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Power Rankings: Warriors jump to top spot -- now the real work begins

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Warriors look to weather tough week ahead (3:08)

Marc Stein previews the Warriors' challenging week ahead, which includes matchups against the Cavaliers, Thunder and Rockets. (3:08)

The good news first: Golden State will take the floor for Monday night's highly anticipated rematch with Cleveland having capitalized on all of the slipups around them to reclaim the No. 1 spot in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings.

Now for the bad news: What awaits the Warriors over the next seven days just might add up to the most challenging week of their regular season.

The combined six losses suffered by Cleveland, Houston and San Antonio last week convinced the Committee (of One) that the Warriors (34-6) deserved to reclaim their perch atop the rankings, even though their 14-point blown lead in the fourth quarter on the Cavs' floor was just three short weeks ago.

We can't wait to see what sort of shape the Warriors are in when we reconvene Monday. After playing the visiting Cavs at Oracle, the Warriors will host Russell Westbrook's Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday before traveling to Houston to face James Harden's Rockets on Friday. Even Sunday's visit to lowly Orlando is worrisome, as it will force Golden State to play a game at noon ET for the first time in more than 20 years, dating back to March 1995.

Rest assured, there's a lot to digest throughout our 1-to-30 ladder beyond just what's happening at the top. Many thanks, as always, go to ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau -- with ESPN research ace Micah Adams running the point -- for the considerable background data provided to assist the Committee's efforts to set the rankings order properly.

Previous rankings: Week 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | Camp

1. Golden State Warriors
2016-17 record: 34-6
Previous ranking: 4

As the Warriors brace for the challenging week ahead, they've been resting at home since Thursday night's drubbing of Detroit. That game featured Golden State's ninth 40-point quarter of the season, including two in one game against the Lakers. Golden State is now 8-0 when it posts 40-plus points in a single quarter, 12-0 when it totals 25 or more fast-break points, 13-0 when Draymond Green has at least 10 assists, 13-0 when Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all score at least 20 points, and 17-0 when it sinks at least 13 3-pointers as a team. As for all of the schedule talk, no one is even thinking about Sunday's visit to Orlando, a game that will be plenty tricky in itself thanks to a dreaded noon ET tipoff for the West Coasters.


2. Cleveland Cavaliers
2016-17 record: 29-10
Previous ranking: 1

List all of the alibis you want. The Cavs never win in Utah. They got into Portland extremely late because of last week's nasty weather in the Pacific Northwest before the second night of a back-to-back. Their shooters have gone uncharacteristically cold. All of that might be true, but Cleveland has looked a little more raggedy than anyone would have expected on its first trip of the season to the Western Conference. Interesting situation to monitor heading into Cavs-Warriors II: Coach Ty Lue's crew is shooting just 32.1 percent from 3-point range in January, which ranked third-worst in the league for the month as of Sunday -- better only than Philly (29.9 percent) and OKC (31.1 percent). Newly acquired Kyle Korver, of course, should be able to help with that.


3. Houston Rockets
2016-17 record: 32-11
Previous ranking: 2

This is indeed the toughest week ‎of Golden State's season so far, but it's a biggie for the Rockets as well, with their first two-game blip under coach Mike D'Antoni still fresh in their memory and the Warriors coming to town Friday night looking to avenge that double-overtime loss on their own floor to Houston on Dec. 1. The Dubs (117.5 PPG) and Rockets (114.9) are trying to become the first pair of teams to average better than 114 points per game since the 1990-91 campaign, when four teams (Denver, Golden State, Phoenix and Portland) did it. James Harden, meanwhile, entered Sunday night's gimme in Brooklyn creating the exact same number of points per game -- 28.6 -- with his scoring and his assisting.


4. San Antonio Spurs
2016-17 record: 31-9
Previous ranking: 3

A week ago in this cyberspace, we were fawning over the Spurs for all of those massive leads they kept rolling up throughout the holiday season en route to the league's second-fattest nightly point differential. One Monday later, there is disbelief bubbling all over the Alamo City because San Antonio is suddenly a modest 4-3 in January, with those three losses coming by a total of seven points. Kawhi Leonard just scored 30-plus points in three successive games for the first time in his career, but two of them (against Milwaukee at home and Phoenix in Mexico City) ended in defeat. Stay tuned, though: Kawhi & Co. will feature in ESPN/ABC's first Saturday night extravaganza of the season when the Spurs make their lone Cleveland appearance of 2016-17.


5. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 27-13
Previous ranking: 7

It was another good week for fans of Toronto's "Huskies" look. The Raptors were indeed sporting their retro duds when they beat Boston in the latest battle for Atlantic Division supremacy. No one, by the way, loves the Raps more than ESPN's Basketball Power Index, which listed Golden State versus Toronto (31 percent) as its most likely NBA Finals matchup -- ahead of Warriors-Cavaliers (26 percent) and Spurs-Raptors (12 percent) -- when we dialed it up Sunday morning. As for the All-Star debate we sparked north of the border: I realize many Raps fans regard Kyle Lowry as this team's most important player, but the contention here is that DeMar DeRozan has had the better season so far. And I'm not budging.


6. Boston Celtics
2016-17 record: 25-15
Previous ranking: 5

The Celtics are still in search of the certifiable face-of-a-franchise player their fans have dreamed of ever since Danny Ainge started stockpiling Nets draft picks. Yet shouldn't we continue to marvel at what little Isaiah Thomas has become? Selected dead last at No. 60 by Sacramento in the 2011 draft and discarded by Phoenix when the Suns thought they had too many point guards, Thomas just continues to get better, taking over two more fourth quarters last week in victories over the Wizards and Hawks. Al Horford has had an undeniable impact in loosening things up for Thomas offensively -- witness Horford's career-best 4.9 assists per game -- but Thomas leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring at 9.9 points per game, ahead of Russell Westbrook (9.6).


7. LA Clippers
2016-17 record: 28-14
Previous ranking: 9

The same team that lost its final six games of 2016 has launched its 2017 by winning six in a row, good for the league's longest active winning streak; when comparing the two stretches, the Clippers have been fueled by a dramatic improvement defensively. Tuesday, meanwhile, marks a full four weeks since Blake Griffin was shelved to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Doc Rivers said Griffin is progressing "great," which means a return by month's end is in play. The Clippers' limited trade assets, by comparison, mean that as much as Rivers would like to strengthen his roster, it's going to be tough for L.A. to make an impactful move. So maybe the closest thing to that has already happened; Kevin Garnett has officially signed on as a part-time Clips coaching consultant to work with their big men.


8. Memphis Grizzlies
2016-17 record: 25-18
Previous ranking: 6

The good stuff: Memphis can claim a 2-0 mark against mighty Golden State after no team toppled the Warriors twice last season, defeated Houston on Dec. 23 in a game the Rockets sank 20 3s, won the rematch in Houston on Friday to saddle the Rockets with their first losing streak of the season, and likewise rank as the only team in the league that can say it has beaten Utah when both Gordon Hayward and George Hill are in uniform for the Jazz. The quirky downside: Memphis is one of only two teams on the NBA map (along with Charlotte) that sports a winning record against fellow Western Conference residents (17-8) but a losing record against Eastern Conference opposition (8-9).


9. Utah Jazz
2016-17 record: 26-16
Previous ranking: 10

This is the farthest into a season the Jazz have been in first place in their division since Jan. 20, 2011, when Utah and OKC were both 27-15 and sharing the Northwest Division lead. Utah hasn't won its division outright since the 2007-08 season, under a coach we greatly miss named Jerry Sloan. The Jazz, though, don't want to hear anything divisional when (A) we're only at the season's halfway point and (B) they just lost Rodney Hood to a knee injury that isn't as scary as it looked but is still plenty worrisome for a club that has to be wondering when the injuries will ever stop.


10. Oklahoma City Thunder
2016-17 record: 25-17
Previous ranking: 12

T‎he Thunder had won 12 consecutive road games in which Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double before Friday's loss at Minnesota. But when Westbrook did it again Sunday night in Sacramento, OKC moved to 16-4 overall in his triple-double games this season, compared to 9-13 when he doesn't get all the way there. So please tell me, when it comes to the Thunder, how we can be talking about triple-doubles too much. The bigger question, to us, is how much OKC's 2-5 record in games decided by a margin of one or two points will come ‎back to haunt the Thunder in terms of playoff position. Only Minnesota (0-5) and Denver (1-5) are worse in that situation.


11. Atlanta Hawks
2016-17 record: 23-17
Previous ranking: 8

The Hawks and the Celtics were the East's two hottest teams since mid-December when they met Friday in Al Horford's grand return to the ATL. Boston wanted to win badly for Horford and ultimately did hush a crowd that gave the nine-season Hawk a chillier-than-expected reception, but Atlanta seems to be steadying itself after the recent tumult and trade speculation. Mike Dunleavy, in particular, suddenly looks pretty comfortable with his new club, based on the 20 points he provided in Sunday's home victory over Milwaukee.


12. Washington Wizards
2016-17 record: 20-19
Previous ranking: 13

The most impenetrable fortress in today's NBA is ... Washington's Phone Booth? That's what the numbers say after the Wizards brought a halt to Philly's headline-grabbing three-game winning streak to make it 11 in a row at home. It's the longest unbeaten run on their own floor since the then-Bullets won 15 straight at the old Cap Centre. The Wiz, as a result, are over .500 for the first time since late November of last season, when they started 6-5. As for John Wall news that doesn't involve Jae Crowder: Wall's game-winning bucket to beat the Bulls last week with five seconds remaining was his first career go-ahead field goal in the last five seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. He was previously 0-for-16 in such situations.


13. Milwaukee Bucks
2016-17 record: 20-19
Previous ranking: 14

Monday's Sixers-Bucks encounter can only mean one thing: Giannis duels The Process for the first time! Giannis Antetokounmpo (43.0) and Joel Embiid (46.0), for the record, are currently averaging more combined points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks per 36 minutes than LeBron James (42.6). With two games against Houston and James Harden also looming for the Bucks, this is a handy time to mention that The Greek Freak is threatening to become the first player in league history to ‎lead his team over the course of the season in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and field goal percentage.


14. Indiana Pacers
2016-17 record: 20-19
Previous ranking: 11

Perhaps you've grown weary of our pining for England and hearing how much we wished we were in London last week for Indy vs. Denver ABA Bowl (#sorrynotsorry). The Pacers certainly didn't enjoy themselves in one of the Committee's most beloved arenas, absorbing their third loss this season by 25-plus points. That's obviously not the sort of trip Paul George was hoping for in the wake of Indiana's recent five-game winning streak and with George, while abroad, becoming just the fourth active player (along with LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) to be outfitted with his own Nike signature shoe. Indy has bizarrely either taken a lead of at least 20 points or has fallen behind by 20-plus points in 18 of 39 games to date. And there might be more trouble on the horizon: ESPN's Basketball Power Index says that the Pacers have played the league's easiest schedule so far but face the seventh-toughest remaining schedule from here.


15. Chicago Bulls
2016-17 record: 21-21
Previous ranking: 16

Interesting video submission last week from our own Tom Haberstroh, who did the math and found that the Bulls have played (yikes) at the level of a 10-72 team when Jimmy Butler is off the floor. Haberstroh's research only reinforces how good we feel about referring to Butler as a must-choice as an East starter for players and media members before All-Star balloting closes Monday night. Dwyane Wade, meanwhile, celebrated his 35th birthday early by scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter to seal a win over New Orleans and ease the sting of that 18-point lead squandered just days earlier in a loss at Washington. The outburst accounted for D-Wade's best quarter since a 19-point effort for Miami nearly two years ago (March 29, 2015).


16. Portland Trail Blazers
2016-17 record: 18-24
Previous ranking: 19

ESPN's Brad Gilbert is a basketball junkie/Warriors addict who, even with the Australian Open taking over his life, hit me up on Twitter the other day with an interesting comparison while watching the Blazers. Are Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, BG wondered aloud, destined for the same breakup we saw with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis because they're too small together? You can safely assume rival front offices are crossing their fingers and hoping that the Blazers inevitably reach the seemingly hard-to-envision point that they feel the need to shake things up. McCollum, mind you, is getting so good that the whole discussion is only getting more complicated; C.J.'s eight consecutive games with at least 25 points is Portland's longest such streak since Clyde Drexler's nine-gamer way back in 1987-88.


17. Charlotte Hornets
2016-17 record: 20-20
Previous ranking: 15

Reviews of Nicolas Batum's play in his first season since receiving a $120 million contract have been decidedly mixed, but you sure notice when the Hornets don't have him out there. Batum's limited availability during Charlotte's current four-game skid thanks to a knee problem has been undeniably felt. The suspicion here is that Kemba Walker has done enough to snag an All-Star reserve spot from East coaches -- which would bring a hint of consolation to the city of Charlotte after the game itself was moved to New Orleans -- but the Hornets' 8-3 start is a distant memory. You hear a lot more about their 0-6 record against Cleveland, Toronto and Boston.


18. New Orleans Pelicans
2016-17 record: 16-25
Previous ranking: 22

As disappointed as the Pelicans were to lose in Anthony Davis' Chicago homecoming -- when they were hoping to take advantage of the Bulls' recent struggles and a Jimmy Butler flu bout that didn't quite last long enough for the visitors -- there was some relief last week as well, courtesy of a victory in Brooklyn with Anthony Davis out of the lineup. You certainly say it was only the Nets, true, but don't forget that the Pels had lost their previous two Brow-less games this season by a combined 35 points. Davis, meanwhile, is up to four games this season with at least 40 points and 15 boards; only Shaquille O'Neal (five in 1994-95) and Patrick Ewing (five in 1989-90) have more in a single season over the past 30 years.


19. Denver Nuggets
2016-17 record: 15-23
Previous ranking: 21

I agree with Mike Malone. The Nuggets should move to London ... and take me with them. The trouble, of course, is what's been happening everywhere else they play; Denver awoke Sunday ranked No. 1 in rebounding (grabbing 54 percent of available boards) but No. 29 in defensive efficiency. According to ESPN research ace Micah Adams, no NBA team has managed to lead the league in rebounding and rank outside the top 20 in both DE and PPG allowed since the (gulp) 1983-84 San Diego Clippers. All those transition points they surrender off turnovers are a killer. It also doesn't help that the Nuggets are tied for last in a prime stat that reflects activity (only 13.3 deflections per game) and sit in the bottom 10 defending the 3-point line.


20. Sacramento Kings
2016-17 record: 16-24
Previous ranking: 20

The Kings are now 1-5 on a crucial seven-game homestand after Sunday's setback to Oklahoma City at Golden 1 Center. The one victory Sacramento managed, over unraveling Detroit, required a comeback from 18 points, which gave Sacramento three such resurrections this season to rank No. 1 in the league in that category. DeMarcus Cousins has been too good individually to be denied an All-Star invite by West coaches, but the Kings just don't look like legit playoff material ... especially with that eight-game road trip we keep bringing up almost upon them. Defense continues to be a big problem; Sacramento had slipped into the bottom five of the league in defensive efficiency by the time the Russell Westbrook Triple-Double Train pulled into town.


21. Detroit Pistons
2016-17 record: 19-24
Previous ranking: 17

Reggie Jackson has absorbed the brunt of the scrutiny generated by Detroit's plummet to five games under .500 because the Pistons were 11-10 without their $80 Million Man and are a distressing 8-14 since Jackson returned to the lineup Dec. 4. Yet it seems fair to wonder whether Andre Drummond has been let off too easy in the scrutiny department, given his inability to take the next step this season in the wake of last summer's mammoth $127 million extension. Sunday's half-court fling against the Lakers aside, Drummond has generated little-to-no buzz when it comes to securing his second straight All-Star berth this season. That can't all be on Jackson.


22. Minnesota Timberwolves
2016-17 record: 14-27
Previous ranking: 26

Sunday's matinee loss in Dallas surely dulled some of the shine, but the Wolves actually strung three victories in a row together last week, with the much-critiqued Ricky Rubio dishing out a 17-assist performance in a surprising victory over Houston and then hounding Russell Westbrook into 0-for-8 shooting with four turnovers in the second half of the Wolves' victory Friday night over OKC. ‎The part we liked best: Karl-Anthony Towns sat down with us over the weekend to tape a nice TrueHoop Conversations podcast that will be out for your listening pleasure soon.


23. Dallas Mavericks
2016-17 record: 13-27
Previous ranking: 24

Dirk Nowitzki is starting to resemble Dirk Nowitzki ... and we suspect you've been following along in this cyberspace for long enough to know how much the Committee enjoys seeing it. The Mavs are as healthy as they've been all season, even without big man Andrew Bogut, but Tuesday's visit brings Dirk & Co. exactly halfway to the first losing season in the Mark Cuban Era. Dallas has never won fewer than 41 games in Cuban's first 17 full seasons of ownership; I'm a touch surprised ESPN's BPI actually gives the Mavs as much as a 0.01 percent shot at finishing 28-14 from here to save the streak.


24. Phoenix Suns
2016-17 record: 13-27
Previous ranking: 23

You can safely presume that no one in the league is more eager to see an NBA franchise land in Mexico City than the Suns' Devin Booker. It only earned the Suns a split, but Booker just rumbled for a career-high 39 points in both of Phoenix's "home" games south of the border last week. The second of those two outbursts not only delivered an unforeseen victory over San Antonio to push Phoenix to .500 in the new year (3-3) but also nudged Booker into the team scoring lead past Eric Bledsoe (20.3 PPG to Bledsoe's 20.1 PPG). Reminder: Booker, who like Suns coach Earl Watson has a grandfather from Mexico, doesn't turn 21 until October.


25. Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 record: 12-26
Previous ranking: 25

The Rising Stars game isn't enough. We need Joel Embiid in the Big Boy Game on All-Star Sunday. I'll admit that I haven't done my full breakdown on the East reserves yet to see if there's really room for him -- that comes later this week -- but I'll also admit that I'm flat-out rooting for Embiid now. This isn't about his recent streak of eight 20-point games in a row despite logging less than 30 minutes in all eight. It's not even about the Sixers' recent uptick in the standings. It's all about the spirit this guy has, after losing his first two full seasons to injury and all the losing Philadelphia endured along the way, on top of the great numbers. It's a pleasure to watch how much Embiid enjoys his job.


26. New York Knicks
2016-17 record: 18-23
Previous ranking: 18

Derrick Rose obviously isn't wrong when he points to the Knicks' defense as a key culprit in their 2-10 slide. When we dared to check Sunday morning, New York was 25th in defensive efficiency, 29th in points off turnovers (14.0 PPG), 25th in deflections and 28th in charges taken. The problem here is that the Knicks are two points worse per 100 possessions with Rose on the floor than when he sits ... as well as the fact you have to question why he's the one trying to deliver big messages and/or challenges to his coach in the media when he couldn't bring himself to text a soul in the organization last Monday when he disappeared for 24 hours on a game day. To the surprise of pretty much no one, these Knicks have used up all the goodwill engendered by their 14-10 start and have devolved into the usual daily soap opera Gothamites have come to expect. And now it's Melo in the crosshairs.


27. Orlando Magic
2016-17 record: 17-25
Previous ranking: 28

The Jazz were 0-9 this season after falling behind by at least 15 points before Saturday night, when the Magic squandered a seemingly healthy cushion in the SLC to waste one of the best games we've seen from Elfrid Payton (28 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists) and squelch any momentum that might have started to percolate after Nikola Vucevic (30 points) returned to the starting lineup to spark an unexpected triumph in Portland. With Evan Fournier ailing anew and playoff hope realistically slipping away in Year 1 under Frank Vogel, we await the trade or two most rival teams expect Orlando to make to unclog its frontcourt logjam.


28. Miami Heat
2016-17 record: 11-30
Previous ranking: 29

As time goes on, it would appear to make more and more sense for Miami to keep Goran Dragic beyond the Feb. 23 trade deadline. For at least two reasons. (1) As expertly pointed out by our own Zach Lowe in his latest "Ten Things" dispatch, Miami is sinking into prime draft position just fine even with Dragic on the roster because so much else is missing. (2) Isn't it smarter for the Heat to wait to see where they lands in the lottery in May -- and what kind of shot they'll have at selecting someone like Washington's Markelle Furtz or UCLA's Lonzo Ball -- before surrendering The Dragon? As long as Pat Riley is headed for an upper-echelon lottery pick as it is, there's little reason to rush into a deal. The wiser move might well be waiting to get a better handle on what sort of player Miami will be drafting.


29. Los Angeles Lakers
2016-17 record: 15-30
Previous ranking: 27

The Lakers can be called league leaders in at least one respect: 45 games played already makes them ‎the busiest team in the NBA to date. Luke Walton likewise knows that he won't endure the longest year among this season's three rookie coaches, given what Kenny Atkinson is facing in Brooklyn while David Fizdale revels in a 48-win pace in Memphis‎ to make them both envious, but the heady days of 10-10 only seem to fade deeper in the distance for Walton. Last week's 134-94 humbling in San Antonio was the Lakers' largest all-time defeat to their old friends from the Alamo City in 218 lifetime meetings (regular season and playoffs).


30. Brooklyn Nets
2016-17 record: 8-32
Previous ranking: 30

The Committee can admit we've been quietly pulling for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ever since we wound up on the same team in last June's Steve Nash annual charity soccer match in Manhattan. So we've enjoyed seeing the increasingly frequent references to Hollis-Jefferson as a Nets bright spot alongside Caris LeVert, who is beloved among those who populate Nets Twitter. But only so much enthusiasm is reasonable to expect on behalf of the Nets' kids with Brooklyn possessing the league's only single-digit win total and the reality that it's a lock to send Boston no worse than a No. 4 pick in June. Par for the course: Jeremy Lin (hamstring) was forced Sunday to sit out Jeremy Lin Bobblehead Night.