Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Golden State Warriors again the favorites as playoffs near

Power Rankings: Warriors again the favorites

Let’s be clear. The Golden State Warriors were the better team in last year’s Finals. They were the best team in the league and one of the best teams in NBA history.

But sometimes, the best team doesn’t win. And last year was one of those times.

The Cleveland Cavaliers more than earned their first championship. It was a crowning moment for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving hit one of the biggest shots in basketball history, and Tyronn Lue did a masterful job in finding a way to beat a team that won 73 games in the regular season and was superior on both ends of the floor.

Still, the Warriors were the best team last season. And they lost. Maybe because Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5. Maybe because Stephen Curry was hurt. Maybe because they choked. Maybe because they were worn down from trying to break the regular-season record for wins. Whatever the reason(s), they lost and the internet wouldn’t let them forget that they lost in historical fashion.

And of course, the Warriors are the best team this season one more time. They took that 73-win team and added Kevin Durant. They rank first in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency. They have the best point differential (both per game and per 100 possessions) since the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. They’re the clear favorites to win the championship and “Warriors or the field?” is a legit question we should be asking right now.

But sometimes, the best team doesn’t win.

Will the best team win this year?

The playoffs start Saturday.

Last week: Warriors clearly best in West as winning streak rolls through Texas

This time last year: Warriors headline a special season — The Timberwolves ended the Warriors’ 114-game streak of never losing after leading by 15 points or more. But the defending champs recovered to tie the ’95-96 Bulls at 72 wins by handing the Spurs their first and only home loss of the season. The Lakers set a franchise record for losses for the third straight season, the Kings closed out Sleep Train Arena with a win, and Sam Hinkie walked away from the Sixers.

Plus-minus studs: Mike Muscala (ATL) was a plus-50 in three games last week, and Stephen Curry (GSW) has the best raw plus-minus (plus-979) this season.

Plus-minus duds: Jarrod Uthoff (DAL) was a minus-46 in four games last week and Julius Randle (LAL) has the worst raw plus-minus (minus-439) this season.

Hero team of the week: Atlanta (3-0) — The Hawks clinched a playoff spot by winning three games against the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, pulling off a ridiculous comeback against the Cavs on Sunday.

Zero team of the week: Dallas (0-4) — The Mavs are finishing the season the way they started it.

East vs. West: The West went 246-204 (.547) against the East in interconference games this season. The top six teams in the West all won at least 18 games against the East (Golden State and San Antonio were each 25-5), while no East team won more than 17 games against the West.

Toughest schedules so far: 1. Sacramento, 2. Memphis, 3. Phoenix

Easiest schedules so far: 1. Washington, 2. Utah, 3. Toronto

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: Atlanta (+5), Brooklyn (+5), LA Clippers (+4)

Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-4), Five teams (-2)

Teams to watch this week: Chicago, Indiana and Miami — It’s down to three teams for the final two spots in the East. The Pacers are a game ahead of the other two, but would lose both tiebreakers.

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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 98.7 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 106.3 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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