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Power Rankings, Week 22: Spoiler season is here

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Mar 11, 2019 11:43 AM ET

Portland was one of three playoff-minded teams to be upset by Memphis last week.

It's spoiler season in NBA, with 19 teams -- 10 in the Eastern Conference and nine in the West -- having realistic playoff chances and 11 likely or assuredly heading to Lotteryville.

In the first 10 days of March, we've had 10 spoiler wins from those 11 Lottery-bound teams. That includes three wins (over Portland, Utah and Orlando) from the Memphis Grizzlies and two (over Denver and Utah), both on the road, from the New Orleans Pelicans.

Of course, the two biggest surprises of March have come from the Phoenix Suns, who knocked off both the best team in the league (the Milwaukee Bucks) and the defending champs (the Golden State Warriors) last week, holding two of the league's top three offenses to just 103 points per 100 possessions.

With an 7-1 stretch going into the All-Star break and a relatively easy schedule after it, the Orlando Magic looked like a safe pick to make the playoffs. But while the Magic have beat Toronto, Golden State and Indiana since the break, they've also lost to Chicago, New York, Cleveland and Memphis.

Though the Bucks have suffered some slippage, they remain at No. 1 in the Power Rankings, mostly because no team has taken the spot from them. But the Houston Rockets, winners of eight straight games, remain on the rise.

Previously...

Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Phoenix (3-1) -- The Suns lost in Portland on Saturday, but wins over both the Bucks and Warriors earns you this spot over the seven teams that didn't lose a game last week.
  • Something Just Ain't Right: L.A. Lakers (0-3) -- The Lakers faced three good teams last week, but didn't put up much of a fight against the Clippers, Nuggets and Celtics.

East vs. West

Schedule strength through Week 21

  • Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. Phoenix, 3. New York
  • Easiest: 1. Indiana, 2. Brooklyn, 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: Memphis (+5), Boston (+4), Houston (+4)
  • Free falls of the week: Dallas (-5), Four teams (-3)

Week 22 Team to Watch

  • Brooklyn -- The Nets begin the week with an opportunity to regain sixth place in the East. But even if they beat the Pistons at home on Monday, holding on to sixth will be difficult, because they then head out on a seven-game trip in which six of the seven opponents have winning records. The trip begins in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and includes one back-to-back, Saturday and Sunday against the Jazz and Clippers.

* * *

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 109.4 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

* * *

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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1
Last week:
1

Record: 50-17
Pace: 103.0 (6) OffRtg: 113.5 (3) DefRtg: 104.7 (1) NetRtg: +8.8 (1)

The Bucks' runs of never losing two games in a row and never losing twice to the same team both came to end on Monday ... and in Phoenix of all places. That loss was more about the Milwaukee offense (with Khris Middleton shooting 1-for-13), but the league's No. 1 defense ranks 19th since the All-Star break, having allowed more than 111 points per 100 possessions in its 10 post-break games. This team could afford some slippage and still has a two-game lead over Toronto for the league's best record, having won the tiebreaker between the two teams. The Bucks have won or lead the season series against every team in the East except the Miami Heat (1-1, with two games remaining), but their only meeting with Philadelphia thus far was back in October, before the Sixers (who play in Milwaukee on Sunday) traded for Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid have faced each other just three times in their careers.

Week 22: @ NOP, @ MIA, vs. PHI

2
Last week:
6

Record: 41-25
Pace: 98.2 (28) OffRtg: 114.1 (2) DefRtg: 111.4 (24) NetRtg: +2.8 (11)

The Rockets have held their opponents under a point per possession in two straight games for the first time all season and rank sixth defensively (106.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) over their eight-game winning streak, with five of the eight opponents being teams with above-average offenses. Their win in Toronto on Tuesday improved the Rockets to 10-8 on the road against the 16 teams that currently have winning records, with Milwaukee (11-7) and Golden State (11-8) being the only other teams with winning road records against that group. The winning streak began with a win (on the road) over the Warriors, who are in Houston on Wednesday for their final chance to avoid a season sweep. The Rockets' four games this week are actually their longest homestand of the season.

Week 22: vs. CHA, vs. GSW, vs. PHX, vs. MIN

3
Last week:
3

Record: 48-19
Pace: 100.6 (15) OffRtg: 112.4 (6) DefRtg: 107.2 (7) NetRtg: +5.2 (4)

It's been a relatively rough season for the Raptors' bench, and their loss to Houston on Tuesday may have been the nadir in that regard. Their starting lineup was a plus-17 in its 29 minutes, but the Raptors were outscored by an incredible 29 points in 19 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor against the Rockets. Coach Nick Nurse continues to try both Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in the starting lineup and the Raptors have been good as long as they have multiple starters on the floor. They have three of the league's top seven three-man combinations (in regard to on-court NetRtg) among the 258 that have played at least 100 minutes since the break. The Pistons have two of the top seven, and the Raptors will get another chance to beat their former coach when they visit Detroit on Sunday.

Week 22: @ CLE, vs. LAL, @ DET

4
Last week:
2

Record: 45-21
Pace: 102.1 (10) OffRtg: 115.0 (1) DefRtg: 109.3 (15) NetRtg: +5.7 (2)

The Warriors showed us on Friday that, when they care to lock in, they can suffocate a team defensively. In what was the Nuggets' worst offensive game (105 points on 104 possessions) in almost two months, the champs allowed Denver to score just 11 points (on 3-for-16 shooting, with seven turnovers) the first 10 minutes of the first quarter. Alas, the win over the Nuggets (which also came with Klay Thompson shooting 9-for-11 from 3-point range) was sandwiched by a 33-point loss to the Celtics and a loss (at home and with a rest advantage) to the Phoenix Suns. The Warriors have shot less than 25 percent in each of their last three losses and DeMarcus Cousins has shot 5-for-29 (the league's second-worst mark) from beyond the arc since the All-Star break. It seems that this team (even with the intrigue of adding Cousins to the mix) can only keep its regular-season foot on the gas for so long, but this week's two games -- at Houston on Wednesday and at Oklahoma City on Saturday -- might pique its interest.

Week 22: @ HOU, @ OKC

5
Last week:
4

Record: 43-22
Pace: 99.0 (23) OffRtg: 112.8 (4) DefRtg: 108.0 (11) NetRtg: +4.8 (5)

After finally getting healthy, the Nuggets allowed less than 97 points per 100 possessions as they won their first three games out of the All-Star break. In the three games after that, their reunited starting lineup outscored its opponents by 28 points in its 43 minutes. But they lost all three, because they were outscored by 44 points in 101 minutes with at least one reserve on the floor. What was once a strength (with Monte Morris and Malik Beasley developing into two of the best reserve guards in the league) became a liability. But the bench was much better than the starting lineup in their loss at Golden State on Friday (when Nikola Jokic registered a career-worst minus-29 in his 29 minutes) and the Nuggets still have 17 games to figure out if Isaiah Thomas (who has shot 37 percent in his nine games) can play in the postseason. They're still comfortably in second place, but have an important, three-game homestand this week, because the schedule gets tougher and more road-heavy after that.

Week 22: vs. MIN, vs. DAL, vs. IND

6
Last week:
5

Record: 40-26
Pace: 100.3 (17) OffRtg: 112.6 (5) DefRtg: 109.4 (16) NetRtg: +3.2 (8)

Because the fourth-place Thunder still have a tougher schedule going forward, the Blazers still have a chance to get home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But it might be difficult to pass the Rockets (who have the easiest remaining schedule of the three) for third place, and a Portland-OKC series would match the Blazers with the Western Conference team that has played them the best this season, with Paul George having averaged a league-best 38 points per game against Portland. (What's wild is that the Blazers were the only West team to sweep the Thunder last season.) The playoffs are still five weeks away and the Blazers still have some interesting tests (including two this week) in front of them. Increased production from Maurice Harkless (11.1 ppg on 55 percent shooting since the All-Star break) is an encouraging sign, knowing that playoff defenses will look to limit the Portland guards.

Week 22: @ LAC, @ NOP, @ SAS

7
Last week:
10

Record: 38-29
Pace: 102.5 (9) OffRtg: 110.7 (12) DefRtg: 109.7 (19) NetRtg: +1.0 (12)

It's a great time for the Clippers to finally have a starting lineup that functions well on both ends of the floor. The starters have outscored their opponents by almost 16 points per 100 possessions in their 125 minutes together, the Clippers rank fourth defensively (105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break, and they've won four straight games for the first time since November. Danilo Gallinari has rebounded from missing 61 games last season to have the best year of his career, registering career-high marks in true shooting percentage (62.5 percent), assist-turnover ratio (1.69) and rebounding percentage (9.7 percent). And he had a season-high 34 points against a top-five defense as the Clippers beat the Thunder on Friday. Not only are they comfortably in playoff position, but they have a real chance to avoid the Warriors in the first round, though the eighth-place Spurs have an easier schedule going forward.

Week 22: vs. BOS, vs. POR, vs. CHI, vs. BKN

8
Last week:
12

Record: 41-26
Pace: 100.3 (18) OffRtg: 111.2 (9) DefRtg: 105.7 (3) NetRtg: +5.5 (3)

The Celtics have found themselves in California, scoring more than 116 points per 100 possessions in wins over the Warriors, Kings and Lakers (after scoring just 102 over their first six post-break games), with the veterans leading the way. Kyrie Irving missed the Sacramento game (the Celtics are now 10-2 without him), but has combined with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford for an effective field goal percentage of 74 percent and 42 assists (with just 15 turnovers) on the trip. Hayward dropped 30 on the champs and hit the game-winner in Sacramento, his first basket to take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime since Feb. 9, 2016 (when he beat the Mavs at the buzzer). The No. 3 seed now looks very attainable, with one remaining meeting with the third-place Sixers and two more with the fourth-place Pacers.

Week 22: @ LAC, vs. SAC, vs. ATL

9
Last week:
7

Record: 37-28
Pace: 100.8 (14) OffRtg: 108.9 (18) DefRtg: 105.8 (4) NetRtg: +3.1 (9)

After a great week against playoff teams, the Jazz stumbled as their schedule got much easier. They allowed more than 117 points per 100 possessions in losses to the Pelicans and Grizzlies last week, getting punished inside by Julius Randle (28 of his 30 points in the paint or at the free throw line on Monday) and Jonas Valanciunas (21 of his 27 in the paint or at the line on Friday). No team has allowed their opponents to take a lower percentage of their shots from 3-point range than the Jazz, who have allowed fewer than 10 3-pointers in five of their last six games. The Jazz rank in the top five in opponent field goal percentage in the paint for the third straight season, but only three teams have allowed their opponents to take a higher percentage of their shots in the paint. Funneling the ball toward Rudy Gobert and/or Derrick Favors is the goal, but there are times when the Jazz can be beat inside. They're 12-17 when they've allowed more than 50 points in the paint, with a big game on Monday against the team -- Oklahoma City -- that ranks fifth in points in the paint per game and has beat the Jazz three times already this season.

Week 22: vs. OKC, @ PHX, vs. MIN, vs. BKN

10
Last week:
8

Record: 42-25
Pace: 102.7 (7) OffRtg: 111.0 (10) DefRtg: 108.0 (10) NetRtg: +3.0 (10)

The Sixers rank 29th offensively (105.4 points scored per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break, with J.J. Redick (40.1 percent) and Jimmy Butler (41.9 percent) both in the bottom five in post-break effective field goal percentage among the 83 players that have taken at least 100 post-break shots. But the return of Joel Embiid on Sunday resulted in their best defensive game (89 points allowed on 98 possessions) since November, with the Pacers scoring just 30 points -- with as many turnovers (9) as field goals -- in the second half. Embiid, meanwhile, racked up 33 points (with 15 free throw attempts) and 12 rebounds in just 28 minutes. The win put the Sixers back in third place, and they have an easier remaining schedule than both the fourth-place Pacers and fifth-place Celtics.

Week 22: vs. CLE, vs. SAC, @ MIL

11
Last week:
13

Record: 38-29
Pace: 99.3 (22) OffRtg: 112.1 (7) DefRtg: 111.2 (20) NetRtg: +0.9 (13)

After their brutal rodeo trip, the Spurs have won five straight games, a streak that includes four wins over teams with winning records and ... a road win! LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan have combined to shoot 54 percent during the streak, Aldridge has as many 3-pointers (three) over the last three games as he had over the previous two months, and the Spurs have now won 10 of the last 12 games in which Derrick White has played, but their best minutes continue to come from the bench. They've outscored their opponents by 43 points in 82 minutes with Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli on the floor together over the streak. Former Spur Pau Gasol was a minus-20 in less than 15 minutes of San Antonio's seven-point win over the Bucks on Sunday.

Week 22: @ DAL, vs. NYK, vs. POR

12
Last week:
9

Record: 40-26
Pace: 104.1 (3) OffRtg: 109.9 (15) DefRtg: 105.9 (5) NetRtg: +3.9 (7)

Paul George hasn't shot any better his three games since returning from his three-game absence than he did in the three post-break games prior. In fact, only three players (one of them being teammate Dennis Schroder) have a worse effective field goal percentage on at least 100 shots since the break. The Thunder have lost six of their last eight games, but still have a top-four seed in the West, in part because George got to the line for a career-high 20 free throw attempts in their overtime win in Portland on Thursday. While George has been struggling, Russell Westbrook has seemingly figured something out and has an effective field goal percentage of 54.7 percent since the break (up from 44.7 percent prior). The Thunder's schedule remains tough in regard to opponent strength, but after they visit the Jazz on Monday, they'll play 10 of their final 15 games at home.

Week 22: @ UTA, vs. BKN, @ IND, vs. GSW

13
Last week:
14

Record: 34-31
Pace: 98.6 (27) OffRtg: 108.4 (20) DefRtg: 108.2 (12) NetRtg: +0.2 (14)

The Pistons have become Team Fourth Quarter. They rank as the league's seventh-best fourth quarter team, but have been at their best (plus-3.2 points per 100 possessions) in the final 12 minutes of regulation. They have a league-high 10 wins after trailing at the end of the third, picking up two last week by outscoring the Wolves and Bulls, 84-50, in the fourth. Langston Galloway played all 24 minutes and totaled 20 points in those two fourth quarters, and he leads the league in post-break 3-point percentage (62 percent), having made his last 12 attempts from beyond the arc. The Pistons still have the league's No. 1 offense (118.7 points scored per 100 possessions) since Feb. 1 and Andre Drummond has its best plus-minus (plus-115) since the All-Star break. A win in Brooklyn on Monday would go a long way in securing the No. 6 seed in the East, with the tiebreaker on the line and with the Nets having a much tougher schedule going forward.

Week 22: @ BKN, @ MIA, vs. LAL, vs. TOR

14
Last week:
11

Record: 42-25
Pace: 98.7 (26) OffRtg: 109.5 (16) DefRtg: 105.2 (2) NetRtg: +4.3 (6)

The return of Domantas Sabonis from a five-game absence on Sunday wasn't enough to put an end to the Pacers' slide. They've lost five of their last seven games, ranking in the bottom five defensively (114 points allowed per 100 possessions) over that stretch. Losses in Philadelphia and Milwaukee (in which the the top seven guys in their rotation shot a combined 34 percent) have dropped them to 1-5 against teams that are currently over .500 since Victor Oladipo was lost for the season, and they have 12 more games remaining against that group. That includes six games (two this week) against the top five teams in the Western Conference. The Philly loss was just their fourth all season in a game they led by double-digits.

Week 22: vs. NYK, vs. OKC, @ DEN

15
Last week:
15

Record: 33-32
Pace: 104.4 (2) OffRtg: 108.5 (19) DefRtg: 109.6 (17) NetRtg: -1.1 (21)

For most of the season, the Kings thrived in close games, with their strong record belying their not-as-strong point differential. They're still one of two teams with a winning record and a negative point differential and they're still the league's second-most improved team in regard to point differential per 100 possessions (plus-6.1 from last season). However, late-game luck has mostly gone the other way of late. They're 3-6 over the last month, with all six of the losses having been within five points in the last five minutes. In addition, Buddy Hield has shot 4-for-17 on clutch shots over that stretch. De'Aaron Fox saved them in New York on Sunday by shooting 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter, but their road trip only gets tougher from there and they'll need some help to have a chance at ending their 12-year playoff drought.

Week 22: @ WAS, @ BOS, @ PHI, vs. CHI

16
Last week:
18

Record: 35-33
Pace: 101.2 (12) OffRtg: 109.0 (17) DefRtg: 109.3 (14) NetRtg: -0.3 (17)

They trailed both the Cavs and Hawks in the fourth quarter last week, but the Nets have followed a three-game losing streak (in which they allowed 118 points per 100 possessions) with a three-game winning streak (in which they've allowed just 97 per 100). They're still looking for a starting lineup that works -- they're one of seven teams that don't have a lineup that has played at least 200 minutes and they've been outscored by more than 11 points per 100 possessions with Joe Harris on the floor since the All-Star break. But, Spencer Dinwiddie off the bench is working pretty well. He has averaged 22.3 points (with an effective field goal percentage of 63 percent) during the win streak and ranks in the top three in both points and assists per game off the bench. Now, the fun begins. The Nets will play the Pistons for sixth place on Monday, the start of a 13-game stretch where 12 of the opponents are currently over .500. They're 10-18 within that group (7-9 at home and 3-9 on the road) thus far, though they haven't played Detroit since October.

Week 22: vs. DET, @ OKC, @ UTA, @ LAC

17
Last week:
19

Record: 31-35
Pace: 98.8 (24) OffRtg: 107.1 (23) DefRtg: 107.8 (9) NetRtg: -0.7 (18)

It was less than two weeks ago when the Heat looked like toast, with a 2-9 stretch being capped off with a loss at home to the Suns. But with a new starting lineup came a win over the Warriors and, after a narrow loss in Houston, a four-game winning streak that put them back in playoff position. Even after it registered a minus-10 in a 21-point loss to Toronto on Sunday, the starting lineup has outscored its opponents by 7.1 points per 100 possessions in its 91 minutes over the last seven games. Kelly Olynyk ranks second in post-break effective field goal percentage (63.1 percent) and more important may be that Hassan Whiteside has had a couple of big games in his new role off the bench. Whiteside totaled 29 points and 26 rebounds (in just 43 minutes) in wins over Charlotte and Cleveland last week and the Heat have outscored their opponents by 28 points with Whiteside on the floor since he returned from a three-game absence. They still have four more games within that No. 6-10 group in the East, and two of them are this week.

Week 22: vs. DET, vs. MIL, vs. CHA

18
Last week:
20

Record: 32-35
Pace: 101.0 (13) OffRtg: 110.9 (11) DefRtg: 111.2 (22) NetRtg: -0.3 (16)

Karl-Anthony Towns' 35.1 points per game on a league-best effective field goal percentage of 67 percent is the biggest reason the Wolves have a top-five offense (113.9 points scored per 100 possessions) since the All-Star break. But after Towns went down with a knee injury at the end of regulation on Saturday, Taj Gibson (who lost his starting job last month) keyed a couple of wins with four offensive rebounds in the overtime against Washington and with a season-high 25 points against New York on Sunday. The Wolves have won their last six games at the Target Center, but (having blown a 16-point lead in Detroit on Wednesday) they've lost nine of their last 10 games on the road -- where they'll play five of their next six.

Week 22: @ DEN, @ UTA, @ HOU

19
Last week:
16

Record: 31-37
Pace: 98.7 (25) OffRtg: 106.7 (25) DefRtg: 107.7 (8) NetRtg: -1.0 (20)

A win in Memphis on Sunday would have had the Magic back in eighth place, with a much easier remaining schedule than the Heat. But it's not clear that schedule strength matters to the Magic, because they've now lost to the Bulls, Knicks, Cavs and Grizzlies since the All-Star break. The Memphis loss wasn't another double-digit collapse (the Magic lead the league with 17 losses after leading by 10 points or more), but it came after they led by seven points with less than three minutes to go, scored just once on their final nine possessions, and committed three turnovers in those final three minutes. They've played a league-high 41 games that have been within five points in the last five minutes and have the league's worst clutch offense, having scored a paltry 92.7 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Week 22: @ WAS, vs. CLE, vs. ATL

20
Last week:
17

Record: 30-39
Pace: 103.6 (5) OffRtg: 111.5 (8) DefRtg: 111.3 (23) NetRtg: +0.2 (15)

Rookies Frank Jackson and Kenrich Williams are the two players who can make most use of what's left of this wacky Pelicans season. And with Jrue Holiday (abdominal strain) missing his first two games of the season, Jackson started alongside Williams and Elfrid Payton, totaled 45 points in the two games, and showed an ability to get to the rim (shooting 10-for-15 in the restricted area) over the weekend. The Pelicans play nine of their final 13 games at home, but they've lost eight of their last 11 at the Smoothie King Center and their ability to play spoiler is obviously hindered by the absence of Holiday. Amazingly, they still have a positive point differential (plus-17, 15th in the league) for the season, though that might not last another week.

Week 22: vs. MIL, vs. POR, vs. PHX

21
Last week:
21

Record: 30-36
Pace: 99.8 (20) OffRtg: 110.2 (13) DefRtg: 111.2 (21) NetRtg: -1.0 (19)

The good news is that the Hornets have won two straight first quarters for the first time since January. They also won a close game last week, getting a go-ahead 3-pointer from Jeremy Lamb (and a fortunate no-call) against Washington on Friday to end a streak of six straight losses in games that were within five points in last five minutes. The bad news is that they remain in 10th place, have shown no signs of defensive improvement (they rank 23rd there since the All-Star break) and play 10 of their final 16 games on the road (where they're 9-22). And, their only consecutive road wins came in the first week of the season. Coach James Borrego is still searching for answers off his bench, with Frank Kaminsky, Dwayne Bacon and Willy Hernangomez all rejoining the rotation this month.

Week 22: @ HOU, @ WAS, @ MIA

22
Last week:
22

Record: 30-36
Pace: 103.7 (4) OffRtg: 107.5 (22) DefRtg: 109.2 (13) NetRtg: -1.7 (22)

Roster construction and defensive disinterest (over the last six weeks) have been factors in the Lakers (likely) extending their playoff drought to six years. But injuries are the biggest reason they sit in 11th place, and the injury news only got worse last week, with Brandon Ingram (deep venous thrombosis) and Lonzo Ball (left ankle) being shut down for the rest of the season. Ingram (61.2 percent) had the league's fifth best post-break effective field goal percentage (among players with at least 100 post-break field goal attempts) and the Lakers have been 10 points per 100 possessions worse in their 19 games without Ball (having allowed 116.3, the worst mark in the league over the last seven weeks) than they were in 47 games with him (106.3, seventh best). It's Moe Wagner time, now.

Week 22: @ CHI, @ TOR, @ DET, @ NYK

23
Last week:
28

Record: 28-40
Pace: 96.8 (30) OffRtg: 104.3 (30) DefRtg: 106.2 (6) NetRtg: -1.9 (23)

This post-deadline Grizzlies roster, as varied as it is in regard to the teams these guys were playing for a few months ago, isn't that bad. It's got a bunch of veterans who know how to play and want to clearly want to win some games. The Grizz have won three straight against teams -- Portland, Utah and Orlando -- hoping to improve their positions in the standings. Mike Conley has led the way, averaging 31.3 points on an effective field goal percentage of 67 percent (and registering a 23/4 assist-turnover ratio) over the three games. His 40 points against the Blazers on Tuesday were a career high and have helped take his season-long average to 20.6 per game, also a career high. Having allowed less than a point per possession over their last five games, the Grizzlies have the league's No. 1 defense since the All-Star break.

Week 22: @ ATL, @ WAS

24
Last week:
24

Record: 23-45
Pace: 104.4 (1) OffRtg: 106.8 (24) DefRtg: 112.6 (28) NetRtg: -5.8 (26)

The Trae Young and John Collins Show had its best episode yet against Brooklyn on Saturday, with Young registering his first career triple-double and Collins adding 33 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. Of course, the Hawks shot 8-for-41 from 3-point range, Vince Carter missed a 3-pointer for the win, and the Hawks lost what was their ninth straight game that was within five points in the last five minutes. That streak ended on Sunday, when Kevin Huerter scored 17 of his 27 points in the second quarter of a 12-point win over the Pelicans. The Hawks have scored 111 points per 100 possessions in 798 total minutes with Young, Huerter and Collins on the floor together, and the trio is a plus-20 in its 96 minutes since the break.

Week 22: vs. MEM, @ BOS, @ ORL

25
Last week:
26

Record: 27-39
Pace: 102.6 (8) OffRtg: 110.1 (14) DefRtg: 112.6 (27) NetRtg: -2.5 (25)

A week ago in this space, it was noted that the Wizards' March 3 win against Minnesota was their most efficient game of the season (135 points on 103 possessions). Well, it's time to update that note, because on Wednesday against Dallas, the Wizards scored even more efficiently (132 points on 99 possessions), with Jabari Parker shooting 10-for-11 and their starting backcourt -- Tomas Satoransky and Bradley Beal -- combining for 19 assists and just five turnovers. Parker and Bobby Portis have combined for an effective field goal percentage of 57 percent with Washington and are two of the only three players (rookie Troy Brown is the other) with a positive plus-minus in at least 100 minutes with the Wizards. Alas, there have been no signs of progress on defense.

Week 22: vs. SAC, vs. ORL, vs. CHA, vs. MEM

26
Last week:
25

Record: 19-49
Pace: 99.4 (21) OffRtg: 104.4 (29) DefRtg: 112.0 (25) NetRtg: -7.6 (27)

The offensive success of the Bulls' starting lineup (it has scored 113.4 points per 100 possessions in its 173 minutes) isn't just about Zach LaVine, Otto Porter and Lauri Markkanen. Robin Lopez has averaged 16.1 ppg on 61 percent shooting in the 14 games since Porter joined the lineup, and that sweeping hook of his is deceptively good. Lopez, who had 19 points in the Bulls' spoiler win over Philadelphia on Wednesday, has shot 55 percent on non-restricted-area paint shots, the second-best mark among 99 players who have attempted at least 100. LaVine's two buckets at the end of the win over the Sixers gave him seven to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime this season. That's tied with Kawhi Leonard for the league lead.

Week 22: vs. LAL, @ LAC, @ SAC

27
Last week:
29

Record: 16-52
Pace: 101.2 (11) OffRtg: 104.9 (27) DefRtg: 113.4 (29) NetRtg: -8.5 (29)

Break up the Suns! They've won five of their last seven games, a stretch that was preceded by a 19-game losing streak and includes wins over the best team in each conference. They trailed both the Bucks and Warriors by 16 points last week, but are so used to being down big -- they've trailed by 10-plus points for 1,103 minutes, 124 more than any other team this season -- that it was, apparently, no big deal. Kelly Oubre Jr. and DeAndre Ayton combined for 20 points in a 38-point fourth quarter against Milwaukee and Devin Booker had 17 of the Suns' 36 in the fourth quarter against the champs. The Suns' starting lineup, with Dragan Bender at power forward, has been outscored by 13 points over the 5-2 stretch, but replace Bender with Mikal Bridges and you have a lineup that is a plus-49 in just 40 minutes over the seven games.

Week 22: vs. UTA, @ HOU, @ NOP

28
Last week:
23

Record: 27-39
Pace: 99.8 (19) OffRtg: 107.7 (21) DefRtg: 109.6 (18) NetRtg: -1.9 (24)

Luka Doncic has an effective field goal percentage of 56 percent on shots with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. That's the fifth-best mark among 41 players who have attempted at least 50 clutch shots. That's also one reason that the Mavs (16-20) have been the league's most improved team in the clutch. (The other reason, of course, is that they were a league-worst 12-38 in clutch games last season.) But with Mavs down one in the final seconds on Sunday, the Rockets forced the ball out of Doncic's hands and Jalen Brunson got blocked at the buzzer. With that shot, Dallas guards and wings not named Doncic have an effective field goal percentage of just 35 percent in the clutch. The Mavs have lost 10 of their last 11 and rank last in both offensive and defensive efficiency over that stretch.

Week 22: vs. SAS, @ DEN, vs. CLE

29
Last week:
27

Record: 16-50
Pace: 97.2 (29) OffRtg: 106.1 (26) DefRtg: 116.3 (30) NetRtg: -10.1 (30)

Since the All-Star break, the Cavs have scored 118.7 points per 100 possessions with Kevin Love on the floor. That's the 10th-highest mark among 212 players that have averaged at least 20 minutes in five post-break games or more. The Cavs rank 11th offensively (111.7 points scored per 100 possessions) and fifth in assist percentage (having assisted on 64.5 percent of their field goals) since the break after ranking 26th (105.4) and 28th (53.6 percent) before the break. And Love isn't the only guy getting buckets. David Nwaba (22 points at Brooklyn on Wednesday) and Brandon Knight (15 points in Miami on Friday) both recorded season highs last week, and Collin Sexton added 27 (two shy of his career high) against the Heat. Sexton still ranks fifth in total mid-range field goal attempts, but has taken only 12 percent of his post-break shots from mid-range (down from 39 percent before the break).

Week 22: vs. TOR, @ PHI, @ ORL, @ DAL

30
Last week:
30

Record: 13-54
Pace: 100.4 (16) OffRtg: 104.5 (28) DefRtg: 112.5 (26) NetRtg: -8.0 (28)

The Knicks had a couple of big offensive games in late February, but, having been held under a point per possession in three straight games, they've scored just 101.8 per 100 over a six-game losing streak. They've seen the league's second biggest increase in drives per game (from 34 last season to 45 this season) and its third biggest increase in the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area or 3-point range (from 57 percent to 67 percent). But they rank last in both field goal percentage (42.4 percent) and assist percentage (7.9 percent) on those drives. Only the Cavs (-5.9) have seen a bigger drop in offensive efficiency than the Knicks, who have scored 1.7 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season.

Week 22: @ IND, @ SAS, vs. LAL


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