We went into this season thinking that the that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers were head and shoulders above the rest of their respective conferences.
In the first quarter of the season, the LA Clippers and Toronto Raptors have both, for the most part, proven to be solid No. 2 teams in the West and East. But last week, the Warriors and Cavs kept those opponents in their place. On Monday, the champs beat the Raptors for the third time (by four points or less) this season. Then on Wednesday, the Warriors were up 20 points before the end of the first quarter in their first meeting with the Clips.
The Warriors did get beat by the Memphis Grizzlies, who get two shots at the Cavs this week. And both teams have some unfinished business against other teams (like the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls) within their conference. But with 13 days until their Christmas Day Finals rematch, Golden State and Cleveland have clearly maintained their status as the teams to beat in each conference.
Last week: Warriors on top at the quarter pole
This time last year: Warriors, still No. 1, move on — The Bucks handed the Warriors their first loss of the season and the Sixers hired Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations. Both Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo dunked, Mirza Teletovic beat the Bulls with a wild put-back, and Matt Barnes hit the most absent-minded game-winner of the year.
Plus-minus stud: DeAndre Liggins (CLE) was a plus-69 in four games last week.
Plus-minus dud: Hassan Whiteside (MIA) was a minus-72 in four games last week.
Hero team of the week: Memphis (4-0) — The Grizzlies were doing their win-close-games-against-bad-teams thing until they went and thumped the Warriors on Saturday. They’re no longer just trying to hold on without Mike Conley.
Zero team of the week: L.A. Lakers (0-4) — The Lakers have been dealing with injuries and playing some good teams, but their six-game losing streak includes a loss at home to Phoenix.
East vs. West: The West is 73-66 (.525) against the East in interconference games, but the East was 12-11 last week. The Warriors (6-0) are the only team without at least one win and one loss against the opposite conference.
Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Dallas, 2. Miami, 3. L.A. Lakers
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Memphis, 2. Golden State, 3. Milwaukee
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: Washington (+5), Atlanta (+4), Memphis (+4)
Free falls of the week: Boston (-4), L.A. Lakers (-3), Eight teams (-2)
Team to watch this week: Memphis — The No. 1 defensive team in the league puts a six-game winning streak on the line with a home-and-home against Cleveland’s third-ranked offense and finishes its week with a big Western Conference game against Utah.
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 is averaging 98.9 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 104.4 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.