Updated: December 15, 2014, 2:55 PM ET

Power Rankings: Streaking Warriors

By Marc Stein
Monday, Dec. 15

The Golden State Warriors would have been No. 1 in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings even had they lost Sunday night in New Orleans.

That the Warriors found a way to survive an overtime game against the Pelicans in the second half of a back-to-back and win in the end, by now, should have come as no surprise.

Bench newcomer Steve Kerr hasn't tasted defeat since Nov. 11 and will tote a stunning 16-game winning streak into Tuesday's showdown in Memphis with the No. 2-ranked Grizzlies. The only first-year coach with a longer winning streak than Kerr is Red Auerbach, who won 17 consecutive games in one stretch as a rook in charge of the Washington Capitols way back in 1946-47.

We'll delve into the ins and outs stemming from the rest of this week's ladder on Stein Line Live. You also can comment below on our 1-to-30 order, which as always was assembled with the usual helpful dishings we get from ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau.

Not trying to get too carried away here, but for those of you who put stock in such things: Golden State is just the ninth team in league history to open the season with a mark of 21-2. Five of the Warriors' eight predecessors went on to reach the NBA Finals ... with four of those teams winning it all.
Marc Gasol is up to four 30-point games this season after just one in his first six seasons. Yet what surely matters most to angry Memphians is the fact that the evil committee (of one) will be in the house Tuesday night to face your scorn if the Grizz are the ones who finally take down Golden State.
The Rockets just went 8-3 while Dwight Howard (knee) was out, riding James Harden and reveling in the development of Donatas Motiejunas, then watched Dwight rumble for 26 points and 13 boards in his return to a group that managed to stay in the top two in defensive efficiency without him. Impressive.
No Spur has started all of San Antonio's 24 games to date. Only three Spurs have appeared in all of those games: Aron Baynes, Boris Diaw and Danny Green. And yet only two teams -- Golden State and Dallas -- have a higher net efficiency reading than San Antonio's plus-7.6 when combining OE and DE.
I know it happened almost a week ago now, but this is our first chance to point out that Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas and now Blake Griffin are the only players over the past 10 seasons to score 45-plus points and win the game at the buzzer. The same Blake who sank just 26 3s in his first four NBA seasons.
Trail Blazers
Guess we keep saying it because we frankly didn't expect it: Portland continues to hang with Golden State, Memphis, San Antonio and Chicago in that exclusive club of teams in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive efficiency. Which holds true even after last Wednesday's demoralizing loss in Sota.
The Bulls are one of only five teams in the league to rank in the top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency. Factor in Chicago's 11-3 road record and the 31-point eruption from Derrick Rose against visiting Portland -- including 13 points on drives -- and we'll keep saying Team Thibs is better off than the standings say.
When DeMar DeRozan makes it back from that groin tear, he'll return to find that Kyle Lowry has grown in stature. The latest illustrations: Lowry's recent 39-point eruption in Utah, his robust PER of 23.22 and all the Chauncey Billups comparisons he's been sparking as a Billups-esque late bloomer.
Far more unsettling than what is now a flat-out poor 5-5 record in the presence of the committee (of one) is Dallas' 0-5 mark against top-eight teams from the West. The teams, in other words, that make it harder to get all those lobs and dunks and expose the fact that the Mavs have PG issues.
Bonus points for bringing a halt to the Clips' nine-game winning streak? Deservedly so. Bonus points, too, for 21-year-old Bradley Beal, whose tip-in at the buzzer to beat Orlando made him the second-youngest player in the past 10 seasons -- after 19-year-old Kevin Durant -- to win a game at the horn.
The Cavs open a five-game homestand against LeBron's old pal Lance Stephenson and the Hornets looking to relocate the good team D that triggered the recent eight-game win streak. We saw serious slippage Friday night in New Orleans against the Brow-less Pelicans even with LeBron back in the lineup.
Make that two L's at the buzzer for the Hawks thanks to Lance Stephenson and now Tobias Harris. So think about it: Thanks to that nine-game winning streak in which it outscored the opposition by an average of 14.0 PPG, Atlanta would be leading the East had it won those two heartbreakers.
For those of you who needlessly fretted about OKC getting back into playoff position, check out the standings. After the Thunder rung up a 70-point first half in weekend wins over both Minnesota and Phoenix, KD, Russ & Co. are already even in the loss column with the reeling No. 8 Suns.
The .500 record no one expected at this stage under Coach of the First Trimester candidate Jason Kidd could be even better if the young Bucks were seasoned enough to close out close games. They're 1-4 in games decided by three points or fewer while still clinging to a top-10 spot in defensive efficiency.
Sad as the nearly .500 Pelicans surely are when they look at the Southwest Division standings and see themselves in last place, they had a pretty good weekend all things considered. They beat Cleveland and took Golden State to OT without Anthony Davis and confirmed that The Brow isn't hurt seriously.
The Suns are suddenly in a dark place. They're strangely winless in five games since a stirring Dec. 5 triumph on the road in Dallas, lowlighted by that OT loss to the Clips on Blake Griffin's fortuitous (to say the least) 3 at the buzzer and the shame of allowing Detroit to win its first game in a span of 26 days.
Six games decided by two points or fewer? Already? The Magic can not only make that claim but are now 4-2 in such situations after the third buzzer-beating winner of Tobias Harris' young career toppled Atlanta. No Magic player besides Harris has made more than one buzzer-beater over the past 10 seasons.
Chris Bosh already has three 30-point games after just two in each of the previous two seasons. That's the good news. The bad news: Bosh has a calf injury and the Heat, if they fall behind by more than eight points, have shown no (literally zero) ability to rally, going 0-10 in those situations.
No offense, Nets, but the latest round of Better Off Without Brook Lopez talk is still a touch premature after wins at home over Philly and on the road in Charlotte. We'll need to see more evidence even though the ball undeniably moved better in Brooklyn's past two games than it has all season.
Mike Malone was fired with the Kings just one win shy of the .500 mark through 24 games for the first time since 2009-10. And with DeMarcus Cousins, still on the mend from a scary bout with viral meningitis, unavailable for the past nine games (2-7). There is only one word to explain all that: Vivek.
Love or loathe Kobe Bryant, you simply can't ignore what he's doing. The NBA's new No. 3 all-time leading scorer is pumping in 25.4 PPG. The league's previous high average for a player in his 19th season or later was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's mere 14.6 PPG in the committee's first year of college in 1987-88.
Apart from Wilson Chandler's uptick and Ty Lawson's run of nine straight double-digit assist games, it's been a rough month for the injury-hit Nuggets. They're off to a 2-6 start in December and still, worryingly, in search of an identity nearly a season and a half into the Brian Shaw era.
This is the first season in NBA history in which four teams suffered losing streaks of at least 10 L's or more within their first 25 games. Seemingly even more improbable is the fact that the Jazz would have made it five if not for Tuesday's stunner over San Antonio that stands as Utah's only W since Nov. 18.
Jared Sullinger is slumping. Rajon Rondo, up to three triple-doubles now but off key in the fourth quarter of the game in which he notched his latest, continues to drift between dazzling and frustrating. And the Celts are officially drifting after losses in Charlotte and at home to the bickering Knicks.
David West has been back for nine games now after missing the start of the season with ankle trouble. Yet he has tasted victory only once since his return to the injury-ravaged Pacers, including an 0-7 mark this month since Roy Hibbert shook his own ankle problem to rejoin West in the starting lineup.
All those "Michael Jordan Is A Good GM" stories have abruptly been placed on hold. It has nothing to do with Kobe Bryant passing MJ for third place on the all-time scoring list and everything to do with the fact that the Hornets, just a few months into the Lance Stephenson Experience, are shopping him.
No one will be asking if the Pistons can win more games than the Lions. No one will be asking if the Pistons can beat Kentucky. Not after Detroit somehow swept a road back-to-back in Phoenix and Sacramento to bring a halt to that 13-game losing streak that stretched all the way back to Nov. 14.
Not a single team Derek Fisher ever played on during his 18-year career as a rugged role player endured a single-season losing streak of 10 games or more. But now he's got one as a coach while Steve Kerr -- who chose Golden State over Gotham City -- peers down at the other 29 teams on this ladder.
Have to say we didn't love Minnesota's chances of holding Kobe Bryant below the nine points he needed to surpass Michael Jordan for third place on the league's all-time scoring charts. Over the past 10 seasons, Kobe had been held under nine just seven times in a total of 641 regular-season games.
The Sixers' escape from the basement lasted a week. All of the top threats to bump 'em out of there (Pistons, Knicks, Wolves) are suddenly up to five wins, making the latest projections from our numberFire pals actually seem a tad low. They give Philly an 85.15 percent chance to finish with the NBA's worst record.

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