CHICAGO - Early in this 2017-18 NBA season, much of the noise emanated from Boston and Houston as the Celtics reeled off 16 straight wins from October 20 to November 20 while the Rockets lifted off to a furious 25-4 start.
The OKC Thunder also generated some buzz with their Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The injury-ravaged San Antonio Spurs were destructively quiet as usual but the Minnesota Timberwolves prowled dangerously while the King in Cleveland is showing a lot of sauce left at age 33.
Dudes such as Joel Embiid of Philadelphia and Victor Oladipo of Indiana are enjoying breakout campaigns. Giannis 'The Greek Freak' Antetokounmpo is bursting into a superstar in Milwaukee while CJ McCollum is boldly stepping out of Damian Lillard's shadow with his own All-Star turn in Portland.
But as we usher in the New Year, with teams adapting to the banalities of a long and grinding 82-game schedule, a familiar story line has emerged - the Golden State Warriors are once again sitting pretty on top of the overall standings.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Warriors are No.1 in points scored per game at 116. They also lead in points differential, whacking foes by an average margin of 9.9 a contest. They surrender 106.1 points per, 17th in the league, but Golden State is No.2 in field goals allowed at 43.4 percent, second only to Boston's NBA-best 42.9 percent clip.
Before the 125-106 hiccup against the Clippers on Wednesday (Thursday, Manila time), the Warriors have won five straight and eight of their last 11. But what is amazing is that they piled up this 33-9 record despite the fact that Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have missed a combined 22 games due to injuries.
These Warriors are unflinching. unforgiving, unbeatable. They can pick-and-roll teams to death, overrun them in transition, or suffocate them on defense. They're as unstoppable as the monthly bills.
KEVIN DURANT is averaging 25.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game. And by the way, he leads the NBA in blocked shots with 2.2 an outing. KD does it all and I won't be surprised if he also cooks the pregame meal and drives the team bus from arenas to airports and vice versa.
Despite a gimpy ankle, Curry is scorching opposing teams with 27.9 points per. So far, he has made 116 3s, which is only second overall in the NBA because his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, has drilled 140 triples.
Outside of the Curry-Durant-Thompson trio, 'em boys from Oakland have more weapons than North Korea.
Draymond Green is a triple-double threat (10.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.7 assists per) despite an explosive temper and a misguided crusade against officiating. Andre Iggy Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, only has four starts in 35 outings but he remains versatile as baking soda, averaging 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists while logging in just 26.3 minutes per.
Veterans Omri Casspi, JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia have been consistently dependable in rebounding, setting screens and scoring when the opportunities present themselves. Even the young Dubs, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell, are coming along nicely.
Golden State is like a Rubik's cube with nine sides instead of six. It's impossible to figure them out.
Dethroning the Warriors require a strong faith and plenty of hope that Curry and Co. will miss an unlikely ton of shots in the playoffs. Outside of that, the rest of the league really don't have a prayer.