It's roughly mid-point in the regular season and Golden State is at the top of the league at 33-9, though just ahead of Boston at 34-10. That meets expectations, though GS is not as dominant as the conversation would lead you to expect. Injuries have played a role, so keeping everyone healthy for the playoffs will be Steve Kerr's priority. So too Boston. One question. Will Gordon Hayward return for the playoffs? His rehabilitation is ahead of schedule. Would it matter? We will see.
Now to Cleveland. Isiah Thomas has been worse than average. His comeback is wayback. That's not the real problem for Cleveland. Their defense is ranked among the worst in the league. When they went on a long winning streak--17-2--they were at least in the middle of the pack. At the beginning of the season it was terrible and now--on a long losing streak--it stinks.
The surprise, of sorts, is how well the Raptors are playing. Second in the East, Toronto has DeMar DeRozan playing at a very high level. Always a fine scorer, he has upped his 3 point shooting in a dramatic way. Can they sustain their No. 2 position in the East ahead of Cleveland?
In the West, Houston is suffering from James Harden's hamstring injury. It will cost him Player of the Year. He has been second in the voting the last two seasons. Chris Paul has been terrific, but Houston needs both to remain second to GS. San Antonio has its own injury problems with Kawhi Leonard spending time on the bench. They seem to be struggling more than usual.
Minnesota has been very competitive this season and could surprise teams at the top in the West. Just a loss behind SA, they have young, but established stars like Karl Anthony-Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Jimmy Butler, and Jamal Crawford. Hungry like the Wolf--Timberwolves, that is. Unfortunately, they are only a mediocre defensive team. If they don't get the team defense straight, they will remain an also-ran.
I have been boosting OKC all year. Fuggitaboutit. They continue to hover around .500 at 22-20.