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NBA Power Rankings: Thunder Lead With Heat, Bulls And Clippers Chasing Close

A few teams from each conference are beginning to set themselves apart in the NBA Power Rankings, with the Thunder in front.

The West is back on top of our NBA Power Rankings this week, as the Oklahoma City Thunder have leaped to the lead on the strength of a 3-0 week. The Miami Heat were also perfect (4-0), and earned a big win over the Chicago Bulls (No. 3), but we'll credit OKC for doing business with a league-low three losses.

Further down the list, the New York Knicks continue to struggle to rise above even the New Jersey Nets, let alone decent teams in the East. The Charlotte Bobcats have almost assuredly taken the league's "worst team" tag for the remainder of the season by virtue of two losses to the Washington Wizards. This assumes, of course, that the New Orleans Hornets somehow don't get even worse than they already are.

All win-loss records include Sunday's action

Rank Team Record Last Week SB Nation Blog
1. Oklahoma City Thunder 16-3 W: DET, NO, GSW Welcome To Loud City
The Thunder haven't allowed dominance to get boring; that awful loss to the Wizards was a one-time slip, not an indication OKC would sleep-walk through the the regular season.
2. Miami Heat 15-5 W: CLE, DET, NY, CHI Peninsula Is Mightier
A 4-0 week for the Heat and a great win over the Bulls lands Miami as our best Eastern team at this point. But they couldn't knock the Thunder out of the top spot.
3. Chicago Bulls 17-5 W: NJ, MIL; L: IND, MIA Blog-a-Bull
That the Bulls near knocked off Miami without Luol Deng, with LeBron James on his game and with Carlos Boozer getting Boshed is a testament to how flippin' good the Bulls are.
4. L.A. Clippers 11-6 W: MEM, DEN; L: LAL Clips Nation
You can't understate the Clippers' huge win in Denver on Sunday. While the L.A. offense looked discombobulated late against the Lakers this week, Chris Paul showed that he's the smartest player in the league with the ball in his hands in Denver.
5. Denver Nuggets 14-6 W: SAC, TOR; L: LAC Denver Stiffs
The Nuggets continue to hang above the fray in the West, earning wins away from Denver in the process. This will be a very tough out in the playoffs, based on how things look now.
6. Philadelphia 76ers 14-6 W: WAS, CHA, DET; L: NJ Liberty Ballers
Philadelphia is not as good as they looked very early on, and that's bearing out in the nightly results. But they are still dang good, even with Spencer Hawes' fighting with an injury.
7. Atlanta Hawks 15-6 W: MIL, DET, NO; L: SA Peachtree Hoops
They just keep on winning ...
8. Dallas Mavericks 13-8 W: PHX, UTA, SA; L: MIN Mavs Moneyball
The Mavericks are not just in the playoff chase in the West, but could join the Nuggets and Clippers as teams poised to break away from the big pack. Lately, the Mavericks have looked better than teams like the Lakers and Jazz, and a big comeback against the Spurs on Sunday was a nice cap on the week.
9. Indiana Pacers 13-6 W: CHI, ORL; L: BOS, ORL Indy Cornrows
The Pacers will eventually normalize to a few games above .500, not at the blazing pace they initially set against a weak schedule. That still makes Indiana one of the better teams in the East, of course. They'll apparently battle with Atlanta and Orlando for a top-four seed.
10. Houston Rockets 12-8 W: MIN, WAS, NY; L: MIL The Dream Shake
Kyle Lowry hasn't been perfect late, but Houston continues to win. They are literally in the middle of the playoff hunt, a testament to Daryl Morey's ability to build a feasible roster without locking up long-term salary commitments.
11. San Antonio Spurs 12-9 W: NO, ATL; L: MIN, DAL Pounding The Rock
Danny Green is learning amid the burning flames, if nothing else.
12. Utah Jazz 11-7 W: SAC; L: TOR, DAL SLC Dunk
The Jazz had a poor week; had the refs called a fairly obvious shooting foul on Earl Watson, who challenged Jimmer Fredette's potential game-winning three-pointer late, Utah could have gone 0-3 for the week. Instead, the Jazz remain a couple games above .500. How long will they remain in playoff position?
13. Portland Trail Blazers 12-8 W: SAC, MEM, PHX; L: GS Blazer's Edge
The Blazers remain bipolar: brilliant at home, mediocre on the road. You can't survive like that forever in the West, where every win matters in terms of that vital playoff seeding, where Portland obviously can't afford to finish below No. 4.
14. L.A. Lakers 12-9 W: LAC, MIN; L: MIL Silver Screen And Roll
The Lakers rarely look powerful enough to walk away from any opponent, and last year's playoff dismissal simply hasn't been dismissed enough to renew faith in the West power.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers 8-11 W: NY, BOS; L: MIA, NJ Fear The Sword
Kyrie Irving is just unbelievable, playing better than even John Wall did as a rookie. The questions about his pro potential are being dismissed quite quickly.
16. Boston Celtics 9-10 W: ORL x 2, IND; L: CLE CelticsBlog
Boston is showing real signs of life ... but not enough to hold off a surge from the insurgent Cavaliers. It's looking like a low seed and maybe even a first-round match-up against the Bulls or Heat for the C's.
17. Memphis Grizzlies 10-9 W: GS; L: POR, LAC, PHX Straight Outta Vancouver
Memphis began last week's road trip with an epic, very Memphis-y comeback against the Warriors ... then fell flat in three straight losses. This team desperately needs Zach Randolph back to normalize things on offense.
18. Orlando Magic 12-8 W: IND; L: BOS x 2, NO, IND Orlando Pinstriped Post
What a bad week for the Magic: two losses to Boston (including an awesome collapse), followed by blowout losses to the Hornets and Pacers, the latter of which saw Dwight Howard shoot 4-15 from the line. Somewhere, Mark Jackson is feeling totally justified.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves 9-11 W: DAL, SA; L: HOU, LAL Canis Hoopus
A perfectly average team! Huge progress!
20. Milwaukee Bucks 8-11 W: HOU, LAL; L: ATL, CHI BrewHoop
Andrew Bogut's devastating ankle injury could have such deep impacts on the Bucks and those associated with them. The team's expected slide will sully the reputations of John Hammond and Brandon Jennings, and could lead to Scott Skiles' ouster in the end. What an unfortunate turn of events.
21. Phoenix Suns 7-12 W: MEM; L: DAL, TOR, POR Bright Side Of The Sun
Marcin Gortat over his last 10 games: 16.5 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. The Polish Hammer is the only possible saving grace from that awful string of trades and signings in 2010 and 2011.
22. Toronto Raptors 7-14 W: PHX, UTA, NJ; L: DEN Raptors HQ
The Raptors couldn't win without Andrea Bargnani until he turned the first time. Toronto won a pair, then Il Mago retreated again. But they have survived! Amir and James Johnson deserve a sitcom, surely.
23. New Jersey Nets 7-14 W: PHI, CLE; L: CHI, TOR NetsDaily
The Nets have begun their rise. If only they wouldn't have gotten blown the frig out by Toronto on Sunday.
24. New York Knicks 7-13 W: CHA; L: CLE, MIA, HOU Posting And Toasting
You'd be hard-pressed to find a team not named the Bobcats who have looked worse than the 'Bockers over the past two weeks. At what point does legit concern about the Knicks' ability to make the postseason pop up ... or is that already here?
25. Golden State Warriors 6-12 W: POR; L: MEM, OKC Golden State Of Mind
The Warriors have the No. 6 shooting offense in the NBA, and the No. 22 shooting defense. Seems like their hands are down a little too often!
26. Sacramento Kings 6-14 L: POR, DEN, UTA Sactown Royalty
The Kings are definitely the worst 6-14 team in NBA history. Three losses of at least 29 points, six 20-point losses and a high probability of being run out of the building by halftime any given night.
27. Washington Wizards 4-16 W: CHA x 2; L: PHI, HOU Bullets Forever
How does a team double its win total in a single week? Why, it faces the Bobcats twice, of course!
28. New Orleans Hornets 4-15 W: ORL; L: SA, OKC, ATL At The Hive
When the fairly anonymous Jason Smith is telling fans he feels bad for them ...
29. Detroit Pistons 4-17 L: OKC, MIA, ATL, PHI Detroit Bad Boys
The Pistons are No. 29 in opponent effective field goal percentage. That's not very Lawrence Frank.
30. Charlotte Bobcats 3-18 L: NY, WAS x 2, PHI Rufus On Fire
Only the Bobcats couldn't be blown out by the Knicks and Wizards on back-to-back nights. What an awful mess of a team.