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)
Associated Press

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.

James Harden’s 12th triple-double helps Rockets end 2-game skid

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AP
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NEW YORK (AP) James Harden had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in his 12th triple-double of the season and the Houston Rockets easily ended their first losing streak of the season by beating the Brooklyn Nets 137-112 on Sunday night.

Held to 105 points in losses to Minnesota and Memphis, the Rockets bounced back with 104 after three quarters and handed the Nets their 10th straight loss.

Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 24 points and Trevor Ariza added 23. Houston made 21 3-pointers and had five players with at least 16 points.

Houston shot just 40.8 percent during its two losses, well below its 46.8 season average, while being held nearly 10 points below its season scoring average. But the Rockets had no trouble bouncing back against the Nets, who allow an NBA-worst 114.3 per game.

Tony Allen has season-high 22 as Grizzlies down Rockets 110-105

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, right, dunks as Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza, left, looks on in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, in Houston. Memphis won the game, 110-105. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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HOUSTON (AP) — Tony Allen scored a season-high 22 points, Mike Conley added 17 and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit for a 110-105 victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

Memphis led by two late in the fourth quarter before scoring the next five points, capped by a 3-pointer by Troy Daniels, to make it 110-103 with 26 seconds left. A dunk by James Harden came next, but Houston missed two shots after that to allow the Grizzlies to hold on for their third win in four games.

Harden had 27 points and nine assists for the Rockets, who have lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

Memphis was up by one in the fourth when Conley tossed a ball from about halfcourt as he fell into the front row of seats to Allen for a dunk. Conley hit a 3-pointer a few seconds later to push the lead to 101-95 with about 5 minutes left.

The Grizzlies scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, with five from Zach Randolph, to go on top for the first time in the second half, 92-85. Houston got going after that, scoring the next seven points to tie it with about 8 minutes left.

The Rockets led by 15 after an alley-oop dunk by Montrezl Harrell with about 9 minutes left third quarter. The Grizzlies then used a 9-1 run to cut the lead to 71-64 with about three minutes later.

Houston hadn’t scored a basket in almost four minutes when Harrell made a jumper with about 5 minutes left. Consecutive 3-pointers by Eric Gordon helped leave Houston ahead 79-68.

It didn’t take long for Memphis to start another run as Gasol hit a 3-pointer after that to start a 15-5 spurt that got the Grizzlies within 84-83 with about a minute left in the third. Daniels had two 3s in that stretch and Randolph added one.

Sam Dekker made a free throw for Houston near the end of the quarter to leave Houston ahead 85-83 entering the fourth.

Houston made just 2 of 14 3-pointers in the third quarter and shot just 25 percent overall in the period, while the Grizzlies made 5 of 10 3s and shot 65 percent to close the gap.

Houston led 64-51 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Grizzlies: Allen fouled out with 3:35 remaining. … Randolph finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. … Daniels scored 13 points.

Rockets: Gordon returned after missing two games with a toe injury and had 13 points. … Harrell scored 10 points for his ninth double-digit scoring game in the last 13. … Coach Mike D’Antoni received a technical foul early in the second quarter. … Houston has scored 100 points or more in 28 straight games.

NO LOVE

Memphis forward Chandler Parsons did not get a warm welcome in his return to Houston, getting booed loudly every time he touched the ball. Parsons was drafted by the Rockets in 2011 and played three seasons in Houston before leaving for Dallas. He spent two seasons there before joining the Grizzlies this season. He finished with five points, two rebounds and two steals.

 

This story has been corrected to show that the Grizzlies have won three of four, not four straight.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry lead All-Star fan voting

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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LeBron James still leads All-Star fan voting.

Second place overall? Kyrie Irving, who held the mark behind his Cavaliers teammate in the first returns, has fallen behind Warriors Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Here are the latest leaders:

Eastern Conference

Guards

1. Kyrie Irving (CLE) 971,362

2. Dwyane Wade (CHI) 514,866

3. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 453,538

4. Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 401,671

5. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 256,668

6. Derrick Rose (NYK) 223,804

7. John Wall (WAS) 173,148

8. Jeremy Lin (BKN) 109,088

9. Kemba Walker (CHA) 105,637

10. Avery Bradley (BOS) 64,157

Frontcourt

1. LeBron James (CLE) 1,066,147

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 963,110

3. Kevin Love (CLE) 473,328

4. Joel Embiid (PHI) 457,300

5. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 400,448

6. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 327,716

7. Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 324,106

8.  Paul George (IND) 249,484

9. Jabari Parker (MIL) 120,022

10. Tristan Thompson (CLE) 114,759

Western Conference

Guards

1. Stephen Curry (GSW) 990,390

2. James Harden (HOU) 961,685

3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 899,024

4. Klay Thompson (GSW) 555,430

5. Chris Paul (LAC) 379,076

6. Damian Lillard (POR) 208,171

7. Eric Gordon (HOU) 191,407

8. Andre Iguodala (GSW) 130,224

9. Manu Ginobili (SAS) 122,333

10. Zach LaVine (MIN) 94,867

Frontcourt

1. Kevin Durant (GSW) 987,479

2. Zaza Pachulia (GSW) 823,376

3. Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 630,766

4. Anthony Davis (NOP) 567,201

5. Draymond Green (GSW) 464,319

6. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 379,225

7. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 223,979

8. LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS) 192,784

9. Blake Griffin (LAC) 172,393

10. Marc Gasol (MEM) 172,146

Remember, the NBA changed how it selects All-Starters this year. Players and media will have a voice along with fans.

Will that iron out weird situations like Zaza Pachulia ranking second among Western Conference frontcourt players? Maybe when everything comes together. But players’ votes can be loony, too.

The media will likely provide the most sober choices of who “deserves” to start. On that note, here’s some sound analysis on which players should get the nod.

There’s still so much of the equation left to come, which has really taken the air out of the sales of these vote announcements. It’s nice to know where players rank among fans, but it means only so much now.

NBA: James Harden got away with shooting foul against Hornets, preceding his fastbreak layup (video)

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James Harden racked up the accolades for leading the Rockets to a 121-114 win over the Hornets on Tuesday.

But we might have told a different story if the game featured correct officiating down the stretch.

Harden got away with a shooting foul on Kemba Walker with two minutes left, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Harden (HOU) makes contact with Walker’s (CHA) arm that affects his driving shot attempt.

Not only did the missed call rob Walker – who’s shooting 83% from the line this season and 82% for his career – of two free throws, it sparked a Houston fastbreak. With Walker down, Harden pushed the ball ahead and used the Rockets’ 5-on-4 advantage and his individual mismatch to get a layup.

That’s potentially a four-point swing.

Houston’s lead once Charlotte began intentionally fouling? Three.