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NBA Power Rankings: Heat return to No. 1

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports

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LeBron James was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. (Getty Images)

After taking a short leave, LeBron James and the Miami Heat are back on top.

The reigning champion Heat opened the season as the top-ranked team in Yahoo! Sports' NBA power rankings. Two early losses, however, pushed LeBron James and the Heat off of their perch. Miami has since worked itself back to No. 1 with a six-game winning streak.

Eight of Miami's next 10 games are at home, including six straight after Tuesday’s game in Washington. Miami is 8-0 at home.

Records are through Monday's games.

1. Miami Heat (12-3, previous ranking: second): After winning first NBA title and Olympic gold medal, James named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

San Antonio
2. San Antonio Spurs (14-4, previous ranking: third): Spurs have gone from boring to interesting overnight after landing $250,000 fine for resting players and for Halloween picture of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (12-3, previous ranking: first): Grizzlies’ one-week run at the top of the rankings came to an end with loss at San Antonio. Memphis is just 5-3 against the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City
4. Oklahoma City Thunder (14-4, previous ranking: fourth): You know you have a good team when you can afford to send two talented rookies, Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III, to the NBA Development League.

New York
5. New York Knicks (12-4, previous ranking: sixth): New York has won three straight and faces Miami on Thursday. All of New York’s losses have come on the road. Injuries, however, beginning to pile up.

[Related: LeBron James reclaims most popular NBA jersey crown]

6. Brooklyn Nets (11-5, previous ranking: fifth): The Nets don't have much time to fret about Saturday's 13-point loss to Miami. They face the Thunder and the surprising Warriors this week.

Los Angeles
7. Los Angeles Clippers (11-6, previous ranking: second): Another sign Chris Paul will re-sign with Los Angeles – longtime Hornets PR guy Dennis Rogers has left to become Paul’s main PR guy with Clippers.

8. Atlanta Hawks (9-5, previous ranking: seventh): Atlanta has quietly won four of its past five. Upcoming games against Denver and Memphis this week will provide a better test.

9. Philadelphia 76ers (10-7, previous ranking: 13th): The Sixers own a 5-6 losing record against Eastern Conference opponents. Jrue Holiday is playing like an All-Star.

Golden State
10. Golden State Warriors (10-7, previous ranking: 11th): Just when you thought it was time to get excited about the Warriors, they lose at home to the Magic.

11. Boston Celtics (9-8, previous ranking: 13th): Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo returns from two-game suspension for fighting on Wednesday in Minnesota.

12. Chicago Bulls (8-7, previous ranking: 18th): The Derrick Rose-less Bulls have won three of their past four games. Chicago has big Central Division home game against the Pacers on Tuesday.

13. Denver Nuggets (9-9, previous ranking: 12th): The up-and-down Nuggets have had a hard time holding leads lately, dropping three straight games before beating Toronto on Monday. Their next five games are on the road.

14. Milwaukee Bucks (8-8, previous ranking: 15th): After beating the Boston Celtics, the Bucks follow with a 21-point loss to the struggling New Orleans Hornets. Probably not wise to bet on Milwaukee.

15. Houston Rockets (8-8, previous ranking: 22nd): The Rockets are back at .500 after win over the Utah Jazz, but have the Spurs twice in their next four games and also face the Lakers.

[Related: Dwight Howard hints at leaving Lakers next summer in pursuit of a ring]

Los Angeles
16. Los Angeles Lakers (8-9, previous ranking: ninth): Lakers received more bad news with Steve Blake (abdomen) expected to be out six to eight more weeks. Los Angeles made mistake by not signing Derek Fisher when he was available.

17. Dallas Mavericks (8-9, previous ranking: 17th): Mavs made smart move adding Fisher. Dallas is just 2-4 against Western Conference teams and 2-6 on the road.

18. Indiana Pacers (8-9, previous ranking: 19th): The only bright spot for the Pacers is David West's dominating play in the post. Everyone else for the Pacers, who are missing Danny Granger, has been inconsistent.

19. Utah Jazz (9-10, previous ranking: 14th): The Jazz have dropped three straight games and now have a losing record after falling to the Los Angeles Clippers at home Monday.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves (7-8, previous ranking: 23rd): Wolves forward Kevin Love has averaged 21.7 points and 15.3 rebounds in six games since returning from a hand injury, but Minnesota has won only two of those games.

21. Portland Trail Blazers (8-10, previous ranking: 21st): Blazers needed three total overtime periods to do it, but have won two in a row after losing four straight. Portland, however, also gave Washington its first win.

22. Orlando Magic (7-10, previous ranking: 24th): Magic showing some life with quality back-to-back road wins against the Lakers and Golden State. One constant about the young Magic: They play hard.

23. Charlotte Bobcats (7-9, previous ranking: 16th): It's been all downhill for the Bobcats since getting blown out 114-69 at Oklahoma City on Nov. 26. Charlotte has lost four straight and is back to a losing record.

24. Phoenix Suns (7-11, previous ranking: 20th): The struggling Suns are 1-4 heading into a finale of a six-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.

[Also: Air Jordan XX8's design generating controversy]

25. Detroit Pistons (6-13, previous ranking: 28th): If only the Pistons could play all their games in Auburn Hills, Mich. They have won five straight there and are 5-3 overall at home. Detroit is 1-10 on the road.

New Orleans
26. New Orleans Hornets (4-12, previous ranking: 24th): Hornets rookie Anthony Davis (ankle) has missed eight straight games. One league source has targeted the Hornets' Dec. 11 game against Washington for his possible return.

27. Sacramento Kings (4-12, previous ranking: 25th): Swingman Tyreke Evans had his offense going recently until he suffered a knee injury. Kings have West’s worst record and three straight losses.

28. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-14, previous ranking: 28th): Tough for Cavaliers to win games with starting backcourt of Kyrie Irving and rookie Dion Waiters sidelined by injuries. Lone bright spot is forward Anderson Varejao.

29. Toronto Raptors (4-14, previous ranking: 27th): Raptors have dropped seven of their past eight games and are 1-10 on the road. Battle of bad teams alert: Toronto visits Sacramento on Wednesday.

30. Washington Wizards (1-13, previous ranking: 30th): Can the Wizards get another victory this week? Doesn't look promising with games against Heat, Atlanta and Warriors.

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