About 1/3 of the way through the season, we have a clear top six teams in NBA.
Six teams, three in the East and three in the West, have won at least 70 percent of their games. They've taken different paths to get here and, interestingly, all but one (the Toronto Raptors) have dealt with significant injuries along the way. Three of them (Boston, Cleveland and San Antonio) have been missing an All-Star all season, and two of those guys (Kawhi Leonard and Isaiah Thomas) were in the top five in MVP voting last season.
Other teams could be knocking on the door. The Milwaukee Bucks are 11-4 with Eric Bledsoe and the Indiana Pacers have four wins over the top six. The Washington Wizards, meanwhile, are one of just five teams (Boston, Cleveland, Golden State and Houston are the others) that has a winning record (they're 7-4) in games played between teams that are currently over .500. And maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder will get on the same page one of these days.
Since the Cavs got past their early struggles, each of the big six has generally taken care of business against lesser opponents. But we've had just 11 games between the top six so far, with just one (the Spurs' win over the Celtics on Wednesday) in the last 24 days. (Each of the six teams has least one win and one loss in those 11 games.)
We'll get No. 12 on Friday, when the Spurs (with Kawhi Leonard expected to have made his season debut) visit Houston for their first of four meetings with the Rockets.
- Last week: Rockets ride seven-game winning streak to No. 1
- This time last year: Warriors, Cavs keep conference challengers at bay -- The Grizzlies capped a six-game winning streak (without Mike Conley) with a 21-point win over the Warriors. Klay Thompson scored 60 points in three quarters, John Wall dropped 52 on Orlando, Russell Westbrook recorded seven straight triple-doubles, and Victor Oladipo posterized Dwight Howard.
- Plus-minus stud: Kyle Lowry (TOR) was a plus-65 in three games last week.
- Plus-minus dud: Enes Kanter (NYK) was a minus-46 in four games last week.
- Hero team of the week: Indiana (4-0) -- The Pacers ended the Cavs' winning streak and came back from huge deficits (17 and 19 points) against Chicago and Denver.
- Zero team of the week: Charlotte (1-3) -- Three teams went winless last week, but the Hornets had losses at home to teams - the Bulls and Lakers - that are otherwise 5-20 on the road.
- East vs. West: The East is 84-79 (.515) against the West in interconference games after going 12-12 last week.
- Toughest schedules so far: 1. Detroit, 2. Philadelphia, 3. Miami
- Easiest schedules so far: 1. Houston, 2. Minnesota, 3. Cleveland
- Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.
- High jumps of the week: Indiana (+9), Milwaukee (+7), L.A. Lakers (+5)
- Free falls of the week: Detroit (-6), Philadelphia (-6), Charlotte (-4), Orlando (-4)
- Team to watch in Week 9: San Antonio -- Kawhi Leonard is expected back for Tuesday's game in Dallas, but Friday's visit to Houston will be the game to watch. The Spurs enter the week having won eight of their next nine, while the Rockets have won 15 of their last 16.
* * *
Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)
The league has averaged 99.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.1 points scored per 100 possessions this season.
* * *
NBA.com's Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man's opinion. If you have an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via Twitter.
* * *