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NBA power rankings: The top of the pack settles in

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The top of each conference is becoming clearer, while the bottom playoff seeds become the focal point heading into the final leg of the season.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Golden State Warriors (52-13, Last week: 1)

The Warriors defend their power rankings title on Wednesday when the Hawks visit the Bay Area. Steve Kerr is transitioning into making sure his squad is rested headed into the playoffs, which is smart when you're at the top of the gauntlet the Western Conference will be.

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2. Atlanta Hawks (52-14, Last week: 2)

Like the Warriors, the Hawks are shifting gears and trying to get their roster healthy. Unlike the Warriors, the Hawks have created a massive buffer over their competition out East. They are in complete cruise control with a 10-game lead over the No. 2 seeded Cavaliers.

3. Memphis Grizzlies (46-20, Last week: 3)

It was a bad week for the Grizzlies, but Memphis has been so consistently great all season that back-to-back losses -- including one to a suddenly-hot Celtics team -- hardly move the needle. Memphis has two big games with playoff implications against the Mavericks and Trail Blazers that should help set the mood for the rest of the season.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (44-20, Last week: 5)

LeBron James hit the dagger three, but it was his partner Kyrie Irving who took the Cavaliers' wheel last week. His 57-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs made for some of the most compelling basketball of the season:

5. Houston Rockets (44-22, Last week: 4)

The Rockets got a much-needed win over the Clippers, avoiding their first three-game losing streak of the season. What they need even more, though, is Dwight Howard to come back. Here are Kevin McHale's recent quotes regarding his status, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

"Very hard to say," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of Howard's timetable to play. "Dwight hasn't practiced. Dwight hasn't run with the team. Are you close? On the elliptical and that stuff. It's a big difference between doing that and playing basketball."

6. Portland Trail Blazers (44-20, Last week: 9)

The Trail Blazers haven't crumbled without Wesley Matthews, instead getting the most out of the wing depth they've put together. Nicolas Batum turning it up, especially with an 18-point outing in a big win over the Rockets, has kept Portland in the mix at the top.

7. Los Angeles Clippers (42-25, Last week: 6)

Blake Griffin made his return to the Clippers Sunday, but they caught the wrong-end of a bearded defeat against the Rockets. The Clippers played well without Griffin, particularly frontcourt mate DeAndre Jordan. Kudos to L.A. for finding ways to win without its star.

8. San Antonio Spurs (41-24, Last week: 8)

San Antonio is in its best groove since November and would be riding an eight-game winning streak if Kyrie Irving didn't turn into a volcano erupting with points. The Spurs and Hawks clashing on Sunday should make for a fascinating matchup between well-oiled machines.

9. Dallas Mavericks (42-25, Last week: 7)

The Mavericks were hammered by the Cavaliers, but paid it forward by blowing out the Clippers. Dallas hasn't resembled the cohesive team that led the NBA in offensive efficiency, but it's a good sign that Chandler Parsons' return has been strong. He's averaged 17 points while shooting 60 percent from deep since returning.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (37-29, Last week: 11)

The Russell Westbrook show has been incredibly fun, but it'll be nice once Kevin Durant can get back into action. There are only 16 games left in the Thunder's season, leaving just a small window to try and get this roster healthy and back on track together.

11. Washington Wizards (38-28, Last week: 13)

Washington hasn't been playing well lately, so a quick three-game winning streak means a lot to the Wizards. Blowing out Charlotte on the road was impressive, as was fighting back from an 18-point deficit at halftime against the Kings. Washington's upcoming schedule is tough with the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Clippers on deck.

12. Toronto Raptors (39-27, Last week: 12)

The Raptors have won once over their last seven games, moving their total up to three victories since the All-Star break. Despite these struggles, Toronto is still a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference, riding the early success it found into what should be home court advantage.

13. Chicago Bulls (40-28, Last week: 10)

Chicago is spiraling out of control right now, beating only the 76ers over the last two weeks. It's hard to win games without Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Go figure.

14. New Orleans Pelicans (36-30, Last week: 14)

The Pelicans might have dug themselves too big a hole to scrape into the playoffs this season, but they still have time to squeeze in. When you have Anthony Davis ...

... it's hard to be counted out.

15. Indiana Pacers (30-35, Last week: 18)

What team has lost just three games since February and went from out of the playoffs to seventh seed in the East? Yes, it's the Pacers, in case the header didn't give it away. An overtime win against the Bucks was a great way to let the East know Indiana isn't going to fade away after getting this far.

16. Milwaukee Bucks (34-32, Last week: 15)

The Bucks shook up a good thing for a chance to grow with Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams has played in nine games for Milwaukee, averaging 14.9 points, 5.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. His perimeter shooting, though, remains as a big road block. He's shooting just eight percent from deep on 1.4 attempts per game. EIGHT PERCENT!

17. Phoenix Suns (35-33, Last week: 16)

This might be the biggest week of the Suns' season, as they'll face the Pelicans, Rockets and Mavericks. Phoenix's playoff chances hang in the balance with a tough schedule to get through. Make or break time, Suns.

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18. Boston Celtics (29-36, Last week: 21)

Isaiah Thomas continues playing like the ultimate off-the-bench scoring point guard, propelling the Celtics into position to jump into the playoffs. He's also led the team in assists per game since Feb. 23, when Boston's march out of the bottom began. But Boston is also succeeding without him, winning against Memphis and at Indiana with Thomas injured.

19. Utah Jazz (29-36, Last week: 22)

The Jazz are the second-hottest team in the West, changing the story of their season from the All-Star break. There's a lot of room to grow for the core put together there, with another first-round pick to add to the mix this summer. Utah is headed to good places.

20. Charlotte Hornets (29-35, Last week: 17)

The Hornets are engaged in a tight fight for the bottom two seeds in the Eastern Conference. If they do make the playoffs, acquiring Mo Williams to fill in for Kemba Walker should be lauded as the move that got them there.

21. Miami Heat (29-36, Last week: 19)

Hassan Whiteside's been the story of the second half of the Heat's season, but Miami is treading water without Chris Bosh. Miami has been flip-flopping wins and losses, but during that time the Pacers have emerged and Hornets regrouped, pushing the Heat out of the playoffs.

22. Denver Nuggets (26-41, Last week: 23)

The Nuggets have been one of the weirdest teams of the season. They've rattled off multiple five-game winning and losing streaks and are currently on a four-game winning run even without a big chunk of their roster or an established head coach. There's so much work to be done in Denver.

23. Brooklyn Nets (26-38, Last week: 20)

Facing the 76ers is a cure-all for any team in the midst of a losing streak, which is exactly what the Nets took advantage of after losing five straight games. Brooklyn is looking more and more like one of the teams that will be bumped following the Pacers' big run. It's worth mentioning the Hawks have the right to swap 2015 first-round picks with Brooklyn.

24. Sacramento Kings (22-43, Last week: 26)

The Kings' season has become an extended meet and greet between George Karl and the roster he inherited. There's nothing else going on for Sacramento at this point. Sactown Royalty's Akis Yercostas wrote that watching Karl lay the foundation down is really all that's left for Kings fans:

Don't take this as me rooting for losing. While I want the Kings to keep the pick (having another asset never hurts), I have never been able to take joy from a loss. But I can watch these games stress-free, knowing that the result in and of itself doesn't matter as long as the process of laying the foundation continues.

25. Orlando Magic (21-47, Last week: 25)

Can we make a term for when a player block someone so cleanly they just grab the ball from their opponent? Aaron Gordon gave Tyler Zeller the reverse-poster treatment:

26. Detroit Pistons (23-43, Last week: 24)

The longest losing streak in the league belongs to Detroit, which will only make this summer more interesting. Stan Van Gundy has a few important decisions to make, and with how the team's performing, will he opt to continue making drastic changes to the roster? The Pistons have been up and down, but they look ready to stick in the bottom five of our power rankings for the rest of the season.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-51, Last week: 27)

Minnesota should be better than this, on paper. With the obvious Rookie of the Year in Andrew Wiggins, along with the return of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, it's surprising the Timberwolves still aren't stringing together a few more wins.

28. Philadelphia 76ers (15-51, Last week: 29)

The 76ers play both the Lakers and Knicks this week, making for one of the biggest "tanking" weeks of the season. If Philadelphia really is all in on improving its draft position, losing to the Lakers might be the most important thing the 76ers can do this season. Expect some serious shenanigans when the tanks collide in Los Angeles.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (17-48, Last week: 28)

The Lakers not only lost to the Knicks, but lost to a depleted Hawks team that saw Kyle Korver exit in the second quarter due to injury. The losses have piled during this final stretch, and one of their final two games against the 76ers is this Sunday. The stakes couldn't be higher for the franchise.

30. New York Knicks (13-53, Last week: 30)

These are the men Phil Jackson compiled to start for the Knicks, which says about all you need to know about a horrifying season in New York.

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