Power Rankings, Week 6: Suns, Heat rise but Warriors stay at No. 1
See where all 30 teams rank after the first five weeks of the 2021-22 season.
We’re one week away from the most wonderful time of the year.
Holiday season, yes. But more importantly, next Monday will be when NBA teams have played an average of 20 games! It’s the quarter pole of the season and it’s when we can really have a solid idea of who’s good and who’s not.
Team and player evaluation starts from Day 1, of course. And the Sacramento Kings didn’t wait until the 20-game mark to decide they needed a change on the bench. But with seven teams holding a 9-8 record through Week 5, we could really use these next seven days to sort things out a little further.
Of course, there’s no question about who the two best teams in the league have been thus far. It’s the 15-2 Warriors and the 13-3 Suns at the top of the Power Rankings.
Plus-Minus Players of the Week
- Right Way: D’Angelo Russell (MIN) was a plus-79 in four games last week.
- Wrong Way: Jalen Green (HOU) was a minus-62 in three games last week.
Teams of the Week
- Make It Last Forever: Minnesota (3-1) — One week of good basketball does not equal a season turnaround, but it’s better than the alternative.
- Something Just Ain’t Right: Denver (0-4) — The MVP is missed.
East vs. West
- The East is 44-36 (0.550) against the West in interconference games after going 13-11 last week.
Schedule strength through Week 5
- Toughest: 1. New Orleans, 2. Miami, 3. Houston
- Easiest: 1. Phoenix, 2. Golden State, 3. Utah
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Movement in the Rankings
- High jumps of the week: Boston (+7), Milwaukee (+7), Atlanta (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Cleveland (-6), L.A. Lakers (-6), Denver (-4)
Week 6 Team to Watch
- New York — The Knicks remain in a tenuous state, with a starting lineup that continues to struggle. They’ll hit the 20-game mark with a very interesting week of games. They host the similarly unsettled Lakers on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, TNT) and the streaking Suns on Friday. Then they head to Atlanta for their first meeting (Saturday) with the team that eliminated them from the playoffs.
Previous Power Rankings
- Last week: Warriors on top as Bulls, Suns ascend
- Thursday’s notebook: Suns’ early offense, plus on-off leaders
- The archive: NBA.com Power Rankings
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 99.1 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 107.2 points scored per 100 possessions 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.
Last Week: 1
Pace: 100.5 (6) OffRtg: 112.9 (2) DefRtg: 100.0 (1) NetRtg: +12.9 (1)
The first half of the Warriors’ Week 5 was fueled by Stephen Curry, who lit up Brooklyn (37 points, 9-for-14 from 3-point range) on Tuesday and led a reserve unit on a 17-0 run to start the fourth quarter in Cleveland on Thursday. But over the weekend, the Warriors won in Detroit without Curry or Draymond Green, and then beat Toronto with Curry shooting just 2-for-10. Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins combined to average 62 points on an effective field goal percentage of 72% over the two games.
Last season, the Warriors were 2-7 when Curry didn’t play and 8-13 when he scored fewer than 28 points. They’ve already had as many of those wins (1-0 without him, 9-1 when he’s scored fewer than 28) this season.
That Curry-plus-bench run to start what ended up as a 36-8 fourth quarter in Cleveland was a result of a new substitution pattern with the two-time MVP, where he doesn’t play all of the first and third quarters and is on the floor to start the second and fourth. That has his minutes staggered more with those of Green, who’s been on the floor for only 58% of Curry’s minutes over the last seven games, down from 79% through the first 10 and 86% last season. With two additional savvy passers — Andre Iguodala and Nemanja Bjelica — in the rotation this season, it makes sense that Curry doesn’t need Green feeding him all the time. The Warriors have outscored their opponents by almost 29 points per 100 possessions in Curry’s 158 total minutes on the floor without Green.
We’re eight days away from the first meeting between the Warriors and the Suns, but the Warriors have some solid opponents on the slate between now and then.
Week 6: vs. PHI, vs. POR, @ LAC
Last Week: 5 ↑
Pace: 101.7 (4) OffRtg: 109.6 (8) DefRtg: 102.8 (3) NetRtg: +6.8 (4)
On paper, the Suns’ schedule got tougher this week. But they didn’t have to face Luka Doncic or Nikola Jokic as they won three games against the Mavs and Nuggets to run their winning streak to 12 games. That already tops the longest streak from last season (Utah’s 11-game run in January).
Though Doncic was out, the Suns trailed in the fourth quarter in both of their games against the Mavs. Half of their 12 wins over the course of the streak have been within five points in the last five minutes, and they’ve scored 64 points on 46 clutch possessions in those six clutch victories. For the season, Devin Booker has shot 9-for-12 (including 5-for-6 from mid-range) on clutch shots, and Chris Paul has registered a 9/1 assist-turnover ratio with the score within five in the last five.
With his first two 10/0 games of the season coming last week, Paul now has 52 career games of at least 10 assists with zero turnovers. That’s six more than any other player (Muggsy Bogues is next with 46) since the start of the 1983-84 season and more than twice as many as all but four other players.
After the two escapes against Dallas, the Suns did take care of business against Denver, their most efficient offensive game of the season. It was also the start of their only stretch of five games in seven nights.
Week 6: @ SAS, @ CLE, @ NYK, @ BKN
Last Week: 2 ↓
Pace: 99.1 (14) OffRtg: 109.9 (7) DefRtg: 104.4 (7) NetRtg: +5.4 (5)
Zach LaVine gets the highlight dunks, his 1.48 points per possession in transition rank third among 88 players with at least 35 transition possessions, and his 6.2 points per game in transition rank second to only Giannis Antetokounmpo, according to Synergy tracking. But seventh on that points-per-possession list is DeMar DeRozan (1.36), who’s also averaged a career-high 3.8 transition points per game. DeRozan’s free throw rate remains high, but he hasn’t been getting to the basket as much he did in San Antonio, so continuing to supplement his half-court, iso stylings with some easier buckets against an unset defense (fueled by the Bulls’ own defense) is important.
The Bulls suffered loss No. 5 when neither LaVine nor DeRozan could get to the basket in the fourth quarter in Portland on Wednesday. But the last four games have been the team’s best stretch of offense (114.8 points scored per 100 possessions) of the season. The Bulls’ new starting lineup, though neither Alex Caruso nor Tony Bradley have provided much scoring themselves, has scored almost 125 per 100 in its 68 minutes and has been even better defensively.
The Bulls just completed a stretch of 13 straight games against teams no worse than the 9-9 Lakers. They now play three games against the Pacers, Rockets and Magic before beginning another difficult stretch with a visit from the Heat on Saturday.
Week 6: vs. IND, @ HOU, @ ORL, vs. MIA
Last Week: 3 ↓
Pace: 100.3 (9) OffRtg: 107.8 (14) DefRtg: 104.5 (9) NetRtg: +3.4 (7)
Last season, the Nets were really good against good teams, but not so good against the bad ones. Their 20-13 record in games between the 15 teams that finished over .500 was topped only by the Suns (26-10) and the Jazz (22-14), but they were just 11-7 against the bottom seven teams in the league.
This season, they’re doing a better job of TCB, 9-0 (with a point differential of +14.2 per game) against the 13 teams currently .500 or below. But they’ve come up short against the Bucks, Hornets, Heat, Bulls and Warriors, and what was the most efficient offense in NBA history last season has been held under a point per possession in each of their last four defeats. After his team got thumped in the second half by Golden State on Tuesday, Steve Nash was honest: “I just don’t think we’re in that category [with the best teams in the league] yet.”
LaMarcus Aldridge has shot ridiculously well (league-best 59%) from mid-range, but he’s mostly been playing off his teammates and hasn’t done a ton of post work. The percentage of his buckets that have been assisted (77.0%) is a career-high mark, and through Wednesday, Aldridge had shot just 3-for-15 on post-ups, according to Second Spectrum tracking. But with Kevin Durant out and the Nets struggling to put away the Magic on Friday, Aldridge had seven post-ups in the fourth quarter, shooting 4-for-6 (that’s more post-up buckets than he had through his first 15 3/4 games), with two jump hooks (one, two) over Franz Wagner in the final minute to keep Orlando at bay.
Durant (shoulder) is expected back this week as the Nets face three opponents currently over .500. They’ll have a rest advantage when they host the Suns on Saturday, another opportunity to put themselves “in that category.”
Week 6: @ CLE, @ BOS, vs. PHX
Last Week: 6 ↑
Pace: 97.1 (27) OffRtg: 111.7 (4) DefRtg: 104.3 (5) NetRtg: +7.4 (3)
Florida is a place for all folks to feel young again, and P.J. Tucker has somehow averaged 12.2 points on an effective field goal percentage of 92%(!) over his last five games. He’s 9-for-12 on corner 3s over that stretch (and tied for the league lead with 18), but has also done some work off the dribble and shooting floaters off the short roll. He busted out a spin move against poor Corey Kispert on Thursday and got a big bucket on a post-up against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (before the Heat blew a late lead) two nights later. Tucker’s usage rate (9.9%) is still the fifth lowest among 271 players who’ve played at least 200 minutes, but he already has more points in the paint (52) than he had all of last season (48).
A more frisky Tucker can raise the ceiling for an offense that already ranks in the top five, despite Robinson and Kyle Lowry having combined to shoot just 32% from 3-point range and despite the Heat having played more games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 defensively (six) than against teams that rank in the bottom 10 (four). Jimmy Butler has scored at least 27 points in each of the last five games that he’s been able to finish, even though he’s made just three 3-pointers over that stretch. He continues to get to the line at a high rate and he’s shot 15-for-27 (56%) from mid-range, up from 11-for-34 (32%) prior to that.
The Heat’s first of four meetings with the Bulls (who have a top-10 defense) is Saturday in Chicago, the end of a four-game trip and a rest-advantage game for Miami (the Bulls are in Orlando the night before).
Week 6: @ DET, @ MIN, @ CHI
Last Week: 4 ↓
Pace: 97.4 (25) OffRtg: 106.8 (17) DefRtg: 104.0 (4) NetRtg: +2.8 (8)
The Wizards’ point differential (+2.6 per game, fourth best in the East) doesn’t belie their record. But they’re now 8-0 (the only unbeaten team) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having upended the Heat with a 15-2 run (in which they shot 4-for-4 from 3-point range) down the stretch on Saturday. Overall, they’ve scored less than a point per possession in the clutch, but they’ve allowed just 53 points on 77 clutch defensive possessions (69 per 100). That 15-2 run featured a pretty incredible recovery by Bradley Beal to draw an offensive foul on Jimmy Butler, and the Wizards sealed the win with some seamless and aggressive switching on the Heat’s after-timeout play in the final seconds.
Beal has shot 53% from mid-range and he assisted on the last two of those four 3s against the Heat, but is just 28% from beyond the arc himself after a 1-for-7 performance. The Wizards are still struggling to score consistently; They scored less than a point per possession as they dropped both games of a back-to-back in Charlotte and Miami last week. And after they play the Hornets and Pelicans on Monday and Wednesday, 10 of their 18 games will have come against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 defensively.
With the win on Saturday, the Wizards are 7-1 at home, where they’ve played six of their eight “clutch” games. But they’re just two weeks into a seven-week, road-heavy stretch. They’ll be the last team to have played a rest-disadvantage game (second game of a back-to-back, opponent didn’t play the day before), and their first of nine is Saturday in Dallas, the third game of a relatively soft four-game trip.
Week 6: vs. CHA, @ NOP, @ OKC, @ DAL
Last Week: 9 ↑
Pace: 98.1 (21) OffRtg: 114.3 (1) DefRtg: 104.5 (8) NetRtg: +9.8 (2)
These aren’t the Utah Jazz of old. No, this is the No. 1 offense in the league, which has scored almost 123 points per 100 possessions over a three-game winning streak. Not only have the Jazz shot better than 50% from the field and better than 40% from 3-point range in all three games, they’ve also grabbed 24 offensive rebounds over the last two. Turnovers have been an issue, but the Jazz rank second in effective field goal percentage, second in free throw rate, and third in offensive rebounding percentage. Rudy Gay made his season debut on Thursday and promptly shot 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
Here’s the thing … The Jazz offense isn’t exactly being pushed hard this month. Of the 15 games they’re playing in November (10 in the books, five more to go), 11 are against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 defensively. And eight of those 11 are against teams that rank in the bottom five, which is kind of wild. The bottom five should change as the season goes on, but after this month is over, the Jazz will have just five games remaining against that current group.
The 30th and 29th-ranked defenses are both at Vivint Arena this week for their first meetings with the league’s No. 1 offense. The Jazz’s trip to Oklahoma City (Wednesday) might be a decent test for the offense that’s been almost as efficient on the road (113.9 points scored per 100 possessions) than it has been at home (114.6).
Week 6: vs. MEM, @ OKC, vs. NOP, vs. NOP
Last Week: 10 ↑
Pace: 100.5 (7) OffRtg: 105.4 (22) DefRtg: 102.0 (2) NetRtg: +3.4 (6)
The Clippers have had two back-to-backs, and the second games of the two sets — Nov. 14 against Chicago and Friday in New Orleans — have been two of their three worst-shooting nights of the season. Of course, the Bulls rank seventh defensively, while the Pelicans rank 29th. And on Friday, the Clippers scored just 26 points on 43 second-half possessions, the second least efficient half for any team this season.
The least efficient half for any team was earlier this month against a Clippers’ defense which now ranks second in the league, having held five of its last six opponents to no better than a point per possession. The Clippers are the anti-Magic in that they’ve been great defensively overall, even though their starting lineup has allowed 114.1 points per 100 possessions, the third-worst mark among 21 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. They’ve allowed just 88.6 per 100 with Isaiah Hartenstein on the floor, tied (with that of Andre Iguodala) for the lowest on-court mark among 261 players who’ve averaged at least 15 minutes per game. The question is if Hartenstein’s minutes will stay above that 15-per-game mark. He logged just 5:14 as Serge Ibaka played his third game of the season on Sunday. It seems doubtful that coach Ty Lue would play two bigs together, but four man Nicolas Batum (health and safety protocols) is out for at least the next few games.
After their two-day, two-loss trip through Memphis and New Orleans, the Clippers are 2-4 on the road. But they’ve got five games left on the six-game homestand that began Sunday.
SHEESH PG 👀 pic.twitter.com/EF68wLcZSO
— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 21, 2021
Week 6: vs. DAL, vs. DET, vs. GSW
Last Week: 16 ↑
Pace: 97.6 (22) OffRtg: 106.7 (18) DefRtg: 105.4 (11) NetRtg: +1.3 (10)
Dennis Schroder’s best season (18.9 points per game on a career-best true shooting percentage of 57.5%) came as a reserve in Oklahoma City two years ago. But thus far in Boston, he’s been much better as a starter than he was coming off the bench. Schroder has averaged 23.1 points on a true shooting percentage of 61.0% as the replacement starter over the eight games that Jaylen Brown has missed with a hamstring strain. He had two big buckets down the stretch of the Celtics’ win in Cleveland on Monday and totaled 50 points against two of his former teams as the Celtics beat the Lakers and Thunder.
So, with both Brown and Robert Williams (who’s missed the last three games with a knee issue) listed as “probable” for their game against the Rockets on Monday, the Celtics have a decision to make. They’ve allowed just 92.9 points per 100 possessions in 111 minutes with Williams and Al Horford on the floor together, but they’ve been better overall (+8.1 per 100) with Schroder and Marcus Smart in the backcourt, and it would be tough to interrupt Schroder’s rhythm given how well he’s been playing.
The Celtics have won seven of their last 10 games to climb above .500 for the first time this season. They rank third defensively over that stretch, but their game in San Antonio on Friday will end a stretch where they’re playing six of eight against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 offensively.
Week 6: vs. HOU, vs. BKN, @ SAS, @ TOR
Last Week: 17 ↑
Pace: 100.2 (10) OffRtg: 106.9 (16) DefRtg: 107.2 (14) NetRtg: -0.3 (19)
Khris Middleton returned from an eight-game absence on Wednesday and the Bucks have won three straight games (for the first time this season) with “The Closer” back in uniform. Middleton had 18 assists over the three games and his two pull-up 3-pointers in the fourth quarter gave them the lead for good against the Lakers on Wednesday.
But the winning streak has been more about the dominance of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had eight more points in the restricted area (26) than Anthony Davis had total (18) on Wednesday. Two of those 26 came via a pretty pick-and-roll feed from Middleton, but it was Pat Connaughton setting screens for Antetokounmpo that got the Bucks nine points on three straight possessions (one, two, three) midway through the first quarter. The Bucks have been more efficient with the Finals MVP as the screener on pick-and-rolls, but being able to flip it (and put defenders in unfamiliar roles) can be a great weapon.
The opponents on the Bucks’ five-game homestand that concludes this week have a cumulative winning percentage of just .321. But their schedule starts to get tougher and more road-heavy with their visit to Denver on Friday.
Week 6: vs. ORL, vs. DET, @ DEN, @ IND
Last Week: 11
Pace: 96.3 (30) OffRtg: 112.4 (3) DefRtg: 110.2 (24) NetRtg: +2.2 (9)
The Sixers are 2-6 without Joel Embiid, who will be out an eighth straight game when they visit the Kings on Monday. The bigger dropoff from the games they’ve played with Embiid has been on defense, where they’ve allowed at least 118 points per 100 possessions in each of their last five losses. What was the No. 2 defense in the league last season has dropped from 16th to 24th over the big man’s two-week absence. Only the Blazers and Raptors have been worse defensively over these two weeks and only the Grizzlies (+3.3) have seen a bigger jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season than the Sixers (+3.2).
The Sixers did get a defensive win in Denver on Thursday, getting a huge lift from rookie Charles Bassey (12 points, seven rebounds, three blocks and a +20 in 19 minutes) off the bench. Tyrese Maxey (25.7 points on 57/48/92 shooting over the last six games) is looking more and more like the long-term solution in the backcourt, which maybe provides Daryl Morey with more flexibility in the eventual Ben Simmons trade. And Matisse Thybulle returned from his seven-game absence on Saturday, so they’ll have somebody to chase Stephen Curry around this week.
Week 6: @ SAC, @ GSW, vs. MIN
Last Week: 8 ↓
Pace: 96.6 (29) OffRtg: 106.0 (21) DefRtg: 105.4 (12) NetRtg: +0.5 (13)
Things have swiftly gone downhill for the Nuggets, who’ve been without Jamal Murray all season, without Michael Porter Jr. (back issue) for the last eight games, and without Nikola Jokic (wrist sprain) for the last two. Their four-game losing streak matches their longest (single-season streak) since January of 2017 and it’s dropped them from second to 12th in defensive efficiency. The Nuggets are still limiting 3-pointers pretty well, but their opponents have shot 55.4% between the restricted area and the 3-point line over the four games.
Jokic’s on-off differential — the Nuggets have been 26.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (+12.6) than they have with him off the floor (-14.0) — is almost as big on defense (12.8 per 100) as it is on offense (13.8 per 100). He should be in the Kia MVP discussion again, but his candidacy may depend on his team playing better when he’s not in the game.
It’s not clear if the Nuggets will have their star back for their visit to Portland on Tuesday, their seventh game in the last nine against a team that currently ranks in the top 10 offensively.
Week 6: @ POR, vs. MIL
Last Week: 7 ↓
Pace: 97.3 (26) OffRtg: 104.9 (25) DefRtg: 104.3 (6) NetRtg: +0.6 (12)
The Cavs’ feel-good season has been derailed by injuries and illnesses. Collin Sexton (meniscus repair surgery) is done for the season, Evan Mobley is out 2-4 weeks with an elbow sprain and Ricky Rubio is the only Cavalier who’s played in more than 15 of their 17 games. Their most-used lineup that doesn’t include Sexton has played just 36 minutes and includes break-in-case-of-emergency big man Ed Davis.
Only the Rockets have been worse offensively than the Cavs (98.6 points per 100 possessions over six games) since Sexton’s injury. Rubio is a brilliant point guard and did have that huge night in New York, but he’s shot just 35% since then. The offensive load that he’s been asked to carry (career-high usage rate of 25.0%) is probably too heavy, and Isaac Okoro (2-for-22 from 3-point range in his six games as a starter) isn’t ready to help ease that burden.
Jarrett Allen (missed the last three games with an illness) and Lauri Markkanen (nine-game COVID absence) are expected back when the Cavs host Brooklyn on Monday.
Week 6: vs. BKN, vs. PHX, vs. ORL
Last Week: 12 ↓
Pace: 97.5 (24) OffRtg: 106.3 (19) DefRtg: 108.1 (17) NetRtg: -1.9 (22)
The five-game stretch that ended with the Mavs’ win against Denver last Monday was, easily, their best stretch of offense this season (116.1 points scored per 100 possessions). It had Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis combining to average almost 50 points per game, Tim Hardaway and Dorian Finney-Smith shooting a combined 43% from 3-point rage, and Jalen Brunson providing a huge boost off the bench. But at the end of the Denver game, Doncic injured his left knee and ankle in an awkward collision with Austin Rivers.
The Mavs have defended well enough to win the three games since then, and they had fourth-quarter leads in both of their games in Phoenix last week. Doncic actually has a pretty bad on-off differential (mostly because of defense), with Dallas having been 17.6 points per 100 possessions better with him off the floor (+8.3) than its been with him on the floor (-9.3). But the injury changed up their rotation and ended their stretch of great offense. They’ve scored just 102.4 points per 100 possessions over the three games and dropped all three.
There might be some hope that Doncic can return on Tuesday, when the Mavs wrap up the first of their two two-game series with the Clippers. But after that comes the first of their two three-day breaks this season (they host the Wizards on Saturday), so there might be reason to sit him for one more game.
Week 6: @ LAC, vs. WAS
Last Week: 14 ↓
Pace: 101.9 (3) OffRtg: 109.1 (10) DefRtg: 110.1 (23) NetRtg: -0.9 (20)
Two games from the 20-game mark, the Hornets aren’t easy to figure out. They’ve been the league’s third-worst first-half team (-10.4 points per 100 possessions) and its third-best second-half team (+10.1). Overall, they’re 10-8, having trailed 13 of their 18 games by double-digits and with a worse point differential (-1.3 per game) than eight teams behind them in the East standings.
Maybe that’s what you get when you’re led by a 20-year-old point guard who’s consistently toeing the line between playing in and out of control. LaMelo Ball had a couple of rough shooting nights last week, but he dished out a career-high 14 assists in the Hornets’ win over Washington on Wednesday, had a huge game — 32 points (two shy of his career high), 11 rebounds and eight dimes — in a win against Indiana on Friday, and recorded his third career triple-double in Atlanta on Saturday. Last season, the Hornets scored as efficiently with Ball off the floor as they did with him on the floor. This season, they’ve scored 17.3 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (113.3) than they have with him on the bench (96.0).
The Hornets’ five-game winning streak came to an end with another ugly first half (they allowed 60 points on 48 possessions) in Atlanta on Saturday. They’ll play another big game in Washington on Monday having turned last week’s meeting around with a 21-2, third-quarter run.
Week 6: @ WAS, @ ORL, vs. MIN, @ HOU
Last Week: 20 ↑
Pace: 99.0 (15) OffRtg: 110.9 (5) DefRtg: 110.4 (25) NetRtg: +0.5 (14)
The Blazers have been home, which means that the Blazers have been winning. Their first homestand of more than two games has turned into their first winning streak of more than two games, and it’s been their best three-game stretch of offense this season. They’ve scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions over the three games, and Damian Lillard has led the way, averaging 28.3 points and 8.3 assists. He hasn’t caught fire just yet and his true shooting percentage of 50.9% still ranks just 41st among 48 players with a usage rate of 25% or higher. But he’s not shooting nearly as poorly as he was in the first few weeks of the season.
Of course, the Blazers’ defense hasn’t been any better. And though Nassir Little and Larry Nance Jr. (16-for-21 shooting over the homestand) are doing good things off the bench, there have been some bad stretches with Lillard off the floor. So all three wins have been close and Lillard has averaged more than 39 minutes over the three, having missed the prior game with that abdominal injury.
The good news in that regard is that the Blazers are in the middle of a second straight two-day break. They finish their homestand with the Nuggets on Tuesday, and then they’re on the road again, having lost seven of their eight games away from the Moda Center.
CJ MET HIM AT THE RIM pic.twitter.com/z8ilVSsHe0
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) November 16, 2021
Week 6: vs. DEN, @ SAC, @ GSW
Last Week: 22 ↑
Pace: 98.8 (17) OffRtg: 110.6 (6) DefRtg: 110.7 (27) NetRtg: -0.1 (18)
After a rough and road-heavy start to the season, the Hawks are feasting on some home cookin’. They’re 4-0 on the homestand that ends Monday and the four wins have been four of their six most efficient offensive games of the season. Trae Young began the homestand with 42 points against the Bucks, but seven different Hawks have averaged double-figures over the four games.
Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter (combined 39.0 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 70.4%) have seen the biggest jumps in production and efficiency from the Hawks’ first 13 games (24.8 on 51.2%). Capela is starting to rebound at the level he did last season and Huerter showed a deft touch on two of his four assists against Charlotte on Saturday. The Hawks’ new starting lineup (with Huerter in place of the injured De’Andre Hunter) has scored 128.8 points per 100 possessions, the second best mark among 33 lineups that have played at least 75 minutes together
The Hawks can make it back to .500 with a win against the Thunder on Monday. But they remain 1-8 on the road as they head to San Antonio and Memphis for Thanksgiving.
Week 6: vs. OKC, @ SAS, @ MEM, vs. NYK
Last Week: 15 ↓
Pace: 97.5 (23) OffRtg: 108.6 (12) DefRtg: 108.2 (18) NetRtg: +0.3 (15)
Maybe the Knicks’ biggest problem is that they started the season 5-1 with offensive numbers that just weren’t sustainable. So, though they’ve remained above .500 throughout, a November in which they’ve failed to win consecutive games feels like a struggle. A second home loss to the Magic and a narrow escape against the Rockets are reason for concern if this is a team aiming to finish in the top four in the East again, but maybe the Knicks aren’t that team. Each of their last seven games have been within five points in the last five minutes, which makes for some fun nights at the World’s Most Famous.
The Knick who’s played the most clutch minutes over that stretch? Immanuel Quickley, who gave the Knicks a late four-point lead against Houston with one of his patented hit-the-brakes-on-the-break pull-up 3s on Saturday. According to Second Spectrum tracking, nine (35%) of Quickley’s 26 3s have come in the first six seconds of the shot clock, a rate which trails only that of Royce O’Neale (9/22, 41%) among 129 players who’ve made at least 20 3s total.
Quickley and Derrick Rose remain the closers, but the Knicks’ starting lineup has shown some improvement. Over their last three games, New York is a plus-4 (with good defensive numbers) in 57 total minutes with Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett and Julius Randle on the floor together. It’s … well … a start.
Week 6: vs. LAL, vs. PHX, @ ATL
Last Week: 13 ↓
Pace: 102.6 (2) OffRtg: 105.4 (23) DefRtg: 108.7 (20) NetRtg: -3.3 (24)
LeBron James returned from an eight-game absence on Friday and went back to being a jump-shooter, with only two free throw attempts in 53 total minutes and with 17 of his 23 weekend shots coming from outside the paint. Of course, that doesn’t include the shot that Isaiah Stewart took above the eye on Sunday. With that flagrant-2 foul from James, four different Lakers have been ejected from games this season — and none of the four are Dwight Howard.
The Lakers were able to come back from 17 points down in Detroit because they scored 37 points (with 27 coming from Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis) in the fourth quarter. Earlier in the week, they erased a double-digit deficit in Milwaukee (before coming up short down the stretch) by playing zone against the champs. The Lakers obviously don’t have the defensive personnel that they had over the previous two years and according to Synergy tracking, they’ve played almost as many possessions of zone this season (72, eighth most) as they played all of last season (84, fifth fewest).
Their early schedule wasn’t just easy in regard to opponent strength and how home-heavy it was. The Lakers are also one of two teams that have yet to play a rest-disadvantage game. Their first is Wednesday in Indiana, the last stop on their five-game trip.
Week 6: @ NYK, @ IND, vs. SAC, vs. DET
Last Week: 18 ↓
Pace: 96.7 (28) OffRtg: 109.4 (9) DefRtg: 109.4 (21) NetRtg: -0.1 (17)
Two weeks ago in this space, somebody wrote that “The Raptors should remain a team that ranks higher on defense than it does on offense.”
The Raps, now with a top-10 offense and a bottom-10 defense, have quickly proven that somebody wrong. As they’ve lost seven of their last nine games, they’ve allowed 116.6 points per 100 possessions, the league’s worst mark by a healthy margin over that stretch. Defense can be a choice between protecting the rim and defending the 3-point line, but the Raps have done neither well, ranking 29th in both opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (70.3%) and opponent 3-point percentage (39.1%) over these last 17 days. They kept Stephen Curry in check on Sunday, but still allowed the Warriors to make 22 3s, with their 10 corner 3s being the high for any team this season. Through Sunday, 33% of Toronto opponents’ 3-point attempts, the league’s highest opponent rate, have come from the corners.
They’ve missed OG Anunoby (hip pointer) over the last three games, but the Raptors’ offense has been OK. Pascal Siakam has shot 48% over his seven games and the team has scored almost 113 points per 100 possessions in his 224 minutes on the floor. Maybe, in Year 4 of Nick Nurse as head coach, teams just have a better idea of how to attack this defense. One team that’s made a lot of corner 3s against Toronto in the past is the Celtics, who the Raps will face for the third time this season on Sunday.
Week 6: @ MEM, @ IND, vs. BOS
Last Week: 25 ↑
Pace: 100.1 (11) OffRtg: 106.1 (20) DefRtg: 104.8 (10) NetRtg: +1.3 (11)
The Wolves’ four-game homestand couldn’t have gone much better. The opener was an ugly offensive performance, but it was just a three-point loss to the team that’s now won 12 straight games. And the Wolves proceeded to win the next three games by a total of 98 points, just their third winning streak of three or more games in the last three seasons. The defense has been improved and their win over the Grizzlies on Saturday was the most offensive efficient performance (138 points on 98 possessions) for any team this season. Anthony Edwards scored 23 points on just 10 shots and one trip to the line.
They’ve started Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt for each of the last six games, and the starting lineup has outscored its opponents by an amazing 49.1 points per 100 possessions, the best mark (by a huge margin) among 33 lineups that have played at least 75 minutes. But it’s played exactly 75 minutes, averaging just 11.5 per game over this six-game stretch. (For comparison, the Suns’ starting lineup has averaged 20.4 minutes per game.) Fouls have been an issue; All five starters had four or five in the Phoenix game and the Wolves have four of the 18 players who’ve averaged at least 4.5 fouls per 36 minutes in 200 minutes or more. They’ve been outscored by 5.1 points per game at the free throw line, which would be the worst differential of the last 10 seasons.
Games against the Heat, Hornets and Sixers this week will be a good test of whether or not the Wolves have really turned their season around. After they visit the Pelicans on Monday, they’re playing seven straight games against the Eastern Conference.
Week 6: @ NOP, vs. MIA, @ CHA, @ PHI
Last Week: 19 ↓
Pace: 98.3 (19) OffRtg: 107.6 (15) DefRtg: 107.6 (16) NetRtg: -0.0 (16)
The Pacers’ bench had some issues — they were outscored by 19 points in 21 minutes with Domantas Sabonis off the floor — in losses in New York and Detroit early last week. But it was all bench for the final 20 minutes in Charlotte on Friday, when coach Rick Carlisle removed all of his starters early in the third quarter and never brought any of them back. Jeremy Lamb broke out with 23 points and the reserves cut a 25-point deficit down to three before failing to get a shot off on the final possession.
A lineup change — Chris Duarte out, Justin Holiday in — was made on Saturday and the Pacers took care of business (with Lamb not playing until they were up 30) against the Pelicans. Overall, the Pacers have seen the league’s fifth-biggest drop in aggregate bench point differential per 100 possessions, from fourth (+1.9) last season to just 19th (-1.9) this season. Last season, T.J. McConnell had the best on-off differential in the rotation (they were 4.3 points per 100 better with him on the floor). This season, he has the worst (11.6 per 100 worse with him on the floor), though he remains a Prigioni-esque ladrón in the backcourt.
The Pacers are one of five teams that have yet to have a rest-advantage game (rested, opponent playing the second game of a back-to-back). Their first two of the season (they have 14 total) are Monday in Chicago and Wednesday against the Lakers.
Week 6: @ CHI, vs. LAL, vs. TOR, vs. MIL
Last Week: 21 ↓
Pace: 99.6 (12) OffRtg: 108.4 (13) DefRtg: 113.8 (30) NetRtg: -5.4 (25)
Over the last two weeks, the Grizzlies have been dominating the paint more like they did last season. They’ve outscored their opponents by 15.1 points per game in the paint over their last seven, up from -0.7 per game through their first nine. The score in the paint on Thursday was 74-36 and they picked up another quality win, topping their own mark for the most efficient game that any team has had against the Clippers’ second-ranked defense this season.
But if you’re a believer in point differential, the Grizzlies are not your team. Forty-eight hours after that win over the Clippers, the Grizzlies got absolutely thumped in Minnesota. There have been 28 games decided by 25 points or more this season and they’ve been on the wrong side of four of those 28 results. The only other teams with more than one defeat by 25 points or more are the Mavs (two), Blazers (two), Rockets (three) and Magic (three). Last season the Grizzlies had just two defeats by 25 points or more and they’re now 8-8 with the point differential (-5.1 per game) of a team that’s 5-11.
The Grizzlies rank 30th defensively and they’re about to play five straight games against teams that rank no worse than 11th on offense, visiting the top-ranked Jazz on Monday.
Week 6: @ UTA, vs. TOR, vs. ATL, vs. SAC
Last Week: 23 ↓
Pace: 99.5 (13) OffRtg: 99.2 (29) DefRtg: 106.0 (13) NetRtg: -6.8 (26)
The Rockets’ only win of the season was by 33 points against the Thunder in Week 1, but OKC evened the season series with a wire-to-wire victory on Wednesday. The Lu Dort offensive renaissance (24.6 points per game on 59% shooting over a five-game stretch) continued and OKC held Houston under 90 points per 100 possessions.
But the Thunder have followed their four-game winning streak with a 1-4 stretch in which their own offense has been pretty anemic, scoring less than a point per possession in four of the five games. Since his big performance (and audacious pull-up 3) against the Lakers early this month, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has shot just 34%, and he’s averaged just 14 points over the last four games. The Thunder are the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both field goal percentage in the paint (49.7%, 30th) and 3-point percentage (30.9%, 29th). They have four of the 38 players who’ve shot worse than 32% on at least 50 3-point attempts.
This week’s slate includes two games against teams – Utah and Washington – that rank in the top five in opponent 3-point percentage.
Week 6: @ ATL, vs. UTA, vs. WAS
Last Week: 24 ↓
Pace: 101.4 (5) OffRtg: 105.2 (24) DefRtg: 107.2 (15) NetRtg: -2.1 (23)
The Spurs are a relatively young team, but they rank just 16th in the percentage of their minutes (14%) that have come from rookies or second-year players. So far, 387 (75%) of those 514 minutes have come from Devin Vassell, who was the silver lining as the Spurs lost their fourth game in a row (an ugly defeat in Minnesota on Thursday in which the Spurs trailed 22-3 after seven minutes). Vassell’s 18 points included an incredibly athletic finish over late help, a pull-up 3 over Karl-Anthony Towns and a dunk over the clean-up guy. The second-year wing has useful length and instincts on defense, along with a smooth-looking jumper. He’s one of 11 players who have shot 50% or better on at least 35 pull-up 2-pointers.
Jakob Poeltl’s return from a seven-game absence didn’t help the Spurs’ defense, which has allowed more than 116 points per 100 possessions in three of the four losses on this streak. Only the Lakers, Cavs and Blazers have allowed their opponents to take a higher percentage of their shots in the restricted area than the Spurs (32%), and that number has been higher with Poeltl on the floor (36%) than it’s been otherwise (30%).
Having just completed their first of two extended breaks of the season (three days off), the Spurs are home for nine of their next 12 games. But it’s a pretty tough stretch in regard to opponent strength and the Spurs are just 1-6 against the 17 teams that are currently over .500.
Week 6: vs. PHX, vs. ATL, vs. BOS
Last Week: 26
Pace: 100.3 (8) OffRtg: 108.9 (11) DefRtg: 110.5 (26) NetRtg: -1.5 (21)
At this point last season, the Kings were 7-10, but had been outscored by 7.2 points per 100 possessions, the league’s second-worst mark. This team has been more competitive, but late-game execution/luck can make or break a season and the Kings are 3-8 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having scored just 44 points on 60 clutch possessions (73.3 per 100). Kings not named Harrison Barnes have shot 5-for-27 (19%) on clutch shots.
They’ve also lost to the Pacers, Spurs, Thunder and Wolves over the last 15 days. Over the weekend, they trailed two home games – against Toronto and Utah — by as many as 30 and 21 points, respectively. And with that, Luke Walton lost his job after 161 games as the Kings’ coach. Amazingly, Walton had the second-best winning percentage (.422) among the coaches the Kings have had since they moved to Sacramento in 1985.
That probably wasn’t going to end the playoff drought, though. Given how bad the bottom of the West is this season, there’s seemingly one Play-In spot within reach. And for interim coach Alvin Gentry, the path toward 10th place probably starts with getting De’Aaron Fox on track.
Week 6: vs. PHI, vs. POR, @ LAL, @ MEM
Last Week: 27
Pace: 98.5 (18) OffRtg: 101.1 (28) DefRtg: 109.8 (22) NetRtg: -8.7 (29)
The Pistons are obviously not a good offensive team. Cade Cunningham’s improvement since a rough first couple of games has been rapid, but Jerami Grant remains their best offensive player, and he’s having his least efficient season (true shooting percentage of 52.8%) since he was in Philly. The Pistons are one of four teams — the Rockets, Grizzlies and Magic are the others — that rank in the bottom 10 in field goal percentage in the paint (52.8%, 24th), mid-range field goal percentage (31.8%, 28th) and 3-point percentage (30.1%, 30th).
So if they’re going to be somewhat competitive, the Pistons have to defend. They’ve held four opponents (including the Pacers on Wednesday) under a point per possession, but their loss to the Kings on Monday was a pretty brutal display on that end of the floor. The Pistons will limit opponent 3-point attempts by defending pick-and-rolls with two guys and staying home on shooters. But against Sacramento, they simply didn’t do that very well, yielding some easy drives and rolls to the rim. Throw in some botched switches, some transition issues and some hot shooting from Buddy Hield, and the Kings scored 129 points on 102 possessions.
The Warriors were without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green on Friday, but the Pistons still allowed them to score more efficiently than they have overall. And as they blew a 17-point lead on Sunday, the Pistons allowed the Lakers to score 37 points on just 25 fourth-quarter possessions. They host the Heat’s fourth-ranked offense on Tuesday before heading out on a five-game, nine-day trip.
Week 6: vs. MIA, @ MIL, @ LAC, @ LAL
Last Week: 28
Pace: 99.0 (16) OffRtg: 102.6 (27) DefRtg: 111.0 (28) NetRtg: -8.4 (27)
Entering last week, Jalen Suggs had the second worst 3-point percentage (20.3%) among 118 players with at least 50 attempts, and he’d missed his last 10 tries from beyond the arc. He also missed the Magic’s loss in Atlanta on Monday with an ankle injury, but then came back and made seven of his next eight 3-pointers. His 17-point fourth quarter in Brooklyn on Friday included a 28-footer with plenty of time left on the shot clock and an ambitious pull-up when Patty Mills went under a screen. Suggs shot just 34% from 3-point range at Gonzaga last season, but he’s 82% at the line with the Magic and has a comfortable-looking stroke when his feet are set, so that percentage (now at 26.2%) should continue to climb.
The first four games of the Magic’s five-game trip have been a relatively strong stretch of offense, and their bench (which was brutal in the first couple of weeks in the season) has given them some solid minutes. Terrence Ross had a big second quarter in their win in New York, Chuma Okeke flashed some post skills in Brooklyn and R.J. Hampton drained five threes in Milwaukee. Those were just the third, fourth and fifth times that the Orlando bench registered an aggregate plus-minus on the positive side of zero.
But the Magic are just three games into a stretch of nine straight against teams that are currently over .500. They’re 3-8 against that group thus far, with two of the three wins at Madison Square Garden.
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) November 18, 2021
Week 6: @ MIL, vs. CHA, vs. CHI, @ CLE
Last Week: 29
Pace: 98.1 (20) OffRtg: 103.1 (26) DefRtg: 111.5 (29) NetRtg: -8.5 (28)
The Pelicans have had leads of 15 points or more in six of their 18 games. But they’ve lost four of those six, falling in Washington and Miami last week in games they led by 19 and 15 points, respectively. The Pelicans have been the league’s worst second half team (-14.1 points per 100 possessions) by a healthy margin and no other team has more than two losses after trailing by 15 points or more.
The Clippers have just one, but it was Friday in New Orleans, when the Pels trailed by as many as 20 points in the second quarter. It was their first rest-advantage game of the season and they were clearly the team with more energy after halftime, outscoring the Clippers 51-26 over the final 24 minutes. Kira Lewis Jr. rebounded from three straight DNPs to register 16 points, four assists and three steals in his 23 minutes off the bench, with three of the four assists coming on three of Jonas Valanciunas’ five 3-pointers. The big man has shot almost as good from beyond the arc (22-for-39, 56%) than he has in the restricted area (58-for-100, 58%).
If only Zion Williamson was available to complement that 3-point prowess. We should get another update on Williamson this week.
Week 6: vs. MIN, vs. WAS, @ UTA, @ UTA
Last Week: 30
Pace: 102.9 (1) OffRtg: 98.0 (30) DefRtg: 108.5 (19) NetRtg: -10.5 (30)
Kevin Porter Jr. has the second highest turnover rate among 261 players who’ve averaged at least 15 minutes per game, but the Rockets don’t need Porter to commit a bunch of miscues. Playing without him for a second straight game, they had a chance to end their 13-game losing streak in New York on Saturday. But three straight turnovers early in the fourth quarter helped turn a five-point lead into a two-point deficit, and two more late in the period kept them from having a chance to tie or take the lead in the final few minutes. They’ve now committed 20 or more turnovers in as many games (seven) as they did all of last season.
The loss at MSG was the fourth time during the losing streak that the Rockets were within five points in the last five minutes. Daniel Theis registered a minus-19 in 23 minutes in his return to the starting lineup (after one game as a reserve), but the bench had a solid performance, highlighted by Alperen Sengun’s post-up bucket against Nerlens Noel in the fourth quarter. The rookie has some pretty good post-up scoring numbers — 8-for-12 shooting, eight free throws — early on, though his turnover rate is the highest among 38 players with at least 25 post-ups, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
The 14-game losing streak is tied for the second longest of the last three seasons, topped only by the Rockets’ 20-game streak last season.
Week 6: @ BOS, vs. CHI, vs. CHA