LeBron James' move from Cleveland to Los Angeles this summer appeared to exacerbate the NBA's conference imbalance. With the Western Conference having had a better record than the East in interconference games in 18 of the previous 19 seasons, the best player in the world was going from weaker conference to the stronger one.
And wouldn't you know it, the West has been dominant thus far this season, having won 49 of the 74 interconference games through Sunday. After a 31-22 start, the West has won 18 of its last 21 games against the East and is on pace for 298 interconference wins, 32 more than its had in any of the last 20 seasons.
It helps that the two West teams that have played the most games against the East are the Golden State Warriors (6-1) and Portland Trail Blazers (5-2), who are a combined 11-3 against the other conference. The two East teams that have played the most games against the West are the Brooklyn Nets (2-6) and Washington Wizards (1-7), so things haven't exactly been even in that regard.
Still, the imbalance has 10 West teams and only seven East teams with winning records. Six of the league's seven worst records belong to Eastern Conference teams and as the season goes on, calls for a 1-16 playoff format could get louder than ever.
A new format isn't happening this year, and the increased imbalance will likely make for another crazy playoff race in the West. Maybe Jimmy Butler's move from Minnesota to Philadelphia will help the East's record, though the Wolves might be better than they were 10 days ago, having added depth and subtracted a headache.
- Last week: Raptors reclaim No. 1 spot as Butler heads East
- This time last year: Celtics climb to No. 1 with comeback win over Warriors -- The Warriors blew a 17-point lead in Boston, and then came from 24 points down to beat the Sixers. The Celtics had won 15 straight games (with one more to go) and the Pistons were 11-5. Joel Embiid had a pair of huge games (totaling 78 points, 31 rebounds and eight blocks) at Staples Center, Dion Waiters did the double-spin, and Mike Conley played his last game of the season, succumbing to an Achilles injury.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Danny Green (TOR) was a plus-62 in four games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Derrick White (SAS) was a minus-71 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Houston (3-0) -- The Rockets got an important road victory in Denver, followed by easy wins over the Warriors and Kings at home.
- Something Just Ain't Right: Charlotte (0-2) -- Before they fell victim to more late-game heartbreak, the Hornets suffered their worst loss of the season ... to the Cavs.
East vs. West
- The West is 49-25 (.662) against the East in interconference games after going 12-2 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 5
- Toughest: 1. Utah, 2. Milwaukee, 3. Minnesota
- Easiest: 1. Toronto, 2. Golden State, 3. Dallas
- 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: Houston (+6), LA Clippers (+5), Memphis (+4), Orlando (+4)
- Free falls of the week: San Antonio (-8), Charlotte (-7), Sacramento (-7)
Week 6 Team to Watch
- Utah -- With their 50-point loss in Dallas on Wednesday, the Jazz's start to the season went from "disappointing" to "concerning." They have plenty of time to find some consistency on one end of the floor or the other, but this could be a big week. They finish their five-game trip in Indiana on Monday, return home to play Sacramento on Wednesday, and then head back out on the road, visiting the Lakers and Kings on Friday and Sunday.
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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 101.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.9 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.
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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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