USA TODAY Sports
The Clippers, Spurs and Thunder are clearly the top three teams in the NBA right now, but establishing some sort of Power Ranking order between them is not as clear cut.
Following up on my post yesterday, the Power Ranking community has indeed split on which of the three top teams should sit atop the rankings for week 10. Marc Stein of ESPN.com went so far as to call it a virtually tie, pointing out as I had that it was essentially impossible to distinguish between the body of work so far for the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. But the raison d'être of rankings is to rank, so rank they must.
Here are the top three rankings from some of the top pundits around the interwebs, along with excerpts of what they are saying about the Clippers.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com -- After admitting that it was essentially a tie between the big three, Stein opts to leave the rankings the same as last week, with the Clippers on top followed by the Thunder and Spurs. As good a solution to the problem as any.
The Clips bounced back from their first crash since late November about as emphatically as you can with their win over the Lakers and a rout of Golden State. So that's five wins already by 25 points or more ... and a 63-win pace for a franchise still waiting for its first 50-win season.
Kurt Helin, ProBasketballTalk.com -- Helin goes with the Thunder followed by the Clippers and Spurs, picking the Thunder "because I think they'd beat the Clippers or Spurs in a seven game series right now." Also as good a reason as any.
Seth Rosenthal of SBNation.com goes with an order of Clippers, Spurs and Thunder, crediting the Clippers statement win over the Warriors with keeping them on top.
There are "statement" games, and then there are "savage, merciless retribution for having our win streak interrupted by some solid competition thus making people momentarily doubt us" games. L.A. affirmed divisional dominance by recalibrating its offense against the Lakers (at least through three quarters), then absolutely mangling the Golden State D that had handled them several days prior. A team guided by Chris Paul can produce some borderline inhumane basketball when he's feeling vengeful.
Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld also has the Clippers on top, but frankly as the only one of this week's
wankers rankers with any other team in his top three (he's got New York third, Miami fourth and San Antonio inexplicably all the way down in fifth) he loses some credibility points.
After two losses, the Clippers beat the Lakers and pounded the Warriors. Soon they'll be tested on the road for most of January.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com goes with the Spurs, followed by the Clippers and the Thunder, seemingly discounting San Antonio's only recent loss as the result of coming in their fourth game in five days (not bad reasoning, actually).
With the Clips playing a four-games-in-five-nights stretch against some good teams, you knew the streak was coming to an end. What you didn't know is that they could have two huge offensive games over the weekend without Jamal Crawford. Chris Paul proved that he can get buckets when he needs to, scoring 30 against the Lakers and 27 against the Warriors (in just 28 minutes).
Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated also goes with the Spurs, Clippers and Thunder order -- somewhat surprising perhaps when you consider that he was writing through games of Jan. 3, BEFORE the Clippers had beaten the Lakers and Warriors back-to-back. One wonders if the Clippers would not be ranked first today.
The Clippers' historic 17-game winning streak ended with a thud against the Nuggets and Warriors. Seventeen games is an extraordinary feat under any circumstances, but the streak boasted wins against just four teams currently above .500, none of which are likely contenders (Nuggets, Bulls, Timberwolves and Bucks). We'll find out more about how the Clippers stack up among the league's elite this month, when they face tough tests against the Warriors, Thunder and Grizzlies.
All in all, a surprisingly strong showing by the Clippers in the power rankings, when you consider that they suffered back-to-back double digit losses during the week. The impact of their winning streak is still fresh enough, and the redemption of impressive wins over the Lakers and Warriors wiped away any doubts from the losses, which kept the Clippers at or near the top. In fact, despite the closeness of the race, the Clippers are no worse than second in any of these rankings.