Power Rankings, Week 13: Cavs enter Top 5 as season reaches midpoint
The 2022-23 NBA season is just about halfway done.
The official midpoint of the season will be Tuesday, when five of the night’s seven games are complete, giving us 615 of 1,230 in the books. Of course, not every team is at the same point. Through Sunday, three teams – Detroit (43), Utah (43) and the Clippers (42) – have already surpassed the midway point of the season, while seven others have played exactly 41 of their 82 games.
Strength of schedule hasn’t been even, either. As we enter Week 13, the Toronto Raptors have played 24 games against the 13 teams that currently have winning records, while the Miami Heat (one of those 13 teams) have only played 12 games against that group. The New Orleans Pelicans have played 22 of their 40 games at home, while the Portland Trail Blazers have played 24 of their 39 on the road.
So here’s a quick look at the schedules, played vs. unplayed, for the Eastern Conference …
Eastern Conference schedules, played vs. unplayed
|Team||H | R||B2B||OppPCT||Rank||H | R||B2B||OppPCT||Rank||OppPCT||Rank|
|Atlanta||19 | 21||5||0.487||22||22 | 20||8||0.510||5||0.022||6|
|Boston||20 | 20||6||0.489||20||21 | 21||7||0.492||10||0.003||9|
|Brooklyn||18 | 22||7||0.494||16||23 | 19||7||0.498||8||0.004||8|
|Charlotte||19 | 22||6||0.527||2||22 | 19||6||0.490||11||-0.037||12|
|Chicago||20 | 20||8||0.525||5||21 | 20||7||0.485||13||-0.040||13|
|Cleveland||22 | 19||6||0.498||14||19 | 22||6||0.488||12||-0.010||10|
|Detroit||19 | 24||9||0.527||3||21 | 17||4||0.495||9||-0.032||11|
|Indiana||22 | 19||7||0.498||13||19 | 22||7||0.502||7||0.004||7|
|Miami||20 | 20||7||0.485||24||21 | 20||7||0.516||3||0.031||3|
|Milwaukee||21 | 18||4||0.483||27||20 | 23||9||0.508||6||0.024||4|
|New York||20 | 20||6||0.485||25||21 | 21||6||0.518||2||0.033||2|
|Orlando||22 | 18||7||0.491||19||19 | 23||6||0.515||4||0.024||5|
|Philadelphia||22 | 17||6||0.475||29||19 | 24||7||0.523||1||0.049||1|
|Toronto||22 | 18||6||0.530||1||19 | 23||6||0.483||15||-0.047||15|
|Washington||17 | 23||8||0.526||4||24 | 18||6||0.485||14||-0.041||14|
H | R = Home and road
B2B = Back-to-backs
OppPCT = Cumulative opponent winning percentage (based on records through Jan. 8)
Rank: 1 = toughest, 15 = easiest
And for the West …
Western Conference schedules, played vs. unplayed
|Team||H | R||B2B||OppPCT||Rank||H | R||B2B||OppPCT||Rank||OppPCT||Rank|
|Dallas||22 | 19||8||0.501||11||19 | 22||5||0.491||13||-0.009||13|
|Denver||19 | 20||5||0.482||28||22 | 21||7||0.498||10||0.016||5|
|Golden State||21 | 19||8||0.486||23||20 | 22||7||0.510||3||0.024||2|
|Houston||20 | 20||6||0.516||7||21 | 21||7||0.507||5||-0.009||12|
|L.A. Clippers||20 | 22||9||0.470||30||21 | 19||6||0.523||1||0.053||1|
|L.A. Lakers||18 | 22||6||0.491||18||23 | 19||6||0.511||2||0.020||3|
|Memphis||19 | 20||5||0.484||26||22 | 21||7||0.493||11||0.009||8|
|Minnesota||21 | 20||6||0.489||21||20 | 21||8||0.506||6||0.018||4|
|New Orleans||22 | 18||6||0.496||15||19 | 23||6||0.492||12||-0.003||10|
|Oklahoma City||22 | 18||5||0.517||6||19 | 23||8||0.488||14||-0.030||15|
|Phoenix||21 | 20||5||0.500||12||20 | 21||7||0.510||4||0.010||7|
|Portland||15 | 24||6||0.494||17||26 | 17||8||0.506||7||0.012||6|
|Sacramento||20 | 18||6||0.504||9||21 | 23||9||0.485||15||-0.019||14|
|San Antonio||21 | 18||8||0.508||8||19 | 23||6||0.504||8||-0.004||11|
|Utah||19 | 24||11||0.502||10||22 | 17||4||0.502||9||0.000||9|
H | R = Home and road
B2B = Back-to-backs
OppPCT = Cumulative opponent winning percentage (based on records through Jan. 8)
Rank: 1 = toughest, 15 = easiest
The Philadelphia 76ers have been playing well and should be considered a contender in the East. But they’ve got the league’s toughest schedule going forward, with 23 of their 43 remaining games against the other 12 teams that currently have winning records. Of course, none of those games is this week, good news for a team dealing with an injury to its MVP candidate.
Speaking of which, the biggest news for Week 13 may be the results of the MRI on Kevin Durant’s right knee. The Brooklyn Nets continue to win and remain at No. 3 in this week’s Power Rankings, but obviously need their star to keep it going in the right direction.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Minnesota (4-0) — The Wolves’ win over Denver on Monday was schedule-aided, but they followed it up with wins over the Blazers, Clippers and Rockets.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: LA Clippers (0-4) — Only 40 games left for the Clippers to start putting it all together.
East vs. West
Schedule strength through Week 12
- Toughest: 1. Washington, 2. Detroit, 3. Chicago
- Easiest: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Milwaukee, 3. LA Clippers
- 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: L.A. Lakers (+8), Chicago (+6), New York (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Phoenix (-8), LA Clippers (-7), Portland (-7)
Week 13 Team to Watch
- LA Clippers — Only four teams received votes to win the 2022-23 title in this year’s GM Survey: the Bucks (43%), the Warriors (25%), the Clippers (21%) and the Celtics (11%). The two Eastern Conference teams have been good, but the two in the West both sit at .500 with the season about halfway done. The Warriors will certainly have the spotlight back on them when Stephen Curry returns, but the Clippers (with Paul George dealing with a hamstring issue) are looking shakier. They’ve lost six straight games and got absolutely thumped by the Nuggets with George and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup four days ago. The Clips have two more big games within the West this week, hosting the Mavs on Tuesday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA League Pass) and those same Nuggets on Friday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN). They’ll then get a visit from the last-place Rockets on Sunday afternoon.
Previous Power Rankings
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 112.9 points scored per 100 possessions and 100.0 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.
OffRtg: 117.2 (2) DefRtg: 114.0 (23) NetRtg: +3.1 (7) Pace: 99.2 (20)
The schedule got the best of the Nuggets in Minnesota on Monday, when they lost what was their fifth game in seven nights, less than 24 hours after the (first) basket-level delay back in Denver. But after a couple of days off, they clobbered the Clippers and beat the Cavs in another rest-disadvantage game, scoring 121 points on just 89 possessions (136 per 100) against the league’s No. 1 defense. Nikola Jokic had no mercy for Jarrett Allen, scoring 22 of his 28 points against the Cleveland center and even making three 3-pointers for just the second time this season. He had 15 games with three or more 3s last season but has seen a big drop in his 3-point rate this year.
The Denver defense has had its ups and downs, but the Nuggets rank 12th on that end of the floor as they’ve won 12 of their last 15 games, with nine of those 15 coming against teams currently in the top half of the league in offensive efficiency. Improvement from the first 24 games has come both in and outside the paint, and the Nuggets’ starting lineup now ranks as the second-best defensive unit (104.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) among the 17 lineups that have played at least 200 minutes.
The 12-3 stretch has included five wins over teams that are currently over .500. It’s also been a home-heavy stretch, and the schedule will remain home-heavy for the next two weeks. The Nuggets have lost two of their three games against the Lakers (both losses came in L.A.), and the final meeting of the season is Monday in Denver.
Week 13: vs. LAL, vs. PHX, @ LAC, vs. ORL
Bones with the mid-air adjustment 🥶 pic.twitter.com/EYylXHxz6G
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 6, 2023
OffRtg: 117.2 (1) DefRtg: 111.1 (7) NetRtg: +6.1 (1) Pace: 100.5 (15)
The Celtics’ offense went from historically efficient over the first six weeks of the season to bottom-five level over the next few weeks. The defense has improved over the last two months and had a terrific performance in Dallas on Thursday, but has also had some rough nights of late. And the roughest of those (one of the worst defensive games for any team this season) was Tuesday in Oklahoma City when the Celtics allowed the league’s 20th-ranked offense to score 150 points on 107 possessions, with the Thunder’s 46 field goal attempts in the restricted area being tied for the fifth most for any team in a game this season.
The Cs were without Robert Williams III in OKC, and with his minutes still limited, their defense isn’t fully armed and operational. Williams has played just 38 of his 175 minutes alongside Al Horford, and last season’s starting lineup – Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Horford and Williams – has logged just 13 total minutes together over the seven games in which all five guys have been available. Smart suffered a knee contusion in a too-close-for-comfort win in San Antonio on Saturday, when Williams had 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks (including an incredible swat of a Malaki Branham 3) in less than 22 minutes.
The home team has won all three games between the Celtics and Bulls this season, with the two games in Chicago being two of Boston’s six double-digit losses and with the final meeting in Boston on Monday. The Cs are one of two undefeated teams (they’re 6-0) in the second games of back-to-backs, but they’ve played just three of their nine rest-disadvantage games of the season. No. 4 will be in Brooklyn on Thursday when first place in the East could be on the line.
Week 13: vs. CHI, vs. NOP, @ BKN, @ CHA
OffRtg: 115.7 (4) DefRtg: 111.5 (9) NetRtg: +4.2 (4) Pace: 98.9 (2)
The Nets got good news on Monday morning when the MRI on Kevin Durant’s right knee showed a sprained MCL and nothing worse, because they can probably survive for a limited time without their MVP candidate. They trailed their game in Miami when he left on Sunday, but pulled out another clutch victory (they’re 16-3 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes) on Royce O’Neale’s second second-chance game-winner of the season. And only four of the Nets’ next 15 games are against teams that currently have winning records.
They obviously have another bucket-getter; Kyrie Irving has averaged 26.7 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 58.1%) as they’ve won 18 of their last 20 games, he hit a huge shot in their win in New Orleans on Friday, and Brooklyn has outscored its opponents by 5.5 points per 100 possessions in Irving’s 295 minutes on the floor without Durant this season. The supporting cast has also been terrific over the last six weeks, with Nic Claxton continuing to play strong inside on both ends of the floor; He’s first in field goal percentage and he has the best rim protection mark (opponents have shot just 50.4% at the rim when he’s been there) among the 20 players who’ve defended at least 200 shots at the basket.
But there’s obviously no replacing Durant, whose value goes well beyond his own bucket-getting, given how much attention he gets from opposing defenses and how well he’s played defense himself. The Nets do now have a three-day break, and they’ll have a rest advantage when they host the Celtics on Thursday. Their previous game against Boston (one of the only losses on this 18-2 stretch) was the Nets’ worst offensive game of the season (92 points on 96 possessions).
Week 13: vs. BOS, vs. OKC
KYRIE IRVING PUTBACK DUNK 😳 pic.twitter.com/G4kGZVaqtj
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 3, 2023
OffRtg: 113.9 (11) DefRtg: 109.1 (2) NetRtg: +4.8 (3) Pace: 101.5 (9)
Jaren Jackson’s season debut wasn’t exactly the turning point for the Grizzlies’ defense; they actually ranked fifth on that end of the floor over the two weeks prior to his first game. But since Jackson’s debut (Nov. 15), the Grizz have allowed just 107.3 points per 100 possessions, 1.8 fewer than any other team has allowed over that stretch. After the Cavs got clobbered in Denver on Saturday, the Grizz had the No. 1 defense for the season. Cleveland got to play the shorthanded Suns and took back the No. 1 spot on Sunday night, but the Grizzlies (in running their winning streak to six games) held Utah’s third-ranked offense below the league average for efficiency.
The Grizz have allowed just 102.0 per 100 in Jackson’s 600 minutes on the floor. That’s the lowest on-court mark among the 277 players who’ve averaged at least 15 minutes in 20 games or more, and the next lowest mark among full-time starters is that of teammate Dillon Brooks (104.8). Jackson’s 4.4 blocks per 36 minutes would be the highest mark for any player (minimum 500 minutes played) in the last seven seasons. Though he fouled out for the first time on Sunday and is still averaging just 26.1 minutes per game (fifth among Memphis starters), he’s still got more total blocks (74) than personal fouls (70). Memphis’ opponents have shot 47.1% in the paint with Jackson on the floor and 53.4% in the paint with him off the floor.
The Grizzlies have a good shot at extending this winning streak. Their two-game series against the Spurs (Monday and Wednesday) concludes a stretch of five straight games against teams that are currently under .500, but they have the league’s best record (14-3) in interconference games, and they’ll have a rest advantage when they visit the Pacers on Saturday.
Week 13: vs. SAS, vs. SAS, @ IND
OffRtg: 113.9 (10) DefRtg: 109.0 (1) NetRtg: +5.0 (2) Pace: 96.1 (30)
As prolific as scoring has been this season, 71 points from a single player in a single game is still pretty hard to comprehend. But that’s how many points Donovan Mitchell scored against Chicago on Monday when 13 of those 71 came in overtime after his ridiculous put-back to tie the game at the end of regulation. There have been 49 overtime periods this season and teams have scored at least 13 points in only 28 of those 98 opportunities. Mitchell was shooting 3s and getting to the basket in that extra period like someone who had played nine minutes instead of 49.
The Cavs still have the league’s top-ranked defense, benefiting from playing the shorthanded Suns twice in the last five days. Put those two games aside, and Cavs games (beyond Mitchell’s 71-point performance) have been more offensive over the last couple of weeks. Four straight starts resulted in an uptick in efficiency for Caris LeVert, who’s made more than half of his shots in four of his last five games. The OT win over the Bulls was their second victory in a game in which they allowed at least 120 possessions. And with their (slow-paced) defeat in Denver on Friday, they have the most losses (they’re 8-5) in games in which they’ve scored at least 120 per 100.
The scoring may remain high because Game 3 of the Cavs’ five-game trip is their fourth straight game against a top-10 offense. And oh yeah, it’s also Mitchell’s return to Utah. He scored a paltry 23 points (in less than 23 minutes) when the Cavs blew out the Jazz last month.
Week 13: @ UTA, @ POR, @ MIN
Donovan Mitchell sets a new scoring record for the Cleveland Cavaliers and becomes only the 7th player in NBA history to score 70+ points in a game. pic.twitter.com/qbOwr3sqyH
— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2023
OffRtg: 113.8 (12) DefRtg: 109.9 (4) NetRtg: +3.9 (6) Pace: 98.0 (27)
The Sixers aren’t going anywhere without Joel Embiid, who has missed the last three games with a sore left foot. Doc Rivers hasn’t expressed much concern about Embiid long-term, but a foot issue with this particular big man is obviously critical, in part because it can also affect Embiid’s conditioning beyond the games that he misses. The Sixers lost four of their first five games as he was working his way back into shape at the start of the season, they’ve been outscored with Embiid off the floor, and they have five losses in games in which he registered a positive plus-minus.
But they’re now 7-4 in games that their MVP candidate has missed, picking up Embiid-less wins over the Pacers and Pistons last week. James Harden led the way with 26 points and eight assists against Indiana and recorded his second triple-double of the season in Detroit. But bench minutes were also critical in both wins and Georges Niang is now 15-for-27 from 3-point range (third best among 70 players with at least 20 attempts) in January. Most important (in regard to winning more critical minutes with Embiid off the floor) may be that Montrezl Harrell has had his three highest-scoring games of the season (19, 17 and 20) in the last five days. The Sixers have outscored their opponents by 9.9 points per 100 possessions in 177 total minutes with Harden and Harrell on the floor together, though that differential is somewhat fueled by their opponents having shot poorly (30.7%) from 3-point range in those minutes.
The Sixers are one of three teams – the Bucks and Raptors are the others – that haven’t played in the Mountain or Pacific time zones. They’ve won six of their last seven games against the Western Conference, they host the Thunder on Thursday, and they begin a five-game trip in Utah two nights later.
Week 13: vs. DET, vs. OKC, @ UTA, @ LAL
OffRtg: 114.6 (7) DefRtg: 110.6 (5) NetRtg: +4.0 (5) Pace: 100.6 (13)
Brandon Ingram has missed the last 21 games and now Zion Williamson is out at least a few weeks after suffering a hamstring strain in Philadelphia on Monday. The Pelicans are still comfortably in the top four in the Western Conference, and they’re 5-3 (with good offensive numbers) without Ingram or Williamson to date. Naji Marshall has filled in for Williamson and averaged 21.0 points (on an effective field goal percentage of 58% and a bunch of free throw attempts) over the last three games, with the Pels getting a wire-to-wire victory against the Rockets on Wednesday.
But the Pels have lost four of their last five games overall (their worst offensive stretch of the season) and six of their last seven on the road. They’ve been at their worst (minus-0.9 points per 100 possessions) in the third quarter and they had a rough third period against Brooklyn on Friday, when they blew a 15-point lead and were somehow outscored on second chances (24-17) by the team that ranks 28th in rebounding percentage. The Pels have still been able to score in the paint without Williamson, but they were 5-for-29 from 3-point range in Dallas on Saturday, with CJ McCollum resting the second game of the weekend back-to-back.
The Pels still have four games left on a five-game trip that began with that defeat in Dallas. They remain one of the best teams at beating the bad ones (12-5 against the 12 teams currently at least two games below .500), they’ll play the Wizards and Pistons on the trip, and they don’t have another back-to-back for a couple of weeks.
Week 13: @ WAS, @ BOS, @ DET
OffRtg: 110.5 (26) DefRtg: 109.4 (3) NetRtg: +1.2 (11) Pace: 100.6 (12)
There were 23 instances of a player averaging 30 points or more over the 25 seasons prior to this one, and only two of those 23 instances came from a player on a team that ranked in the bottom 10 offensively. Those were both Allen Iverson, for the 2001-02 and ’04-05 Sixers, who ranked 23rd (of 29) and 25th (of 30), respectively, in offensive efficiency. And of course, Iverson didn’t score nearly as efficiently as Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s averaging 32.0 points per game for a team that now ranks in the bottom five in offensive efficiency.
The Bucks were efficient when Antetokounmpo scored a career-high 55 points against Washington on Tuesday. But their 104 points on 115 possessions (90.4 per 100) in their absurd, overtime win in Toronto was the least efficient performance for any winning team this season. Two nights later, they got clobbered (at home) by the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference. Turnovers have been a problem; the Bucks have seen the league’s second-biggest jump in turnover rate from last season and, having committed an amazing 31 more turnovers than their opponents (45–14) over their last two games, they now rank last in turnover differential (+3.3 per game).
And while Antetokounmpo is a more efficient scorer than Iverson was, his true shooting percentage (58.9%), field goal percentage in the paint (62.6%) and effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (36.2%) are all his worst marks in the last seven seasons. With the teammate who’s assisted him most over the last two years (Khris Middleton) having played in only seven games, Antetokounmpo has been assisted on only 40.8% of his buckets, the lowest rate of his career.
The Bucks have two stretches of five games in seven days this season. The first begins Wednesday in Atlanta with the second game of a four-game trip. They’ll have a rest disadvantage when they begin a two-game series the following night in Miami.
Week 13: @ NYK, @ ATL, @ MIA, @ MIA
OffRtg: 114.9 (6) DefRtg: 113.7 (22) NetRtg: +1.2 (10) Pace: 96.5 (29)
Luka Doncic recorded his ninth triple-double of the season (a modest 34, 10 and 10) on Saturday when the Mavs had a rest advantage against the shorthanded Pelicans. They were at a disadvantage the following night in Oklahoma City, Doncic didn’t play, and the Mavs lost by 11. Doncic has now sat the second game of his team’s last three back-to-backs, the Mavs are 0-4 without him, and they now have the league’s *second biggest differential between their record with rest (21-12, .636) and their record in the second games of back-to-backs (2-6, .250).
* Only the Magic – 15-18 with rest, 0-7 without rest – have a bigger differential.
The New Orleans win came with a lineup change, Dwight Powell in for Reggie Bullock and starting alongside Christian Wood. It’s probably a temporary solution (Dorian Finney-Smith has missed the last 10 games), but the Mavs have outscored their opponents by 26 points (having scored more than 135 per 100 possessions) in 51 total minutes with Doncic, Christian Wood and Powell on the floor together. It’s seemingly more potent to have four shooters around their star, but the Mavs have been at their best offensively (119.5 scored per 100) with Powell on the floor. He’s one of four players who have shot 73% or better on at least 100 field goal attempts this season (something that’s been done only four times prior).
The Mavs have only five back-to-backs (third fewest) remaining on their schedule, they have only one in the next month, and it’s a two-game series in Portland this coming weekend. The Mavs won the first two meetings (one of which came with a Doncic triple-double) and no Western Conference team has scored more efficiently against the Blazers this season.
Week 13: @ LAC, @ LAL, @ POR, @ POR
OffRtg: 113.3 (14) DefRtg: 113.4 (18) NetRtg: -0.1 (17) Pace: 101.7 (7)
The Pacers aren’t past their first-quarter issues. They were down 13 early against Toronto on Monday, they trailed 10-0 against Portland on Friday, and they lost the first quarter by 12 points (27-15) against Charlotte on Sunday. But the Pacers won all three of those games, holding the three opponents under a point per possession in both the second and fourth quarters. And they now lead the league with 11 wins (they’re 11-15) in games they trailed by double-digits.
Overall, they’ve won eight of their last 10 games, even though they’ve outscored their opponents by just 32 total points over that stretch. Seven of the eight wins (along with their overtime loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday) have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they’ve scored 94 points on 70 clutch possessions (134 per 100) over those eight tight games. Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Myles Turner have combined to shoot 8-for-15 on clutch 3s over that stretch, and each of them had a big defensive play – Hield blocked a LaMelo Ball 3, Haliburton stripped Terry Rozier, and Turner absolutely stuffed Mason Plumlee – in the final minute against the Hornets on Sunday.
The Pacers are now just two wins from being the first team to match their total from last season (25-57), and they’re still in the midst of a home-heavy stretch. But their most important game this month is probably their visit to New York on Wednesday, with Indy holding a half-game lead over the Knicks for sixth place in the East. The Pacers led their previous meeting (in Indiana a few weeks ago) by six points with less than two minutes to go before the Knicks ended the game on an 11-2 run.
Week 13: @ NYK, vs. ATL, vs. MEM
OffRtg: 115.5 (5) DefRtg: 114.6 (25) NetRtg: +0.9 (13) Pace: 102.1 (4)
Six of the Kings’ seven post-Christmas games have been within five points in the last five minutes, and five of those have been determined by three points or fewer. The Kings have had the league’s No. 1 clutch offense (130.3 points scored per 100 possessions) and De’Aaron Fox has been the league’s second-leading clutch scorer (99 total points), ranking third in clutch usage rate (42.1%) and has shot 40-for-65 (62%) with the score within five in the last five. He was an amazing 10-for-14 in the clutch last week, with three of those buckets coming in the last minute of the Kings’ win in Utah on Tuesday and the best of them being a thunderous dunk on the head of Onyeka Okongwu two nights later.
But Fox got picked by Dejounte Murray with the Kings down one against Atlanta, and he committed the foul that put Dennis Schroder on the line for the game-winning free throws on Saturday. (The Kings using their last timeout with 3.6 seconds left to challenge that call was another mistake.) Sacramento has allowed 69 points on 54 clutch defensive possessions (128 per 100) over this post-Christmas stretch and now ranks 26th in clutch defense.
The Kings rank 25th defensively overall, with their loss to the Lakers being both their worst defensive game and the Lakers’ best offensive game of the season. The loss also dropped the Kings to 0-5 (*they’re the only winless team) in rest-advantage games.
* The Knicks are technically winless in rest-advantage games too, but they haven’t played any.
The Kings are two games into a five-game homestand and three games into a stretch of nine straight against teams that currently have losing records. If they could take care of business against those below-.500 teams, they would be in great shape at end of the month. But, as we saw on Saturday, they’re playing with fire if they’re not defending well and letting their opponents hang around.
Week 13: vs. ORL, vs. HOU, vs. HOU, @ SAS
OffRtg: 114.2 (9) DefRtg: 111.6 (10) NetRtg: +2.6 (8) Pace: 98.6 (23)
The Knicks are the only team that hasn’t won a game it trailed at halftime, losing all 13 games in which they’ve been down at the half. But they haven’t had to worry about that over the last 10 days; they’ve led each of their last four games at the half, and they’ve won all four to rebound from a five-game losing streak. Only the Grizzlies (12/39) have trailed at the half in a lower percentage of their games than the Knicks (13/40).
Julius Randle has averaged 32.2 points over the last five games (eight total points shy of the highest-scoring five-game stretch of his career), seeing a jump in usage rate (32.1%) and free throw attempts (59 total over the five games). He hasn’t shot great over the winning streak (effective field goal percentage of 50%), but was 5-for-7 from 3-point range in the first quarter in Toronto on Friday and has now made at least four 3s in seven of his last eight games. His season-long 3-point rate (44% of his shots have come from beyond the arc) is easily the highest of his career, and he’s shooting more effectively than he did two seasons ago.
RJ Barrett has missed the last six games, but the Knicks continue to score efficiently in Randle’s minutes. For the season, they’ve scored 12.3 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (116.5) than they have with him off (104.2).
Only one of the Knicks’ last 16 games (their Christmas game against Philly) has come against a team that currently ranks in the top 10 defensively. They’ll face the Bucks’ third-ranked defense for the third and final time on Monday, having scored just 105.5 points per 100 possessions (their third-lowest mark against any opponent) in losing both of the first two meetings. Two nights later, they’ll play a huge game against the Pacers.
Week 13: vs. MIL, vs. IND, @ WAS, @ DET
OffRtg: 112.5 (17) DefRtg: 113.4 (19) NetRtg: -0.9 (22) Pace: 102.9 (1)
The Warriors won the first five games of their eight-game homestand. And while the fifth win (against the Hawks on Monday) was a 143-141, double-OT thriller with Klay Thompson scoring 54 points and Kevon Looney getting the game-winner on their 20th offensive rebound, the winning streak was the champs’ best five-game stretch of defense this season. They allowed just 106.5 points per 100 possessions over the five games, including 97.2 per 100 in Draymond Green’s 177 minutes on the floor.
But Games 6 and 7 of the homestand were losses to the Pistons and Magic in which the Warriors allowed two bottom-10 offenses to score nearly 120 points per 100 possessions. The difference between the five wins (29.1%) and the two losses (42.6%) was mostly about opponent 3-point shooting, but the Pistons and Magic also shot better in the paint (61.2% vs. 55.1%). Some of that was a result of 21 live-ball turnovers from the Warriors over the two games. Only the Rockets have turned the ball over more frequently than the champs, who rank 29th in turnover rate (16.1 per 100 possessions) for the second straight season.
The Warriors are now 8-12 vs. the Eastern Conference, having been swept by Detroit, Indiana and Orlando, maybe the stat your October self would be most surprised to hear from this season of parity. And after their homestand ends with a game against the Suns on Tuesday, they’ll head out on a five-game trip that includes four games in Eastern Conference arenas (where they’re 1-9).
Andrew Wiggins returned from a 15-game absence on Saturday, when Andre Iguodala also made his season debut. And there’s hope that Stephen Curry will return this week, with the Warriors now 6-8 without their MVP candidate. But with two steps forward, there was also a step back, with Klay Thompson being a late scratch with knee soreness on Saturday.
Week 13: vs. PHX, @ SAS, @ CHI
KEVON LOONEY GAME-WINNER! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/fyR7GVqzZQ
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 3, 2023
OffRtg: 110.8 (24) DefRtg: 111.2 (8) NetRtg: -0.5 (19) Pace: 97.3 (28)
The Heat played some solid offense (116.1 points scored per 100 possessions) as they went 5-2 in a stretch of seven straight games against the Western Conference. Bam Adebayo had three straight games of 30 or more points (for the first time in his career) on their 3-2 road trip, being more aggressive with his short pull-up jumpers and shooting 48-for-76 (63%) in the paint over those five road games. Victor Oladipo also had a couple of big games on the trip, including a season-high 26 points (with just 10 field goal attempts) in the Heat’s win in Phoenix on Friday.
The improved offense carried over through the first half of the Heat’s game against Brooklyn on Sunday when the two teams combined to score 130 points on 98 possessions. But the second half was much, much uglier, and Kevin Durant wasn’t the only All-Star lost to an injury. Adebayo suffered a hand contusion and sat out the last five minutes. The Heat, who’ve been outscored by 5.6 points per 100 possessions and killed on the glass with Adebayo off the floor this season, could have used him on the glass on the Nets’ final possession when Royce O’Neale won the game with a put-back.
The Heat have some recent history (including playoff meetings in 2020 and ’21) with the Bucks, but the two teams have yet to face each other this season. The first two of four meetings are a two-game series in Miami this week, and the Heat (3-1 in rest-advantage games thus far) will have a rest advantage on Thursday. These two teams have three of the five least efficient offensive performances (less than 95 points scored per 100 possessions) from winning teams this season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the winner set a new low in one of these two games.
Week 13: vs. OKC, vs. MIL, vs. MIL
OffRtg: 112.9 (16) DefRtg: 113.6 (21) NetRtg: -0.6 (21) Pace: 102.8 (2)
When the Lakers were 13-20, the idea of trading future picks to help LeBron James right now probably wasn’t very palatable. But with a five-game winning streak (their longest of the last two seasons), they’re somehow just a game out of sixth place in the Western Conference. They won nine of the last 13 games in which Anthony Davis played at least 10 minutes, they now have a winning record (8-7) without Davis, and James (who’s averaged 38 points, nine rebounds and eight assists over the winning streak) certainly has a stronger argument for a win-now move. (He continues to make that argument publicly.)
The Lakers scored a league-worst 104.2 points per 100 possessions as they lost 10 of their first 12 games. Since then, they’re 17-11 with the league’s third-ranked offense (116.7 scored per 100). They had a better-than-average offensive game (behind a season-high 32 points from Dennis Schroder) without James against the Heat’s eighth-ranked defense on Wednesday, and their win in Sacramento on Saturday (with Schroder sinking the game-winning free throws) was the Lakers’ most efficient offensive game of the season (136 on 101).
The 3-point shooting – 36.1% (15th) over the last 28 games vs. 30.0% (30th) over the first 12 – has had a lot to do with the improvement, but the Lakers have also shot better in the paint (62.8% and 56.7%) and seen a big jump in free throw rate. Five of James’ six games with at least nine free throw attempts have come in the last three weeks.
The Lakers have the league’s sixth toughest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage, it’s tougher before the All-Star break than it is after, and the next three games are their second toughest three-game stretch over these next three months. They’re 2-1 against the Nuggets (who they’ll visit on Monday), though Davis was available for all three games.
Week 13: @ DEN, vs. DAL, vs. PHI
OH MY GOODNESS LEBRON 🤯
HE’S GOT A 30 PIECE IN CHARLOTTE
— NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2023
OffRtg: 113.0 (15) DefRtg: 113.5 (20) NetRtg: -0.5 (20) Pace: 100.5 (14)
The Bulls were streak bustin’ last week, ending the Nets’ 12-game winning streak (and improving to 6-1 against the top three teams in the East) on Wednesday and then ending the Sixers’ 11-game home winning streak two nights later. More important is that the Bulls themselves have won three straight games for the second time this season, a nice recovery from their loss in Cleveland last Monday when they blew a 21-point lead and fell victim to Donovan Mitchell’s 71-point performance.
Over the last three weeks, the Bulls have gone 8-3 to climb into ninth place in the East and within two games of .500 for the first time since late November. They have the league’s fourth-ranked offense (119.2 points scored per 100 possessions) over that stretch, even though seven of the 11 games have come against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively. (The Sixers’ fourth-ranked defense was without Joel Embiid when the Bulls handed them their worst defensive game of the season on Friday.) The Bulls have still seen the league’s biggest jump in ball movement from last season, but they’ve been moving the ball a lot less over the last few weeks (309 passes per 24 minutes of possession, down from 369 prior), and it’s been working for them.
It’s especially worked for Zach LaVine, who’s averaged 26.9 points on an effective field goal percentage of 63.5% over the last 11 games, up from 21.8 on 52.1% prior to that. LaVine totaled 77 points over the Bulls’ weekend back-to-back, with his 11-for-13 from beyond the arc in Philly being just the third time in NBA history a player has made more than 10 3s on fewer than 15 attempts.
The Bulls have another game against one of the top three teams in the East on Monday. DeMar DeRozan has averaged 33 points (on 53/50/93 shooting splits) over their first three games against the Celtics, with his 46 (in a loss) on Nov. 4 being the high game for anybody against Boston this season.
Week 13: @ BOS, @ WAS, vs. OKC, vs. GSW
OffRtg: 111.5 (22) DefRtg: 112.9 (15) NetRtg: -1.4 (25) Pace: 101.9 (5)
The Hawks had a pretty thrilling trip through California, with three of their four games determined in the final minute. They’ve been without Clint Capela for 10 of their last 11 games, they’ve had rebounding issues without him in the past, and they allowed the Warriors to total 15 clutch offensive rebounds (on 26 missed shots) in their double-overtime loss on Monday. One of those turned into Donte DiVincenzo’s game-tying 3 at the end of regulation, and the last one came on Kevon Looney’s game-winning tip-in at the double-OT buzzer.
15! That couldn’t have been easy to watch from the bench (or your couch if you’re a Hawks fan).
Atlanta was better on defensive glass down the stretch of wins over the Kings and Clippers, and they shot 10-for-16 on clutch shots (plus 8-for-8 on clutch free throws) on the other end of the floor. All 10 of those buckets (and 14 of the 16 attempts) were inside the arc, with Trae Young hitting to big floaters in the final minute in L.A. on Sunday. With how poorly he’s shot from beyond the arc this season (31.4%), Young’s 2-pointers (at 47.8%) have been worth more than his 3s for the first time his career. And he’s shot better on both (50.0% on 2s, 39.1% on 3s) over his last 10 games.
Back from their California trip, the Hawks will play seven of their next eight games within the Eastern Conference, a pretty important stretch for a team that currently sits in 10th place, because it includes games against the four teams – the Pacers, Knicks, Heat and Bulls – directly in front of them. On Friday, they’ll be in Indiana, where they lost by 15 less than two weeks ago.
Week 13: vs. MIL, @ IND, @ TOR
OffRtg: 109.6 (28) DefRtg: 110.8 (6) NetRtg: -1.2 (24) Pace: 99.0 (21)
Kawhi Leonard missed a non-back-to-back game on Monday, but for the most part, he’s been back for five weeks, playing alongside Paul George in 11 of the Clippers’ 18 games over that stretch. And over those five weeks, the Clips have risen from 28th to … 28th in offensive efficiency. They’re 8-10 since Leonard’s return, with a 6-5 mark in the games that he and George have played together. One of those six wins came against the Celtics, but the other five have come against Charlotte (x 2), Washington, Minnesota and Toronto. With their non-competitive effort in Denver on Thursday, the Clips are 4-11 (1-4 with both Leonard and George in uniform) against the 13 teams that are currently over .500.
And with their six-game losing streak, the Clips are no longer part of that over-.500 group. The offense has been bad, but the streak also includes three of their six worst defensive games of the season (122+ points allowed per 100 possessions).
The playoffs (and the Play-In) are still more than three months away, but the Clippers are one of three teams that have already surpassed the midway point of the season. George is dealing with a hamstring issue and Luke Kennard (also critical if the offense is to ever get going) missed a loss to the Hawks on Sunday with a sore calf.
The Clips will get another chance at Denver this week, Game 3 of the five-game homestand that began with their loss to the Hawks on Sunday and also includes games against Dallas and Philly. The Sixers are the only team that’s scored more efficiently against the Clippers than the Nuggets have this season.
Week 13: vs. DAL, vs. DEN, vs. HOU
OffRtg: 116.0 (3) DefRtg: 115.1 (27) NetRtg: +0.9 (12) Pace: 100.7 (11)
There haven’t been a lot of Western Conference teams tearing it up of late, but the Jazz have slid from seventh to 12th place by losing seven of their last eight games. The only win on that stretch was a rest-advantage game in Houston in which they blew a 13-point lead and trailed the worst team in the league late in the third quarter. They ultimately won that game by 17, and the Jazz have been outscored by only 11 total points (1.3 per 100 possessions) over this 1-7 stretch. All seven losses have been within five points in the last five minutes, the Jazz have scored just 42 points on 46 clutch possessions over these last two weeks, and Lauri Markkanen’s miracle 3-pointer to beat the Kings on Tuesday was a fraction of a second too late.
Markkanen was the defender that De’Aaron Fox blew by for the game-winning bucket on the previous possession, but he’s not alone on this team in regard to getting beat off the dribble, and he’s the bright spot on this slide. He scored a career-high 49 points in the Houston win and followed that up with 28 (on 12-for-20 shooting, including eight dunks) in Chicago two nights later. A 50/40/90 season might be out of the cards (he’d need to make his next 50 free throws to get to 90% from the line), but Markkanen is the only player who’s shot 60% or better on at least 100 2-point attempts and 40% or better on at least 100 3-point attempts.
Having played nine of their last 12 games on the road, the Jazz will now play 11 of their next 13 at home. That stretch begins Tuesday with Donovan Mitchell’s return to Utah and also the Jazz’s second game against the only defense that’s held them under a point per possession this season.
Week 13: vs. CLE, vs. ORL, vs. PHI
LAURI MARKKANEN 😳 pic.twitter.com/Hgiaf10EGe
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 8, 2023
OffRtg: 114.4 (8) DefRtg: 112.3 (12) NetRtg: +2.1 (9) Pace: 98.0 (26)
The Suns’ offense initially had a few solid games without Devin Booker, scoring efficiently enough to hang with the Nuggets on Christmas and thwart the Grizzlies two nights later. But the bottom has fallen out since then, and they’ve scored an anemic 102.3 points per 100 possessions over the six-game losing streak that has dropped them below .500. Chris Paul shot 50% over the first five games of the streak, but the Suns still barely cracked a point per possession in his 149 minutes on the floor. He’s missed the last game and a half with hip soreness, the Suns have also been without Cameron Payne, and they’re playing Landry Shamet at point guard.
The losing can’t all be tied to Booker’s absence, because the Suns also lost three of the last five games in which he played more than five minutes. The good news is that only five teams in the West have winning records right now, and the Warriors and Clippers are going through similar travails. (It’s probably not a good time for Phoenix and Golden State to be playing on national TV, but alas … )
The Suns now embark on a four-game trip that includes games against the champs, the Nuggets and the Grizzlies, what should have been a trip that tested their ability to beat the other great teams in the West. But now, you have to wonder what their record will be when they return home. And maybe the most important game on the trip is the one on Friday against the team – Minnesota – that, amazingly, has the same record as the Suns do.
Week 13: @ GSW, @ DEN, @ MIN
OffRtg: 112.5 (18) DefRtg: 112.4 (14) NetRtg: +0.0 (15) Pace: 101.9 (6)
The Wolves remain wacky. Nine days ago, they capped a six-game losing streak with a loss at home to the Pistons. And since then, they’re 4-0, moving back into ninth place in the West. They’re one of four undefeated teams in 2023 and one of only two that have beaten the Nuggets in the last three weeks. The context is that the Denver win, as well as the Wolves’ win over the Clippers on Friday, came with a rest advantage. And though it’s nice that they got their second win in a game they trailed by double-digits on Sunday (they’re now 2-17 when down by 10 or more points), it’s not nice that the Wolves were losing to the Rockets by 20 points after less than 20 minutes.
But the Wolves have scored 119.0 points per 100 possessions over the winning streak, and they’ve been especially potent with Anthony Edwards running the offense. For the season, the Wolves have been outscored by 18 points (0.3 per 100 possessions) in 362 total minutes with Edwards on the floor without D’Angelo Russell or Jordan McLaughlin. But they were a plus-39 (scoring 129.6 per 100) in 81 of those minutes last week, even though Edwards didn’t shoot particularly well (38%) over the four wins. Jaden McDaniels had a big game against Denver, and Kyle Anderson (shooting 55% and averaging 6.3 assists) and Rudy Gobert (averaging 20.0 points and 14.7 boards over the last three games) might have both had their best weeks as Wolves.
Having just benefited from the Nuggets’ only stretch of five games in seven nights, the Wolves will now have their only one. It includes four home games and a visit to Denver (appropriately), and it begins Friday with a game against the Suns. Phoenix has won the first two meetings, with the Wolves having scored just 45 points on 54 possessions (83 per 100) over the two first quarters.
Week 13: @ DET, vs. PHX, vs. CLE
OffRtg: 113.4 (13) DefRtg: 113.2 (17) NetRtg: +0.2 (14) Pace: 98.4 (24)
The Blazers rank sixth defensively over the last three weeks and have climbed out of the bottom 10 on that end of the floor for the season, even though they’ve been without Justise Winslow for the last seven games and had Gary Payton II for just 13 minutes before he sprained his ankle. But they’ve lost seven of their nine games over that three-week stretch, with only two of the nine coming against teams that currently have winning records. The two wins (over Charlotte and Detroit) have come at home, while the seven losses have come on the road, where the Blazers have struggled offensively.
They’ve scored just 108.1 points per 100 possessions over those last seven road games, with a ton of turnovers (18.2 per 100 possessions) and with their three most prolific 3-point shooters – Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jerami Grant – having combined to shoot 56-for-177 (31.6%) from 3-point range. The Blazers were 0-for-13 from the field (with two turnovers) over the final 7 1/2 minutes in Indiana on Friday, their league-leading ninth loss in games they led by double-digits.
The 2-7 stretch has dropped the Blazers below .500 for the first time this season and into 10th place in the Western Conference. The good news is that they’ve had the league’s most road-heavy schedule to date, with only 14 of their 39 games at the Moda Center. They’re 9-6 (with four straight wins) at home, where they’ll play 10 of their next 11. They’ll have a rest advantage against the Magic on Tuesday, but the five games after that will be their toughest stretch between now and the All-Star break.
Week 13: vs. ORL, vs. CLE, vs. DAL, vs. DAL
OffRtg: 112.0 (20) DefRtg: 112.2 (11) NetRtg: -0.3 (18) Pace: 102.4 (3)
The Thunder are in 13th place, and they’ve lost to both the Hornets and Magic in the last two weeks. But, at 18-22, they’re just two games behind the fifth-place Warriors. Though they have those losses in Charlotte and Orlando, they’ve won seven of their last 11 games, ranking in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency over that stretch. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has obviously led the way, but the Thunder also beat the Celtics by 33 points without him on Tuesday. The franchise’s most efficient offensive performance (150 points on 107 possessions) in the last 25 seasons (since April of 1998) was not led by Ray Allen, Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, but rather by Josh Giddey (25 points on 10-for-15 shooting) and Tre Mann (21 on 8-for-11).
The Thunder probably won’t shoot that effectively again all season, but they consistently take care of the ball. They rank fifth in turnover rate (13.5 per 100 possessions, they’ve committed just 27 total turnovers over the three games since the Boston win, and they’ve committed more turnovers than their opponents just eight times in 40 games, a pretty remarkable feat for the youngest team in the league.
Having played 11 of their last 13 games at home, the Thunder now head out for a four-game trip after which they will have played 13 of their 15 games in Eastern Conference arenas. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s lowest-scoring game of the season (14 points on 4-for-15 shooting) came nine days ago against the Sixers, and the Thunder will be in Philly on Thursday. They’re just 5-13 (with five straight losses) on the road, where Mann has an effective field goal percentage of just 39.1%, the worst mark among 216 players with at least 100 road field goal attempts.
Week 13: @ MIA, @ PHI, @ CHI, @ BKN
OffRtg: 112.4 (19) DefRtg: 112.4 (13) NetRtg: +0.0 (16) Pace: 98.2 (25)
It would be fair to say that the Raptors’ visit to Indiana on Monday was one of their biggest games of the season. They actually outscored the Pacers (sixth in 3-point differential) from 3-point range and forced seven turnovers out of Tyrese Haliburton (sixth in assist/turnover ratio). It was noted in this space last week that the Raps’ starters have struggled, but the starting group (the small one) was a plus-21 in a little more than 19 minutes through the first three quarters on Monday. The bench minutes were bad, but the Raps had a lead midway through the fourth. And then the Pacers went on a 19-6 run to give Toronto a loss in which it was outscored by 22 points (66-44) on restricted-area buckets and free throws.
The Raptors’ loss to the Bucks two nights later was one of the weirdest games of the season, with Toronto scoring zero points over the first 6 1/2 minutes of the first quarter and 28 over the last 3 1/2 of the fourth. But it wasn’t weird in that Fred VanVleet chased the ball and left Grayson Allen wide-open in the corner for the game-winner. The Raptors’ defense is a feast-or-famine operation, one that can force five turnovers over that 28-7 run to close regulation, but allow a wide-open corner 3 with the game on the line. The 4.4 corner 3s per game that Toronto has allowed is the highest opponent mark in the league, and this is the fourth straight season that the Raps have had the highest or second-highest opponent mark.
The Raps got a solid win over Portland on Sunday, they have one of the league’s easiest remaining schedules, and their record belies their point differential (+0 for the season). But with the loss in Indiana and two more to begin a six-game homestand, it just may be that this team ain’t it. The trade deadline is exactly one month away.
Week 13: vs. CHA, vs. CHA, vs. ATL
OffRtg: 111.8 (21) DefRtg: 112.9 (16) NetRtg: -1.1 (23) Pace: 99.7 (17)
The Wizards went from allowing 92.9 points per 100 possessions over the first two games of their four-game trip to allowing 122.0 per 100 over the last two. Both Milwaukee and Oklahoma City had 66 points in the paint against the Wiz last week, with the Bucks’ 66 being eight more paint points than they’ve scored in any other game this season. Funky shot-location data makes the Wiz look like a great rim-protection team at home, but on the road, only five teams have allowed their opponents to take a greater percentage of their shots (33%) in the restricted area.
If the Wizards aren’t stopping their opponent in the paint, they’re having a hard time keeping up, because they’re a low-volume and low-percentage team from beyond the arc, one of sox teams that rank in the bottom 10 in both 3-point percentage (34.3%, 22nd) and the percentage of their shots that have come from 3-point range (36.1%, 22nd). (They were the only team in the bottom five in both last season.) They’ve totaled just 22 3s (on 28% shooting) over their three games in January, with Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis a combined 4-for-25.
The two losses have dropped the Wizards back into 11th place in the East, set to play the ninth-place Bulls this week. Having played 17 of their last 23 games on the road, the Wiz begin a four-game homestand (just their second homestand of more than two games) on Monday. They have the second easiest remaining schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage, but it doesn’t get too soft until after the next five games. Bradley Beal is out at least two more, set to have his hamstring injury re-evaluated later this week.
Week 13: vs. NOP, vs. CHI, vs. NYK
OffRtg: 110.8 (23) DefRtg: 114.1 (24) NetRtg: -3.3 (26) Pace: 99.2 (19)
The Magic are done with their suspensions and have recovered from a rough Week 11 in which they lost to three below-.500 teams by a total of 58 points. Paolo Banchero shot 12-for-42 (including 4-for-30 from outside the restricted area) over that losing streak but averaged 26.7 points on 47% shooting (including 8-for-16 from mid-range) as the Magic won two out of three last week. Wendell Carter Jr. returned to the starting lineup with Moe Wagner suspended and had double-doubles in each of the two wins. The Magic have now outscored their opponents by 4.1 points per 100 possessions in 301 total minutes with Franz Wagner, Banchero and Carter on the floor together.
The Magic swept their season series with the Warriors and their win on Saturday (the Warriors’ third-worst offensive performance of the season) ended a nine-game losing streak at Golden State. It also improved the Magic to 10-2 in the last 12 games in which they’ve been rested. The defensive numbers have been good (109.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) over those 12 games, and half of those 10 wins have been by double-digits.
But with their loss in Memphis on Thursday (in which they were outscored by 18 points in a little more than 12 minutes with Banchero off the floor), the Magic remain the only winless team (they’re 0-7) in the second games of back-to-backs. They have another back-to-back – at Sacramento and at Portland – on Monday and Tuesday, the end of their second (and final) stretch of five games in seven nights.
Week 13: @ SAC, @ POR, @ UTA, @ DEN
OffRtg: 110.3 (27) DefRtg: 118.8 (30) NetRtg: -8.5 (30) Pace: 101.3 (10)
Devin Vassell was doing some good things for the Spurs offensively; His 48.3% from mid-range ranks fifth among the 31 players with at least 100 attempts, and his 47.3% on catch-and-shoot 3s ranked fifth among 113 players with at least 100 attempts. And it stinks that his development is stalled by a knee injury for which he’ll have arthroscopic surgery this week. His deep pull-ups, for example, could use some work; while Vassell has shot 46.5% on pull-up 2s, he’s 11-for-52 (21.2%, worst among 70 players with at least 50 attempts) on pull-up 3s.
But in regard to wins and losses, Vassell’s absence probably isn’t moving the needle much. The Spurs have been outscored by almost 12 points per 100 possessions (with terrible defensive numbers) in his 907 minutes on the floor. They’re 8-21 in the games he’s played (including 5-13 when all five starters have been available) and now 5-6 otherwise.
The Spurs are now without Vassell and Keldon Johnson, who suffered a hamstring injury early in their win over the Pistons on Friday. They trailed that game after Johnson’s injury, but had a big second half behind a strong performance from Tre Jones. And the they’re getting really close to their first win (they’re now 0-25) in a game they trailed by double-digits. They erased two double-digit deficits in New York on Wednesday, but committed a five-second, inbounds violation when they had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final seconds. And they came back from 15 down to tie the Celtics in the final minute on Sunday, but Jeremy Sochan missed a 3 for the lead with 10 seconds left.
The Spurs erased two double-digits deficits and were up one late in the fourth quarter in their first meeting (Nov. 9) against the Grizzlies, but lost in overtime when Vassell missed a pull-up 3 at the buzzer. Games 2 and 3 of the season series are this week in Memphis, and the Spurs (1-1 in rest-advantage games thus far) will have a rest advantage on Monday.
Week 13: @ MEM, @ MEM, vs. GSW, vs. SAC
OffRtg: 108.3 (30) DefRtg: 114.6 (26) NetRtg: -6.3 (27) Pace: 101.7 (8)
Terry Rozier has seen the second-biggest drop in effective field goal percentage (from 53.9% to 46.3%) among 176 players with at least 200 field goal attempts in each of the last two seasons. Though he’s seen a big jump in the percentage of his shots that have come in the paint, he’s had big drops in both field goal percentage in the paint (53.2% to 46.9%) and 3-point percentage (37.4% to 31.6%).
But two of Rozier’s five most effective shooting games of the season have come in January. That includes a 39-point performance in Milwaukee on Friday when the Hornets scored 51 in the first quarter, finished with 138 on 102 (their most efficient performance of the season by a wide margin) and beat the Bucks (with Giannis Antetokounmpo) by 29.
The Hornets’ defense has been solid (ranking 10th) over the last 13 days and they got off to another good start in Indiana on Sunday. But after blowing a 14-point lead, they allowed the Pacers to score 43 points on 25 possessions in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter has generally been Charlotte’s best (minus-0.3 points per 100 possessions), but only the Rockets (6-6) have a worse record than the Hornets (10-7) in games they led by double-digits. (Two of those seven losses have come to the Pacers.)
The Hornets have played the league’s second-toughest schedule in regard to cumulative opponent winning percentage. They have the seventh easiest schedule in that regard going forward, currently 7-9 against the other 14 teams that enter Week 13 with losing records. Their first two meetings against the 17-23 Raptors will be Tuesday and Thursday in Toronto.
Week 13: @ TOR, @ TOR, vs. BOS
This LaMelo dime 👀 pic.twitter.com/fmhK3Q0LkV
— NBA TV (@NBATV) January 5, 2023
OffRtg: 110.6 (25) DefRtg: 117.7 (29) NetRtg: -7.1 (29) Pace: 100.4 (16)
The Pistons completed a season sweep of the Warriors on Wednesday … and then lost in San Antonio (just the Spurs’ third double-digit win of the season) two nights later. The Detroit defense remains bad (allowing 119 points per 100 possessions over the last four games), but the Golden State win, capped by Saddiq Bey’s incredible game-winner, was the fourth time since Christmas that the Pistons made more than 15 3s. (They had five such games prior to Christmas.)
The Pistons’ offense has been a little better with Bey on the floor, he’s shot a little better inside the arc than he did in either of his first two seasons, and his free throw rate (34 attempts per 100 shots from the field) is a career-high mark by a wide margin. But, for the second straight season, he’s seen drops in 3-point percentage (32.7% this season) and effective field goal percentage (47.5%), unable to really follow up on what was a promising rookie year. He’s mostly been playing behind Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren on the Pistons’ frontline, but hasn’t found much of a rhythm in starting four of the last six games. (He was 5-for-16 before the game-winner on Wednesday.)
The Pistons have played the most games in the league and they’re tied (with Utah) for the fewest back-to-backs left on the schedule (4). But because they have a trip to Paris coming up, one of those four remaining back-to-backs is this week, with the second game coming against Minnesota on Wednesday. The Pistons outscored the Wolves by 26 points (66-40) in the second half of a win in Minnesota nine days ago.
Week 13: @ PHI, vs. MIN, vs. NOP, vs. NYK
The final 4 seconds of Warriors-Pistons were WILD 😱 pic.twitter.com/fakbuxKQ2K
— NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2023
OffRtg: 108.8 (29) DefRtg: 115.8 (28) NetRtg: -7.0 (28) Pace: 99.7 (17)
The Rockets have lost seven straight and 12 of their last 13 games. Offense continues to get more efficient league-wide as the season goes on and six of the 13 games have come against teams that rank in the bottom 10 defensively but the Rockets have scored just 107.5 points per 100 possessions over the 1-12 stretch. Alperen Sengun continues to score pretty efficiently, but he’s had some turnover issues (eight over the last two games) and three guys have taken a lot more shots than him. Two of them – Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. – have shot pretty poorly, with Green having shot no better than 33% from the field over his last five games. If it weren’t for second chances (the Rockets lead the league in offensive rebounding percentage), this offense would be in really rough shape. The Rockets rank 27th in field goal percentage in the paint (54.3%), 29th in mid-range field goal percentage (35.4%) and 28th in 3-point percentage (33.0%), the only team in the bottom five in all three.
The good news is that Jae’Sean Tate made his season debut on Thursday after missing the Rockets’ first 38 games. He had a fabulous fast-break lob to Kenyon Martin Jr. on Sunday, he’ll make this team a little more fun to watch, and maybe he can eventually infiltrate a starting lineup that has now been outscored by 11.8 points per 100 possessions in its 419 minutes. (Lineups this bad usually don’t last this long.)
The two Western Conference opponents that the Rockets have yet to face are the Kings and the Lakers. They’ll face them both on the four-game trip that begins Wednesday in Sacramento.
Week 13: @ SAC, @ SAC, @ LAC
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