NBA Power Rankings: Rockets running away with No. 1 ranking

The Houston Rockets are primed to shatter their franchise wins record, while the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be figuring things out just in time for another postseason run.

And let's not forget the Eastern Conference's hottest team, the Philadelphia 76ers, winners of six straight and officially playoff-bound for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

Every week throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz, Amin Elhassan and Ramona Shelburne, The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears and FiveThirtyEight's Chris Herring) will rank the league's 30 teams from top to bottom, with research notes on each team provided by ESPN Stats & Information.

Previous rankings: Week 23 | 22 | 21 | 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

1. Houston Rockets
2017-18 record: 60-14

Houston has been on fire lately, going 26-1 in the past 27 games. On Saturday, the Rockets tallied their 59th win, most in a season in franchise history (they added No. 60 on Sunday night). The previous record was 58 victories in 1993-94, when the Rockets won their first of two consecutive NBA championships. -- Matt Williams

2. Toronto Raptors
2017-18 record: 54-20

It was a relatively disappointing week for the Raptors, who went 2-2, including the loss to short-handed Cleveland in which they scored 79 points in the first half. It was the most points scored in the first half of a loss by any team since the Nuggets in November 1990, five full years before the Raptors even existed. They simply couldn't get stops: Toronto posted a defensive rating of 137.4 in the second half in a "show me something" game against the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs. -- Micah Adams

3. Golden State Warriors
2017-18 record: 54-19

Steve Kerr said on Sunday that there's no way Stephen Curry will be ready in time for the first round of the playoffs. With Curry presumably shut down for the rest of the regular season, it could also extinguish his All-NBA chances. Since the NBA-ABA merger, 555 All-NBA spots have been awarded. Only six of those went to players who missed at least 30 games: Dwyane Wade and Yao Ming in 2006-07, Scottie Pippen in 1997-98, Shaquille O'Neal in 1996-97, Dennis Rodman in 1994-95 and Pete Maravich in 1977-78. -- Micah Adams

4. Portland Trail Blazers
2017-18 record: 45-28

In a league full of elite playmakers and closers -- one of whom he just so happens to share a backcourt with -- it's sometimes a little too easy to sleep on CJ McCollum. That was not the case on Sunday as McCollum scored 14 points in the fourth quarter on 6-for-10 shooting, including three go-ahead shots, one of which proved to be the game winner. Since the start of last season, the only player to hit more go-ahead shots in the fourth quarter or overtime is Russell Westbrook, whom McCollum upstaged on Sunday. --- Micah Adams

5. Cleveland Cavaliers
2017-18 record: 44-29

The Cavs have won all four games since Kevin Love returned to the lineup last week, including victories over the Raptors and Bucks. Cleveland has scored a blistering 127.7 points per 100 possessions and has outscored opponents by 49 points with Love on the floor during this time. -- Michael Schwartz

6. Boston Celtics
2017-18 record: 50-23

Kyrie Irving is expected to miss 3-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a tension wire in his left knee. The Celtics are 9-4 without Irving this season, and the biggest reason has been their defense. Boston allows 97.5 points per game without Irving, even better than their NBA-leading 101.3 mark overall. -- Matt Williams

7. Oklahoma City Thunder
2017-18 record: 44-31

Should there be a shake-up to OKC's end-of-game strategy? Carmelo Anthony went 0-for-4 with a turnover down the stretch of Sunday's loss, and on the season is now shooting under 30 percent in clutch time despite ranking second on the team in clutch-time attempts. Over the past three seasons, there are 100 instances of a player attempting at least 60 shots in the final five minutes and the score within five. Anthony this season is the only one of them to shoot under 30 percent. -- Micah Adams

8. Philadelphia 76ers
2017-18 record: 42-30

Ben Simmons recorded his 10th triple-double of the season Saturday. He joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only 76ers players in franchise history to record at least 10 triple-doubles within a season. Chamberlain did it twice, during the 1966-67 and 1967-68 seasons. Simmons' brilliant rookie campaign has been an important reason why the 76ers are in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. -- Matt Williams

9. San Antonio Spurs
2017-18 record: 43-31

The Spurs have won six of their past seven, with the lone setback coming Sunday in Milwaukee where they nearly came back from 15 down in the fourth quarter, something they've done only three times under Gregg Popovich. LaMarcus Aldridge has been on a tear during San Antonio's resurgence, averaging 32.4 points per game, which trails only LeBron James over that span. Aldridge's 79 points in his past two games is tied for the most he has ever dropped in any two-game span. -- Micah Adams

10. Utah Jazz
2017-18 record: 42-32

Donovan Mitchell for Rookie of the Year? It might be tough with Simmons in the picture, but Mitchell has been a scoring machine. He recorded his fourth 35-point game of the season on Friday, tied for second-most by any rookie in the past 20 seasons. Only Carmelo Anthony in 2003-04 had more with six such games (Anthony lost out on Rookie of the Year that season to James). -- Matt Williams

11. New Orleans Pelicans
2017-18 record: 43-31

Last week perfectly captured the degree to which Anthony Davis controls all things for New Orleans, as the Pelicans were a whopping 28.3 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the bench than on the floor. The offense in particular cratered in the 55 Davis-less minutes, posting a rating of just 90.9. -- Micah Adams

12. Minnesota Timberwolves
2017-18 record: 42-32

Jimmy Butler is still targeting a return prior to the start of the playoffs. Since he last played just over a month ago, the Wolves have been respectable with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins on the floor together, outscoring teams by 2.3 points per 100 possessions. Learning how to do more than simply tread water in non-Butler minutes is big for Minnesota, which prior to the injury had been outscored by 11.3 points per 100 possessions in over 200 minutes that Towns and Wiggins shared the floor sans Butler. -- Micah Adams

13. Indiana Pacers
2017-18 record: 43-31

Entering games on Jan. 4, the Pacers were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, a half-game up on the 76ers. A lot has changed since. On Sunday, Indiana clinched a playoff spot for the seventh time in eight seasons and the first time without Paul George since 2006. Since Jan. 4, the Pacers are 24-12, the seventh-best record in the NBA over that span. -- Matt Williams

14. Washington Wizards
2017-18 record: 40-33

John Wall has returned to full-contact practice, seven weeks after the procedure on his left knee. The Wizards played well without Wall at first, but have struggled since the All-Star break, going 7-9 and ranking 20th in points per game over that stretch. The schedule has not been easy, as 14 of the 16 games since the break have been against teams with a winning record. -- Matt Williams

15. Denver Nuggets
2017-18 record: 40-33

Denver enters the week having won consecutive road games to pull within 1.5 games of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the Nuggets must still play the NBA's toughest remaining schedule, with all of their remaining opponents currently over .500. That brutal stretch starts this week with games at the 76ers, Raptors and Thunder. -- Michael Schwartz

16. LA Clippers
2017-18 record: 39-34

The Clippers are on the outside of the playoff picture, 2½ games behind the eighth seed. LA has made the playoffs in six straight seasons, the longest streak in franchise history. Prior to the 2011-12 season, the Clippers had made the playoffs only seven times. -- Matt Williams

17. Milwaukee Bucks
2017-18 record: 39-34

There was progress on the Jabari Parker front last week as he topped 30 minutes in back-to-back games, expanding his previous 25-minute cap. The Bucks are still ironing out how they will play their four best players together, as Parker has logged a total of just 48 minutes alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe. -- Micah Adams

18. Miami Heat
2017-18 record: 39-35

Despite ending the week with road losses against the Thunder and Pacers, the Heat remain in control of the final playoff spot in the East (5½-game lead on ninth-place Detroit). Miami ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring since the All-Star break (114.0 points per game) and will play the league's fourth-weakest schedule the rest of the way, according to ESPN's BPI. -- Jason Starrett

19. Detroit Pistons
2017-18 record: 33-40

Andre Drummond recorded his 16th 20-rebound game in Saturday's win over the Bulls. That's the most by a player since Ben Wallace also had 16 in 2002-03. Dennis Rodman, a Hall of Famer, is the only player with more 20-rebound games in a season in the past 25 years. -- Michael Schwartz

20. Charlotte Hornets
2017-18 record: 33-41

Dwight Howard went for 32 points and 30 rebounds Wednesday in a win against the Nets, the first 30-30 game since Love in 2010. Before Love: Moses Malone in 1982. Wilt Chamberlain had 124 career 30-30 games; for some context, the rest of the NBA has combined for 32 such games ... ever. -- Matt Williams

21. Los Angeles Lakers
2017-18 record: 32-40

Entering this season, the only rookies to average seven rebounds and seven assists per game were Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. Lonzo Ball -- along with Philly's Simmons -- is on pace to join this list. As for scoring, after a midseason shooting resurgence Ball is shooting just 15 percent (8-for-54) on 3-pointers in his past eight games. -- Michael Schwartz

22. Sacramento Kings
2017-18 record: 24-50

It might come as a surprise, but the Kings have been good in close games this season. They are 20-16 in games that involve clutch time. That .556 win percentage is tied with the Jazz for 11th-best in the NBA. -- Matt Williams

23. New York Knicks
2017-18 record: 27-47

The Knicks had eight players score at least 10 points in their win Sunday against the Wizards. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, it is the first time the Knicks had at least eight players finish with double figures in a game since a win over the Kings on Nov. 15, 1997. -- Matt Williams

24. Dallas Mavericks
2017-18 record: 22-51

With Thursday's defeat to the Jazz, the Mavericks clinched their first 50-loss season since going 20-62 in 1997-98. During the ensuing offseason, the Mavs traded for Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, so this is Nowitzki's first 50-loss season in Year 20 of his career. -- Michael Schwartz

25. Brooklyn Nets
2017-18 record: 23-51

D'Angelo Russell recorded the first triple-double by a Nets player since Terrence Williams on April 9, 2010. That was a span of 633 games between triple-doubles, the second-longest active drought in the NBA. The longest active drought is by the Jazz, who had their most recent triple-double, by Carlos Boozer, on Feb. 13, 2008. -- Matt Williams

26. Chicago Bulls
2017-18 record: 24-49

The Bulls, losers of five straight, have as many five-game losing streaks this season (five) as they did in the previous 10 seasons combined. Chicago travels to Houston on Tuesday where it will look to do something it hasn't done in more than six weeks: beat an opponent with a winning record. The Bulls' last such win came on Feb. 9 against the Timberwolves. They are 0-9 in such games since. -- Jason Starrett

27. Atlanta Hawks
2017-18 record: 21-53

The Hawks have allowed triple-doubles to seven different players this season, including Harden on Sunday. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, that ties the highest total in a single season in NBA history. The other teams to allow triple-doubles to seven different players? The 1970-71 Blazers, 2000-01 Warriors and 2013-14 76ers. -- Matt Williams

28. Orlando Magic
2017-18 record: 22-51

The Magic started the easiest six-game stretch by any team in the NBA this season, according to BPI, with Saturday's home win over the Suns. The Magic's next five games are against the Nets, Bulls, Hawks, Knicks and Mavericks -- a stretch that could prove costly for Orlando's draft lottery odds. -- Michael Schwartz

29. Memphis Grizzlies
2017-18 record: 19-54

The Grizzlies have lost 23 of their past 24 games, but the low point of their season came Thursday in a franchise-record 61-point loss to the Hornets. This was the largest margin of defeat for any team since February 1998, and Memphis' 55-point hole through three quarters was tied for the largest such deficit in the shot-clock era. -- Michael Schwartz

30. Phoenix Suns
2017-18 record: 19-55

The Suns narrowly avoided their first winless month in franchise history (minimum five games played) by beating the fellow cellar-dwelling Grizzlies on the final day of February. The Suns haven't won since and are now three losses away (Celtics, Clippers, Rockets) from going 0-for-March. -- Michael Schwartz