Power Rankings: Boston Celtics aren’t the only team streaking | NBA Africa News | Kwese Sports

Power Rankings: Boston Celtics aren’t the only team streaking

It’s still early, but a little less early than it was last week or the week before. We’re creeping toward the quarter mark of the season (with about 16 percent with the season done), when most teams have played 20 games and the standings start to hold some significance.

Some teams are still in early-season mode, trying to figure things out on one end of the floor or the other. Some can book their tickets to the 2018 Draft Lottery already. And some have hit their stride.

The Boston Celtics have won 12 straight games, their longest winning streak in almost seven years. They’ve shown remarkable resilience in the face of injuries and some feisty teams that want to put that streak to an end.

But the Celtics aren’t the only team that’s streaking. Entering Week 5, the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets have each won six straight games, while the Detroit Pistons have won five straight. Though the Celtics haven’t lost in 25 days, Detroit are just a game behind them in the loss column.

The Celtics have built their streak on defense, while the Rockets and Pistons have been stronger on offense. The Warriors, meanwhile, have been elite on both ends of the floor over the last two weeks.

At least one of those streaks will end this week, as Golden State visit Boston on Thursday, easily the most anticipated game of the season thus far.

Last week: Quality wins push Pistons into top 5

This time last year: Clippers climb to No 1—The Clippers were 9-1, with the league’s best defense, while the Celtics ranked in the bottom five defensively. The Cavs lost to Atlanta after a 6-0 start, while the Wizards were 2-7. Stephen Curry set an NBA record with 13 threes in a game, Mike Malone broke up the Jokic-Nurkic combo, Serge Ibaka beat his old team with a baseline jumper, and Marc Gasol beat the Nuggets at the buzzer with an inbounds alley-oop.

Plus-minus stud: Stephen Curry (GSW) was a plus-70 in three games last week.

Plus-minus dud: Dragan Bender (PHX) was a minus-55 in four games last week.

Hero team of the week: Boston (4-0)—The Celtics had some close calls (three of the wins were by three points or less), but kept their streak going despite injuries to Al Horford, Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum.

Zero team of the week: Chicago (0-3)—The Bulls cut a 23-point deficit to three in Toronto on Tuesday, but there was no coming back as they lost a weekend back-to-back against the Pacers and Spurs by a total of 57 points.

East vs West: The East is 40-39 (.506) against the West in interconference games after going 13-11 last week.

Toughest schedules so far: 1. Charlotte, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Sacramento

Easiest schedules so far: 1. Boston, 2. Utah 3. Portland

Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs away and days of rest before a game.

High jumps of the week: Denver (+10), Milwaukee (+5), New Orleans (+5), New York (+5)

Free falls of the week: LA Clippers (-11), LA Lakers (-8), Portland (-6), Utah (-6)

Team to watch in Week 5: Detroit—After a 5-0 homestand, the Pistons have an important game in Milwaukee on Wednesday and an interesting interconference game in Minnesota on Sunday, with a visit to Indiana in-between.

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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)

OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)

DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)

NetRtg: Points differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)

The league has averaged 101.2 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.1 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an email or contact him via Twitter.

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1

Golden State Warriors

Last week: 1

Golden State Warriors

Record: 10-3

Pace: 104.7 (5) OffRtg: 116.5 (1) DefRtg: 102.1 (9) NetRtg: +14.3 (1)

The Warriors are playing 11 of their first 15 games against teams that currently have winning records, but they’re picking up steam, having won their last six games by an average of 21.5 points and their five November third quarters by a total score of 182-111. For the full season, they’ve scored 12.4 more points per 100 possessions than the league average, a mark that would crush the highest differential (9.5) of the last 40 years. And over the course of their six-game winning streak, they’ve had the league’s best defense (95 points allowed per 100 possessions) to climb from 26th to ninth on that other end of the floor overall.

Week 5: vs ORL, @ BOS, @ PHI, @ BKN

2

Boston Celtics

Last week: 2

Boston Celtics

Record: 12-2

Pace: 98.7 (26) OffRtg: 103.4 (18) DefRtg: 95.4 (1) NetRtg: +8.0 (3)

Al Horford missed two games, Aron Baynes broke Kyrie Irving’s face, and they faced an 18-point deficit against Charlotte and a couple more close calls last week, but the Celtics’ winning streak has reached 12 games. Jayson Tatum has been terrific at attacking close-outs, but also at shooting from the corners, from where he’s 9-for-13 and hit one of the biggest shots in Monday’s win in Atlanta, with more big buckets coming in wins over the Hornets and Raptors. He leads all rookies in clutch scoring and in effective field-goal percentage (minimum 50 shots) at 56.5 percent. Thursday night at TD Garden, when the Warriors make their only (regular-season) visit of the season, should be fun.

Week 5: @ BKN, vs GSW, @ ATL

3

Houston Rockets

Last week: 3

Houston Rockets

Record: 11-3

Pace: 101.0 (15) OffRtg: 109.9 (2) DefRtg: 101.9 (8) NetRtg: +8.0 (2)

Chris Paul could return soon, but the Rockets’ starting lineup is doing just fine without him. The Rockets’ starters have outscored their opponents by almost 26 points per 100 possessions, the best mark among 25 lineups that have played at least 75 minutes together. The Rockets have won six straight games, with the starters helping them get out to double-digit leads in the first quarter of each of the last five. They finally figured out the Grizzlies’ defense on Saturday, in part because their own defense was more active, forcing 14 live-ball turnovers (more than twice as many as the Grizzlies averaged over their first 11 games). Don’t look now, but Houston has a top-10 defense, with one of their best defenders about to return from injury.

Week 5: vs TOR, @ PHX, @ MEM

4

Detroit Pistons

Last week: 5

Detroit Pistons

Record: 10-3

Pace: 99.0 (23) OffRtg: 107.4 (6) DefRtg: 102.4 (10) NetRtg: +5.0 (5)

Only Cleveland have been worse defensively than Detroit in the first quarter. But the Pistons have had better starts of late and Sunday’s win over Miami made them 5-3 in games they trailed by double digits. It also verified their sixth-ranked offense, which scored 112 points per 100 possessions over their 5-0 homestand. Tobias Harris’ improved 3-point shooting is as much about volume as it is about accuracy. After making 21 of his 35 threes on the homestand, he’s one of two players who has shot at least 50 percent on at least 50 3-point attempts, and has taken 40 percent—a career-high mark by a wide margin—of his shots from beyond the arc. Now the Pistons play nine of their next 11 games on the road.

Week 5: @ MIL, @ IND, @ MIN

5

Memphis Grizzlies

Last week: 4

Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 7-5

Pace: 98.1 (29) OffRtg: 103.2 (19) DefRtg: 100.6 (5) NetRtg: +2.6 (11)

The Grizzlies’ offense has been rather anemic in five of their last six games, with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol combining to shoot 41 percent over that stretch. Their new starting lineup (with Dillon Brooks in place of Andrew Harrison) had good numbers in its first three games together, but David Fizdale continues to limit its minutes (to less than nine per game in its four starts) and the Rockets overwhelmed it (on their way to a 28-10 lead) in the opening minutes on Saturday. Ben McLemore made his Grizzlies debut in that game and didn’t seem to upset the strong bench numbers they’ve had so far.

Week 5: @ MIL, vs IND, vs HOU

6

San Antonio Spurs

Last week: 7

San Antonio Spurs

Record: 8-5

Pace: 98.3 (28) OffRtg: 104.7 (14) DefRtg: 101.4 (7) NetRtg: +3.3 (10)

The Spurs’ six-game homestand included a not-so-encouraging update on Kawhi Leonard, but also the team’s best offense of the season (though the last four games were against bottom-12 defenses). Not only did they score 111 points per 100 possessions over the 10 days, but their passing and assist numbers also were up. Tuesday’s win over the Clippers, with seven Spurs recording three or more assists, was a throwback. Bryn Forbes is suddenly getting rotation minutes and has been a big reason why the Spurs have shot 44 percent (second best in the league) from 3-point range in November.

Week 5: @ DAL, @ MIN, vs OKC

7

Washington Wizards

Last week: 9

Washington Wizards

Record: 7-5

Pace: 102.9 (7) OffRtg: 107.2 (7) DefRtg: 103.3 (15) NetRtg: +3.8 (8)

After three straight home losses to teams (Phoenix, Cleveland and Dallas) with losing records, the Wizards finally started taking care of business against one of their easiest stretches of schedule, winning all eight quarters against the Lakers and Hawks on Thursday and Saturday. With Markieff Morris back and Kelly Oubre back on the bench over the last five games, they’re a plus-16 with at least one reserve on the floor. John Wall has been one of the league’s worst shooters off the dribble (he ranks 57th in pull-up effective field-goal percentage—33.9 percent—among 62 players with at least 50 attempts), but Otto Porter continues to shoot well off the catch (ranking sixth in catch-and-shoot effective field-goal percentage—68.6 percent—among 53 players with at least 50 attempts).

Week 5: vs SAC, @ MIA, vs MIA, @ TOR

8

Toronto Raptors

Last week: 10

Toronto Raptors

Record: 7-5

Pace: 100.8 (16) OffRtg: 107.9 (5) DefRtg: 103.5 (16) NetRtg: +4.4 (6)

The Raptors can take care of business, but are 0-5 against teams that are currently at least two games above .500, because they couldn’t close in Boston on Sunday. They’ve still had the league’s biggest increase in assist rate from last season, but looked like the old Raptors in the fourth quarter against the Celtics. They didn’t record a single assist in the period, living and dying with DeMar DeRozan isolations. They rank in the bottom five defensively in November, they lost one of their best defenders (Norman Powell) to a hip injury on Sunday, and they play five of their next six games against teams that rank in the top 11 offensively. Visits to Houston and New Orleans on Tuesday and Wednesday are also the Raps first back-to-back of the season.

Week 5: @ HOU, @ NOP, vs NYK, vs WAS

9

Denver Nuggets

Last week: 19

Denver Nuggets

Record: 8-5

Pace: 101.1 (14) OffRtg: 106.2 (12) DefRtg: 104.4 (18) NetRtg: +1.8 (12)

The Nuggets went 5-1 on their longest homestand of the season, keeping the Western Conference competitive with four wins over the East and picking up an important victory over the Thunder on Thursday. Emmanuel Mudiay had his best game of the season (21 points on 8-for-10 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists) in that one and has stabilized the bench with improved play over the course of the homestand. The Nuggets ranked 29th in aggregate bench NetRtg through November 1, but rank in the top 10 over the 11 days since. Now they’ll play 15 of their next 22 games on the road, a stretch that includes all three of their games against the Pelicans.

Week 5: @ POR, vs NOP, @ LAL

10

Minnesota Timberwolves

Last week: 6

Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 7-5

Pace: 101.6 (11) OffRtg: 106.2 (10) DefRtg: 108.9 (27) NetRtg: -2.6 (22)

Over the last two weeks, the Wolves have had four multi-day breaks to work in a serious practice or two between games. Over the next 3.5 weeks, they’ll have none (with three back-to-backs), making it more difficult to fix a defense that allowed the Suns to shoot 53 percent (including 6-for-6 in the last five minutes) on Saturday. On offense, shooting remains an issue. The Wolves rank 28th in effective field-goal percentage from outside the paint after making just 18 of their 86 shots from the outside at Golden State and Phoenix last week.

Week 5: @ UTA, vs SAS, @ DAL, vs DET

11

Orlando Magic

Last week: 13

Orlando Magic

Record: 8-5

Pace: 103.9 (6) OffRtg: 106.9 (8) DefRtg: 103.1 (14) NetRtg: +3.8 (9)

Aaron Gordon continues to baffle us with his 3-point percentage (now 55 percent after a 7-for-13 week), but the Magic fell to 0-3 with neither Elfrid Payton (still not 100 percent) nor DJ Augustin (still out) after Saturday’s loss in Denver, losing all three games by 16 points or more. They still rank as the league’s most improved offensive team, but as their 3-point shooting comes back to earth (they rank 16th from beyond the arc in November), they need to rely more on their improved defense, which ranks in the top six in regard to improvement in both opponent effective field-goal percentage (where they’ve gone from 22nd to 10th) and opponent turnover percentage (from 24th to 12th).

Week 5: @ GSW, @ POR, vs UTA

12

Oklahoma City Thunder

Last week: 12

Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 6-7

Pace: 99.8 (18) OffRtg: 104.1 (16) DefRtg: 98.5 (1) NetRtg: +5.6 (4)

The team meeting that the Thunder held after Thursday’s loss in Denver was apparently about Paul George’s aggressiveness, because he came out firing—totaling 79 points on 25-for-44 shooting—in weekend wins over the Clippers and Mavs. Russell Westbrook seemed happy to take a back seat, though it’s noteworthy that he found his free-throw stroke, making 17 of his 19 attempts after shooting just 58 percent from the line through his first 11 games. The Thunder have survived two games without Steven Adams (calf contusion) and don’t play a team that’s not the Bulls until Friday, giving Adams and Carmelo Anthony (who missed Sunday’s game with a sore back) extra time to rest. The visit to San Antonio on Friday will begin a stretch where they play seven of eight games against teams with winning records, holding a 1-4 mark against that group so far (with the only win coming against New York on opening night).

Week 5: vs CHI, @ SAS

13

New York Knicks

Last week: 18

New York Knicks

Record: 7-5

Pace: 99.2 (22) OffRtg: 106.4 (9) DefRtg: 106.7 (23) NetRtg: -0.3 (16)

They were clearly missing him in Orlando on Wednesday, but the Knicks have won seven of the last eight games Kristaps Porzingis has played, scoring 112 points per 100 possessions over the eight. They’ve played just 12 minutes with Porzingis at center, but that’s where he was playing (mostly against Dwight Howard) as they closed out Tuesday’s win over Charlotte with an 18-4 run. Only one of their seven wins has come on the road (at Cleveland) and only one has come against a team (Denver) that currently has a winning record. Friday’s game in Toronto is their next chance to improve upon those numbers, but Monday’s visit from the Cavs will be fun nonetheless.

Week 5: vs CLE, vs UTA, @ TOR

14

Portland Trail Blazers

Last week: 8

Portland Trail Blazers

Record: 6-6

Pace: 99.7 (19) OffRtg: 104.6 (15) DefRtg: 100.5 (4) NetRtg: +4.1 (7)

The Blazers have been unable to take advantage of a home-heavy stretch of schedule, because, after scoring 110 points per 100 possessions over their first six games, they’ve scored just 99 over their last six, with players not named CJ McCollum shooting 24 percent from 3-point range. The absence of Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle sprain) over the last four games has created a hole in the rotation (and bad defense had Jusuf Nurkic sitting the final 11 minutes on Friday), though Shabazz Napier had some good minutes in losses to Memphis and Brooklyn last week. Their restricted-area field-goal percentage (still last in the league) has climbed above 50 percent, but their assist rate (AST/FGM) has dropped below. Only the Suns have assisted on a lower percentage of their baskets.

Week 5: vs DEN, vs ORL, @ SAC, vs SAC

15

New Orleans Pelicans

Last week: 20

New Orleans Pelicans

Record: 7-6

Pace: 102.9 (8) OffRtg: 104.1 (17) DefRtg: 102.9 (13) NetRtg: +1.2 (14)

DeMarcus Cousins, who ranks fourth in the league in 3-point attempts, can get a little three-happy at times. But he and Anthony Davis rank fourth and third in points in the paint per game, respectively, with Cousins playing a lot of bully ball off the dribble and most of Davis’ buckets being assisted. Davis has not only increased the percentage of his shots coming from the restricted area (to 44 percent from 32 percent over the last two seasons), but has also cut down his mid-range shots. The Pelicans’ offense is coming along, with their 113 points scored per 100 possessions over their last three games being their best offensive stretch of the season, even with Jrue Holiday going from 34 points in Thursday’s loss in Toronto to just six points in Saturday’s win over the Clippers.

Week 5: vs ATL, vs TOR, @ DEN

16

Charlotte Hornets

Last week: 16

Charlotte Hornets

Record: 5-7

Pace: 101.4 (12) OffRtg: 102.6 (20) DefRtg: 102.8 (12) NetRtg: -0.1 (15)

Strong starts and weak finishes had the Hornets blowing two leads of 15 or more points (in New York and Boston) last week. They’ve been at their best in the first quarter (plus-6.9 points per 100 possessions) and at their worst in the fourth (minus-6.3). They rank 29th offensively in the fourth quarter and have shot 4-for-21 on clutch shots as they’ve lost their last three games that have been within five points in the last five minutes. For the season, they’re a league-worst 1-for-18 on clutch threes. The good news is they’re playing 15 of their next 22 games at home, where they’re 4-1.

Week 5: vs CLE, @ CHI, vs LAC

17

Milwaukee Bucks

Last week: 22

Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 6-6

Pace: 99.0 (24) OffRtg: 105.2 (13) DefRtg: 106.0 (19) NetRtg: -0.8 (18)

The Bucks are 2-0 with Eric Bledsoe, winning ugly (both teams scoring less than a point per possession both nights) in both games of a back-to-back against the Spurs and Lakers. Their defense did what it was designed to do, forcing 19 and 22 turnovers per 100 possessions, their two highest opponent rates of the season. Jason Kidd has thus far found time for all three of his point guards, even using the three of them—Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon and Matthew Dellavedova—together in the first quarter of Bledsoe’s first game. Playing super small comes with risk, but would maximize the Bucks’ defensive quickness.

Week 5: vs MEM, vs DET, @ DAL

18

Philadelphia 76ers

Last week: 17

Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 6-6

Pace: 105.6 (3) OffRtg: 102.5 (21) DefRtg: 103.6 (17) NetRtg: -1.0 (19)

A five-game winning streak (with four of the games within five points in the last five minutes) provided the Sixers a four-day dalliance with life over .500 before two losses in northern California brought them back to earth. Losing to the Warriors on Saturday was to be expected, but their string of late-game successes came to an end as they let one slip away in Sacramento on Thursday. They blew a six-point lead with less than a minute and a half to go, with Joel Embiid making a critical mistake by trying to put back an offensive board with the lead and less than 30 seconds on the clock. He got blocked by Willie Cauley-Stein for the second straight possession and then missed the potential game winner at the buzzer. Even with the blowout in Oakland on Saturday, the Sixers rank eighth in defensive efficiency and third in 3-point percentage over the last two weeks. Turnovers continue to be an issue.

Week 5: @ LAC, @ LAL, vs GSW

19

Miami Heat

Last week: 23

Miami Heat

Record: 6-7

Pace: 100.1 (17) OffRtg: 100.5 (24) DefRtg: 102.6 (11) NetRtg: -2.2 (21)

If you had to guess which teams would put on the ugliest game of the season so far, Jazz and Heat would have been the right way to go. They combined to score about 80 points per 100 possessions on Friday, with Dion Waiters giving the Miami offense just enough of a lift in the fourth quarter. Sunday’s game in Detroit was much different and just the second time the Heat have lost with 10 or more threes, because the defense struggled in the final game of a six-game, 10-day trip with three time-zone changes. Even with a major lineup change (Justise Winslow has started the last five games at power forward), the Heat have been the league’s second best first-quarter team (plus-18.5 points per 100 possessions). They’ll face the only team that’s been better in the first 12 minutes—Washington (plus-19.4)—in a home-and-home on Wednesday and Friday.

Week 5: vs WAS, @ WAS, vs IND

20

Utah Jazz

Last week: 14

Utah Jazz

Record: 6-7

Pace: 98.8 (25) OffRtg: 98.6 (27) DefRtg: 100.2 (3x) NetRtg: -1.6 (20)

It’s crisis time for the Jazz. Derrick Favors’ biggest game of the season (24 points and 12 rebounds against Brooklyn on Saturday) in Rudy Gobert’s absence ended a four-game losing streak that dropped them two games below .500. But Gobert is going to be out at least another four weeks and after they host the Wolves on Monday, the Jazz will play 12 of their next 18 games on the road, where they’re 0-4 so far. In 29 minutes with Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell (the new starter at shooting guard) on the floor together over the weekend, the Jazz had nine assists and 18 turnovers. Not only does Rubio have the highest turnover rate of his career (by a wide margin) and the fourth highest among 126 guards who have played at least 15 minutes per game, but he’s shot a brutal 27 percent over his last five games.

Week 5: vs MIN, @ NYK, @ BKN, @ ORL

21

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last week: 24

Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 6-7

Pace: 101.2 (13) OffRtg: 108.9 (3) DefRtg: 112.0 (30) NetRtg: -3.1 (23)

The Cavs are making progress. They got an important win against the Bucks on Monday, recovered from another ugly first quarter to give the Rockets a close game in Houston on Thursday, and Saturday’s win in Dallas was their best defensive game (statistically, at least) since opening night. The two wins were Kevin Love’s two highest-scoring games of the season (32 and 29 points), and the 32-point performance against Milwaukee was particularly interesting, because it was just the third time in his three-plus seasons with the Cavs (now 267 games, including postseason) that he didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer. In the other two games (both in 2014/15), he scored 17 points total. Love has shot 71 percent in the restricted area, up from just 54 percent over the last two seasons.

Week 5: @ NYK, @ CHA, vs LAC

22

LA Clippers

Last week: 11

LA Clippers

Record: 5-7

Pace: 99.5 (20) OffRtg: 108.0 (4) DefRtg: 106.4 (21) NetRtg: +1.6 (13)

Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute) has missed the last three games, Patrick Beverley (sore right knee) has missed the last two, and Blake Griffin has seemingly missed both of his fellow starters. Griffin’s 31 percent over the three games (including 6-for-31 from outside the paint) is his worst field-goal percentage over any three-game stretch of his career. The Clippers have lost five straight games, with the league’s worst defense over that stretch, to fall out of playoff position in the West. They’re playing their next five games against the East, but their road-heavy stretch of schedule continues after Monday’s game against the Sixers and a few days off.

Week 5: vs PHI, @ CLE, @ CHA

23

Los Angeles Lakers

Last week: 15

Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 5-8

Pace: 105.3 (4) OffRtg: 97.4 (28) DefRtg: 100.8 (6) NetRtg: -3.4 (24)

Lonzo Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double on Saturday, but the Lakers are 0-3 on the road trip that ends in Phoenix on Monday. Ball has as many assists (27) as his teammates (27) on the trip, which has featured 20-percent shooting from 3-point range and five quarters in which the Lakers have scored 18 points or fewer. The defense remains solid, but the ball movement hasn’t been great and Ball isn’t the only one who has had more bad shooting games than good ones.

Week 5: @ PHX, vs PHI, vs PHX, vs DEN

24

Indiana Pacers

Last week: 21

Indiana Pacers

Record: 6-8

Pace: 102.0 (10) OffRtg: 106.2 (11) DefRtg: 106.6 (22) NetRtg: -0.4 (17)

Since Myles Turner’s return, the Pacers are 1-5, with the only win coming against the Bulls on Friday. Before that, they blew three straight games that they led by double digits, with second-half offense (81 points scored per 100 possessions) being a particular struggle. They’ve been the league’s sixth best first-quarter team (plus-10.4 points per 100 possessions), but have been increasingly worse in each subsequent period. Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young have significantly better shooting numbers in the first half of games than in the second half.

Week 5: @ MEM, vs DET, @ MIA

25

Brooklyn Nets

Last week: 26

Brooklyn Nets

Record: 5-8

Pace: 107.7 (1) OffRtg: 102.3 (22) DefRtg: 106.7 (24) NetRtg: -4.4 (25)

D’Angelo Russell made some rough late-game decisions earlier in the season and had some rough first halves last week. But in wins in Phoenix and Portland on Monday and Friday, Russell had two terrific fourth quarters, scoring 24 total points on 8-for-9 shooting. Then, with the Nets making another late comeback in Utah on Saturday, Russell went down with a left-knee injury that will keep him out for the foreseeable future. With Spencer Dinwiddie also hurt on Saturday, ball-handling duties were left to Caris LeVert (who has looked shaky over the last couple of weeks) and Isaiah Whitehead (who was in over his head as a starting point guard last season).

Week 5: vs BOS, vs UTA, vs GSW

26

Phoenix Suns

Last week: 25

Phoenix Suns

Record: 5-9

Pace: 105.8 (2) OffRtg: 101.4 (23) DefRtg: 109.4 (29) NetRtg: -8.0 (27)

The Suns’ the-honeymoon-is-over, five-game losing streak was their worst defensive stretch of the season (because Earl Watson was the coach for only three games). But they got the stops they needed in the fourth quarter against Minnesota on Saturday, a win in which they outscored the Wolves 60-16 from outside the paint. That was the first start for Tyler Ulis (with Mike James coming off the bench) and the new starting lineup outscored the Wolves by 15 points in its 16.5 minutes. TJ Warren (who scored 35 against Minnesota) doesn’t get to the free-throw line enough to have an average true-shooting percentage, but has become very DeRozan-esque in his ability to score without a 3-point shot.

Week 5: vs LAL, vs HOU, @ LAL, vs CHI

27

Sacramento Kings

Last week: 30

Sacramento Kings

Record: 3-9

Pace: 98.4 (27) OffRtg: 96.0 (29) DefRtg: 107.6 (25) NetRtg: -11.6 (29)

The Kings are old school. They rank 27th in pace and 30th in the percentage of their shots that come from 3-point range. They’re the only team that has taken more mid-range shots than 3-point shots this season. But the old-school team has been at its best with more new guys than old guys on the floor. They’ve scored less than 90 points per 100 possessions with Zach Randolph on the floor, George Hill is 12-for-46 (26 percent) since shooting 15-for-23 in his first two games, and Vince Carter is dealing with kidney stones. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox hit the game winner against Philly on Thursday, and Buddy Hield and Justin Jackson both had multiple big games off the bench last week.

Week 5: @ WAS, @ ATL, vs POR, @ POR

28

Dallas Mavericks

Last week: 29

Dallas Mavericks

Record: 2-12

Pace: 99.3 (21) OffRtg: 99.6 (26) DefRtg: 109.2 (28) NetRtg: -9.5 (28)

Rick Carlisle gave the Nowitzki-Noel starting frontline a try. But the Mavs were outscored by about 17 points per 100 possessions in 81 minutes with Dirk Nowitzki and Nerlens Noel on the floor together. (Of course, they’ve been outscored by about 17 points per 100 possessions in 380 minutes with one on the floor without the other.) And now, Noel is behind Salah Mejri in the rotation, playing less than eight total minutes in the Mavs’ three games last week, and you have to wonder where his career is heading. Mejri did provide a big lift (10 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, plus-15) when Dallas got their second win of the season on Tuesday in Washington.

Week 5: vs SAS, vs MIN, vs MIL

29

Atlanta Hawks

Last week: 28

Atlanta Hawks

Record: 2-11

Pace: 102.4 (9) OffRtg: 100.4 (25) DefRtg: 107.8 (26) NetRtg: -7.4 (26)

Playing four of their last five games against top-10 offenses (and the other against the Celtics) has been bad for the Hawks’ defensive numbers. They’ve allowed 112 points per 100 possessions over that stretch to fall into the bottom five in defensive efficiency. They did beat the Cavs and hung close with the two best teams in the East (Boston and Detroit), because their offense has shown some signs of life. Luke Babbitt has shot well and opened things up for Dennis Schroder, who has shot better and gotten to the basket (and to the line) more often with Babbitt on the floor.

Week 5: @ NOP, vs SAC, vs BOS

30

Chicago Bulls

Last week: 27

Chicago Bulls

Record: 2-9

Pace: 98.0 (30) OffRtg: 93.8 (30) DefRtg: 106.1 (20) NetRtg: -12.4 (30)

It remains to be seen if Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis can co-exist on this team, but Portis averaged 19.3 points and 10.0 rebounds in his first three games back from his suspension. Kris Dunn also had some good minutes last week and the Bulls’ bench wasn’t so terrible in Toronto on Tuesday and against Indiana on Friday. Then they lost by 39 points and lost Lauri Markannen to an ankle sprain in San Antonio on Saturday. The Bulls’ 30th-ranked offense has been particularly brutal—86.0 points scored per 100 possessions, almost nine fewer than any other team—in the first half of games.

Week 5: @ OKC, vs CHA, @ PHX

By John Schuhmann for NBA.com

First appeared on NBA.com Global

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