Two months into the season, and we’re starting to get a sense who these teams are.
#3 Boston Celtics
The Celtics finally lost a game, to the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, snapping their eight-game winning streak. Although Gordon Hayward is still not meeting expectations offensively to this point in the season, Kyrie Irving has been lights out. Irving is sixth in the NBA in real-plus/minus. You knew they wouldn’t stay down forever.
#2 Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo is back from injury and, no surprise, the Pacers went 4-0 last week. More impressive – they started their hot streak without him. Last season, the Pacers went 0-7 without Oladipo. Indiana is 20-10 and has a fairly light schedule upcoming, with Cleveland, Brooklyn, and Washington lined up this week.
#1 Toronto Raptors
They pounded the Warriors without Kawhi Leonard in the Bay. Right when it looked like they’ve fully arrived, injuries started rearing their ugly head. Jonas Valenciunas will miss a month after he dislocated his thumb against the Warriors. Kyle Lowry missed the last two games of their West Coast road trip with a thigh bruise. And key role players Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet both sat out on Sunday with back injuries. If they can hold on over the next month, they’ll be sitting pretty.
#3 Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double again, but Paul George has been the star of the show. George is averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks this season. They may have lost both their road games this week, but OKC has the best defensive rating in the NBA and Westbrook and George are finding new ways to work off of each other.
#2 Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets had three big wins this week, including statement victories over the Thunder and Raptors. Theyv’e won 10 of their last 12 and somehow have managed despite missing three of their five starters due to injury. Everything starts and ends with center Nikola Jokic – and he’s determined to get them into the playoffs, and beyond, this season.
#1 Golden State Warriors
They’re finally healthy, with Steph curry and Draymond green back in the lineup. They seem to have put their internal discord behind them. Oh, and DeMarcus Cousins is working with their G-League affiliate. Look out.