The Miami Heat remain atop the weekly Yahoo! Sports NBA rankings as they move closer to challenging a 41-year-old record.
The Heat are within six games of tying the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers' record 33-game winning streak after a 108-94 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday night. The Heat visit the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, and the second-ranked San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. Things are getting interesting.
Records are through Monday.
1. Miami Heat (56-14, previous ranking: first): Heat guard Mike Miller scored just seven points while replacing an injured Dwyane Wade (knee) in Monday's victory. Wade is hoping to return against his hometown Bulls on Wednesday.
2. San Antonio Spurs (53-17, previous ranking: second): Before hosting Miami, the Spurs have two difficult West games at home against the Nuggets and the Clippers. It appears to be a long shot now for the Spurs to pass Miami for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (52-19, previous ranking: third): The Thunder finish with a favorable regular-season schedule, playing only four teams with winning records in their final 15 games. The Spurs play nine of their final 12 against winning teams.
4. Denver Nuggets (49-23, previous ranking: fourth): Denver had its 15-game winning streak snapped Monday in New Orleans, failing to surpass the franchise-best winning streak of 15 first set in the ABA during the 1969-70 season.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (48-22, previous ranking: fifth): The Clippers play only five of their final 12 games at home, but just five of those 12 are against winning teams. The Clippers' next two games are against playoff hopeful Dallas and the spoiler Hornets.
6. Memphis Grizzlies (47-23, previous ranking: sixth): The Grizzlies always seem to be affected by a major injury when the postseason arrives. This time it is All-Star center Marc Gasol, who is out indefinitely because of an abdominal tear.
7. Indiana Pacers (44-27, previous ranking: seventh): The Pacers appear to be back on the right track after winning four of their past five games. Next up for the East's second seed are two road games against playoff hungry Dallas and Houston. Miami is not worried.
8. Golden State Warriors (41-31, previous ranking: ninth): The Warriors have a golden opportunity to solidify their hold on the sixth spot in the West with games against Sacramento, Portland, New Orleans, Phoenix, Utah and Minnesota up next.
9. New York Knicks (42-26, previous ranking: 10th): The Knicks, a half-game behind East No. 2 Indiana, play nine of their final 14 games against teams with winning records, with seven of those 14 coming on the road.
10. Brooklyn Nets (41-29, previous ranking: eighth): The Nets’ remaining schedule can aid their quest to land the East's second seed as four of their final 12 games are against winning teams. But nine of their remaining games are on the road.
11. Houston Rockets (39-31, previous ranking: 14th): Pursuing the West’s sixth seed, the Rockets play half of their final 12 games against teams with winning records. The Rockets are 14-21 on the road this season, so it's a good thing that six of those final 12 are at home.
12. Chicago Bulls (38-31, previous ranking: 12th): Chicago has a chance to snap Miami’s 27-game winning streak on Wednesday. Even if Derrick Rose is ready, is that game too big to make his season debut after recovering from major knee surgery?
13. Atlanta Hawks (39-32, previous ranking: 13th): The Hawks are ready for April to arrive after going 6-9 in March with three games remaining. Other than perhaps Milwaukee, there isn't an East team that playoff squads would rather see than Atlanta.
14. Boston Celtics (36-33, previous ranking: 11th): The Celtics will be without Kevin Garnett for two weeks because of left ankle inflammation. Boston will lean on replacement Jeff Green, who is averaging 22 points and 5.4 rebounds as a starter.
15. Los Angeles Lakers (36-35, previous ranking: 15th): Lakers star Kobe Bryant says he is not concerned about losing the West’s eighth spot because he wasn’t concerned when L.A. was five games behind for the final spot earlier this season.
16. Utah Jazz (35-36, previous ranking: 16th): The Jazz stopped their drop from the West playoff race by snapping a four-game losing streak with a win over Philadelphia on Monday. Utah is one game behind the Lakers for the eighth spot.
17. Dallas Mavericks (34-36, previous ranking: 18th): The Mavs have gone 21-13 in their last 34 games to get within reach of the Lakers for the West’s final playoff spot. Dallas has a tough game Tuesday against the Clippers, who have defeated the Mavs twice.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (33-37, previous ranking: 19th): Portland (2 ½ games back) has an outside chance of landing the last West playoff spot if it can overcome a tough remaining regular-season schedule that includes nine of 12 games against winning teams.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (34-35, previous ranking: 17th): The best the Bucks can likely hope for in the East playoff race is to surpass Boston for the seventh seed. Milwaukee will play seven of its final 13 against winning teams.
20. Washington Wizards (26-44, previous ranking: 28th): Washington point guard John Wall believes he is worth a max contract and showed why he could be deserving of one by scoring a career-high 47 points while dishing eight assists in a win over Memphis.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (27-43, previous ranking: 20th): The Sixers ended a 15-game road losing streak with a victory at Sacramento on Sunday, but then lost at Utah on Monday. There is no place like home for Philadelphia, which is 20-17 at the Wells Fargo Center.
22. Toronto Raptors (26-44, previous ranking: 21st): The Raptors don’t expect to shut down forward Rudy Gay because of back issues, and he is listed as day-to-day. Gay told Toronto reporters that only a doctor’s order could shut him down.
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (24-44, previous ranking: 22nd): Kevin Love could return from a hand injury soon, but is it even worth it? Minnesota will not make the playoffs and it could continue to improve its chances of a better draft spot without Love.
24. Sacramento Kings (25-46, previous ranking: 23rd): Warriors minority owner Vivek Ranadive and his prospective ownership group are growing in optimism they can keep the Kings in Sacramento and build an arena. A bigger challenge: making the Kings winners.
25. New Orleans Hornets (25-46, previous ranking: 27th): The Hornets snapped Denver’s 15-game winning streak Monday. Could the Heat, who play in New Orleans on Friday, have their streak busted by the Hornets? Is gumbo cold?
26. Phoenix Suns (23-48, previous ranking: 25th): The Suns have dropped nine of their past 11. Phoenix has a chance to play the role of spoiler Wednesday on the road against the Jazz, who are 2-1 against the Suns and fighting for a playoff spot.
27. Detroit Pistons (24-47, previous ranking: 24th): The Pistons, who ended a 10-game losing streak Saturday at Charlotte, are looking to end a six-game home skid Tuesday against Minnesota. No wonder Detroit has musicians for halftime entertainment.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-47, previous ranking: 26th): Finally, the Cavs medical training staff does not have any new injuries to report this week. There is pain on the court, however, as Cleveland has dropped five straight games.
29. Orlando Magic (18-53, previous ranking: 29th): Monday's loss to the Heat pushed Orlando's losing streak to seven games. Who's next? A battle royal featuring the two worst teams: the Magic and the Bobcats. Who you got? Do you care?
30. Charlotte Bobcats (16-54, previous ranking: 30th): The Bobcats are averaging 15,440 fans per home game. It is doubtful that Charlotte is going to reach that average against the nearly-as-terrible Magic on Wednesday.
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