NBA Power Rankings: Warriors' chase hits the home stretch
Monday, April 4
The question comes in every time Golden State has the temerity to lose a basketball game:
Is this the week you're finally going to bump the Warriors down to No. 2, Stein?
Yet our answer hasn't changed.
Maybe some of you out there believe that the Warriors have that small of a lead on the rest of the field in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.
The Committee of One does not.
So even after its first regulation home loss in a regular-season game in a span of 506 days, as inflicted Friday night by the Boston Celtics, Golden State continues to hold off San Antonio for the top spot in these rankings, because the Warriors still went 3-1 last week to become just the fourth team in league history to win 69 games in a season.
The previous three, for the record, all went on to win the championship: 1971-72's Los Angeles Lakers (69-13) and back-to-back Chicago Bulls teams in 1995-96 (72-10) and 1996-97 (69-13).
Something else to keep track of as the Warriors' chase for a record 73 wins hits a climax in the next week-plus: Golden State and San Antonio have both slipped below the mythical plus-12 stratosphere in terms of nightly point margin. The Warriors, though, have managed to narrow the gap on the Spurs -- it's now an edge of just plus-11.6 to plus-11.0 for our No. 2 team -- thanks to their 25-point rout of Portland on Sunday in the first game since that 54-game home winning streak perished.
You can share your views on our latest 1-to-30 order below in the comments section. Hearty thanks go, as always, to our pals from within the NBA wing of ESPN Stats & Information, as well as the Elias Sports Bureau, for the ever-clutch data assistance they provide week after week after week to help the Committee make all of its calculations.
And next Monday, of course, will be the final edition of the rankings for the 2015-16 season, with only San Antonio -- thanks to its two shots at the reigning champs in a span of four days -- able to prevent the Warriors from making ESPN.com history and topping this ladder wire-to-wire.
|2015-16 Power Rankings: Week 23|
|RANK||TEAM / RECORD||TRENDING||COMMENTS|
Last Week: 1
|When two historically great teams both lose home games in about 15 hours, maybe you just have to say: It was time. It happened to mighty Barcelona on Saturday in El Clasico, not even a full day after the Warriors fell flat against Boston. And, yes, we subscribe to the theory that Lionel Messi and Steph Curry and their respective teams have more than just a thread or two in common.|
Last Week: 2
|Greatest No. 2 in the history of these rankings? The case can surely be made when you realize that the Spurs, amid all of their resting, have won a franchise-record 64 games and are a ridiculous 39-0 at home. The 72-win Chicago Bulls of 1995-96, in case you've forgotten, started out 37-0 at home that season before losing twice in Chicago in April even as they were amassing the most successful season in league history.|
Last Week: 4
|Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Alex English, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan, John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins and Oscar Robertson. After starting the season as the NBA's 20th all-time leading scorer, LeBron James passed them all to climb to 11th in just his 13th season. But he'll almost certainly have to wait until next season to ring up all of the 197 points he still needs to bump Hakeem Olajuwon out of the top 10.|
Last Week: 7
|The Clippers were fourth in the West when they lost Blake Griffin and can proudly say they lost zero ground without him thanks to the stubborn leadership of Chris Paul and some solid extended play from L.A.'s oft-maligned supporting cast. Two games this week against the Lakers will undoubtedly remind us how Kobe Bryant flirted with joining the Clips in 2004 ... and how they share space with the Warriors and the Grizzlies on the short list of West teams that never faced Kobe in the postseason.|
Last Week: 3
|Through the first three quarters of games, OKC is plus-232 for the season in the first, plus-107 in the second and plus-208 in the third, better scoring margins than any team other than Golden State and San Antonio. Yet in the fourth quarter, thanks to the Thunder's well-chronicled struggle to hold leads, they're stunningly minus-6, as helpfully tallied by the tireless Micah Adams from ESPN Stats & Info.|
Last Week: 5
|The Raps needed 21 seasons to finally post a 50-win campaign; only five of the other 29 teams out there took longer. The Clippers needed 43 seasons, three teams (Warriors, Pistons and Nets) needed 26 and the Knicks needed 23. Now for a compliment: Toronto has posted a winning record on the road for three successive seasons ... after accomplishing that feat zero times in the club's first 19 seasons of existence.|
Last Week: 10
|You haven't heard much about Isaiah Thomas factoring into the Most Improved Player reckoning this season, but you really should have by now. Thomas' jump from very good to the sort of player who can torment Golden State on its own floor and bank some rankings bonus points for the Celts like he did Friday night was the strongest message to voters yet that Thomas is another serious obstacle to C.J. McCollum's MIP campaign.|
Last Week: 6
|Before you dare to proclaim that the Hawks are back to last season's 60-win best, for all the damage they've been doing defensively, bear in mind that Friday night's heartbreaking OT loss to LeBron James and the visiting Cavaliers dropped Atlanta to 2-11 this season against the six teams (Warriors, Spurs, Cavs, Raptors, Thunder and Clippers) sporting records of .600 or better.|
Last Week: 8
|If the Hornets score at least 100 points on their own floor, chances are you aren't beating them. Charlotte is up to 22-1 at home when cracking triple digits, with only a Dec. 30 loss to the Clippers blemishing that record. But nothing else matters right now beyond Nicolas Batum's left knee after a sprain that the Frenchman, who was in a groove (check out his numbers over the past 10 games), suffered in Sunday's loss in Cleveland, which Al Jefferson (quad) was likewise forced to miss.|
Last Week: 9
|If you refer to nightly point differential, Miami is the weakest of the four teams jostling for seeds Nos. 3-6 in the East, sitting at just plus-1.2. Yet you tend to believe, given the problems Dwyane Wade & Co. seem to cause them, that the Cavs are rooting for the Heat to finish third or sixth, which would keep 'em out of LeBron's playoff path until the conference finals.|
Last Week: 13
|It's probably wise to start getting used to the idea of a Clippers-Blazers series in the first round. A locked-in Damian Lillard on another Oakland homecoming Sunday night couldn't prevent the end of Portland's four-game winning streak, but it's hard to see the battered Griz holding Dame & Co. off for the No. 5 seed now. The Blazers surely want to move up, too, given how much trouble they've had with Oklahoma City.|
Last Week: 14
|The Jazz are a timely 10-3 since falling a season-high six games under .500 at 29-35 and, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, rate as 82 percent likely to make the playoffs. And you have to believe that they'd actually rather see the Warriors than the Spurs in Round 1 after controlling the tempo both times Golden State visited Utah this season ... and losing all three 2015-16 meetings to San Antonio by 18 points or more.|
Last Week: 12
|The Pistons ultimately went 6-3 on the longest homestand in franchise history but followed up a disappointing end to it by bouncing back from that loss to Dallas with a huge W in Chicago that puts them on the brink of the first winning season in Detroit since 2007-08. You wonder now whether the regular-season finale in Cleveland, with the Cavs apt to rest regulars assuming their seeding is sewn up, will actually prove to be a blessing that helps secure the club's first playoff berth since 2009.|
Last Week: 15
|Give Houston this much in its three-team battle with Dallas and Utah for the final two spots in the Western Conference: Wednesday's crucial visit to Big D is the only game of the five left on the Rockets' schedule against a team currently occupying a playoff berth. The Jazz have three such games left (all at home) ... while Houston ranks as the weakest remaining opponent on the Mavs' schedule record-wise.|
Last Week: 11
|It would have been a truly disastrous week for the Pacers had they blown all of a late lead Sunday night at Madison Square Garden with neither Carmelo Anthony nor Kristaps Porzingis in uniform for the Knicks. Back-to-back home losses to Chicago and Orlando were plenty costly on their own, with Indy just two games ahead of the ninth-seeded Bulls and Chicago now holding the head-to-head tiebreaker by winning the season series 3-1.|
Last Week: 18
|Jimmy Butler had himself a week, first with a game-winning bucket in a huge divisional duel at Indiana -- just the second winning shot of Butler's career -- then with his first career triple-double. Those 28 points, 17 boards and 12 dimes, though, couldn't prevent a costly home loss to the Pistons that must make the threat of a trip to the lottery feel more real than Chicagoans can stand.|
Last Week: 19
|The Committee of One takes personal responsibility for Dirk Nowitzki's 27-for-91 shooting (.297) in his last five games, which follows the #NBAInsiders appearance we coerced him into on ESPN Radio on March 25. Strangely, though, Dallas is a wholly unexpected 4-1 in that stretch, with J.J. Barea suddenly scoring like he does for the Puerto Rican national team to step into the void created by Deron Williams' abdominal injury.|
Last Week: 17
|The Grizzlies are setting unwanted records and suddenly sport a losing streak that has reached six games, prompting this very valid question: Will they win another game this season? Looking at what's left on Memphis' schedule, it's four games against teams that'll be fueled by various reasons to go all-out ... and a date with the Clips that L.A. has incentive to throw to try to help the Griz hang on to that No. 5 seed.|
Last Week: 16
|With the Wizards having slumped again, this time to the brink of playoff elimination, John Wall's only consolation is knowing he's an All-Star in a conference loaded with worthy lead guards. Check out all of Wall's peers who already know they're going to the playoffs: Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Kemba Walker.|
Last Week: 23
|It's too late to resurrect the playoff aspirations that bubbled in the Magic Kingdom during that 19-13 start before the calendar flipped, but Orlando is suddenly playing its best basketball of 2016. The Magic followed a 34-point throttling of Brooklyn with a 20-point pounding of the Pacers in Indiana, with Nikola Vucevic having no trouble scoring since returning from a lengthy injury absence.|
Last Week: 24
|Oscar Robertson, Alvin Adams, Magic Johnson, LeBron James ... and Giannis Antetokounmpo. That's the complete list, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, of players under the age of 22 to register at least five triple-doubles in a season after The Greek Freak's 18 points, 11 boards and 11 dimes Friday night in a win over Orlando. We're up to 71 triple-doubles leaguewide for the season; 78 in 1988-89 is the record.|
Last Week: 21
|Cracking 30 wins for the first time in DeMarcus Cousins' five-year career is the most modest of milestones, but the Kings did finally get there last week before they were eliminated from the playoffs for the 10th straight season. Cousins, though, has regrettably also lost nearly $900,000 in his his career due to fines and suspensions according to the math of @SportsTaxMan.|
Last Week: 20
|The less said about his past two games (featuring a combined 0-for-17 shooting) the better, but Will Barton has come off the bench to lead or co-lead the Nuggets in scoring 20 times, which comfortably puts him tops in the league in that category. The Nuggets, for all their overachievement, realistically haven't won enough to make Barton a true Sixth Man Award contender, but he's been a true find.|
Last Week: 22
|We've reached the point in the Knicks' season where we're forced to make a big fuss about Robin Lopez and brother Brook becoming the first pair of twins to face each other on their shared birthday. Both turned 28 on April Fools' Day when New York pounded visiting Brooklyn. Our man Ian Begley, meanwhile, has the latest here and here on Kristaps Porzingis.|
Last Week: 26
|I don't know that Karl-Anthony Towns will ever be good enough to make Wolves fans forget that former president David Kahn had two chances to draft Stephen Curry in 2009 and took Ricky Rubio and then Jonny Flynn with those picks instead. But Towns has been sufficiently starry in Year 1, en route to what we all assume will be a unanimous rookie of the year selection, to make you ask: Is there a player under the age of 22 whom you'd rather have?|
Last Week: 27
|To counter the numbers we passed along last week illustrating the challenges facing Anthony Davis in his bid to earn an All-NBA Third Team spot and make an extra $24 million, here's the flip side: Davis did average better than 24 PPG, 10 RPG and 2 BPG for the Pels amid all of their many injury woes. Of the 39 previous players to hit all of those benchmarks, 36 earned All-NBA status.|
Last Week: 28
|When it comes to preseason over/unders, no team has fallen shorter than the Rockets, who were projected for a win total in the mid-50s and haven't hit 40 yet. But the Suns are up there with Houston and New Orleans (46.5) after their own season of injury woes, sitting on 20 wins with just five games left after the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook pegged Phoenix to land in the 36.5-win range.|
Last Week: 25
|The Nets are shutting down Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young for the rest of the season while sporting the league's fourth-worst record. But they could easily slip into the bottom three, depending on how they and the Suns fare over the season's final 10 days, which has to read as pleasantly as Boston 109, Golden State 106 for the Celtics officials who know they'll soon be taking possession of Brooklyn's pick.|
Last Week: 29
|It's undoubtedly a wild overstatement, in this social media age and its shorter memories than ever before, to say D'Angelo Russell can't or won't overcome the mess he's made for himself. What isn't an overstatement is that, like it or not, fellow players are going to keep the focus on his transgressions longer than any outsider or media pest. It's their world. And that's the way it works.|
Last Week: 30
|No team has helped fuel the Great Triple-Double Revolution of 2015-16 (see Milwaukee comment for more background) more than the Sixers, who have surrendered an NBA-high six of the 71 triple-doubles leaguewide after Nicolas Batum got 'em Friday night. A bigger problem: Philly has just joined the 1972-73 Sixers of 9-73 infamy on the short list of teams to endure four losing streaks longer than 10 games in a single season.|