Carmelo Anthony drops 62 and the New York Knicks still stink, Terrence Ross lights up Air Canada Centre for 51, and Kevin Durant is doing more than keeping the Oklahoma City Thunder afloat. Father Time might be catching up to the San Antonio Spurs, and as the Miami Heat begin to awaken from their two weeks off from basketball, the Indiana Pacers are still top dog.
1. Indiana Pacers (34-9 and first in the Eastern Conference)
The Pacers are still rolling after going 2-2 last week. They won in OT against the Kings, and the next night couldn’t pull it together against Denver. As all of their nine losses this season have come on the second night of back-to-backs, there’s a big question mark with regards to how they’ll fair in an intense playoff series.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-10 and first in the Western Conference)
OKC has won seven straight and 12 straight road games, with Durant scoring at least 30 points in his last 10 games.
3. Portland Trail Blazers (33-12 and third in the Western Conference)
Damian Lillard’s 131 three-pointers through 41 games are the most by any NBA player at the halfway point of his team’s season (Ray Allen hit 130 in 2005-06). Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum have combined for 325 three-pointers this season, more than 14 NBA teams have made all season. How long can Terry Stotts’ clan rely on streaky shooting?
4. San Antonio Spurs (33-10 and first in the Western Conference)
Miami snapped the Spurs’ six-game road streak Sunday afternoon, adding to a concerning string of losses in the month of January (Blazers and Oklahoma City). The Spurs might be losing their grip on the Western Conference.
5. Miami Heat (32-12 and second in the Eastern Conference)
The Heat beat the Spurs in an NBA Finals rematch in convincing fashion and have won their last four at home. Maybe this week the KD/LeBron media love fest will cease and we can get back to the business of basketball.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (31-15 and fourth in the Western Conference)
There are only six teams in the NBA currently above 30 wins and the Clippers are one of them. They’re learning how to win without Chris Paul, and at the rate they’re playing they’ll be tough to defend when he returns.
7. Houston Rockets (29-17 and fifth in the Western Conference)
With Chris Paul’s injury, you would think the Rockets would play their way into fourth place in the West and challenge Portland for that third spot. Nope, they’ve gone 6-4 in their last 10 and are losers of their last two.
8. Golden State Warriors (27-18 and sixth in the Western Conference)
The Warriors are 4-10 against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today and 6-13 against teams in the West with records at .500 or above.
9. Phoenix Suns (27-18 and sixth in the Western Conference)
The Suns have climbed from the eighth spot in the West to sixth on the heels of 19 fast break points a game, first in the league. They’re also third in the NBA with nine three-point makes per game.
10. Toronto Raptors (22-21 and fourth in the Eastern Conference)
Terrence Ross is the first player in NBA history to score 51 points while averaging 10. That sums up the Raptors season; since they’ve cleared house of inflated contracts and uncommitted players they’ve exceeded expectations.
11. Brooklyn Nets (20-22 and seventh in the Eastern Conference)
The Nets have won five straight games and their last seven at home. With the best record in January, those “Brooklyn” chants seem to get louder by the week.
12. Atlanta Hawks (23-20 and third in the Eastern Conference)
The Hawks are led by Paul Millsap, the only player in the Eastern Conference and one of two in the NBA (DeMarcus Cousins) this season averaging at least 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. Kyle Korver’s streak is at 112, and the Hawks are just one major injury away from total season disaster.
13. Chicago Bulls (22-21 and fifth in the Eastern Conference)
Chicago has the second-best record in January right behind the Brooklyn Nets. It seems this season’s point guard savior for Chicago will be D.J. Augustin, who has scored 27 or more points three times so far.
14. Dallas Mavericks (29-17 and eighth in the Western Conference)
Dirk Nowitzki needs 44 points to become the 13th player in NBA history to reach the 26,000-point mark, while the Mavs ship is slowly sinking.
15. Memphis Grizzlies (22-20 and ninth in the Western Conference)
The Griz are 8-2 in their last 10 games. There’s something to be said about a healthy ball club.
16. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-22 and 11th in the Western Conference)
A loss to Portland pushed Minnesota back under .500 and with 12 of their next 16 games against teams at .500 and above, the T-Wolves are going to fall further out of the Western Conference picture.
17. Denver Nuggets (22-21 and tenth in the Western Conference)
January is the Nuggets’ favorite month as they’ve won at least 10 games in the last five Januarys, going a combined 56-22. With a week of January left, maybe the Nuggets can pull out a few extra Ws.
18. New York Knicks (17-27 and 10th in the Eastern Conference)
Carmelo lit up the Garden for 62 points, which covered the stench of the Knicks going 4-4 in their recent eight-game homestand.
19. Washington Wizards (21-22 and sixth in the Eastern Conference)
Even John Wall being the double-double machine he is can’t propel the Wizards into Eastern Conference elite.
20. Charlotte Bobcats (19-27 and eighth in the Eastern Conference)
The Bobcats have only eight road wins this season, two more than last season. Things are looking up in Charlotte, but for the long haul.
21. Detroit Pistons (17-27 and ninth in the Eastern Conference)
Andre Drummond became the first Pistons player to record a 20-point, 20-rebound game since Antonio McDyess. Detroit has lost four in a row.
22. Boston Celtics (15-31 and 12th in the Eastern Conference)
With Jeff Green now on the block, in lieu of the Cs’ plan to retain Rondo long-term, Boston will lose the scoring and defensive punch that’s sustained them thus far.
23. Philadelphia 76ers (14-30 and 13th in the Eastern Conference)
The Sixers have dropped nine of their past 11 games at home, including four straight. At least they have the Rookie of the Year in uniform.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (16-28 and 11th in the Eastern Conference)
To D-League Anthony Bennett or not, that’s the only pressing concern for the Cavs at the moment.
25. Orlando Magic (12-33 and 14th in the Eastern Conference)
The Magic are only putting up 97 points this season and have the lowest total of road wins in the NBA at three. As they are in desperate need for a bigger scoring punch, Orlando’s looking to be players close to the trade deadline.
26. New Orleans Pelicans (18-25 and 12th in the Western Conference)
They have the fewest average games of NBA experience among all NBA rosters.
27. Sacramento Kings (15-28 and 14th in the Western Conference) The Kings are losers of three in the row, and this week they’ll go without DeMarcus Cousins, in addition to Rudy Gay who is out with an achilles injury. The present and future look bleak for Sac town.
28. Los Angeles Lakers (16-29 and 13th in the Western Conference)
The Lakers are prepared to get Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash back soon, and it makes no difference as the Lakers will be playing for the lottery for the rest of the year.
29. Utah Jazz (15-29 and 15th in the Western Conference)
Will Tyrone Corbin be coaching their rookie stud next season? Most experts say no.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (8-35 and the 15th in the Eastern Conference)
Hey wouldn’t it suck for Milwaukee if newly appointed NBA Commissioner Adam Silver introduced the draft wheel this season?
Featured image courtesy of Josh Hallett/Flickr.