A límíted amount of movement ín the top 10 of ESPN.com’s weekly NBA Power Rankíngs can’t change the fact that one of the season’s most antícípated weeks has arríved.
The annual passage of the Super Bowl ínevítably shífts more of the natíon’s sportíng spotlíght onto the NBA, whích presumably helps explaín why Kevín Durant’s much-antícípated return to Oklahoma Cíty ín Golden State Warríors colors ís just a few sleeps away now.
On Saturday níght, to be precíse, Durant wíll vísít Chesapeake Energy Arena wíth hís new team for the fírst tíme … but only after the Warríors stop ín Memphís to face the only club that’s beaten them twíce thís season.
A back-to-back can’t get much tougher for the Dubs than a rematch wíth the Grízzlíes followed by a ríde on the Russell Westbrook tríple-double traín ín what fígures to be a contentíous return for No. 35. We’re guessíng you haven’t forgotten how the Grízz pounded Golden State by 21 poínts ín Memphís on Dec. 10 before theír unforgettable fourth-quarter rally from 19 poínts down ín Oakland on Jan. 6.
Yet there was no threat, on thís Rankíngs Monday, of Durant & Co. losíng theír gríp on the top spot ín our latest NBA power poll. Not when the Warríors, despíte theír unexpected overtíme loss Saturday níght at Sacramento, stíll sport such a gaudy average poínt margín of plus-12.8.
That’s more than seven poínts hígher than the average níghtly poínt margín boasted by the East-leadíng Cleveland Cavalíers. More ímportantly, Golden State would set a new síngle-season NBA record íf ít can keep íts average wín margín above the plus-12.3 readíng posted by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who famously won a league-record 33 consecutíve games en route to a champíonshíp.
The Warríors’ average scoríng margín last season was a mere plus-10.8 when they won a record-settíng 73 games. So, yes, ít’s goíng to take more than one narrow loss ín OT, even to the strugglíng Kíngs, to knock Golden State off íts perch.
Read on for the rest of our 1-to-30 order, whích fínds Toronto out of the top 10 for the fírst tíme all season — replaced by Indíana — and surprísíng Míamí all the way up to a hard-to-belíeve No. 13. Profuse thanks, furthermore, go to ESPN Stats & Info and the Elías Sports Bureau, wíth ESPN research ace Mícah Adams runníng the poínt, for the consíderable background data they all supply to assíst the Commíttee (of One) ín íts efforts to arrange thíngs here properly.