NBA Power Rankings: Spurs and Celtics rise, Memphis meltdown costs Warriors
Meanwhile, Embiid's playoff-minded Sixers are putting together wins regularly as of late
There are levels to the kinds of problems team have. The Golden State Warriors, for example, don't have base-level problems. Their offense is magnificent, their defense superb. Their issues arrive in crunch time, against good teams, and in figuring how to balance their two MVPs. They have problems about 26 teams in the league would love to have.
The Bulls have more complicated problems. They don't play well game by game, but they're also not uniformly bad. They're a mystery, and that's both encouraging and doubly frustrating. The Nuggets have a dreadful record in close games, and always seem to waste any positive momentum.
||The rich get richer, as the Cavs snag Kyle Korver. But it's important to remember that he's not so much an addition as a replacement for Mike Dunleavy who just wasn't able to give them the minutes they hoped for when they acquired him. Meanwhile, they've won six of seven, and the loss to Chicago was because they were short-handed. I'm giving them a pass on that.||--||0-0|
||San Antonio has won 10 of 12, and one of them (an overtime loss to Atlanta) was with Kawhi Leonard having the flu. They are an elite defense, and the league's best in the second half of games in net rating. They get better week after week.||2||0-0|
||It needs to be noted that the Rockets have the ability to come back in nearly any situation. They routinely face double-digit deficits, but unlike last year, they don't get down or settle into the motions. They push and keep raining 3s and they have the confidence to know that they can dig out of any hole. That's a mark of a really good team. Their late-game defense vs. the Raptors was superb.||--||0-0|
||If you had told me that the Grizzlies would be 2-0 against Golden State this year I would not have believed you. The "Death Star" lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant and Green has a negative net rating in the fourth quarter this season. I wouldn't have believed that, either. And there's so much to dissect and criticize about a team that's 31-6. Hard to believe that as well. The Warriors are unbelievable in a lot of ways we never expected.||2||0-0|
||The Celtics are rolling right now, with decent-to-good wins over the Grizzlies and Jazz recently. Their Tuesday showdown with Toronto gives them their first chance to beat a top-2 team in either conference. They need to win that game, because right now they're good and opportunistic, but there's a chance to show they're a serious threat in the East.||1||0-0|
||Toronto's defensive slippage is officially a concern. The Raptors are now 20th in the league, and can't seem to find a rhythm on that end. They don't have the firepower to just outscore everyone, no matter how good their offense is. They need to tighten up the defense.||1||0-0|
||The Grizzlies are just unkillable. They had lost four of six, including losses to the Magic, short-handed Clippers and the Lakers. Yet then they go into Oracle, storm back from 24 down and beat the Warriors to go 2-0 against them. Memphis has wins against the Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Cavaliers (who rested players), Thunder and Jazz (Sunday) this season. They continue to lose games they should win and win games they should lose.||--||0-0|
||They're considering a total teardown ... so of course the team goes out and wins six straight. Don't be surprised if a stupid-easy schedule through the trade deadline scuttles any future trades. The only outlier is the worry that they won't get anything for Paul Millsap after getting nothing for Al Horford last year.||4||0-0|
||Nobody move. Don't even breathe. The Jazz are healthy. If you even crack your knuckles, it'll change the wind speed and they'll get hurt again. They lose to so many random teams, their 23-16 record doesn't seem real, but at full strength, they can go toe-to-toe with almost any team.||--||0-0|
||The Thunder are in struggle mode right now. The loss to the Rockets was a heartbreaker, and falling to the Hornets was just rough. They have an easier stretch this week (Bulls, Grizzlies, Wolves, Kings) before things get brutal the rest of the month. They need to fatten up on mid-tier teams now.||2||0-0|
||A soft schedule and a, ahem, tired Grizzlies team after several days in Los Angeles gives them a four-game winning streak so they jump up here. If they can just get the non-Blake guys back consistently they should be able to stabilize things, and at fourth in the West, they're in a good spot regardless. However, think about this: The Clippers are already 5.5 games out of the 2-seed. Second-round homecourt is likely already gone.||6||0-0|
||The Bucks are a pretty prototypical young team right now. They take good steps forward, then stumble and fall. The Knicks game was a tough loss. Their next two weeks are dotted with teams they should beat and superior teams they should lose to. They do need to get a little separation from .500 for their record to reflect how good they are. Right now, though, they are a team I don't think the higher East seeds are going to want to run into in the first or second round.||2||0-0|
||Finally hit a soft stretch of schedule and rattled off five straight. It should be noted that five of their last eight games this season are on the road, where they are currently 5-13. Just keep that in mind for later.||1||0-0|
||They were at .500 to start the year. They lost to a good team, and then lost to a bad team. Then they beat a bad team, and beat a good team. That, my friends, is peak Wizards.||3||0-0|
||The Hornets are top-15 in both offense and defense, but they never seem to put a top-15 performance on both sides of the ball in the same game. They are losing a lot of games they should win, as well as losing games they should lose, so they're not picking up any random ground. They've dropped a lot of games to Eastern Conference playoff teams, and that's going to wind up hurting them quite a bit in April.||2||0-0|
||Sure. Why not? Of course this team loses three times to the Bucks in two weeks, twice to the Pacers in the same span of time, starts spiraling into the abyss and then somehow comes out 3-0 against the Hornets, Cavs and Raptors. Of course. Nothing is real and everything is possible, apparently, for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler is stone cold.||6||0-0|
||Is this a real turn for them? Or is this a dead cat bounce? Detroit is 16-6 when it scores over 100 points. The offense is the key for the Pistons getting this thing back on track.||6||0-0|
||Al-Farouq Aminu has helped even out their defense. Their last two losses -- to the Warriors and Spurs -- were quality efforts. The Blazers' schedule is soft the next three weeks and even easier in February. They may be through the hard part and can pick themselves back up enough to make the playoffs, the same way they did last year in January and February. If they don't ... it's going to be time for major changes at the trade deadline. The Pistons, at home, should have been a gimme but they couldn't find a way to the win.||3||0-0|
||They were .500 on the road going into Sunday's game against the Lakers, which falls into the "Stats I do not believe no matter how many times I check it" category. They're on the edge of a cliff and if they slip at all, they're tumbling into the abyss with no chance of making the playoffs. Hopes have to be slim now, and that's a problem for a roster that was assembled with a "win now" plan. Their loss to the Lakers on Sunday might have been the nudge off that cliff.||4||0-0|
||The win over the Bucks Friday was great, but their offense is simply not good enough to cover for their defensive issues. Their guards are basically that banner that football players run through before homecoming. Zero resistance on the perimeter and without a center whose rotations are outpaced by that of the Earth, they just don't have the ability to get the stop they need.||4||0-0|
||Uh, guys? The Sixers have won three of their last four games. Like, actual NBA basketball games. Please get water and supplies and head to the nearest shelter. This is not a drill.||5||0-0|
||New Orleans lost three straight and are still 1.5 games back of the 8th seed. Lord, help us, the middle-to-bottom West is awful.||4||0-0|
||Two weeks ago: "Here come the Kings!" Two weeks later: "And there they go again."||4||0-0|
||Five wins since December 2nd, but they managed to catch the Grizzlies and Heat in their nightlife fly trap.||6||0-0|
||A team with this much offensive talent should not be 27th in effective field-goal percentage. Point blank, end-dot, period. They should be bad, but not 24th in offense.||4||0-0|
||Denver is 3-7 in 3-point games, and those losses range from the Raptors and Thunder to the Sixers. At some point they really need to shake up the veterans on the roster. Denver's had the same problem with no-showing against bad teams for four seasons across four coaches.||6||0-0|
||The biggest bummer about the Wolves' season is how much patience it requires. They're not going anywhere, and trades would only make their situation worse, most likely. They just kind of have to grin and bear through it. That's tough to do when you came in with real expectations of success. Patience is hard even in years when you know it coming in. Getting hit with it this early, with so much season left, is even tougher.||2||0-0|
||They're not the worst team they could be. But they also lost to the Suns. When I see that loss on the schedule sheet, you can just imagine a Wile E. Coyote-like drop off a cliff with a little "pfft" at the end.||4||0-0|
||Sure, they've lost eight of nine, but at least they play the Warriors and Bucks next. Pat Riley has to hope they hit absolute gold in the draft.||1||0-0|
||The Nets need to be willing partners in any three-team deal squads are looking to make. They don't have anyone worth holding onto, and should be actively cycling guys through to see if they can hit lightning in a bottle. This team still executes fairly well, they just don't have much talent, and none of it fits together.||3||0-0|
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