With the calendar about to flip over to March, it's a good time to take stock of where teams stand in the Association. Another wild trade deadline period is well behind us and the cream has certainly risen to the top as we head into the stretch run.
Here's a look at two teams on the rise and two on their way down entering the new month.
While the Heat are just 1-4 ATS over their last five games they enter the week on an 8-1 SU tear and will have the benefit of playing 12 of their next 15 games at home, where they're 20-7 SU and 14-12-1 ATS on the season. Having allowed 100+ points in five straight games I would expect to see a defensive turnaround sooner rather than later as I do rate the Heat as having one of the league's top-10 defenses. While they will have to deal with a back-to-back set in Milwaukee and Brooklyn later this week, the Bucks have looked vulnerable lately while the Nets won't have the services of Kyrie Irving on their home floor.
New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans were buyers at the trade deadline as they acquired C.J. McCollum to bolster their offense with Zion Williamson still on the shelf and apparently nowhere close to returning to the team. Sunday's rout of the Lakers made it two straight wins coming out of the break and in convincing fashion in Phoenix and Los Angeles. McCollum has proven to be a tremendous fit and the duo of Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas have been underrated to be sure. New Orleans will play six of its next eight games at home, beginning with another winnable contest against the lowly Kings on Wednesday night.
The buzz has gone quiet in Charlotte as the Hornets have dropped 10 of their last 12 games overall, going 4-7-1 ATS over that stretch. To prove just how far they've fallen, they lost at home against the Pistons on Sunday - a team they had previously hung 140+ points on in two other matchups this season. Unfortunately the Hornets schedule only gets tougher from here, with consecutive road games this week followed by a difficult three-game homestand against the Spurs, Nets and Celtics. Note that Charlotte enters the week having been torched for 111+ points in six of its last seven contests.
Los Angeles Lakers
This season has been a complete disaster for the Lakers and Sunday's blowout loss against the Pelicans on their home floor might serve as rock-bottom. At least they hope so. At 6-14 SU over their last 20 games and showing no signs of turning things around anytime soon, it's difficult to envision where the Lakers can turn for a spark at this point. This week's schedule features three games in five nights against the Mavericks, Clippers and Warriors so things could very well get worse before they get better. After that they'll play 10 of their next 13 contests on the road. While Los Angeles still sits well within playoff contention (3.5 games behind the Clippers with three games in hand), that may not still be the case when we check back in a couple of weeks from now.