Unseeded American Sloane Stephens wins US Open for first major title

This was only the seventh time in the Open Era, and the second time at the US Open, that two first-time finalists have faced off in a grand slam final. This also was the first all-American US Open final since 2002, when Serena Williams defeated Venus Williams. Stephens is the first American woman other than the Williams sisters to win a grand slam title in 15 years
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None of this looked possible earlier this summer.
Stephens, who had been sidelined for 11 months after a foot injury and underwent surgery in January, made her comeback at Wimbledon and entered this summer’s US Open Series ranked 957th. But she’s been on a tear in the North American events, reaching the semifinals in Toronto and Cincinnati.
“I had surgery January 23,” Stephens said. “If someone told me then that I’d win the US Open, ‘It’s impossible,’ I would say. ‘It’s absolutely impossible.’ My journey to get here, coming back, just being able to keep it all together and have such a great team behind me — this journey’s been incredible. And I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.”
With the win, Stephens is projected to rise to No. 17. She also nets a hefty payday: $3.7 million. Her career earnings heading into this tournament were $4,519,709, with $310,546 coming this year.
“That’s a lot of money,” a visibly surprised Stephens said, as Keys jokingly tried to take the check.
Keys, 22, is projected to move up to No. 12 by reaching the final.
“Sloane is truly one of my favorite people, and to get to play her was really special,” Keys said. “Obviously, I didn’t play my best tennis today and was disappointed, but Sloane, being the great friend that she was, was very supportive. If there’s someone I have to lose to today, I’m glad it’s her.”
An improbable run
Stephens, who started playing tennis at age 9, comes from an athletic family. Her mother, Smith, is a former collegiate swimmer at Boston University. Her late father, John Stephens, was an NFL running back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Stephens made her breakthrough in 2013 when she defeated Serena Williams to reach the Australian Open semifinal. She would go on to lose to eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.
Her first singles title was in 2015 in Washington. She added three more titles in 2016.
The potential has been there for her to win a grand slam, but what she’s done this summer, considering the circumstances with her previous injury, is shocking.
Heading into Saturday’s final, Stephens had won 14 of her last 16 matches, including defeating No. 9 Venus Williams in the semifinal. She’s one of three players who have never held the No. 1 ranking who have beaten both Williams sisters in grand slam events.
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Stoke 2-2 Manchester United: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scores twice

Stoke 2-2 Man Utd
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Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored twice as Stoke ended Manchester United’s perfect start to the season with a 2-2 draw at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

Summer signing Choupo-Moting put the hosts ahead in the 43rd minute, only for United to reply before the break as Paul Pogba’s header deflected in off Marcus Rashford.

Romelu Lukaku fired United in front in the second half, but Choupo-Moting levelled from a corner in the 63rd minute and Lukaku spurned the best chance for a winner when he swiped a shot over from close range with ten minutes to go.

Tim Duncan pledges to match $1 million for U.S. Virgin Islands relief

Former San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan has never been one to say much, but there was something important he wanted to publicly address — and request — on Friday evening.

Help for his hometown in need.

The U.S. Virgin Islands suffered severe damage due to Hurricane Irma and is bracing for another Category 5 storm, Hurricane Jose, that weather reports say is close behind. Duncan, who grew up in the Virgin Islands before moving to the United States for college in 1993, mentions in The Player’s Tribune he has already donated $250,000 and pledges to match “donations up to the first $1 million.”

I know not everyone can give, and that’s O.K. — after all, a lot of you just got done giving financial support to the victims of Hurricane Harvey and the fires on the West Coast. But if you’re able, here’s what I can promise: Every dollar donated will go directly to relief efforts on the ground. Starting as soon as the weather permits, I’ll be chartering an airplane full of supplies from San Antonio to St. Croix, the biggest town in the Virgin Islands. And I’m already busy putting together a team — some from the Virgin Islands and some who will fly in from elsewhere — to help manage the relief effort.

Deaths have been reported and properties have been destroyed due to the massive hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Duncan asks that donations be made here.Duncan1440-368x207

new hall of famer!

The skinny on jersey numbers — Did you know that not every member of the Basketball Hall of Fame has his jersey retired? The latest player to be inducted into the Hall, and this group, is Tracy McGrady. He starred mostly with the Rockets and Magic and yet his No. 1 doesn’t hang in the ceiling of either team’s arena. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com examined the art of the retired jersey and T-Mac’s role — or lack thereof — in the process:mcgrady_tracy_g_mp_64011

Is it the classic Orlando No. 1 in which he won two scoring titles and established the backboard self alley-oop?

Or is it the red No. 1 on white, the one he wore with the Rockets when he poured in an epic 13 points in the final 35 seconds to beat the Spurs back in 2004?

It’s not an easy answer. And that might be part of the reason that McGrady — for all his other-worldly talents — may find himself in a unique group of NBA legends: in the Hall, but somehow not in the rafters.

It’s looking like McGrady, despite entering the Naismith Hall of Fame on Friday, will not have his jersey retired by either the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic or any of the seven franchises he played for.

“Tracy has been one of my favorite Rockets during my ownership and one of the greatest players in NBA history,” said longtime Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. “I’m incredibly proud of Tracy’s well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame.”

But what about retiring his number?

According to league sources, the Rockets have made no plans to retire McGrady’s jersey in Houston, and revisiting that decision has been put on hold while the new ownership comes into place. Last week, Alexander reportedly agreed to sell the franchise to Tilman Fertitta for $2.2 billion. Currently, Trevor Ariza has been wearing No. 1 for the Rockets over the past three seasons. As of now, he won’t have to find another jersey for training camp.

In Orlando, where McGrady is the all-time leader in points per game, the situation is a little trickier.

Unlike the Rockets — who have retired the jerseys of Clyde Drexler (22), Calvin Murphy (23), Moses Malone (24), Hakeem Olajuwon (34), Rudy Tomjanovich (45) and McGrady’s teammate Yao Ming (11) — the Magic have zero former players whose jerseys hang in the rafters. But if you look up at the Amway Center, you’ll find No. 6, which has been worn only on one occasion in its team history. And it was by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, of all people, in his final season.

But the No. 6 isn’t for Ewing in honor of his four starts with the organization. No. 6 is a tribute to its fans. The Sixth Man. The Orlando Magic, as of now, have no plans to retire a jersey beyond No. 6.

But that doesn’t mean the Magic won’t be honoring McGrady. He could be the seventh member of the Magic Hall of Fame, which, starting in 2014, “celebrates great players, coaches and executives who have had a major impact during the team’s history.” McGrady would join three other players — Nick Anderson, Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway — in the Magic Hall.

But again: a spot in Springfield, but no retired jersey. How rare is that? This hasn’t happened in nearly two decades.

* * *

Wizards look to take over the Nation’s Capitol — For so many years Washington belonged to the Redskins, with good reason; they won Super Bowls. And football is the unofficial national sport. But there’s an uptick with the Wizards right now, and the Redskins haven’t been on championship radar for decades now, and so maybe the time is ripe for a takeover in the pecking order? Perhaps. It’s fashionable to be a Wizards fan right now and John Wall is the coolest pro athlete in town (arguably, anyway). Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post spoke with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis and sends this along:

The Wizards shouldn’t be the least relevant pro sports team in Washington.

That’s so obvious almost no one thinks to say it, but it’s still true. This is one of the most fertile basketball recruiting areas in the country. Two traditional college basketball powers play within a few miles of the White House. A 2011 Washington Post poll of area sports fans found the NBA tied with Major League Baseball for the second-strongest interest.

And yet over the past few years, the Wizards lagged behind. They were usually last among Washington’s four major teams in local television ratings, last in attendance, last in buzz, and a decided last in random sightings of people wearing their gear. The Wizards had about two-thirds the season ticket holders of the Caps last season, plus a worse renewal rate — this in a town more famous for artisanal ice cubes than actual frozen bodies of water.

Well, things might finally, finally be changing. The Wizards’ local TV ratings remained modest last season, but they had the third-biggest increase in the NBA, according to Sports Business Journal. The team’s season-ticket renewal rate is up significantly to around 95 percent; “this was the first offseason that we’ve been kind of like the Caps,” owner Ted Leonsis said in a recent conversation. The team added more than 2,000 new season-ticket holders, too, and should have around 12,000 this year. (The Caps have had around 16,000 in recent years.) The Wizards are uniformly picked as the third- or fourth-best team in the Eastern Conference, which helped earn them a shocking 18 national TV dates this season — nearly double what they were given the past two seasons, combined.

Some skeptics remain, but the past few months have felt significant, from the first division title since the ’70s to the nationally interesting seven-game series with the Celtics. Wall was one of the most captivating figures in the first two rounds of the playoffs, reaching at least the outskirts of the NBA’s core of true stars. During the playoffs, he had the league’s 12th-best selling jersey. (No one on the Redskins, by way of comparison, is in the top 45 of NFL jersey sales.)

Leonsis compared Wall’s supermax to the megadeal Alex Ovechkin once signed with the Capitals: “It was, ‘Wow that’s different — great player wants to spend his career here,’ ” the owner said. And in a star-driven league, having an actual star — someone worthy of an ABC appearance on Christmas night — might finally start winnowing out some of those visiting-team jerseys on F Street.

* * *

MVP odds already? — It’s not too early to weigh the favorites for the MVP race, right? What else is there to do in early September except some forecasting, which is the favorite sport of preseason? Well, then: Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated takes a stab at it and of course it’s filled with the usual suspects, plus a few longshots:

Dirk Nowitzki: 500/1
Dwight Howard: 500/1

Imagine: Dirk enters camp with a bloodstream that’s 85% exotic growth hormone, and he has an out-ofbody experience for seven months straight. He turns the league upside down with 27 and 8, 40 minutes per game, and game-winner after game-winner. The Mavs win 58 games and take the No. 2 seed out West. Nobody’s arguing about the Warriors, there are no Anthony Davis rumors, nobody cares about this year’s Fake Cavs Challenger in the East. By March and April, The Year of Dirk is the only story that matters.

What I’m saying is, the 1-in-500 Dirk MVP season is the greatest possible timeline for the NBA in 2018. Likewise, we don’t need to get into it, but the timeline for the 1-in-500 Dwight Howard MVP season in Charlotte is darker than you can possibly imagine.

Ben Simmons: 75/1
Damian Lillard: 75/1

Damian Lillard has been consistently great for a solid three years now, and at 27 years old, he’s smack in the middle of his prime. He’s on a playoff team with only moderate expectations and real potential to surprise people in the West. He hits big shots as a rule, and he’s the sort of magnetic personality who can build a ton of momentum if things break right along the way. So how—how—does he have the same MVP odds as Ben Simmons?

Simmons hasn’t played a competitive game in more than 18 months. He maybe (probably?) shoots like Rajon Rondo. He’s fought to be announced as the point guard for some reason, even though Markelle Fultz is also on the team. As for magnetism, I’m not sure I’ve heard him speak since the draft 14 months ago.

Between this and the Sixers over/under number—opened at 42.5, bet down to do 40.5, still at least five wins too high—Vegas Sixers hype is one of the more inexplicable phenomenons of the summer. It’s one thing to like the what the Sixers are building, it’s another to expect a real, functional basketball team for the next eight months. This is out of hand. Ben Simmons should have Dwight odds, not Lillard odds.

DeMarcus Cousins: 50/1

OK. Probably a horrible bet. But hear me out: What if Anthony Davis misses a significant amount of time, only the Pels somehow stay afloat? Boogie carries them with something like 30, 12, and 5 while playing the best defense of his career, and they land somewhere in the middle of the West with 50 wins, while the Warriors and Cavs coast, OKC and Houston underwhelm. Granted, this scenario involves both a Brow injury and Boogie turning into a force of stability that he’s never, ever been before. But at least one of those things is a genuine possibility.

Giannis Antetokuonmpo: 10/1

At first, this seemed a little optimistic. Giannis was fantastic last year and I’m sure he’ll be even better this season, but the Bucks were still 42-40 in a terrible conference, and barely squeaked into the playoffs. Jabari Parker’s health this year is an unknown, Khris Middleton isn’t a a convincing enough sidekick, and … Yeah. That’s it. There’s not much else unless you’re banking on a breakout year from Malcolm Brogdon.

But then, that might be why Giannis has a chance. The Bucks have no business winning 50 games, but with Giannis there, you can’t totally count them out, right? The East is even worse than it was last year. Boston has depth issues, and the Cavs may not have a reason to care until March. If Giannis somehow carries this Bucks roster to a top-two seed in the East, he will have as good of a case as anyone. And that scenario’s not quite as crazy as it sounds.

Kyrie Irving: 25/1

The case against Kyrie: the NBA already rewarded a deeply polarizing point guard who plays no defense, and it’s unlikely that Kyrie will be as dominant individually as Westbrook was last year, nor as valuable. There’s a much better chance we spend the entire season yelling about his flaws and whether he can truly be the best player on a contender, because that’s how Kyrie’s career has always been.

The second you think he’s overrated, he’ll go off and drop an effortless 45 and look like the most unstoppable scorer on earth. Then you start talking about him like he’s better than Steph, and he’ll go 7-of-20 from the floor and dribble for 45 minutes straight in a double-digit loss. I don’t think this will change on a new team. Kyrie could average 30 points per game in Boston, be more efficient than he’s ever been, and continue to be the most inscrutable player in the NBA. That’s not an MVP.

Ronaldo Shows Off His New £350,000 Ferrari F12 TDf (With a Top Speed of 211 mph)

Ronaldo shows off his new Ferrari supercarIt goes from 0 to 60 in less than 3 seconds

He already owns a £2 million Bugatti Chiron

It’s a new season and time for a new car. Ronaldo poses next to his Ferrari supercar that has a base price of £350,000 – and that’s without any extras!
Ronaldo’s already got a garage full of ace cars – from Lambos to Astons to Porsches. His last big splurge was a Bugatti Chiron worth around £2 million. 

The new Ferrari F12 TDf was shown off by Ronaldo in an Instagram snap, in which the 32-year-old leaned on the side of the car with the door open, while his son sits in the driver’s seat.
Ronaldo will be able to reach 60mph from a standing start in an incredible 2.9 seconds, while the car’s top speed is reported to be ‘over 211mph’.
The Real Madrid star collected his new car after returning from international duty with Portugal, where he helped his side to wins over the Faroe Islands and Hungary.
He scored a hat-trick in the former, before turning provider for Andre Silva in the slender 1-0 win over Hungary this week.

Jabari and giannis comine for 58 points in win over the bulls

Jabari And Giannis Combine For 58 Points In Win Over Bulls
December 15, 2016 by Luka Dukich
The Bulls, at least, gave them a scare. The Bulls Thursday came back from a 26-point third quarter deficit and 20 in the fourth quarter to get within eight points with three minutes left. But the Bucks held on for a 108-97 victory over the Bulls.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 21 points, Dwayne Wade with 20 and Taj Gibson with 19.
It was the first of a Bulls/Bucks back to back with the Bucks in the United Center Friday. The Bulls fell to 13-12 while the Bucks are 12-12.
The Bulls got Rajon Rondo back from his sprained ankle and missing a game, but it was the Bucks who got back the running game as they had a 10-0 fast break advantage in the first quarter, Jabari Parker with a pair of run out dunks for a 30-18 Milwaukee lead after one quarter. Parker had 28 points. The Bucks got surprising perimeter shooting from Giannis Antetokounmpo, making his first three jump shots and both threes in the first quarter as he and Parker each had a dozen points. He led the Bucks with 30 points. The Bulls couldn’t get much going as coach Fred Hoiberg again altered the rotation with Bobby Portis off the bench first and Denzel Valentine getting first quarter playing time. The Bucks led 16-8 and closed the quarter with an Antetokounmpo three with a second left after a Bulls shot clock violation and failing to get back again.
And then it got worse as the Bulls committed four consecutive turnovers early in the second quarter and Bucks reserve Mirza Teletovic hit a pair of threes and scored on a three-point play as the Bucks blew out to a 49-26 lead five minutes into the second quarter. The Bucks continues to run and dunk like it was a playground game, ahead 58-31 with three minutes left in the half after a Tony Snell dunk over Gibson. That was the biggest Milwaukee lead. Though Gibson kept the Bulls in the game with his interior scoring, 17 first half points as the Bulls climbed back within 64-45 at halftime after a 14-6 close to the second quarter. But it was a tough first half for the Bulls with 10 turnovers for 16 Bucks points, 14-4 Milwaukee on fast breaks and 55 percent Bucks shooting with eight of 10 three pointers. The Bulls were one of nine on threes.
The third quarter began no better for the Bulls as they fouled their way into the penalty three minutes into the quarter and fell back behind 76-50 after another turnover led to a fast break dunk. But they finally began to show aggression with Butler hammering his way to the basket for a basket and four free throws than enabled the Bulls to get back within 84-64 with two minutes left in the third quarter as Hoiberg stayed with the same rotation with Nikola Mirotic getting his first did not play. After three quarters, the Bulls still trailed 88-66. The wakeup call then came in as with Wade awakening, the Bulls went on a 12-0 run to get within 95-81 with seven minutes left. Antetokounmpo broke the run, but the Bulls were suddenly a different team hustling, and attacking the basket to get within 101-92 on a Doug McDermott three with 4:13 left.

power rankings

We went into this season thinking that the that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers were head and shoulders above the rest of their respective conferences.

In the first quarter of the season, the LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors have both, for the most part, proven to be solid No. 2 teams in the West and East. But last week, the Warriors and Cavs kept those opponents in their place. On Monday, the champs beat the Raptors for the third time (by four points or less) this season. Then on Wednesday, the Warriors were up 20 points before the end of the first quarter in their first meeting with the Clips.

The Warriors did get beat by the Memphis Grizzlies, who get two shots at the Cavs this week. And both teams have some unfinished business against other teams (like the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls) within their conference. But with 13 days until their Christmas Day Finals rematch, Golden State and Cleveland have clearly maintained their status as the teams to beat in each conference.

  • Hero team of the week: Memphis (4-0) — The Grizzlies were doing their win-close-games-against-bad-teams thing until they went and thumped the Warriors on Saturday. They’re no longer just trying to hold on without Mike Conley.
  • Zero team of the week: L.A. Lakers (0-4) — The Lakers have been dealing with injuries and playing some good teams, but their six-game losing streak includes a loss at home to Phoenix.
  • East vs. West: The West is 73-66 (.525) against the East in interconference games, but the East was 12-11 last week. The Warriors (6-0) are the only team without at least one win and one loss against the opposite conference.
  • Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Dallas, 2. Miami, 3. L.A. Lakers
  • Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Memphis, 2. Golden State, 3. Milwaukee
  • Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
  • High jumps of the week: Washington (+5), Atlanta (+4), Memphis (+4)
  • Free falls of the week: Boston (-4), L.A. Lakers (-3), Eight teams (-2)
  • Team to watch this week: Memphis — The No. 1 defensive team in the league puts a six-game winning streak on the line with a home-and-home against Cleveland’s third-ranked offense and finishes its week with a big Western Conference game against Utah.

***

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 is averaging 98.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.4 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.

***

1
Last week:
1

Record: 21-4
Pace: 102.6 (3) OffRtg: 114.2 (1) DefRtg: 102.3 (10) NetRtg:+11.9 (1)

The Warriors had some serious highs and lows last week, but it’s far to say that the former outweighed the latter. Saturday’s visit to Memphis brought their worst offensive game of the season, with 23 turnovers and just 15 assists. But against Indiana on Monday, their third best scorer dropped 60 points in three quarters. There was a 37-19 first quarter in L.A. on Wednesday, a 19-1 run in the first quarter in Utah a night later, and a 25-4 start to the fourth quarter in Minnesota on Sunday. The avalanche comes more often than not and it’s near impossible to stop.

This week: @ NOP, vs. NYK, vs. POR

2
Last week:
5

Record: 17-5
Pace: 99.2 (14) OffRtg: 112.0 (3) DefRtg: 104.7 (17) NetRtg:+7.3 (4)

After scoring less than a point per possession over their three-game losing streak, the Cavs have scored 123 per 100 over a four-game winning streak, with LeBron James averaging 32.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists (and making 18 of his 34 shots from outside the paint over the last three). So it’s a good time for a home-and-home series with the new No. 1 defense in the league. Though DeAndre Liggins played well in J.R. Smith’s absence for two games, Ty Lue kept his rotation short upon Smith’s return, handing Mike Dunleavy a DNP in Saturday’s win over Charlotte.

This week: vs. MEM, @ MEM, vs. LAL

3
Last week:
2

Record: 19-5
Pace: 95.9 (27) OffRtg: 108.1 (6) DefRtg: 101.7 (8) NetRtg: +6.5 (6)

Thursday’s loss in Chicago wasn’t only the Spurs’ first defeat on the road (after a 13-0 start). It also ended an 11-game winning streak in games that were within five points in the last five minutes (though they never led). Their defense still isn’t nearly at the level it was last season, but has allowed less than a point per possession over the last seven games to get back into the top 10 on that end of the floor. Tony Parker has been in and out of the lineup, but Patty Mills has remained a reserve and has averaged 15.7 points on 50 percent shooting over the last three games.

This week: vs. BOS, @ PHX, vs. NOP

4
Last week:
3

Record: 16-7
Pace: 97.3 (23) OffRtg: 114.2 (2) DefRtg: 104.4 (15) NetRtg:+9.8 (3)

The Raptors played another close game against the Cavs, but have now lost five straight (going back to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals) to the champs, who they don’t play again until the last night of the season. Their mediocre starting lineup was a minus-17 in that game, one of three that they trailed by double-digits last week. But they’re 16-3 against teams that weren’t in The Finals six months ago after comeback wins over the Wolves and Celtics. The two teams essentially tied for the best OffRtg in the league are the team – Golden State – with the highest assist percentage in 13 years and the team – Toronto – with the seventh lowest assist rate in the same span. There’s more than one way to score efficiently.

This week: vs. MIL, @ PHI, vs. ATL, @ ORL

5
Last week:
6

Record: 17-7
Pace: 99.8 (11) OffRtg: 110.9 (4) DefRtg: 105.0 (19) NetRtg:+5.8 (7)

The offense has been the story all season in Houston, but after holding their opponent under a point per possession just three times through their first 20 games, they’ve done it in each of their last three. They have a six-game winning streak with the league’s fourth best defense in December, thanks in part to Patrick Beverley’s defense on Russell Westbrook (who shot 8-for-25) in Friday’s win in Oklahoma City. Eric Gordon has now hit at least three 3-pointers in nine straight games, shooting 52 percent from beyond over that stretch. And three of the Rockets’ next four opponents rank in the bottom 10 in 3-point defense.

This week: vs. BKN, vs. SAC, vs. NOP, @ MIN

6
Last week:
4

Record: 17-7
Pace: 98.7 (18) OffRtg: 110.1 (5) DefRtg: 100.2 (2) NetRtg: +9.8 (2)

The Clippers played the Warriors even over the last three quarters on Wednesday, but that didn’t matter after a first periodin which they had more turnovers (nine – seven that were live balls) than baskets (eight). That was their seventh straight loss to Golden State, but the first in which a former Warrior called out his current team for complaining too much. Chris Paul pushed his assist-to-turnover ratio back over 4.0 with 20 (an NBA season high) and zero in Saturday’s win over New Orleans (played without Blake Griffin), the Clips’ most efficient offensive game of the season.

This week: vs. POR, @ ORL, @ MIA, @ WAS

7
Last week:
11

Record: 17-8
Pace: 95.7 (28) OffRtg: 99.8 (27) DefRtg: 99.5 (1) NetRtg: +0.2 (14)

The Grizzlies have won six straight games for the second time this season. The first five wins on this streak were by a total of 13 points over five opponents that have losing records. The sixth was by 21 … over the Warriors, Golden State’s worst offensive game of the season. They’ve earned that No. 1 ranking on defense and must continue to earn it, as that was just the second game of a stretch where they’re playing seven of nine games against top-10 offenses. Marc Gasol has averaged 25.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists over the winning streak and while Toney Douglas has only 17 points with Memphis, seven of the 17 came in the final minute of Thursday’s two-point win over Portland. So he’s fitting in just fine.

This week: @ CLE, vs. CLE, vs. SAC, vs. UTA

8
Last week:
9

Record: 15-10
Pace: 93.7 (30) OffRtg: 107.8 (7) DefRtg: 101.3 (5) NetRtg: +6.6 (5)

The Jazz have missed a total of 39 games from four starters, and all four missed Thursday’s loss to Golden State. But the additions they made to their bench have paid off and the fifth starter has been much improved. Rudy Gobert ranks third in rim protection(having defended almost four more shots at the rim per game than the top two guys), has grabbed 10-plus rebounds in 10 straight games, and has averaged 18.3 points over his last four(though only one of his 23 baskets has come from outside the restricted area). That’s the highest four-game scoring average of his career. With games against the two teams directly ahead of them in the standings this week, it would be nice for the Jazz to get George Hill (toe) and/or Rodney Hood (hamstring) back.

This week: vs. OKC, vs. DAL, @ MEM

9
Last week:
10

Record: 15-9
Pace: 101.5 (5) OffRtg: 102.9 (17) DefRtg: 101.5 (7) NetRtg:+1.4 (13)

Russell Westbrook ran his triple-double streak to seven games, but the Thunder’s winning streak came to an end when he missed a free throw to tie and three shots for the lead against Houston on Friday. So he went back to just a regular (and spectacular) double-double (37, 12 and six) in Sunday’s win over Boston. Lost in the streak was that the Thunder defense ranks third since Thanksgiving and that they’ve managed not to lose leads with Westbrook off the floor in that time. Victor Oladipo’s week started with a nasty dunk over Dwight Howard and ended with a nasty fall over Jonas Jerebko.

This week: @ POR, @ UTA, vs. PHX

10
Last week:
8

Record: 13-10
Pace: 97.9 (20) OffRtg: 105.0 (12) DefRtg: 102.3 (9) NetRtg:+2.7 (9)

Despite the return of Doug McDermott, the Bulls’ 3-point shooting remains awful (22 percent over their last eight games), resulting in some erratic offensive performances over the last couple of weeks. They’ve also lost eight straight fourth quarters. But they were the first team this season to win a home game against the Spurs because they got 22 more free throws than San Antonio on Thursday. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler averaged 20.5 free throws between them over their four games last week and the Bulls are one of four teams that ranks in the top 10 in both free throw rate (where they’re the most improved team from last season) and opponent free throw rate.

This week: vs. MIN, @ MIL, vs. MIL

11
Last week:
7

Record: 13-11
Pace: 98.3 (19) OffRtg: 106.5 (9) DefRtg: 104.5 (16) NetRtg:+2.1 (10)

The Celtics’ starting lineup hasn’t been bad and Avery Bradley has made 10 of his 16 threes as Isaiah Thomas has missed the last three games with a groin strain (with Marcus Smart starting in the backcourt). But the bench has had issues and they blew leads of 14 and 13 points to the Raptors and Thunder over the weekend. Prior to that, they blew an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead in Houston and Al Horford blew a layup for the win. With that kind of week, they lost their status as the league’s best fourth-quarter team to the team – Toronto – they’re clearly still a step behind in the Atlantic Division.

This week: @ SAS, vs. CHA, @ MIA

12
Last week:
14

Record: 14-10
Pace: 99.1 (15) OffRtg: 104.6 (13) DefRtg: 101.3 (6) NetRtg:+3.3 (8)

The Hornets remain the best third-quarter team in the leagueand, as a result, are one of two teams (the Spurs are the other) with a winning record (7-6) after trailing at halftime. But they were one of four East teams that the Cavs kept in the rear view mirror last week, unable to slow down LeBron James on Saturday. The Hornets themselves are three games into a critical stretch where they’re playing 13 of 14 games within the East, so seeing Kemba Walker go down after colliding with James in the fourth quarter was a huge scare. But he should be OK for the rest of their five-game trip.

This week: @ IND, @ WAS, @ BOS, @ ATL

13
Last week:
16

Record: 14-10
Pace: 99.1 (16) OffRtg: 105.1 (11) DefRtg: 107.9 (26) NetRtg:-2.8 (19)

The Knicks got humbled by the Cavs on Wednesday, have a bottom-five defense, and are the only team with a winning record and a negative point differential. But they’re beating the teams they’re supposed to, now holding an 11-2 record (and eight straight wins) against teams currently under .500. Carmelo Anthony took advantage of being defended by Miami’s makeshift small forwards on Tuesday and by the Kings on Friday. When he had a rough night (4-for-16) in L.A. on Sunday, Derrick Rose came back from a two-game absence and looked terrific in scoring 25 points on 12-for-16 shooting.

This week: @ PHX, @ GSW, @ DEN

14
Last week:
12

Record: 13-13
Pace: 96.0 (26) OffRtg: 102.6 (21) DefRtg: 100.6 (4) NetRtg:+1.9 (12)

Reggie Jackson has shot just 35 percent in his first five games of the season, but the Pistons’ results in those five games have been more about how they’ve performed with Jackson off the floor. In the two wins, they were a plus-28 in 49 minutes with Jackson on the bench. In the three losses, they were a minus-35 in 67 minutes with him on the bench. And two of those losses were against teams – Orlando and Philadelphia – with two of the six worst benches in the league. This week’s opponents are all in that group too, with Saturday’s game against Indiana a big matchup in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

This week: @ DAL, @ WAS, vs. IND

15
Last week:
13

Record: 12-12
Pace: 100.2 (9) OffRtg: 103.0 (16) DefRtg: 105.6 (21) NetRtg:-2.7 (18)

The Pacers had bench issues earlier in the season, but their starting lineup was a minus-43 in four games last week, allowing 126 points per 100 possessions. Paul George saved Saturday’s game against Portland with a personal 13-4 run down the stretch and is now shooting 59 percent in the clutch, the second best mark among players with at least 20 attempts. He had shot a brutal 17 percent on shots in the last minute with the game within three over the last five seasons, but is 2-for-5 on those shots this season after following up his own miss with a big dunk on Saturday.

This week: vs. CHA, @ MIA, @ NOP, @ DET

16
Last week:
20

Record: 12-12
Pace: 101.4 (6) OffRtg: 99.8 (26) DefRtg: 100.5 (3) NetRtg: -0.7 (15)

After scoring less than a point per possession in 11 straight games, the Hawks broke out for 108 per 100 in wins over the Heat and Bucks last week (recording a season-high 32 assists on Friday). Dwight Howard had a big game (23 and 17) against Hassan Whiteside, Dennis Schroder (33 points) had a big game against Milwaukee, and Paul Millsap has been really good since returning from a three-game absence. Kent Bazemore’s absence in the last two games has meant that Kyle Korver is still a de facto starter coming off the bench.

This week: vs. ORL, @ TOR, vs. CHA

17
Last week:
15

Record: 11-11
Pace: 99.5 (12) OffRtg: 104.6 (14) DefRtg: 102.5 (11) NetRtg:+2.0 (11)

The Bucks’ last five games have all been within five points in the last five minutes. And while their offense has been generally good over those five games, it’s had some ugly stretches late. They committed three brutal turnovers in the final two minutes of Monday’s loss to San Antonio and shot 3-for-19 in the last five minutes of weekend losses to Atlanta and Washington that knocked them out of playoff position, with their next five games against teams with winning records. They rank 29th in offensive efficiency in the clutch, ahead of only Sacramento.

This week: @ TOR, vs. CHI, @ CHI

18
Last week:
17

Record: 12-13
Pace: 100.7 (8) OffRtg: 107.2 (8) DefRtg: 109.5 (28) NetRtg:-2.3 (17)

In Memphis on Thursday, the Grizzlies did their best to take the ball out of Damian Lillard’s and C.J. McCollum’s hands, and their teammates shot 24 percent (including 1-for-17 from 3-point range). In Indiana on Saturday, Lillard (first period) and McCollum (third) each scored 19 points in a quarter, but the Blazers’ defense couldn’t hold on to a 20-point lead. They’ve lost three straight and finish their five-game trip with a visit to the Clippers. The last time they were at Stapes Center (Nov. 9), they were down 48 points in the third quarter.

This week: @ LAC, vs. OKC, @ DEN, @ GSW

19
Last week:
19

Record: 10-15
Pace: 96.7 (24) OffRtg: 98.0 (29) DefRtg: 103.5 (12) NetRtg:-5.6 (26)

After a 4-1 road trip in which they allowed just 98 points per 100 possessions, the Magic have lost three straight games, allowing 121 and getting destroyed in the paint (by a cumulative score of 170-90). When you have the league’s fourth lowest effective field goal percentage outside the paint (44.4 percent) and big frontline, you need to win the paint battle. But no team has been outscored in the paint this season more than the Magic and their paint discrepancy has been worst with their current starting frontline – Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo – on the floor together.

Magic have been destroyed in the paint w/ Biyombo & Ibaka on the floor together. Not good when you have 4th lowest eFG% outside the paint.

This week: @ ATL, vs. LAC, vs. BKN, vs. TOR

20
Last week:
25

Record: 9-13
Pace: 99.2 (13) OffRtg: 103.3 (15) DefRtg: 105.3 (20) NetRtg:-2.0 (16)

The only game the Wizards lost in their last four was the one (vs. Orlando on Tuesday) in which John Wall scored 52 points. Maybe Scott Brooks needed to play Wall with Bradley Beal, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Otto Porter for more than 16 seconds in that game. That group (playing mostly with Marcin Gortat) was a plus-23 in 22 minutes in wins over Denver and Milwaukee on Thursday and Saturday. Oubre scored a career-high 19 points in the Milwaukee win and Porter ranks fifth in true shooting percentage among 113 players who have taken at least 200 shots.

This week: @ MIA, vs. CHA, vs. DET, vs. LAC

21
Last week:
18

Record: 10-16
Pace: 101.7 (4) OffRtg: 102.9 (18) DefRtg: 109.7 (30) NetRtg:-6.8 (27)

D’Angelo Russell’s return from an 11-game absence and a (rare) good shooting game from Luol Deng against the Knicks on Sunday weren’t enough to stop the Lakers’ losing streak, which has now reached six games and taken them back to familiar territory: No. 30 in defensive efficiency. It may not be a great time for their longest road trip of the season (seven games), but four of the seven opponents have bottom-10 offenses and only one (Cleveland) ranks in the top 10 offensively.

This week: @ SAC, @ BKN, @ PHI, @ CLE

22
Last week:
22

Record: 8-15
Pace: 97.6 (22) OffRtg: 102.7 (19) DefRtg: 105.8 (22) NetRtg:-3.1 (21)

Dave Joerger is still searching. Ben McLemore went from three straight DNPs to three straight starts (in which he shot 7-for-23) last week, but finishes were more important than starts over the weekend. The Kings fell to 4-11 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes with Friday’s loss to the Knicks (in which DeMarcus Cousins missed a layup for the lead with 21 seconds left). Then they shot 3-for-22 in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss in Utah. They’ve lost five of their last six games, with Cousins shooting less than 40 percent in that stretch.

This week: vs. LAL, @ HOU, @ MEM, @ DAL

23
Last week:
21

Record: 7-17
Pace: 96.2 (25) OffRtg: 100.2 (25) DefRtg: 104.1 (14) NetRtg:-3.9 (23)

The Heat have lost five straight games, completing a stretch where they played 10 of 13 on the road. They allowed 110 points per 100 possessions over those 13 games after allowing just 97 through their first 11 (with Justise Winslow’s continued absence being important context). They’re still banged up, but a six-game homestand (their longest of the season) that begins Monday may be their last chance to get back to being competitive in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Four of the six games are against teams that are .500 or below.

This week: vs. WAS, vs. IND, vs. LAC, vs. BOS

24
Last week:
26

Record: 9-15
Pace: 101.4 (7) OffRtg: 102.6 (20) DefRtg: 106.6 (24) NetRtg:-4.0 (24)

The Nuggets have had an interesting road trip to say the least. They had a brutal start (trailing by 29 at one point) in Brooklyn on Wednesday and a brutal finish (four points and nine turnovers in their final 21 possessions) in Washington on Thursday. Kenneth Faried was DNP-CD’d in that Washington loss, but came back to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds off the bench in Saturday’s win in Orlando. With one more game left on the trip, they’re a plus-55 with Jameer Nelson on the floor and a minus-49 with Emmanuel Mudiay on the floor through the first five games.

This week: @ DAL, vs. POR, vs. NYK

25
Last week:
23

Record: 8-17
Pace: 99.9 (10) OffRtg: 100.4 (24) DefRtg: 104.0 (13) NetRtg:-3.6 (22)

Alvin Gentry went with a lineup of four guards – Tim Frazier, Langston Galloway, Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore – plus Anthony Davis for the final seven minutes of Sunday’s win in Phoenix. The group wasn’t great, but managed to get enough stops in overtime to end the Pelicans’ five-game losing streak and survive one of Davis’ worst games of the season. Two of those guys – Holiday and Moore – had been unavailable for the previous three games. Buddy Hield remained in the starting lineup after the pair returned and has hit at least two threes in five straight games, but has shot 5-for-17 in the paint over that stretch.

This week: vs. GSW, vs. IND, @ HOU, @ SAS

26
Last week:
24

Record: 6-18
Pace: 97.7 (21) OffRtg: 106.1 (10) DefRtg: 109.2 (27) NetRtg:-3.1 (20)

This rough stretch of schedule (bookended by close-but-not-close-enough losses to the Warriors) has hit the Wolves hard. They’ve lost eight of their last nine games, allowing more than 117 points per 100 possessions, including 124 in the fourth quarter, which they lost by a combined score of 142-90 in four games last week. Better defense has to start in transition and this week’s two opponents rank in the top six in fast break points per game. The Wolves do have a much-needed, three-day break after Tuesday’s game in Chicago, but the really winnable games don’t come until next week.

This week: @ CHI, vs. HOU

27
Last week:
27

Record: 7-17
Pace: 103.9 (1) OffRtg: 101.6 (22) DefRtg: 106.7 (25) NetRtg:-5.0 (25)

Eric Bledsoe has had two straight big games (62 total points against the Lakers and Pelicans over the weekend), Tyson Chandler (41 rebounds over the last three games) has looked strong, and the Suns’ latest starting lineup was pretty strong defensively last week (with P.J. Tucker again slowing down Anthony Davis). The bench helped them erase a 23-point deficit (before falling down the stretch) in Utah on Tuesday, but had issues as they blew a 15-point lead to the Pelicans on Sunday. Though that game went to overtime, Brandon Knight played a season-low 16 minutes.

This week: vs. NYK, vs. SAS, @ OKC

28
Last week:
30

Record: 6-18
Pace: 98.8 (17) OffRtg: 96.8 (30) DefRtg: 104.9 (18) NetRtg:-8.1 (29)

The Sixers are on their second winning streak of the season, picking up road wins Nos. 1 and 2 in New Orleans and Detroit. They rank fifth defensively over the last three-plus weeks and could continue to rise on that end of the floor with five straight games against below-average offenses after Wednesday’s visit from the Raptors and only one back-to-back in the next month. But Joel Embiid is dealing with an elbow injury and Nerlens Noel turned an ankle in the first half of his season debut on Sunday.

This week: vs. TOR, vs. LAL, vs. BKN

29
Last week:
28

Record: 6-16
Pace: 103.9 (2) OffRtg: 101.0 (23) DefRtg: 109.6 (29) NetRtg:-8.6 (30)

The Nets can get three-happy at times, but clearly made an effort to get into the paint more often last week, the first time they’ve taken more than half of their shots in the paint in three straight games. Of course, Wednesday’s wire-to-wire win over Denver was sandwiched by another brutal third quarter against Washington and a thumping at the hands of the Spurs. They could get their primary paint attacker back on Monday, as Jeremy Lin, having missed the last 17 games, is listed as “probable” for their visit to Houston.

This week: @ HOU, vs. LAL, @ ORL, @ PHI

30
Last week:
29

Record: 5-18
Pace: 93.9 (29) OffRtg: 98.2 (28) DefRtg: 106.0 (23) NetRtg:-7.9 (28)

Wesley Matthews’ shooting has improved as the season has gone on, and no player has more 3-pointers over their team’s last five games. But with Andrew Bogut going down with a knee injury in the first quarter of Monday’s loss to Charlotte, the Mavs’ problems have gone from offense to defense, where they allowed 118 points per 100 possessions in four games last week. They’ve allowed just 95.3 in Bogut’s 400 minutes on the floor and 112.0 in 714 minutes with him off the floor. Of course, with a lot of players being added to the eligible-to-be-traded list on Thursday and the Mavs going nowhere, Bogut (in the last year of a reasonable contract) is (and will continue to be) the subject of trade rumors.

This week: vs. DEN, vs. DET, @ UTA, vs. SAC