NBA Power Rankings: Heat closing strong

Marc J. Spears

The Miami Heat are a win away from tying the franchise's record for most regular-season victories set by the 1996-97 Heat with 61.

Miami can tie the record Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks and set a new mark against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. The Heat should finish the regular season with the NBA's top record, which would guarantee home-court advantage throughout the postseason.

And, for the first time this season, the Heat and New York Knicks stand first and second in the Yahoo! Sports' NBA Power Rankings.

Records are through Sunday's games.


1. Miami Heat (60-16, previous ranking: first): Dwyane Wade has a sore ankle and bruised knee and might not return until the postseason. If needed, LeBron James and the Heat can beat Milwaukee in the playoffs without Wade.

New York

2. New York Knicks (50-26, previous ranking: eighth): The Knicks are the NBA's hottest team with 12 straight wins. But does that make New York a title contender now?

Oklahoma City

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (56-21, previous ranking: third): The Thunder could finish with the West's top seed, but is that a good thing? If the Los Angeles Lakers get the eighth seed, they could be a tougher draw than Houston or Golden State at No. 7.

San Antonio

4. San Antonio Spurs (57-20, previous ranking: second): The Spurs are already without Manu Ginobili and could also be missing Tony Parker for Wednesday's game at Denver. Rest and health are the top priorities for San Antonio.

[Also: Chris Paul, Clippers not satisfied with division title]


5. Denver Nuggets (53-24, previous ranking: fourth): Denver was dealt a major blow last week when Danilo Gallinari suffered a season-ending knee injury. Wilson Chandler is a solid replacement, but Gallinari opened up the offense.


6. Memphis Grizzlies (52-25, previous ranking: fifth): The Grizzlies have won five of their past six and have their eyes on the West's third seed. After playing lowly Charlotte on Tuesday, Memphis has Houston, the Clippers, Dallas and Utah.


7. Indiana Pacers (48-29, previous ranking: sixth): Down 2½ games to the Knicks, Indiana appears destined for the East's third playoff seed. That could match the Pacers against Chicago, Atlanta or Boston in the opening round of the playoffs.

Los Angeles

8. Los Angeles Clippers (51-26, previous ranking: fifth): The Clippers will get a boost with the addition of veteran guard Chauncey Billups, who is expected to return from a groin injury by week's end. The Clippers are a more focused team with Billups in the lineup.

Golden State

9. Golden State Warriors (44-33, previous ranking: ninth): Golden State can clinch its first playoff berth since 2007 with a win over Minnesota and a Lakers loss to New Orleans on Tuesday. The Warriors are one game ahead of Houston for the West's sixth seed.


10. Houston Rockets (43-34, previous ranking: 10th): Houston hosts the West's worst team in Phoenix on Tuesday. The Rockets have just two of their final five games against winning teams while the Warriors play three of their last five against winners.


11. Brooklyn Nets (44-32, previous ranking: 11th): The Nets, losers of five of their past eight home games, have a two-game lead over Chicago for the East's No. 4 seed. Both play two of their final six games against winning teams.


12. Utah Jazz (41-37, previous ranking: 14th): The Jazz own the playoff tiebreaker over the Lakers in their fight for the eighth and final West seed. Utah has Oklahoma City, Minnesota (twice) and Memphis left.

Los Angeles

13. Los Angeles Lakers (40-37, previous ranking: 15th): After facing New Orleans on Tuesday, the Lakers finish the regular season with tough games at Portland and at home against Golden State, San Antonio and Houston. Will the Spurs rest their stars?


14. Chicago Bulls (42-34, previous ranking: 13th): The Bulls, currently in fifth, can finish as high as the East's fourth seed or as low as the seventh seed. Chicago plays East powers New York and Miami in two of its next four games.


15. Atlanta Hawks (42-36, previous ranking: 12th): The Hawks have hurt their hopes for the East's fifth seed with three straight losses. Atlanta plays Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

[Watch: Is Michigan's Mitch McGary a lottery pick?]


16. Boston Celtics (40-37, previous ranking: 17th): Boston has a tough challenge ahead in its quest to move higher than the East's seventh seed with games against Brooklyn, Miami and Indiana still to come. But what if Miami and Indiana rest their players?


17. Dallas Mavericks (38-39, previous ranking: 16th): It appears the Mavs will miss the postseason for the first time since 2000, but they still have free-agency dreams of Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. Is Brandon Jennings a more realistic target?


18. Milwaukee Bucks (37-39, previous ranking: 18th): The Bucks appear locked into a quick playoff appearance against the Heat in the first round. They might as well rest their key players to get ready.


19. Portland Trail Blazers (33-44, previous ranking: 19th): A month ago, the Blazers were trying to sneak into the playoffs. Now they're in the midst of an eight-game losing streak.


20. Philadelphia 76ers (31-45, previous ranking: 20th): The Sixers are relegated to a spoiler role with games against Brooklyn and Atlanta next. All-Star Jrue Holiday has averaged 11.5 points on 25 percent shooting in his past four games.


21. Washington Wizards (29-48, previous ranking: 25th): The schedule makers gave the Wizards a back-to-back that would be hard to match in difficulty: New York on Tuesday and the Heat on Wednesday.


22. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-47, previous ranking: 22nd): Congratulations to one of the most underappreciated coaches in NBA history in Rick Adelman, who reached 1,000 victories last week. Adelman deserves Hall of Fame consideration.

New Orleans

23. New Orleans Hornets (27-50, previous ranking: 23rd): While New Orleans is expected to shop Eric Gordon this offseason, it could be tough as he makes $14.2 million, $14.8 million and $15.5 million over the next three years.


24. Sacramento Kings (27-50, previous ranking: 21st): The only motivation left for the Kings is to try to reach the 30-win mark for the first time since 2008. Sacramento has lost four straight against possible playoff teams.


25. Toronto Raptors (29-48, previous ranking: 26th): The Raptors can still damage the seeding of their remaining opponents: Chicago (twice), Brooklyn, Atlanta and Boston.


26. Detroit Pistons (26-52, previous ranking: 27th): The Pistons have little to play for other than pride.

[Also: JaVale McGee and his mother Pam are getting a reality show]


27. Phoenix Suns (23-54, previous ranking: 24th): It will likely be tough for interim coach Lindsey Hunter to keep the job. The Suns' nine-game losing streak is their longest since a franchise-worst 13-game skid to begin 1996-97.


28. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-52, previous ranking: 28th): All-Star guard Kyrie Irving has struggled in his three games since returning from a shoulder injury, averaging 12 points on 12-of-51 shooting.


29. Orlando Magic (19-59, previous ranking: 29th): The Magic's final four games are against playoff teams in Milwaukee, Boston, Chicago and Miami. Are the Magic also rooting for Dwight Howard not to make the postseason?


30. Charlotte Bobcats (18-59, previous ranking: 30th): Can the Bobcats get to 20 wins with five games remaining? After playing at Memphis and Detroit, Charlotte finishes the season with home games against Milwaukee, New York and Cleveland.

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