Kurt Helin

Shaun Livingston, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala

PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Picking No. 1, No. 30 very easy, after that….

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The top three in the rankings remain the same teams, although two and three switched spots, but after them there is still a lot of volatility in the rankings, and a lot of surprises. The Clippers fell fast after an ugly week, while Dallas is on the rise. And right now, the East is the stronger conference top to bottom.

source:  1. Warriors (15-0, last week No. 1). They have tied the record for fastest start ever by an NBA team. The Warriors’ small-ball lineup — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green — has played 56 minutes this season and is outscoring opponents by 70.8 points per 100 possessions. They are scoring 160.9 per 100.

source:  2. Spurs (10-3, LW 3). They have been the clear second best team in the NBA this young season (based on net point differential), and after a slow first handful of games to the season the Spurs’ starting five has found it’s groove of late (+33 per 100 last three games).

source:  3. Cavaliers (10-3, LW 2). LeBron James struggled from the outside to start the season, but in his last four games is shooting 47.5 percent on them. So that’s back. Kyrie Irving is doing more and more in practice, but there is still no timetable for his return (think Christmas present for Cavs fans).

source:  4. Heat (8-4, LW 6). They have strung together wins during a homestead (5-1), but games such as the need for a furious fourth quarter rally to beat the Sixers make me question how good this team really is. That said, the defense is still carrying the Heat and keeping them in games (the offense has been a bit flat).

source:  5. Thunder (8-6 LW 5). They have gone 3-3 without Kevin Durant, who is expected to return this week. Russell Westbrook is putting up crazy numbers, including 31 and 11 on Dallas Sunday in a big win for OKC. Reggie Jackson returns to OKC this week with the Pistons, for whom he is playing very well.

source:  6. Mavericks (9-5, LW 12). They were on a six-game winning streak until Sunday’s loss. Deron Williams is having a bounce-back season in Dallas, not all the way back to All-Star form but back to quality point guard form. His shooting has improved and the key reason is he’s finishing better inside 10 feet than a year ago.

source:  7. Raptors (8-6, LW 7). Losing center Jonas Valanciunas for the next six weeks is really going to hurt: while there is a lot of noise in the numbers, Toronto has outscored opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions when he plays, but gets outscored by 4.8 per 100 when he sits. Their offense and defense are worse without him, but especially the offense.

source:  8. Bulls (8-4, LW 9). Winners of four in a row, which included a dramatic win over the Pacers with Jimmy Butler blocking Paul George on the final shot. That was big in a crowded East. Fred Hoiberg still struggling to find lineups that can give him both offense and defense (for example, Tony Snell helps the defense and kills the offense).

source:  9. Pacers (8-5, LW 10). They have gone 8-2 in their last 10 and have been playing great defense, but that will be put to the test as they have five of their next eight on the road. Indiana faces Chicago and Washington this week, the kinds of teams they need to beat to climb up the conference standings.

source:  10. Hawks (9-6, LW 8). The Hawks were in a soft part of the schedule and still found a way to go 5-5 in their last 10, including a loss to Brooklyn. It’s about to get tougher with Boston then a swing through the West including Minnesota and San Antonio.

source:  11. Celtics (7-6, LW 11). Avery Bradley has been a defensive beast off the bench, with a personal defensive rating of 85.7 (points allowed per 100 possessions), which is good because he moves into the starting lineup the next few weeks with Marcus Smart out injured.

source:  12. Knicks (8-6, LW 20). Kristaps Porzingis mania in New York is not at Linsanity levels, but it’s climbing fast. With good reason. KP6 has become first player in NBA history with more than 180 points, 120 rebounds, 20 blocks and 10 hit threes through his first 14 games.

source:  13. Wizards (6-4, LW 15). There is a real clump in the middle of the East, but we may start to see where the Wizards fit in that group with this week’s schedule: Pacers, at Hornets, at Celtics, Raptors. The Wizards starters need to play better if Washington is going to climb that ladder, the small ball lineup has not impressed.

source:  14. Pistons (7-6, LW 14). Quality win over the Cavaliers last week helps their cause. Andre Drummond may be putting up ridiculous numbers, and Reggie Jackson may have a great pick-and-roll chemistry with him, but the Pistons are still 25th in the NBA in offense. Stan Van Gundy has them eighth in defense and that is what keeps this team afloat.

<source:  15. Suns (7-6, LW 16). They had a softer schedule last week and they could not bank enough wins, now things get tougher with the Spurs, Warriors and Raptors on the docket this week.

source:  16. Hornets (7-6, LW 18). They have been strong at home and have their next five games in the Hornets’ nest (although Washington, Cleveland, and Milwaukee will not be easy wins). Kemba Walker as the starter and Jeremy Lin off the bench have pushed the Hornets to the fourth best offense in the NBA this young season.

source:  17. Clippers (6-7, LW 4). Thursday’s loss to Golden State summed up the Clippers ability to showcase their talent and challenge anyone (that big early lead), and their struggles to maintain that level of play consistently (blowing that lead and losing). The Raptors’ is another example of that inconsistency, they were horrible in the first half, especially on defense. Lance Stephenson was benched for the entire Warriors game, started the next night in Portland, played just five minutes Sunday vs. Toronto. What’s going on there, Doc?

source:  18. Jazz (6-6, LW 13). Derrick Favors has come into his own for this team, becoming the fulcrum for their offense and averaging 16 points and nine rebounds per game. Still, it’s the Utah defense that keeps this team in every game. Fun test Monday against Oklahoma City, then they get the Clippers later in the week.

source:  19. Grizzlies (7-7, LW 21). Unleashed Mario Chalmers has been great for Memphis, getting them to play faster and knocking down threes (7-of-15 since the trade). If the Grizzlies have gotten things turned around we’ll see against Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta this week.

source:  20. Magic (6-7, LW 23). Scott Skiles is sending messages about effort and playing his way — Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic were benched for the second half of a game last week. The lack of shooting on the roster kills this team’s spacing and has it 28th in offensive ranking.

source:  21. Timberwolves (5-8,LW 22). Kevin Martin will start and Tayshaun Prince is moving to the bench, to which I say “about time.” However, Martin has struggled with his shot this season and if he isn’t back on track this will backfire quickly. Mine should get their first home win Monday against Philly.

source:  22. Bucks (5-8, LW 17). If you had asked me before the season which team would have the worst defense in the league almost a month into real games, the Bucks would have been about my last guess. But at 109 points allowed per 100, and after a rough week, they are behind the Pelicans and Lakers on that end of the floor. Jabari Parker missed some time with a sprained foot, and the Bucks have lost three in a row.

source:  23. Nuggets (6-8, LW 19). I think Mike Malone is establishing a culture in Denver they can build on, but it’s not without its challenges on the defensive end. On the bright side, Emmanuel Mudiay is looking improved and his turnovers are dropping.

source:  24. Trail Blazers (6-9, LW 25). They had lost seven in a row until they got some help from Los Angeles, beating both the slumping Clippers and the just bad Lakers. More interesting test against Chicago this week, but the Blazers may have found their footing again on defense, so it’s not just the Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum show.

source:  25. Kings (5-9, LW 24). This pretty much sums up the Kings this season: They are 5-4 when DeMarcus Cousins plays, 0-5 when he sits. Rajon Rondo is putting up numbers, but the big key is he’s shooting 36.4 percent from three this season, some spacing the Kings need on offense.

source:  26. Rockets (5-9, LW 26). Since J.B. Bickerstaff took over the Rockets they have one overtime win and two losses — but they are losing by less, so that’s improvement, right? We knew the coaching wasn’t the problem, but the change has not part of the solution so far. Could they actually lose to Philly this week? Probably not.

source:  27. Pelicans (3-11, LW 28). Ryan Anderson has found his shooting groove and that has sparked some big offensive games for the Pelicans, who have looked improved the past week or so. Tough stretch though on the road this week at the Suns, Clippers, and Jazz.

source:  28. Nets (3-11, LW 29). Don’t look now, but the Nets have been playing better (that includes a win over the Hawks on Tuesday). So maybe they start racking up some wins? Probably not this week playing at Oklahoma City, at Cleveland, then hosting Detroit.

source:  29. Lakers (2-11, LW 27). Byron Scott said he wants to get the ball in Kobe Bryant’s hands more to help the team’s ball movement. That pretty much sums up the Lakers right now — take the ball out of the hands of the developing young point guard D’Angelo Russell so that Kobe can preach ball movement. And up is down.

source:  30. 76ers (0-14, LW 30). When Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel are on the court together, the Sixers have an offensive rating of just 80.7 points per 100 possessions, and they are getting outscored by 25.7 per 100. And that’s the Sixers’ two best players, it only goes downhill as you move into the backcourt.

Timberwolves moving Kevin Martin into starting lineup

Kevin MArtin, Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell is inserting Kevin Martin into the starting lineup in hopes of jumpstarting a struggling offense.

Martin will replace Tayshaun Prince and Andrew Wiggins will slide from shooting guard to small forward in a first five that also includes point guard Ricky Rubio, power forward Kevin Garnett and center Karl-Anthony Towns. The new-look unit will debut on Monday night at home against winless Philadelphia.

“We’ve just got to score more points,” Mitchell said after practice on Sunday. “That may help K-Mart get out of his funk a little bit and it may help our team overall.”

Over his last five games, Martin is shooting just 26 percent from the field and is 1 for 10 from 3-point range. It’s a stark contrast over his previous 11 seasons in the league, when Martin carved out a reputation as one of the better scorers and shooters in the league.

“I’ve never been through a stretch like this before,” Martin said. “Sam and his staff are trying to figure out things we can do to get me going.”

Mitchell started the season with Prince at small forward in an effort to underscore the importance of defense to a roster that has a young core including Wiggins, Towns, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad, who have all played three seasons or less. That starting five was one of the stingiest in the league as the Wolves started the season with impressive road victories against Chicago, Atlanta and Miami.

But after the offense sputtered again in a loss to the Detroit Pistons at Target Center on Friday night that dropped their home record to 0-6 on the season, Mitchell felt he had to make a move. Prince and Garnett combined to go 0 for 3 from the floor with zero points in just over 35 minutes, putting more pressure on Rubio, Towns and Wiggins to carry the scoring load.

“Tayshaun has done his job. Tayshaun was never brought here to be the starter,” Mitchell said. “He’s been able to teach our guys.”

Mitchell said Prince will now likely see his minutes reduced to about 10 per game, using him only during times when the team needs a big stop. Muhammad will also have his minutes increased as the first wing player off the bench.

Martin made it clear before the season started that he still saw himself as a starter in this league. Now it’s up to him to shake off his struggles and prove it.

“I’m confident I’ll get out of it and get back to the player that I was,” Martin said. “When I’m a better defender and rebounder than I am an offensive player, something’s going on.”

Five Takeaways from an NBA Sunday: I, for one, welcome our new Warriors overlords

Stephen Curry, Emmanuel Mudiay

Sunday night the Golden State Warriors dared try to steal a couple of headlines away from the NFL by equalling the fastest start in NBA history. In case you missed it because your significant other had the remote control and put on the AMAs, here are five things you need to know from Sunday around the league (and consider breaking up with anyone who wanted to watch the AMAs).

1) I, for one, welcome our new Warriors overlords. I don’t see a likely end for this streak. It’s going to happen, but the when is not easy to spot. The Warriors are a relentless machine that is now 15-0 to start the season after beating Denver Nuggets on Sunday 118-105. That ties the all-time mark for the fastest start in NBA history — a record they will break Tuesday night when the Warriors host the Lakers (unless Kobe Bryant travels to that game in a DeLorean with a flux capacitor in the back, I’m not even sure that contest is interesting).

When do the Warriors lose? Here are their next dozen opponents after thrashing the Lakers Tuesday: Suns, Kings, Jazz, Hornets, Raptors, Nets, Pacers, Celtics, Bucks, Suns, Bucks, Jazz. A few teams in there are certainly playing well, but are you predicting a loss? Complete that little run and Golden State would be 28-0, having passed Miami for the second-longest win streak in NBA history. Sure, that’s jumping the gun, on any given night and all that — but these Warriors have come out with a real “call us lucky, will ya?” attitude. Their small-ball lineup is destroying teams by better than 60 points per 100 possessions. They have the best offense in the NBA, the fifth best defense, and are outscoring teams by 15 points per 100 possessions. I could nitpick and say I’d like to see a little less shooting and more running of the offense by Stephen Curry, but again 15-0 and flat-out destroying teams, so who am I to judge. They own the league at this moment.

2) Even if you’re 15-0, Draymond you cannot just hang on the rim. Nobody is above the law, or the rules of the game —and that includes you Draymond Green. You can be 15-0, you can have a new contract that makes you rich, you can be one of the game’s top defenders — you still can’t hang on the rim and do a little pull-up or you will get a technical.

3) Frustrated Clippers get in screaming match in locker room after game. The Clippers are below .500 at 6-7. They have lost seven of their last nine. They looked terrible in the first half Sunday in their loss to Toronto. I should not be writing those sentences about a team with a healthy Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but here we are.

All that spilled over into a loud post-game argument that the media could hear the next room over. Part of it was Josh Smith arguing with an assistant coach — that would be 4.7 points per game and shooting 35 percent Josh Smith. There are a lot of problems in L.A., and Doc Rivers’ the GM’s off-season moves have not had the desired impact. Lance Stephenson is falling out of the rotation because of his play. Paul Pierce has to come off the bench because he looks old and slow trying to guard starting threes in the league. The Clippers defense is 22nd in the league, allowing 104.3 points per 100 possessions. The offense is down 5.4 points per 100 possessions from a year ago. You get the idea, things are bad. The Clippers should be frustrated. The better question becomes, what are they going to do about it?

4) About those top contenders in the West…. Going into the season most of us forced to make predictions said any one of five teams could win the West. It hasn’t played out that well at all. Here are those five.

Golden State 15-0
San Antonio 10-3
Oklahoma City 8-6
LA Clippers 6-7
Houston 5-9

Meanwhile a number of us thought Dallas would fall out of the picture, they are 9-6 and the current three seed. It’s early for sure, but the West isn’t what we thought — and it’s not as good as it has been.

5) Russell Westbrook just doing what he does — putting up ridiculous numbers. The most entertaining game of the day by far was Oklahoma City beating Dallas 117-114. Kevin Durant is still out (although he could return early next week), so that meant more of the Russell Westbrook show — 31 points and 11 dimes. He is just fun to watch.


Report: Josh Smith, assistant coach in locker room argument after Clippers’ loss

Josh Smith

Josh Smith has been one of the many things for the Clippers that has not gone according to plan this season. He is averaging just 4.7 points per game on 35.6 percent shooting, has a PER of 11, and all of that has Doc Rivers playing him less than 15 minutes a game. He’s not adding the depth they need, although his defense has been good. Sunday against the Raptors in Los Angeles, the Clippers had trailed by 29 (it was 63-34 at the half) but in the fourth quarter but had cut the lead to six when Smith missed a three (shooting 30 percent from there on he season. and what followed was a 6-0 Toronto run that was the dagger.

After the Clipper loss we knew there was a bit of a meltdown in the Clipper locker room, now we have the details thanks to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

Josh Smith and an unspecified Clipper coach were involved in a frustration-fueled argument following the Clippers’ 91-80 loss to Toronto Sunday.

Profanities and yelling made their way through the cement walls separating the Clipper locker room from an adjacent room where the media was waiting to speak to head coach Doc Rivers.

It’s not clear what the argument was about, or if anyone else was involved. The Clippers should be frustrated, they are 2-7 in their last nine and have fallen below .500 on the season at 6-7 — this is a terrible start for a team that fancies itself a contender.

Josh Smith is part of the problem with the Clippers, but he is far from the biggest on. That honor goes to the team defense — the Clippers are 22nd in the league in defensive rating, giving up 104.3 points per 100 possessions — and after that we can get into rebounding and other embarrassing parts of the Clippers’ game.

The players and Rivers tried to play everything off after the game as no big deal. Normal locker room stuff. And I guess it is normal for a team that had high expectations and is struggling. The Clippers need to turn this around quickly before their hole gets any deeper.

Thompson leads Warriors to historic 15-0 start, beat Nuggets 118-105

Klay Thompson, Emmanuel Mudiay
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DENVER (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 21 points and the Golden State Warriors tied the best start in NBA history, beating the Denver Nuggets 118-105 on Sunday night to move to 15-0.

Golden State matches the start of the 1948-49 Washington Capitols and the `93-94 Houston Rockets. The Warriors can break the record Tuesday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Here’s more history: The Warriors surpassed the `57-58 Boston Celtics for the best start by a defending champion.

Thompson hit a 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining in the second quarter and Golden State never trailed again. The reserves built up a sizeable lead and allowed Stephen Curry to rest the entire fourth quarter. He had 19 points, the first time this season Curry didn’t reach 20.

Darrell Arthur had 21 points for the Nuggets, who’ve lost three straight. Kenneth Faried was sidelined by a sprained left ankle.

Harrison Barnes scored seven of his 17 points in the third quarter to allow the Warriors to gain some separation. This was the way things went for the Warriors in the third: Festus Ezeli missed a wide-open dunk and it clanged straight to Curry, who drained a 3-pointer.

When the Warriors played in Denver last March, they rested Curry & Co. That didn’t sit well with fans who were expecting to see the sharp-shooting guard.

Resting wasn’t an option this time. Not so close to an NBA record.

“Whether or not we get it, it really doesn’t affect our ultimate goal of trying to win a championship,” said interim coach Luke Walton, who picked up a technical in the third quarter. “It would be something nice to get along the way.”


Warriors: Walton said head coach Steve Kerr (back surgery) is “doing better.” Said Walton: “He gets really sick of being asked that question. So I’ve stopped asking it.” … The Warriors were 15 of 29 from 3-point range.

Nuggets: Before the game, coach Michael Malone equated the Nuggets to being the “Washington Generals” – the usual opponent for the Harlem Globetrotters – because the television audience wants to see the Warriors and “nobody is here to see us. We’re OK with that. We’re playing against a great team.” … Joffrey Lauvergne (back) and Jusuf Nurkic (knee) didn’t play. … Nikola Jokic had 11 points and 11 rebounds.