As teams in the NBA reach the halfway point of their season this week — 41 down, 41 to go — a familiar team is back atop the Athlon Sports Power Rankings.
The San Antonio Spurs return to the top for the first time since Week 6. They have the best record in the league at the halfway mark (35-6 entering their Jan. 19 game with Toronto) and have won their last six contests. They enter Jan. 19 games five games ahead of the Lakers for the top seed in the Western Conference. The next closest contenders are Oklahoma City and Utah at eight games back and the reeling Dallas Mavericks at 8.5 back.
Boston, which has hung around as the top three spots virtually all season, sits at No. 2 and are the best team in the Eastern Conference at 31-9 entering its Jan. 19 game against Detroit. The Celtics are in a much tighter race for the top spot in the East. They lead Miami by two games for the No. 1 spot, but Chicago, Atlanta and Orlando are all within 5.5 games as of Jan. 18.
The top five spots in the rankings reflect how the seedings currently sit through 41 games. The Heat are ranked third, followed by the Lakers at four, the Bulls at 5.
Orlando, Oklahoma City, Utah, Dallas and New Orleans round out this week's top 10.
While the top of this week's rankings reflect those of the standings, this is a down week for match ups of top-10 teams. There are only six as a matter of fact.
The Mavericks, 2-8 in their last 10 games, are part of the first two match ups, but certainly cannot be considered challengers in either game the way they have played as of late. They play host to the Lakers on Jan. 19 — 8-2 in their last 10 — and then travel to Chicago the following night. The Bulls are 7-3 in their last 10, are 18-3 at home and coming off wins over Miami and Boston the last two times they played at the United Center.
Utah is also not that hot right now. The Jazz fell at 12-27 Washington on MLK Day and will travel to Boston for a Friday night tilt. The Celtics are 19-3 at their place.
San Antonio travels to New Orleans on Jan. 22. It will be the fourth meeting of the year between the two teams. New Orleans won the first meeting — the second game of the year as part of the Hornets' 8-0 start — but have fallen in the las two meetings by an average of 19.5 points.
The Hornets then get Oklahoma City in New Orleans on Jan. 24. The Thunder have won the first two meetings this season.
— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter