Health remains critical in this league. And while Week 14 marked the return of DeMarcus Cousins from a near year-long absence, it also came with more injuries to important players.
Clint Capela was actually injured at the end of Week 13, but had surgery on his thumb on Thursday and is set to miss the next 4-6 weeks for a team -- the Houston Rockets -- fighting for a top-four seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets got Eric Gordon back from injury last week and Chris Paul will return eventually, but neither of those guys can replace what Capela brings on both ends of the floor.
The New Orleans Pelicans are in a more desperate situation than the Rockets and lost a more important player than Capela, with Anthony Davis suffering a sprained finger in Portland on Friday. Davis will only miss 1-2 weeks, but, sitting four games out of a playoff spot with Davis' contract-extension decision coming in less than six months, the Pelicans need every game they can get.
So do the Los Angeles Lakers, who have fallen out of playoff position with LeBron James having missed the last 13 games. James should be returning soon, but before they got him back, the Lakers lost Lonzo Ball to an ankle injury that will have him out 4-6 weeks.
Like Capela, Wendell Carter Jr. had thumb surgery last week and could be out even longer. Carter's team isn't fighting for anything but Lottery combinations, but an extended absence will stunt his development, with him having played just 191 minutes alongside Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.
The standings remain tight in both conferences. Every game counts and it's not only important to stay healthy, but also to take advantage of the time (and win as many games) when you are.
- Last week: Playoff chase intensifies as second half begins
- This time last year: Rockets beat Warriors again, but champs still No. 1 -- The Rockets traversed the "secret tunnel" at Staples Center after a contentious game against the Clippers, David Blatt took a shot at the Cavs' defense, and Tony Parker ceded the Spurs' starting point guard job to Dejounte Murray. James Johnson scored five points in four seconds to help the Heat pull off a miraculous win in Charlotte and Spencer Dinwiddie beat the Pistons with a tough shot over Andre Drummond. Andrew Wiggins threw one down on Jakob Poeltl and LeBron James made Dwyane Wade smile with a ridiculous, behind-the-back pass.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Draymond Green (GSW) was a plus-67 in three games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Kris Dunn (CHI) was a minus-68 in three games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Brooklyn (3-0) -- The Nets won their three games by a total of just 12 points, but they were all good wins. They beat the Celtics at home before coming back from seemingly insurmountable deficits in Houston and Orlando.
- Something Just Ain't Right: Chicago and Cleveland (0-3) -- The good news is that they play twice this week. Somebody has to win!
East vs. West
- The West is 140-105 (.571) against the East in interconference games, though the East was 12-8 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 14
- Toughest: 1. New York, 2. Utah, 3. Memphis
- Easiest: 1. Indiana, 2. Miami, 3. Philadelphia
- 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: Charlotte (+5), Boston (+3), Brooklyn (+2), Golden State (+2)
- Free falls of the week: Dallas (-3), Memphis (-3), Orlando (-3)
Week 15 Team to Watch
- Utah -- The Jazz have climbed into playoff position by winning eight of their last nine games and they still have a lot more home games (20) than road games (15) remaining on their schedule. But that doesn't mean that their work is done. Their four-game homestand concludes with three big games against the Blazers (Monday), Nuggets (Wednesday) and Timberwolves (Friday), and that last game is the first of a home-and-home set with the team that sits just three games behind them in the loss column.
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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 100.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.0 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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