There's a new No. 2 in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.
This, of course, is significant because it means that the Golden State Warriors -- fresh off the first wire-to-wire season at No. 1 in the history of these rankings -- have dipped out of the top two at the first attempt, bumped down to No. 3 by the 29-point rout inflicted upon them by our new No. 2 from San Antonio.
It was the second-largest margin of defeat in league history for a team coming off an appearance in the NBA Finals. Worse yet for the Warriors: Only one team in league history has ever gone on to reach the Finals after losing its season opener by more than 25 points. That would be the 1977-78 Seattle SuperSonics, who made it to the championship round that season despite a 32-point hammering from the Rick Barry-led Warriors.
There's always a measure of up-and-down unpredictability in the early season, as the Committee (of One) gets a feel for all these teams, so you'll find plenty else beyond Golden State to dissect and debate in this week's 1-to-30 ladder. Profuse thanks, as always, go to ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau -- spearheaded by our colleague Micah Adams -- for so much of the background data that helps the committee arrange things.
So maybe we weren't completely loony to have the Cavs in the No. 1 spot to open the season. The reigning champs, in contrast to their title rivals on the West Coast, have the clear continuity edge this season and look rather sharp out of the box, starting with those 19 points, 14 assists and 11 boards from King James in a Ring Night rout of the Knicks that added up to the NBA's first triple-double on opening night since Jason Kidd put one together for the Nets back in 2006-07.
Life Without Timmy couldn't have started any smoother. First Kawhi Leonard, with 35 points in that takedown of the Warriors, had the gaudiest opening night for a Spur since George Gervin's 35 points to open the 1981-82 campaign. Then Kawhi, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first player in league history -- since steals became an official stat starting with the 1973-74 season -- to total at least 30 points and five steals in each of his team's first two games of the season.
The Warriors' biggest home deficit last season was 17 points. They didn't lose a home game until April 1-- after starting 36-0. So, yes, it was an almighty shock to the system to see them struggle in so many areas (rebounding, rim protection, team defense, turnovers, overall depth) against San Antonio, consigning Kevin Durant to defeat in his regular-season home debut at Oracle Arena -- just like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in their home debuts before him.
I can't quibble with the Week 1 results after the Clippers went to the unfriendly confines of Portlandia and won before turning back the stubborn Jazz at home. Yet it still feels like L.A. has lost a little ground, early as it is to even say such a thing, simply because of the warning shot that the Spurs uncorked with their performance in Oakland. Maybe the Clips can still secure Biggest Threat to Golden State status, but it's clearly a mantle San Antonio has no interest in surrendering.
There were 67 40-point performances last season. Only three -- by Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin -- did not include a 3-pointer, but DeMar DeRozan and Anthony Davis have both hit that level already without the benefit of a single trey. A home loss to Cleveland so early is a bit of a downer, especially after Toronto won two of the three regular-season meetings in 2015-16, but the sharpness DeRozan brought back from the Rio Olympics is a handy consolation.
If he can muster at least 24 points in Wednesday's home rematch with the Bulls, Isaiah Thomas will join Larry Bird and Paul Pierce as the only Celtics in the last 50 years to score at least 24 in each of the first four games of a new season. Thomas and Avery Bradley are off to a hopeful start as a backcourt tandem while Marcus Smart's ankle heals, averaging a combined 46 points and 11.4 assists per game, while shooting 48.7 percent on 3s as a duo, through the modest sample size of a 2-1 start.
The Thunder (and the whole league) couldn't have asked any more from Russell Westbrook in Week 1. He totaled 116 points, 35 assists and 37 rebounds in the Thunder's 3-0 start, put himself on pace for a tidy 55 triple-doubles for the season and thus did his part to ratchet up the hype -- if that's even possible -- for Thursday night's maiden installment of Thunder at Warriors. The truth is OKC will undoubtedly need better balance to get through 82 games, but there's time for that later.
Was anyone more ready to start the season than Damian Lillard? He's the first Blazer ever to score 100-plus points through the first three games, just sank a down-the-lane floater in OT to seal a road win in Denver and surely has the folks in the league office who decide such things locked behind closed doors on this Rankings Monday to wrestle with the tough call between Dame, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard for the season's first Western Conference Player of the Week award.
It's way too early to get carried away. The Hawks' early schedule is also on the soft side, so we're doubling down here on the usual warnings this time of year to be judicious when tempted to draw conclusions about the NBA when it's only Halloween. But the Hawks have undoubtedly enjoyed a feel-good start in their quest to convince the skeptics that they're still top-four material in the East, thanks to Dwight Howard's dreamy debut and a favorable contract extension with Dennis Schroder.
Chandler Parsons continues to be held out of the Memphis lineup for precautionary reasons after offseason knee surgery. And Marc Gasol, for now, isn't supposed to stray much beyond 30 minutes per night after last season's foot troubles. Given those restrictions, one suspects rookie coach David Fizdale can live with the Grizzlies' two-out-of-three start, which also happens to feature a very strong opening statement from Zach Randolph in Z-Bo's Sixth Man Award campaign.
Losing to Boston in the home opener certainly stung, as evidenced by the sight of Steve Clifford storming off the postgame podium without fielding any questions from the assembled media Saturday night, Before that, though, Charlotte jumped out to a 2-0 start on the strength of road wins in both Milwaukee and Miami, highlighted by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's big night (23 points and 14 boards) against the Bucks and a recovery from 19 points down in the second half of Friday's triumph over the Heat.
So what if Boston was visiting town on the second half of a back-to-back? Who cares if Indiana was, too? The Bulls have tipped off with two wins in two tries against two quality opponents and, in a development that has to please Fred Hoiberg, connected on 20 3-pointers in the process. Shout "small sample size" all you want, but the Bulls -- after all the grief they've taken already for all the supposed non-shooters they've acquired -- have earned the right to shout back at us.
At the tail end of week when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant square off as opponents for the first time, followed by Derrick Rose playing in Chicago as a Knick for the first time, we'll have to see how much oxygen is left for Dwight Howard's maiden showdown with visiting James Harden & Co. on Saturday night. Houston's focus, of course, is grinding through 14 of its first 20 games on the road, as well nursing Patrick Beverley to the earlier-than-expected return he's predicting.
Make that two 20-rebound games in three tries for Andre Drummond, who began the season tied with DeAndre Jordan with 20 such games over the past three seasons coming into the 2016-17 campaign. When he reached that plateau in double-digit victories over Orlando and Milwaukee, it marked the fourth time in Drummond's career that he's had back-to-back games with 20-plus boards and six times overall since the start of last season. No one else in the league, in the same span, has done it more than twice.
The afterglow stemming from Myles Turner's glittering debut -- when he became just the third player (since blocks became an official NBA stat in 1973-74) to ring up at least 30 points, 15 boards and four swats in a season opener in Indy's OT triumph over visiting Dallas -- didn't last long. Friday night's fall-from-ahead loss in Brooklyn, followed by a heavy defeat in Chicago, quickly turned the mood glum around town, especially since Indy native Jeff Teague is off to an unexpectedly disappointing start as a Pacer.
Only the Jazz, who are still without the injured Gordon Hayward, stand between Gregg Popovich and the first 5-0 start of his legendary coaching career. Be advised, though, that Utah -- having suffered road defeats to the Blazers and Clippers already -- has lost its last 10 visits to San Antonio and hasn't won there since the 2009-10 season, when Jerry Sloan was still on the Utah bench and new Jazz guard George Hill was still starting for the pre-Kawhi Leonard Spurs.
Folks tend to forget that Erik Spoelstra is tied with Dallas' Rick Carlisle for the second-longest active coaching tenure behind San Antonio's Gregg Popovich. Perhaps this nugget will stick with you longer: Spoelstra got to 400 career wins with the Heat in 69 fewer games than his mentor Pat Riley thanks to Miami's impressive season-opening win in Orlando. Hassan Whiteside, meanwhile, will unquestionably live up to that new contract if his production can stay where it's been out of the gate.
The Wolves' first two games, as reactionary as this sounds, are exactly why crotchety know-it-alls like me have been skittish about all the playoff talk. Tom Thibodeau's young group has blown leads of 17 (in Memphis) and 18 points (in Sacramento) already after tying Philadelphia last season with a league-high five losses after being up by 17 or more. You could rightly point out, of course, that the Committee shouldn't have over-rewarded the Wolves' strong preseason play by putting them 12th last week.
Have to confess that we found it a touch puzzling to see such a momentous occasion -- Dikembe Mutombo's jersey retirement -- taking place in conjunction with the Nuggets' home opener Saturday night. Such trivialities, mind you, don't even register as a concern for Mike Malone -- not after the upstart Nuggets cost themselves a 2-0 start by squandering an eight-point lead in the final 48 seconds of regulation and then a four-point cushion with 1:16 to go in overtime to stubborn Portland.
There's no denying that the Mavs endured a r-o-u-g-h opening week with their OT loss in Indy, Dirk Nowitzki's stomach bug that knocked the face of the franchise out of Dallas' home opener for the first time in his career and two losses already to their hated rivals from Houston -- including a one-pointer on the road when Dirk had to sit out a second straight game. There is, however, one ray of hope: Harrison Barnes shook off his bleak preseason with two very strong games.
In January 2002, Michael Jordan had 16 points and 12 rebounds in his first game in Chicago as a Washington Wizard. Two years earlier, Scottie Pippen had 11 points and six assists for Portland in his return to the United Center. Friday marks Derrick Rose's homecoming, when the Chicago native plays his first game in the Windy City as a visitor. What kind of numbers can we expect from D-Rose? Isn't it too soon on the schedule for such an emotional encounter? Answers forthcoming.
With all the gaudy numbers flying around from Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins has received scant praise for the early groove he's found, which quickly resulted in the 21st game of his career to feature at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. Over the past five seasons, no other player in the NBA has more than nine such games. Cousins, mind you, is also competing with the Kings' sparkly new Golden 1 Center for attention, which raises the bar further.
Life in the nation's capital is off to, shall we say, a challenging start for Scotty Brooks. After absorbing a 15-point pounding in Atlanta in their season opener, Brooks and the Wiz erased an early 15-point deficit at Memphis to move to the brink of a quality road victory, only to be undone by Marc Gasol's four 3-pointers, including a triple from the 7-foot-1 Spaniard that forced overtime. We're indeed referring to the same Marc Gasol who had never sank more than three 3-pointers in a season before last week.
I caught some of the Nets at Bucks game Saturday night and was swiftly reminded how breathtaking it can be to watch Giannis Antetokounmpo in full flow, covering so much with ground with so few his one-of-a-kind strides. Milwaukee at New Orleans on Tuesday night wouldn't typically jump off the schedule, but think about it. The Greek Freak? Dueling with The Brow? Antetokounmpo vs. Anthony Davis is as underrated (and mouthwatering) an individual matchup as the league can serve up.
Kudos to Jeremy Lin, Kenny Atkinson, Sean Marks, et al. The Nets, widely billed as the league's worst team and favored in Las Vegas to be the last team on the NBA map to win a game this season, outscored the Pacers by a heady 31-15 in the fourth quarter Friday night to claim a W that (ever so briefly) hiked Brooklyn to the heights of .500. These are the same Pacers, yes, who are such a trendy pick to make a run at a top-four spot and home-court advantage in the first round of the East playoffs.
What does Anthony Davis have to show for his troubles? The Brow's eye-popping total of 113 points so far is an all-time record for a player mired in an 0-3 start, well beyond the 95 points that Atlanta's Lou Hudson (1971-72), Chicago's Michael Jordan (1990-91) and Philadelphia's Allen Iverson (2005-06) all mustered amid 0-3 starts of their owns. Our best advice to Pels fans: Keep a copy of that opening night box score handy for a pick-me-up until Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans return.
One of the most promising aspects of the season's opening seven days is the pluck we've witnessed from so many presumed bottom-feeders. The prelude to the Nets' upset over visiting Indiana -- as well as the certifiable scare Phoenix imposed Sunday night on Golden State -- played out Wednesday night at Staples Center, where Luke Walton's crew flat-out stunned James Harden & Co. The Committee, don't forget, loves surprises!
Hard to believe that until Devin Booker's 20th birthday Sunday, Phoenix started the season with three 19-year-olds on the roster: Booker, Marquese Chriss and our man Dragan Bender (who actually doesn't even turn 19 until Nov. 17). On the flip side: Al McCoy -- voice of the Suns for the past 44 years and one of the classiest gentlemen you could wish to meet in this game -- couldn't be more deserving of the club's decision to induct him into its Ring of Honor later this season.
There are still seven teams in the league without a victory, but Orlando's 0-3 launch stands out after two double-digit defeats to Miami and Detroit and a third only avoided, plainly speaking, because of a Cleveland let-up after the Cavs stretched their lead to 22 points. Such is the wobbly state of the Magic in these early days under Frank Vogel that Philadelphia, according to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, actually has a 47-percent shot of beating them at home Tuesday night.
Those 20 points in 22 in minutes in his formal NBA debut were all it took: We officially have Joel Embiid Fever. Yet that doesn't mean we can focus solely on Embiid and his quest to convince the Sixers to raise the lid on his nightly minutes restrictions. Ben Simmons' absence complicates matters, but Philly is desperate for a win ASAP after poor Brett Brown, thanks to starts of 0-18 and 0-17, had to endure a wait until December for win No. 1 in each of the past two seasons.