The Golden State Warriors have rightfully hogged headlines this season. That'll happen when you're setting NBA records left and right before the calendar flips to the new year.
But just below Steph Curry's 26-1 team in the Western Conference standings are the San Antonio Spurs. At 23-5, winners of five straight and nine of 10, and a point differential (+13.2) nearly as good as Golden State's (+13.4), Greg Popovich's group is the best team in the NBA that doesn't play its home games in Oakland.
Kawhi Leonard has been nothing short of magnificent, averaging 21.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists on 50.9/49.0/88.0 shooting, while also adding two steals and nearly a block per game. LaMarcus Aldridge has shaken off a slow start and is up to 16.1 points per game, while Tony Parker has had a bounceback year to the tune of shooting nearly 56 percent from the field.
The Spurs are up to No. 3 in offensive efficiency and they lead the NBA in defensive efficiency by nearly five points per 100 possessions (in layman's terms, by A LOT).
What Golden State is doing has been historic. But don't forget about the NBA's other best team.
On to the rankings:
|1 (1)||(26-1)||Friday can't come soon enough. Yes, it's Christmas Day, but it's also a rematch of last year's NBA Finals. The most highly anticipated regular season game in awhile.|
|2 (2)||(23-5)||Kawhi Leonard is rising in the MVP race for players not named Stephen Curry. He's been an absolute monster of efficiency this season. And as always, he's somehow done it quietly.|
|3 (4)||(18-7)||Dating back to last January, the Cavaliers are now 34-3 with LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the lineup. With Irving back, the East is clearly theirs to lose.|
|4 (3)||(18-9)||They've won seven of eight but missed a golden opportunity to take down the Cavaliers before Kyrie Irving returned. A few offensive droughts did them in in Thursday's loss.|
|5 (8)||(16-10)||Hassan Whiteside was outstanding down the stretch Sunday against the Blazers, finishing with 22 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.|
|6 (6)||(16-10)||The Pacers need to get Monta Ellis (12.2 points, 42.1% shooting, 4.5 assists) going at some point. Paul George and C.J. Miles can only shoot 3-pointers for so long.|
|7 (5)||(17-12)||Like many in this range, tough to tell where the Raptors stand after double-digit losses to Indiana, Charlotte and Sacramento....and a double-digit road win over Miami.|
|8 (14)||(17-12)||The offense is coming around in a hurry, as Mike Budenholzer's group averaged 113.0 points in three straight wins this week, including 109 against the pesky Celtics.|
|9 (11)||(16-12)||Still tough to figure out where the Clippers stand among contenders after road losses to San Antonio and Houston. Monday against Oklahoma City should give us a clearer picture.|
|10 (16)||(16-12)||Wins over Indiana, Boston and Chicago in their last four games, and they'll get Brandon Jennings back this week. Detroit is on the rise.|
|11 (7)||(15-10)||As our Vincent Goodwill wrote on Sunday, all eyes will be on Jimmy Butler after he stepped up and called out Fred Hoiberg following the Bulls' second straight loss.|
|12 (9)||(14-13)||They couldn't parlay momentum from nearly topping the Warriors and then beating Charlotte, losing three straight to East contenders in Cleveland, Detroit and Atlanta.|
|13 (12)||(15-12)||Chandler Parsons seems close to shedding his minute restriction, which should change the dynamic of the Mavericks. Big home win over the Grizzlies on Saturday.|
|14 (17)||(15-12)||Somehow, some way, the Magic are all the way up to No. 6 in defensive efficiency. A blowout win over Charlotte was particularly impressive (and surprising).|
|15 (10)||(15-11)||A solid win over the Raptors was the lone positive from a week that included losses to Orlando and Washington. They had a chance to push ahead in the East.|
|16 (23)||(14-14)||Kristaps Porzingis is one of four players averaging 13 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. The others? Anthony Davis, Pau Gasol and Karl-Anthony Towns. Good company.|
|17 (15)||(15-14)||Call it a positive going 2-2 against that schedule (WAS, at CHI, at DAL, IND). Zach Randolph is averaging just 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds since his move to the bench.|
|18 (12)||(14-14)||Watching vintage Dwight Howard above the rim in a win over the Clippers (22 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks) was fun to watch. Can it spark Houston going forward?|
|19 (21)||(11-14)||John Wall quietly putting up career-high numbers in points (19.9), field goal percentage (44.5%) and steals (2.1). The Wizards have work to do to get back in the playoff hunt.|
|20 (20)||(11-18)||Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 17.0 points on 50 percent shooting and 6.3 assists in his last seven games. And they had the Warriors on the ropes in Oracle.|
|21 (18)||(12-17)||Brandon Knight's revenge game against the Bucks on Sunday? Nine points on 3-for-10 shooting, and the Bucks earned a 101-95 road victory.|
|22 (22)||(8-19)||Baby steps for Anthony Davis and Co., who have won two of three and may be trending in the right direction as their collective health improves.|
|23 (19)||(11-14)||We write about it every week, but the defensive drop-off without Rudy Gobert continues. They're now down to 18th in efficiency after being top-3 with Gobert.|
|24 (26)||(11-16)||The Kings picked up their best win of the season Sunday night, with all five starters in double figures in a 104-94 road win over the Raptors.|
|25 (24)||(11-18)||The Blazers blew a 10-point halftime lead in Miami to close out a difficult road stretch. They play two more on the road (ATL, NOLA) before hosting the Cavs.|
|26 (25)||(11-16)||Ricky Rubio has averaged 10.2 assists in his last nine games, and nearly had a quadruple-double Wednesday against the Knicks (9/10/12/8 steals).|
|27 (27)||(11-16)||It's tough for the league's 24th ranked offense to score 125 points and lose, but that's what the Nuggets did Sunday against the Pelicans.|
|28 (28)||(7-20)||The league's longest non-Sixers losing streak (L5), the Nets hung with Miami and Indiana this week but couldn't pull off either upset.|
|29 (29)||(4-23)||A resurgent Kobe Bryant is shooting 49 percent in his last six games, averaging 18.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.|
|30 (30)||(1-28)||During their 10-game losing streak, the Sixers have been outscored by an average of 108.6 to 82.0. Good luck, Mike D'Antoni.|