As the clear favorite to win their third straight championship, the Golden State Warriors were at the top of the Week 1 Power Rankings. But over the next three months, the Warriors ranked No. 1 just twice -- Week 4, when they had won eight straight games, and Week 16, when they had won 10 straight.
It's not that the Warriors ever lost their status as the favorite to win the title. It's that they just haven't been the league's best team this season. That designation still belongs to the Milwaukee Bucks, who still have the league's best record and its best point differential by a wide margin. (And really, what fun would it be if the Warriors, because they remain title favorites, remained at No. 1 all year.)
But the Bucks are 5-4 in March and are facing some adversity with the loss of Malcolm Brogdon to a foot injury. The Warriors are just 4-2 (with a mediocre point differential) this month, but the four wins have come against the Sixers, Nuggets, Rockets and Thunder, with three of those four games having been on the road.
The playoffs are less than four weeks away and the Warriors have decided to show a few key opponents that they can take care of business when they want to. They're back at No. 1 in the rankings and maybe they'll stay there.
- Last week: Spoiler season is here
- This time last year: Teams at top gain separation as season winds down -- Stephen Curry (sprained ankle), Klay Thompson (fractured right thumb) and Kevin Durant (incomplete rib cartilage fracture) were all dealing with injuries for the Warriors. Kyrie Irving played his last game of the season and Tyronn Lue took some time away from the Cavs to focus on his health. The Grizzlies, who had lost 19 straight games, beat the Nuggets, who were fighting for a playoff spot. A well-executed baseline out of bounds play from the Wizards sent their game in Boston to overtime, and LeBron James put Jusuf Nurkic on a poster.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Eric Gordon (HOU) was a plus-63 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Elfrid Payton (NOP) was a minus-47 in three games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Philadelphia (3-0) -- The Sixers took care of business at home against the Cavs and Kings, and then got their biggest win of the season, scoring 130 points against the league's No. 1 defense on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee.
- Something Just Ain't Right: Minnesota (0-3) -- On a three-game trip, the Wolves were minimally competitive with three Western Conference playoff teams, losing to the Nuggets, Jazz and Rockets by an average of 20.3 points.
East vs. West
- The West is 213-173 (.552) against the East in interconference games after going 11-10 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 22
- Toughest: 1. Phoenix, 2. New York, 3. Utah
- Easiest: 1. Indiana, 2. Miami, 3. Brooklyn
- 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: Philadelphia (+4), Washington (+4), Three teams (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Boston (-3), New Orleans (-3), Four teams (-2)
Week 23 Team to Watch
- San Antonio -- The Spurs are a league-best 5-1 since the All-Star break against the 14 teams that currently have winning records, having beat the Pistons, Thunder, Nuggets, Bucks and Blazers over their eight-game winning streak. They put the streak on the line when they host the Warriors (who have also beat some good teams in the last 10 days) on Monday. They'll then host the Heat (who have won five of seven) on Wednesday, before visiting the Rockets and Celtics on Friday and Sunday. If they can survive this week, they have a chance at a top-four seed in the West.
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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 100.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 109.4 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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