NBA Sunday: Rankings, 24-second clock

Published: Saturday, March 12 2011 9:00 p.m. MST

NBA rankings

1. Lakers: Despite the loss to the Heat, they showed they're still the team to beat.

2. Spurs: Loss to the Lakers was humbling, but they rebounded quite nicely with three wins.

3. Bulls: They are the league's hottest team, and coming off a thorough beating of the Jazz.

4. Mavericks: Their hot streak had to end at some point, and they've lost three of five.

5. Celtics: They suffered disappointing losses to Clippers and 76ers during the week.

6. Heat: Victory over the Los Angeles Lakers may have been the breakthrough win they needed.

7. Magic: After Stan Van Gundy was silenced by David Stern, they blew a big lead vs. the Warriors.

8. Thunder: Scored more than 100 points in six straight games, winning five of them.

9. Nuggets: George Karl has reinvented his team in a good way since the Carmelo trade.

10. Grizzlies: Had two huge wins over the Mavs and Thunder before losing to Knicks and Heat.

Game of the week

Spurs at Mavericks

March Madness comes to the NBA's Western Conference when these two powerhouses collide on Friday night. The Spurs, who have taken two of the last three from the Mavericks, still lead Dallas by seven games in the West. It's a must-win game for the home team.

Who's hot

New Jersey Nets: Deron Williams' new team has won four straight games. It is the first time the Nets have had a four-game winning streak in more than two years. Williams, who has averaged 15.8 points and 15.2 assists in five games with New Jersey, sat out the Nets' last two victories because of personal reasons.

Chicago Bulls: They've won six straight games since blowing a 19-point lead against the Hawks, beating solid teams such as the Magic, Heat, Hawks (in a rematch) and Hornets.

Who's not

Indiana Pacers: They're almost playing themselves out of playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers have lost six straight games with the defeats coming by an average of 15.8 points per contest. Indiana, which shot 29.6 percent against Minnesota on Wednesday, has lost 10 of 13 games.

Sacramento Kings: They entered their game against the Hornets on Saturday 0-5 in March. They did play teams tough though, losing to Portland by five, Utah in overtime, San Antonio by five and Orlando by just four points.

MVP watch

1. Derrick Rose, Bulls: He had 34 points, six rebounds and five assists against the Hawks on Friday.

2. Dwight Howard, Magic: The time he spent working with Hakeem Olajuwon has paid off as he's developed a more polished offensive game.

3. LeBron James, Heat: Helped Miami to a much-needed win with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds against the Lakers.

4. Kobe Bryant, Lakers: Showed how much he cares, putting in a workout after loss to Heat on Thursday.

By the numbers

12 — The Utah Jazz defeated the Toronto Raptors for the 12th consecutive time on Wednesday night. That is the Jazz's longest winning streak against a team since they defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 15 consecutive times from 1999-2002.

7 — When the Jazz lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 122-101 on Friday night, it was the seventh time this season they've lost a game by more than 20 points. Only Washington (nine times) and Cleveland (eight times) have lost more games by more than 20 points this season.

24 second clock

SHUTOUT HURTS: After the Heat had swept the two-game season series with a home victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, and with the team not scheduled to leave for Dallas until the next morning, Kobe Bryant decided to get in some extra work at Miami's arena.

Bryant soaked his feet and spoke to reporters after the loss, then donned some sweats and returned to the court.

With the arena cleaning crew looking and Heat ball boys rebounding, Bryant shot for about an hour and 15 minutes. The clock struck midnight, and with the arena folks ready to turn out the lights, Bryant hit the weight room and finally got back to the hotel about 1:30 a.m.

Asked why he had put in the additional work, Bryant said, "It's my job."

MO IS ON A ROLL: The Clippers won four of their first five games with guard Mo Williams in the lineup after he was traded from Cleveland, and that included a 28-point performance in a victory at Boston.

Williams has declared the development of center DeAndre Jordan to be his own personal project and on an off-night in Boston had dinner with Jordan and Blake Griffin. Williams said the Clippers had "turned the corner" and he was happy to be with the team.

"I learned a long time ago, you've got to put the past behind you," said Williams.

SWEET ON CHEEKS: While in Philadelphia last week, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks told reporters how as a rookie with the 76ers in 1988-'89, one of his responsibilities was to carry the uniform and warm-ups of Maurice Cheeks, who was then an all-star with the 76ers and is now a Thunder assistant.

Brooks was such a fan of Cheeks that he kept Cheeks' uniform after the final road game that he played with the 76ers and still has it.

"Back then, they made you pay for your uniform," said Brooks. "If you wanted your uniform, you had to pay for it. He didn't even know I had it. He got deducted $175, whatever it was, out of his check."

FAST BREAKS: Gerald Wallace says he felt "stabbed in the back" by the Bobcats, who traded him to Portland, and he viewed the deal as a "slap in the face."

Portland assistant general manager Bill Branch on Wallace: "He speaks the inconvenient truth."

New Jersey's Brook Lopez had one double-double in the team's first 53 games but then recorded five in a 10-game stretch.

At home, the Celtics are 19-0 against the East and 8-6 against the West.

—Compiled from wire services

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