Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Warriors and Cavs face off again at midway point

When four of Monday’s nine games are complete, we’ll be halfway through the 2016-17 season (615 of 1,230 games played).

It’s been a historical season in regard to individual numbers and team offense. What would have been considered mediocre defense last year is now pretty good by this season’s standards. We have better spacing, better talent, and better shots being taken.

The title picture isn’t any different than we imagined it would be. It’s still the Warriors, the Cavs, and everybody else. Golden State has been the most consistent team, but we saw last year that no matter what happens over 82 games, it’s all about closing time. And on Christmas Day, we got another reminder.

That’s why Monday’s rematch in Oakland (8 ET, TNT) is another must-watch moment. The Warriors have a mental hurdle to overcome and this game is their last chance to get in more reps against their nemesis before June.

It’s the perfect way to tip off the second half of the season. It will be at least another 4 1/2 months before we see Cavs-Warriors again, but between now and then, there should be plenty to keep us watching.

Last week: As trade season begins, Cavs get Korver, drop in rankings

This time last year: Four teams clearly best at midway point — The Spurs (8-0) were the only unbeaten team in 2016, the Raptors beat the Magic in London, and Joakim Noah played his last game as a Bull. The Pelicans beat the Hornets with an alley-oop, Rudy Gay hit a pretty standard game-winner in Utah, and Mario Chalmers hit one of the craziest game-winners you’ll ever see.

Plus-minus studs: DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Lowry (TOR) were each a plus-62 in three games last week.

Plus-minus dud: D’Angelo Russell (LAL) was a minus-61 in four games last week.

Hero team of the week: Toronto (3-0) — After coming back to beat the Celtics on Tuesday, the Raptors thumped the Nets and Knicks to improve to 8-0 in the Atlantic Division and 16-2 against East teams that didn’t win the championship last year.

Zero team of the week: L.A. Lakers (0-4) — The Lakers’ four-game losing streak has included two games in which they never held a lead and two losses at home to teams – Portland and Detroit – that were struggling.

East vs. West: The West is 127-104 (.550) against the East in interconference games after going 14-6 last week.

Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Brooklyn, 2. Dallas, 3. Portland

Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Indiana, 2. Golden State, 3. LA Clippers

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: Portland (+4), Golden State (+3), Minnesota (+3), Philadelphia (+3), Washington (+3)

Free falls of the week: L.A. Lakers (-6), New York (-4), Chicago (-3)

Team to watch this week: Golden State — The Warriors have one more chance to figure out their Cleveland issues before the playoffs, and that comes Monday night in Oakland. But that’s not their only big game this week. They’ll also host the Thunder on Wednesday and visit the Rockets on Friday.

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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 98.6 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.5 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

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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.

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