LeBron James' pregame dunks are just a sampling of what the Miami Heat offer. (USA Today Sports)
The Miami Heat are making history to stay atop the weekly Yahoo! Sports NBA rankings for the second consecutive week.
The Heat have won a franchise-record and NBA season-high 18 straight games. If Miami wins back-to-back games against the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, it becomes only the fourth NBA franchise to win 20 consecutive games. The Heat last lost Feb. 1 against the Indiana Pacers and now have a higher winning percentage than the San Antonio Spurs.
Records are through Monday.
1. Miami Heat (47-14, previous ranking: first): How many would the Heat have to win to match the NBA record for most consecutive victories? The Los Angeles Lakers won 33-straight during the 1971-72 season. Miami has 23 regular-season games remaining.
2. San Antonio Spurs (49-15, previous ranking: second): The Tony Parker-less Spurs took a two-game lead atop the Western Conference standings by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday. The Spurs can pick up their 50th win Tuesday versus Minnesota.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-17, previous ranking: third): The Thunder have lost two of three games this season to the Spurs, whom they defeated in the 2012 West Finals. The teams meet for the final time in the regular season on April 4 in Oklahoma City.
4. Memphis Grizzlies (42-19, previous ranking: sixth): With no fanfare outside of Memphis, the Grizzlies have been hotter than anyone other than Miami with victories in 13 of 14 games. The Grizzlies play 13 of their final 21 games on the road.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (45-20, previous ranking: fifth): The Clippers have a big home game Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies. The teams are fighting for the third seed in the West, with the hot Denver Nuggets close behind.
6. Denver Nuggets (43-22, previous ranking: seventh): Former Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver, which has won nine of its last 10 games, on Wednesday for the first time since being traded to the New York Knicks on Feb. 22, 2011.
7. Indiana Pacers (39-24, previous ranking: fourth): Talk of the Pacers being a serious threat to the Heat in the Eastern Conference took a hit Sunday in a 105-91 loss in Miami. Indiana, however, still has a 2-1 record this season against the reigning NBA champions.
8. New York Knicks (38-23, previous ranking: eighth): The wear and tear of playing power forward appears to be catching up to Carmelo Anthony. It might be best for the Knicks to start Kenyon Martin at power forward and let Anthony play small forward.
9. Brooklyn Nets (37-27, previous ranking: 11th): Deron Williams is averaging 24 points through six games in March, including a 42-point outburst in a win over Washington. Previously, Williams had not averaged more than 19 points in any month this season.
10. Golden State Warriors (36-29, previous ranking: 10th): Golden State earned a much-needed quality win Monday over the Knicks. With the Rockets, Lakers and Jazz trying to leapfrog them, the Warriors need to get their playoff mojo back soon.
11. Chicago Bulls (35-28, previous ranking: ninth): The Bulls are keeping the season debut of guard Derrick Rose close to the vest, with their next game Wednesday at Sacramento. The Bulls could certainly use Rose after losing six of their last 10.
12. Boston Celtics (34-28, previous ranking: 14th): The Celtics can still realistically move up in the East standings. Boston plays half of its final 20 games at home, and 12 of those contests are against losing teams.
13. Atlanta Hawks (34-28, previous ranking: 12th): On paper, the Hawks do not appear to be a team that could stop Miami’s winning steak Tuesday. The Heat have won six straight against the Hawks, who have lost five of six and four straight on the road.
14. Houston Rockets (34-30, previous ranking: 13th): The Rockets play 12 of their final 18 games at home with six of those contests against teams with winning records. Barring a collapse, Houston should make the postseason for the first time since 2009.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (33-31, previous ranking: 15th): Dwight Howard plays in Orlando on Tuesday for the first time since being traded to LA. The Magic might have the nicest fans in the NBA, but expect them to voice their displeasure toward Howard.
16. Utah Jazz (33-31, previous ranking: 16th): The Jazz had been doing nearly everything in their power to miss the postseason after losing four straight before beating Detroit on Monday. The Jazz hold a tiebreaker lead over the Lakers for West’s eighth spot.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (32-29, previous ranking: 17th): Bucks guard Brandon Jennings will play his first home game Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks since telling Yahoo! Sports he could leave in 2014 as an unrestricted free agent.
18. Dallas Mavericks (29-33, previous ranking: 19th): The Mavericks, winners of three straight, are three games out of the eighth spot in the West. After upcoming road games at Milwaukee and San Antonio, Dallas will play eight of nine games at home.
19. Portland Trail Blazers (29-33, previous ranking: 18th): The Blazers, who host the Grizzlies on Tuesday, will be hoping Memphis is looking ahead to their West showdown Wednesday night against the Clippers.
20. Toronto Raptors (25-39, previous ranking: 20th): The Raptors are looking for a veteran power forward and could make a run at Golden State's Carl Landry if he opts out of his deal this summer, a source told Yahoo! Sports.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (24-39, previous ranking: 22nd): The Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games and ended a five-game losing streak against Brooklyn on Monday. Philadelphia has lost 13 straight road games since beating the Lakers on Jan. 1.
22. Detroit Pistons (23-43, previous ranking: 23rd): Poor Brandon Knight has become a YouTube star the wrong way. Kyrie Irving made him fall to the ground after a wicked crossover at the Rising Stars Challenge, and then DeAndre Jordan posterized him Sunday.
23. New Orleans Hornets (22-42, previous ranking: 25th): Kudos to rookie Anthony Davis, who responded to a fourth-quarter benching in a recent loss to the Lakers by recording 20 points and 18 rebounds in his next game Saturday against Memphis.
24. Sacramento Kings (22-43, previous ranking: 26th): While NBA commissioner David Stern said it’s not a bidding war, a source says its going to be hard for a counteroffer to keep the team in Sacramento if the Seattle ownership group keeps pushing up the price.
25. Phoenix Suns (22-42, previous ranking: 27th): The Suns are now 20 games below .500 and have dropped three of their last four. The only question left in Phoenix's disaster of a season is if interim coach Lindsey Hunter keeps the job.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-39, previous ranking: 24th): The Wolves have shot less than 40 percent in four of their last seven games. Playing the defensive-minded Spurs on Tuesday doesn't add any optimism for Kevin Love-less Minnesota.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-42, previous ranking: 28th): In this week’s Cavaliers medical report, All-Star guard Kyrie Irving will miss the next three to four weeks – and possibly the rest of the regular season – because of a left shoulder injury.
28. Washington Wizards (20-41, previous ranking: 21st): Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal, surprisingly the team’s leading scorer at just 14.2 points per game, could return Tuesday against Cleveland after missing the past three games with a sprained ankle.
29. Orlando Magic (18-46, previous ranking: 29th): Dwight Howard’s No. 12 is now worn by Magic newcomer Tobias Harris, who has worn the number since high school. Magic fans used to call Howard “D12” and now call Harris “T12.”
30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-50, previous ranking: 30th): The 50-loss Bobcats are in the midst of yet another long losing streak. This time it has grown to 10 games with the Celtics up Tuesday. Charlotte has gone 1-11 since beating the Celtics on Feb. 11.
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