1. Portland Trail Blazers (LW: 4)
The Blazers were floating around my top five while they dealt with their Eastern Conference-heavy early season schedule. Battles with Indiana and Oklahoma City were supposed to bring them back to reality, instead they let the Blazers toss their hat into the ring as legitimate NBA Finals contenders.
LaMarcus Aldridge has to be considered an All-Star given his career-high averages of 22 points and 10 rebounds a game and if his credentials as a big-game player were ever in question – they aren’t, but I want to share this cool stat – Aldridge hit 8 of his 9 third quarter shots against the Pacers, all on mid-range shots. He’s hitting left-elbow shots at 58.5 percent, almost as efficiently as his restricted-area attempts. Mid-range shots are as good as layups for him.
All that from a player who reportedly demanded a trade earlier this year.
ORtg: 109.4, DRtg: 103.5
2. Indiana Pacers
I was all set to demote the Pacers after that hard-fought loss in Portland simply for the sake of getting a fresh face in at number one. Then they traveled to San Antonio and delivered the type of beat-down on the Spurs not seen for years, a beat-down started by a 44-22 first-half run that blew the game open and had Paul George doing whatever he wanted. His 43 points in the loss in Portland set a career high and almost burned down the Moda Center.
With the Pacers trying to stay in the game, George hit five three-pointers in the final three minutes and at one stage clanked a corner three after stealing the inbounds pass off his own made three in scenes that had Pacers fans thinking 8-points-9-seconds was happening all over again.
Then Indiana traveled to Oklahoma City and lost by 24. They did not look like the team that has stormed the league so far, being beaten in transition and just having one of those off-nights. Not a great week and time for a change at the top of the rankings.
Offensive Rating: 102.3, Defensive Rating: 93.2