Power Rankings

Power Rankings: Mavs, Heat continue unexpected runs into playoff contention

Power Rankings: Mavs and Heat keep rolling

After Gregg Popovich (in his 21st season on the Spurs’ bench), Rick Carlisle (nine seasons with Dallas) and Erik Spoelstra (nine seasons with Miami) are the league’s longest tenured coaches by a pretty wide margin.

One reason is that both Carlisle and Spoelstra work for strong and stable organizations. The other is that they’re both really good coaches, something that has been on display over the last few weeks.

After starting the season by losing 20 of their first 26 games, the Mavs have gone 14-10 and are 9-3 since Jan. 12. The Heat, meanwhile, have gone from 11-30 to 21-30 with a remarkable 10-game winning streak.

Dallas has done it with an offense that ranks fourth in the league over those 12 games. Miami has done it with the league’s best defense over the course of their winning streak. Both teams have had a myriad of injuries and have needed to call on “Who He Play For?” names like Dorian Finney-Smith and Rodney McGruder to play big roles.

Maybe those guys will be more familiar to casual fans if the Mavs and Heat make the playoffs. With the runs they’ve made, both teams are just two games out of eighth place in their respective conferences with more than 30 games to go. You could certainly make the argument that it would be better for their long-term outlook to be going in the opposite direction, but that can be difficult to do when you have coaches who can turn a M.A.S.H. unit into a cohesive one.

Last week: Dog days of winter taking toll on contenders

This time last year: Celtics, Jazz rolling into the break — Stephen Curry dropped 51 on the Wizards, Avery Bradley beat the Cavs at the buzzer, Nikola Vucevic did the same to the Hawks, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant beat the Magic in the final seconds. The Knicks fired Derek Fisher and Manu Ginobili suffered an unspeakable injury.

Plus-minus stud: Dion Waiters (MIA) was a plus-73 in three games last week.

Plus-minus dud: Nik Stauskas (PHI) was a minus-67 in four games last week.

Hero team of the week: Memphis (3-1) — The Grizzlies lost in Oklahoma City on Friday, but three out of four on the road ain’t bad, especially when you win (in Minnesota on Saturday) with three starters resting.

Zero team of the week: Brooklyn (0-4) — The Nets couldn’t make anything out of a three-game homestand that included games against a couple of teams – New York and Toronto – that were struggling.

East vs. West: The West is 161-136 (.542) against the East in interconference games after the East went 12-10 (3-0 against the Pelicans) last week.

Toughest schedules through Sunday: 1. Sacramento, 2. L.A. Lakers, 3. Phoenix

Easiest schedules through Sunday: 1. Indiana, 2. San Antonio, 3. Washington

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

High jumps of the week: Dallas (+5), Miami (+4), Detroit (+3)

Free falls of the week: Charlotte (-5), New Orleans (-3), Sacramento (-3), Toronto (-3)

Team to watch this week: Dallas — The 10th-place Mavs take a four-game, Yogi-Ferrell-fueled winning streak into a huge back-to-back where they visit the eighth-place Nuggets on Monday and then host the ninth-place Blazers (who they just beat a few days ago) on Tuesday. After that, the get visits from the Jazz and Magic.

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Pace: Possessions per 48 minutes (League Rank)

OffRtg: Points scored per 100 possessions (League Rank)

DefRtg: Points allowed per 100 possessions (League Rank)

NetRtg: Point differential per 100 possessions (League Rank)

The league has averaged 98.8 possessions (per team) per 48 minutes and 105.8 points scored per 100 possessions this season.

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NBA.com’s Power Rankings, released every Monday during the season, are just one man’s opinion. 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.

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