NBA

Power Rankings, Week 3: Undefeated Bucks climb to No. 1

Power Rankings, Week 3: Undefeated Bucks climb to No. 1

The Bucks, the last unbeaten team (5-0) in the NBA, rise to No. 1 in our latest Power Rankings.

There’s a note below that the 117.9 points per 100 possessions the Boston Celtics allowed in their first five games this season were more than the Celtics allowed in all but one five-game stretch last season. (There are 78 five-game stretches in a team’s season, by the way.) That seems really bad for the Celtics.

But that note comes with the context that offense is way up this season. Maybe it’s due to officiating changes. Maybe it’s because the talent is healthier. And maybe we just have more talent than ever in the league. But the 112.2 points per 100 possessions that the league has averaged through 95 games are 0.8 more than it averaged last season (111.4) and 0.5 more than it averaged in 2020-21, the most efficient season in NBA history.

And offensive efficiency almost always goes up as the season goes on. At this point last season, the league had averaged just 105.6 points per 100 possessions. At around this point two seasons ago (the 91-game mark), it had averaged 108.8.

What’s interesting is that the league’s 3-point rate has gone down. The league has taken 38.6% of its shots from beyond the arc, down from 39.9% last season. With that, effective field goal percentage is at 53.2%, the same as it was last season (for the full year). But offensive rebounding is up (21 of the 30 teams have seen an increase in offensive rebounding percentage from last season, and only five of those 21 have played the Nets) and the league-wide free throw rate has taken a big jump (21 of the 30 teams have seen an increase in free throw rate (FTA/FGA)).

We’re already at the most efficient mark in history. And history tells us that the offense is going to only get better.


Plus-Minus Players of the Week

Teams of the Week

  • Make It Last Forever: Oklahoma City (3-0) — Down is up, up is down, and the Thunder dominated the Clippers last week.
  • Something Just Ain’t Right: Brooklyn (0-4) — When you lose to the Pacers at home and with a rest advantage, the strength-of-schedule and rust excuses are no longer valid.

East vs. West


Movement in the Rankings

  • High jumps of the week: San Antonio (+11), Oklahoma City (+9), Cleveland (+8)
  • Free falls of the week: LA Clippers (-19), Brooklyn (-10), Golden State (-6)

Week 3 Team to Watch

  • Utah The Jazz have lost a little bit of steam, but they’re still 5-2, tied (with the Spurs!) for third place in the Western Conference. And this week’s slate should be a good test of their staying power. They play the second game of a two-game series with the Grizzlies on Monday before heading to Dallas for a meeting with Luka Doncic and the Mavs on Wednesday. Then it’s off to L.A. for games against the Lakers and Clippers over the weekend.

Previous Power Rankings

  • This time last year: Heat, Knicks and Bulls surge into top 5 — Every team had at least one win and one loss. The Suns were 2-3, but one game into an 18-game winning streak. Cade Cunningham made his NBA debut and Patrick Williams was lost for 3 1/2 months with a dislocated wrist. Will Barton and Nikola Jokic each blocked shots in the final four seconds to save a Nuggets win in Minnesota. Jokic got posterized by Lauri Markkanen, Stephen Curry drained a 26-footer off of one foot, and Harrison Barnes beat the Suns at the buzzer.

OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)

The league has averaged 112.2 points scored per 100 possessions and 100.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes 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.


Record: 5-0

OffRtg: 112.7 (16) DefRtg: 102.6 (1) NetRtg: +10.1 (3) Pace: 100.5 (15)

The Bucks became the league’s last unbeaten team on Wednesday, in part because they’d only played three games at that point. But they’ve remained unbeaten with wins over teams – New York and Atlanta – that are otherwise 7-3. After an ugly first half against the Nets, they’ve lost just one of their last 10 quarters, and that was a 33-32 third quarter against the Hawks on Saturday.

The Bucks have allowed their opponents to take only 34% of their shots from 3-point range. That’s the league’s fifth-lowest opponent rate and a huge drop from last season (45%, second highest) and the three seasons prior to that. None of their five opponents rank higher than eighth in overall 3-point rate (two of the five rank in the bottom six), but those five opponents have taken 38% of their shots from deep in their other games. And the Bucks have done a better job of defending the 3-point line while continuing to protect the rim. They’ve outscored their opponents by a league-best 13.6 points per game in the restricted area, and that’s as much about their defense as it is about the guy who leads the league in restricted-area scoring.

The Bucks’ best unbeaten start to a season in franchise history is 7-0 (in 1971-72 and 2018-19). They’ve maybe benefited from playing only five games in the first two weeks, with four of those at home. But given their schedule this week, they have a great opportunity to eclipse that 7-0 mark. They’ve won 18 of their last 21 games against the Pistons, but lost both meetings with the Wolves last season.

Week 3: vs. DET, DET, @ MIN, vs. OKC

Record: 5-1

OffRtg: 118.5 (2) DefRtg: 106.2 (4) NetRtg: +12.3 (1) Pace: 98.5 (24)

The Suns have a key contributor sitting at home, and Jae Crowder has said that his dispute with the team isn’t about the starting job he lost. Either way, there’s no arguing against the success of the new starting lineup, which has outscored its opponents by 28.9 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 20 lineups that have played at least 50 minutes. The starting group was a plus-13 in less than 17 minutes as the Suns blew out the Warriors on Tuesday and, as was the case last season, the Suns have been able to keep on rolling when they’ve replaced Deandre Ayton with another center.

A lineup with Jock Landale in Ayton’s place was a plus-16 in a little more than seven minutes against Golden State and the other four starters were a plus-21 in 46 minutes without Ayton over the weekend after he sprained his ankle against the Pelicans. The Suns basically got Landale for free (from the Hawks) this summer and once Ayton’s offer sheet was matched, the Australian looked like the fourth-string center. But he’s played the eighth most minutes on the team, he’s scored more points than Chris Paul, and he’s blocked more than twice as many shots (5) as Ayton (2). He had some serious trouble defending on the perimeter against Golden State, but was better inside and did some good things (nice catch on the roll, posting mismatches) on offense.

One year later, the Suns are streaking again and their six-game homestand (longest of the season) concludes this week with two games against the Blazers, who could be without Damian Lillard. The first meeting with Portland was the Suns’ only loss and, by far, their worst offensive game of the season (111 points on 108 possessions).

Week 3: vs. MIN, vs. POR, vs. POR

Record: 5-1

OffRtg: 116.9 (5) DefRtg: 105.3 (3) NetRtg: +11.6 (2) Pace: 97.1 (27)

The Cavs haven’t had their point guard since the second quarter of their first game, but they enter Week 3 on a five-game winning streak, one of four teams with fewer than two losses and one of two that rank in the top five on both ends of the floor. They got their first signature win in Boston on Friday and their two most-used lineups – Donovan Mitchell, Caris LeVert, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, with either Dean Wade or Cedi Osman at the three – have outscored their opponents by 38 points (21.9 per 100 possessions) in 82 total minutes.

The Cavs didn’t need much from Donovan Mitchell in their win over Orlando on Wednesday when they held the Magic under a point per possession. But they needed all of the 79 points he scored (on an effective field goal percentage of 74%) over the weekend. With Caris LeVert also going off (41 points, including two step-back 3s in overtime), they came back from seven points down in the fourth quarter against the Celtics. And with Kevin Love also going off (29 points, 5-for-7 from deep in the fourth), they erased a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit against the Knicks two nights later. The score over the two fourth quarters plus the Friday OT: Cavs 74, Opponents 39.

It’s not clear if Darius Garland will be back for meeting No. 2 with the Celtics (Wednesday in Cleveland). LeVert has been solid as the secondary ball-handler, having that big game in Boston, shooting 16-for-33 (48%) from 3-point range, and averaging 6.7 assists. But his true shooting percentage (scoring efficiency) is still below the league average because he’s just 9-for-42 (21% – worst among 143 players with at least 30 attempts) inside the arc.

After the Boston game, the Cavs will begin a five-game trip that includes all four of their games in California. They were 9-6 (just the second time in the last 12 years they had a winning record) in Western Conference arenas last season.

Week 3: vs. BOS, @ DET, @ LAL

Record: 5-1

OffRtg: 114.2 (10) DefRtg: 109.6 (9) NetRtg: +4.6 (6) Pace: 99.2 (19)

The Blazers lost Damian Lillard to a calf injury and lost for the first time, allowing the Heat (who’ve averaged 10.8 fast break points in their other six games) to rack up 29 fast break points on Wednesday. But their defense has held up otherwise, and their offense was fine without Lillard in a win over the Rockets two nights later. Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons were a capable inside-out tandem, combining for 57 points on an effective field goal percentage of 70% in a game they never trailed. And when you shoot like that from the field, you don’t need all the free throws that were keeping the offense afloat through the first five games. The Blazers still rank second in free throw rate and have outscored their opponents by 8.5 points per game (the league’s best differential) at the line.

The win over Houston also featured The Shaedon Sharpe Show (see below), and the rookie’s success so far (9.3 points in 18.6 minutes per game, effective field goal percentage of 57%) is about more than the dunks. He’s 6-for-14 from 3-point range and (though he’s just 2-for-8 on pull-up 2s thus far) looked pretty comfortable shooting off the dribble. The rotation additions the Blazers have made over the last nine months – Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, Sharpe and Jerami Grant – can really complement Lillard and Nurkic well with their speed and athleticism. In the last four seasons in which Lillard was healthy (2017-18 through ’20-21), Portland ranked 29th or 30th in the percentage of its possessions that were in transition. This season, they’re eighth.

The Blazers are in the middle of a four-day break, but they probably won’t have Lillard back by the time they host the Grizzlies on Wednesday. They’re the only team with three six-game road trips this season (only two other teams have more than one trip of six games or more), and the first of the three begins with a Friday-Saturday back-to-back in Phoenix.

Week 3: vs. MEM, @ PHX, @ PHX

Record: 4-2

OffRtg: 116.9 (6) DefRtg: 114.5 (22) NetRtg: +2.4 (11) Pace: 98.2 (26)

The Celtics were 3-0 in Week 1, but they were winning with offense. And their inability to defend at anything close to the level at which they defended last season bit them in the butt as they lost games to the Bulls and Cavs last week. They allowed Chicago to score 49 points over a 15-minute, first-half stretch that turned a 19-point lead into a 16-point deficit. And they allowed the Cavs to score 95 points on 78 possessions (122 per 100) through the first three quarters before a more familiar issue (clutch offense) hurt them in the closing minutes of the fourth and overtime. In only one five-game stretch last season (a five-game trip in early December – 119.2) did the Celtics allow as many points per 100 possessions as they did in their first five games this season (117.9).

But Game 6 brought some renewed focus on that end of the floor, with the Celtics holding Washington to just 15 points on 26 possessions in the first quarter on Sunday. The Wizards made just six shots from the field in the opening 12 minutes, and only one of those six was a gimme. The defense wasn’t quite as tenacious after that, but the wire-to-wire, 18-point victory was the first time the Celtics held their opponent under a point per possession.

With the Celtics’ return to the win column, we can again appreciate that Jayson Tatum is averaging 30.8 points on 56/41/90 shooting splits. His true shooting percentage of 69.5% is the best mark among 55 players with a usage rate of 24% or higher.

The Celtics will have opportunities to defend the same teams that just torched them with more games against the Cavs and Bulls this week. And they’re in New York on Saturday, having lost their last three games (by a total of just 11 points) at Madison Square Garden.

Week 3: @ CLE, vs. CHI, @ NYK

#6

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Utah Jazz

Record: 5-2

OffRtg: 112.0 (x) DefRtg: 109.4 (x) NetRtg: +2.7 (x) Pace: 101.7 (x)

The Jazz have come back to Earth somewhat. Their first loss was the Rockets’ only win, and it came with 20 turnovers and a big free throw discrepancy. Five of the Jazz’s seven games have been within five points in the last five minutes and those 20 turnovers on Monday included two tough ones on late possessions in which they had a chance to tie. Their bench had some rough minutes in that game and again in Denver on Friday, when the Jazz trailed by as many as 29 points.

But they went 3-2 on their only stretch of five games in seven nights this season. And they’re 4-1 in those close games, having scored 73 points on 56 clutch possessions (130.4 per 100). Kelly Olynyk is 4-for-4 on clutch 3-pointers (tied with Jordan Clarkson for second in total clutch scoring), and his go-ahead 3 against Memphis on Saturday came at the end of one of a few great drive-and-kick sequences down the stretch. Clarkson made a great read on the Malik Beasley dagger that followed. The offense has actually been at its best (117.7 points scored per 100 possessions) with Jarred Vanderbilt on the floor, but the five-out lineups are tough to guard when the Jazz are sharing the ball as well as they have.

That win over Memphis came without Ja Morant (illness), and he’s listed as questionable for the rematch on Monday. The Jazz will go from playing three straight games against two of the league’s top three offenses (the Grizzlies and Mavs) to playing three straight against the league’s bottom two offenses (the Lakers and Clippers).

Week 3: vs. MEM, @ DAL, @ LAL, @ LAC

Record: 4-2

OffRtg: 117.5 (4) DefRtg: 111.1 (14) NetRtg: +6.4 (5) Pace: 98.8 (20)

The Pelicans were without three starters – Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones and Zion Williamson – as they began a five-game stretch that could have been a real test of where they stood in the Western Conference early in the season. But they remain as resilient as they were at the end of last season, and they won two of the first three games in that stretch. They edged the Mavs early in the week and then, with Williamson back, outscored the Clippers, 77-48, over the final 28 minutes in L.A. CJ McCollum had some key, fourth-quarter buckets against Dallas, but the scoring was balanced in both wins. On Tuesday, eight of the nine Pelicans who played scored in double-figures. On Sunday, five Pels had at least 15 points.

Trey Murphy III has been a fill-in but has played like a full-time starter. His 19-for-35 (54%) from 3-point range ranks second among 105 players with at least 25 attempts, he had a couple of impressive drives against Dallas as he scored 22 points on 8-for-8 shooting, and he had four of the team’s 12 offensive rebounds against the Clips. The Pels’ most-used combination through six games is McCollum and Murphy, and they’ve outscored their opponents by 14.2 points per 100 possessions with that duo on the floor.

The Pels have a couple of days off in L.A., but after playing the Lakers on Wednesday, they’ll be home for less than 48 hours. They’re one of nine teams with only 12 back-to-backs this season, and their first is Friday (home against the Warriors) and Saturday (in Atlanta). Ingram is definitely out for the Lakers game, but Jones was initially listed as questionable against the Clippers, so he could make his return on Wednesday.

Week 3: @ LAL, vs. GSW, @ ATL

Record: 4-3

OffRtg: 112.9 (15) DefRtg: 115.7 (24) NetRtg: -2.8 (21) Pace: 101.1 (13)

Different year, same story. The Nuggets have been 31.2 points per 100 possessions better with Nikola Jokic on the floor (plus-6.3) than they’ve been with him off the floor (minus-24.9). Though he made a 3-pointer on Friday, playing DeAndre Jordan at backup center hasn’t worked out just yet. (Surprise!) In L.A. on Sunday (when the bench was without Bones Hyland, to be fair), the Nuggets were up three when Jokic sat down late in the third quarter, and they were down five by the time he checked back in early in the fourth.

The return (and efficiency) of Michael Porter Jr. has lightened Jokic’s role in the offense. His scoring is down from 27.1 points per game (last season) to just 21.0, with his usage rate (22.8%) being his lowest since his rookie season. You’d like your super-efficient MVP to shoot more, but the Denver offense is still pretty darn good when he’s on the floor, and it may be that he’s trying to help his returning teammates (especially Jamal Murray, who’s registering the highest usage rate of his career) find their rhythm.

The Nuggets are spending most of the first six weeks of the season on the road, but they do have three days off before their game in Oklahoma City on Thursday. And they’ll have a rest advantage at home against the Spurs two nights later. Of course, their first rest-advantage game of the season was their 25-point loss in Portland last Monday. The Blazers scored 135 points on 96 possessions, the most efficient performance for any team in a game this season.

Week 3: @ OKC, vs. SAS

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 111.4 (19) DefRtg: 115.2 (23) NetRtg: -3.9 (24) Pace: 104.7 (2)

When the Warriors beat the Lakers on opening night, it seemed that they had picked up right where they left off. But they’re 2-4 since then, they got thumped by the Suns last week, and they just lost to both the Hornets and Pistons in the span of 26 hours. Through Week 2, the champs are one of only four teams – the Pistons, Rockets and Heat are the others – that have been worse than the league average (112.2 points per 100 possessions) on both ends of the floor.

And it seems that both ends of the floor are the problem. After the loss in Detroit on Sunday, Steve Kerr said that the defense is putting his team “in some bad spots offensively.” Draymond Green, meanwhile, said that “our offense is killing our defense.”

The defense could certainly be much better early in games. Since that opening night win, the Warriors have allowed 126 points per 100 possessions in the first half, a big reason they’ve faced as many deficits of 15 points or more (4) as they did in their first 29 games last season. They came back from 15 down in Charlotte but then struggled to defend the Dennis Smith Jr. – P.J. Washington pick-and-roll down the stretch. Bench minutes continue to be a problem (the Warriors have been outscored by 22.5 points per 100 possessions with James Wiseman on the floor), but the starters’ minutes weren’t much better as they went 1-3 last week.

The Warriors’ five-game trip concludes this week. They have another back-to-back – at Orlando and New Orleans – on Thursday and Friday, but that matchup with the Pelicans should be a fun one, especially if everybody’s healthy.

Week 3: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ NOP

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 119.0 (1) DefRtg: 110.9 (12) NetRtg: +8.4 (4) Pace: 96.0 (28)

Luka Doncic is carrying an even heavier load than he has in the past. His usage rate of 39.4% would be the third-highest mark in the 27 seasons for which we have play-by-play data, and his time of possession (10.6 minutes per game) would easily be the highest mark in the 10 years of tracking data. But Doncic has been up to the task thus far. His true shooting percentage (60.0%) and assist/turnover ratio (2.89) are both career-high marks, his scoring average (36.7 points per game) would be the highest mark of the last 36 years (since Michael Jordan averaged 37.1 in 1986-87), and the Mavs have the league’s top-ranked offense despite the departure of Jalen Brunson.

The Mavs are 3-3, even though they have the league’s fourth-best point differential (plus-7.3 per game). They won in overtime in Brooklyn on Thursday (scoring 11 points on the first four possessions of the extra period), but their defense hurt them in narrow losses to the Pelicans and Thunder. They allowed New Orleans to change the game on Tuesday with eight straight scores early in the fourth quarter, and they blew a 16-point lead with four minutes left when the Thunder scored on their last 10 possessions of regulation. The Mavs rank 12th defensively, but their blowout win over the Grizzlies (96 points allowed on 102 possessions – their fastest-paced game of the season thus far) is still doing a decent amount of work in that calculation (as well as their per-game point differential).

The Mavs have four two-day breaks in the first three weeks of the season. The last two are this week, with their five-game homestand continuing through next Monday (another meeting with the Nets).

Week 3: vs. UTA, vs. TOR

Record: 4-2

OffRtg: 118.0 (3) DefRtg: 119.9 (28) NetRtg: -1.9 (20) Pace: 99.9 (17)

Last season, the Grizzlies won their first five games that they played (and finished 20-5) without Ja Morant. And with Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones combining for 85 points on an effective field goal percentage of 66% in Utah on Saturday, they had a chance to win their first game without Morant this season, up five with less than three minutes to go. But they couldn’t get stops late, allowing the Jazz to score 13 points on a stretch of five possessions and turning that five-point lead into a four-point deficit.

Not getting stops has been the story on both ends of the floor; The Grizzlies have combined with their opponents to score 118.9 points per 100 possessions (the league’s highest combined rate). They’re in the top six in both effective field goal percentage and offensive rebounding percentage, and they’re in the bottom six in those same categories on the other end of the floor.

The offense remains paint-heavy; The Grizz rank second in points in the paint per game (56.0) after leading the league in each of the last three seasons. But the Grizz have also seen the league’s fourth biggest jump in 3-point rate, taking 39.2% of their shots (10th highest) from beyond the arc, up from 34.6% (28th) last season. And their 39.7% success rate from deep ranks fourth. Interior defense hasn’t been good; In addition to ranking 27th in defensive rebounding percentage (67.5%), they’re 26th in opponent field goal percentage in the paint (59.6%).

After their second game in Utah and a visit to Portland on Wednesday, the Grizzlies will have played six of their eight games on the road. A three-game homestand begins Friday, and the Grizz are 12-1 at FedEx Forum in regular-season games since last season’s All-Star break, with the lone loss being the last game of last season, when they were resting their starters.

Week 3: @ UTA, @ POR, vs. CHA, vs. WAS

Record: 5-2

OffRtg: 114.1 (11) DefRtg: 114.3 (21) NetRtg: -0.2 (15) Pace: 103.6 (3)

Last season, the Spurs were 34-48 with the point differential (plus-10 over 82 games) of a team that was 41-41. This season, they’re 5-2, having been outscored by a total of four points over their seven games. But while none of their five wins have come by double-digits, only two of the five have been within five points in the last five minutes. Their most narrow escape was Friday against the Bulls, when a turnover quickly turned into a steal and a bucket that gave them a four-point lead in the final minute. With their lack of primary ball-handlers, the Spurs rank 29th in turnover rate (16.0 per 100 possessions). And with the extra ball-handling burden on his shoulders, Tre Jones’ assist/turnover ratio (5.07 – second in the league last season) has been sliced in half (2.31).

The Spurs still rank 11th offensively, despite the turnovers and the absence of Devin Vassell for the last three games. They continue to shoot well (and more often) from 3-point range, and they’re one of five teams who’ve outscored their opponents by more than 10 points per game from beyond the arc. (Last season, they were 22nd in 3-point differential at minus-2.5 points per game.) Keldon Johnson and Doug McDermott were 12-for-24 from deep in the Spurs’ win over Minnesota on Sunday and are both 6-for-7 on left-corner 3s for the season.

We’ll see how sustainable the shooting is. The basketball aspect of the Josh Primo situation is obviously secondary, but the Spurs now have both one fewer prospect to develop and one fewer guy to handle the ball. They’re two games into a stretch where they’re playing eight of nine at home, but their next seven are against the Raptors, Clippers, Nuggets (x 2), Grizzlies, Bucks and Warriors. If they’re still .500 or better after that, they’ll surely be taken more seriously than the Wolves took them over their three meetings last week.

Week 3: vs. TOR, vs. LAC, @ DEN

Record: 4-2

OffRtg: 115.6 (8) DefRtg: 112.0 (17) NetRtg: +3.6 (7) Pace: 101.2 (12)

The Hawks went 4-1 against their cake start to the season, sweeping their two-game series in Detroit with Trae Young totaling 71 points and 18 assists (with just two turnovers) over the two games. The Pistons’ defense has been terrible, but the Friday win was the second most efficient game (136 points on 98 possessions) for any team this season.

The challenging portion of the schedule didn’t get off to a terrible start; The Hawks erased a 12-point deficit and took a fourth-quarter lead in Milwaukee on Saturday. But after they took that lead, the Bucks scored 19 points on their final 13 possessions, with almost all of that scoring coming inside or at the free throw line. The Hawks and their opponents have combined to score more than 119 points per 100 possessions over their last four games (up from 103.6 per 100 through their first two).

Interior defense has been an issue. The Hawks rank 25th in defensive rebounding percentage and (though Onyeka Okongwu had the most emphatic second chance on Saturday) have been outscored on second chances in five of their six games. They also rank 26th in opponent free throw rate and have been outscored by three points per game at the stripe, despite Young’s 93% on 9.7 attempts per contest.

The Hawks’ five-game trip wraps with what could be two important games – at Toronto and New York – in the standings. Young played just once at Madison Square Garden last season, but dropped 45 in a six-point win.

Week 3: @ TOR, @ NYK, vs. NOP

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 114.7 (9) DefRtg: 112.9 (20) NetRtg: +1.8 (13) Pace: 95.4 (30)

The Sixers were still getting torched in transition last week (allowing 53 fast break points over two games on Monday and Wednesday), but they scored almost 120 points per 100 possessions as they won three of their four games to recover from their 0-3 Week 1. And they did it with different leading scorers in the three wins. James Harden had 29 points (along with 11 assists and just one turnover) against Indiana, Tyrese Maxey had a career-high 44 (with Joel Embiid out) in Toronto, and Embiid led a balanced attack (with Harden shooting 2-for-13) with 25 in Chicago.

Despite early struggles with his conditioning and the challenge of getting him the ball near the basket, Embiid has registered a career-high effective field goal percentage of 56.0%, getting 59% of his shots (his highest rate of the last four seasons) in the paint. The game-winner in Chicago was a pick-and-pop 3, but that was just his second attempt from beyond the arc on Saturday. And with Embiid operating more inside, the Sixers’ shooters have seemingly benefited. Philly is one of four teams that rank in the top 10 in both 3-point percentage and the percentage (39.6%, fifth) of their shots that have come from 3-point range (41.4%, eighth).

They’re beginning to realize their potential offensively and they held their opponents to just 102.6 points per 100 possessions in two quality road wins over the weekend. The Sixers’ four-game trip wraps in Washington on Monday and believe it or not, the Knicks (who rank fifth in the percentage of their possessions that have been in transition) will actually challenge the transition defense later in the week.

Week 3: @ WAS, vs. WAS, vs. NYK

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 109.8 (23) DefRtg: 111.4 (15) NetRtg: -1.6 (18) Pace: 95.4 (29)

After shooting 41% from 3-point range through their first five games, the Raptors finally cooled off (9-for-39) in their second of two games against the Sixers. Fred VanVleet’s 0-for-11 matched Russell Westbrook’s performance from eight days earlier and the Raps couldn’t stop Tyrese Maxey. They beat the Sixers with Joel Embiid, but lost the game he missed. The Raps’ Week 1 loss in Brooklyn (the Nets’ lone win) doesn’t look so good right now, either. But they’re 3-3, having played all six games within the expected top nine in the East.

Pascal Siakam was the one bright spot on Friday and has had a terrific start to the season, averaging 25.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists. The only other players averaging at least 25, seven and seven are Luka Doncic and LeBron James. And Siakam (true shooting percentage of 57.0%) has been a more efficient scorer than James (53.1%). That 57% is his best mark since the Raptors’ championship season and it comes with a career-high usage rate of 29.8%. The percentage of his shots that have come in the paint is a career-low 53%, but he’s been able to knock down jumpers. P.J. Tucker was daring him to shoot early on Wednesday and Siakam went 4-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. He cooled off after that, but dished out a career-high 13 assists in the victory.

The Raptors will play two more games within that assumed top-nine in the East this week. And with how frisky the Spurs have been, their trip to Texas won’t be a cup of tea either. They were 10-5 (tied for the East’s best mark) in Western Conference arenas last season.

Week 3: vs. ATL, @ SAS, @ DAL, vs. CHI

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 110.7 (21) DefRtg: 111.1 (13) NetRtg: -0.4 (16) Pace: 101.9 (7)

They’re without their point guard, but the Bulls lead the league in ball movement (393 passes per 24 minutes of possession), having seen the league’s biggest jump (by a huge margin) from last season (315, 22nd). And as they handed the Celtics their first loss of the season on Monday, they had five guys with at least four assists. Two nights later, they assisted on 34 of their 43 buckets in a win over Indiana. DeMar DeRozan is still doing his thing, scoring 1.20 points per isolation (third-best among 12 players with at least 25 isolation possessions, according to Synergy). He’s attempted 20 more mid-range shots than anybody else in the league and is 38-for-65 (58%) on those mid-range shots. Appropriately, the bucket that put him over the 20,000-point mark for his career was a pull-up from 18 feet out.

The other side of that coin is that the Bulls rank 28th in the percentage of their shots (33.0%) that have come from 3-point range. Only the Nets (minus-13.5) have been outscored by more points per game from beyond the arc than the Bulls (minus-12.4). And as they lost in San Antonio on Friday, they were outscored, 48-27, on 3-pointers. (The Bulls are also 0-for-7 on clutch 3s as they’ve gone 0-3 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.) Combine the lack of 3s with 50% shooting in the paint (where only Detroit has shot worse) and the better ball movement has yet to bare fruit in regard to offensive efficiency.

The Bulls do get their first shot at the Nets’ defense on Tuesday, when Chicago will have a rest advantage (the team with a rest advantage won all three meetings last season). But that is the start of the Bulls’ only stretch of five games in seven nights this season. And two back-to-backs in a week’s time will limit the availability of Zach LaVine, the guy (averaging a team-high 7.0 3-point attempts per game) who can most help the team’s 3-point rate.

Week 3: @ BKN, vs. CHA, @ BOS, @ TOR

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 113.5 (12) DefRtg: 111.4 (16) NetRtg: +2.1 (12) Pace: 100.4 (16)

There have been plenty of confounding results in the first two weeks of the season, but the Knicks haven’t produced any of them. They’re 3-0 against the teams – Detroit, Orlando and Charlotte – they should probably beat, and they’re 0-3 against the teams – Memphis, Milwaukee and Cleveland – that should probably beat them. They’re also 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. Even Steven!

The bigger difference between the wins and the losses (13.8 points per 100 possessions) has been on offense, where RJ Barrett and Julius Randle are now a combined 16-for-71 (23%) from outside the paint. Jalen Brunson had a pretty quiet weekend, totaling 29 points on 11-for-29 shooting in the Knicks two losses. This team hasn’t gone to the line very much (27th in free throw rate, down from third last season) and when it has, it hasn’t shot well (29th in free throw percentage – 71.1%). The Knicks were just 8-for-16 at the stripe in Cleveland on Sunday.

The Knicks still rank higher on offense than they do on defense, and the defense will continue to be challenged this week, with the Cleveland loss (in which they allowed 37 points on 24 fourth-quarter possessions) being the first of four straight games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively. New York is one of five teams that have yet to play (or complete) a back-to-back, and its first is a tough one: Friday in Philly and Saturday against the Celtics. The Knicks actually had a winning record (7-5) in the second games of back-to-backs last season, and they’ve won their last three home games against Boston.

Week 3: vs. ATL, @ PHI, vs. BOS

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Miami Heat

Record: 2-5

OffRtg: 109.4 (24) DefRtg: 112.5 (19) NetRtg: -3.1 (22) Pace: 98.5 (23)

In a span of four days, the Heat handed the Blazers their first loss and the Kings their first win. The bigger difference between the two games was on defense, where the Heat allowed Golden State and Sacramento to score almost 122 points per 100 possessions over the last two games of their three-game trip.

As usual, the Heat defense is yielding a lot of 3-point attempts (only the Sixers have allowed their opponents to take a higher percentage of their shots from beyond the arc), which is a problem when the opponents are shooting 39.0% (the league’s fifth highest opponent mark) from deep. But, as might have been expected with the departure of P.J. Tucker, the Heat also aren’t rebounding as well as they did last season. They rank 20th in defensive rebounding percentage (down from ninth) and yielded 27 second-chance points to the champs before struggling to just protect the rim (34 first-half points allowed in the restricted area) as they fell into a 22-point deficit against the Kings.

With their offensive limitations (though the Tyler Herro – Bam Adebayo pick-and-roll has been super effective thus far), the Heat need to be elite defensively to compete with the best teams in the East. They don’t have any more intriguing Eastern Conference matchups for a couple of weeks, but they get the Warriors and Kings again at home on Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ve played two games against teams (Boston and Portland) that currently rank in the top 10 offensively, and their third will be in Indiana (surprise!) on Friday.

Week 3: vs. GSW, vs. SAC, @ IND

Record: 4-3

OffRtg: 110.1 (22) DefRtg: 107.5 (5) NetRtg: +2.6 (9) Pace: 103.4 (4)

The Wolves went just 4-3 against what looked like a very easy start to their schedule. The three losses have come against surprising teams – the Jazz and Spurs – who are a combined 7-3 in games that haven’t been against Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean that the Wolves have played particularly well. The offense has been bad (106.6 points scored per 100 possessions) in 164 minutes with Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert on the floor, and it’s been particularly bad (103.6 per 100) in the 144 minutes that the bigs have shared the floor with Jaden McDaniels, who was getting in the way with ill-advised dives to the basket against the Lakers. Kyle Anderson (who returned from a four-game absence on Sunday) might be a little more disciplined about spacing the floor, but he’s even less of a shooting threat than McDaniels is.

The defense ranks in the top five and has allowed just 101.8 points per 100 possessions with Gobert on the court. McDaniels (ninth – just behind Taurean Prince – in deflections per 36 minutes) has been a plus on that end of the floor, obstructing the vision of opposing ball-handlers, forcing turnovers and rejecting shots from his heels. But three of the Wolves’ seven games have come against teams – the Thunder and Lakers – that rank in the bottom five offensively.

More potent offenses are coming, and the Wolves’ schedule begins to get tougher right now. Five of their next seven games are against Phoenix (x 2), Milwaukee, Memphis and Cleveland. They’ve lost seven of their last eight against the Suns, who rank second offensively through Week 2.

Week 3: @ PHX, vs. MIL, vs. HOU

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 108.6 (25) DefRtg: 110.1 (10) NetRtg: -1.5 (17) Pace: 98.5 (22)

Among players who played in at least 40 games last season, Bradley Beal saw the biggest drop in points per game (from 31.3 to 23.2) from 2020-21. And he’s seen another drop this year, averaging just 20.8 through six games. Back tightness had him out for a portion of the Wizards’ win over Detroit on Tuesday, and the Celtics shut him down (4-for-16 shooting, only two free throw attempts) over the weekend. But Beal has still averaged 35.4 minutes and registered a career-high true shooting percentage of 62.4%.

With that efficiency, with Kristaps Porzingis’ effective field goal percentage of 54.7% matching the best mark of his career, and with Monte Morris committing just three turnovers with his 35 assists, the Wizards’ starting lineup has scored 128.6 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 20 lineups that have played at least 50 minutes together. But that lineup’s time together has been somewhat limited; Its 11.5 minutes per game ranks 23rd among all lineups that have played in at least two games. Wes Unseld Jr. has generally turned to Will Barton over Deni Avdija in fourth quarters.

Despite the success of the starting group and the flammability of Barton, the Wizards rank just 25th offensively, probably needing more out of Beal, whose usage rate of 24.2% is his lowest mark over the last eight seasons. The Wiz will get games this week against two teams – Brooklyn and Memphis – that rank in the bottom three defensively, but before that, it’s a home-and-home set against Philly. The Wiz took two of three against the Sixers last season, though all three games took place before the teams’ big trades at the deadline.

Week 3: vs. PHI, @ PHI, vs. BKN, @ MEM

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 108.4 (26) DefRtg: 107.9 (6) NetRtg: +0.4 (14) Pace: 101.7 (10)

One of six teams without a win in Week 1, the Thunder were one of four teams without a loss in Week 2, capping it with a remarkable comeback (down 16 with less than four minutes to go in regulation) in Dallas on Saturday. The bigger difference between Weeks 1 and 2 was on defense, where the Thunder held the Clippers (x 2) and Mavs to just 101.3 points per 100 possessions. Two of the three wins were pretty ugly, with the Thunder shooting 4-for-30 and 5-for-25 from 3-point range. They ranked last offensively last season, but were one of nine teams who never once made fewer than six 3s, and the last time they had made fewer than five was three years ago. So to shoot that poorly and still win those two games is pretty remarkable.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is shooting better from beyond the arc; He’s 7-for-19 (37%), up from a brutal 30% last season. But 1.4 makes per game is not a lot for a guard averaging 31 points, his 3-point rate (3PA/FGA) is a career-low 16%, and he’s doing most of his damage in the paint. His 17.6 points in the paint per game is ranks fourth in the league, trailing only Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson. All those ventures to the paint aren’t necessarily being rewarded with whistles; SGA’s free throw rate (25.2 attempts per 100 shots from the field) is also a career-low mark. But he’s 30-for-30 (easily the most attempts among players who’re perfect) at the line.

The next game could be ugly too. One of the four teams that rank lower than the Thunder offensively is the Orlando Magic, who are in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. These two teams had a game in March in which they combined to score 175 points on 200 total possessions.

Week 3: vs. ORL, vs. DEN, @ MIL

Record: 3-4

OffRtg: 116.5 (7) DefRtg: 118.4 (27) NetRtg: -1.9 (19) Pace: 101.9 (7)

Raise your hand if you had the Pacers as the first team to shoot 50% or better from the field, 50% or better from 3-point range, and 90% or better from the free throw line in a game this season. (There were 11 such instances last season.) And that wasn’t even their most efficient game of the weekend. After scoring 127 points on 101 possessions in Washington on Friday, the Pacers had 125 on just 97 (setting a franchise record with 23 3-pointers) the following night in Brooklyn. And they get to play the Nets again on Monday, so this run of hot offense might not be done.

Tyrese Haliburton totaled 51 points and 20 assists (with just four turnovers) over the two wins. Rick Carlisle continues to bring Bennedict Mathurin off the bench (stating Aaron Nesmith or Chris Duarte instead), but the rookie continues to put up numbers, scoring a career-high 32 points (going 6-for-9 from deep and 10-for-10 from the line) in Brooklyn. Haliburton, Mathurin and Buddy Hield are three of the 12 players who’ve shot 40% or better on at least 40 3-point attempts and the Pacers have outscored their opponents by 13.5 points per 100 possessions in 78 minutes with all three on the floor together. Though Mathurin isn’t in the starting lineup, that’s the team’s third most-used trio through seven games.

The Pacers have already won two straight road games as many times as they did all of last season (once). After playing in Brooklyn again on Monday, they’ll play just once (Friday against the Heat) over the next six days, which is probably bad news given how hot their offense has been.

Week 3: @ BKN, vs. MIA

Record: 3-3

OffRtg: 113.0 (13) DefRtg: 110.5 (11) NetRtg: +2.5 (10) Pace: 101.3 (11)

Last season, the Hornets had the biggest differential between their record with rest (41-26, .612) and their record in the second games of back-to-backs (2-13, .133). And in the first game of their first back-to-back this season, they lost by 20 points to the 0-5 Magic. But 24 hours later, the Hornets beat the Warriors behind 31 points (second most in his career) from P.J. Washington. They went to Washington at center for the last 10 minutes of the overtime win and he got a big bucket inside against Klay Thompson (after a switch) in regulation. When Draymond Green tried to scram Stephen Curry out of a similar switch in overtime, Jalen McDaniels (in the lineup instead of starting center Mason Plumlee) was left open for the biggest shot of the extra period.

Dennis Smith Jr. also some big buckets (and eight clutch assists) down the stretch of the Hornets’ two OT games last week, taking advantage of the absences of LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. Teams aren’t really defending him at the 3-point line, but Smith has averaged 12.3 points and has a 29/7 assist/turnover ratio over the four games he’s started at the point. Theo Maledon (15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, including a nice hesi and-one) and James Bouknight (13 on 5-for-9, with a nifty second-side attack) also did well with added opportunities in New York on Wednesday.

Ball (who hasn’t played yet) is out and Rozier (who’s missed the last four games) is doubtful for the Hornets’ game against the Kings on Monday. The Hornets have one stretch of five games in seven nights this season, and it begins Friday in Memphis.

Week 3: vs. SAC, @ CHI, @ MEM, vs. BKN

Record: 1-5

OffRtg: 112.9 (14) DefRtg: 121.6 (30) NetRtg: -8.6 (28) Pace: 98.8 (20)

The Nets’ first five games came with a tough group of opponents. And they had very good stretches against Memphis, Milwaukee and Dallas last week, leading all three games by at least five points in the second half. But Game 6 was at home, with a rest advantage, and against the Indiana Pacers. And their defense was somehow even worse than it was in the first five games.

Some offensive clunkiness with Ben Simmons (who just can’t go up strong when he has the ball within a few feet of the basket) was to be expected. Seth Curry made his season debut on Saturday and shot 0-for-5, with Joe Harris (6-for-17 from 3-point range) also yet to really find his rhythm. But as they work out the kinks, the Nets could certainly put a lot more effort into defense and on the glass. They gave up switches to the Mavs much too easily, they left lots of Indiana shooters wide open, and their rebounding issues aren’t just about size and strength. Witness Simmons’ failure to box out, followed immediately by some nonchalance as the Pacers got three extra chances on one late-game possession on Saturday.

After they were outscored by 18.7 points per 100 possessions in 75 total minutes with Simmons and Nicolas Claxton on the floor together (with much, much better numbers when one of the two played without the other) through their first four games, Steve Nash began to stagger their minutes a lot more (taking one out less than four minutes into the first and third quarters) over the last two games. Having Curry and Harris healthy (and shooting better) will make their four-shooter lineups much more potent, but still not potent enough if they don’t start caring about defense.

Last season’s Nets were 2-3 before winning 19 of their next 24 games, and this year’s schedule is amenable to a similar run over the next several weeks. But their first opportunity to take care of business against a less-talented opponent was “a disaster.”

Week 3: vs. IND, vs. CHI, @ WAS, @ CHA

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LA Clippers

Record: 2-4

OffRtg: 101.3 (29) DefRtg: 109.2 (7) NetRtg: -7.8 (27) Pace: 99.8 (18)

The Lakers have been worse than the Clippers, but the Lakers aren’t the L.A. team that’s supposed to be a title contender. And the Clips’ struggles (four straight losses) come with concerns regarding Kawhi Leonard, who has missed the last three games (and will be out again on Monday) after feeling stiffness in his surgically repaired right knee.

The Clips have lost four straight games, and their only two wins this season were by a total of eight points over the Lakers and Kings, who are a combined 2-7 in games against everybody else. Their offense has remained anemic, scoring less than a point per 100 possession over the losing streak. Among 142 players with at least 50 field goal attempts, Reggie Jackson (44.3%), Paul George (44.1%) and Norman Powell (43.9%) rank 127th, 128th and 130th in effective field goal percentage. And shooting isn’t even the offense’s biggest issue; The Clips have the league’s worst turnover rate (17.6 per 100 possessions) by a wide margin. They shot 54% in their second of two losses in Oklahoma City last week, but committed 20 turnovers, with five different guys having at least three.

Four of the Clippers’ six games have come against teams – the Lakers, Suns and Thunder – that rank in the top six defensively, but the Clips have obviously played a role in the success of those teams. The next three games are against two teams – Houston and San Antonio – in the bottom 10 defensively through Week 2 and John Wall (who actually has the lowest turnover rate of his career) might have some extra motivation as the Clips play a home-and-home against the Rockets on Monday and Wednesday.

Week 3: vs. HOU, @ HOU, @ SAS, vs. UTA

Record: 2-5

OffRtg: 111.3 (20) DefRtg: 120.0 (29) NetRtg: -8.7 (29) Pace: 101.1 (14)

The Pistons’ defense was downright terrible (124.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) as they lost five straight games, somewhat spoiling a ridiculous pair of first halves from Cade Cunningham (49 total points on 20-for-31 shooting) against the Hawks last week. And when they allowed the Warriors to score 37 points (on 31 possessions) in the first quarter on Sunday, it was easy to think that the streak would hit six. But a 29-9, second quarter run (with the champs scoring those nine points on 16 possessions) turned the game around and the Pistons got their second win of the season. It was their most efficient offensive performance, with all five starters scoring at least 15 points, Isaiah Stewart scoring a career-high 24 (going 10-for-11 from the free throw line), and Cunningham coming one assist shy of his third career triple-double.

While the defense has been bad, the Pistons’ have had the league’s fifth most-improved offense, scoring 5.7 more per 100 possessions than they did last season (105.6, 28th). And while new addition Bojan Bogdanovic (who just got a contract extension) has shot 27-for-53 (51%) from 3-point range, the team’s overall shooting numbers haven’t improved much. Instead, the Pistons have seen big jumps in both free throw rate and offensive rebounding percentage, while seeing the league’s fifth biggest drop in turnover rate. Those three things could be more real than some hot shooting, though an absence from Jalen Duren (who turned an ankle on Sunday) would hurt on the glass.

Only one of the Pistons’ seven games has come against a team (the 10th-ranked Wizards) that currently ranks in the top 10 defensively, but their next four games will be against teams – Milwaukee (x 2), Cleveland and Oklahoma City – that rank first, third and sixth. A win last January ended what was a 16-game losing streak (including a playoff sweep) to the Bucks, but Milwaukee then beat Detroit by 30 in the last week of the season.

Week 3: @ MIL, @ MIL, vs. CLE

Record: 1-5

OffRtg: 100.3 (30) DefRtg: 104.7 (2) NetRtg: -4.4 (25) Pace: 105.3 (1)

The Lakers finally made some jump shots on Sunday, going 9-for-15 from mid-range and 13-for-30 (43%) from 3-point range to get off the schneid with a win over the Nuggets. They went from missing a bunch of jumpers to missing a bunch of layups (they were 21-for-42 in the restricted area), but with 25 second-chance points and only nine turnovers, they scored 19 more points per 100 possessions – 122.2 (121 on 99) – than they had in any of their first five games. They had more guys who made a 3-pointer (7) on Sunday than they had 3-pointers total (6) in their third game of the season.

One of those seven guys was Russell Westbrook (2-for-4 from deep), who came off the bench for the second straight game. The Lakers were a plus-18 (scoring 84 points on 66 offensive possessions) in his 32 minutes, and he actually set four ball-screens, according to Second Spectrum. One second-quarter pick-and-roll with LeBron James, resulting in a dunk for Troy Brown Jr., was rather lovely.

So the Lakers can now put the stress of a zero in the win column behind them. And maybe they can do the same with questions about Westbrook’s role. The defense has been consistently good; The Lakers and Suns are the only teams who’ve held their opponents to fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average (112.2) in every game thus far.

Of course, Anthony Davis is still struggling with back issues (he won’t be playing 82 games this season), they’re still a long way from being a (consistently) good team, and they’re just four games into a stretch of eight straight against teams that currently have winning records. Their first game against an Eastern Conference opponent – Sunday vs. Cleveland – is also the first half of their first back-to-back. (Every other team will have completed a back-to-back by then.)

Week 3: vs. NOP, vs. UTA, vs. CLE

Record: 1-4

OffRtg: 112.4 (17) DefRtg: 116.0 (25) NetRtg: -3.6 (23) Pace: 102.0 (6)

The Kings were 0-4, even though they had outscored their opponents by 11 points in 56 total minutes with the four guys that had started all four games on the floor. In their loss to the Grizzlies on Thursday (Keegan Murray’s first start), they were outscored by 22 in just 17:09 with Domantas Sabonis on the bench. It was mentioned in this space two weeks ago that Sabonis’ fouls might be an issue, and that has been the case. He’s averaged 5.5 per 36 minutes and picked up his fifth early in the third quarter against Miami on Saturday.

But, though their 22-point lead was cut to one (the Kings have lost every third quarter and this one was their worst), the Kings managed to beat the Heat for their first victory of the season. Kevin Huerter (who’s 20-for-37 from 3-point range) led the way with 27, but Murray also scored an efficient 22 points. And in one two-possession stretch in the first quarter, he showed his versatility, first draining a step-back 3 over Tyler Herro and then beating Herro in the post. There was also a soft floater in the third quarter for good measure. Murray is 15-for-21 (71%) inside the arc and 13-for-31 (42%) outside it. The Kings’ new starting lineup (with Murray) has outscored its opponents by 26 points in 35 total minutes.

The Kings’ 13 rest-advantage games are tied for the third most in the league. Their first of the 13 is their second meeting with the Heat in a span of five days (Wednesday in Miami) and the second game of a four-game trip that goes from the Southeast back to San Francisco. The Kings were 4-11 in Eastern Conference barns and 4-6 in rest-advantage games last season.

Week 3: @ CHA, @ MIA, @ ORL

Record: 1-6

OffRtg: 107.3 (27) DefRtg: 112.0 (18) NetRtg: -4.8 (26) Pace: 98.4 (25)

With Jalen Suggs (last five games) and Cole Anthony (last two games) out, the Magic have, like, no guards. And with no guards, all their young forwards and bigs are getting more and better opportunities to show what they can do. Bol Bol stepped into the spotlight last week, scoring a career-high 19 points in New York on Monday, registering his first career double-double on Sunday, shooting 23-for-33 (70%) and totaling 10 blocks (3.7 per 36 minutes) over the Magic’s four games. He went coast to coast with a behind-the-back dribble around Dorian Finney-Smith.

Of course, Paolo Banchero is the star, and he had a big game – 21 points (on 8-for-14 shooting), 12 rebounds and seven assists – as the Magic got their first win of the season, beating the Hornets by 20 points on Friday. The rookie is often running the point and the Magic have scored 1.09 points per chance when they’ve set a ball-screen for him. That mark ranks 11th among 61 players who’ve used at least 75 ball-screens, according to Second Spectrum tracking. And that’s with the Magic ranking 27th offensively overall.

Having lost in Dallas on Sunday (their third defeat after leading by double-digits), the Magic are one game into a stretch of seven straight against the Western Conference. Their longest homestand of the season (seven games over 14 days) begins Thursday and includes Banchero matchups against Keegan Murray (Saturday) and Jabari Smith Jr. (next Monday).

Week 3: @ OKC, vs. GSW, vs. SAC

Record: 1-6

OffRtg: 107.3 (28) DefRtg: 117.2 (26) NetRtg: -10.0 (30) Pace: 102.2 (5)

The Rockets’ early schedule didn’t look that bad at first, because it included two games against the Jazz and another against the Blazers. But the Jazz and Blazers have not been the teams we thought they’d be, and so the Rockets’ first seven games have come against opponents with a cumulative record (counting Utah twice) of 33-10. Take the Rockets’ games out of that math and those teams are still 27-9 (.750) in games in which they weren’t playing Houston.

So a 1-6 start with the league’s worst point differential isn’t as terrible as it looks on the surface. The Rockets are the only team that ranks in the bottom five on both ends of the floor, but they did hand the Jazz their first loss of the season, two of their losses were within five points in the last five minutes, and their loss to the Suns on Sunday was one second away from being within five in the last five. The Rockets have had some success on the glass, seeing the biggest jump in offensive rebounding percentage and leading the league with 19.0 second-chance points per game. Jabari Smith Jr. has shown flashes of what he can do on both offense and defense. Even a long close-out in which he didn’t quite get to the shooter in time was a glimpse of how he can be a weapon on that end of the floor.

Unlike the Utah games, a home-and-home set with the Clippers initially looked tougher than it does now. It’s a good time to be playing the Clips, and the Rockets will actually face them three times in the next 15 days.

Week 3: @ LAC, vs. LAC, @ MIN





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