NBA Power Rankings: Heat in control

Marc J. Spears

With the rest of the NBA fighting for playoff positioning or preparing for upcoming summer vacations, the Miami Heat are coasting to the NBA's top overall playoff seed. Because of that the Heat remain atop the weekly Yahoo! Sports NBA rankings.

Miami, which has lost just once since Feb. 1, has it easy the rest of the regular season with just three games against winning teams in its final nine contests.

Records are through Monday.


1. Miami Heat (58-15, previous ranking: first): The Heat are in position to win the most regular-season games in franchise history. The record is 61 victories, set by the 1996-97 Heat led by center Alonzo Mourning.

San Antonio

2. San Antonio Spurs (55-19, previous ranking: second): The Spurs have a one-game lead over Oklahoma City for the top seed in the West, with Manu Ginobili (hamstring) out 3-4 weeks. The Spurs host the Thunder on Thursday.

Oklahoma City

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (54-20, previous ranking: third): San Antonio is up 2-1 in the season series against Oklahoma City. The Spurs and Thunder each play five of their last eight against winning teams, but will it really matter that much in the end?


4. Denver Nuggets (50-24, previous ranking: fourth): The Nuggets have a role in deciding the West's eighth and final playoff spot, playing at Utah on Wednesday and hosting Dallas on Thursday. Denver is also trying to lock up the West's third seed.


5. Memphis Grizzlies (50-24, previous ranking: sixth): The Grizzlies still have a shot at surpassing the Nuggets and Clippers for the West's third seed. Memphis plays half of its final eight games against winning teams.


6. Indiana Pacers (48-27, previous ranking: seventh): The Pacers currently own a ½-game lead over the Knicks for the East's second seed. The Pacers play four of their last seven against winning teams; New York plays six of 10, respectively.

[Also: As Lakers prepare to retire Shaq's jersey, Kobe now appreciates his former foe]

Los Angeles

7. Los Angeles Clippers (49-26, previous ranking: fifth): The Clippers are close to winning the first Pacific Division title in franchise history and host the cross-town rival Lakers on Sunday. But landing the West's third seed (1 1/2-games back) is more important.

New York

8. New York Knicks (46-26, previous ranking: ninth): The Knicks, winners of eight straight, haven't won nine in a row since winning 15 consecutive games during the 1993-94 season. The Heat, who are 32-3 at home, host New York on Tuesday.

Golden State

9. Golden State Warriors (42-32, previous ranking: eighth): Golden State is close to clinching its first playoff appearance since 2007 and is fighting to hold off Houston for the West's sixth seed. The Warriors play half of their final eight games against winning teams.


10. Houston Rockets (41-33, previous ranking: 11th): Keep in mind the Rockets hold the tiebreaker over the Warriors by way of winning the season series 3-1. The Rockets play six of their final nine games against teams with losing records.


11. Brooklyn Nets (42-31, previous ranking: 10th): Basically out of the race for the East's top three seeds, the Nets are trying to hold off Atlanta and Chicago for the fourth seed and home court in the first round.


12. Atlanta Hawks (42-33, previous ranking: 13th): In a fight for the East's fourth spot, Atlanta plays three of its final seven games against winning teams. The Nets play three of nine against winning teams; the Bulls play three of 10, respectively.


13. Chicago Bulls (40-32, previous ranking: 12th): Injured point guard Derrick Rose still has yet to make his season debut after reconstructive knee surgery. With the games at such a high level now, it appears to be too much to ask Rose to debut this late.


14. Utah Jazz (39-36, previous ranking: 16th): The suddenly hot Jazz have won five straight games and are a half-game ahead of the Lakers for the eighth and final West playoff spot. The Jazz have a tough game Wednesday against Denver.

Los Angeles

15. Los Angeles Lakers (38-36, previous ranking: 15th): The Lakers need to regain their focus quickly after Shaquille O'Neal has his No. 34 jersey retired Tuesday night with playoff-contending Dallas in town.

[Also: Salt Lob City: Jazz charge into playoff spot with big alley-oop]


16. Dallas Mavericks (36-37, previous ranking: 17th): The Mavs have won four of their past five games, but don't have much margin for error in landing the West's eighth spot with tough games at the Lakers and at Denver.


17. Boston Celtics (38-36, previous ranking: 14th): The Celtics still have competition for the East's seventh spot. Milwaukee is 1 ½ games behind them, but only two of Boston's last eight games are against winning teams.


18. Milwaukee Bucks (36-37, previous ranking: 19th): Forward-center Larry Sanders is quietly having a breakthrough second half with averages of 12.8 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks since the All-Star break.


19. Portland Trail Blazers (33-41, previous ranking: 18th): Damian Lillard continues to be one of the few bright spots for Portland as he now owns the NBA's record for 3-pointers by a rookie. Hey, wasn't his shot in question before the draft?


20. Philadelphia 76ers (30-43, previous ranking: 21st): Newcomer Justin Holiday, brother of Sixers All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, is an intriguing D-League pickup who averaged 17.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 steals for the Idaho Stampede.


21. Sacramento Kings (27-47, previous ranking: 24th): Seattle and Sacramento ownership groups have the chance to speak to a group of team owners Wednesday in New York before an ownership vote is taken April 18-19 to decide the Kings' fate.


22. Minnesota Timberwolves (27-46, previous ranking: 23rd): The Wolves had lost 11 straight games to the Celtics before defeating Boston on Monday, but former Wolves star Kevin Garnett missed the game because of an ankle injury.

New Orleans

23. New Orleans Hornets (26-48, previous ranking: 25th): The struggling Hornets will be playing the role of spoiler the rest of the season with road games against Golden State and Utah this week. The Lakers, Clippers and Mavs are on the slate next week.


24. Phoenix Suns (23-51, previous ranking: 26th): The Suns also have a chance to play spoiler the rest of the season, with two games against Houston as well as matchups against Golden State, Denver, Dallas and the Clippers.


25. Washington Wizards (27-46, previous ranking: 20th): Point guard John Wall proved he was completely back from a knee injury by averaging 22.1 points and eight assists in March while shooting 45.5 percent from 3-point range.


26. Toronto Raptors (27-47, previous ranking: 22nd): The Raptors look eager to start their summer vacations as they've dropped seven of their past eight games. Houston owns the Raptors' 2013 first-round pick (protected top 3 and 15-30).

[Also: Allen Iverson talks about his time in Philadelphia]


27. Detroit Pistons (25-50, previous ranking: 27th): Guard Jose Calderon had 19 points and nine assists in his return to Toronto on Monday and nearly went into the Raptors' locker room at halftime out of habit before catching himself.


28. Cleveland Cavaliers (22-51, previous ranking: 28th): The young, injury-plagued Cavaliers also look as if they are ready to go fishing after nine straight losses. No need for the Cavs to try to tank with a very weak NBA draft ahead.


29. Orlando Magic (19-56, previous ranking: 29th): Who will be active for the Spurs when they host Orlando on Wednesday? The Magic have dropped 10 of their past 11. Should the Spurs send their D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros, instead?


30. Charlotte Bobcats (17-57, previous ranking: 30th): Will the Bobcats reach 20 wins? Charlotte's last eight games are against Philadelphia, Miami, Brooklyn, Memphis, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York and Cleveland.

Memorable Moments from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Kevin Ware's injury not the worst adversity Louisville coach Rick Pitino's had to handle
Jackie Bradley Jr. could be ingredient needed to make Red Sox-Yankees rivalry sizzle again
Perseverance leads Oregon's Dion Jordan to brink of NFL after accident almost ended his dream
Source: Cardinals closing in on deal for Carson Palmer