The race for the final playoff spot in the West remains fascinating. Teams that were probably counted out a couple of weeks ago are suddenly surging.
The ninth-place Memphis Grizzlies, who likely had no intention of making the playoffs when this season began, have won five of their last eight games and have more wins (15) than the eighth-place San Antonio Spurs. The 11th place Minnesota Timberwolves, who have been without their best player for 10 games and had an 11-game losing streak on Christmas Day, have won four of their last six. And the 14th-place New Orleans Pelicans, owners of a 13-game losing streak, have won six of their last eight and are just three games out of eighth.
It's kind of ridiculous. Seven teams, all at least six games under .500 and all still in the mix for a playoff spot. The Grizzlies are the only team in the group that hasn't had a disappointing season, but with more than half the season left (we'll hit the midway point next Thursday), it's still salvageable for any team that can put it together for more than a couple of weeks.
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Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: LeBron James (LAL) was a plus-58 in three games last week.
- Wrong Way: Cedi Osman (CLE) was a minus-68 in four games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Houston (2-0) -- The Rockets played just two home games, but double-digit wins over the Nuggets and Sixers is good work.
- Something Just Ain't Right: Cleveland (0-4) -- For when you want some player-management strife mixed in with your terrible defense and low assist numbers.
East vs. West
- The West is 100-89 (.529) against the East in interconference games after going 14-7 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 11
- Toughest: 1. New Orleans, 2. Atlanta, 3. Cleveland
- Easiest: 1. Brooklyn, 2. Houston, 3. Milwaukee
- 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: Minnesota (+6), Houston (+5), Oklahoma City (+4)
- Free falls of the week: Cleveland (-8), Philadelphia (-6), Detroit (-4)
Week 12 Team to Watch
- Memphis -- The Grizzlies aren't just fun to watch (thanks to Ja Morant's highlight potential and some of the league's best ball movement). They're playing well, 9-6, with wins over the Heat, Thunder and Clippers, over the last four weeks. At 15-22, they're just a half game behind the eighth-place Spurs, who they will host on Friday as part of a six game homestand that begins with a game against the 11th-place Timberwolves on Tuesday and concludes with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game at FedEx Forum.
- Last week: Clippers move past Lakers, Heat rise to No. 2 and Bucks hold top spot
- This time last year: Spurs surging at midway point -- The Timberwolves fired head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau, and the Grizzlies traded for Justin Holiday. DeMar DeRozan registered his first career triple-double as the Spurs beat the Raptors in Kawhi Leonard's return to San Antonio, and James Harden capped a 44-point triple-double with a game-winning 3-pointer over Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. The Kings and Warriors combined for a record 41 3-pointers, Dwyane Wade left one in the air for Derrick Jones Jr., and Giannis Antetokounmpo destroyed Jon Leuer
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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 100.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 108.7 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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