Power Rankings: Bulls hold off Heat for top spot
Monday, March 12
The first of three Bulls-Heat showdowns before the playoffs even get here comes Wednesday night in Chicago.
And the home team will be bringing top billing to the party, clinging to the top spot in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings despite Thursday's rare home loss to visiting Orlando.
A case could have been made for the Heat to return to the summit after a 3-0 week in home games against New Jersey, Atlanta and Indiana, but the Bulls' season-long dominance with a healthy Derrick Rose in the lineup tipped the scales. Miami will get its chance to reclaim the top spot on a night that the rest of the league will be bracing for what happens before Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.
Click here every Monday during the regular season for the latest fresh and nonautomated pulse-take of the league's 30 teams, with assists from ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau. Click here to rank the teams yourself, or click here to comment on these rankings.
Also, check out John Hollinger's daily power rankings.
|2011-12 Power Rankings: Week 11
|TEAM / RECORD
Last Week: 1
|Thursday's TNT loss to Orlando was the Bulls' first with D-Rose on the floor since Feb. 1. Something tells me that Miami's visit to Chicago on Wednesday will attract a decent amount of attention, even as it falls amid March Madness and on the eve of the latest trade deadline in NBA history.
Last Week: 2
|The Heat are undeniably sick of the coast-to-coast dissection of every crunch-time failure, but give it up to 'em on this particular Power Rankings Monday: They don't play many close games and just passed the last two tests against Atlanta and Indiana with D-Wade and LeBron both doing damage when it mattered.
Last Week: 3
|Swimsuit model Kate Upton doesn't exactly fit the Thunder's image ... and her presence in town last week is the only thing that's thrown off the Thunder in 2012. With Upton visiting, OKC needed a furious rally to beat Phoenix at home and then saw its 14-game win streak end with a thudding loss to the Cavs.
Last Week: 4
|The momentum San Antonio carried into the All-Star break didn't make it to the other side, but something tells me you won't hear any outward concern from Gregg Popovich. Just to be sure: Pop will get a visit this weekend from the committee (of one) to confirm those premonitions before the next batch of rankings.
Last Week: 10
|Give it up to Florida's other team, too: Amid all the chaos and speculation that has consumed the Magic for the past 95 days since the lockout ended, they're one of only five teams in the league to post a winning record in every calendar month this season along with the Bulls, Heat, Thunder and Lakers.
Last Week: 8
|Z-Bo hasn't quite made it back yet, as promised, but he should be back at some stage this month to transform the Grizz into the West's proverbial No One Wants To Play Those Guys squad. Memphis' Jan. 4 acquisition of Speights as Z-Bo's stand-in was not only the NBA's last trade but also a very underrated one.
Last Week: 5
|Replacing Phil Jackson is a thankless, no-win job in a lot of ways, but one of Mike Brown's big problems -- as support from Lakers vets dwindles by the day despite L.A.'s 18-2 home record and current No. 3 seed out West -- is that Jim Buss had a worthy alternative and chose to ignore everyone telling him to hire Rick Adelman.
Last Week: 7
|You're inclined to pardon the Clips for some bad losses lately (Wolves, Nets, Dubs) because of what happened Friday night in San Antonio. Despite CP3 suffering a broken nose, Lob City won in the Alamo City for the first time in 18 tries ... back when the Spurs were still playing in the Alamodome and Blake Griffin was 12.
Last Week: 13
|More than halfway through his second season, Evan Turner finally looks like a player after replacing Jodie Meeks as a starter. And with four 100-point eruptions this month after going all of February without reaching triple digits, Philly somehow still has the league's third-best nightly point differential at plus-7.5 ppg.
Last Week: 12
|On top of Faried's rapid rise, Afflalo has led the Nuggets in scoring six times in 16 games after leading his teams just five times in the first 323 games of his career. A 2-5 mark in games decided by three points or less, however, softens George Karl's claims that Denver can contend without a dedicated closer.
Last Week: 6
|The Pacers want us to believe they're a serious dark horse to do some playoff damage, but they haven't backed it up yet in the games that matter most. With three days to focus on Friday night's showdown in Miami, Indy still couldn't avoid late mistakes in the most crushing L of a challenging week.
Last Week: 9
|For the most thorough ode to Ricky Rubio's fascinating rookie season and how much sadness his knee injury has spread throughout the NBA, I urge you to click to this staff survey of the situation that tries to make sense of what he's shown us so far and where the Wolves can go in the short term without him.
Last Week: 15
|Good to see KG, Pierce, Ray and Rondo grit through all the trade talk to win six of eight. When the Celts limped into the All-Star break at 15-17, someone in the office pointed out that there hasn't been a team to finish the regular season under .500 with three future Hall of Famers since the 1992-93 Pistons.
Last Week: 14
|Go ahead. Try figuring these guys out. You putting more stock in the recent wins over Orlando, OKC and Indiana? Or the losses to the Warriors and Pistons? Elias says Friday night's 86-85 loss in Detroit was their eighth straight defeat in one-point games on the road ... one short of the NBA record.
Last Week: 11
|Mark Cuban contends that a regular season has never mattered less than this one. The Mavs can only hope he's right, given how bad they looked at the end of their nine-games-in-12-days grind. Warning to those who say Dallas will be fine if it can just get to the playoffs: Didn't last season's Lakers say that all the time?
Last Week: 19
|It looks as though the other Suns around Steve Nash are really trying to rally around his refusal to press for a trade and make him feel better about his undying (and uncommon for the NBA) loyalty. In each of its past five home games, Phoenix has fallen behind by at least 10 points and gone on to win all five, anyway.
Last Week: 17
|Remember trade deadline 2011, when Utah, without warning, dealt D-Will mere days after the stunning resignation of Jerry Sloan? The Jazz couldn't do something that dramatic if they tried at trade deadline 2012, but you'd be advised not to sleep on them this week. Rest assured they're working on something.
Last Week: 14
|The Rockets' defense has collapsed, Kyle Lowry has been felled by a bacterial infection and Kevin Martin has mysteriously fallen out of favor with Kevin McHale. Throw in Portland's collapse and you can understand why Adelman's Wolves still think they can sneak into the playoffs ahead of McHale's crew.
Last Week: 19
|What could spoil a 24-point home rout of the reeling Mavs and a road win over the Clips to complete a tasty back-to-back sweep amid continuing progress from Ekpe Udoh as a center who actually impacts the game positively for the Dubs? The sight of Steph Curry pounding a bench in disgust after yet another ankle twist.
Last Week: 16
|If you're going to crash, there's nowhere worse to do it than Gotham, where Linsanity suddenly feels like it happened under Red Holzman. The Knicks are 2-7 since Melo returned on Feb. 20 ... and no one at MSG seems terribly interested in hearing about a harder schedule or the impact of Chandler's ill health.
Last Week: 24
|Further illustrations of what Irving means to the Cavs: They lost by 27 and 29 in Denver and OKC, respectively, last season. And they just won in both cities ... with Irving notching up the third game winner of his career by going coast to coast against the Nuggets. And he doesn't turn 20 for two more weeks.
Last Week: 20
|Aldridge is untouchable. Batum is still close to untouchable. Otherwise? It shouldn't surprise you if the Blazers trade anyone else or launch their coach after the way they've free-falled below .500. They're suddenly the strongest case against the value of point differential when you look at the standings.
Last Week: 26
|They've won 11-of-17 and just beat the Lakers and Hawks. Stuckey, furthermore, is averaging 21.8 ppg over his last six games. You're tempted to say that the Pistons might even still have some playoff life in the ever-forgiving East ... but let's see where they are after playing nine of the next 10 games on the road.
Last Week: 28
|On second thought, maybe it's time to resurrect those Leastern Conference jokes. With Stephen Jackson openly miserable, Brandon Jennings revealing he's eyeing bigger markets and trade rumors suddenly swirling around the luckless Andrew Bogut ... Milwaukee is still right there in the playoff hunt.
Last Week: 22
|How are the Nets coping with their lame-duck status in Newark? Do you realize they've won all of four home games but are a very decent 10-14 on the road even with B-Lopez missing all those games? Last question: What did it for you more ... D-Will's 57 or Gerald Green's jaw-dropping, welcome-back oop?
Last Week: 25
|With 11 of the next 14 games at home, Sacramento can continue its monthlong Here We Stay fest, thanks to the arena deal that'll keep the Kings in the California capitol. They'll have to come back to reality eventually to start fixing the actual team, which still needs lots of help, but that won't happen at this trade deadline.
Last Week: 29
|Sending the Lakers into full-on chaos with Wednesday night's comeback from 21 points down will presumably go down as the Wizards' crowning achievement of another wasted season. But they badly want to make a culture-changing trade, so the Wiz have to be watched closely, at least through Thursday.
Last Week: 27
|Spaniards can exhale ... or at least stop throwing things. The Raps are optimistic that the ankle Calderon sprained one night after Rubio's season- and Olympics-ending knee injury isn't as bad as first feared. Spain needs Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro to have any shot at toppling a stacked Team USA.
Last Week: 23
|Will you survive if the likes of Michael Beasley, Jamal Crawford and the Hornets' Chris Kaman are the biggest names moved at trade deadline 2012? Fairly useless bit of standings trivia while you ponder that one: New Orleans and New Jersey are the league's only two teams with more road wins than home wins.
Last Week: 30
|Pretty eventful week by Charlotte standards, with Charles Barkley publicly questioning MJ's ownership, Diaw inching closer to the exit door (he'll be bought out for sure if not traded) and Maggette, Augustin and Gerald Henderson all working their way back from injury (not that it's made much difference).