The Golden State Warriors have gone 96 regular-season games without losing two games in a row, which is an NBA record.
Yet it's not quite enough to hike the Warriors back into the top two of ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings, which are suddenly more crowded at the top than anyone expected.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and LA Clippers, at least for now, have combined to keep the Warriors stuck at No. 3 for three successive weeks, even though the Warriors are starting to find an offensive groove. ESPN's trusty Basketball Power Index, for the record, doesn't even agree with the Committee (of One) about our placement of the Clippers at No. 2. (For the record: BPI tends to focus strictly on the basketball we've seen so far this season; your trusty committee always factors in each team's big-picture outlook to balance out whatever's happening in the short-term present.)
Such debates, of course, are what make the Power Rankings so fun. And naturally there's plenty more for you dissect and discuss throughout our 1-30 ladder, which reflects the usual volatility we get every November when we have only a handful of games to analyze. Profuse thanks, as always, go to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau -- particularly research ace Micah Adams -- for supplying much of the background data that helps the Committee (of One) arrange things.
The sting of losing their unbeaten record sure didn't last long for the Cavs, who clearly savored the privilege of proceeding to a White House visit that we know more about than any previous White House trip for an NBA team thanks to this revealing reporting from our intrepid pal Rachel Nichols and The Jump cameras. It's clearly a good time to be The King when LeBron James becoming the youngest player to crack the 27,000-point plateau is the sidebar story of the week.
Remember when the Clippers lost four of their first five road games last season? We frankly didn't because they've been so good so far, assembling the first 9-1 start in franchise history and bolting to a nightly average margin of plus-15.1 thanks to back-to-back victories at home last week (over Detroit and Portland) by a combined 63 points and what ranks as -- by far -- the NBA's most withering defense (tops in the league in defensive efficiency at 92.7 points allowed per 100 possessions).
Routs of Dallas and Denver in what they feared to be a rather unfriendly back-to-back have restored the Warriors' average nightly point margin to something closer to the level (plus-8.2) so many of us expected. And Steph Curry's "Super Villains" party ensured that the drama lovers out there (raises hand sheepishly) will keep our radar fixed firmly on the Bay Area despite the fact that the pesky Cavs and Clippers -- to the Committee's surprise -- still won't let the Dubs back in our top two.
We seem to say it every week, but that summer with Team USA has clearly hiked DeMar DeRozan's confidence to new levels. DeRozan, who's still leading the NBA in scoring, just became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1986-87 to notch at least 30 points in eight of the first nine games of the season. A serious question, by the way, for Raptors Nation: Isn't there a part of you that wishes, like us, that the whole Toronto Huskies look was more than a one-night thing?
One great game in November obviously doesn't mean much, but the impact Dwight Howard had in Cleveland with his 17 boards was a new look for the Hawks against the Cavs ... after the reigning champs had won the teams' previous 11 meetings. You certainly aren't wrong to say it's early, but you also have to start considering the possibility that the retooled Hawks, relying so heavily on Howard and young Dennis Schroder, got it very right with their bold changes.
You could downgrade the Hornets' early success, if you wish, by focusing on what ranks as a fairly friendly schedule so far, but don't forget that Steve Clifford's team -- not exactly known for its depth -- has mostly had to cope without the injured Roy Hibbert and Jeremy Lamb and sports the best start in franchise history regardless. Kemba Walker will be an All-Star if he keeps this up, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is making the defensive difference Clifford predicted he would.
Although the Spurs did manage to avoid their first four-game home losing streak since way back in 2002 by beating Detroit on Friday night, they've still got us asking an unusually high number of Spurs questions. Namely: Is Tony Parker's slow start just a slow start? And: Are Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge likely to prove they're a good fit together on the same front line? Most of all: Why haven't we seen more of the team that utterly smoked Golden State on opening night?
The Jazz have already played a whopping eight road games and had to finish Saturday night's win at Miami without the ailing Derrick Favors, George Hill and Boris Diaw. So they're certainly thrilled to be 7-4, thanks to the most successful road trip spanning five or more games that Utah has enjoyed since a similar 4-1 excursion early in 2000-01. Gordon Hayward, meanwhile, is the first Jazzman to score at least 20 points in his first five games since Karl Malone in that same 2000-01 season.
As if the prospect of the season's first Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden showdown wasn't enticing enough, Wednesday night's reunion for both of Kevin Durant's former sidekicks comes with the bonus subplot of Angry Russ nemesis Pat Beverley trying to make it back into the Rockets' lineup in time for that one. It's another huge week for Angry Russ, who will be ushered into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame by special guest Michael Jordan on the night after his get-together with The Beard.
The Blazers obviously won't be losing many games when both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum stay in 30-point territory, which actually happened twice last week. But here's the thing: Do you really want to ask those two to do that much? Fears coming into the season that the Blazers' supporting cast around their backcourt studs isn't quite as good as advertised persist, but then again: Maybe this is the new normal. McCollum has scored 30-plus points in three of his last five outings.
No player in history has ever averaged 30-plus points, 12-plus assists and 7-plus rebounds over the course of an entire season. James Harden is on that precise pace at this early juncture, despite the fact Houston surprisingly ranks only 17th in pace leaguewide. No Mike D'Antoni team has ever finished outside the league's top 10 in pace. Back to Harden: He's quickly upped his collection of triple-doubles to 10 as a Rocket, which is just four shy of matching Hakeem Olajuwon's franchise record.
The Celtics get their second crack at Golden State on the Warriors' upcoming four-game swing through the Eastern Conference that also includes stops in Toronto, Milwaukee and Indiana. Boston has actually played the Warriors tough in each of the last two seasons, but it'd be a shame if Jae Crowder -- dealing with an ankle issue while Al Horford continues to recover from a concussion -- can't play after his memorable offseason rant about Kevin Durant's decision to join the Dubs.
Eight players in history have led a franchise in scoring by racking up at least 20,000 points. Dwayne Wade just became the eighth of them to win his first game against his old team when the Bulls won in Miami, thus joining an impressive list and keeping Jimmy Butler's hot start in the background. The others: Karl Malone (Utah), Hakeem Olajuwon (Houston), Michael Jordan (Chicago), Patrick Ewing (New York), Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta), Alex English (Denver) and Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati).
Taking our cue from Stan Van Gundy, we'll go back to talking about Reggie Jackson's health status, Detroit's long-awaited first road victory (Saturday night in Denver) and Pistons basketball in general in this cyberspace next week. We'd prefer, on this occasion, to simply tip our Committee of One cap to SVG, as well as Golden State's Steve Kerr and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, for the candor and conviction with which they spoke out last week -- consequences be damned.
Luke Walton understandably doesn't want this to be all about him. And there so many great little stories happening with the Lakers that we could focus on -- whether it's Nick Young's renaissance, Julius Randle's increased efficiency or the damage off the bench coming from Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson. The problem, of course, is that we end up back at Luke Talk no matter which direction we choose, since the new coach has had such a big hand in changing the entire atmosphere in Lakerland.
Andrew Wiggins fell just one 3-pointer shy of joining Russell Westbrook (51) and Anthony Davis (50) in delivering this season's third 50-point game in Sunday night's home rout of the Lakers. That's the same Andrew Wiggins who's quietly shooting a robust 57.7 percent from deep this season (17-for-31). Now to see if Wiggins' breakout performance, along with the return of steadying force Ricky Rubio, can be the spark that gets Tom Thibodeau's youthful crew playing with some consistency.
No team played Golden State tougher in the regular season in 2015-16 than the Bucks. On Saturday night, Milwaukee will play host to the Warriors in eerily similar circumstances to last season, with the matchup falling on the second half of a back-to-back set that begins for Steph Curry & Co. in Boston. The Dubs, in case you've somehow forgotten, won a double-OT thriller on the Celtics' floor on Dec. 11, 2015, before losing the next night in Milwaukee to bring a halt to their 24-0 start.
The Nets are 4-5. The Nets are 3-0 when Brook Lopez scores at least 25 points. The Nets are making Kenny Atkinson a legit contender for Eastern Conference coach of the month honors. It's all almost as difficult to process as this surprising stat that came up around the office before the Nets visited their crosstown rivals last Wednesday night: Brooklyn's Jeremy Lin amazingly played only 15 games at Madison Square Garden as a Knick. That's it. That's as long as Linsanity lasted.
The Pacers, at 0-5 on the road, are off to their worst start outside city limits since the 1990-91 season, when they dropped their first 11 road games. Larry Bird & Co. can only hope that last week was the low point, after the troubling bookends of an eyebrow-raising Paul George rant about trust and team chemistry and an ankle tweak for PG-13 were sandwiched around the Pacers' frustration of finding themselves in back-to-back overtime games with the struggling Sixers.
Friday's Parsons Bowl in Dallas naturally stands out from a headline perspective, with Chandler Parsons poised to take on his old Mavs friends, but the Grizzlies have two daunting road games before that one that will require their full attention. Memphis plays Monday in Utah, then Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Clippers, with neither assignment looking especially appealing when the Grizz are unhappy with their defense and still don't have Tony Allen back.
We've had so many high-profile reunion games already this month that Orlando's trip to Oklahoma City on Sunday night sneaked up on us completely. Figures, then, that it turned out to be maybe the best one of the lot so far, with Serge Ibaka finally showing Orlando what he can do with the game of his life (31 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks, game-winning jumper) to preserve a win for the Magic after they squandered a 21-point lead with Russell Westbrook (41 points, 16 assists, 12 rebounds) going bonkers.
Apologies to Dwyane Wade, as well as Hassan Whiteside amid a stats-fest from the Miami big man that probably isn't getting the attention it deserves, but the email Pat Riley sent to D-Wade last week is the only thing we want to know about, talk about, etc., when it comes to the Heat right now. Do we, at the very least, get points for honesty? P.S.: OK, OK. If you know the Committee by now, you're calling us out on the fact that, yes, we're plenty worried about Goran Dragic's ankle, too.
A new week begins with Harrison Barnes leading the league in terms of the biggest points-per-game increase from where he was last season, up nearly 11 points a night to 22.6 PPG as a Maverick to land narrowly ahead of DeMar DeRozan (up to 34.0 from 23.5). The new week will reach a climax for Barnes and the Mavs on Friday night, when they play host to Memphis in Chandler Parsons' return to Big D, with Dirk Nowitzki (Achilles) hopeful he'll be back at work by then, too.
The Nuggets play their next four games at home, which ranks as one of the few positives they can point to after a long, fruitless week. Kenneth Faried forced his way back into the starting lineup over the weekend ahead of Nikola Jokic, but Faried's trademark energy can only overcome so much when Denver has as many injuries as it does (Will Barton, Darrell Arthur and Gary Harris) as well as a turnover problem (Emmanuel Mudiay has 44 for the season, compared with 32 assists).
Worrisome stat: Sacramento has sunk to 0-4 when DeMarcus Cousins scores at least 30 points. Promising stat: Cousins ranks third in the league in getting to the free throw line, trailing only Anthony Davis (11.3) and Russell Westbrook (10.9) with 10.7 FTs attempted per game. What we can't quantify: how long the playoff-starved Kings will show patience with this roster, knowing that internal expectations are higher than what we're seeing, irrespective of a road-heavy schedule thus far.
Instinct tells us that the Knicks and Derrick Rose don't have a "Super Villains" soiree of their own in the works. Not with the team D that Kurt Rambis has been assigned to oversee still in tatters in pretty much any category you wish to highlight. Not with five of New York's six losses to date coming by double digits. Not with frustration mounting for Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings and presumably Joakim Noah, who has only intermittently looked like a $72 million center.
Just two wins in their first nine games -- with as many John Wall ejections already and fresh Bradley Beal injury concerns to ponder -- have nudged the Wizards past Indiana and New York into the unwanted lead in the race for November's Biggest Disappointment in the Eastern Conference. As if all that weren't enough, Marcin Gortat had to apologize via Twitter on Saturday night after his uncontainable honesty led to some harsh words about the state of the Wizards' unproductive bench.
Awfully rough weekend for the Suns. They surrendered a crushing 17 straight points late Saturday night in a home crumble to beatable Brooklyn. Then Phoenix was forced to settle for nothing more than giving Golden State a good scare before the Warriors -- despite their middle-of-the-pack team defense -- pulled away Sunday night in Oakland. Devin Booker has been drawing a lot of Klay Thompson comparisons lately; maybe it was Booker's presence that finally got Klay going.
The Pelicans indeed edged Philly in the sprint to avoid ranking as the NBA's last team to win a game, but the honeymoon was short-lived, even with badly missed point guard Jrue Holiday said to be just days away from a return to the court. The briefest of exits for Anthony Davis in Saturday's heavy home loss to the Lakers due to some back pain, even if he did return to the floor, is enough to make the alarm bells chime, given how great The Brow has been amid the Pels' gloom.
Michael Carter-Williams, James Anderson, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Daniel Orton. That was the last Sixers starting lineup, before Friday night's Joel Embiid-led breakthrough against the Pacers, to know how it feels to win a game in October or November after 44 L's in a row. You'll note that two of those players, Anderson and Orton, aren't even in the NBA right now. The win also halted a run of nine successive overtime defeats for Philly, including Wednesday's OT setback at Indiana.