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NBA power rankings 2014: LeBron James, Heat stay strong on top

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LeBron James is wearing a mask to protect his broken nose, but that hasn't stopped the Heat from continuing their recent dominance.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

1. Miami Heat (42-14, Last week: 1)

LeBron's black mask lasted only one game, but what a game it was. It also gave us this:

More on the Heat: Hot Hot Hoops

2. Indiana Pacers (46-13, Last week: 2)

The Pacers haven't really been all that impressive during their five-game winning streak, but winning is winning and they currently hold the league's best record.

More on the Pacers: Indy Cornrows

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-15, Last week: 3)

There were some initial struggles when Russell Westbrook returned from knee surgery, but it appears the Thunder are starting to find a groove again. And Westbrook certainly looks close to 100 percent:

Supruss_medium

More on the Thunder: Welcome to Loud City

4. San Antonio Spurs (43-16, Last week: 5)

The Spurs are healthy and winners of three straight, so they're once again a mainstay in the top five of the power rankings.

More on the Spurs: Pounding The Rock

5. Los Angeles Clippers (41-20, Last week: 6)

In a battle of elite big men, it was Blake Griffin who came out on top against Dwight Howard in a 101-93 Clippers victory last Wednesday. Griffin had 23 points and 16 rebounds in the win, one of four straight for L.A.

More on the Clippers: Clips Nation

6. Houston Rockets (40-19, Last week: 4)

Howard and the Rockets may have come up short against the Clippers, but Superman and his new squad just wrapped up a fantastic February. Howard averaged 22.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks during the month, leading Houston to an 8-2 record.

More on the Rockets: The Dream Shake

7. Portland Trail Blazers (41-18, Last week: 9)

After a rough patch, the Blazers have gotten back on the winning track, and they did it mostly without LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland has won five straight games, and now the star power forward is back from a groin injury.

More on the Blazers: Blazer's Edge

8. Chicago Bulls (33-26, Last week: 13)

The Bulls have kicked things into a higher gear, and their offense is actually starting to match up with the elite defense. Chicago has scored at least 100 points in four straight games, which is quite the accomplishment given some of the struggles earlier in the year. We've also learned that you should never leave Joakim Noah hanging when he's trying to chest bump you:


More on the Bulls: Blog a Bull

9. Phoenix Suns (35-24, Last week: 8)

It was surprising enough that the Suns were so good at the start of the year. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that they've barely missed a beat with Eric Bledsoe sidelined. Now Bledsoe is nearing a return for the playoff run, making Phoenix even more dangerous.

More on the Suns: Bright Side Of The Sun

10. Toronto Raptors (33-26, Last week: 12)

DeMar DeRozan stays killin' it, going over 30 points in three straight games. In the latest big effort, DeRozan had 32 points on 10-of-16 shooting in a solid win over Golden State.

More on the Raptors: Raptors HQ

11. Golden State Warriors (36-24, Last week: 7)

Stephen Curry sure loves playing at Madison Square Garden. After a 54-point effort last year at The Garden, Curry had a triple-double through three quarters against the Knicks on Thursday, notching 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds:


More on the Warriors: Golden State Of Mind

12. Memphis Grizzlies (33-25, Last week: 10)

The Grizzlies are just waiting in the weeds as the No. 9 team in the West, ready to pounce if one of the playoff squads falters.

More on the Grizzlies: Grizzly Bear Blues

13. Dallas Mavericks (36-25, Last week: 11)

The eighth-seeded Mavs are one of the teams trying to hold off the Grizzlies. Dallas has lost two games in a row, and there are some tough games ahead in March.

More on the Mavs: Mavs Moneyball

14. Washington Wizards (31-28, Last week: 14)

The Wizards outlasted the Raptors in a triple-overtime marathon last week, with John Wall putting on a show throughout:


More on the Wizards: Bullets Forever

15. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-29, Last week: 16)

Kevin Love's February: 34.0 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 48.7 percent from the field, 41.5 percent from three-point range. Is that good?

More on the Wolves: Canis Hoopus

16. Brooklyn Nets (28-29, Last week: 17)

Newcomer Marcus Thornton showed why the Nets traded for him in a win over the Bucks, scoring 25 points in just 24 minutes of action. Thornton buried four threes in the impressive performance off the bench.

More on the Nets: NetsDaily

17. Charlotte Bobcats (27-32, Last week: 15)

The Bobcats waived Ben Gordon on Sunday ... but it was too late for him to sign with another team and be eligible for the postseason. Smooth move.

More on the Bobcats: Rufus On Fire

18. Atlanta Hawks (26-32, Last week: 18)

The Hawks are hanging on for dear life in the East, lucky to still have some breathing room because the conference is so bad. But hey, Kyle Korver still has his streak going!

More on the Hawks: Peachtree Hoops

19. Cleveland Cavaliers (24-37, Last week: 22)

The Cavs certainly seem like the team best poised to make a run at one of the final playoff spots in the East, although they remain 3 1/2 games behind the stumbling Hawks. Time is running out.

More on the Cavs: Fear The Sword

20. Utah Jazz (21-38, Last week: 26)

The Jazz had an up-and-down week, going 2-2 with a blowout win over the Suns and an ugly loss to the Cavs. But Utah still moves up six spots because of the general awfulness of numerous other teams.

More on the Jazz: SLC Dunk

21. Detroit Pistons (23-36, Last week: 23)

Four straight games against West playoff teams resulted in four losses. However, Detroit remains in the East playoff race because the Hawks are also falling apart.

More on the Pistons: Detroit Bad Boys

22. Los Angeles Lakers (20-39, Last week: 27)

This season has been mostly bleak for the Lakers, but there was a ray of light last week. In a 126-122 win over Sacramento, Los Angeles tied a franchise record by knocking down 19 three-pointers. Jordan Farmar hit eight of them, pouring in a career-high 30 points.

More on the Lakers: Silver Screen and Roll

23. Orlando Magic (19-43, Last week: 24)

The Magic had the pleasure of playing the Sixers twice last week, and both games resulted in double-digit victories. That's how bad Philly is, but more on that later.

More on the Magic: Orlando Pinstriped Post

24. Boston Celtics (20-40, Last week: 25)

Rajon Rondo caused a stir by not joining his teammates on a trip to Sacramento for a game against the Kings, a game in which Rondo wouldn't be playing in order to rest his knee. The point guard instead celebrated his 28th birthday in Los Angeles. Honestly, I really don't blame him.

More on the Celtics: CelticsBlog

25. New Orleans Pelicans (23-36, Last week: 20)

Seven straight losses. Nine losses in 10 games, with the lone win coming against the lowly Bucks. Jrue Holiday done for the year with a knee injury. It's no fun in New Orleans right now.

More on the Pelicans: The Bird Writes

26. Sacramento Kings (20-39, Last week: 19)

Just Boogie bein' Boogie:


Oh yeah, he also punched a guy.

More on the Kings: Sactown Royalty

27. New York Knicks (21-39, Last week: 25)

The Knicks played three consecutive games on national television last week ... and they lost those games by a combined 68 points. This pretty much says it all:

More on the Knicks: Posting and Toasting

28. Denver Nuggets (25-33, Last week: 21)

Since winning their first two games in February, the Nuggets have gone 1-10 over the last 11 games. A few of those losses have been of the truly embarrassing variety, including a nationally-televised debacle against the Nets last Thursday.

More on the Nuggets: Denver Stiffs

29. Milwaukee Bucks (11-47, Last week: 29)

In Toilet Bowl 2014, the Bucks hammered the Sixers by 20 points. Milwaukee, basically the worst offensive team in the league, scored 130 points in the game.

More on the Bucks: Brew Hoop

30. Philadelphia 76ers (15-45, Last week: 30)

14 straight losses. Enough said.

More on the Sixers: Liberty Ballers