NBA.com/Stats

Warriors End 2015 As Real Winners


VIDEO: GameTime: Top 10 Plays of 2015

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — It was a good year for the Golden State Warriors. They won their first championship in 40 years, showing the league that you can win at a fast pace along the way. Then they began their title defense by setting an NBA record with 24 wins to start a season.

In total, the Warriors went 88-17 in 2015, including the postseason, falling just short of the record for most wins in a calendar year.

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It was a good year for Warriors individual accomplishments, too. Stephen Curry earned the regular season MVP award, Andre Iguodala was Finals MVP, Draymond Green was the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year, and Klay Thompson earned his first All-Star selection.

Curry ranked in the top 10 in points, assists, steals and 3-pointers for 2015. Green ranked in the top 10 in total rebounds and steals, and came three assists short of the top 10 in that category. Thompson ranked fifth in total points and second in 3s, while Andrew Bogut ranked ninth in blocks.

Here are the statistical leaders for the 2015 calendar year. All stats include the postseason…

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Curry may have led the league in total points in 2015 had he played the last two games. Instead, James Harden topped the list, scoring the most points in a calendar year since Kevin Durant scored more than 3,000 in 2012.

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Stats preview: Clippers at Lakers


VIDEO: GameTime previews the matchup between the Clippers and the Lakers

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the final game of the night, when the Clippers and Lakers meet for the first time this season (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Los Angeles Clippers (16-13)

The stat: The Clippers have attempted just 39 percent of their shots in the paint, the lowest rate in the league.

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20151224_lac_basicsThe Golden State Warriors are often called “a jump-shooting team,” but their Pacific Division rivals are much more of a jump-shooting team than the champs are. This is the second straight season that the Clippers have led the league in percentage of shots that come from outside the paint.

DeAndre Jordan has taken all but one of his 162 shots from the paint. But the rest of the Clippers’ roster makes up for that with a lot of jump shots. Blake Griffin ranks sixth in the league in points in the paint, but has taken more than half his shots from outside it for the first time in his career. In fact, the percentage of his shots that Griffin has taken from outside the paint has increased every season since he entered the league.

The thing is that the Clippers have been the best shooting team inside the paint. Among 140 players who have attempted at least 100 shots from the paint, Jordan (70.4 percent) and Griffin (65.7 percent) rank first and third in field goal percentage there.

The Clippers still have a top-five offense. And around the league, the teams that take the most shots from inside the paint tend to rank lower in the lower half of the league in offensive efficiency.

But league-wide, paint shots yield more points per attempt (1.06) than shots from outside the paint (0.93). Only three teams have attempted a greater percentage of their shots from mid-range than the Clippers.

And only one team has regressed more offensively than the Clippers, who have scored 5.9 points per 100 possessions fewer than they did last season, when only the Warriors and Hawks had a higher effective field goal percentage from outside the paint. This year, L.A. ranks 20th in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint.

They’re not a great defensive team, so when those jump shots don’t go in, they don’t look like much of a title contender.

More Clippers notes from NBA.com/stats

Los Angeles Lakers (5-24)

The stat: The Lakers’ defense has allowed 7.2 points per 100 possessions more than the league average, the biggest differential of the last 10 seasons.

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20151224_lal_basicsThe Lakers are the only team to rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons. This is also the fifth straight season that Byron Scott has coached a bottom-five defense. And this, so far, is the worst defensive team he’s coached.

Roy Hibbert was a big reason the Indiana Pacers were the best defensive team of the last three years. Indiana allowed 98.1 points per 100 possessions over those three seasons and just 97.3 with Hibbert on the floor. But Hibbert hasn’t been able to make a defensive impact with the Lakers, who have allowed 111.6 points per 100 possessions with him playing center.

The Lakers rank 20th or worse in all four of the defensive “four factors,” opponent shooting, defensive rebounding, opponent turnover rate and opponent free throw rate. The Sixers are the only other team that has been below average in all four.

L.A. and Philadelphia are also the only two teams that rank in the bottom three in both offensive and defensive efficiency. While there may be a lot of parity in the middle of both conferences, there’s very a clear No. 15 team in each.

More Lakers notes from NBA.com/stats

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Data curated by PointAfter

Stats preview: Cavs at Warriors


VIDEO: GameTime previews the matchup between the Cavs and the Warriors

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the day’s marquee game and a rematch of the 2015 Finals, Cleveland at Golden State (5 p.m. ET, ABC).

Cleveland Cavaliers (19-7)

The stat: The Cavs have been 10.9 points per 100 possessions better in the second half than they’ve been in the first half, the biggest differential in the league.

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20151224_cle_basicsThe Cavs have been somewhat mediocre in the first half, outscoring their opponents by just 23 points over 26 games. (Their Christmas opponent, by contrast, is a plus-215 in the first half.) Cleveland has had the lead at halftime in just 12 of the 26 and has twice trailed the 1-30 Philadelphia 76ers at the half.

They’ve been particularly bad, scoring 86 points per 100 possessions and getting outscored by 10, in the last six minutes of the first quarter. Not coincidentally, that’s the segment of the first half when LeBron James is least likely to be on the floor.

But the Cavs turn things around really quickly out of the locker room, outscoring their opponents by almost 24 points per 100 possessions in the first six minutes of the third quarter. They typically suffer another dip in the last six minutes of the third (when James goes to the bench again), but have been the best fourth quarter team in the league, when they’ve allowed just 93.0 points per 100 possessions.

The return of Kyrie Irving (he’s played the last two games after sitting out the first 24) could change up the Cavs’ by-half numbers. He could help them get out to faster starts and/or keep the offense afloat when James sits down. But it’s also fair to ask if the fourth quarter defense will be as good when he’s on the floor closing games.

More Cavs notes from NBA.com/stats

Golden State Warriors (27-1)

The stat: The Warriors have scored 11.0 more points per 100 possessions than the league average, the biggest differential since the league started counting turnovers in 1977.

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20151224_gsw_basicsThe champs ranked second in offensive efficiency last season, and they’re the fourth most improved offensive team this year. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have somehow shot better than they did a year ago, and so have Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.

Green has also evolved into the league’s best playmaker at the power forward position. He leads the league’s best offense and ranks seventh in the league with 7.1 assists per game. Defenses have no choice but to aggressively defend Curry on pick-and-rolls, and when they do, Green makes them pay on 4-on-3 situations.

The Warriors have the best offense in the first half, in the second half, in home games, in road games, on the second night of back-to-backs (113.9 points scored per 100 possessions) and in games with at least one day of rest (112.8).

Last season’s Warriors were, statistically, the best team since Michael Jordan‘s Bulls. This season’s Warriors have been better.

More Warriors notes from NBA.com/stats

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Data curated by PointAfter

Stats preview: Spurs at Rockets


VIDEO: Dennis Scott and Greg Anthony preview the Spurs-Rockets matchup

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the day’s fourth game, San Antonio at Houston (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), the first meeting between the two teams that have shown dramatic improvement as the season has gone on.

San Antonio Spurs (25-5)

The stat: The Spurs rank first in both offensive and defensive efficiency in the month of December.

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20151224_sas_basicsThe Spurs have had the league’s best defense since the third week of the season. They’ve allowed 9.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average, the biggest differential since the league started counting turnovers in 1977.

On the last day of November though, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “We are not good offensively, and may not be until March.”

Well, he lied.

After scoring 102.5 points per 100 possessions through November, the Spurs have scored 114.2 this month, 116.4 over their last 10 games. The Spurs have shot much better this month, and have also grabbed a greater percentage of available offensive rebounds, turned the ball over less, and gone to the free-throw line more often.

With the league’s No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense in December, the Spurs have outscored their opponents by 22.2 points per 100 possessions in their 12 games, a mark that’s more than seven points per 100 possessions better than any other team.

Going back to 1996-97, the best NetRtg a team ever posted in a month in which it played at least 10 games was plus-16.9 by the Chicago Bulls in November of ’96. With four more games this month (all against teams that are .500 or below), the Spurs are set to crush that mark.

More Spurs notes from NBA.com/stats

Houston Rockets (15-15)

The stat: The Rockets have been the most improved team since Thanksgiving, 11.6 points per 100 possessions better than they were through Nov. 25.

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20151224_hou_basicsBefore Thanksgiving, the Rockets were 5-10, with the league’s 27th ranked offense. Since the holiday, they’re 10-5, ranking fourth offensively.

James Harden has seen a small bump in how well he’s shot, but the biggest jump has come from the Houston role players. Trevor Ariza, Corey Brewer, Ty Lawson and Marcus Thornton all have a post-Thanksgiving effective field goal percentage that’s at least eight percentage points better than what they shot before Thanksgiving.

The schedule has been a factor in the Rockets’ improvement. Before Thanksgiving, the Rockets played six games against teams that are currently under .500 and five against bottom-10 defenses. Since, they’ve played 10 games against teams currently under .500 and nine against bottom-10 defenses. So it’s not quite time to believe that they’ve found all the answers to their problems or that they’re looking good for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

In the next nine days, the Rockets will face the Spurs (twice), Hawks and Warriors. After this stretch, we’ll know if they’ve truly turned the corner.

More Rockets notes from NBA.com/stats

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Data curated by PointAfter

Stats preview: Bulls at Thunder


VIDEO: Dennis Scott and Greg Anthony preview the Bulls-Thunder matchup.

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the day’s second game, Chicago at Oklahoma City (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the only Christmas matchup of a top-three offense vs. a top-three defense.

Chicago Bulls (15-11)

The stat: No team has regressed more offensively than the Bulls, who have scored 6.3 points per 100 possessions fewer than they did last season.

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20151224_chi_basicsThe Bulls were the league’s best defensive team over the five years that Tom Thibodeau was on their bench. But over the same timeframe, they ranked 17th in offensive efficiency. Thibodeau was fired this summer and new coach Fred Hoiberg was brought in to improve the offense.

But the offense has gone in the wrong direction. The Bulls have taken a lower percentage of their shots from the restricted area, where they rank last in field goal percentage. They’ve also taken a lower percentage of their shots from 3-point range than they did last season.

The four Bulls who have taken the most shots are all below the league average in effective field goal percentage. Derrick Rose ranks 206th in effective field goal percentage among 209 players who have attempted at least 150 shots. Nobody in the league who has shot as much as Rose has shot worse.

The Bulls have also suffered big drop-offs in offensive rebounding percentage (with Joakim Noah playing fewer minutes) and free throw rate (with Rose registering a career low in that category).

Chicago has scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions over the last six games. That’s its best six-game stretch of offense this season, but it ranks only 17th over that time. And entering Friday’s game in Oklahoma City, the Bulls have lost three straight games to teams below them in the Eastern Conference standings.

More Bulls notes from NBA.com/stats

Oklahoma City Thunder (20-9)

The stat: Kevin Durant has shot 46.4 percent from outside the paint, the best mark among players who have taken at least 200 shots from there.

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20151224_okc_basicsIf you wanted to make the argument that Stephen Curry isn’t the best shooter playing on Christmas Day, you have at least one data point to help your cause.

Durant is one of only three players who has shot 50 percent or better on at least 100 mid-range shots. And he ranks eighth in 3-point percentage among players who have attempted at least 100 threes. He ranks fifth in field goal percentage among players who have attempted at least 100 pull-up jumpers and 10th among players who have attempted at least 100 catch-and-shoot jumpers.

Though he missed a six-game stretch in November with a strained hamstring, the Thunder star has played almost as many games (23) as he did last season (27), so it should be no surprise that OKC is one of the league’s most improved teams. The Thunder are actually the only team that’s at least four points per 100 possessions better than they were last season in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

The Thunder have scored 113.4 points per 100 possessions with Durant on the floor and just 101.9 with him on the bench (in part because they don’t stagger the minutes of Durant and Russell Westbrook much). It’s amazing how much a 6-foot-11 guy who’s been the league’s best shooter from outside the paint can help your offense.

Durant needs to put together a bit of a free throw streak to be on pace to become the third player in NBA history to have multiple 50-40-90 seasons (50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line). But he’s already having the best jump-shooting season of his career.

More Thunder notes from NBA.com/stats

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Data curated by PointAfter

Stats preview: Pelicans at Heat


VIDEO: Dennis Scott and Greg Anthony preview the Pelicans-Heat matchup.

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the opener, New Orleans at Miami (Noon ET, ESPN), which is probably the day’s most important game in regard to the standings.

New Orleans Pelicans (9-19)

The stat: The Pelicans are the only team in the league without a lineup that has played at least 80 minutes together.

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20151224_nop_basicsThere have been two overriding themes over the last few years in New Orleans: bad defense and injuries. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Pelicans’ top five players — Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday — have missed a total of 280 games and played just 215 minutes together.

This season, they’ve all been on the floor for a total of just 17 minutes. Six Pelicans were unable to play the team’s opener and, with Quincy Pondexter still recovering from knee surgery and Holiday still on a minutes limit, the team has yet to be completely healthy.

They’re getting there, though. And good health will lead to continuity, which should lead to better basketball on both ends of the floor. But it may soon be too late for the Pelicans to make a run up the standings. They’re only 3 1/2 games out of eighth place in the Western Conference, but there are six teams between them and a playoff spot.

More Pelicans notes from NBA.com/stats

Miami Heat (16-11)

The stat: According to SportVU, the Heat have contested 26 percent of opponent 3-point attempts, the highest rate in the league.

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20151224_mia_basicsLeague-wide, shooters have made 36.3 percent of uncontested 3s, but only 28.7 percent on contested 3s. SportVU’s method of determining whether a shot is contested or not yields some noise in the results, but a contest counts and the Heat have contested better than any other team.

After a couple of years of regression on defense, the Heat are one of the most improved teams on that end of the floor and are in the top five in defensive efficiency for the fourth time in Erik Spoelstra‘s eight seasons as coach.

Miami is one of two teams (Philadelphia is the other) that has reduced the percentage of opponents’ shots that have come from the restricted area and the percentage of opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range. They’re forcing more inefficient shots and rank sixth in opponent effective field goal percentage. They also rank second in opponent free throw rate and seventh in defensive rebounding percentage.

The Heat’s disappointing offense has improved as the season has gone on, but their defense has regressed a bit. It ranks 16th in December, having faced seven top-10 offenses in its 11 games.

But for the season, Miami ranks third defensively against the league’s top-10 offenses, having allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions in 10 games against the group. And they face another one on Christmas Day.

More Heat notes from NBA.com/stats

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Data curated by PointAfter

Breaking down the parity in the East


VIDEO: Jeremy Lin’s 35 points lead the Hornets over the Raptors in overtime

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Cleveland Cavaliers’ win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday put the Eastern Conference back over .500 (76-75) in games against the West. While the West has only six teams with winning records, the East has 10.

Only 2 1/2 games separate the second place Bulls from the 10th place Celtics in the standings. Teams Nos. 2-10 in the East all have 14, 15 or 16 wins.

That makes for a lot of good matchups between teams fighting for playoff position. And there are three of them on League Pass Friday night: Hawks-Celtics (7:30 ET), Raptors-Heat (8 ET) and Pistons-Bulls (8 ET).

Beyond the Cavs, no team has distinguished itself as a favorite to win a round or two in the playoffs. They all have reasons to believe in them and reasons to doubt them. Here’s a rundown of Teams 2-10 in the East…

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Atlanta (15-12) has the experience. It was the No. 1 seed last season and is one of only two teams within the group that won a playoff series earlier this year. But the Hawks are 7-10 since Nov. 13 and have played the easiest schedule among these nine teams.
More vs. the group this month: 12/18 @ BOS, 12/20 @ ORL, 12/23 vs. DET, 12/28 @ IND

Boston (14-12) has a top-five defense, has a point differential of a team that’s actually 17-9, and has played the toughest schedule among these nine teams. But they’ve actually played the worst defense (by a wide margin) in games played within the group. They allowed the Pistons, a bottom-10 offensive team, to score 119 points on Wednesday.
More vs. the group this month: 12/18 vs. ATL, 12/23 @ CHA, 12/26 @ DET

Charlotte (15-10) ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but has played five more home games than road games. It’s also fair to wonder if Kemba Walker will continue to shoot as well as he has, having been the league’s worst shooter over the first four seasons of his career.
More vs. the group this month: 12/23 vs. BOS

Chicago (15-8) has the best record, but the seventh-best NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions) among these nine teams. Ten of their 15 wins have come by six points or less, and they’ve been outscored by 41 points in their eight games against the other eight teams on this list, having lost three straight within the group.
More vs. the group this month: 12/18 vs. DET, 12/28 vs. TOR, 12/30 vs. IND

Detroit (15-12) is 5-2 within the group after Wednesday’s win over the Celtics, but five of those seven games have been at home. Overall, the Pistons have been 9.3 points per 100 possessions better at home than on the road. Only Milwaukee (12.3) has a bigger differential.
More vs. the group this month: 12/18 @ CHI, 12/22 @ MIA, 12/23 @ ATL, 12/26 vs. BOS

Indiana (15-9) is a top-10 team on both ends of the floor, is 8-3 (6-0 at home) in games played within the group, and has a point differential of a team with a 17-7 record, which would have them tied with the Cavs for first place in the conference. The Pacers certainly have the best resume of the teams on this list. But their starting lineup has been pretty bad, especially defensively.
More vs. the group this month: 12/28 vs. ATL, 12/30 @ CHI

Miami (15-9) ranks third in defensive efficiency and has the talent to be a top-10 offense if it gets its starting lineup on the same page. But the Heat have played a home-heavy schedule thus far and are 3-6 (1-4 on the road after Monday’s win in Atlanta) in games played within this group.
More vs. the group this month: 12/18 vs. TOR, 12/22 vs. DET, 12/26 @ ORL,

Orlando (14-11) is another team with a top-10 defense and has won its last five games against non-Cavs East opponents. But the Magic have the ninth-best NetRtg in the East and have played the fewest games within this group.
More vs. the group this month: 12/20 vs. ATL, 12/26 vs. MIA

Toronto (16-11) is one of only two teams (Chicago is the other) with three wins over the four best teams in the league (Cleveland, Golden State, Oklahoma City and San Antonio), getting last week’s win over the Spurs without two starters. But the Raptors’ offense has been rather anemic in its seven games within this group.
More vs. the group this month: 12/18 @ MIA, 12/28 @ CHI

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Three of these teams will have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and at least two of them aren’t going to even make the postseason. Maybe at some point between now and April 13, it will get easier to distinguish the contenders from the pretenders.

James playing without a jumper


VIDEO: LeBron James’ highlights from Wednesday’s win in Boston

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Kyrie Irving hasn’t been the only thing missing from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ offense this season. LeBron James‘ jump shot has also been AWOL.

In Tuesday’s win in Boston, James shot 0-for-6 from outside the paint, missing three shots from mid-range and three from beyond the arc. It was the 43rd time in 1,111 career games that James has gone scoreless from outside the paint. But it was also the second time in the last five games and the eighth time this season that James has made less than two shots from outside the paint.

James entered the NBA with a combination of size and athleticism that we had never seen in a perimeter player. But as an 18-year-old rookie, he didn’t have much of a jump shot. He shot 32.0 percent from outside the paint, a mark that ranked last among 63 players who took at least 500 shots from the outside that season.

This season, he’s been worse. Through Wednesday, James has shot 31.0 percent from outside the paint this season, the worst mark of his career.

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His effective field goal percentage from outside the paint is higher than it was in his rookie year, because his ratio of 3-point shots to mid-range shots is more than twice as high now (0.83) than it was then (0.39).

James’ poor perimeter shooting actually goes back to April. He shot 26.8 percent from outside the paint in the 2015 playoffs, the worst mark of his postseason career.

This season, 83 players have attempted at least 150 shots from outside the paint, and three of them have made a lower percentage of those shots than James.

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Unlike most of the players on the above list, James has taken most of his shots from inside the paint, where he has shot 64.4 percent, the sixth best mark among 118 players who have attempted at least 100 shots there. In fact, he has taken a greater percentage of his shots from the paint this season (57 percent) than he ever has. In his last five games, he’s taken 71 percent of his shots from the paint.

So his poor shooting from the outside doesn’t affect his game as much as it that of other players or that of earlier versions of himself.

Irving’s eventual return could help James’ jumper. Last season, James shot 28-for-71 (39.4 percent) from 3-point range off of Irving’s passes and 38.6 percent from outside the paint with Irving on the floor vs. 32.1 percent with Irving off the floor.

Despite the Irving’s absence, the Cavs have a top-five offense as they enter Thursday’s TNT matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder (8 p.m. ET). Imagine how good they could be if both Irving and James’ jumper return.

Spurs playing historically good defense


VIDEO: GameTime: On the sizzling Spurs

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — As the Golden State Warriors have won 23 straight games to start the season, the San Antonio Spurs have gone largely under the radar. Less than seven weeks into the season, it’s already fair to ask the “Warriors vs. the field” question, but it won’t be until Jan. 25 when the champs face what could be their toughest opponent.

The perfect Warriors are five games ahead of the 18-5 Spurs in the standings, but point differential says they’re a little more evenly matched than that. The Warriors’ point differential gives them an “expected” record of 21-2, while the Spurs’ point differential would put them at 20-3.

The champs have been the best offensive team we’ve ever seen, but the Spurs have taken their title as the league’s best defense. In fact, while the Warriors top the list of best offenses of the last 39 years (since the league starting counting turnovers in 1977) by a wide margin, the Spurs top the same list on the other end of the floor.

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The No. 1 defense of the last 39 years won’t won’t face the No. 1 offense of the last 39 years until late January. The Warriors have a better chance of staying atop their list in the meantime, but there should never be any doubting the San Antonio defense. This is the fourth straight season that the Spurs have ranked in the top five in defensive efficiency, the 15th time they’ve done it in Tim Duncan’s 19-year career, and the 20th time they’ve ranked in the top five in the 27 seasons since David Robinson‘s rookie year.

This season, the Spurs have benefited a bit from having played only six games against teams that currently rank in the top 10 in offensive efficiency, while playing 11 games against the bottom 10. But they’ve still held those top-10 offenses under a point per possession, and only Miami has defended better against the group.

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The Spurs’ defense has been particularly good early in games. They’ve allowed just 83.6 points per 100 possessions (9.5 fewer than any other team) in the first quarter and just 89.8 (3.3 fewer than any other team) in the second quarter. Opponents have shot 40.4 percent from the field and just 29.5 percent from 3-point range in the first half against San Antonio.

The Spurs aren’t only defending shots well (they’re No. 1 in forcing mid-range shots), but they also lead the league in both defensive rebounding percentage and opponent free throw rate, putting up historical marks in those categories.

San Antonio has grabbed 80.5 percent of available defensive rebounds, the *highest mark since the league started counting offensive and defensive rebounds separately in 1973. And their opponent’s free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 0.218 is the second lowest mark of the last 43 years. Their opponents have scored only 22.6 points per game at the free throw line or on second chances.

* It’s worth noting that offensive rebounding has been trending down for a while. In fact, Cleveland (79.8 percent) and Charlotte (79.7 percent) are also eclipsing the highest mark in NBA history, held by last year’s Hornets (79.3 percent). Brooklyn (78.1 percent), Detroit (78.0 percent) and Minnesota (77.6 percent) would also rank in the top 10 all-time.

In the summer of 2012, after two seasons out of the top 10, the Spurs realized they needed to get back to defending an en elite level. That realization helped them get back to The Finals and eventually win their fifth championship. Three and a half years later, the defense is still going strong.

Grizzlies aren’t what they appear to be


VIDEO: Play of the Day: Matt Barnes wins it with a half-court heave.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Memphis Grizzlies were down two with six seconds left when Matt Barnes grabbed a defensive rebound. He didn’t call timeout — the Grizzlies had three — so Dave Joerger could draw up a play to tie or win the game. And he didn’t use all of those six seconds he had.

Instead, Barnes took three dribbles and left his feet from just beyond mid-court with 3.5 seconds still on the clock. The shot went in with 1.1 seconds left, Marcus Morris missed the Pistons’ last shot, and the Grizzlies improved to 8-3 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.

At 13-10 after a 3-6 start, the Grizzlies are looking strong in the Western Conference, where the 8 seed is under .500. Among the teams in the West’s top 10, the Grizzlies have played the most games (13) against the other nine. They have a respectable 6-7 record in those games, but have had some ugly losses.

That’s the story with the Grizzlies. Nine of their 10 losses have been by double-figures and seven of those have been by 15 points or more. They have losses of 20, 30, 37 and 50 points.

In this 10-4 stretch since they traded for Mario Chalmers, the Grizzlies have been outscored by 10 points. And for the season, they’re a minus-104, the fourth worst mark in the West, worse than the 8-15 Sacramento Kings.

The Grizzlies are 13-10 with the point differential of a team that’s 7-16. A win is a win, but point differential is generally a better predictor of future success than winning percentage. And Memphis’ point differential portends some future struggles.

The Bucks and Rockets also have records that are slightly inflated, based on their point differential. Houston has won six of its last eight games, but all 11 of its wins have been by seven points or less and the Rockets have also played one of the league’s easiest schedules. So don’t be so eager to buy low on the Western Conference finalist that’s still below .500.

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On the other end of the spectrum are the Celtics and Thunder, both with the point differential of a team with 16 wins, but only 13 real wins to show for it. The Celtics have typically won big, with 11 of their 13 victories coming by double-digits. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, is 5-7 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes.

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