NBA Power Rankings: Golden St. Point Of View
The NBA and the Power Rankings have reached the half way point of the season. The Dog days of January, as some may say. Between the bitter cold gripping most of the map, the halfway point of an 82-game slate and the fast approach of the All-Star Game, there’s a palpable sense of slowdown around the Association. To me, that’s the main reason the Cleveland Cavaliers seemed not interested on Monday night, when they got blown out by the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.
1. Golden State Warriors (35-6) Last Week Ranked #2 : I’ve been riding with the Warriors in the top spot despite their Christmas collapse against Cleveland. Needless to say, that is looking like the right position given the way Golden State throttled LeBron James and company on Monday night. It is a one-game sample in the same way that the showdown on Christmas was, but the Warriors have the best statistical metrics and (easily) the best win-loss record. This is their spot.
Golden State leads the league in field-goal percentage within the restricted area and is a close second from mid-range, according to NBA.com. Perhaps even more surprising, considering the personnel, they’re only sixth in three-point shooting frequency, with a mere 35.4 percent of their shots coming from long range. (Houston, for reference, is on a historic pace with 45.7 percent of its shots coming beyond the arc.)
2. San Antonio Spurs (30-7) Last Week Ranked #3 : San Antonio’s lead over non-Warriors competition is solid, and the Spurs are the Spurs. Defensively, this is a better team than many thought and this is a top-five offense behind Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Some of the success is undoubtedly system-driven, but for purposes of this list, that doesn’t matter in any negative way. This is just a great basketball team … again.
With all the talk about James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James (among others), the Spurs’ top dog keeps rolling. On Tuesday, Leonard logged 34 points on a sharp 12-of-17 shooting, with seven rebounds and five assists to boot. That extended the longest 30-point scoring streak of his career to four games.
3. Houston Rockets (30-9) Last Week Ranked #4 : The Rockets are red hot, winners of eight straight games in a row. Houston’s offense continues to cook, producing an average of 122 points per game over the past week. Jumping the Spurs is a tough task, but the Rockets have achieved it behind their remarkable offense and MVP-level play from Harden. Funny stat, Houston is the team in NBA undefeated in the second game of back-to-back sets at 9-0.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (29-11) Last Week Ranked #3 : There is every reason to let Cleveland slide for Monday’s showing, but a previous loss to Portland last week gave me enough pause to consider dropping the Cavs. My better judgment stands in the way, though, and there is a healthy respect for what the champs can do when needed. The team was on a long, grueling West Coast trip, and they might just need to be home to get right.
5. Toronto Raptors ( 24-13) Last Week Ranked #5 :
Friday the 13th saw them take down the lowly Nets, 132-113. On Sunday, it was the Knicks’ turn to take an “L,” falling 116-101. And wouldn’t you know it, those same Nets came back Tuesday night, losing 119-109 to give Toronto its fourth win in a row. A 3-0 week is always worth celebrating, but this one is a snoozer.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (26-14) Last Week Ranked #9 : Redick scored 25 points and Paul had 19 points, 18 assists and one turnover and Los Angeles beat the Miami Heat 98-86 on Sunday for its fourth straight victory. Guard Austin Rivers has averaged 26.0 over the last two games, which included a 24-point performance against the Kings on Friday night. as you can see , the Clippers role players are stepping it up.
7. Memphis Grizzlies (24-16) Last Week Ranked #6 : Mike Conley is back and his last two performances show why he is the Grizzlies’s million dollar man. Memphis must hope his health and improvement don’t coincide with another bizarre stretch of the team performing better without its starting point guard. The Grizzlies had their best win of the season, when they came from behind to beat the Golden State Warriors in Oakland no less.
8. Boston Celtics (23-14) Last Week Ranked #10 : Have won nine of their past 11 games, including four straight at home. Isaiah Thomas just refuses to quit. There’s only one guard in the East having a better season, but it’s difficult to find anyone generating offense with fewer creators around him. Boston has many quality players with valuable attributes, but it doesn’t have anyone known for breaking down the defense or creating clean looks for others.For most of the Celtics’ games, and especially in the fourth quarter, that burden falls squarely on Thomas.
9. Utah Jazz (23 -16) Last Week Ranked #8 : Rudy Gobert is a beast. The Jazz center has been phenomenal this season. A defensive menace from the moment he got regular playing time two years ago, Gobert is now producing on offense. The Jazz defense has been tough to deal with all season.The Jazz allow the fewest points in the NBA, 95.3.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder ( 22-16) Last Week Ranked #7: Getting Victor Oladipo back will help over the course of the season, but his return didn’t pay huge dividends this week, as the Thunder stumbled to a 1-3 mark with losses to the Hornets, Bucks and Rockets.
The Thunder’s defense remains its strongest attribute, but watching the Hornets post 123 points on Wednesday was a bit worrisome. Houston going for 118 was less of an issue since the Rockets do that to everybody.