Updated: January 19, 2015, 4:19 PM ET
Power Rankings: Hawks' hot streak
By Marc Stein
Monday, Jan. 19
The Seattle Seahawks are headed to a second straight Super Bowl, true, but you mustn't forget that a healthy slice of this sporting winter continues to belong to the Atlanta Hawks.
Entering their Martin Luther King Day matchup with the Detroit Pistons on ESPN, basketball's Hawks are reveling in their third successive Monday atop ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings, having racked up four more wins last week to stretch their current unbeaten run to a dozen games.
The Hawks have also won 12 in a row on the road after sweeping what was supposed to be an ominous back-to-back in Chicago and Toronto. They're just the fourth team in the new millennium to win 12 consecutive roadies, joining Allen Iverson's 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers and LeBron James' Miami Heat in both 2010-11 and 2012-13.
As a result, Golden State remains parked in the No. 2 slot, despite sporting the league's best record (32-6) and a nightly point margin that remains in double digits (plus-10.9) even after Friday night's rare slip-up in Oklahoma City. The Hawks continue to make things largely automatic at the top for the Power Rankings committee (of one), sporting that 26-2 record since Thanksgiving and ranking tops in the league in defensive efficiency (allowing just 96.3 points per 100 possessions) in that span as they begin a seven-game homestand for the rest of the month.
We'll delve further into the order -- Washington's rise, Chicago's fall and the ongoing overall dominance of the West -- on Stein Line Live. You can comment below on our 1-to-30 order, which as always was compiled with data and research assistance from our friends at ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau.
|You won't find a Hawk in the NBA's top 30 in points per game or minutes per game. They supposedly still need a real rim protector, but who else would you put here when the Hawks are 26-2 since Thanksgiving ... and assisting on a league-high 70 percent of their made baskets during that stretch?|
|After eight straight wins, all by at least 11 points, you can pardon what happened in Oklahoma City. Especially when you take note of how the Dubs responded Saturday night in Houston. And when you remember they've won 15 straight home games. And 17 in a row when Andrew Bogut plays.|
|Z-Bo is at 19.2 PPG and 13.8 RPG since coming back from that nine-game knee hiatus after averaging 16.1 PPG and 11.4 RPG in his first 26 games. The Grizz are 25-6 when he's in uniform ... but we must confess we wanted to devote all our space to this Pass of the Season contender from Marc Gasol.|
|Only three NBA teams on this MLK Day awoke with 30 wins. And the Blazers were one of them. That doesn't guarantee you anything -- most definitely not in the West -- but their first half overall has been too promising to treat the season's first three-game skid as a crisis. You saw who they played, right?|
|So much talk about the Thunder looming as the Most Feared No. 8 Seed Ever. What about the Spurs? Imagine if they held firm at No. 7. You saw over the weekend what they're capable of now that Kawhi Leonard is back; it would truly be the most fearsome bottom end of a playoff bracket in history.|
|Although you can safely assume it provides little comfort after the way Houston got drilled by Golden State to suffer home loss No. 7 already, it's still notable James Harden and Co. have racked up 11 games this season with at least 15 triples -- an NBA record, according to Elias, with 41 games still to play.|
|Panicky stat: Blake Griffin has managed to grab 10-plus rebounds just twice in the Clippers' last 11 games. Reassuring stat: Since losing his rookie season to injury, Blake Griffin has been about as reliable health-wise as you can get, appearing in 349 of the Clippers' 353 regular-season games.|
|The Mavs launch their 2015 with 14 of 19 on the road. Nearly halfway through that slog, Dallas is a passable 5-3 and, more importantly, hopeful that the four 3s drained Friday by the reporter-loving Dirk Nowitzki were a sign he's easing away from his December shooting percentages that were below his high standards.|
|Two factors that have triggered the sudden availability of Miles Plumlee: Phoenix's recent acquisition of Brandan Wright and the ongoing development of 2013 No. 5 overall pick Alex Len, who has overcome ankle/knee/pinkie woes to help the Suns to a handy 12-5 record in games he starts.|
|The Wiz are still savoring Wednesday's win in Chicago, because the Bulls don't often squander double-digit leads. They were 196-22 in the Thibodeau Era (for a success rate of .899) in games they led by at least 10 before the Wiz overcame an 11-point deficit for their second W over Chicago in six days.|
|Joakim Noah is ailing. Jimmy Butler is in his first funk of the season. Nikola Mirotic and the Bulls' D have likewise slumped, while D-Rose's season continues to be a roller coaster. So it's not just the Cavs. Both teams we expected to run and hide from the rest of the East are trying to find themselves at the halfway point.|
|They finally hit top gear Friday night to avenge three earlier L's to the Dubs and then reached .500 at last. Now for the scary part: OKC, even with KD, hasn't gotten much closer to the West's top eight. Which tends to neuter all our talk about the Spurs and OKC being the scariest 7/8 seeds of all time.|
|Kyle Lowry is going to the All-Star Game. The only other guards averaging 20-plus PPG and 7-plus APG are Westbrook and Curry. The Raps, though, aren't in this just to get Lowry to NYC. Expectations have been raised for everyone in Toronto. But now that DeMar DeRozan is back, it's time for a response. |
|Anthony Davis' toe injury is not believed to be serious. That we can say with more conviction than any attempts to try to explain how the Pels could win the stops in Detroit and Toronto last week -- with Jrue Holiday out for both and Davis gone for the latter -- and lose the stops in both Boston and Philly. |
|As gaudy as the numbers have been from LeBron in his first three games back, it's the positive interaction we saw between superstar and coach at key stages of Friday's statement road win over the Clippers that surely mean more. Are we gullible enough to say that the Cavs' season really starts now?|
|We're not supposed to get too giddy about multiple East teams, but the Pistons are making it tougher and tougher to scoff at. Sparked by a (seemingly) reborn Brandon Jennings, Detroit is 11-2 since dumping Josh Smith, with an average win margin of plus-9.2 in that span and a top-five offense and defense.|
|A somber mood has enveloped the Central Division Cinderellas -- thanks to Larry Sanders' suspension and Kendall Marshall's ACL tear on the heels of Jabari Parker's misery -- when a 21-19 mark really should be insulating them from gloom. So here's a pick-me-up pic (we hope) from the team's trip to London.|
|Just one committee's opinion ... but we do think we know a little something about ranking things. And that's why we feel the need to chime in with the notion that maybe, just maybe, Miami is a tad overrated in those Forbes happiest/unhappiest places to work compilations Micky Arison couldn't wait to RT.|
|There's no such thing as a bad win when Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are out injured. The Hornets, though, wouldn't dare deny that their 80-71 overtime triumph over Indiana ranks as one of the ugliest wins ever. The teams combined for the lowest OT point total in the history of the shot-clock era.|
|I was afraid to nominate Rudy Gobert as my preseason Most Improved Player pick because I assumed he wouldn't play enough. Now look. Jimmy Butler is the runaway MIP leader, but Gobert is averaging a heady 31.0 MPG since Jan. 1 ... along with averages of 10.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 4.2 BPG.|
|Before getting bullied by Memphis and obliterated by OKC, Orlando not only posted two very good wins back-to-back but took their cue from a surging Victor Oladipo to score 120-plus points in consecutive games -- those wins in Chicago and over visiting Houston -- for the first time since February 1996.|
|All-Star starters will be announced Thursday. The campaign to get DeMarcus Cousins enough votes from West coaches is surely underway already. He's such a force individually -- up to No. 6 overall in PER at 26.1 -- that he just might barge his way in. But who can say for sure with Boogie in the stacked West?|
|Surest sign yet that the Nuggets' famed home-court advantage isn't what it once was: Minnesota arrived Saturday on the second night of a back-to-back -- having won one of its previous 17 games -- and simply unleashed rookie Andrew Wiggins to get the W. Not much to see here beyond Denver's next trade.|
|The Nets went too far down the line in nearly trading Brook Lopez to turn back now. You're inclined to say the same thing about Mikhail Prokhorov's sale flirtations. Brooklyn will surely find a Lopez trade partner between now and Feb. 19. Just like Prokhorov is a safe bet to sell sooner rather than later.|
|So which was more agonizing? Surrendering 52 points to Mo Williams? Or the Andre Drummond tip-in? I'd submit it was Williams' outburst, since it surely reminded Indy how much it has missed the on-ball defense provided by George Hill. It's not a Paul George-sized void, but Hill has been missed. |
|Kobe Watch: Since passing Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list, No. 24 has missed his first six games of the season, shaved three-ish minutes off his nightly allotment when he does play and just surpassed Gary Payton and Jerry West as the oldest Laker (36) to ever record a 15-assist game. |
|A double-digit win over the Pelicans with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday sidelined is more impressive than it sounds when you (A) realize Philly hadn't recorded a single double-digit W all season before Friday night and then (B) take note of what the Pels achieved without those two Sunday in Toronto.|
|Hard to believe that the Celts' next road win over a Western Conference foe will be their first in the Brad Stevens Era. Monday's MLK Day matinee against Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers and the rest of the Clips launches a six-game West swing that will require Boston to trek more than 8,000 miles.|
|Sorry, Andrew Wiggins. I know you just became the first Wolves rook since Stephon Marbury to post a 30-point game. But this space has to belong to Mo Williams. The same Mo Williams who sported the second-lowest scoring average in league history (11.0 PPG) when he uncorked that 52-point game.|
|How will the Knicks remember their trip to London? The standout memory will either be this Spike Lee rant explaining why he didn't make the trip ... or the fact that the loss there to Milwaukee established New York as just the fifth team in the last 25 seasons to reach the 41-game mark with five wins or fewer.|