The Mavs are 2-10 away from the American Airlines Center (having scored just 101.1 points per 100 possessions in the 10 games) and if they don't figure out their road woes soon, they may reside in Lotteryville for the rest of the season. Their game in Denver on Tuesday is the start of a stretch where they'll play nine of 11 games on the road.

Week 10: @ DEN, @ LAC, @ GSW, @ POR

13
Last week:
13

Record: 16-13
Pace: 100.3 (21) OffRtg: 110.8 (7) DefRtg: 109.5 (19) NetRtg: +1.3 (11)

After his bench got destroyed again in Houston on Monday, coach Terry Stotts finally went back to having Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum on the floor at all times (S.O.P. the last three seasons). But that didn't help, as the Blazers were outscored 17-2 to start the second quarter in Memphis on Wednesday in what turned out to be their worst offensive game of the season (despite 40 points from McCollum). Stotts went back to sitting Lillard and McCollum together on Friday, and his bench responded with a huge game (they were a plus-16 in 21 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor) in a win over Toronto on Friday, the team's best offensive game since October (with McCollum scoring only 14 points). The Blazers are 11-0 when Zach Collins has registered a positive plus-minus and 5-13 when he hasn't. They're also 8-3 against the Eastern Conference, but just 8-10 against the West, with 10 of their next 11 games within the conference.

Week 10: @ LAC, vs. MEM, vs. UTA, vs. DAL

14
Last week:
14

Record: 15-16
Pace: 103.7 (4) OffRtg: 112.3 (4) DefRtg: 111.1 (23) NetRtg: +1.2 (12)

Anthony Davis scored 85 points against two top-three defenses (those of the Celtics and Thunder) last week. It's worth noting that Boston was shorthanded on Monday, but that was the game the Pelicans lost, because Davis and Julius Randle were the only Pelicans to outscore Semi Ojeleye (11 points). This team can't gain much traction -- it hasn't won two straight games in four weeks -- in part because its defense remains porous (allowing the Heat to grab 22 offensive rebounds and score 25 second chance points on Sunday was a new way to lose) and because it can't stay healthy. Nikola Mirotic has missed four of the last seven games and Randle went down with an ankle injury on Sunday. The Pelicans are 4-11 on the road, where they'll play 11 of their next 16 games.

Week 10: @ MIL, @ LAL, @ SAC

15
Last week:
22

Record: 14-14
Pace: 96.5 (29) OffRtg: 112.0 (5) DefRtg: 112.2 (28) NetRtg: -0.2 (18)

The Rockets are 3-0 since moving Eric Gordon into the starting lineup (with, importantly, all three wins coming against the non-Phoenix division of the Western Conference), even though ...

Gerald Green has shot 9-for-11 from deep and Danuel House is a plus-56 over the streak. James Harden has two straight triple-doubles (and 82 points over the two games), Chris Paul had one of his own, and the Rockets have been terrific (plus-28) in Paul's (36) minutes on the floor without the reigning Kia MVP. There are still questions to be answered on defense, but they've defended the Spurs' ninth-ranked offense (which they'll face again on Saturday) relatively well and the real tests on that end of the floor won't come until after Christmas.

Week 10: vs. UTA, vs. WAS, @ MIA, vs. SAS

16
Last week:
12

Record: 16-13
Pace: 96.0 (30) OffRtg: 105.4 (26) DefRtg: 104.7 (6) NetRtg: +0.7 (14)

Both Dillon and MarShon Brooks are still with the Grizzlies, who are 4-8 (better than only the Suns in the Western Conference) since Thanksgiving. Six of the eight losses have losses have been within five points in the last five minutes, but so have three of the four wins, with fourth-quarter runs (a 13-0 run for the Grizz against Portland on Wednesday and an 11-0 Miami run on Friday) determining two of their three games last week. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol (35 percent shooting in December) have been playing through injuries, and maybe that's hurting the Grizz more on defense, where they've allowed more than 114 points per 100 possessions in their last four losses (three of which came at home). They haven't been forcing turnovers since Thanksgiving (15.7 per 100 possessions) as well as they were prior (a league-high 18.0), but rookie Jevon Carter made his debut on Saturday (racking up five deflections in just 22 minutes) and looks like another Tony Allen on defense. They begin a huge, four-game trip in Oakland on Monday.

Week 10: @ GSW, @ POR, @ SAC, @ LAL

17
Last week:
15

Record: 14-13
Pace: 100.9 (14) OffRtg: 106.6 (21) DefRtg: 107.2 (12) NetRtg: -0.6 (19)

The Pistons put an end to their six-game losing streak (in which they allowed 112 points per 100 possessions) by putting an end to the Celtics' eight-game winning streak, holding the red-hot Celtics' offense under a point per possession. Andre Drummond ranks pretty low among rim protectors, but the Celtics were just 3-for-9 at the rim against him on Saturday, with his fourth-quarter block of Jayson Tatum being the highlight. The Pistons have outscored their opponents by 2 points per 100 possessions in 727 minutes with both Drummond and Blake Griffin on the floor, but have been outscored by 8.4 points per 100 possessions in 824 minutes with one on the floor without the other, with the drop-off being entirely about offense and the team having shot 27 percent from 3-point range in those 824 one-or-the-other minutes. Overall, the Pistons are 29th in 3-point percentage (32.2 percent), having seen the league's biggest drop from last season (37.3 percent, fifth).

Week 10: vs. MIL, @ MIN, @ CHA, vs. ATL

18
Last week:
20

Record: 15-15
Pace: 99.1 (24) OffRtg: 110.5 (9) DefRtg: 111.2 (24) NetRtg: -0.7 (21)

Just when you thought the Spurs were finding their groove, winning four straight games by an average of 22 points (with great numbers on both ends of the floor), they went and blew a 21-point, second-half lead to the Bulls (the Bulls!) on Saturday. Four starters averaged 15 points or more (and LaMarcus Aldridge made his first 3-pointer of the season) during the streak, but the bench did a lot of damage, with Patty Mills registering a plus-79 in 101 minutes over the four games. The Spurs have seven two-man combinations that have played at least 200 minutes and have a positive on-court NetRtg, and all seven included either Mills or Marco Belinelli. The Chicago loss dropped them to 2-5 against the Eastern Conference, and their six-game homestand concludes with a visit from the Sixers on Monday.

Week 10: vs. PHI, @ ORL, vs. MIN, @ HOU

19
Last week:
21

Record: 14-15
Pace: 99.1 (25) OffRtg: 104.5 (27) DefRtg: 107.4 (13) NetRtg: -2.9 (24)

The NBA Mexico City Games were not pretty, with the Magic and their opponents combining to score just 95 points per 100 possessions on Thursday and Saturday. But the two wins have kept them in eighth place, with five real home games in the next two weeks. They went back to their original starting lineup (Jonathan Isaac at the four) last week, a move that might not have agreed with Aaron Gordon. He shot 9-for-33 in the three games and now has an effective field goal percentage of 46 percent (on 93 shots) with Isaac on the floor, compared to 56 percent (on 267 shots) with Isaac off the floor. There are better numbers on the other side of the ball, where the Magic have allowed less than a point per possession with a frontline of Gordon, Isaac and Nikola Vucevic.

Week 10: vs. SAS, @ CHI, vs. MIA

20
Last week:
17

Record: 14-16
Pace: 100.4 (20) OffRtg: 106.2 (23) DefRtg: 106.3 (8) NetRtg: -0.1 (17)

The Jazz rank third defensively (101.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) in December, but that's somewhat skewed by a blowout of the Heat on Wednesday. They were undone in their other two games last week by allowing the Thunder and Magic (two below-average offensive teams) to register 40-point quarters. Including the Mexico City loss on Saturday, they're 0-4 on the road this month, with Joe Ingles and Kyle Korver (both top five in 3-point percentage over the last three seasons) combining to shoot 7-for-36 (19 percent) from beyond the arc in the four games. The Korver addition hasn't really changed their 3-point rate (3PA/FGA), which was 37.8 percent before his addition and is 38 percent since. The Jazz have played the most road games (19) in the league, but have two more tough ones this week before beginning a four-game homestand on Saturday.

Week 10: @ HOU, vs. GSW, @ POR, vs. OKC

21
Last week:
16

Record: 13-16
Pace: 101.4 (11) OffRtg: 108.4 (16) DefRtg: 109.4 (18) NetRtg: -1.0 (23)

The thing about the Wolves' 9-3 record (with the league's third-ranked defense) over their first 12 games after trading Jimmy Butler was that it came in a home-heavy stretch of schedule. And when they went on the road nine days ago, they came back with a four-game losing streak, having allowed almost 117 points per possessions (the league's third worst mark) over the four games. It's one thing to allow the Warriors to make 19 3-pointers (on Monday), but they also allowed the Kings to make (a franchise-record) 19 3-pointers two nights later. Dario Saric was a bright spot, shooting 21-for-33 and registering a team-best plus-4 on the trip. The Wolves have outscored their opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions in 184 minutes with Saric and Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor together, a look they started with in Phoenix on Saturday (with Taj Gibson missing the game for personal reasons).

Week 10: vs. SAC, vs. DET, @ SAS, @ OKC

22
Last week:
23

Record: 13-16
Pace: 100.8 (16) OffRtg: 105.6 (25) DefRtg: 106.4 (9) NetRtg: -0.8 (22)

The Heat more than survived their longest road trip of the season, going 4-2 with wins over the Clippers, Grizzlies and Pelicans in which they scored more than 112 points per 100 possessions (without Goran Dragic in any of the three games). Justise Winslow is running the point and Derrick Jones Jr. is suddenly the team's best rebounder, but otherwise, it's an everything-by-committee approach. On the trip, nobody on the team averaged more than 14 points per game, five different guys totaled between 19 and 25 assists, and a zone defense flummoxed a couple of opponents. The Heat are just a game out of playoff position, but have visits from the streaking Rockets and second-place Bucks before they get to play the eighth-place Magic, who have beaten them in seven of their last nine meetings.

Week 10: vs. HOU, vs. MIL, @ ORL

23
Last week:
18

Record: 14-15
Pace: 101.4 (12) OffRtg: 111.0 (6) DefRtg: 109.2 (16) NetRtg: +1.8 (10)

Kemba Walker has been struggling. His effective field goal percentage of 40.2 percent since Thanksgiving ranks 120th among 123 players who have attempted at least 100 shots since then. He did lead a big comeback in the fourth quarter against Detroit on Wednesday before passing to Jeremy Lamb for the first game-winning bucket in the last 30 seconds by a Hornet not named Kemba Walker in almost two years (since Nicolas Batum hit one on Dec. 20, 2016). But Walker missed his final nine shots as the Hornets blew a 21-point lead against the Knicks on Friday and was 2-for-13 as they got blown out by the Lakers on Saturday. With the Friday game, the Hornets have lost to each of the bottom four teams in the East (Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland and New York), having yet to play the 10th-place Nets or 11th-place Wizards.

Week 10: vs. CLE, vs. DET, @ BOS

24
Last week:
25

Record: 13-18
Pace: 99.6 (23) OffRtg: 110.0 (10) DefRtg: 110.7 (22) NetRtg: -0.7 (20)

The Nets rank 30th defensively (more than 117 points allowed per 100 possessions) over the last nine days, but they have their first five-game winning streak since April of 2015, because they've simply gone nuts offensively. After a defensive win (in overtime) over Toronto to end their eight-game losing streak, their offense has gotten more efficient with every game, scoring a ridiculous 134 points per 100 possessions in weekend wins over the Wizards and Hawks without the league's best 3-point shooter in December (Allen Crabbe). Spencer Dinwiddie signed a contract extension two days after scoring a career-high 39 points in Philly, and has been making a living at the line (41 free throw attempts over the last four games). D'Angelo Russell has also had a couple of big games and has registered a team-best plus-47 over the winning streak, with the Nets having allowed 15.8 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (102.3) than they have with him off the floor (118.1).

Week 10: vs. LAL, @ CHI, vs. IND, vs. PHX

25
Last week:
24

Record: 12-18
Pace: 103.2 (6) OffRtg: 108.2 (17) DefRtg: 112.2 (27) NetRtg: -4.0 (25)

Trevor Ariza's arrival could stabilize the lineup and locker room, and the Wizards certainly still have a path to the East's No. 6 seed if they can put together something close to 48 minutes of focus every time they take the floor. But improvement has to start with the guys that already in Washington, and maybe it already has. Over the last three games, John Wall has averaged 30.3 points and 13.3 assists, while Bradley Beal and Jeff Green (starting in place of the injured Otto Porter) have combined to shoot 18-for-32 from 3-point range. Of course, they lost two of those games (allowing the Celtics and Nets to score 122 points per 100 possessions), and only won the one in which they had a rest advantage (with the Lakers playing the second game of a back-to-back). The Wiz have played a league-high eight games with a rest advantage thus far and are the only team that has yet to play a game with a rest disadvantage (where they're playing the second game of a back-to-back against an opponent that didn't play the day before). They'll have their first two of those (Wednesday at Houston and Sunday at Indiana) this week.

Week 10: @ ATL, @ HOU, vs. PHX, @ IND

26
Last week:
28

Record: 7-23
Pace: 97.3 (28) OffRtg: 106.1 (24) DefRtg: 115.1 (30) NetRtg: -9.0 (27)

Matthew Dellavedova got a hero's welcome in his return to Cleveland on Wednesday, and there's just something about Delly in a Cavs uniform. In his first four games back with his old team, he has 19 assists and just five turnovers, and has registered a plus-20 in his 86 minutes. The Cavs' starters, especially with both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson (who suffered a left foot injury on Monday) on the shelf, are obviously overmatched; Cedi Osman, who is one of their go-to guys out of timeouts, has shot 33 percent over his last 13 games and got destroyed by Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday (before coach Larry Drew had mercy on Osman and switched defensive assignments). But the Cleveland bench, with Dellavedova, Larry Nance Jr., David Nwaba and Jordan Clarkson (who has multiple assists in five straight games!) hasn't been too bad.

Week 10: @ IND, @ CHA, @ TOR, vs. CHI

27
Last week:
27

Record: 9-22
Pace: 100.8 (15) OffRtg: 106.5 (22) DefRtg: 112.4 (29) NetRtg: -5.9 (26)

The Knicks' lineup carousel had Kevin Knox starting their three games last week, and the rookie has averaged 20 points (shooting 13-for-20 from 3-point range) over the last four. Knox has been assisted on 72 percent of his buckets (with at least five assists from seven different teammates), but the Knicks are the only team that has recorded assists on less than half of their total field goals. Part of that is because Enes Kanter ranks second (behind Andre Drummond) in put-backs, but they also rank 29th (ahead of only Cleveland) in the percentage of their jumpers (47 percent) that have come off the catch. Every team has a higher effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot jumpers than they do on pull-up jumpers, and though the Knicks' differential (51 percent vs. 44 percent) is the seventh smallest in the league, they would benefit by swapping some of the latter for the former.

Week 10: vs. PHX, @ PHI, vs. ATL

28
Last week:
29

Record: 7-23
Pace: 100.4 (19) OffRtg: 99.9 (30) DefRtg: 110.1 (21) NetRtg: -10.3 (30)

On Saturday, the Bulls got their first road win in almost six weeks (coming back from 21 points down) with Jabari Parker receiving his first DNP of the season. Two nights prior, the Bulls lost by six in a game (against Orlando in Mexico City) in which Parker registered a minus-9 in a little over four minutes. The recent returns of two members of the new "Leadership Committee" -- Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis -- have given the Bulls reason to move on (and seek a trade) with a four-big rotation that doesn't include Parker, who has played only 22 of his 872 minutes at small forward. Kris Dunn also made his return from a seven-week absence last week and scored 24 points (with two big buckets in the final minute) in the San Antonio win.

Week 10: @ OKC, vs. BKN, vs. ORL, @ CLE

29
Last week:
30

Record: 6-24
Pace: 100.2 (22) OffRtg: 101.5 (29) DefRtg: 111.5 (26) NetRtg: -10.1 (29)

Break up the Suns! (Wait, they've already been doing that.) They've won two straight games for the first time this season and have held two straight opponents under a point per possession for the first time in more than two years (since Nov. 2016). Devin Booker returned from a six-game absence to join De'Anthony Melton in the starting backcourt on Saturday, and the two combined for 12 of the team's 30 assists against the Wolves. Jamal Crawford still has the second worst on-court NetRtg among 297 players who have averaged at least 15 minutes in 10 games or more (the Suns have been outscored by 18 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor), but has been dishing out dimes as well. With 12 assists over the winning streak, his assist rate (25.4 per 100 possessions) is his highest mark since his rookie season.

Week 10: @ NYK, @ BOS, @ WAS, @ BKN

30
Last week:
26

Record: 6-23
Pace: 106.7 (1) OffRtg: 102.0 (28) DefRtg: 111.5 (25) NetRtg: -9.6 (28)

One reason why the Hawks lead the league in pace is that they rank 30th in turnover rate, having committed 17.4 per 100 possessions (or maybe it's the other way around). Not only that, more than 57 percent of their turnovers (the league's third highest rate) have been live balls. They had their best offensive game of the season on Sunday (with John Collins scoring 20-plus points for the fifth time in six games and Dewayne Dedmon adding a career-high 24), but still had 12 live-ball turnovers and got eviscerated on the other end of the floor by the streaking Nets. Prior to Sunday, Kevin Huerter had been getting more shots, totaling 38 points on 13-for-21 shooting over the first two games of their Hawks' trip.

Week 10: vs. WAS, @ NYK, @ DET

* * *

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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