Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) and Kevin Durant, right, celebrate in the final minutes of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. Golden State won 127-119. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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NBA Power Rankings Week 13: At halfway point it’s the Warriors in West, Cavs out East

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We are at the midway point of the NBA season, which means things like the mid-season awards will be coming from us in the next couple days (a post on Tuesday, plus a podcast breaking them down). It’s also the midpoint of the rankings, and not shockingly the Warriors are on top and the top five teams have four we were pretty sure would be there before the season started.

 
Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (34-6, Last Week No. 4). The Warriors have outscored opponents by 11.6 per 100 possessions this season, the best net rating in the NBA. Last season when they won 73 games, their net rating was that same 11.6. Of course, regular season accomplishments are not how this team will be judged, which is why Monday’s rematch (and Finals preview) with Cleveland matters more than other regular season games. Expect a lot of Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant pick-and-rolls this time around.

 
Spurs small icon 2. Spurs (31-9, LW 1). The Spurs have had their stumbles recently, but their three most recent losses were by a combined seven points. What keeps them in games is the third best defense in the NBA and that they are the best three-point shooting team in the league (41.5 percent as a team). Fun showdown Saturday when they take on the Cavaliers on the first of the NBA’s big Saturday night showdowns.

 
Rockets small icon 3. Rockets (32-11, LW 2). Montrezl Harrell has turned into a player — in the 15 games since Clint Capela went down he has averaged 14.2 points a game. He’s been solid. When you take as many threes as the Rockets — 48.1 percent of their shot attempts are threes in January — there are nights they just don’t fall and the team struggles. For example, the loss last week to Memphis when they shot 24.4 percent three. They face Memphis again this week, as well as Golden State.

 
Cavaliers small icon 4. Cavaliers (29-10, LW 3). They are 3-2 on the road trip through the West, but the big game is Monday night in Golden State. Kyle Korver scored 18 against the Kings, the majority of his touches coming curling off screens, he is starting to find a comfort level in the offense (particularly with the LeBron and the bench line). One other big game this week, they host San Antonio in the first of the NBA’s big Saturday Night showdown games.

 
Clippers small icon 5. Clippers (28-14, LW 10). Winners of six in a row (they have yet to lose in 2017), this team is playing well again and they should be getting Blake Griffin back relatively soon. Yes, they are beating below .500 teams (save Memphis) and have a home heavy schedule, but what good teams do is beat the teams below them. Chris Paul is averaging 17.8 points and 12.3 assists per game since his return, and the Clippers are destroying teams when he is on the court.

 
Raptors small icon 6. Raptors (27-13, LW 6). They knocked off Boston last week to reclaim the “second best team in the East” mantle (for at least a while). Still, this team’s issues at the power forward spot have been blown wide open with Patrick Patterson out, and that’s the reason to expect them to be active at the trade deadline. Kyrie Irving will start at one of the All-Star Eastern Conference guard spots, but who gets the other one: Kyle Lowry deserves it, but can he beat out the hot (and also deserving) Isaiah Thomas?

 
Celtics small icon 7. Celtics (25-15, LW 5). The Celtics are 12-3 in their last 15, and Isaiah Thomas is averaging 31 points a game in that stretch. He has become as dangerous a clutch player as their is in the league right now (just ask the Hawks). This is a good team, but here is the concern — they have yet to beat any of the teams you see ranked above them here (0-8). That includes a loss to Toronto last week.

 
Jazz small icon 8. Jazz (26-16, LW 11). They have the best defense in the NBA through half a season, and it is anchored by Rudy Gobert, the leading candidate through Defensive Player of the Year. This team is 18.2 points per 100 better when George Hill is on the court and he has been healthy lately, but the basketball gods cannot ease up on Utah as now Rodney Hood has a knee issue (no structural damage, which is good news considering how it looked at the time).

 
Thunder small icon 9. Thunder (25-17, LW 8). Enes Kanter has been putting up impressive numbers off the bench lately — 20.6 points per game his last five, 18.4 his last 10 — and has injected himself into a very crowded Sixth Man of the Year conversation. The Thunder are 4-4 through their brutal January schedule so far, with four more road games coming up (Clippers and Warriors this week, then Jazz, and Pelicans next week).

 
Grizzlies small icon 10. Grizzlies (25-18, LW 7). They remain the team nobody wants to see in the postseason, and they are 4-0 this season against the Rockets and Warriors. And they face the Rockets again this week. The Grizzlies have a top four defense but are 24th in offense — they run pick-and-rolls 30 percent of the time and score well when the ball handler shoots, but once the passing starts the percentages dip because they don’t have the spot up shooters to make a defense pay.

 
Hawks small icon 11. Hawks (23-17 LW 9). They have pulled Paul Millsap off the trade market, which means they are making a run at the playoffs. They are considering bringing in Gary Neal as a veteran shooter to fill some of Kyle Carver’s minutes (along with Mike Dunleavy, who played well off the bench for them last week). If they are going to get the four seed in the East, they need wins in games like the ones against Detroit and Chicago this week.

 
Wizards small icon 12. Wizards (20-19, LW 16). Bradley Beal’s play has lifted these Wizards up to a playoff level team at the halfway point, the only questions are can they stay healthy, and can they sustain any success. The Wizards are 3-0 so far in a stretch where they have 5-of-7 at home (plus they picked up a road win in Milwaukee in there). Portland and Memphis round out the homestead this week.

 
Bucks small icon 13. Bucks (20-19, LW 14). The fans are getting a few things right with their All-Star votes (no, Dwyane Wade starting is not one of them) — they are putting Giannis Antetokounmpo in as a starter in the East. He should be. He’s going to win Most Improved Player because is making leaps as long as his strides, but we want him in the All-Star Game for plays like this.

 
Pacers small icon 14. Pacers (20-19, LW 12).. Dropped the one game they played last week, to Denver in London, and it was everything Pacers this season: They had won five in a row, Paul George was playing well, then the entire team came out like they’d had a few too many Guinness while in London. The inconsistency of this team is maddening, but a soft schedule this week (Pelicans, Kings, Lakers) could get them back on track.

 
Bulls small icon 15. Bulls (21-21, LW 13).
Busy five games in seven nights week for Chicago, with two back-to-backs (getting Washington and Memphis on those second nights).

 
Blazers small icon 16. Trail Blazers (18-24, LW 19). The win over the Cavaliers last week was a reminder that this team is much better when Al-Farouq Aminu is on the court (they need his defense). That said, so long as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are their undersized backcourt, defense is going to be a challenge for this team. The improved play of late from this team has them looking like the team that gets the eight seed in the West, which they should be when you look at their competition.

 
Hornets small icon 17. Hornets (20-20, LW 15). They are 1-6 in their last seven and the problem has been on the defensive end, allowing 113 points a game. This is not good for Steve Clifford’s sleep patterns. The Hornets have five in a row at home starting on Wednesday, they need to use that stretch to turn the losing streak around or they could be on the outside looking in come the playoffs.

 
Pelicans small icon 18. Pelicans (16-25, LW 21). They have been a force defensively the past few weeks — allowing just 98.7 points per 100 possessions in their last 10, best in the NBA — which has them just 1.5 games back of Portland for the final playoff slot in the West. Of all the teams chasing the Blazers the Pelicans may be the most likely to be a threat. If they can sustain this defense. Somebody knocking down a jumper would help as well.

 
Pistons small icon 19. Pistons (19-24, LW 18). Reggie Jackson has played much better the past 10 games, averaging 19 points a night in that stretch (and shooting 40 percent from three in his last five). Still the team struggles are simple, in the last 15 games their defense has been terrible, allowing 111.2 points per 100 (27th in the NBA). Also, Andre Drummond and the starters just are not meshing like expected — the Pistons are outscored by 7.6 points per 100 possessions with Drummond and Tobias Harris on the floor together, and by 9.9 when Drummond and Jackson are paired.

 
Knicks small icon 20. Knicks (18-23 LW 17). The drama has returned to New York. They have lost 10-of-12. Derrick Rose went AWOL and is clashing with Jeff Hornacek. Carmelo Anthony trade rumors are starting up (it would be vintage Phil Jackson to push Anthony out of town with it looking like ‘Melo’s idea). Hornacek is changing up the starting lineup, putting Ron Baker in over Courtney Lee. Atlanta, Boston, and Washington are the kinds of games playoff teams win — or at least are competitive in — and can the Knicks do that?

 
Kings small icon 21. Kings (16-24, LW 20). Sacramento is 1-5 so far in a make-or-break seven game homestand and have trailed by at least 14 points in every game. The bad news is now things are about to get tough — after a Wednesday date with the Blazers the Kings head out on an eight game road trip that could bury them. If you want a silver lining, Anthony Tolliver has played well since being made a starter.

 
timberwolves small icon 22. Timberwolves (14-27, LW 26). They are 4-6 in their last 10 games but have been playing better than that — they had won three in a row until stumbling against Dallas Sunday. In those three wins, Karl-Anthony Towns averaged 28.7 points, 15.3 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. There are moments you see the flashes from this team, but they lack the glue that brings the roster together, and like many young teams they lack consistency.

 
Nuggets small icon 23. Nuggets (15-23, LW 24). They needed the trip to London, having lost five in a row before getting there the Nuggets routed the Pacers behind another quality game from Nikola Jokic (22 and 10). His scoring makes his fantastic passing that much more dangerous. Tough schedule ahead for Denver with five games this week and the Spurs and Clippers among them.

 
Magic small icon 24. Magic (17-25 LW 22). This is the team I’m most interested to watch at the trade deadline — last summer Scott Skiles moved on in part because he didn’t like the roster, and Frank Vogel has moved Nikola Vucevic in and out of the starting lineup. They have a front-court logjam and the only questions are what pieces are they willing to move, and at what price. Anyone not named Aaron Gordon should be available.

 
Sixers small icon 25. 76ers (12-26, LW 28). They had won three in a row for the first time in three seasons until Saturday, and still they have won five of seven. I want to see Joel Embiid in the All-Star Game — yes, I know about the minutes restrictions and all the time he missed, but in an exhibition that should be about entertainment, Embiid needs to be front and center. (As an aside, if you’re basing you HOF voting on ASG appearances, you’re doing it wrong.) Right now, this team is just fun to watch.

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Mavericks small icon 26. Mavericks (13-27, LW 25). This is the best Dirk Nowitzki has played all season, and not coincidentally it’s the best Mavs have looked all season as well (though they are not going to get up to .500 this season, first time they will fall below that line since Marc Cuban bought the team). It’s still strange to see all the Dirk sets we’ve seen run over the past decade now run for Harrison Barnes (who continues to score well in isolation but is a work in progress on the playmaking part of the game).

 
Suns small icon 27. Suns (13-27, LW 27). Devin Booker would like the Suns to play more games south of the border — he had 78 points in the two games in Mexico City. Those games included a quality win over the Spurs. It’s welcome back to reality north of the border with the Jazz, Cavaliers and Raptors all on the schedule this week.

 
Lakers small icon 28. Lakers (15-30, LW 23). They have lost four games in a row, and it’s all about the defense — they remain a mess on that end. Also, note to Lakers fans: Yes, D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram are up-and-down this season, that’s what happens to young players learning on the job. It’s part of development. Don’t blow things out of proportion, look at the overall arc of where they are headed. Russell said he just started a game-day routine, that’s a step toward being a pro. That’s what matters. In other words, listen to Aaron Rodgers and R-E-L-A-X.

 
Heat small icon 29. Heat (11-20, LW 29). They were 1-5 on a recent road trip and the only question remaining around this team is how aggressive Pat Riley is moving guys around at the trade deadline. This is a point-guard heavy draft so if the Heat want to roll the dice a little they may be able to get a good package for Goran Dragic. If not, they are tanking just fine with him then can trade him on draft night.

 
Nets small icon 30. Nets (8-32, LW 30). Losers of 10 in a row, and before you use the word “tank” remember Boston has their pick next draft unprotected. Jeremy Lin told a Chinese television network he hopes to be back in the next couple of weeks. Looking for a bright spot? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been playing better of late.

Stan Van Gundy prefers eliminating replays to shorten NBA games

Stan Van Gundy
AP
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently made remarks about the league looking into the length of NBA games, suggesting the attention span of Millennials was a motivating factor. Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has one idea on how to shorten games: ban replay.

Van Gundy has been an opponent to replay for some time, mostly attacking from the angle of replay happening at arbitrary times of the game and on less important plays.

From MLive:

“We really don’t care happens the first 46 minutes, but we want to get every call right (in the final two),” Van Gundy said. “Actually, we don’t even care if we get every call right in the last two minutes — we pick and choose the calls we want to get right in the last two minutes. So, we end up in replay.

“We want to get all the out-of-bounds calls right in the last two minutes. Surprisingly, the most important thing is, we don’t care about getting foul calls right in the last two minutes. But, we’ve got to get out-of-bounds and goaltending and that stuff right.”

The league already reduced the amount of time they’ve spend per replay this season to around 32 seconds. Even considering that, it’s not immediately apparent how much time having replay really adds to the length of an average NBA game.

For example, at the end of the 2014-15 season the NBA released data saying they had 2,162 reviews averaging 42.1 seconds long, putting them at 1.76 per-game. That’s only adding 74 seconds — one minute and 14 seconds — onto each game, on average.

Is that so bad? It’s hard to tell. Things like league pace, offensive efficiency, and free-throw rate are all factors that go into how long games take.

There is some significant data that says replays have not lengthened NBA games, and in fact league contests are shorter than they were about seven years ago.

That being said, the fourth quarters can seem to drag on, so I get Van Gundy’s point. Plus, coming from a new angle like “eliminate replay altogether unless you’re going to review fouls” is just crazy enough I want to hear it.

There’s no question end-of-game situations can bog down, which can be harmful for casual NBA viewers as the league tries to expand it’s already exploding footprint. It’s going to be a line the league will have to tiptoe as it goes through a growth phase — do they play to the diehards, who are mostly OK with game length now save for a few tweaks? Or do they make a play to make it quicker and flashier to draw in new fans who don’t make up their core?

It’s not a life-or-death situation here for the game of professional basketball, but it will be interesting to see where Silver takes it whether Millennial attention spans are to blame or not.

Stan Van Gundy, Pistons’ players frustrated by team’s poor defense. As they should be.

AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 05: Head coach Stan Van Gundy reacts to a foul call during the second half while playing the Charlotte Hornets at the Palace of Auburn Hills on January 5, 2017 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Detroit won the game 115-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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In the month of November, the Detroit Pistons allowed just 103 points per 100 possessions to their opponents.

In their last 15 games, they have allowed 113.4 per 100. Only the Nuggets have been worse.

The Pistons have gone 4-11 in that stretch, falling out of the playoffs (they are three games back of the eight seed as of this writing). Stan Van Gundy is a defense-first coach, and he is frustrated, as reported by Aaron McCann of Mlive.com reports.

“We can’t stop anybody. We just can’t,” Van Gundy said. “The first 21 games, we were the second-best defensive team in the league. And now we’re one of the worst. I’m frustrated — not with our players, I’m frustrated with myself. That I can’t figure this out. I mean, we literally can’t stop anyone. Ever.”

Point guard is Reggie Jackson (who has played better of late after missing the start of the season) echoed those comments.

“It has to be fixed — or it’s going to be a long (expletive) season,” Jackson said. “It’s been a season from hell so far. So it’s going to be a long-(expletive) season if we don’t find a way to fix it.”

So what’s the problem?

“A little bit of everything,” Jackson said. “Sometimes we have mental breakdowns. Not sticking to our principles. I think sometimes we’re not just playing simple basketball and understanding who we’re guarding or where we want to be. And I think just, too many times we’re letting our offense and a lack of making shots at times really dictate how much effort we put out on defense. We can’t do that.”

Teams have been killing the Pistons from three of late — shooting 47 percent in the last nine games —something that is a bit of a statistical fluke and will regress over time. But the problems go far beyond that.

We came into this season thinking the Pistons had a formula with Andre Drummond in the middle and four guys out, but this season that equation hasn’t added up. For example, when Drummond and Tobias Harris are on the court together, the Pistons get outscored by 7.6 points per 100 possessions. Van Gundy the coach should be frustrated, but the real work in getting this team working again may fall to Van Gundy the GM.

NBA: Pistons got away with key shooting foul in win over Trail Blazers

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The Pistons’ double-overtime win over the Trail Blazers on Sunday produced some fun moments in the second overtime – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hitting the game-winning 3-pointer and Detroit’s bench showing Boban Marjanovic how to form a f—ing wall.

But with correct officiating down the stretch, perhaps the game would’ve ended in the first overtime – with a Portland victory.

Tobias Harris should’ve been called for a shooting foul on Mason Plumlee with 1:19 left in the first overtime, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Harris (DET) makes contact with Plumlee’s (POR) arm that affects his driving shot attempt.

Instead of Plumlee – who’s shooting 53% from the line this season and 57% for his career – getting two free throws, Reggie Jackson pushed the ball the other way. With Plumlee down on the court after contact, Jackson had a clearer path into the paint and got a layup.

That’s a big swing in a period that ended tied.

Plumlee got away with a non-shooting foul in the second overtime on contact that forced a Detroit backcourt violation and turnover. But, again, if the game were officiated correctly in crunch time, there might have never been a second overtime.

Tony Allen casts crazy All-Star ballot for teammates, random East players

Tony Allen
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The NBA changed the NBA All-Star voting, essentially taking it partially away from fans because they didn’t want a situation where Zaza Pachulia was voted an NBA starter. The fans still get 50 percent of the vote, but the media gets 25 percent and the players get 25 percent because they were going to take this seriously.

Enter Tony Allen.

The Grizzlies wing defender went on Periscope and had fun at the expense of the process.

In case you missed it, Alle cast this ballot for the All-Star starters next month in New Orleans.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets
Mo Williams, Atlanta Hawks (just traded from Cleveland)
Luke Babbit, Miami Heat
Michael Beasley, Milwaukee Bucks
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
James Ennis, Memphis Grizzlies
Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

Somewhere, Adam Silver is just shaking his head.

I do not have a vote, but the media members take this responsibility seriously, with few strange candidates in the mix (particularly since end-of-year award votes were made public). That said, guys vote based on who they see, and things can become skewed (for example, can you blame someone who sees Damian Lillard every day for appreciating him more?).

Most players will take it seriously as well, but you can bet there will be a lot of guys bumping up teammates/friends/guys with the same agent. I know Russell Westbrook and other players have said media members don’t know enough to have the vote in their hands, but the idea that somehow the player vote will be some pristine truth is laughable.

At least he didn’t vote for Pachulia.