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WK 5: Bolton Celtics Power Past Bucks for No 1 Spot

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Boston Celtics rankings

There are some times when it’s basically impossible to put the 30 NBA teams in some logical order. This is one of those times.

Through Week 4 of the 2022-23 season, there are 10 teams that are either .500 (4), a game above .500 (2) or a game below .500 (4). Within that group are both the Philadelphia 76ers, who just had a really strong week, and the Toronto Raptors, who had a rough one.

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Above that group are the Washington Wizards, who’ve won four straight games, three by single digits and another against a team – Memphis – missing its two best players. Below that group are both the defending champion Golden State Warriors (5-8) and the Brooklyn Nets (5-8), who made a surge without Kyrie Irving before losing a rest-disadvantage game on Sunday. That surge included a 42-point win over the aforementioned Wizards.

The Grizzlies aren’t the only team that’s been missing stars over the past few days. The Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns were pretty clearly the top three teams for this exercise seven days ago, but were all without multiple starters in games over the weekend.

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This will all sort itself out in time. We’re almost exactly two-thirds of the way to the 20-game mark, the best time to give an initial evaluation of just how good (or bad) teams are. For now, please excuse how jumbled the below rankings – led by the streaking Boston Celtics – may look.

Record: 10-3

OffRtg: 119.4 (1) DefRtg: 112.8 (22) NetRtg: +6.5 (3) Pace: 98.8 (22)

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Jayson Tatum has quickly evolved into a superstar of the highest level. With more than 30 points in each of his last four games (including a season-high 43 in Detroit on Saturday), he’s averaging 32.3 ppg on 50/39/87 shooting splits. His true shooting percentage (65.3%) would be the fourth highest (trailing only three Stephen Curry seasons, including this one) for a player who averaged at least 30 points per game. And he’s just doing some incredibly-skilled stuff — ridiculously quick crossover off the catch, spin-dribble-behind-the-back combo in transition, tough finishes in the paint — to hit those numbers.

But Tatum isn’t monopolizing Celtics’ possessions, whatsoever. He ranks 48th in time of possession at 4.4 minutes per game (down from 4.7 last season), he quickly gets off the ball (almost always making the right read) when the defense sends a second defender at him, and he’s been assisted on 58% of his own buckets. That’s his highest rate in the last four seasons and up from 47% last season.

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As a team, the Celtics have seen the league’s second biggest jump in assist/turnover ratio, from 1.82 (11th) last season to 2.06 (second) this season. And through Week 4, they’ve scored 3.4 more points per 100 possessions than any other team. That would be the biggest differential between the first and second-ranked offenses in the 27 seasons for which we have play-by-play data.

The Celtics have won six straight to climb within a half game of the first-place Bucks (who they’ll face for the first time on Christmas). Their last five games have come against teams that currently rank in the bottom 10 defensively, and their next five are against defenses that rank no lower than 15th.

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Week 5: vs. OKC, @ ATL @ NOP

Record: 10-2

OffRtg: 109.7 (23) DefRtg: 103.8 (1) NetRtg: +6.0 (4) Pace: 100.3 (15)

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Offense can still be a struggle for the Bucks, who scored just 40 points on 53 second-half possessions (shooting 2-for-17 from 3-point range and committing 11 turnovers) as they picked up their first loss of the season in Atlanta on Monday. Through Week 4, only the Hornets (-7.6) and Clippers (-4.8) have seen bigger drops in points scored per 100 possessions from last season than the Bucks (-4.6). Their turnover rate is up and their free throw rate is down a tick, but their biggest issue has been a drop in effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint, from 52.0% (sixth) last season to just 47.4% (25th) this season. And when you rank 29th in the percentage of your shots that have come in the paint, those jumpers are extra important.

Khris Middleton has obviously been missed on that end of the floor. But Jrue Holiday has also seen a drop in 3-point percentage, while the two Bucks who’ve attempted the most mid-range shots — Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis — are a combined 17-for-57 (30%) from between the paint and the 3-point line. Jevon Carter (36 points and 12 assists) led a pretty efficient offensive attack without Antetokounmpo (knee soreness) and Holiday (ankle sprain) in an overtime-win in Oklahoma City, but it’s fair to say that wasn’t sustainable, and the star-less Bucks were held under a point per possession again as their 1-2 trip concluded in San Antonio.

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Carter being more of a threat offensively could pay off in the long run. He was already showing some signs of increased aggressiveness, and he’s now 49-for-102 (48%) from 3-point range in his 90 total games (including playoffs) with the Bucks. Pat Connaughton could make his season debut this week.

The Bucks are back home for six of their next seven games, and Antetokounmpo is listed as probable (Holiday is out) for their chance for revenge against Atlanta (their third meeting with the Hawks) on Monday. More interesting will be their first meeting with the Cavs two nights later.

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Week 5: vs. ATL, vs. CLE, @ PHI

Record: 9-4

OffRtg: 111.6 (16) DefRtg: 109.7 (6) NetRtg: +1.9 (11) Pace: 97.1 (29)

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The Blazers have trailed 10 of their 14 games by double-digits, and they’re 6-4 in those 10 games. (No other team has more than four wins after trailing by double-digits.) They were down 15 in the third quarter in Miami on Monday, down 12 in the third in Charlotte on Wednesday, and down 10 in the second quarter in New Orleans on Thursday. They came back to win all three of those games, despite the absences of two starters in both ends of the Wednesday-Thursday back-to-back.

For the season, the Blazers have been the league’s fifth worst first-half team (minus-5.8 points per 100 possessions) and its second best second-half team (plus-9.4 per 100). The bigger difference (8.1 per 100) has been on offense, with both Josh Hart (35.9%, 54.0%) and Justise Winslow (27.6%, 60.0%) seeing big jumps in their effective field goal percentage from the first half to the second half. Winslow-at-center minutes were critical in Miami on Monday, when Hart drained the game-winning 3 at the buzzer. The Blazers have five of the 48 players who’ve made shots to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime, with Jerami Grant leading the league with four such buckets.

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Grant had 37 points in Dallas on Saturday and the Blazers erased another double-digit deficit (they were down 16 in the second quarter). But a late, three-point lead quickly turned into a seven-point deficit when the Mavs made 3s on four straight possessions.

That was the end of the Blazers’ first six-game road trip (they have three) this season. They have a three-game homestand this week, and they’ll have a rest advantage against both San Antonio (on Tuesday) and Utah (on Saturday).

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Week 5: vs. SAS, vs. BKN, vs. UTA

 

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Record: 9-4

OffRtg: 115.9 (2) DefRtg: 113.3 (23) NetRtg: +2.6 (8) Pace: 101.2 (11)

The Nuggets (4-0) are one of two teams – the Bucks are the other – that haven’t lost a game that was within five points in the last five minutes. They’ve been good in close games, and two of those four wins came last week. The Nuggets used a late, 8-0 run in San Antonio to pull out a win on Monday and a similar 10-0 to take control late in Indiana two nights later. Nikola Jokic is just 4-for-14 on clutch shots this season and hasn’t been shooting from outside the paint nearly as much as he did last season, but he hit big jumpers in the final minute of both of those wins.

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The Nuggets are also undefeated in close games because, when they’ve lost, they’ve lost big. The Nuggets have had the league’s top-ranked clutch defense (25 points allowed on 35 clutch defensive possessions), but with the Celtics scoring 131 points on just 93 possessions on Friday, they’ve also had the two worst defensive games for any team this season. They’ve now allowed 140 points per 100 possessions more times in ’22-23 (twice) than they did in their previous three seasons combined (once). Boston shot 16-for-37 (43%) from 3-point range, but was also 26-for-39 (67%) in the paint and committed just seven turnovers. Denver is one of three teams – Houston and Miami are the others – that rank in the bottom 10 in both opponent field goal percentage in the paint (59.6%, 26th) and opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (52.0%, 23rd).

The Nuggets are also undefeated (4-0) at home, but their schedule remains road-heavy for another couple of weeks. After they host the Knicks on Wednesday (their third rest-advantage game of the season), the Nuggets will head to Dallas for a two-game series. Nikola Jokic is 5-6 head-to-head against Luka Doncic, though he’s been the much more efficient scorer (23.4 points per game on true shooting percentage of 61.2%) over the 11 meetings.

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Week 5: vs. NYK, @ DAL, @ DAL

Record: 10-5

OffRtg: 114.7 (4) DefRtg: 110.2 (8) NetRtg: +4.6 (5) Pace: 100.7 (13)

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The Jazz have lost two straight games for the first time. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this team – with it’s frontline of Kelly Olynyk, Lauri Markkanen and Jarred Vanderbilt – had issues defending Joel Embiid, but amazingly, the game where an opponent scored 59 points was the better of the Jazz’s two defensive performances this weekend, as Sixers not named Embiid shot just 21-for-55 (38%), including 3-for-18 from 3-point range, on Sunday. So Utah’s early-season fortune in regard to opponent 3-point shooting didn’t end with the Wizards shooting 16-for-36 (44%) from beyond the arc the night before.

Markkanen had another big game (32 points, 6-for-8 from 3-point range) as the Jazz won in Atlanta last week, but he wasn’t much of a factor (four points on four shots) as the Sixers outscored the Jazz, 54-41, in the second half on Sunday. Utah is now 9-0 when Markkanen has scored 18 pints or more, and 1-5 when he hasn’t.

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This is still one of five teams (four in the Western Conference) that rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor. Ten of the Jazz’s 15 games have been on the road and nine of the 15 have been against teams that currently have winning records. Their six wins over that currently-over-.500 group are two more than any other team has.

The Jazz are the only team that’s played 15 games, but they have *another back-to-back this week. And it’s their first meetings with two of the three teams – Phoenix and Portland – ahead of them in the West standings. They’ll be at a rest disadvantage in Portland on Saturday, when the Blazers will be closing a three-game homestand.

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* The Jazz are playing 12 of their 15 back-to-backs in the first 13 weeks of the season and only three over the last 12 weeks.

Week 5: vs. NYK, vs. PHX, @ POR

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Record: 8-4

OffRtg: 114.4 (5) DefRtg: 107.5 (2) NetRtg: +6.9 (1) Pace: 97.4 (27)

The Suns were relatively healthy last season. Their top six guys (their starters plus Cam Johnson) missed an averaged of 14.3 games and they had at least four of the six in 75 of 82. This season, one of those six guys (Jae Crowder) hasn’t been with the team, another (Johnson) is out an extended period after knee surgery, and a third (Chris Paul) has missed the last 2 1/2 games with heel soreness.

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They still have Devin Booker, whose numbers are almost identical to the ones he put up last season. And Mikal Bridges had a big game (31 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals) in Minnesota on Wednesday. He was doing the usual stuff – attacking the seams of the defense, running the floor, and deflecting passes – but also making some nice passes of his own. Bridges is one of five players who’ve shot 50% or better on at least 75 2-point attempts, 40% or better on at least 25 3-point attempts, and 85% or better on at least 25 free throw attempts.

But the Suns’ depth is being tested early. Cam Payne has shot much better than he did last season and has totaled 45 points (shooting 9-for-19 from 3-point range) and 12 assists over his two starts. But the Suns’ latest starting lineup – with Payne and Torrey Craig in the place of Paul and Johnson – has been outscored by 27 points (29.8 per 100 possessions) in 52 total minutes over the last three games. Most of that damage (minus-23 in 25 1/2 minutes) was done as the Suns lost in Orlando (with Booker and Bridges combining to shoot 9-for-32) on Friday.

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The Suns’ four-game trip wraps up in Miami on Monday (Paul is listed as questionable). They’ll then play seven of their nine games at home, where they’re 6-1.

Week 5: @ MIA, vs. GSW, @ UTA, vs. NYK

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Record: 7-5

OffRtg: 113.9 (8) DefRtg: 110.3 (9) NetRtg: +3.6 (6) Pace: 95.4 (30)

It just may be that, with a historically-high usage rate (third highest in the 27 seasons of play-by-play data), Luka Doncic is going to look worn down from time to time. The 23-year-old seemingly hit a bit of a wall last week, shooting 17-for-50 as the Mavs lost both ends of a back-to-back in Orlando and Washington. Not coincidentally, those were two of the Mavs’ three worst offensive games of the season (97.5 points scored per 100 possessions over the two games). When you depend so heavily on one guy, you need that guy to be good. The Mavs are now 7-1 when Doncic has registered a true shooting percentage above 60% and 0-4 when he hasn’t.

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He was back in form on Saturday, scoring 42 points (on 13-for-22 shooting and 15-for-18 from the line), grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists against Portland. And Doncic tied the game with a typically-methodical drive with 3 1/2 minutes to go. But it was Spencer Dinwiddie who drained three straight 3s to win the game for the Mavs. Dinwiddie is 6-for-10 on clutch 3s (including playoffs) since coming to the Mavs in February, 10 of the Mavs’ 12 games have now been within five points in the last five minutes, and it’s good to have options (or outlets) down the stretch.

The Mavs are 6-1 at home and they still have four more games left on a stretch where they’re playing 10 of 12 at American Airlines Center. They’ll have a rest advantage against the Clippers on Tuesday, but will be at a disadvantage when they host the Rockets the following night.

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Week 5: vs. LAC, vs. HOU, vs. DEN, vs. DEN

Record: 8-5

OffRtg: 115.5 (3) DefRtg: 108.7 (4) NetRtg: +6.8 (2) Pace: 98.0 (25)

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The Cavs have followed their eight-game winning streak with a four-game slide, their longest losing streak since last November. Losses to the Clippers, Kings and Wolves last week were Cleveland’s three worst defensive games by a wide margin, and the four opponents shot a combined 61-for-137 (44.5%) from 3-point range.

But the four losses have come by a total of 19 points, with Cleveland opponents scoring an amazing 50 points on 29 clutch possessions (172 per 100). The Clippers paraded to the free throw line in the fourth quarter, the Kings scored on eight straight possessions down the stretch, and Stephen Curry went off with the game on the line. Playing without Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen on Sunday, the Cavs cut a 24-point Minnesota lead down to two, but couldn’t grab the defensive rebound they needed to have a good chance to tie or take the lead.

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Cleveland remains the only team that hasn’t lost a game that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes. And with six of their eight wins having come by double-digits, the Cavs still lead the league in per-game point differential and are still one of two teams – the Suns are the other – that rank in the top five on both ends of the floor. The offense has remained sharp, with Darius Garland (6-for-28 over the previous two games) dropping 51 on the Wolves in Mitchell’s absence.

After a two-day break, that offense will face the league’s top-ranked offense for the first time. The Cavs took three of four from the Bucks last season, though Giannis Antetokounmpo played in just one of those three wins.

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Week 5: @ MIL, vs. CHA, vs. MIA

Record: 9-5

OffRtg: 113.2 (10) DefRtg: 112.4 (21) NetRtg: +0.9 (14) Pace: 99.7 (18)

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The Grizz are still undefeated (7-0) when they’ve had their full starting lineup. But they were without Steven Adams against the Celtics on Monday and, in a three-point loss, they were outscored by 17 points in less than 13 minutes with Ja Morant off the floor. And without both Morant and Desmond Bane on Sunday, the Grizz had their worst offensive performance of the season, scoring just 92 points on 99 possessions in a loss in Washington.

Tyus Jones was absolutely huge for the Grizzlies last season, when they went 20-5 without Morant. And the bench did have some good minutes in a win over Minnesota on Friday. But the Grizz have now been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions in Jones’ 326 minutes on the floor this season, with his much bigger on-off differential coming on defense (in part because opponents have shot 39.6% from 3-point range with Jones on the floor). Jones has also been unable to sustain that ridiculous 7.04 assist/turnover ratio from last season. (He’s at 3.44 this season, still good for 15th among 116 qualified players.) The Grizzlies’ bench ranks 27th, down from sixth last season. De’Anthony Melton and Kyle Anderson are missed.

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Assuming Morant is able to play, the Grizzlies’ game in New Orleans on Tuesday will be just the fifth meeting between the top two picks of the 2019 Draft. The Grizz are 0-4 in the previous four meetings between Morant and Zion Williamson, having lost the four games by an average of 19.5 points.

Week 5: @ NOP, vs. OKC, @ BKN

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Record: 7-7

OffRtg: 111.7 (15) DefRtg: 109.4 (5) NetRtg: +2.3 (10) Pace: 97.3 (28)

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On Thursday in Atlanta, the Sixers lost by nine, getting outscored by 19 points in a little more than 16 minutes with Joel Embiid off the floor. So, at home against the same team two nights later, Embiid played 40 minutes. The Sixers were still outscored by 10 points in the eight minutes he sat, but Embiid was dominant when he was on the floor, scoring 42 points, registering a plus-22, and shooting 14-for-25 from the field (13-for-19 inside the arc) and 13-for-16 from the line.

And that was nothing compared to what Embiid did 24 hours later. Against what was the best team in the Western Conference to date, Embiid dominated both ends of the floor, with a career-high 59 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and seven blocks in less than 37 minutes. And oh yeah, he registered a plus-25 in a game the Sixers won by seven. So over the last three games, Philly has outscored its opponents by 57 points (23.4 per 100 possessions) in Embiid’s 108 minutes on the floor and has been outscored by 47 points (54.7 per 100!) in his 36 minutes on the bench. That’s an on-off differential of 78.1 points per 100 possessions, a little bigger than Embiid’s differential from the 2019 conference semifinals (71.1 per 100). The roles of Boban Marjanovic and Greg Monroe have been played by Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed.

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Embiid is now shooting a career-best 62.0% in the paint, and he’s an amazing 32-for-55 (58.2%) from mid-range. That trails only Jaylen Brown (22-for-37, 59.5%) among 23 players with at least 35 mid-range attempts.

The Sixers’ longest (non-All-Star) break of the season is Monday-Thursday, but they’ll have a pair of back-to-backs once they get started again. The first begins with a rematch of their Week 1 loss to the Bucks, when the two teams combined to score just 178 points on 190 possessions (93.7 per 100).

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Week 5: vs. MIL, vs. MIN

 

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Record: 7-6

OffRtg: 113.7 (9) DefRtg: 110.5 (10) NetRtg: +3.2 (7) Pace: 100.0 (17)

The bigger curiosity entering the season was the offense and how the Pelicans’ three stars would complement each other. But the bigger concern (and what may ultimately determine just how good this team becomes) was the defense. And that defense showed some cracks as the Pels lost in Indiana on Monday. The Pacers made 22 3-pointers and took control of the game with a 23-11 run early in the third quarter, scoring those 23 points on just 11 possessions. The Pels’ starting lineup is big, but not so mobile, and it’s now allowed more than 115 points per 100 possessions in its 100 minutes. That includes 127 points on 97 possessions (130.9 per 100) over their four games last week.

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The starting lineup has also been hurt by the shooting struggles of CJ McCollum, who was 15-for-55 (27%) over their four games last week and has now seen the third biggest drop in effective field goal percentage (from 53.9% to 44.1%) among 133 players with at least 250 field goal attempts last season and at least 100 this season. McCollum also is registering the lowest free throw rate (less than 12 attempts per 100 shots from the field) of his career.

Zion Williamson has helped make up for that inefficiency, averaging 25.8 points, with a true shooting percentage of 70.5%, over the last five games, his highest scoring and most efficient five-game stretch of the season. And after the Pels blew an 18-point lead to Houston on Saturday, Jose Alvarado came off the bench, bumped McCollum to the two, and sparked a 29-8 run over the final nine minutes.

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The Pels’ defense will be tested this week, as their six-game homestand continues with visits from two potent offenses, those of the Grizzlies and Celtics.

Week 5: vs. MEM, vs. CHI, vs. BOS

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Record: 8-5

OffRtg: 111.7 (14) DefRtg: 110.5 (12) NetRtg: +1.2 (13) Pace: 102.1 (6)

The Hawks have been outscored by 4.0 points per game (the league’s third worst mark) on free throws and by 3.2 per game (its 12th worst mark) on 3-pointers. That can be a tough discrepancy to make up for inside the arc, but Dejounte Murray and De’Andre Hunter are a combined 56-for-112 (50%) from mid-range and Trae Young leads the league (for the second straight season) in assists on shots in the paint. As the Hawks (playing without Young) handed the Bucks their first loss on Monday, Murray took advantage of Milwaukee’s drop coverage, scoring 16 of his 25 points on non-restricted-area 2-point shots. Atlanta also got great minutes from AJ Griffin (24 points, with some strong finishes inside) and Onyeka Okongwu (12 points, including two tip dunks over Giannis Antetokounmpo) off the bench.

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As promising as the 21-year-old Okongwu has looked, Clint Capela isn’t ready to give up his starting job. He’s averaged 14.6 points and 17.0 rebounds over the last five games, he ranks second in total rebounding percentage (in the top five for the third straight season), and the Hawks have been a much better rebounding team (on both ends of the floor) with him in the game than they’ve been with him on the bench. Over a possible 11 games, Okongwu (who missed the Hawks’ loss in Philly on Saturday) has played just 38 total minutes with the other four starters.

The Hawks have one more game in their stretch where they’re playing four of five against the Bucks and Sixers. But tough Eastern Conference matchups don’t stop after that, as they’ll host the Celtics and Raptors this week before visiting Cleveland next Monday. Boston has the league’s No. 1 offense by a healthy margin and the Hawks allowed Toronto to score 139 points on 103 possessions in the teams’ first meeting.

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Week 5: @ MIL, vs. BOS, vs. TOR

Record: 6-6

OffRtg: 114.1 (7) DefRtg: 114.2 (25) NetRtg: -0.1 (18) Pace: 102.7 (2)

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The Pacers have seen the league’s second biggest jump in 3-point rate, taking 45.0% (fourth highest rate) of their shots from beyond the arc, up from 39.5% (15th) last season. And they topped 50% in wins over New Orleans and Toronto last week, outscoring the Pelicans and Raptors by 60 points (123-63) from 3-point range. Five different Pacers made at least five 3s over the two wins, and that doesn’t include Bennedict Mathurin, who’s one of nine players who’ve shot 45% or better on at least 50 3-point attempts for the season. The starting frontline – Jalen Smith and Myles Turner – combined to go 12-for-24 from deep against the Pels and Raps.

After starting the season 1-4 (with their opponents shooting 46% from 3-point range), the Pacers have won five of their last seven games, and both losses – at Brooklyn, vs. Denver – were within three points in the final minute. They blew an 18-point lead to the Nuggets, Tyrese Haliburton made a last-minute shot with his toe on the 3-point line, and Rick Carlisle picked up a damaging technical foul with 22 seconds left. The Pacers and their opponents have combined to score 114.2 points per 100 possessions overall (the league’s fourth highest combined rate), but just 57 points on 67 possessions (85 per 100) in the clutch. With Turner missing a shot for the tie on Wednesday, the Pacers are 2-for-17 on clutch 3s.

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The Pacers have a real chance to climb above .500 and head into Thanksgiving in the top six in the Eastern Conference. Their next six games are against teams – Charlotte, Houston, Orlando (x 2), Minnesota and Brooklyn – that currently have losing records.

Week 5: @ CHA, @ HOU, vs. ORL

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Record: 6-8

OffRtg: 112.1 (12) DefRtg: 110.5 (13) NetRtg: +1.5 (12) Pace: 97.6 (26)

For a few days, the Nets have had the chance to be just a normal and decent basketball team built around one of the best players in NBA history. And they’ve won four of the six games for which Kyrie Irving has been suspended, leading the league in defensive efficiency (99.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) over that stretch. Overall, they’ve climbed from 30th to 13th defensively over the last 10 days. Over the last two seasons (including Play-In and playoffs), the Nets are 17-25 (.405) with Irving and 34-25 (.576) without him. And this season, they’ve been 15.6 points per 100 possessions better in 287 minutes with Kevin Durant on the floor without Irving (plus-8.2) than they’ve been in their 231 minutes on the floor together (minus-7.4).

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But, though the Nets’ blowout of the (now 8-6) Wizards 10 days ago looks better now than it did then, the six games of Irving’s suspension have come against teams with a (current) cumulative record of 34-45. (First eight games: 58-45.) And four of the games have come against teams – the Wizards, Hornets, Clippers and Lakers – that rank in the bottom six offensively. Though the Nets’ own offense ranks 11th over the six-game stretch, they’ve seen a drop in the percentage of their shots that have come in the paint, maybe in need of a ball-handler who can go North-South. They’re obviously (and again) leaning heavily on Durant, who, before the Lakers put the game away with about four minutes to go on Sunday, looked like he was going to play the entire second half in the second game of a back-to-back.

Irving’s suspension isn’t about basketball, of course. And, whether or not the Nets are better without him, it’s still unclear if he’ll ever play for them again.

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The Nets’ next seven games will come against teams that rank no lower than 16th (Portland) offensively, with three of those seven (including their visit to Sacramento on Tuesday) coming against offenses that rank in the top 10. The Nets have lost seven straight games to the Grizzlies, who will be in Brooklyn on Sunday.

Week 5: @ SAC, @ POR, vs. MEM

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Record: 8-6

OffRtg: 109.0 (25) DefRtg: 110.5 (11) NetRtg: -1.5 (21) Pace: 98.3 (24)

Playing without Bradley Beal, the Wizards have won four straight games to climb into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They’ve done it with defense, holding their opponents to just 102.0 points per 100 possessions over the four games. And three of those four opponents – Dallas, Utah and Memphis – are teams that rank in the top 10 offensively (though the Grizzlies were without both Ja Morant and Desmond Bane). The bad news is that some of the defensive improvement is about opponent 3-point shooting (the Hornets were 5-for-32 from deep on Monday). The good news is that the Wiz still rank 27th in opponent 3-point percentage, so their opponents could be due for even more regression in that regard. They’ve also done a better job of keeping their opponents off the line, outscoring them by 25 points (66-41) on free throws over the four games. That’s most of the total point differential (35 points).

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Even before his five-game absence, the Wizards had allowed 10.7 more points per 100 possessions with Beal on the floor (116.1) than they had allowed with him off the floor (105.4). That differential is now 12.0 per 100.

Kristaps Porzingis continues to have a strong season offensively. He missed the Wizards’ win over his previous team on Thursday (Kyle Kuzma handled things against the Mavs), but totaled 56 points on an effective field goal percentage of 69% in the back-to-back wins over the Jazz and Grizzlies. The Wiz have outscored their opponents by almost 20 points per 100 possessions in Porzingis’ 95 minutes over the winning streak.

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With Beal likely making his return against the Thunder on Wednesday, the Wiz can keep this thing going. The last three games of their six-game homestand (their longest of the season) is the start of a stretch where they’re playing 10 of 11 against teams that currently have losing records.

Week 5: vs. OKC, vs. MIA, vs. CHA

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Record: 6-7

OffRtg: 111.2 (19) DefRtg: 111.0 (16) NetRtg: +0.3 (15) Pace: 98.4 (23)

The Heat were without Tyler Herro last week, but they had Jimmy Butler, who totaled 55 points (on 17-for-27 shooting and 20-for-22 from the line), 17 rebounds and 16 assists (with just two turnovers) in two wins over the Hornets. Butler has shot worse in the paint and worse from mid-range than he did last season, but he’s been making some 3s (10-for-27) and shooting 89% from the line, so he’s registering both the highest effective field goal percentage (51.9%) and highest true shooting percentage (62.0%) of his career. The former mark is still below league average, but the latter is way above league average, with Butler ranking third in free throw rate (58.3 attempts per 100 shots from the field) among 148 players with at least 100 field goal attempts.

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Nine of the Heat’s 13 games have been within five points in the last five minutes, and Butler now has the highest clutch usage rate (44.2%) among 81 players who’ve played at least 20 clutch minutes. The Heat allowed the Blazers to score 17 points on just seven clutch possessions (with Josh Hart hitting the buzzer-beating game-winner) on Monday, but the Heat were better defensively three nights later and Butler scored or assisted on 14 of their 24 clutch points (on 19 possessions) against the Hornets.

In the clutch and in general, the Heat haven’t been particularly consistent on either end of the floor, despite an early schedule that’s been relatively soft (only three of their 13 games have come against teams that currently have winning records) and home heavy. After they host the Suns on Monday, the Heat will have played 10 of their 14 games in Miami. Starting with a trip to Toronto on Wednesday, they’ll play eight of 10 on the road. They’re just 1-3 away from the arena that will need a new name, with losses to the Kings and Pacers included.

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Week 5: vs. PHX, @ TOR, @ WAS, @ CLE

Record: 7-6

OffRtg: 104.6 (30) DefRtg: 107.5 (3) NetRtg: -2.8 (24) Pace: 99.5 (19)

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The Clippers’ offense has shown some signs of life in November. Four of their five most efficient games of the season came as they won four of their first five games of the month, and Paul George averaged 29.8 points on an effective field goal percentage of 65% over that five-game stretch. He was needing some help and four other Clippers scored 16 points or more as they came back to beat the Cavs on Monday. They were down 13 with five minutes left, but then went on a 17-1 run, eventually scoring 21 points on a stretch of 13 possessions, with 13 of those 21 points coming at the free throw line. The Cavs came into the game with the league’s second-ranked defense and the Clippers scored more than 120 points per 100 possessions for the first time this season.

But, after continuing their dominance of the Lakers, the Clippers’ offense hit the skids again on Saturday afternoon, when they were on the wrong side of a big fourth-quarter run. They led the Nets by two midway through the fourth, but then Brooklyn outscored them 20-2, with the Clippers having a stretch of seven straight scoreless possessions. Even with the Cleveland comeback, the Clippers’ offense has been at its worst (barely scoring a point per possession) in the fourth quarter. That includes just 94.1 points scored per 100 in George’s 90 fourth-quarter minutes. George and John Wall are a combined 8-for-39 (21%) on fourth-quarter 3-pointers.

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The Clippers’ third back-to-back of the season is a two-game trip to Texas. They’ve already faced the Rockets twice this season, sweeping a home-and-home set two weeks ago, with George totaling 63 points (on 25-for-46 shooting), 13 rebounds, 13 assists, seven steals and two blocks over the two wins. All four of the Clippers’ meetings with the Mavs last season (they were 2-2) were within five points in the last five minutes.

Week 5: @ HOU, @ DAL, vs. DET, vs. SAS

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Record: 6-6

OffRtg: 114.4 (6) DefRtg: 114.3 (26) NetRtg: +0.1 (16) Pace: 101.2 (10)

The Kings are one of two teams — the Rockets are the other — that haven’t won a game that wasn’t within five points in the last five minutes. But 11 of their 12 games have been within five in the last five and they’ve won six of their last eight nail-biters to climb to .500. They’ve scored a pretty incredible 117 points on 80 clutch possessions (146.3 per 100) over that stretch, with guards De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Davion Mitchell combining to shoot 27-for-38 (effective field goal percentage of 78%) on clutch shots.

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The Kings have recorded assists on just 40% of their clutch buckets, tied for the league’s third lowest clutch rate. But overall, they rank sixth in assist rate (65.3%) and fourth in ball movement (363 passes per 24 minutes of possession), having ranked 23rd (58.5%) and 12th (332 per 24) last season. Only the Jazz and Pacers have seen bigger jumps in assist rate, while only the Bulls have seen a bigger jump in ball movement. Monk has averaged 7.0 assists per 36 minutes, double his average from over his previous four seasons (3.5). Three of his four assists in the Kings’ win over the Warriors on Sunday were pretty good reads.

The Kings have three games left on both a four-game homestand and a stretch where they will have played 10 of 11 against teams that currently have losing records. They’re 4-1 against the Eastern Conference, having scored 116.9 points per 100 possessions over those five games, so a game against the Nets (No. 1 defense over the last 10 days) might actually be a matchup of strength vs. strength.

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Week 5: vs. BKN, vs. SAS, vs. DET

Record: 5-8

OffRtg: 111.8 (13) DefRtg: 115.1 (27) NetRtg: -3.3 (25) Pace: 103.0 (1)

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Stephen Curry is having an absolutely ridiculous offensive season, averaging 32.8 points with a true shooting percentage (69.4%) that would crush the previous high (66.9% – held by Stephen Curry) for a player who averaged at least 30 points per game. That 2015-16 season of Curry’s was also the only other time a player has had a 50/40/90 season while averaging 30-plus, and he’s currently at 53/43/92. It’s not just about the long-distance stuff, either. Curry is shooting a career-best 65.8% (better than Deandre Ayton, Kevin Durant or Domantas Sabonis) in the paint and a comfortable 20-for-32 (62.5%) from mid-range.

And with their leader doing all that, the Warriors are 5-8. They seemingly found their defense at home, holding the Kings and Cavs to just 105.9 points per 100 possessions in consecutive wins last week. But they forgot to pack it again, and they allowed those same Kings to score 72 points on 55 possessions over the second and third quarters on Sunday, with an early, 15-point Warriors lead turning into a seven-point defeat. The champs are now, amazingly, 0-7 on the road and in 13th place in the West. They got Donte DiVincenzo back and made changes to their rotation – DNP’ing James Wiseman and JaMychal Green – and their bench is still bad. Over their three games last week, they were outscored by 26 points in Curry’s 35 minutes off the floor.

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The next chance to get a road win is Wednesday in Phoenix, where the Warriors already lost by 29 points. That was both their worst offensive and worst defensive performance of the season thus far.

Week 5: vs. SAS, @ PHX, vs. NYK, @ HOU

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Record: 6-7

OffRtg: 110.6 (20) DefRtg: 110.7 (15) NetRtg: -0.1 (17) Pace: 102.1 (7)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander destroyed the Pistons’ defense in the first half in Detroit on Monday, with 17 of his first-half 21 points coming in the paint or at the free throw line. So in the second half, the Pistons showed him more bodies and arms in the paint. And Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammates couldn’t make them pay, with Thunder players not named Mike Muscala shooting 1-for-11 from 3-point range over the final 24 minutes. A 15-point halftime lead turned into a nine-point defeat and, after Monday, the Thunder ranked 27th offensively (106.4 points scored per 100 possessions).

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But things have certainly picked up since then. On Wednesday, the Thunder scored more efficiently than the league average for just the third time this season, losing in double-overtime to the Bucks. Over the weekend, the Thunder offense went off, scoring 130 points per 100 possessions in wins against Toronto and New York. Gilgeous-Alexander was the star (he had 37 on Sunday), but there were contributions up and down the rotation, with eight guys in double-figures on Friday and 10 draining at least two 3s over the two games. The Thunder’s effective field goal percentage of 72.2% at Madison Square Garden on Sunday was the franchise’s highest mark since it moved to Oklahoma City and the second highest mark for any team in a game this season.

With the two wins, the Thunder (who ranked 30th offensively in each of the last two seasons) have climbed out of the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency. They’ll face the league’s No. 1 offense on Monday, Game 6 of a stretch of seven straight against the Eastern Conference.

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Week 5: @ BOS, @ WAS, @ MEM

Record: 6-8

OffRtg: 109.5 (24) DefRtg: 109.8 (7) NetRtg: -0.2 (19) Pace: 101.1 (12)

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Last season, the Bulls had a better record in clutch games (25-16, fourth best) than they did otherwise (21-20, 14th). This season has been a much different story. After their loss to the Pelicans (in which they lost two double-digit leads) on Wednesday, the Bulls are 0-6 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, the only team without a clutch win and the only team that ranks in the bottom five in both clutch offense and clutch defense through Week 4. The defense (20 points allowed on 12 clutch possessions) was probably the bigger issue on Wednesday, though the lasting image from that one will be DeMar DeRozan dropping the inbounds pass with the Bulls down three.

The Bulls even tried closing that game against New Orleans with Goran Dragic and Alex Caruso, the combo with which Chicago has outscored its opponents by 20.8 points per 100 possessions in 178 minutes. But continued clutch misfortune won out over plus-minus magic. The 36-year-old Dragic is having a nice comeback season, shooting 22-for-47 (47%) from 3-point range. But after a rough outing against Denver on Sunday, the Bulls’ starting lineup has scored just 101.2 points per 100 possessions, the worst mark among the 15 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. (Dragic has played just one minute, in place of Ayo Dosunmu, with the other four starters.)

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After a two-day break, the Bulls will have a rest advantage in New Orleans on Wednesday (the Pelicans host Memphis the night before). That will be the end of a stretch of six straight games against teams that currently rank in the top 11 offensively.

Week 5: @ NOP, vs. ORL

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Record: 7-7

OffRtg: 113.1 (11) DefRtg: 110.6 (14) NetRtg: +2.5 (9) Pace: 98.8 (21)

The Raptors won their first game without Pascal Siakam, but they’ve lost three of their last four, with the only win coming (at home and by single digits) against the 2-11 Rockets. They also lost Precious Achiuwa to an ankle injury and Fred VanVleet (illness) missed their game against the Pacers on Saturday. Playing the fourth and fifth games of a five-in-seven stretch, what had been the league’s seventh-ranked defense allowed 121.4 points per 100 possessions in losses in Oklahoma City and Indiana over the weekend. The Raptors have been improved offensively this season, but they’re 1-6 when they’ve allowed more than 113 points per 100 possessions.

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With or without Siakam, they need to defend. The Raptors lead the league in opponent turnover rate for a third straight season, but only Oklahoma City has (*on the road) allowed its opponents to take a greater percentage of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range. The Thunder themselves had 58 points in the restricted area and eight corner 3s on Friday, and the Raptors were outscored by 36 points (57-21) from beyond the arc in Indiana 24 hours later.

* Looking at only road stats to account for shot-charting inconsistencies from arena to arena.

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That stretch of five games in seven nights is in the rear-view mirror, though the Raptors will have another in January. Now, they have to play Dwane Casey, currently 3-9 (with six straight losses) against their former coach since he was fired in 2018. The Pistons have the lowest-ranked offense that the Raptors will face over the next three weeks, but Toronto will be without VanVleet for a second straight game.

Week 5: @ DET, vs. MIA, @ ATL

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Record: 6-7

OffRtg: 111.3 (17) DefRtg: 113.5 (24) NetRtg: -2.3 (23) Pace: 101.4 (8)

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Over the weekend, the Knicks had their two most efficient offensive games since Week 1. And the two opponents were teams — Detroit and Oklahoma City — that entered the weekend with bottom-five offenses themselves. RJ Barrett scored a season-high 30 points against the Pistons, while Cam Reddish and Immanuel Quickley combined for 50 against the Thunder. The Knicks have now scored almost 118 points per 100 possessions in 123 total minutes with Reddish on the floor with Barrett, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.

But (after getting destroyed in Brooklyn on Wednesday) the Knicks split the two weekend games, because their 48-point quarter on Sunday afternoon didn’t hold up. The Thunder scored 86 points on 56 possessions over the second and third periods on Sunday, finishing with 145 on 109, their second most efficient performance over the last three seasons. The Knicks have yet to hold an opponent under a point per possession (they did so 19 times last season) and now have a bottom-10 defense, though only three of their 13 games have come against teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively. They’re set to face three top-five offenses — those of the Jazz, Nuggets and Suns — this week.

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The Knicks have one stretch of five games in seven nights this season, and it’s a five-game trip through the Western Conference that begins Tuesday in Utah. Last season was the first time in 25 years that the Knicks had a winning record (they were 8-7) in Western Conference arenas. They’re 1-1 this year with an opening-night loss in Memphis and a win in Minnesota last week.

Week 5: @ UTA, @ DEN, @ GSW, @ PHX

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Record: 6-8

OffRtg: 111.3 (18) DefRtg: 112.4 (19) NetRtg: -1.1 (20) Pace: 102.3 (4)

The Wolves should hope that Wednesday was the nadir. Their loss to Phoenix was the second straight home game that they trailed by more than 25 points, and it came with a defensive possession on which they had just four guys on the floor. Even when they’ve had five defenders out there, the defense hasn’t been great. Those big deficits were a result of the Knicks and Suns totaling 145 points on 109 first-half possessions, and, having allowed 119.1 per 100 over their last five games (including 123.6 per 100 with Rudy Gobert on the floor), the Wolves have dropped from ninth to 19th on that end of the floor.

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The Wolves did put an end to their three-game losing streak on Sunday, beating the shorthanded Cavs in Cleveland. Darius Garland scored 51 points for the opponent, but the Wolves got the best offensive performances of the season from both D’Angelo Russell (30 points, 12 assists, 11-for-13 shooting, recovering from a rough night in Memphis) and Karl-Anthony Towns (29 points on 11-for-16). Overall, it was the Wolves’ most efficient offensive performance of the season (129 points on 100 possessions).

The Wolves have two-day breaks before each of the last two games of their four-game trip, and they’ll have a rest advantage in Philly on Saturday, with the Sixers hosting Milwaukee the night before. The Wolves’ win in Cleveland began a stretch of six straight games against the Eastern Conference, with five of those six on the road.

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Week 5: @ ORL, @ PHI

Record: 6-7

OffRtg: 110.2 (22) DefRtg: 115.2 (28) NetRtg: -5.1 (26) Pace: 102.2 (5)

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The Spurs’ point differential (fifth worst in the league) is still worse than their record. But they went down to the wire in Denver and Memphis last week, missing two really good looks for the win against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. Over the two losses, they scored 114.5 points per 100 non-clutch possessions, but just 18 points on 23 possessions in the clutch, turning the ball over seven times.

The Spurs put an end to their five-game losing streak on Friday, beating the shorthanded Bucks behind a 51 points combined from Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell. Those two were the ones who missed the game-winners on Wednesday, but they’ve each been more efficient — true shooting percentages of 60.4% and 59.1%, up from 57.4% and 54.0%, respectively, last season — with much higher usage rates this season.

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The Milwaukee win was also the second time the Spurs have held their opponent under a point per possession this season. They still rank 28th defensively, having seen the league’s fourth biggest jump in points allowed per 100 possessions from last season (111.7, 16th). Some of that is opponent 3-point shooting, but their opponents have also shot better in the paint. Plus, the Spurs have also seen the third biggest drop in defensive rebounding percentage and now rank last on the defensive glass.

The Spurs’ only stretch of five games in seven nights this season is this week. It’s a five-game trip against the five teams in the Pacific time zone, the start of a stretch of 12 straight games within the Western Conference. They’re 2-5 in conference games thus far, but have played only four of the other 14 teams.

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Week 5: @ GSW, @ POR, @ SAC, @ LAC, @ LAL

Record: 4-9

OffRtg: 110.5 (21) DefRtg: 112.4 (20) NetRtg: -1.9 (22) Pace: 99.2 (20)

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The Magic were certainly a better team than their record showed through their first 11 games. They were 2-9 with eight of those nine losses having been within five points in the last five minutes, and included in that were clutch losses to the Celtics, Cavs and Mavs. And they broke through last week, beating the Mavs and Suns by holding two top-10 offensive teams to just 98.4 points per 100 possessions.

Overall, improvement has come on offense, with the Magic seeing the league’s second biggest jump in points scored per 100 possessions (+6.5) from last season, when they ranked 29th. The improvement isn’t about perimeter shooting, with the Magic currently ranking 22nd in 3-point percentage and having seen the third biggest drop in 3-point rate (3PA/FGA). Their win against the Suns on Friday was actually the first time in their 13 games that the Magic outscored their opponent from 3-point range.

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It’s been inside where they’ve seen a big improvement. They’ve shot a league-best 61.6% in the paint, up from 54.3% (24th) last season. They’ve also seen the league’s seventh biggest jump in free throw rate and its seventh biggest jump in offensive rebounding percentage. Franz Wagner (11.8) and Paolo Banchero (11.8) rank 12th and 13th among individuals in points in the paint per game, and Wagner’s 58.3% shooting in the paint is up from 52.3% last season. The Magic have scored 13.5 more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor (113.0) than they have with him on the bench (99.5).

The Magic never won more than two straight games last season. They’ll have a chance for a three-game winning streak when they host the Hornets on Monday, with their first meeting having been Orlando’s biggest win of the season (they led by as many as 32) thus far.

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Week 5: vs. CHA, vs. MIA, @ CHI, @ IND

Record: 3-10

OffRtg: 105.4 (29) DefRtg: 111.4 (17) NetRtg: -6.0 (27) Pace: 102.6 (3)

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The Lakers’ longest (non-All-Star) break of the season is Monday-Thursday, so it made sense to keep LeBron James (dealing with an adductor strain) out of their weekend games against the Kings and Nets. If he’s able to suit up against the Pistons on Friday, he’ll have had eight full days between games. And the Lakers were able to split the two games without James (and end their second five-game losing streak), with Anthony Davis bullying the Nets to the tune of 37 points (33 in the paint or at the free throw line) and 18 rebounds on Sunday. The Lakers have now lost nine straight games to the Clippers (never leading after the first five minutes on Wednesday), but they did just pass the Clips to climb out of the basement in offensive efficiency.

The defense that ranked second through the Lakers’ first seven games has allowed more than 120 points per 100 possessions over the last six. And that’s with three of those opponents shooting worse than the league average from 3-point range. With their poor shooting from the perimeter, the Lakers need to dominate the paint. But they were outscored in the paint in three of their five losses over the losing streak, allowing the Jazz to total 122 points in the paint over two meetings and the Kings to score 60 in the paint on Friday.

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The Lakers have played one of the league’s toughest schedules to date, with nine of their 13 games having come against teams that currently have winning records. Five of their next six are against the Pistons, Spurs (x 3) and Pacers. They had a rest advantage when they beat the Nets this weekend, and they’ll have rest advantages again on Friday and Sunday. So the next two weeks may be their best (and/or last) chance to keep themselves relevant.

Week 5: vs. DET, vs. SAS

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Record: 3-11

OffRtg: 107.7 (27) DefRtg: 117.7 (30) NetRtg: -9.9 (30) Pace: 100.6 (14)

The Pistons have now trailed *all 14 of their games by double-digits. They came back from a 15-point, halftime deficit to beat the Thunder on Monday, holding OKC to just 40 points on 48 second-half possessions. They did a much better job of cutting off Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s driving lanes and the Thunder shot just 10-for-27 in the paint over those last 24 minutes, with Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren each blocking two shots.

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* The record for most games trailed by double-digits in the previous 26 seasons of play-by-play data is 70, held by the 2009-10 Timberwolves, whose longest streak was 16 straight games. The Thunder led the league last season, trailing 66 (including 25 of their last 26) games by double-digits.

But that was the only half this season that the Pistons have held their opponent under a point per possession. Their defense remains last by a healthy margin and their offense has taken a hit with the loss of Cade Cunningham to shin soreness. Bojan Bogdanovic (53 points on 18-for-30 shooting over his last two games) remains a professional scorer and Killian Hayes did have two of his better shooting games (both against Boston) last week. But that’s a low bar, and the Pistons have scored just 100.2 points per 100 possessions in 272 total minutes with Cunningham off the floor.

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Both Alec Burks and Marvin Bagley III made their season debuts last week. The Pistons’ 30th-ranked defense will face the league’s two worst offenses as their longest road trip of the season (six games over nine days) begins with two games in L.A. on Thursday and Friday. But after that, they’ll play five straight (and nine of their next 11) games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 offensively.

Week 5: vs. TOR, @ LAC, @ LAL, @ SAC

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Record: 3-11

OffRtg: 106.1 (28) DefRtg: 112.2 (18) NetRtg: -6.2 (28) Pace: 100.1 (16)

With LaMelo Ball making his season debut on Saturday, we can hit the reset button on the Hornets. Ball had 15 points and a pretty behind-the-back dime in a loss in Miami, but his debut was the Hornets’ worst defensive game of the season, with the Heat shooting 69% in the paint and scoring 132 points on 103 possessions. That includes 54 points on 35 possessions with Ball and Mason Plumlee on the floor together, and the Hornets have now been 12.0 points per 100 possessions better with Plumlee off the floor (minus-0.1) than they’ve been with him on the floor (minus-12.1).

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Through 14 games, the Hornets have played just 22 total minutes with P.J. Washington at center, while Kai Jones (26) and Mark Williams (13) have logged just 39 minutes total. The absences of versatile forwards Gordon Hayward and Cody Martin (out at least another six weeks) certainly make it tougher to play Washington at the five, but you have to wonder when it will be time to turn to the young bigs.

They’re only at the 14-game mark, and the Hornets have played a relatively tough schedule, with three of their 12 back-to-backs (and their only stretch of five games in seven nights) already in the books. They should have a few opportunities for wins this week, though their first game in Orlando was a 20-point defeat (and the Magic’s first win of the season).

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Week 5: @ ORL, vs. IND, @ CLE, @ WAS

Record: 2-11

OffRtg: 108.4 (26) DefRtg: 116.5 (29) NetRtg: -8.1 (29) Pace: 101.3 (9)

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Only one of the Rockets’ first 30 games is against the other four teams — the Hornets, Pistons, Lakers and Magic — that enter Week 5 with fewer than five wins. The Rockets took advantage of that one opportunity in Orlando on Monday, registering their most efficient offensive performance of the season (134 points on 101 possessions), despite 22 turnovers. Jalen Green broke out of his shooting slump, scoring 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting in the win. And he kept it going over the last two games of the Rockets’ road trip, totaling 54 points on 19-for-34 shooting in Toronto and New Orleans. Green also has more assists over his last four games (19) than he had over his first nine (18).

Kenyon Martin Jr. is having a bit of a resurgence after reportedly asking for a trade over the summer. He’s just 16-for-47 (34%) from 3-point range, but is 6-for-12 from the corners and has shot with more frequency and confidence. He’s also shooting 65% in the paint (he’s second in effective field goal percentage among the seven Rockets with at least 50 field goal attempts) and has led some good bench minutes for the Rockets over the last few games. Houston actually has the league’s seventh-ranked bench in November, having outscored their opponents by 11.8 points per 100 possessions in Tari Eason’s 104 minutes this month.

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The Rockets have played 10 of their 13 games on the road. They’ll now play their next six in the state of Texas, with a rest-advantage game in Dallas on Wednesday.

Week 5: vs. LAC, @ DAL, vs. IND, vs. GSW

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