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LeBron James (right) and Dwyane Wade have the Heat hitting on all cylinders.

Scary thought: Heat hitting their stride

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Feb 25, 2013 12:41 PM

This is what we've been waiting for and what other teams have probably been fearing. The Miami Heat are finally starting to dominate the competition for the first time this season.

Aside from an 18-minute span of the second half on Sunday in which they were outscored by 30 points by the Cavs, the champs have been pretty locked in over the last month-plus. They've won 11 straight (a longer winning streak than they had all of last season) and 16 of their last 18, allowing less than a point per possession over that stretch.

The Heat face strong challenges this week, hosting the similarly streaking Grizzlies on Friday and visiting the Knicks on Sunday (part of an awesome ABC double-header). Miami has lost to these two teams three times by a total of 58 points thus far.

If Miami can clear both of those hurdles, then you know they've flipped the switch.

Last week: Time for the home stretch
This time last year: Questions linger as teams get back to work - The Heat shut down Linsanity, the Dwightmare reached a fever pitch at All-Star weekend in Orlando, Kevin Love out-shot Kevin Durant in the Three-Point Contest and Chase Budinger jumped over Diddy.

Hero Team of the Week: Indiana (3-0) - The Pacers did nothing but kick butt last week, winning their three games by an average of 28 points.
Zero Team of the Week: Philadelphia (0-3) - The Wolves have lost 18 of their last 22 games. The Knicks have lost four of their last five. And they each beat the Sixers last week.

Plus-minus Stud: George Hill (IND) was a plus-78 in three games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: Rodney Stuckey (DET) was a minus-80 in four games last week.

High jumps of the week: Houston (+4), Cleveland (+3), L.A. Lakers (+3)
Free falls of the week: Boston (-5), Philadelphia (-3), DEN, DET, MIL (-2)

East vs. West: The West is 191-139 (.579) against the East in inter-conference games this season and was 12-6 last week.

Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. New Orleans, 2. Houston, 3. Phoenix
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. New York, 2. Atlanta, 3. Indiana

Schedule strength is based on cumulative opponent record, and adjusted for home vs. away and days of rest before a game.

Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank) - Click here
OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank) - Click here
The league is averaging 94.4 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.7 points scored per 100 possessions.

NBA.com's Power Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Monday during the season. If you've got an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail or contact him via twitter.

1 Miami (40-14)
Pace: 93.0 (22), OffRtg: 110.6 (1), DefRtg: 101.4 (11), NetRtg: +9.2 (2)
We know that LeBron James, at this point, is a unfairly efficient machine. Dwyane Wade is still the best sidekick in the world and Chris Bosh is the league's best mid-range shooter. But now Shane Battier is red hot, having shot a scorching 28-for-47 (60 percent) from 3-point range over the last nine games, better than 54 percent from both corners and from above the break.
This week: vs. SAC, vs. MEM, @ NYK
Last week: 2

2 San Antonio (45-13)
Pace: 96.5 (7), OffRtg: 107.2 (4), DefRtg: 98.1 (3), NetRtg: +9.1 (3)
The Spurs finished 7-2 on the rodeo trip (7-1 against teams not wearing sleeves) and actually improved offensively (OffRtg of 109.9), even though Tim Duncan missed four of the nine games, Manu Ginobili missed four and Tony Parker missed two. They're home for 13 of their next 15, spending one night outside of Texas in March. Their next three foes are a combined 18-68 on the road.
This week: vs. PHX, vs. SAC, vs. DET
Last week: 1

3 Oklahoma City (41-15)
Pace: 96.3 (8), OffRtg: 110.2 (2), DefRtg: 99.7 (6), NetRtg: +10.5 (1)
It's kind of amazing that the Thunder have held opponents to the two lowest field goal percentage marks of the season, including the 29 percent that the Bulls shot on Sunday. They're not nearly the most improved defensive team in the league, but they're much better on that end than they were last season (when they ranked ninth) and they've been pretty darn consistent from month to month.
This week: vs. NOH, @ DEN, @ LAC
Last week: 3

4 L.A. Clippers (40-18)
Pace: 94.2 (15), OffRtg: 106.3 (7), DefRtg: 99.8 (7), NetRtg: +6.5 (4)
It seems like the Clippers were punished for not making a trade that would put them all-in for a championship this season. Just hours after Thursday's deadline, they were crushed by the Spurs at home. They're still 2-1 against San Antonio, but they're 0-2 against the Thunder (though the second loss came without Chris Paul), who visit on Sunday. Any late-season improvement will have to come from within.
This week: vs. CHA, @ IND, @ CLE, vs. OKC
Last week: 4

5 Indiana (35-21)
Pace: 92.5 (25), OffRtg: 100.6 (20), DefRtg: 95.2 (1), NetRtg: +5.5 (5)
Something got into the Pacers over the All-Star break. They led the Knicks by as many as 39 points on Wednesday, led the Pistons by as many as 43 on Friday, and then led Detroit again by as many as 21 on Saturday. They've allowed less than 83 points per 100 possessions in their last four games. So while it's nice to have Danny Granger back, they weren't missing him as much as they were earlier in the season.
This week: vs. GSW, vs. LAC, @ TOR, vs. CHI
Last week: 6

6 Memphis (37-18)
Pace: 91.7 (28), OffRtg: 100.7 (19), DefRtg: 97.3 (2), NetRtg: +3.4 (8)
We could get a streak vs. streak game on Friday in Miami if both teams take care of business on Wednesday. The competition hasn't been great, but the Grizz have won seven straight to put their post-Rudy Gay trade blues behind them and regain a strong hold on a top-four seed in the West. Their new starting lineup has been ridiculously good defensively, allowing less than 91 points per 100 possessions over 180 minutes.
This week: vs. DAL, @ MIA, @ ORL
Last week: 7

7 Denver (35-22)
Pace: 97.5 (2), OffRtg: 106.7 (6), DefRtg: 102.7 (13), NetRtg: +4.0 (7)
One of the biggest disappointments of last week was that the Nuggets, who rank 25th in 3-point percentage, couldn't acquire a shooter. And then they shot 4-for-22 from deep in their first game after the deadline to rub it in. They could improve if Andre Iguodala just stayed out of the right corner, where he's 6-for-45 (13 percent). He has shot 37 percent from the left corner and 38 percent from above the break.
This week: vs. LAL, @ POR, vs. OKC
Last week: 5

8 Houston (31-27)
Pace: 98.7 (1), OffRtg: 106.8 (5), DefRtg: 104.5 (22), NetRtg: +2.3 (9)
If the Rockets are going to hold off the surging Lakers and Mavs, they're going to do it from beyond the arc. With Carlos Delfino now starting at power forward, they've taken their pace-and-space style to a new level and have attempted 109 threes in the three games since their trades with the Kings and Suns. But they've yet to prove that they can win games with defense and got scorched in Washington on Saturday.
This week: vs. MIL, @ ORL, vs. DAL
Last week: 12

9 New York (33-20)
Pace: 92.6 (24), OffRtg: 108.3 (3), DefRtg: 103.3 (15), NetRtg: +5.0 (6)
Sunday's win over the anemic Sixers stopped the bleeding, but the Knicks still have a lot of work to do to maintain a top-four seed in the East and consider themselves ready to win a playoff series. Given their defensive issues and Iman Shumpert's struggles, the Ronnie Brewer trade was puzzling and reminiscent of when they waived a similarly useful Corey Brewer (no relation) two years ago.
This week: vs. GSW, @ WAS, vs. MIA
Last week: 8

10 Chicago (32-24)
Pace: 92.0 (27), OffRtg: 99.6 (25), DefRtg: 98.5 (4), NetRtg: +1.1 (12)
Reggie Rose's point that the Bulls didn't do their best to put a true contender on the floor this season is valid. But so is the point that Luol Deng and Joakim Noah have been playing big minutes through pain all season and deserve a chance to play alongside Derrick Rose for the next couple of months. After concluding their February schedule with the Cavs and Sixers, the Bulls have a tough March.
This week: vs. CLE, vs. PHI, vs. BKN, @ IND
Last week: 9

11 Brooklyn (33-24)
Pace: 90.6 (30), OffRtg: 103.4 (12), DefRtg: 103.6 (18), NetRtg: -0.2 (15)
Deron Williams has looked better since the All-Star break, averaging 20 points and shooting 13-for-25 from beyond the arc over four games. But now Joe Johnson (heel) is banged up and Brook Lopez (41 percent shooting since the break) is struggling. Those two guys have been carrying the load for this team, so it would be key to have both back to for for Saturday's big 4-5 matchup in Chicago.
This week: @ NOH, vs. DAL, @ CHI
Last week: 11

12 Golden State (33-23)
Pace: 96.7 (6), OffRtg: 104.1 (9), DefRtg: 103.4 (17), NetRtg: +0.7 (13)
This is a copycat league, so the Warriors' victory over the Spurs should result in more teams wearing sleeves. David Lee has averaged 22 points and 15 boards, and Stephen Curry 19 points and seven assists as they've won three straight. But Jarrett Jack (25 points and seven dimes) has been their post-break MVP so far. He was a plus-45 in the three games, with no teammate better than a plus-22.
This week: @ IND, @ NYK, @ BOS, @ PHI
Last week: 14

13 L.A. Lakers (28-29)
Pace: 97.2 (3), OffRtg: 105.2 (8), DefRtg: 103.3 (16), NetRtg: +1.9 (10)
You knew Kobe Bryant's perimeter shots had to start falling at some point. And after a stretch of 15-plus games where he shot 1-for-37 from 3-point range, he's made five of his last seven from beyond the arc. In the fourth quarter of Sunday's big win in Dallas, he was 5-for-5 from the field, with all five shots coming from 19 feet or deeper. The Lakers are now truly within striking distance of a playoff spot.
This week: @ DEN, vs. MIN, vs. ATL
Last week: 16

14 Utah (31-25)
Pace: 94.0 (17), OffRtg: 103.6 (11), DefRtg: 104.4 (21), NetRtg: -0.8 (16)
That Utah didn't do anything at the deadline would have been a huge surprise, except that there are never any leaks from that front office and we never have any clue as to what Kevin O'Connor is thinking. The Jazz have now played as many games (28) since Mo Williams' thumb injury as they played before it. They were 14-14 before and 17-11 since, but their efficiency numbers are almost identical.
This week: vs. BOS, vs. ATL, vs. CHA
Last week: 13

15 Boston (29-27)
Pace: 93.5 (20), OffRtg: 100.3 (23), DefRtg: 99.6 (5), NetRtg: +0.7 (14)
We need two different rankings for this team. The Home Celtics are 20-9 and a plus-5.9 per 100 possessions. The Road Celtics, meanwhile, are 9-18 and a minus-5.1 per 100 possessions. Only the mile-high Nuggets have a bigger home-road point differential discrepancy than Boston, which ends a five-game trip in Utah on Monday, but is only home for one game before hitting the road again.
This week: @ UTA, vs. GSW
Last week: 10

16 Atlanta (31-23)
Pace: 94.1 (16), OffRtg: 102.6 (15), DefRtg: 101.3 (10), NetRtg: +1.2 (11)
No Josh Smith trade means that we haven't seen the last of the nifty Smith/Horford pick-and-roll that got the Hawks a big basket in Saturday's win in Milwaukee. As we've focused on Smith's future, Al Horford has averaged 24.2 points and 10.0 boards, and shot 68 percent over the last five games. He's having another strong season and he absolutely took it to Larry Sanders for Saturday's game-winner.
This week: @ DET, @ UTA, @ PHX, @ LAL
Last week: 17

17 Milwaukee (26-28)
Pace: 97.1 (4), OffRtg: 99.9 (24), DefRtg: 101.3 (9), NetRtg: -1.3 (19)
J.J. Redick should help the Bucks keep their playoff spot, but overall they're struggling, having lost nine of their last 11 games. Redick scored 16 in his debut, but the Bucks gave up 32 points to the Hawks in the 13 minutes in which he, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis shared the floor. They won nine of their first 13 games against other East playoff teams, but have now lost six of their last seven.
This week: @ DAL, @ HOU, vs. TOR
Last week: 15

18 Toronto (23-33)
Pace: 92.4 (26), OffRtg: 103.8 (10), DefRtg: 104.6 (23), NetRtg: -0.8 (17)
The Raps aren't slowing down, having won six of their last seven games. They're finally on the right side of a few close outcomes (four of the six wins have been by four points or less), and they face the Wizards and Cavs early this week. But they're still five games behind the eighth-place Bucks in the loss column. So Saturday's game in Milwaukee (the second of three meetings) is absolutely huge.
This week: vs. WAS, @ CLE, vs. IND, @ MIL
Last week: 20

19 Dallas (25-30)
Pace: 96.8 (5), OffRtg: 102.9 (13), DefRtg: 104.0 (20), NetRtg: -1.1 (18)
It's great that Dirk Nowitzki is looking more like Dirk Nowitzki, scoring 55 points on 21-for-36 shooting and grabbing 20 boards over the last two games. But the Mavs desperately needed a win against the Lakers on Sunday. Instead, Mark Cuban lit a fire under Kobe Bryant and Bryant went on a fourth-quarter barrage that basically booked Cuban's trip to New York for the Lottery in May.
This week: vs. MIL, @ MEM, @ BKN, @ HOU
Last week: 18

20 Washington (17-37)
Pace: 94.5 (13), OffRtg: 96.0 (30), DefRtg: 100.0 (8), NetRtg: -4.0 (25)
Having eclipsed the 100-minute mark on Saturday, the lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene and Emeka Okafor are the league's fourth best five-man unit to have played that minimum. They've outscored their opponents by 23.2 points per 100 possessions, especially strong defensively. The Wiz knocked off two more playoff teams - Denver and Houston - last weekend.
This week: @ TOR, vs. DET, vs. NYK, vs. PHI
Last week: 22

21 Detroit (22-36)
Pace: 93.1 (21), OffRtg: 100.5 (21), DefRtg: 103.9 (19), NetRtg: -3.5 (22)
Few things are more painful for an NBA fan than watching your team play the Pacers. Pistons fans had to go through that agony two nights in a row last week. In losing by a total of 50 points, Detroit shot 35 percent from the field and 5-for-33 from three. And by the end of the second game, Will Bynum was just as frustrated as the fans, earning a suspension with a punch to Tyler Hansbrough's chest.
This week: vs. ATL, @ WAS, @ NOH, @ SAS
Last week: 19

22 Portland (26-30)
Pace: 93.6 (19), OffRtg: 101.8 (16), DefRtg: 105.3 (25), NetRtg: -3.5 (23)
The Blazers ended their seven-game losing streak (they actually lost to the Suns on Tuesday) against the Celtics on Sunday with a big game (24 points on 8-for-11 from the field) and a big shot from Wesley Matthews, who is 16-for-30 from 3-point range over his last five games and 11-for-24 from beyond the arc in clutch time this season. Portland is 8-2 when Matthews has scored more than 20 points.
This week: vs. DEN, vs. MIN
Last week: 21

23 Cleveland (18-38)
Pace: 95.0 (11), OffRtg: 101.6 (17), DefRtg: 107.0 (28), NetRtg: -5.4 (26)
After an unbelievable 46-17 Sunday in Miami, the Cavs were in position for their third three-game win streak of the last five weeks and their second win over a 2012 Finals team this month. It wasn't meant to be, but it was another impressive game for Dion Waiters, who had 26 points against the champs (including this Kyrie-esque move) and has shot 56 percent over the last five games.
This week: @ CHI, vs. TOR, vs. LAC
Last week: 26

24 New Orleans (20-37)
Pace: 91.2 (29), OffRtg: 102.7 (14), DefRtg: 106.0 (27), NetRtg: -3.4 (21)
Who knew that Anthony Davis was money from the free throw line? He's made 16 straight at the stripe and has averaged 15.6 points and 8.8 rebounds over the last five games, despite missing the final 19 minutes of Friday's loss to the Mavs with a minor knee injury. The Hornets blew a four-point lead in the final minute of that one and have now lost their last six games determined by five points or less.
This week: vs. BKN, @ OKC, vs. DET
Last week: 24

25 Minnesota (20-33)
Pace: 94.8 (12), OffRtg: 100.4 (22), DefRtg: 102.9 (14), NetRtg: -2.6 (20)
The Wolves are typically a smart and well-coached team, but they made some brutal mistakes in Sunday's loss to Golden State. They committed three turnovers and two dumb fouls in the final 4:07, losing by one when Luke Ridnour's runner at the buzzer fell short. Despite some more promising games from Derrick Williams, they've been held under a point per possession in seven of their last 12 games.
This week: @ PHX, @ LAL, @ POR
Last week: 25

26 Philadelphia (22-32)
Pace: 92.8 (23), OffRtg: 98.8 (27), DefRtg: 102.4 (12), NetRtg: -3.6 (24)
Weekend losses to the Heat and Knicks began a brutal stretch of eight games in 12 days (including three back-to-backs) for the Sixers. They've lost five straight and have scored a putrid 94.2 points per 100 possessions over their last 10. Andrew Bynum practiced last week, but that doesn't seem particularly meaningful at this point. At least Thaddeus Young, who had a double-double on Sunday, is back.
This week: vs. ORL, @ CHI, vs. GSW, @ WAS
Last week: 23

27 Phoenix (18-39)
Pace: 95.1 (10), OffRtg: 98.6 (28), DefRtg: 105.3 (24), NetRtg: -6.7 (28)
The Lindsey Hunter experiment doesn't seem to be working out too well for the Suns, who are 5-11 under the interim coach, getting outscored by 10.4 points per 100 possessions. That's worse than the Bobcats have been over the course of the season and much worse than this team was under Alvin Gentry (minus-5.3). Their Lottery chances are going up, but their Lakers pick is losing value.
This week: vs. MIN, @ SAS, vs. ATL
Last week: 28

28 Sacramento (19-38)
Pace: 95.3 (9), OffRtg: 100.8 (18), DefRtg: 109.0 (30), NetRtg: -8.2 (29)
It's one thing to give up on a No. 5 pick after just 51 games. It's another thing to give up on a No. 5 pick after just 51 games with the most dysfunctional franchise in the league. But good for Thomas Robinson for getting the heck out of Sacramento before it was too late. He's got a long way to go to realize his potential, but he, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt could be the real winners of the deadline.
This week: @ MIA, @ ORL, @ SAS, vs. CHA
Last week: 27

29 Charlotte (13-43)
Pace: 94.4 (14), OffRtg: 98.1 (29), DefRtg: 108.3 (29), NetRtg: -10.2 (30)
Last season, the Bobcats became just the third team of the last 35 years to finish last in both offensive and defensive efficiency. It's becoming realistic to think that they can pull off the feat a second straight time. Washington has improved offensively since John Wall's return, and Sacramento's new additions might help them just enough defensively to push Charlotte to No. 30 on that end.
This week: @ LAC, @ UTA, @ SAC
Last week: 29

30 Orlando (15-41)
Pace: 93.8 (18), OffRtg: 99.4 (26), DefRtg: 105.8 (26), NetRtg: -6.4 (27)
The Magic added a couple more guys born in the '90s that can help them down the line. But they're obviously going to be a pushover for the next eight weeks (not that they haven't been for the last eight weeks). Tobias Harris had a nice debut, with 14 points, six boards and three blocks against the Cavs on Saturday, but his jumper was off and 10 of the 14 points came against a garbage-time defense.
This week: @ PHI, vs. SAC, vs. HOU, vs. MEM
Last week: 30

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