As we passed the quarter pole of the 2018-19 season, some disappointing teams started to find their footing.
A week ago, the Boston Celtics were 10-10, struggling to find a lineup that would work and/or some consistency on offense. Suddenly, the Celtics have won three straight games, their best offensive stretch of the season.
The Houston Rockets went from the best record in the league last season to 9-11 through their first 20 games in 2018-19, unable to defend at nearly the same level. But they got Chris Paul back over the weekend and are now 11-6 with him in the lineup.
The Philadelphia 76ers, 9-7 after their first game with Jimmy Butler, have won eight of their last nine. And the Minnesota Timberwolves have put themselves in the Western Conference playoff race with a 7-3 mark since the trade.
The teams that have surprised us early in the season -- the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, LA Clippers and Sacramento Kings -- have yet to really fall off. So, while we're supposed to know who's good and who's not by now, things seem more in flux than they usually are, making December a critical month for most of the league.
- Last week Quarter pole a good time to assess playoff chances
- This time last year: Rockets ride seven-game winning streak to No. 1 -- The Cavs were 11 games into a 13-game winning streak and the Clippers were undefeated (8-0) with Chris Paul in the lineup. The Grizzlies fired David Fizdale, while knee injuries knocked out Blake Griffin for a month and Terrence Ross until April. Will Barton sliced through the Bulls' defense for a game-winning reverse, Bogdan Bogdanovic got past Draymond Green to beat the Warriors at Oracle, and Nerlens Noel partook in a halftime hot dog.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Mr. Plus: Joel Embiid (PHI) was a plus-68 in three games last week.
- Mr. Minus: Cedi Osman (CLE) was a minus-75 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Denver (2-0) -- The Nuggets beat the Lakers by 32 points on Tuesday and got an important win in Portland on Friday, improving to 10-4 within the Western Conference
- Something Just Ain't Right: Phoenix (0-4) -- The Suns lost their four games by an average of 14.8 points. The only close one was the one in which they hosted the shorthanded Pacers.
East vs. West
- The West is 75-52 (.591) against the East in interconference games after going 14-12 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 7
- Toughest: 1. Phoenix, 2. Utah, 3. Sacramento
- Easiest: 1. Detroit, 2. Toronto, 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: Boston (+7), Detroit (+6), 3 teams (+3)
- Free falls of the week: Portland (-6), Orlando (-5), Memphis (-3), Milwaukee (-3)
Week 8 Team to Watch
- New Orleans -- The 12-12 Pelicans can seemingly go in any direction with a big, three-game homestand beginning Monday, when they host the 15-7 Clippers. They then get visits from the 11-10 Mavs (Wednesday) and the 13-9 Grizzlies (Friday), before heading for an interesting road back-to-back in Detroit (Sunday) and Boston (next Monday).
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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 101.3 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.5 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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