The good thing about writing Power Rankings is that you get to correct your mistakes every week. So let's just forget what was written in this space seven days ago.
Less than 48 hours after we wondered if the Miami Heat were starting to pick up steam, they lost to the Washington Wizards. And then they got smoked by the Melo-less Knicks. They may still be the favorites to win another championship in June, but they're currently a long way from playing well enough to repeat.
The same is true for most contenders, obviously. And nobody wants to peak in December. But this is the time when habits are formed and standards of execution are set. And if home-court advantage in the playoffs comes down to a game or two, losses before Christmas count just as much as those in March or April.
So, as we continue to shake our heads at the floundering Lakers and dissect the listless Miami defense, we must also give the Spurs and Thunder their due credit for taking care of business and racking up the wins early in the season.
In the middle of Tuesday night's five-game slate, we'll officially reach the 1/4 mark of the 2012-13 season, when we're supposed to have a good idea of where each team stands. And typically, about 14 of the 16 teams in the playoff picture at this point will still be there at the end of the season. It's not yet time to break out the champagne in Atlanta or Oakland, but a dignified handshake to acknowledge a strong start would be justified.http://www.nba.com/powerrankings/?ls=iref:nbahpt6bHero Team of the Week: Atlanta (3-0) - Four teams went undefeated last week, and the Hawks had the most impressive win of the group, a 10-point victory in Memphis on Saturday. They also knocked off the Nuggets and Wizards.
Zero Team of the Week: Cleveland (0-4) - Two losses to the Pistons and a spanking from the shorthanded Timberwolves.
Plus-minus Studs: Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford (LAC) were each a plus-51 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Duds: Byron Mullens (CHA) was a minus-66 in four games last week.
High jumps of the week: Sacramento (+6), Atlanta (+4), Utah (+4)
Free falls of the week: Brooklyn (-5), Miami (-5), Charlotte (-4), L.A. Lakers (-4)
East vs. West: The West is 75-54 (.581) against the East in inter-conference games this season and was 18-8 last week.
Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. New Orleans, 2. Denver, 3. Toronto
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Philadelphia, 2. Atlanta, 3. Oklahoma City
Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league is averaging 94.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.1 points scored per 100 possessions.