NBA Power Rankings: Golden State is safe at the top ... for now
Monday, March 7
April Fools' Day came about 25 days early in the NBA, when the Los Angeles Lakers sprung an upset so big Sunday afternoon that anyone who wasn't watching it live surely presumed they were being hoaxed when they heard the score.
The Golden State Warriors, however, have survived the trauma of their stunning 112-95 defeat to the first Lakers team of all time sporting a winning percentage that at the time was below the Mendoza line by retaining the top spot in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.
Let's face it: One loss -- even if it should have counted for two or three -- can't knock Golden State off its perch when the 55-6 Dubs are still ahead of Chicago's 1995-96 pace of 54-7 at the same juncture.
Even better news for Golden State: San Antonio has the league's toughest remaining schedule, so the Spurs' mere 2½-game deficit in the race for the West's top seed probably isn't as enticing as it looks. The Spurs did just become merely the third team in history to win their first 30 home games of the season, but 16 of San Antonio's 20 remaining games will come against teams over. .500 ... with a whopping three each against Golden State and Oklahoma City.
So I'd hold off on writing off the Warriors after one (really, really) bad day.
You can comment below on the latest 1-to-30 order assembled by the Committee of One, which offers its profuse thanks to our pals from within the NBA wing of ESPN Stats & Information, as well as the Elias Sports Bureau, for the priceless data assistance they provide week after week to help us with all of our calculations.
|2015-16 Power Rankings: Week 19
|TEAM / RECORD
Last Week: 1
|Steph Curry and Klay Thompson shot a combined 1-for-18 from 3-point range in Sunday's (still) hard-to-believe pratfall at Staples Center. Don't forgot they shot a combined 2-for-14 from deep in a Feb. 6 home triumph over Golden State's rivals from Oklahoma City ... and got away with it. Sometimes you can't figure this stuff out no matter how smart you think your committee is.
Last Week: 2
|With 10 more wins, Tim Duncan will become just the third member of the 1,000 club for regular-season W's, alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,074) and Robert Parish (1.014). The Spurs, though, are clearly trying to tax Duncan as little as possible as his 40th birthday approaches; TD has played only 52 percent of the Spurs' available minutes this season and has yet to register a 20-point game.
Last Week: 5
|The whole "Da Vinci Code" storyline would suggest that LeBron James is sending out cryptic tweets about his recent reunion with Dwyane Wade mostly because he knows it'll send the NBA's overzealous media pack into a frenzy. But the reaction here is the same as it was to Phil Jackson's curious tweets about Mahmoud-Abdul Rauf and Steph Curry: Are things really going well enough at work to be so glib?
Last Week: 3
|That deliciously long 12-game home winning streak wasn't going to last forever. The manner in which Toronto surrendered it -- giving up 38 points in the fourth quarter Sunday night in a fall-from-ahead loss to Houston after getting away with 36 points allowed in Friday's final period against Portland -- is what will truly disappoint the defense-first Dwane Casey.
Last Week: 4
|It's one of the stats of the season and hasn't fully sunk in even after making the rounds for days: OKC is tied with lowly Philly for the league lead in games lost (10) when entering the fourth quarter with a lead. The Thunder, despite Sunday's much-needed victory at Milwaukee, are just 3-6 since the All-Star break, and among many issues at the minute, they have slipped big-time on D in that stretch.
Last Week: 7
|Buffalo Braves alert: Wednesday night's epic comeback against the Thunder marked just the second time in team history -- and the first since my prime Braves-loving days in 1976-77 -- that this franchise enjoyed a comeback from 17 or more points down entering the fourth quarter. NBA teams, before L.A.'s escape, were 2-167 (.012) in that situation this season, according to our pals at Elias.
Last Week: 6
|Toronto's Sunday night slip-up against Houston has left the surprising Celts, after starting 9-10 at TD Garden, with the longest active home win streak (13) in the East. A win Wednesday night over Memphis in an ESPN-televised game would clinch Boston's first run of 14 games at home without a loss for the first time 1990-91, which happened to be Larry Bird's second-to-last season.
Last Week: 9
|There isn't enough time left in the season for Hassan Whiteside to qualify for the Sixth Man Award race ... which is a good thing for the competition when he's averaging 15.5 PPG, 13.1 RPG and 3.9 BPG in 13 games as a reserve. Joe Johnson, meanwhile, is off to a rather efficient start as a Heater, ringing up 24 points in his second game after one such output in 57 games as a Net.
Last Week: 10
|Paul Millsap's scoring has dropped from 17.7 PPG to 15.6 PPG since his third successive All-Star appearance as a Hawk. Kyle Korver, meanwhile, is threatening to record his lowest success rate from 3-point range (.391) since shooting .386 in 2008-09. The Hawks, though, have quietly won four of five, losing to only Golden State in that stretch -- while rising to No. 2 leaguewide in defensive efficiency.
Last Week: 8
|Teams fortunate enough to field a 50-point scorer are 8-2 in those games. But the Blazers became one of those unfortunate two to fall short, along with Sacramento in DeMarcus Cousins' 56-point game in January against Charlotte, when Damian Lillard's 50 points in Toronto on Friday wasn't enough to prevent Portland's first losing streak since early January when it slipped to a season-high nine games under .500.
Last Week: 13
|Kemba Walker really might be the Dame Lillard of the East. We talk about Walker's All-Star snub far less than we talk about Lillard's, but Kemba has been on some run to spark the Hornets' 10-3 surge since the calendar flipped to February, including a 33-point, 10-assist game matched by only four others (Raymond Felton, Baron Davis, Anthony Mason and Eddie Jones) in franchise history.
Last Week: 11
|The first back-to-back games in Paul George's career in which he cracked the 35-point plateau earned the Pacers only a weekend split on the road in Charlotte and Washington. Despite his slip in player efficiency rating to 20.9, George remains one of just three players leaguewide to lead his team in points, rebounds and steals this season, joining New Orleans' Anthony Davis and Atlanta's Paul Millsap.
Last Week: 12
|In the Grizzlies' 17 games since a disappointing Jan. 23 loss at Minnesota, they're 12-3 against teams based outside of Phoenix and a hard-to-process 0-2 against the Suns. How much the West's No. 5 seed (for now) will come to rue those defeats to a team that's 9-37 since Dec. 1 will soon become evident thanks to a schedule that offers up only eight more games ... and no return in sight for the injured Marc Gasol.
Last Week: 14
|Only two teams on the NBA map have yet to face each other this season, and that will be rectified Wednesday when Detroit visits Dallas. The Pistons continue to be on the unpredictable side in their quest to halt the East's longest playoff drought dating to 2009, but don't forget three starters who landed just since the 2015 trade deadline (Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris and newcomer Tobias Harris).
Last Week: 17
|Part of what makes Golden State's Sunday afternoon demise in Lakerland so hard to comprehend is the fact that Houston just beat New Orleans in a game in which the Rockets started 0-for-15 from deep, made two of their next three 3-pointers and then missed 15 more in a row before Patrick Beverley got one to go down in a 3-for-34 showing that ranks as the worst of all time.
Last Week: 19
|Chicago's D, as covered here last week, has indeed been in decline for two months now, but there's also no dismissing the severity of the Bulls' recent injury woes. They've gone 4-8 this season without Jimmy Butler and something closer to what we expected from this team (27-22) with the East's top scorer since Jan. 1; Butler (24.6 PPG) and DeMar DeRozan (24.0 PPG) are the leaders in that span.
Last Week: 16
|For all of the Mavs' recent scoring binges, including their first back-to-back-to-back games with at least 120 points since (wow) 2004, it's tough for them not to dwell on some recent squandered opportunities, too. Dirk Nowitzki has two of his four 30-point games this season just in the past two weeks ... but Dallas won neither game.
Last Week: 15
|This crucial stretch, with 11 of 15 games on the road, started with three L's before Saturday night's win at New Orleans. The good news? A mere .500 record, or thereabouts, could well be enough for Utah to sneak into the postseason in a conference where at least 45 wins have been required to finish No. 8 in every full season since 2006-07, when 42 wins got it done for No. 8 Golden State.
Last Week: 18
|He's just shy, as we speak, in assists and rebounds, but John Wall does have a shot at a 20-PPG, 10-APG and 5-RPG season, which has been maintained for an entire season by only three players previously: Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Chris Paul. The bigger problem, of course, is that Wall and his Wiz also remain shy of full strength thanks to the latest health woe for Bradley Beal.
Last Week: 22
|Khris Middleton is up to four 30-point games after just two in his first three seasons. Giannis Antetokounmpo has three triple-doubles since Feb. 22. And Jabari Parker just uncorked a 36-point game of his own. The Bucks haven't fully played their way off this season's list of Biggest Disappointments, but at least they do now have all of their prized prospects playing well at the same time.
Last Week: 25
|Who would ever imagined, back when the Nuggets got him as part of the Randy Foye trade, that D.J. Augustin would deliver a 22-point fourth quarter to take down the Lakers? Or that he'd sink the clinching free throws in a home escape against the famed OT specialists from Dallas? Only Reggie Jackson (26 points), Lou Williams (23) and LeBron James (23) have had bigger fourth quarters this season.
Last Week: 23
|The Kings unwittingly added a timely layer of discussion to the Golden State vs. San Antonio debate when they brought a halt to their 22-game losing streak in Dallas last week. Thank you, Boogie & Co., for reminding us that the Spurs have amazingly racked up a ridiculous 32 consecutive home wins over the Warriors heading into home dates with G-State on March 19 and April 10.
Last Week: 21
|We're not loving the Magic's chances of stopping the Warriors from establishing a record for consecutive home wins (45 in a row) -- even after Golden State's debacle in Lakerland -- after what happened Saturday night against the Suns. It's probably time, if Orlando can't win that game, to say we're down to two teams outside the East's top eight (Pistons and Wiz) that can claim to still have playoff life.
Last Week: 20
|With the Pelicans forced to deal with yet another demoralizing injury thanks to Eric Gordon's refractured finger, Friday figures to be one of the last upbeat occasions of the season. That's when Anthony Davis celebrates his 23rd birthday as one of just three players that age over the past 30 seasons, along with Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard, to top 5,000 points and 500 blocks.
Last Week: 26
|We're just two more Rankings Mondays from the two-year anniversary of Phil Jackson's appointment as Knicks president. Not that you should expect any sort of gala celebration. Not with the Knicks, even after that surprising win over Detroit, still mired in a 4-16 funk that has some fed-up fans so desperate that they're clamoring for more playing time for Jerian Grant.
Last Week: 27
|That long-awaited first game on Brooklyn soil since Feb. 21 inches closer, with only two road dates left on the mammoth nine-game trek that ranks as the league's longest this season. And the Nets, all things considered, borderline flourished during the Western Conference portion, going 3-3 before resting Brook Lopez and Thad Young and allowing 132 points in Minnesota.
Last Week: 29
|Each of the past nine NBA Finals has featured LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. Expect to hear that one a few more times between now and Thursday night, when the Lakers -- now 3-34 against .500-or-better teams thanks to The Greatest Regular-Season Upset In History -- try to follow up Sunday's miracle when they host Cleveland in our last installment of Bron versus Kobe.
Last Week: 24
|San Antonio's visit Tuesday night is the second game of a back-to-back for the Spurs, meaning there's a good chance we won't see Tim Duncan. Which would be a shame after we've so often compared Karl-Anthony Towns' rookie campaign to Duncan's back in 1997-98. Rookie Timmy per 36 minutes: 19.4 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG, .549 shooting; Rookie KAT per 36 minutes: 20.5 PPG, 11.9 RPG; 2.1 BPG, .544 shooting.
Last Week: 30
|One L from the longest road losing streak in franchise history, Phoenix rode Alex Len's eruption to finally break through Saturday night in Orlando and keep these Suns tied with the 1973-74 version and a 17-game road skid that season. Sporting a previous career high of just 23 points, Len produced the first 30-and-15 game from a Sun since Amar'e Stoudemire way back in March 2010.
Last Week: 28
|Headline-grabbing weekends for both the Lakers and Suns have combined with a third losing streak spanning at least 11 games for these Sixers to send them spiraling back down into the dreaded No. 30 basement for the first time in nearly two months, dating all the way back to Jan. 11. The rest of the league, in case you were wondering, has combined to endure only one losing streak that long.