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MVP favorite LeBron James and the Heat have soared to the second-longest win streak in NBA history.
MVP favorite LeBron James and the Heat have soared to the second-longest win streak in NBA history.

With a month-plus left, Heat still streaking, still a firm No. 1

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Mar 18, 2013 10:07 AM

Sunday night marked somewhat of a milestone. The NBA has now played more games this season (992) than it did last season (990).

Think about that if you're a fan of the Utah Jazz, who need that extra time to get back into playoff position, or of the Miami Heat, who need it to chase history.

With no lockout this year, we get to enjoy 4 1/2 more weeks of regular-season hoops. We get to see how far the Heat can take this streak. We get to see if Derrick Rose can come back and make an impact on the Eastern Conference standings. And we get to see if the Lakers can hang onto a playoff spot and possibly scare a high seed in the first round.

Last week: Across the board, a big ahead week out West
This time last year: Scoring is up, and so are the Suns - Dwight Howard wanted to be traded, Dwight Howard wanted to stay in Orlando, Dwight Howard wanted to be traded, and Dwight Howard wanted to stay in Orlando ... for the next couple of months, at least. The Nets traded for Gerald Wallace instead, the Nuggets brought JaVale into their lives, and Mike D'Antoni said "Arrivederci" to the Knicks.

Hero Team of the Week: Miami (4-0) -- The Heat have a 22-game winning streak and the best record in the league, and this is their first HToW award. Whoops.
Zero Team of the Week: New York (0-4) -- Given their injury issues, you can understand the anemic offense the Knicks played last week. But they also allowed an inexcusable 111 points per 100 possessions over the four games.

Plus-minus Studs: Dwyane Wade (MIA) was a plus-64 in four games last week.
Plus-minus Dud: Raymond Felton (NYK) was a minus-68 in four games last week.

High jumps of the week: Minnesota (+5), Philadelphia (+3), Atlanta, Brooklyn, L.A. Lakers, Sacramento (+2)
Free falls of the week: Milwaukee (-4), New York (-4), Detroit (-3), New Orleans (-3)

East vs. West: The West is 232-166 (.583) against the East in interconference games this season and was 14-7 last week.

Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Phoenix, 2. Golden State, 3. New Orleans
Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Indiana, 2. Orlando, 3. Brooklyn

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 94.5 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 102.8 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 have 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 (51-14)
Pace: 93.0 (24), OffRtg: 110.5 (2), DefRtg: 101.0 (9), NetRtg: +9.5 (2)
If the streak goes beyond Monday's game in Boston and into late March, we can start to wonder about the benefits of chasing the Lakers' record vs. staying fresh for the postseason. But it doesn't seem, at this point, that the champs are coming close to burning themselves out on the road to history. Last week's wins in Philly and Toronto were good examples of flipping the switch when needed.
This week: @ BOS, @ CLE, vs. DET, vs. CHA
Last week: 1

2 San Antonio (51-16)
Pace: 96.5 (7), OffRtg: 107.3 (4), DefRtg: 98.7 (3), NetRtg: +8.6 (3)
The Spurs' offense has been just fine without Tony Parker, scoring 107.4 points per 100 possessions in seven games since Parker's ankle injury, including Tuesday's Duncan-less loss in Minnesota. And their defense was strong, once again, in Monday's win over the Thunder. So who's ready to say that this team (as long as Parker is healthy come May) is the favorite to face the Heat in The Finals?
This week: vs. GSW, vs. UTA, @ HOU
Last week: 3

3 Oklahoma City (50-17)
Pace: 96.3 (8), OffRtg: 110.6 (1), DefRtg: 99.5 (6), NetRtg: +11.0 (1)
Kevin Martin has been invisible, averaging just 8.4 points on 36 percent shooting, in the Thunder's last five losses. And Monday's defeat in San Antonio was a clear bench loss, as OKC was a plus-10 with their starting lineup on the floor, but a minus-22 when at least one of the five starters sat down. That's an obvious cause for concern if you anticipate a Spurs-Thunder conference finals.
This week: vs. DEN, @ MEM, @ ORL, vs. POR
Last week: 2

4 Denver (45-22)
Pace: 97.6 (2), OffRtg: 107.5 (3), DefRtg: 101.8 (11), NetRtg: +5.7 (5)
The Nuggets' 11-game winning streak has them within striking distance of third place in the West, and they now have the tiebreaker over both the Clippers and Grizzlies. More important, they're playing their best defense of the season, holding seven of their last eight opponents (including both L.A. and Memphis) under a point per possession and allowing just 97 points per 100 during the streak.
This week: @ CHI, @ OKC, vs. PHI, vs. SAC
Last week: 4

5 Memphis (44-21)
Pace: 91.4 (28), OffRtg: 101.3 (19), DefRtg: 97.5 (2), NetRtg: +3.8 (7)
The Grizzlies have lost two straight, but a road win over the Clippers and the ability to hang until the final minute with the Nuggets in Denver really legitimized their 14-1 stretch against a mostly soft schedule. Zach Randolph came back from his injury to average 17.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in four games last week. Wednesday's visit from the Thunder will be the biggest test of Memphis' post-trade defense.
This week: vs. MIN, vs. OKC, @ NOH, vs. BOS
Last week: 6

6 L.A. Clippers (46-21)
Pace: 93.9 (17), OffRtg: 106.9 (6), DefRtg: 100.4 (8), NetRtg: +6.6 (4)
The Clips seem to be going through the motions this month. They've lost to both the Nuggets and Grizzlies in the last 11 days and didn't exactly dominate the very shorthanded Knicks on Sunday. It's the defensive end where they've taken a step backward, allowing 107.6 points per 100 possessions in seven March games, continuing a regression on that end over each of the last three months.
This week: @ SAC, vs. PHI, vs. BKN
Last week: 5

7 Indiana (40-26)
Pace: 92.6 (26), OffRtg: 101.2 (20), DefRtg: 95.9 (1), NetRtg: +5.2 (6)
At a time when they could be sewing up the 2 seed in the East, the Pacers are struggling to score once again. They've lost four of their last six games, and have to hope that back-to-back losses to the Kobe-less Lakers and offense-less Sixers were a wake-up call. Both Paul George and Lance Stephenson have hit somewhat of a wall, combining to shoot just 36 percent over the last seven games.
This week: @ CLE, vs. ORL, vs. MIL, @ CHI
Last week: 7

8 Boston (36-29)
Pace: 93.6 (20), OffRtg: 100.4 (22), DefRtg: 99.3 (4), NetRtg: +1.2 (12)
It was exactly five years ago today that the Celtics went into Houston and crushed the Rockets to end their 22-game winning streak, part of an impressive sweep of the Texas Triangle. This time, the Cs will get the chance to end a 22-game streak at home, where they've won 11 straight. But it will be much tougher to do if Kevin Garnett (left adductor strain) isn't available to slow down the Miami pick-and-roll.
This week: vs. MIA, @ NOH, @ DAL, @ MEM
Last week: 9

9 L.A. Lakers (36-32)
Pace: 97.0 (4), OffRtg: 105.8 (8), DefRtg: 103.4 (18), NetRtg: +2.4 (10)
If the Lakers hold on to make the playoffs, Dahntay Jones owes Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison dinner. If it weren't for the pair's 3-point shooting (18-for-29 over two games) in Kobe Bryant's absence, Jones would be public enemy No. 1 in L.A. and anywhere else there are Lakers fans, which is basically everywhere. A light and easy schedule is good reason to let Bryant heal another week.
This week: @ PHX, vs. WAS
Last week: 11

10 Brooklyn (38-28)
Pace: 90.7 (30), OffRtg: 103.5 (11), DefRtg: 103.4 (17), NetRtg: +0.1 (15)
Losses in Philly and at home to the Hawks are exactly why, despite the Knicks' and Pacers' recent struggles, we can't believe the Nets can be a 2 or 3 seed until we actually see it. Brooklyn hasn't shown any consistency on either end of the floor since mid-January and is now just a game in the loss column ahead of the 5, 6 and 7 seeds, facing an eight-game, 17-day trip that starts Monday in Detroit.
This week: @ DET, @ DAL, @ LAC, @ PHX
Last week: 12

11 Houston (36-31)
Pace: 98.8 (1), OffRtg: 107.1 (5), DefRtg: 104.3 (20), NetRtg: +2.8 (9)
The Rockets continue to tread water, and Sunday's game against the Warriors was a bad time for both Chandler Parsons (2-for-13) and Donatas Motiejunas (2-for-11) to go cold. That one could have put them in sixth place in the West, but now Wednesday's game against the Jazz could possibly put them in ninth, with tougher opponents (Spurs, Pacers, Grizzlies and Clippers) still to come this month.
This week: vs. UTA, vs. CLE, vs. SAS
Last week: 10

12 New York (38-26)
Pace: 92.6 (25), OffRtg: 106.9 (7), DefRtg: 103.2 (16), NetRtg: +3.7 (8)
The Knicks' trip has been painful (both literally and figuratively). They've lost the first four games by an average of 20 points, and Monday's finale in Utah doesn't exactly look promising with both Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler banged up. The good news is that the schedule eases up when they return to the Eastern time zone and that nobody else in the East (other than the Heat) is playing all that well.
This week: @ UTA, vs. ORL, @ TOR, vs. TOR
Last week: 8

13 Atlanta (37-29)
Pace: 94.3 (13), OffRtg: 102.4 (17), DefRtg: 101.1 (10), NetRtg: +1.3 (11)
Devin Harris played just nine minutes in Brooklyn on Sunday, but the Hawks have won three straight with him back in the starting lineup (a result of Jeff Teague's recent ankle injury) and are 18-8 overall in games Harris has started. Of course, Larry Drew changes his starting lineup more often than Harris changes direction, so there's really no sense in pointing out any pattern of success.
This week: vs. DAL, vs. MIL, vs. POR, @ MIL
Last week: 15

14 Chicago (36-29)
Pace: 91.9 (27), OffRtg: 99.7 (25), DefRtg: 99.4 (5), NetRtg: +0.2 (14)
In a two-game week, the Bulls went from playing awful defense in Sacramento to playing unstoppable offense at Golden State, just their fourth road win against the Western Conference in 13 tries. Carlos Boozer has had a down season offensively and is a team-low minus-78 for the year (frontcourt-mate Joakim Noah is a plus-112), but he totaled 52 points on 17-for-29 shooting in the two games.
This week: vs.DEN, vs. POR, vs. IND, @ MIN
Last week: 14

15 Dallas (31-35)
Pace: 96.8 (5), OffRtg: 102.9 (14), DefRtg: 103.6 (19), NetRtg: -0.7 (16)
When they woke up on Thursday, the Mavs were three games under .500, but only a game in the loss column behind both the Lakers and Jazz. And they proceed to hang with both the Spurs and Thunder at home, but couldn't make the late-game plays they needed either night. And it was very Roddy Beaubois of Roddy Beaubois to break his hand two days after playing his best game of the season.
This week: @ ATL, vs. BKN, vs. BOS, vs. UTA
Last week: 16

16 Golden State (38-30)
Pace: 96.7 (6), OffRtg: 103.7 (9), DefRtg: 102.8 (14), NetRtg: +0.9 (13)
Ironically, the Warriors needed to go back on the road (where they had lost nine of their previous 10 games) to get what was probably their most important win of the season. Two days after combining to shoot 0-for-9 from 3-point range against the Bulls, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shot 11-for-20 from beyond the arc in Houston. Andrew Bogut also recorded his first double-double as a Dub.
This week: @ NOH, @ SAS, vs. WAS
Last week: 17

17 Milwaukee (33-32)
Pace: 97.3 (3), OffRtg: 101.1 (21), DefRtg: 102.1 (12), NetRtg: -1.0 (17)
If it weren't for Monta Ellis' 25-point fourth quarter against the Magic on Sunday, it would have been a really rough week for the Bucks. Their defense was downright awful in losing three straight and then giving up 109 points to Orlando. They've seemingly penciled themselves into the eighth seed and a first-round meeting with the Heat, but can get the eraser out with two wins over the Hawks this week.
This week: vs. POR, @ ATL, @ IND, vs. ATL
Last week: 13

18 Utah (34-32)
Pace: 93.8 (18), OffRtg: 103.2 (12), DefRtg: 104.3 (21), NetRtg: -1.1 (18)
The Jazz recovered from their disastrous trip East to get a couple of much-needed wins last week, including an impressive defensive victory over the Grizzlies on Saturday. But they'll have to somehow survive the Texas Triangle if they're going to keep pace with the Lakers. After that, they have a chance to make a move, playing eight of their next 10 games at home as L.A.'s schedule gets tougher.
This week: vs. NYK, @ HOU, @ SAS, @ DAL
Last week: 18

19 Washington (23-42)
Pace: 94.2 (15), OffRtg: 97.1 (30), DefRtg: 99.8 (7), NetRtg: -2.7 (21)
John Wall had one heck of a week, averaging 24.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 11.0 assists and 2.5 steals, while shooting 37-for-60 (62 percent) as the Wizards went 3-1. Not coincidentally, Washington has scored better than a point per possession in three straight games for the first time this season. Wall is now shooting 36.3 percent from outside the paint, up from 31.0 percent over his first three seasons.
This week: @ CHA, @ PHX, @ LAL, @ GSW
Last week: 19

20 Portland (31-34)
Pace: 93.6 (19), OffRtg: 103.6 (10), DefRtg: 105.6 (25), NetRtg: -2.0 (20)
The Blazers have the league's No. 1 offense in March, scoring more than 116 points per 100 possessions over eight games. A two point guard lineup has been key, as they've committed fewer than 10 turnovers per 100 possessions in 122 minutes with both Eric Maynor and Damian Lillard on the floor. If they sustain anything close to that through five road games in seven days, it will be more than noteworthy.
This week: @ PHI, @ MIL, @ CHI, @ ATL, @ OKC
Last week: 20

21 Toronto (26-41)
Pace: 93.0 (23), OffRtg: 103.0 (13), DefRtg: 104.5 (22), NetRtg: -1.5 (19)
It's been another rough season in Toronto, and another season where Amir Johnson's individual play shines through the darkness of team disappointment. Johnson, who has grabbed 15 or more rebounds in four of his last seven games, is somehow a plus-162 for a team that has been outscored by 109 points this season. The Raps have been much better on both ends with Johnson on the floor.
This week: @ CHA, vs. NYK, @ NYK
Last week: 21

22 Cleveland (22-44)
Pace: 95.0 (11), OffRtg: 101.8 (18), DefRtg: 106.8 (27), NetRtg: -5.0 (25)
Though it's a far cry from when he had a big role on a title contender, it's been fun to watch Luke Walton get regular minutes for the first time in four years and show the Cavs' kids how to be an effective passer. Walton is averaging a career-high 6.9 assists per 36 minutes (second behind Manu Ginobili among non-point guards) and the Cavs' offense has been much better with him on the floor.
This week: vs. IND, vs. MIA, @ HOU
Last week: 22

23 Minnesota (23-41)
Pace: 94.8 (12), OffRtg: 99.3 (26), DefRtg: 103.1 (15), NetRtg: -3.7 (22)
Ricky Rubio is clearly getting better every week. Last week, he recorded his first career triple-double in Tuesday's win over the Spurs, averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 8.8 assists over four games, and shot 47 percent. On Sunday, the Wolves also got much-needed returns from Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic, who each came up big in the final minute of a two-point win over the Hornets.
This week: @ MEM, @ SAC, @ PHX, vs. CHI
Last week: 28

24 Sacramento (23-44)
Pace: 95.9 (9), OffRtg: 102.4 (16), DefRtg: 108.7 (29), NetRtg: -6.3 (27)
While it was awfully strange to see the Kings give up on Thomas Robinson so quickly, it's good to see them continue to get more and more playing time for Patrick Patterson. In DeMarcus Cousins' absence, Patterson started the last two games (including Wednesday's big win over Chicago) and put up 36 total points on 15-for-19 shooting. He's 9-for-15 from 3-point range as a King.
This week: vs. LAC, vs. MIN, @ DEN, vs. PHI
Last week: 26

25 Phoenix (22-45)
Pace: 95.5 (10), OffRtg: 97.9 (28), DefRtg: 105.2 (23), NetRtg: -7.3 (29)
The Suns' perimeter defense could use some work. They've allowed their last seven opponents to connect on almost 12 threes per game at a 48 percent clip. It's been particularly bad with Kendall Marshall and Jared Dudley on the floor together. The good news is that the Phoenix defense has been much, much worse on the road than it's been at home, where the Suns play eight of their next 10 games.
This week: vs.LAL, vs. WAS, vs. MIN, vs. BKN
Last week: 23

26 Philadelphia (25-40)
Pace: 93.0 (22), OffRtg: 99.0 (27), DefRtg: 102.8 (13), NetRtg: -3.7 (23)
The Sixers have seemingly accepted their role as spoiler. They have three wins over playoff teams (Golden State, Brooklyn and Indiana) in March and were a possession or two away from ending the Heat's streak at 19 games. They've always had the defense to compete, but their offense is starting to pick up with Dorell Wright and Damien Wilkins shooting well from beyond the arc.
This week: vs.POR, @ LAC, @ DEN, @ SAC
Last week: 29

27 New Orleans (22-45)
Pace: 90.9 (29), OffRtg: 102.9 (15), DefRtg: 107.5 (28), NetRtg: -4.6 (24)
The Hornets continue to get nice numbers from Anthony Davis (averaging 17 points and 11 boards over his last seven games), Greivis Vasquez (18 points 9 assists over his last eight), Eric Gordon (24 points in Brooklyn on Tuesday) and even Robin Lopez (20 and 11 in Minnesota on Sunday). But their defense hasn't held an opponent under a point per possession since the All-Star break.
This week: vs. GSW, vs. BOS, vs. MEM
Last week: 24

28 Detroit (23-45)
Pace: 93.1 (21), OffRtg: 100.4 (23), DefRtg: 105.5 (24), NetRtg: -5.1 (26)
The Pistons are the only team without a win this month, having played some atrocious defense. They've allowed their eight opponents to shoot 51 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range, and score almost 116 points per 100 possessions. They have a good chance to get at least one March victory however, playing a stretch against the Bobcats, Wolves and Raptors that starts Saturday.
This week: vs. BKN, @ MIA, @ CHA
Last week: 25

29 Orlando (18-49)
Pace: 94.3 (14), OffRtg: 99.7 (24), DefRtg: 106.7 (26), NetRtg: -7.0 (28)
Maurice Harkless is yet another young Magic player who has opened some eyes. The rookie has scored in double-figures in 15 of his last 17 games, shooting 51 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range in that stretch. The Magic's young core of Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Nik Vucevic is promising. The Magic's defense, on the other hand, is still terrible.
This week: @ IND, @ NYK, vs. OKC
Last week: 27

30 Charlotte (14-52)
Pace: 94.1 (16), OffRtg: 97.3 (29), DefRtg: 109.0 (30), NetRtg: -11.7 (30)
Given the relative strength of the two conferences, it's pretty amazing than an East team was the first to be eliminated from playoff contention. But the Bobcats are an amazing team. They did get their second win over the Celtics last week and are undefeated when Gerald Henderson scores at least 35 points. Henderson has averaged 22.2 points on 49 percent shooting over his last five games.
This week: vs.WAS, vs. TOR, vs. DET, @ MIA
Last week: 30

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