NBA Power Rankings 2015: Sizing Up the Association Ahead of Season's Final Week
It's a good thing, then, that we don't have to do that just yet. There are still a handful of days left in a 2014-15 campaign that's been equal parts thrilling, heartbreaking, unpredictable and unbelievable.
Not to mention the remaining gamut of emotions that the last five-and-a-half months have evoked.
We've laughed, cried, cheered and jeered—and that was just during Bulls vs. Heat on Thursday.
But before we start waxing nostalgic about a season that's not yet through, let's do our weekly dance around the Association by way of power rankings. Here's what the league looks like now, with teams ordered according to recent performance and available personnel.
30. New York Knicks
For those New York Knicks fans out there who are worried that James Dolan will take this dismal season as a sign that he should meddle in the franchise's basketball affairs again, let the owner put you at ease. During a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter's Matthew Belloni, Dolan insisted that he still has full faith and confidence in Phil Jackson's ability to turn things around from the front office.
You're paying Phil Jackson $12 million a year for five years. Still worth it?
You got to believe, baby! I believe, I believe!
Jackson has said he was assured by you that there wouldn't be any interference. But at what point does the leash get tugged?
I don't see it happening. Phil is a brilliant basketball guy, and he and Steve [Mills] are working together great.
You enjoy losing?
No, I enjoy being out of the limelight. I enjoy having two experts in there that I trust. I barely have to do a thing. It can stay like that for me forever. As long as we continue to make progress—and I'm sure we will. I believe!
The question is, does anyone believe J.D. is, indeed, shooting straight? And if not, how long might it be before the Zen Master joins Donnie Walsh among those who've been undercut by the billionaire heir?
29. Minnesota Timberwolves
Listen, folks: I understand the temptation to flirt with Nikola Mirotic, Nerlens Noel and Elfrid Payton as Rookie of the Year candidates. But those newbies, tremendous though their recent play has been, are still Johnny-come-latelies when compared to Andrew Wiggins.
And it's not as though Wiggins has slowed much (if at all) from his earlier pace. Over his last four games, the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves averaged 25.5 points, five rebounds and three assists in a whopping 40.3 minutes.
In other words, the kid is not coasting to the award. He's putting in the work, even as the T-Wolves' current skid stretches to eight games.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
While watching the (relative) successes that Steve Kerr and Brad Stevens have enjoyed in Golden State and Boston, respectively, it's easy to forget that, when it comes to new entrants into the NBA head coaching ranks, they're much closer to the exception than the norm. A quick glance at Brett Brown's situation with the Philadelphia 76ers serves as a reminder in that regard.
Granted, Brown's circumstances are atypical in their own right. His Sixers have been a revolving door of bargain-basement players the likes of which the league has never seen. At the very least, that extreme degree of instability is a far cry from the historic consistency with which the San Antonio Spurs thrived while Brown was on Gregg Popovich's staff.
"I knew what I was getting into when I left Disneyland," Brown told The New York Times' Michael Sokolove. "What we're doing here is we're looking to become great. We're trying to figure out how to build this thing, and it's a process."
For now, the process remains plenty painful. The Sixers have lost their last seven in a row—their second-longest skid of the 2014-15 season.
On the bright side, the misery will soon be over. Come April 15, Philly's second-straight sorry campaign will be a thing of the past.
27. Los Angeles Lakers
To folks who aren't familiar with L.A.'s sports history, the Lakers' back-to-back losses to the Clippers this past week—and the five in a row by the former to the latter prior to those—might make it seem as though a true changing of the guard is afoot. Talk to anyone closely affiliated with the two teams, though, and you'll hear a very different story.
"No, only in the standings. Never in the heart of L.A.," Lakers broadcaster Mychal Thompson, who played on some of the famous Showtime teams, told Bleacher Report. "In the standings, definitely. But this will always be a Laker town."
Think Thompson is too partisan? How about Ralph Lawler, who's seen more Clippers basketball than anyone?
"It's going to take several lifetimes to overcome the Lakers, how inbred they are in the fans in this town because you're not just talking about fathers and sons, mothers and daughters," Lawler told Bleacher Report. "You're talking about grandparents and great grandparents who have been fans of this franchise since the 1960s, when they debuted with the likes of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, for crying out loud."
The Lakers' glorious past can only do so much to soothe the pain of the present. But as far as the future is concerned, the Lakers can take heart in the knowledge that a relatively expedient turnaround will bring their legions of loyal fans back out of the woodwork in short order.
26. Sacramento Kings
Same stuff, different week for the Sacramento Kings.
Off the court, the revolving door in Sacramento's front office continues to spin. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Vlade Divac is now effectively in charge of basketball operations, which calls general manager Pete D'Alessandro's future with the franchise into question:
The future of D'Alessandro in Sacramento, especially after the departure of his closest ally in the organization in [Chris] Mullin, is unclear. Sources say, however, that the Kings have already launched a search to add another front-line basketball executive to work alongside Divac whether D'Alessandro stays or departs.
It's only fitting that a team in California's capital would be subject to so much political drama. Kings fans can only hope that the latest shake-up will yield some semblance of stability in the years to come.
25. Denver Nuggets
All you amateur capologists out there would do well to study the moves the down-and-out Denver Nuggets just made.
The Nuggets won Shavlik Randolph's rights on a waiver claim this past week. The team, though, doesn't plan to employ Randolph. Rather, the idea is to bring him in just long enough to boost the Nuggets' total player expenditures closer to the league-wide salary floor and then release him, with the hope of opening up some roster flexibility.
Let The Denver Post's Christopher Dempsey explain:
If he clears waivers, then the Nuggets have the benefit of keeping the cap hit—and thus their current proximity to the salary floor—while still having a roster spot with which to sign a prospective player, if they choose to do that.
In that scenario, the Nuggets could take the prorated salary they would have paid to Randolph for the final week of the season and apply that to whomever they acquire for the remainder of the regular season, which is down to four games. Then, they would have that player on their roster for the summer and into training camp in order to get a good look at him.
If that all of this comes to pass, in real dollars the Nuggets would save approximately $1.2 million because the majority of Randolph's salary is being taken care of by Phoenix and Boston, two teams he played for this season.
Confused? Bored? Don't care? Then maybe this whole capology thing isn't for you.
24. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic have strung together their first three-game winning streak since February, with plenty of help from Nikola Vucevic. The Montenegrin big man has averaged 26.3 points and 10.3 rebounds during this spurt, but it's his defense and passing that have made the strongest impressions therein.
"Defensively, he has gotten much better," Magic coach James Borrego said, per the Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins. "He is challenging more shots. He's a little more physical inside than what we've seen in the past. His challenge is to do that more consistently throughout a game. Offensively, we're seeing a much more confident player."
The more of that player the Magic see next season, the closer they'll come to finally ditching their post-Dwight Howard doldrums.
23. Detroit Pistons
Few enduring relationships are forged without growing pains along the way. If Stan Van Gundy and Andre Drummond become two peas in a professional pod for the Detroit Pistons, they may be able to point to a tiff during Wednesday's loss to the Boston Celtics as a watershed moment.
In the third quarter, Van Gundy yanked Drummond from the game after the 21-year-old center failed to get back on defense. Drummond was displeased with the move and sat down at the end of the bench before Van Gundy dragged him back into the middle of the sideline pack.
According to MLive's David Mayo, Van Gundy said:
I just brought him back in from the end of the bench, into the team. I don't have a problem when guys are pissed off at me. I don't. But they can't check out on their teammates because they're pissed off at me, and I think he understood that and came back and was fine. Good guy. He's a good guy. I was upset at what he did and he understood that—might not have liked it. I understood why he was upset.
Both player and coach claimed after the game that this disagreement was already water under the bridge by the time the final buzzer had sounded. If that's truly the case, the Pistons have to be pleased with the way things are coming along between Van Gundy and his most important pupil.
22. Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets have been all but eliminated from playoff contention. As of Thursday, they sat three games back of the East's No. 8 seed, with games against the Hawks, Pistons, Rockets and Raptors still to be decided.
Assuming that final nail finds its way into the proverbial coffin, Charlotte can start to turn its attention toward an important summer. Chief among the Hornets' concerns will be their relationship with Al Jefferson, who, as Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote, has a pivotal decision ahead of him: "Jefferson faces an interesting choice this summer; he holds a $13.5 million player option for next season, and if he declines it to enter free agency, the Hornets will have to decide whether to commit big bucks to a slow-footed 30-year-old with bad wheels."
All the more reason, then, for the Hornets to use what remains of the 2014-15 campaign to evaluate the viability of rookie Noah Vonleh as a long-term replacement for Big Al should Jefferson opt out.
21. Phoenix Suns
Where there's smoke, there's usually fire. Assuming that old saying is true, the Phoenix Suns might want to keep an extinguisher handy.
The Suns were officially eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday—the result of a 107-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. There's no shortage of scapegoats for Phoenix's failure to build on last season's 48-34 surprise, but Gerald Green appears to be the latest one to shoulder blame.
"[Green] never really seemed to get it going and then it comes to the point where, if you're not scoring and if your defense isn't picking up, it's hard to stay in the game," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said, per AZCentral Sports' Paul Coro. "The next guy is going, 'I needed help here and the guy wasn't here.' We're trying to develop something for the future, not just being out here for everybody to play in the game. We want to get to a top-notch winning level, and you've got to do it on both sides."
Green's agent, Kevin Bradbury of BDA Sports, didn't take too kindly to Hornacek's harsh assessment of his client's contributions.
"It's unfortunate because the team isn't where some people thought it would or should be at this point in the season," Bradbury told Sporting News' Sean Deveney. "I'm not sure why that falls on one guy all of a sudden, especially when they have known all along what they have with Gerald. He can score, and can score a lot quickly, when you give him the minutes. He brings it on the defensive end, consistent with what the team brings as a unit.
"But when you hear the coach saying he is so bad that he can't be on the floor? That's nonsense. You have to wonder where that comes from and why."
Perhaps from the front office? Between the team's protracted (and contentious) contract negotiations with Eric Bledsoe over the summer, the way things ended with Goran Dragic and now Green's situation, the Suns' decision-makers aren't looking so hot these days.
Or maybe they are, but in a smoke-and-fire sort of way.
20. Miami Heat
Everything was looking just peachy for the Miami Heat. They had a 19-point halftime lead over a tired Chicago Bulls squad, fueled by a surprising 13 points off the bench by Michael Beasley. Hold that lead, and Miami would finish the day just a half-game back of a playoff spot in the East.
Alas, that advantage wasn't meant to be. The Heat managed just 27 points after the break—none from Beasley—as the Bulls bullied their way to an 89-78 win.
As a result, Miami will go into its final three games of the 2014-15 campaign with a game-and-a-half to make up in the standings. Fortunately for the Heat, their remaining schedule (home against Toronto and Orlando, at Philadelphia) is more forgiving than Chicago would ever be.
19. Milwaukee Bucks
It was surprising enough to see the Milwaukee Bucks come as close to upending the Cleveland Cavaliers as they did in what turned out to be a 104-99 defeat for the East's sixth seed.
More shocking still was Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence from the affair. Head coach Jason Kidd chose Jared Dudley to start in Antetokounmpo's stead but opted against offering any explanation for sitting the Greek Freak, who apparently wasn't injured.
"Coach's decision," Kidd told the media, after being asked more than once why Antetokounmpo didn't play, per the Journal Sentinel's Matt Velazquez. "It was a coach's decision. I don't know what, you guys can't hear? ...You guys are smart. How about the game?"
Antetokounmpo, for his part, wasn't sure what led to his DNP.
"I don't know," Antetokounmpo said after the game. "It was coach's decision—I don't know—for me not to play today."
Is this something about which Bucks fans should fret? Probably not, assuming Antetokounmpo gets some run against the Knicks and Nets this weekend.
18. Indiana Pacers
The stabbing Chris Copeland suffered outside of 1 OAK in New York City on Wednesday morning put a damper on what's otherwise been a positive week for the Indiana Pacers. Later that day, the Pacers pounded the Knicks for their third straight win, 102-86.
"A lot of adversity today," head coach Frank Vogel said afterward, per ESPN.com. "A lot of adversity we've faced all season. We've shown a lot of character, and I'm proud of their performance today."
As a result of that win, Indy sits just one game back of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have only four games to close that gap. Doing so therein won't be easy, what with dates against Oklahoma City, Washington and Memphis left on the docket.
They will have one thing going for them, though: Paul George, in the flesh. The All-Star forward scored 13 points off the bench in his return against the Miami Heat and chipped in 10 more at Madison Square Garden.
"Everything that I expected," George said following his return, per ESPN.com. "Welcoming me back into the game was probably the greatest moment that I've had. It was so hard to not get caught up in the moment."
He'll have to remove himself from that moment long enough to help the Pacers scrap their way into the postseason.
17. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics have more than a puncher's chance of making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. As of Thursday, they were in a virtual tie with the Brooklyn Nets for seventh place, courtesy of four wins in their last five outings.
Isaiah Thomas has been particularly instrumental in that uptick. Over his last three games, he has averaged 27.3 points on 56.3 percent shooting (42.9 percent from three) with 5.3 assists, thereby bolstering his own Sixth Man of the Year credentials and keeping Boston in the postseason picture.
If Thomas' friendship with Floyd Mayweather Jr. is any indication, he won't let the Celtics go down without a fight.
"We went to a Robin Thicke concert later that night [after Thomas attended one of Mayweather's workouts in Las Vegas five years ago], and since then, we've talked almost every day," Thomas told the Boston Herald's Mark Murphy.
Mayweather got Thomas a brand-new Bentley for the point guard's birthday, though even that would seem to pale in comparison to the individual honors and postseason participation that Thomas is currently seeking.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder
You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of the Oklahoma City Thunder's slide into the nebulous regions between the playoffs and the lottery.
For one, the schedule has been brutal of late. Five of the six losses OKC has suffered in its last seven outings have come against Western Conference playoff teams. The other was administered by the resurgent Utah Jazz.
More troublingly, those opponents have made minced meat of the Thunder's (predictable) collapse on defense. According to NBA.com (h/t SB Nation's Satchel Price), OKC's defense has been the league's second-least efficient since March 12 (i.e., the day after Serge Ibaka played his most recent game of the season).
Between the absence of Ibaka (a three-time All-Defensive performer), an increased role for Enes Kanter (a poor defender up front) and more gambling from Russell Westbrook, the Thunder were all but destined to wind up trying to run and gun their way into the playoffs.
As Price put it, "It's possible the team could have better weathered losing Ibaka, [Kevin] Durant or even both to injury. It's possible that leaning on the likes of [Dion] Waiters, [Anthony] Morrow and others would have been fine. Maybe even Kanter could've helped out in the right situation."
However, "Take all of those things together, though, and you get this mess of a defense and a spot in the lottery. The Thunder are a shell of a team on the defensive end, and it may end up costing the team its playoff spot."
15. Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert has been nothing short of a revelation for the Utah Jazz. His presence in the paint has helped to turn Utah's once-moribund defense into the NBA's best since the All-Star break. More recently, Gobert's exploits (13 points on 64.1 percent shooting, 12.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.3 blocks, 1.2 steals over his last six games) have propelled the Jazz to five wins in their last six outings.
And if you think Gobert—one of the leading candidates for Most Improved Player—is good now, just wait until after the summer, when he's had a chance to work with former shot-blocking behemoth Mark Eaton.
"I told him I want to get together some time," Eaton, a four-time shot-blocking king, told the Salt Lake Tribune's Aaron Falk.
Gobert, for his part, is keen to study under Eaton once the 2014-15 campaign comes to a close.
"Of course I would love to work with him," Gobert told The Tribune. "He's someone who has a lot of experience, and he will make me better."
14. Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry spent the first half of the 2014-15 season putting the Toronto Raptors on his back. Now, he's paying for it. Lowry has missed eight of Toronto's last nine games with back spasms.
Fortunately for the Raptors, they've managed to go 4-4 in those eight contests that he's missed. Thanks to the futility of the Atlantic Division, they wrapped up a top-four seed weeks ago and, as a result, are in no rush to bring Lowry back before he's ready.
Good news: Lowry appears to be ready and rearing to play again, per TSN's Josh Lewenberg. His presence will be more than welcome if Toronto hopes to reclaim the No. 3 seed and avoid the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs.
13. Brooklyn Nets
Brook Lopez is playing like a guy who knows he's going to get paid this summer. The former All-Star has claimed back-to-back Eastern Conference Player of the Week awards and could be on his way to a third after racking up 32 points against Portland and another 26 at Atlanta's expense.
Per Grantland's Zach Lowe, Lopez's recent exploits only figure to push him further toward opting out of his current contract and seeking a longer, more lucrative deal this summer. For what it's worth, the Brooklyn Nets seem keen to bring him back.
"We need him," Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said during a rare stateside appearance this week, according to Nets reporter Lenn Robbins. "I think the Brooklyn Nets, it's his home."
Does head coach Lionel Hollins agree with the man paying his wages?
"Like Lionel told you maybe 20 times, we want him back," Prokhorov said, per the New York Post's Tim Bontemps.
Well, OK then.
12. Washington Wizards
The softening of the schedule has had plenty to do with the Washington Wizards winning four in a row and five of their last six. Of those five wins, four came against teams with losing records, including two over the 76ers and one against the Knicks.
To be sure, John Wall's dime-dishing ways have helped as well. Wall sat out the Wizards' 119-90 win in Philly on Wednesday, but he had averaged a whopping 15.7 assists in the three games prior to that.
As it happens, Wall has an eye on his first assist title, with the Clippers' Chris Paul standing in his way.
"I definitely would love to win the assist title," Wall said, per The Washington Post's Jorge Castillo. "That’s something that gives a lot of credit to my teammates and these guys being in the right situations and making shots for me. But if it doesn’t happen, so be it. That would definitely be a big accomplishment."
To some extent, the Wizards probably wouldn't mind Wall going after that crown. With four games against Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls remaining and home-court advantage in the first round within striking distance, Washington will need all the easy buckets Wall can generate in its pursuit of a top-four seed.
11. New Orleans Pelicans
Despite losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Pelicans did enough this past week to inch their way back into the No. 8 seed out West, however tentatively.
The Pelicans were particularly impressive in their 103-100 win over a Golden State Warriors squad that, apparently, didn't take its trip to the Crescent City all that seriously.
"They came out and said it was going to be a scrimmage game," said Anthony Davis, who tallied 29 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocks in the victory, according to ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss. "We kind of took that personal."
Those basketball fans who appreciate bellicosity can only hope the Pelicans will not only qualify for the postseason but carry this slight with them. Should New Orleans survive its brutal end-of-season schedule as the last playoff team standing in the Western Conference, it would face a first-round series with Golden State.
More importantly, as Grantland's Ben Detrick wrote, such a standoff would afford the world a long-awaited look at The Brow in the pressure cooker of the playoffs: "A nationally televised series against the best team in basketball (and one with a soaring collective Q rating) is precisely what Davis needs. His condor wingspan must spread wide enough for all to gaze upon its magnificence."
10. Dallas Mavericks
Being stuck in the No. 7 seed out West might work out in the Dallas Mavericks' favor.
For one, whichever team they face in the first round of the playoffs—be it the Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers or San Antonio Spurs—will have fought tooth-and-nail for the Western Conference's second spot. The Mavs, on the other hand, can coast their way into the postseason without worrying about where they wind up.
At this point, Dallas may have no other choice but to rest up and keep its collective fingers crossed. According to ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon, Chandler Parsons has been battling swelling and soreness in his right knee since the end of March and could be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season.
It's a shame, too, since Parsons had been playing some of his best ball as a Maverick. In his last 11 games, he had averaged 17.6 points on 51.8 percent shooting (42.6 percent from three).
If Parsons can pick up where he left off in time for the postseason, Dallas could emerge as a threat in the West.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
Irony and the Portland Trail Blazers shouldn't consider each other friends right now. Earlier this month, Blazers trainer Geoff Clark won the 2014-15 Joe O'Toole Award, given annually by the NBA Trainer's Association to its most outstanding member.
Since then, Portland has seen its injuries continue to pile up. On April 2, the Blazers lost Dorell Wright to a broken bone in his hand.
They appeared to suffer yet another staggering blow to their wing rotation—after already losing Wesley Matthews to a torn Achilles—when Arron Afflalo left Thursday's loss to the Golden State Warriors with an apparent shoulder injury.
Now would be a good time for Clark to work more of that magic that earned him the top honor in his profession.
8. Memphis Grizzlies
If you're wondering why the Memphis Grizzlies have been so unpredictable of late, consider both their schedule and their health.
The Grizzlies have played more back-to-backs since the All-Star break (nine) than any other team in the league. This weekend's swing through Salt Lake City and L.A. (versus the Clippers) will be Memphis' last set of games of consecutive nights this season.
The recent absence of Tony Allen hasn't helped matters either. Allen, the heart and soul of the "Grit-n-Grind" Grizzlies, has missed the team's last five games with a hamstring injury and may not be ready in time for the playoffs.
"I'm trying to do all I can do to get healthy," Allen said Monday, per The Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery. "If I was 100 percent I'd be playing. I feel bad that I can't go out there. I feel like I'm energy. I'm a spark plug. My enthusiasm plays a role into us being successful."
7. Chicago Bulls
Derrick Rose's return looked like it might get off to an 0-2 start for the Chicago Bulls. After losing to the Magic in crunch time Wednesday, Chicago found itself down 19 at the half on Miami on Thursday.
Then, the Bulls put together a 37-8 run that consumed the entire third quarter and the start of the fourth, and voila! Chicago had a double-digit lead on the way to an 89-78 win over the Heat.
Rose wasn't exactly instrumental in the comeback. He chipped in four points in the third quarter and rested during the final frame. The former MVP finished with 12 points (on 5-of-15 shooting) and two assists in 20 minutes, after accounting for nine points (on 3-of-9 shooting) and two assists in his re-debut.
But the fact that Rose is back in the fold could be enough to re-energize a Bulls squad that's spent the 2014-15 season searching for a cogent identity.
"I'm just happy to be playing," Rose said Wednesday, per ESPN.com's Nick Friedell. "It's not one thing. The shots I put up, I felt they were good shots, hard shots, and I'm more concerned with us losing more than anything."
6. Houston Rockets
The hits just keep on coming for the Houston Rockets, and not in a good way. A team that's suffered through injury after injury this season will have to handle yet another one, now that Donatas Motiejunas is done for the season on account of a lower back injury.
In a vacuum, Motiejunas' absence wouldn't seem so devastating. The 24-year-old Lithuanian had posted career highs nearly across the board in 71 games (62 starts) prior to his exit. Still, the Rockets are pretty well stocked at power forward, with Terrence Jones and Josh Smith waiting in the wings.
But with Motiejunas joining Patrick Beverley among those Rockets lost to injury, it's easy to wonder whether Houston will have enough in the tank to score its first playoff series victory since 2009.
5. Atlanta Hawks
A lesson for you kids at home: Nothing good ever happens in or around a New York City nightclub in the wee hours of the morning.
Just ask Thabo Sefolosha. According to CNN's Eliott C. McLaughlin, Sefolosha and Atlanta Hawks teammate Pero Antic were arrested outside of New York City's 1 OAK nightclub early Wednesday morning on charges of obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct while at the scene of Pacers forward Chris Copeland's stabbing. Sefolosha is also looking at a charge of resisting arrest.
(Naturally, TMZ Sports tracked down video of the incident.)
Per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Chris Vivlamore, Sefolosha's struggle with police resulted in a broken right fibula and damage to the surrounding ligaments—injuries that will sideline him for the remainder of the regular season and the entirety of the Hawks' upcoming playoff run.
To be sure, Sefolosha is far from Atlanta's most irreplaceable player. He averaged just under 19 minutes per game this season and shot a subpar 32.1 percent from three.
But Sefolosha was a difference-maker for the Hawks on the defensive end. As USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt noted on Twitter, the Hawks surrendered a measly 95.3 points per 100 possessions when Sefolosha played and 102.6 points/100 when he sat.
Which brings us back to our original point about nightclubs and wee hours and why you'd do well to steer clear, especially if you're part of an NBA title contender.
4. Los Angeles Clippers
It's probably too late for Chris Paul to garner the consideration he needs to be named the NBA's MVP, but that doesn't make him any less deserving. Paul is on pace to lead the league in assists for the fourth time in his career and figures to play in all 82 games for the first time as a pro.
Paul has been spectacular on both ends of the floor, per usual. It's his work orchestrating the Association's most efficient offense, though, that's most noteworthy. As BBall Breakdown's Seth Partnow explained, Paul's lethality in the middle of the floor has fueled a Los Angeles Clippers attack that isn't entirely replete with playmakers:
These repeated, impossible decisions for the defense are huge reason why the Clippers, despite their atrocious bench play and creative limitations of their starters beyond Paul and [Blake] Griffin, are an offensive juggernaut.
Paul is extremely efficient at the exact kind of shots defenses normally want to allow, so much so that they cannot allow it. But if they adjust to contest the mid-range area harder, Paul's playmaking finds and exploits wherever the new hole in the defense is opened up.
Thanks to Paul's continued brilliance, the Clippers, winners of four in a row and 11 of their last 12, are within sniffing distance of the West's No. 2 seed.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
What LeBron James wants, LeBron James gets.
A triumphant return to the Cleveland Cavaliers? Check.
A trade that gave up two former No. 1 picks for a former All-Star who's yet to find a comfortable fit in Cleveland? Check.
A chance to cast an MVP vote for himself? Check.
Rest during the season's stretch run? Check that too. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, James will sit out Cleveland's weekend set against Boston.
In James' defense, he's earned that privilege. He averaged an outstanding 21 points, 9.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks during a four-game streak that helped the Cavs sew up both the Central Division crown and the No. 2 seed in the East.
For that, James and his cohort can coast their way into the postseason if they so choose.
2. Golden State Warriors
Another night, another remarkable performance for Stephen Curry.
The Golden State Warriors' MVP favorite took it upon himself to stop his team from suffering its first three-game losing streak of the season. With the Dubs sleepwalking on defense against Portland, Curry exploded for 45 points—19 in the fourth quarter—on 17-of-23 shooting to propel Golden State to a 116-105 home win Thursday.
Even if Curry doesn't claim the NBA's top individual honor at season's end, this game will go down as a historic one. Curry's eight threes (on 13 attempts) helped him break his own record for long-range makes in a single season.
What's more, Curry pulled it off while playing approximately 350 fewer minutes than he did in 2012-13, when he set the mark with 272 treys. With three games left, Curry has an outside chance to nail 300 triples.
Your thoughts, Larry David?
1. San Antonio Spurs
It's April and the San Antonio Spurs are on a tear.
What else is new?
The defending champs have won a season-high nine games in a row. More impressive still, they've dominated the opposition along the way. Those victories—all double-digit affairs—have come by an average margin of 19.9 points.
And it's not like the Spurs have been beating up on patsies, either. Six of the nine wins have come against opponents with winning records, including the Warriors, Rockets and Grizzlies.
The streak, of course, has been a team effort for San Antonio, but no single Spur has had a bigger impact on this return to form than Kawhi Leonard. Over the course of this spurt, the San Diego State product has averaged 19.4 points on 58.8 percent shooting (48.1 percent from three) to go along with 5.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals in 28 minutes.
"It's going to be Kawhi's team anyway," Tony Parker said, per the San Antonio Express-News' Dan McCarney. "Like Timmy [Duncan] transitioned to Manu [Ginobili], Manu transitioned to me, now it's going to be transitioned to Kawhi. I'll try to do my best to stay aggressive and be involved. But Kawhi's going to be the man."
By the look of it, Leonard already is.
Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.