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.
- Last week: Handful of West teams keep rising
- This time last year: Raptors rise to No. 1 with big win over Rockets -- The Blazers were nine games into a 13-game winning streak and the Grizzlies were 17 games into a 19-game losing streak. The Wolves signed Derrick Rose and there were still thoughts that Kawhi Leonard would return to the Spurs lineup (Narrator: He did not). DeMar DeRozan went coast-to-coast for a vicious, go-ahead dunk in Detroit, LeBron James threw the no-look pass of the year against his future team, and Marcus Smart did a kip up.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Luke Kennard (DET) was a plus-69 in three games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Luka Doncic (DAL) was a minus-51 in four games last 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
- The West is 202-163 (.553) against the East in interconference games after going 11-9 last week.
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.
* * *