First time ever, OKC is No. 1
They finally got there this week with easy wins in the last eight days over the only two teams that have been atop the rankings this season. The Thunder took down the Heat last Sunday and dropped the Bulls on Sunday, both in impressive fashion. In between, they went to L.A. and handed the revamped Lakers their fifth loss at home.
Kevin Durant is now the MVP favorite in the minds of some, Russell Westbrook is destroying opposing defenses, and James Harden and Serge Ibaka are as good as it gets in their supporting roles.
Defense has been an issue for the Thunder but certainly wasn't a problem against Chicago. Oklahoma City now has the eighth-best defense since the All-Star break and is the only team in the top eight in both offensive and defensive post-break efficiency.
The big games keep coming for the Thunder. In the next 10 days, they host the Grizzlies and Clippers, and visit the Heat and Pacers. They're tied in the loss column with the Bulls and still only two games ahead of the Spurs and Heat. So it's far too early for them to take their foot off the pedal.
• Last week: Thunder pass the first test
• This time last year: Nuggets earn a spot in the top five - Shaquille O'Neal returned from a 27-game absence, played 5 1/2 minutes, and didn't play again for another month. LeBron James had shot 62 percent over the last six games, JaVale McGee did this to Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and with six games left, the Bobcats were still alive for a playoff spot.
Hero Team of the Week: Boston (4-0) - Since the Thunder got all the love above, we'll honor the Celtics' perfect week here. Their defense has been ridiculously good (see below) and Avery Bradley has emerged as someone they can count on.
Zero Team of the Week: Cleveland (0-4) - The Cavs didn't exactly have a murderer's row of opponents, but they weren't at all competitive. The low point was a 37-point loss at home to the Bucks.
Plus-minus Stud: Rajon Rondo (BOS) was a plus-68 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: Antawn Jamison and Donald Sloan (CLE) were both a minus-57 in four games last week.
High jumps of the week: Boston (+5), New Jersey (+5), Denver (+3), L.A. Clippers (+3)
Free falls of the week: Five teams (-3)
East vs. West: The West is 139-105 (.570) against the East in inter-conference games this season, and was 9-7 last week.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
Off: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
Def: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league is averaging 93.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 101.5 points scored per 100 possessions.
1 Oklahoma City (40-12)
Pace: 95.6 (6), Off: 107.8 (1), Def: 100.0 (11)
In the Thunder's three signature wins over the last eight days, against three teams in the top 10 defensively, Kevin Durant shot 55 percent, including a ridiculous 7-for-9 from 3-point range. The Heat, Lakers and Bulls are all pretty good offensively, too, so maybe most important is that the Thunder got stops.
2 San Antonio (36-14)
Pace: 94.4 (9), Off: 106.5 (2), Def: 101.4 (13)
A brief, four-game stretch of suffocating defense didn't last, but the Spurs have still won seven straight and 10 of their last 11. That sets up a great matchup between two red-hot teams in Boston on Wednesday, but the Spurs will first need to take care of business in Cleveland the night before.
3 Chicago (42-12)
Pace: 91.9 (26), Off: 105.3 (5), Def: 96.2 (3)
Forget Monday's loss to the Nuggets, when the vaunted Bulls' defense got scorched. And forget Sunday's loss in Oklahoma City, when their offense looked a mess. The only thing that matters now is that Derrick Rose gets healthy in the next few weeks. He said Sunday that he doesn't know when he'll be back.
4 Miami (37-14)
Pace: 94.1 (15), Off: 106.2 (3), Def: 97.4 (5)
Sunday brought a new low for the Heat, who had their worst offensive game of the season in Boston. We'll find out if their issues are restricted to the road over the next nine days, as they host the Sixers, Thunder, Grizzlies and Celtics on a five-game homestand. It's crazy, but this team has won 15 straight at home.
5 L.A. Lakers (33-20)
Pace: 92.8 (21), Off: 102.8 (11), Def: 99.9 (9)
The Lakers continue to struggle defensively, but mostly when their reserves are in the game. Their new starting lineup has allowed just 95 points per 100 possessions in 105 minutes. And though L.A. is just 6-4 with Ramon Sessions in uniform, Sessions has had a positive plus-minus in all 10 games.
6 Boston (30-22)
Pace: 92.8 (20), Off: 98.6 (25), Def: 95.8 (2)
The Celtics couldn't have had a better start to their rough April schedule, crushing the Heat in the first of their three meetings this month. Now it's not so hard to think they'll keep that Atlantic Division lead. Incredibly, they've allowed fewer than 90 points per 100 possessions in six of their last eight games.
7 Indiana (31-21)
Pace: 93.3 (19), Off: 102.4 (13), Def: 99.9 (10)
This should be a fun week to be a season ticket holder at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Pacers will host three good teams - New York, Oklahoma City and Boston - playing their best basketball. And with the East standings from 3-7 so jumbled right now, the home team has plenty on the line.
8 Orlando (32-21)
Pace: 91.6 (28), Off: 102.1 (16), Def: 100.4 (12)
As expected, the Magic defense was pretty terrible as Dwight Howard missed just his third game to injury in his eight-year career on Sunday. But the Magic defense has been pretty terrible for four games running. They've lost three in a row and are losing their grip on third place in the East.
9 L.A. Clippers (31-21)
Pace: 91.6 (27), Off: 104.7 (6), Def: 103.2 (21)
Chris Paul turned it up, averaging 21 points and 11.6 six assists as the Clippers swept a five-game homestand. They have a very interesting few days ahead. They visit Dallas on Monday and host the Lakers on Wednesday. The first two meetings between the housemates have been intense, to say the least.
10 Memphis (28-22)
Pace: 94.2 (12), Off: 100.1 (22), Def: 99.0 (8)
It looks like the Grizzlies are comfortably in the West's top six, but lets see how they get through the next six days, when they play the Mavs twice and visit both Oklahoma City and Miami. Oh yeah, they also host the Warriors on Tuesday. A rough stretch, but they are 10-3 (second-best in the league) with no rest.
11 Atlanta (31-23)
Pace: 92.1 (24), Off: 100.4 (19), Def: 98.6 (6)
The Hawks have suffered some defensive slippage and now could be in danger of slipping into seventh place in the East. But they have an easier schedule than both the Sixers and Knicks, including two games each against the Pistons, Raptors and Bobcats. Both Charlotte games are this week.