The Golden State Warriors have won games in every way imaginable this year. As a result, and mainly through the work of their defense, the Warriors are back at No. 1 in the sixth edition of my NBA Power Rankings.
1. Golden State Warriors (27-7), +1 spot
The Dubs are back at of the power rankings for the first time since early in the season as they have run off 12 wins in their last 13 games.
Golden State, the second highest-scoring team at 114.5 points a game, has failed to reach the century mark in three of their last five games and is averaging just 101.2 points a game during this stretch as they are shooting just 43.9% from the field.
Draymond Green became the sixth player to post a triple-double on Christmas Day, posting 12 points along with 12 rebounds and 11 assists against the Cavaliers, and tied the franchise record with his 20th triple-double. The Warriors have won every game that Green has posted a triple-double, which marks the third-longest streak in the history of the NBA.
While the Dubs have been stale on offense, their defense has been dominating. The Warriors have held their opponents to under the century mark in seven of their last 11 games including three of the last four. They have allowed just 98.4 points per 100 possessions since Nov. 1 and are now No. 1 with 100.8 points a game per NBA.com.
Steph Curry’s sprained right ankle is expected to be re-evaluated for a third time on Friday. If Curry, who has been out since Dec. 4, is cleared he may suit up against the Hornets that night.
Golden State will host Utah on Wednesday night, marking its fifth of seven straight home games. The Warriors, 13-4 at the Oracle this year, lost just five home games all of last season.
2. Houston Rockets (25-7), -1 spot
The Rockets have lost a season-high three straight games. James Harden, who is the second player to score 50 points in back-to-back losses, has produced 132 points to go along with 31 assists and 15 rebounds during the current losing streak. Houston is just 10-6 when Chris Paul, who has missed the last two games with a leg injury, does not play.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-10), no movement
The Cavs’ loss to the Warriors was their seventh in 15 games against teams with a .500 or better record this season. Kevin Love, who has topped the 20-point mark in four straight games, tallied his fourth double-double in his last seven games with 31 points to go along with a season-high 18 rebounds against the Warriors.
4. Toronto Raptors (23-9), +1 spot
The Raptors had their season-high six game winning streak snapped by the Mavericks on Tuesday. Toronto fell to 1-5 when being held under 100 points following the loss to Dallas (98-93) on Tuesday.
DeMar DeRozan, who poured in a career-high 45 points on Thursday against the Sixers, has made 13 of his last 22 (59.0%) 3-point attempts. He has made 30 three-pointers this season, which is three fewer than he made all of last year and is shooting 33.3% from beyond the arc.
Toronto has won 10 straight at the Air Canada Centre and is a league-best 12-1 at home.
5. San Antonio Spurs (24-11), +1 spot
The Spurs have won five of six. Thirty-seven-year-old Pau Gasol, who posted his first triple-double in three years against Sacramento (Sat.), has recorded three straight double-doubles. San Antonio improved to a Western Conference best 16-2 at home with its victory over Brooklyn on Tuesday.
6. Indiana Pacers (19-15), +1 spot
The Pacers are 3-4 in their last seven. Victor Oladipo, who was held to a season-low 13 points in the loss to Detroit on Tuesday, is averaging 27.6 points while shooting 55.8% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc. Oladipo has made 10 or more free throws in two of his last four games, where he is 25-of-30 (83.3%) from the charity stripe during the four-game stretch -- he is shooting 79.0% from the line for the year.
Indiana’s victory over Brooklyn (Dec. 23) was just its third in 16 attempts when trailing after three quarters. The Pacers trailed the Nets 59-41at halftime and by three at the end after three quarters.
7. Boston Celtics (27-10), -3 spots
The Celtics have lost three of four and are just 11-8 since starting the season an NBA-best 16-2. Jayson Tatum had 20 points, on 7-of-9 shooting, in a loss to Washington Monday to give him five 20-point games this season, which is the third most among rookies. Boston played on Christmas Day for the 31st time, but it was the first time ever the C’s have played on their home court.
8. Detroit Pistons (19-14), +1 spot
The Pistons, who have won five of six, are 17-4 when they top the century mark. Tobias Harris became the third player in NBA history to knock down 90% or better of his 3-point shots when taking at least eight treys when he made 7-of-8 from long distance against the Pacers on Tuesday. Harris finished the game with 30 points, on 10-of-11 shooting, and six rebounds in 29 minutes -- marking the fourth time he has hit the 30-point mark.
Andre Drummond, tied for the league’s lead in rebounding rate at 25.9%, has hauled in double-figure rebounds in 12 of his last 13 games. Drummond is second in the league in offensive rebounds (4.8), second in defensive rebounds (10.1) and second in total rebounds (14.9) per game.
The Pistons have been without second leading scorer Avery Bradley (15.7 ppg) the past five games and he is expected to be out until Jan. 3.
Detroit is tied with Boston for the most comeback wins of 10-plus points this season with seven.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-13), +1 spot
The Timberwolves, who close the calendar year with two straight away games, have won three in a row on the road and four consecutive overall. Jimmy Butler averaged 29.5 points, 4.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 54.6% from the floor in four games this past week. With the win over the Lakers, Minnesota evened its all-time Christmas Day record at 1-1.
10. Denver Nuggets (19-15). +2 spots
The Nuggets are on a three-game winning streak, tying a season-high, with each of those victories by 15 or more points. Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles and Trey Lyles have been key for the Nugs who are 7-6 in the month of December.
Murray, averaging 4.8 points a game in the fourth quarter, poured in 13 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter in a win over the Jazz on Tuesday. It was the11th 20-point game of the season for the second year point guard, who is averaging 18.0 points while shooting 47.3% from the floor and 52.2% from beyond the arc in December. He posted his first double-double of the season on Dec. 13 and the second one of his career.
Trey Lyles, who is having his best month of the season in December, has scored in double-figures in six straight games and produced one double-double during this stretch. In 13 games this month, he has reached double-figures 10 times, shot over 60% from the field on 10 occasions and posted two double-doubles.
Denver has the third fewest losses at home this season as they are 12-3 at the Pepsi Center this year.
11. Washington Wizards (19-15), +4 spots
The Wizards have won three of four and are 5-2 in their last seven. John Wall, who has four double-doubles in his last five games, is producing a career-best 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio as he is turning over the ball a career-low 10.1% rate. Washington is tied for second in the league with 10.8 screen assists.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (19-15), +5 spots
The Thunder have won a season-high five straight games and 11 of 14. Paul George, the league leader with 2.5 thefts a game, has 15 steals over the last five contests. OKC is 9-1 in its last 10 games that have been decided by six or fewer points.
13. Portland Trail Blazers (17-16), -5 spots
The Trail Blazers ended a three-game losing streak with a 95-92 victory over the Lakers (Sat.) to improve to 5-5 in games decided by three or less points. Rookie Zach Collins has reached double-figures in each of the Blazers’ last two games, marking the first and second double-digit scoring performances of his career.
14. Miami Heat (18-16), +2 spots
The Heat have won three of four and 7 of 10. Miami improved to 2-0 when tied after three quarters following their win over Orlando on Tuesday night, Tied at 68 entering the fourth quarter, the Heat outscored the Magic 39-21 in the final stanza. The Heat are still the only team without a victory (0-13) when they trail entering the fourth quarter.
Tyler Johnson, who has scored at least 17 points in four of his last four games, is averaging 15.1 points on 50.8% shooting in 12 December games.
Miami, which has not won more than two straight games at home this year, improved to 8-8 at American Airlines Arena following their win over Orlando.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (17-15), -4 spots
The Bucks have lost four of six. Khris Middleton, who is producing the most efficient season of his career, has averaged 23.2 points over his last five games. Milwaukee’s opponents are attempting 25.9 free throws a game, which is the second-most in the league, as the Bucks have been whistled for the third most fouls a game (22.5).
16. New Orleans Pelicans (17-16), - 4 spots
The Pelicans, 5-6 in December, are on their first winning streak since winning three straight from Nov. 20-24. DeMarcus Cousins, who has scored in double-figures in 33 straight games, had his streak of eight straight games of at least 23 points snapped in the win over Miami as he finished with 16.
17. New York Knicks (17-16), -3 spots
The Knicks have lost two straight and 3 of 4. Enes Kanter had 31 points and a career-high 22 rebounds in a loss to the 76ers and became just the fourth player in NBA history to post such numbers on Christmas Day.
18. Philadelphia 76ers (15-18), no movement
The 76ers snapped a five-game losing streak with their Christmas Day victory over the New York Knicks. Joel Embiid posted his 15th double-double of the season with a 25-point, 16-rebound and three-block effort on Christmas Day. He now has 18 blocks in his last six games. Philadelphia’s 17 victories on Christmas Day is the fourth most in NBA history.
19. Los Angeles Clippers (14-19), +3 spots
The Clippers won three of four. Austin River set career-highs with 38 and 36 points, respectively (Dec. 22 and 23) as he produced 74 points on 25-of-45 (55.5%) shooting, including 11-of-23 (47.8%) from beyond the arc. DeAndre Jordan, who has grabbed 18.4 rebounds over his last five games, has hauled in at least 12 caroms in each of his last 13 contests.
20. Chicago Bulls (11-22), +3 spots
The Bulls are 8-2 in games Nikola Mirotic in the lineup following their win over the Bucks on Tuesday. Mirotic, who has scored 20 or more points on five occasions, is averaging 18.5 points along with 7.6 rebounds while shooting 50.8% from the floor and 48.3% from beyond the arc this season.
Bobby Portis, who has scored in double-figures in eight of his last 12 games, is averaging 13.2 points while shooting 50.8% from the field and 39.4% from beyond the arc in December.
21. Utah Jazz (15-20), -2 spots
The Jazz have lost five of six following their 107-83 loss to the Nuggets on Tuesday. Since Dec. 16, the Jazz is averaging a league-low 91.7 points a game as they have been held to under the century mark in four of six games during this stretch and below 90 points on three occasions.
Donovan Mitchell has been terrific in his rookie season. Mitchell, who is second in scoring among rookies at 17.9 points, has scored in double-figures in 13 of his last 14 games. He has topped the 20-point mark 14 times this season and is averaging 23.1 points while shooting 51.3% from the field in the month of December. Mitchell leads all rookies in clutch time scoring by averaging 30.7points per 36 minutes and shooting 55.6% from the field. In addition, the 21-year-old tops all rookies with 73 triples.
Derrick Favors has started all 33 games this season thus far, although he has been much more productive as a center -- in place of the injured Rudy Gobert. In 15 games as the starting center, Favors is averaging 15.7 points along 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 58.6% from the field. He is averaging 12.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and shooting 54.6% from the floor for the season.
Favors is not the only player who has seen an uptick in production when Gobert has been out. In 13 starts, Jonas Jerebko is producing 9.2 points along with 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists while shooting 52.3% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc.
22. Sacramento Kings (11-22), +4 spots
The Kings are 4-5 in their last nine games. Rookie De’Aaron Fox is out until at least early January with a partially torn right quadriceps. Sacramento’s bench produces a league-high 47.8 points a game.
23. Los Angeles Lakers (11-21), -3 spots
The Lakers have lost three straight and 6 of 7. Kyle Kuzma, the first Lakers rookie since Magic Johnson to have three 30 point games, averaged 27.8 points along with 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 dimes while shooting 52.9% from the floor and 56.4% from beyond the arc in five games this past week. Lonzo Ball missed his first game of the season on Christmas Day and will miss at least a week with a sprained left shoulder.
24. Brooklyn Nets (12-21), -3 spots
The Nets have lost six of seven. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted two double-doubles, to give him five DD’s for the year, and scored in double-figures in each of his last four games. Brooklyn has lost its last two games when out-rebounding its opponents, falling to 7-8 when accomplishing the feat.
25. Phoenix Suns (13-24), +2 spots
The Suns are 4-3 in their last seven games. Devin Booker, who missed the previous nine games with a groin injury, torched Memphis for 32 points in a 99-97 victory on Tuesday. Phoenix went 3-6 without Booker as they averaged a tad over 100 points during that stretch. The Suns rank 13th in scoring for the season at 105.6 points a game.
26. Charlotte Hornets (12-21), -2 spots
The Hornets have split their last four games, but they have lost 8 of 11 overall. Dwight Howard, the league’s active leader with 684 double-doubles, picked up his 18th double-double of the year as he went for 21 points and 16 rebounds in win over Milwaukee on Saturday. Charlotte is 11-9 when they out-rebound their opponents.
27. Orlando Magic (11-24), -2 spots
The Magic have lost nine straight for a second time this year and have posted a 3-20 record since Nov. 10. This is the first time since 2013-14 that the Magic have had multiple losing streaks of nine or more games in the same season.
Tuesday’s game marked the first time the Magic had been tied heading into the fourth quarter. They have led at the end of 36 minutes of play 10 times, going 9-1 in those games, and trailed in 24 games (2-22).
Elfrid Payton is currently playing some solid basketball. He poured in a career-high 30-points to go along with 10 assists versus the Wizards Wizards (Dec. 23) for his third double-double of the season. He is producing 13.8 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 52.1% from the field in December.
Nikola Vucevic, who is out indefinitely with a broken left index finger, is the third of Orlando’s opening day starters currently sidelined by injuries. Terrence Ross (knee) and Aaron Gordon (calf) are the others currently out. Gordon is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game.
28. Memphis Grizzlies (10-24), no movement
The Grizzlies have lost four of five and are now just 3-12 since interim coach JB Bickerstaff replaced David Fizdale.Tyreke Evans, who has topped the 20-point mark in four of his last five games, picked up his third double-double of December as he finished with 30 points and 11 assists in win over the Clippers on Saturday. Memphis is 8-4 when leading at halftime.
29. Dallas Mavericks (10-25), no movement
The Mavs are 2-5 in their last seven after their victory over Toronto on Tuesday. The win over the Raptors was the Mavs seventh in 23 games against teams with a .500 or above winning percentage.
JJ Barea, currently averaging career-bests with 12.2 points and 1.9 3-pointers, for the eighth time in December as he finished with 20 points against the Raps.
Harrison Barnes, who had his season-high scoring 20 points snapped on Tuesday, had 16 points and 10 rebounds against Toronto for his sixth double-double of the season -- tying his career.
Dirk Nowitzki has at least 18 points in five of the past seven games after scoring that many just twice in his first 28 games.
Dallas is 1-5 in the second game of back-to-backs. The Mavericks, 2-14 away from home, starts a three-game road trip at Indiana on Wednesday.
30. Atlanta Hawks (8-25), no movement
The Hawks earned their second win in the last eight games with a 112-107 victory over the Mavericks on Saturday, giving them five wins in 13 games over teams with a sub .500 record. Veteran Ersan Ilyasova has picked up his offensive production recently, topping the 20-point plateau in five of his last nine games; he is now averaging 14.5 points on 52.1% shooting in December.