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Pacers plummet, Spurs return to No. 1 in rankings

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After starting 4-0 with Evan Turner (center), the Pacers have lost six of their last 11 games.

There are six teams averaging fewer than 100 points per 100 possessions over the last three weeks. Five of those teams aren't even going to sniff the playoffs. The other has the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Tough times have hit the Pacers, who have dropped six of their last 11 games. Two of those five victories came against the 76ers -- who are now "up" to 24 straight losses -- and another required a 25-point rally and overtime against the lowly Pistons. Even Indiana's league-leading defense has been suspect of late, jumping from a 98.1 rating to 101.6.

So what's to blame for Indiana's woes? That depends -- how much time do you have? For starters, Paul George is shooting just 37.8 percent from the field in 13 games this month. Roy Hibbert is averaging season lows in points, rebounds and blocks in March. And, possibly most worrisome of all, the Evan Turner trade is starting to look like a glaring mistake 15 games into his Pacers career. Not only is Indiana missing Danny Granger's veteran presence in the locker room, but Turner also hasn't been the improvement over Granger on the court that he was supposed to be after coming over from Philadelphia.

At first, Turner's struggles were hidden by a 4-0 start thanks to games against the Lakers, Bucks, Celtics and 76ers. But a season-worst four-game skid immediately followed and began to expose some of the team's newfound chemistry issues.

It's not hard to believe that a player used to being a No. 1 option would have some trouble transitioning into a bench role, but Pacers president Larry Bird likely never envisioned this. With Turner on the floor, the Pacers' offensive rating drops from 105.4 to 102.0. But that discouraging decline pales in comparison to Turner's detrimental effect on the team's defense. Indiana's defensive rating skyrockets from 97.6 to 107.7 when Turner is in the game.

Further rubbing salt in the wound: Midseason pickup Andrew Bynum is out indefinitely and Granger has been surprisingly good as a Clipper, shooting 44.6 percent in nine games after making just 35.9 with Indiana.

The Pacers might have hit rock bottom with a season-low 71 points against the Grizzlies on Saturday, dropping them from No. 3 in the Power Rankings to No. 7. Meanwhile, the Spurs rise to No. 1 after winning their 13th consecutive game. At the bottom, the 76ers stay at No. 31. And, no, that's not a mistake.

(All records and statistics are through March 23.)

SI Now: San Antonio Spurs dominant, Pacers tumble
On Monday's SI Now, NBA producer Matt Dollinger discusses the San Antonio Spurs' 13-game win streak, terrible offense in the East, and the Indiana Pacers tumbling down the latest NBA power rankings since trading for Evan Turner.
NBA Power Rankings
 
1 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 2
Since: 3-0
The Spurs aren't beating teams as much as they're humbling them. San Antonio has outscored opponents by 15.1 points during its 13-game winning streak, which has included victories against the Heat, Bulls and Warriors. It takes a lot of success to get a Spur to even bat an eyelash, but the team's recent run has surprised at least one of its longtime stars.
 
2 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 1
Since: 1-1
Losing at Denver to complete a back-to-back is about as acceptable as losses get. And even in an off night from Blake Griffin (7-of-25 from the field), the star's improvement this season was abundantly clear. It wasn't the 26 points and 12 rebounds he totaled -- we already know he can do that -- but his 12-of-12 performance at the free-throw line, helping Griffin raise his average to a career-best 70.4 percent.
 
3 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 4
Since: 3-0
I'll let Greivis Vasquez handle this week's blurb. After watching Kevin Durant drop 51 points and hit a game-winning three-pointer in double overtime at Toronto, the Raptors' guard gave KD some of the highest praise possible: "He's like Jesus in this league. He makes unbelievable shots. It's funny because we went to high school together and now I see his development and how he plays in this league. He gotta be one of the best, probably the best player in the world right now."
 
4 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 6
Since: 3-0
After losing to the Thunder, Bulls and Heat the week before -- and falling to 4-14 when scoring under 100 points -- the Rockets took their frustrations out on the Jazz, Timberwolves and Cavaliers last week, averaging 123.7 points.
 
5 Miami Heat
Last Week: 5
Since: 2-2
Miami Heat (47-21)
Dwyane Wade has sat out one-third of Miami's losses. His absence doesn't excuse the back-to-back champions for losing to New Orleans -- which shot 50.7 percent and pulled away in the fourth quarter -- but it does show how important the 32-year-old guard still is to the Heat's success.
 
6 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 7
Since: 2-1
The Grizzlies are allowing just 94.1 points per 100 possessions in their last nine games. The Grindhouse has become a scary place to visit again, too. Memphis is 15-3 at home in the new year after going 7-11 in its first 18 games.
 
7 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 3
Since: 2-2
Despite their recent struggles, the Pacers still lead the Heat by three games (two in the loss column) in the race for the No. 1 seed in the East. Two of Indiana's 12 remaining games are against Miami.
 
8 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 8
Since: 2-1
Think the Warriors miss Andre Iguodala? Harrison Barnes is shooting 10.5 percent (2-of-19) in his last three games, totaling just eight points in 84 minutes.
 
9 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 12
Since: 4-0
Jason Kidd has a pretty good 41st birthday: His Nets won their fourth straight game, an OT victory in his return to Dallas to sweep the season series against the Mavericks. Best of all? The ice water his players dumped on him after the game. It's amazing how winning can bring a team together.
 
10 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 9
Since: 2-2
The Bulls are pretty great when they score at least 90 points (35-10). They're pretty terrible when they don't (4-21).
 
11 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 10
Since: 2-2
The Mavericks dropped two overtime games at home last week to fall to eighth in the West. Dallas will continue its eight-game homestand -- the longest in franchise history -- with games this week against Oklahoma City, the Clippers and Sacramento.
 
12 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 11
Since: 2-1
Portland began a critical five-game road trip with a 30-point loss to the Bobcats. That's pretty indicative of how things are going for the Blazers these days. Most troubling of all, Portland is 0-7 against the West's four best teams (Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets) over the last two months. It was 6-1 against those teams before then.
 
13 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 15
Since: 3-1
Phoenix Suns (41-29)
First-year coach Jeff Hornacek has squeezed every ounce of talent possible out of the surprising Suns. On Sunday, Phoenix's bench outscored Minnesota's 61-20 and the team shot a season-high 57.5 percent, as the Suns pulled off their biggest comeback of the season.
 
14 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 13
Since: 2-2
The Raptors overcame their biggest fourth-quarter deficit (14 points) of the season Sunday to defeat Atlanta. That's a pretty gritty way of bouncing back after playing one of their best games only to lose in double overtime after someone hit a 30-footer for his 49th, 50th and 51st points.
 
15 New York Knicks
Last Week: 21
Since: 2-1
The Knicks might need another eight-game winning streak to make the playoffs. After coughing up a 17-point lead to Cleveland on Sunday, the Knicks are still three games behind the eighth-seeded Hawks. Making matters worse, New York plays eight of its final 12 games on the road.
 
16 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 14
Since: 1-2
First-year coach Steve Clifford demands discipline from his players -- and he gets it. The Bobcats commit the fewest fouls and turnovers in the league, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer points out. That's part of the formula that has Charlotte on track for its second playoff berth in the franchise's 10-year history.
 
17 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 19
Since: 3-1
It's been a bad year to be a Nugget. Denver is on pace to miss the playoffs for the first time in a decade and has now lost J.J. Hickson, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee and Nate Robinson to season-ending injuries.
 
18 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 20
Since: 2-2
The Hawks followed a surprising five-game winning streak by blowing fourth-quarter leads in their last two games. Atlanta gave up 42 points to the Pelicans in the final period and were outscored by 21 (36-15) against the Raptors.
 
19 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 16
Since: 1-3
Despite losing five of their last eight, the Wizards hold a two-game lead and the current tiebreaker over the Bobcats for the coveted No. 6 seed, which avoids Indiana or Miami in the first round. Adding to the intrigue will be two meetings between the teams before the end of the season.
 
20 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 17
Since: 1-2
The Wolves didn't just blow their biggest lead of the season Sunday, but also likely their last hope at making the postseason. ''That was our playoffs right there, and we lost," said Kevin Love, who finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in the loss to Phoenix.
 
21 New Orleans Pelicans
Last Week: 22
Since: 2-1
My vote for the NBA's Most Improved Player? Anthony Davis. His averages have skyrocketed in points (13.5 to 21.7), blocks (1.8 to a league-leading 2.9) and Player Efficiency Rating (21.7 to 27.2). He's also getting to the free-throw line almost twice as much as last season, a notable leap for a big man who shoots 78.8 percent from the line and has hit 28 of his last 32.
 
22 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 18
Since: 1-3
The Cavaliers gave up 30-plus points to LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden and Carmelo Anthony last week. But they pulled out a victory against Anthony's Knicks after Jarrett Jack topped the plateau himself, finishing with a season-high 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting.
 
23 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 23
Since: 0-3
Joe Dumars' goodwill has officially run out in Detroit. After an incredible run in the mid-2000s, Dumars' golden touch has turned to gunk. There was the infamous selection of Darko Milicic, the overpayment of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, the trading of a protected first-round pick to Charlotte to dump Gordon's contract and last summer's ill-advised signings of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. Dumars deserves credit for building an NBA champion, but he also deserves to be shown the door if the Pistons miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

 

 
24 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 27
Since: 2-1
Royce White finally made his NBA debut, 631 days after being drafted. He's played only the final minute in Sacramento's last two games, but it's a big step for a player who failed to suit up in an actual game for the Rockets and 76ers.
 
25 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 24
Since: 1-2
Utah Jazz (23-47)
What happened to Gordon Hayward's shot? The fourth-year swingman hasn't hit a three-pointer in his last four games -- tying his longest drought of the year -- and attempted just five. You can't really blame Hayward for being trigger-shy either. After shooting 41.5 percent from deep last year, he's down to 30.6 this season.
 
26 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 25
Since: 1-2
Rajon Rondo isn't the worst defender on the Celtics, but opponents are scoring 110.6 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor, the worst mark of anyone on the team.
 
27 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 26
Since: 1-2
Is this the worst season in Lakers history? Not record-wise. But when you factor in Kobe Bryant's and Steve Nash's injuries, the grab bag of players the team has trotted out and Phil Jackson's joining the Knicks, it's tough to imagine a worse campaign.
 
28 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 28
Since: 0-4
With Jameer Nelson sidelined, Victor Oladipo has started at point guard in the Magic's last three games. The rookie has gone in and out of the starting five all season, but had one of his best games in Sunday's loss to the Lakers: 21 points (6-of-11 shooting), 10 assists and five rebounds. The only problem? His turnover problems (game-high eight) aren't going away.
 
29 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 29
Since: 0-3
Why is Milwaukee this bad again? At least Philadelphia has an excuse with a roster purged of talent. The Bucks were actually aiming to make the playoffs this year! Thus is the difference between being terrible and tanking.
 
31 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 31
Since: 0-4
Prediction: Philadelphia beats Miami in its regular-season finale to snap a 35-game losing streak. The 76ers will be playing like there's no tomorrow (because there will literally be no NBA tomorrow for most of the team) while Miami will be resting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in preparation for the playoffs.
 
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