So what’s new? Pistons, Spurs stand tallest in NBA

Dec 6, 2005 5:16 AM

One month into the season and both the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs have already risen to the top spot in their respective conferences.

Detroit has started 13-2 and has built the largest lead of any division leader, 3½ games over both Indiana and Cleveland. Clearly the league’s best division, all five teams in the Central have winning records. In fact, fifth place Chicago, at 8-7, has a better record than the second place team in the Southeast and would be leading the Atlantic by 1½ games over Philadelphia.

Although the gap between East and West has narrowed, the balance of power still resides in the West. That’s evidenced by the fact the teams with the two poorest records (Toronto and Atlanta) both play in the East. The Raptors and Hawks have combined to start 5-29, which includes a one-point win by Toronto over the Hawks last week.

San Antonio sits atop the West with its 13-3 record, but seven teams are within 2½ games of the Spurs including a pair of division rivals. Memphis has started 12-5 and Dallas is 11-5. Keep an eye on the Grizzlies. They have made great strides over the past 1½ seasons that started under former coach Hubie Brown has continued with Mike Fratello. Memphis has played more road than home games thus far and has won 7-of-10 road contests. Included in those wins are victories in Phoenix, Dallas and Houston.

Houston is one of the early season disappointments, starting 4-12. The Rockets have missed star Tracy McGrady for much of the early season. Still, there is enough talent to suggest the Rockets should have won more than just four games. They sit in last place in the Southwest Division, four games behind nomadic New Orleans/Oklahoma City. The Hornets, at 8-8, are an early season pleasant surprise.

The Clippers remain the best team in Los Angeles and at 11-5 are tied with another early season surprise (Golden State) atop the Pacific Division, four games ahead of the Lakers. The Clips appear legit with multiple scoring options and solid depth.

Fatigue has yet to become a significant factor this early in the season. Over the next few weeks lengthy road trips during the holiday season can begin to take a toll on players. Their focus may be more on the festivities back home than on 48 minutes of action against a motivated foe.

Here’s a look at three attractive games this weekend.

Mavs at Grizzlies (Fri): Two weeks ago Memphis mauled the Mavericks in Dallas, winning by 20 points as seven point underdogs. Dallas swept all four games last season with each win by at least 13 points. Memphis will look at this game as a chance to legitimize its status as a team capable of winning an opening round playoff series. The Grizz are likely to come small favorites and should prove that their win in Dallas was not a fluke. MEMPHIS.

Cavs at Bucks (Sat): Both teams are improved over last season. This series has gone very much to form over the past couple of seasons with the host having won and covered the last seven meetings. The smallest margin of victory last season was eight points. MILWAUKEE.

Pistons at Clips (Sun): The best of the East meets one of the most improved teams in the West. Detroit has fared well against the Clippers in recent seasons, sweeping the two game season series in each of the past two seasons. Yet last season the Pistons needed two overtimes to win at this site. Detroit has become a much more up tempo team under new coach Flip Saunders. The Clippers have the depth to match shots with most teams in the league. At crunch time Detroit has the defense to make key stops. Expect the fast pace to be preferred. OVER.

Last week: 1-2

Season: 6-8-1