1. L.A. Lakers: Defending champs overcame flat start to beat the Jazz on Friday.

2. Chicago Bulls: They control their destiny in race for Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed.

3. San Antonio Spurs: Still have the league's best record, but struggling mightily.

4. Dallas Mavericks: Did nothing to overcome soft label against Lakers on Thursday.

5. Miami Heat: Made a lot of Clevelanders happy by losing to the Cavaliers.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Might be Lakers' biggest threat in the Western Conference.

7. Boston Celtics: Up-and-down veteran team badly needed win over San Antonio.

8. Denver Nuggets: Enter today's showdown with the Lakers on a five-game win streak.

9. Portland Trail Blazers: Earned split with Thunder and beat Spurs during the week.

10. Orlando Magic: Beset by injuries, as well as losses to Knicks and Hawks last week.


FEELING THE LOVE: Cavaliers fans rolled out the welcome mat again when LeBron James returned to Cleveland for a second time, and the boos were so loud that his name was drowned out during pregame introductions. No matter, since James wasn't on the bench anyway. He came on the court under the cover of darkness after the lights had been dimmed for the Cavaliers' introductions.

"I was just using the restroom," he said after the game. "Am I allowed to do that?"

Also his two-car procession was denied entrance to the Cavaliers' private underground parking garage when he tried to enter for the Heat's shootaround. James, who did not take the team bus, rode in the first car with his driver while his posse followed in the second car. James returned alone a short time later and was allowed in.

A Cavaliers spokesman said that visiting players are not given private car access to the underground garage, but exceptions are made when requests are made in advance and James did not have permission. He was allowed in once clearance was given by arena security.

WHERE'S THE BUS?: Boston's Jermaine O'Neal joked before playing against San Antonio — his first game since Jan. 10 — that he hoped he could find the team bus to the game. "I can't remember the last time I was on the team bus," said O'Neal, who had been out with a knee injury.

O'Neal played 11 minutes against the Spurs, but his minutes could increase in a hurry since Nenad Krstic hurt his right knee in the same game. "J.O. was absolutely wonderful for us, and then another big goes down for us," lamented coach Doc Rivers.

ON A BAD WHEEL: When the Mavericks visited Los Angeles last week, Lakers coach Phil Jackson offered a back-handed compliment to Dirk Nowitzki's scoring ability but wondered how much the Mavericks forward has left after his knee injury earlier this season.

"You know he can shoot his shot out of a wheelchair," Jackson said. "That guy's going to play forever, but he definitely has a limited gait."

There's no doubt that Nowitzki can score. Last week against the Clippers, he passed the 1,500-point mark for the season, marking the 11th straight season he reached that milestone and matching Kobe Bryant for the longest current such streak in the league.