Posted: Fri March 15, 2013 1:48PM; Updated: Fri March 15, 2013 3:50PM
Matt Dollinger

Grizzlies, Nuggets on rise in movie-themed Power Rankings

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Marc Gasol blocks Paul Millsap
The Grizzlies have won 14 of their last 15 games, with their lone loss coming against the Heat.
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

LeBron James playing Eliot Ness. Gregg Popovich channeling Keyser Söze. Paul Pierce cast as Benjamin Button. Andrew Bynum as Ferris Bueller.

OK, so maybe those comparisons are a little ridiculous, but they're not as far off as you think.

With only a month remaining in the regular season, we've got a pretty clear picture of the NBA's power hierarchy and its major players and supporting actors. Taking that theme to heart, this week's Power Rankings have assigned movie titles to all 30 teams describing their 2012-13 season. Some teams take their movie titles literally, while others have parallels to the movie's main characters or major plots.

For the fifth straight week, the Heat top the rankings, but we've got plenty of drama in the top five as two unheralded contenders move ahead of a Western stalwart (for now) after another perfect week. Further down, the Lakers continue their steady ascent, while the Pistons inch closer to reaching rock bottom.

(Note: All statistics and records are through March 14.)

NBA Power Rankings
1 Miami Heat
Last Week: 1
Since: 4-0
Miami Heat (49-14)
The Untouchables. No one is coming close to touching LeBron James and the Heat these days. Miami is taking down opponents one by one, riding a franchise-best 20-game winning streak. It's not just that the Heat are beating opponents, but how they've been doing it. LeBron and Dwyane Wade are playing with an ease and efficiency that we simply haven't seen in recent years. They won the title last season yet are somehow playing at a significantly deadlier clip this year. The Heat's win streak might be snapped before season's end, but teams have little chance of surviving a meeting with Miami in the playoffs.
2 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 2
Since: 3-1
Star Wars. It's overblown to an extent, but the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook power struggle continues to be the biggest storyline out of Oklahoma City. Westbrook is on pace to become the first player since 1955 to lead his team in field-goal attempts despite being teammates with the NBA's leading scorer. In last week's loss to the short-handed Spurs, Westbrook (27) attempted more than twice as many shots as Durant (13) but was outscored by the three-time scoring champ 26-25.
3 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 4
Since: 3-0
As Good As It Gets. Could things be going any better? Not only has Denver won 10 straight, but it's also coming off its sweetest victory of the year, a 23-point beatdown of the Knicks in Carmelo Anthony's return to the Mile High City. The Nuggets sure look like they got the better end of the deal in that game and could be peaking at the right time. They are 29-3 at home and trail the Clippers by only one game for the No. 4 seed (and home-court advantage in the first round) in the West.
4 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 5
Since: 4-0
True Grit. The most rugged team in the league, the Grizzlies are definitely the closest thing you'll find to True Grit's "Rooster" Cogburn in the NBA. Memphis doesn't carry the same chip on its shoulder as Mattie Ross did in this movie, but it always plays like it's out to prove it's better than people think. If you weren't impressed already by the league's No. 2 defense, take into account that the Grizz have won 14 of 15 and haven't lost to a team not named the Heat in a month and a half.
5 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 3
Since: 2-2
The Usual Suspects. Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker (when he returns) are at it again, set to make their 12th consecutive playoff run together. San Antonio has sacrificed some offense for defense this season, but the main characters continue to remain the same. So who is the Keyser Söze of this operation? I think we all know the man pulling the strings.
6 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 6
Since: 1-1
The Avengers. The Clippers may be mere mortals, but it sure does look like they have super powers sometimes. DeAndre Jordan's masterpiece on Brandon Knight was hands down the Dunk of the Year, and Blake Griffin has been dropping jaws with his ridiculous leaping ability (here, here and here!) for quite some time. Throw in Chris Paul (superhuman vision), Grant Hill (ageless wonder) and Jamal Crawford (yo-yo handles), and you have a full cast of superheroes.
7 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 7
Since: 2-1
Fight Club. All jokes about the Malice in the Palace aside, the Pacers prefer a basement brawl to an offensive shootout. Indiana's ability to frustrate and suffocate opponents has helped them boast the league's most efficient defense and hold opponents to an NBA-best 89.7 points. The Pacers have been winning most of the fights they get into, going 28-5 when they hold opponents below 89 points.
8 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 9
Since: 3-1
Almost Famous. The Nets went from being a punchline in New Jersey to one of the trendiest teams in the league in Brooklyn. They play in new Barclays Center, in front of Jay-Z and Beyonce and to the delight of one of the richest people in the world. Despite all this, they continue to play in the shadow of the Knicks, New York's marquee basketball team.
9 New York Knicks
Last Week: 8
Since: 1-3
Too Big To Fail. The Knicks caught fire early in the season, even making a brief cameo atop the Power Rankings. With the three-pointers flowing like water, it appeared New York's slew of jump shooters and offseason additions were going to transform them into contenders. But the Knicks have fallen off since then, lowlighted by Wednesday's embarrassment in Denver and injuries to Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony. New York has lost its grip on the No. 2 seed in the East and could fall even further if it doesn't get a bailout in the form of a quick return from Chandler or Anthony.
10 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 11
Since: 2-1
Revenge of the Nerds. After failing to make the playoffs the last three years, the Rockets hit it big this season when they landed James Harden and became the league's highest-scoring offense en route to getting into postseason position. How did they do it? Credit goes to noted nerdy general manager Daryl Morey, whose persistence and ability to acquire desirable pieces netted Harden and put Houston on a more promising path.
11 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 10
Since: 2-2
Sideways. Not only are the Warriors a stone's throw from wine country, but they also know a thing or two about lateral movement. After a hot start, Golden State went 4-8 in February and gave up 109.4 points per game. Since then, the Warriors have regained respectable form on defense (94.5 ppg), which has led to a .500 record in March. That'll be enough to get Golden State into the playoffs, but it'll need to perform better to avoid a brisk first-round exit.
12 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 12
Since: 2-2
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Paul Pierce (35) and Kevin Garnett (36) continue to look remarkably young despite their age. We keep waiting to see a dramatic decline in their production, but their numbers are right in line with the stats they put up when Boston reached the Eastern Conference finals last season. The Celtics, curiously, continue to play great basketball (15-6 in their last 21 games) without arguably their best player, Rajon Rondo. Strange times in Boston, indeed.

13 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 15
Since: 3-1
Mission Impossible. The Lakers' long climb to reach the playoffs might have gotten harder Wednesday after Kobe Bryant was "Jalen Rose'd" by Dahntay Jones and suffered a sprained ankle. Bryant was considered a game-time decision for Friday's visit to Indiana. The Lakers can't afford to have the injury limit or sideline Kobe for very long. And even with him in the lineup at full strength, Los Angeles is no postseason lock.
14 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 13
Since: 1-3
Ocean's Thirteen. This is likely the last go-around for the Josh Smith-led Hawks. Atlanta has nine players on expiring contracts and will look drastically different next season. But before the breakup, Smith will try to lead the Hawks past the second round of the playoffs, something they've failed to do despite making the postseason the last five years.
15 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 14
Since: 1-2
There Will Be Blood. The Bulls are one of the toughest, most physical teams in the league and you can expect a little bloodshed any time you see Chicago on your schedule. The Bulls give up the third-fewest points in the league and rank fifth in defensive efficiency. Tom Thibodeau boasts one of the best defensive front lines in the league, led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joakim Noah. The group holds its own on the glass, ranking sixth in rebounding differential, and leaves plenty of opponents bumped and bruised after 48-minute clashes.
16 Milwaukee Bucks
Last week: 16
Since: 2-2
The Odd Couple. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are an odd pairing on paper and on the floor, but that didn't prevent the Bucks from pulling the trigger on the Ellis trade last season. Even stranger was the pairing of Jennings and Ellis -- two free-flowing, aggressive offensive players, but smallish, below-average defenders -- with former Bucks coach Scott Skiles, a demanding defensive coach. To the Bucks' credit, they've made the situation work and are in position to make the postseason for the first time since 2010.
17 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 18
Since: 2-2
Inside Man. The Blazers' biggest theft came last summer when they drafted Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard with the sixth pick and got their franchise point guard. But Portland's also been stealing wins all season despite one of the shallowest rosters in the league. Just for good measure, the team nabbed its new best bench player, Eric Maynor, from the Thunder when Oklahoma City decided it no longer had room for him. All in all, not a bad heist.
18 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 19
Since: 3-1
Up In The Air. After striking out on stars in free agency last year, the Mavericks will get another shot when more than $20 million comes off the books this summer. Will Dallas look to surround Dirk Nowitzki with veterans and make another title run? (It reportedly came close to landing Paul Pierce at the trade deadline.) Or will it go young and start a new era with a succession plan for Nowitzki? Mark Cuban is a tough to predict, leaving the Mavericks' future up in the clouds.
19 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 17
Since: 1-3
Utah Jazz (33-22)
The Godfather: Part III. Much like the Godfather series, the Jazz started off strong (OK, not that strong), but are ultimately marching toward a disappointing ending. Utah lost its grip on the No. 8 spot last week and looks like it will miss out on the postseason if it can't turn its season around quickly. The Jazz have lost eight of their last 10.
20 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 21
Since: 2-2
Training Day. The Wizards' youngsters are quickly learning the ropes of the NBA. Washington has won 10 of its last 17 thanks to Bradley Beal and John Wall, its two leading scorers. At ages 19 and 22, respectively, Beal and Wall have a ways to go before they're running things like Denzel Washington in Training Day, but they're closer than you think.
21 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 20
Since: 1-2
Limitless. Kyrie Irving will miss the next three to four weeks with a shoulder injury, but Cleveland's future is bright with him at point guard. Just 20, Irving is averaging 23 points, 5.7 assists and 1.6 steals while leading the Cavs in nearly every statistical category. He made his first All-Star Game, won the three-point contest and showed why many think it's just a matter of time before he becomes the best point guard in the league. With such a high skill level at such a young age, it's tough to project just how good Irving will be if he can stay healthy,
22 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 22
Since: 1-2
The Shawshank Redemption. One of the best quotes in this classic is when Andy Dufresne tells Red that people have a simple choice,"Get busy living or get busy dying." It's a suggestion the Raptors should take to heart. Toronto is 8-9 since adding Rudy Gay, a trade that ultimately made it a better team, but by how much? In the NBA, the worse place to be is the no man's land between title contender and cellar dweller. As of now, that's exactly where the Raptors sit, projected to finish ninth in the Eastern Conference.
23 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 23
Since: 1-3
Ferris Bueller's Day Off. We doubt that Andrew Bynum is having as much fun in Philadelphia as Matthew Broderick did that memorable day in Chicago, but he's just as noticeably absent. The Sixers collectively play the role of Bueller's sister in this one, jealous that their spotlight-stealing relative is having all the fun while they struggle through a miserable season.
24 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 24
Since: 1-3
Phoenix Suns (22-43)
Cast Away. The Suns are almost entirely composed of players who seem stranded in Phoenix. Luis Scola and Jermaine O'Neal are veterans in the twilight of their careers playing for a lottery-bound squad instead of a contender. Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic are cast as franchise players even though they're better suited as solid complementary options. And Michael Beasley ... well, he just genuinely looks lost (and kind of like Wilson in this one).
25 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 26
Since: 1-3
The Hurt Locker. The Wolves have suffered the most pain of anyone this season. They have been absolutely decimated by injuries, most notably Kevin Love, who has played only 18 games. The Wolves have also been without Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Ricky Rubio, Chase Budinger and Brandon Roy for extended stretches. It's tough to win when all of your best players are in street clothes.
26 New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 27
Since: 1-2
Silver Linings Playbook. Like the Wolves, the Hornets haven't been able to shake the injury bug. Eric Gordon has missed 38 of the Hornets' 65 games, essentially dooming their season. But top pick Anthony Davis (missed 15 games) and fellow lottery pick Austin Rivers (likely out for the season with a broken hand) have also missed significant chunks of time. The good news for New Orleans? It has a promising young core plus cap room and a lottery pick heading into 2013-14. Not a bad consolation prize.
27 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 28
Since: 2-1
Million Dollar Baby. This is a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Sacramento's volatile center. Unfortunately for the Kings, Keith Smart isn't exactly Clint Eastwood when it comes to authority figures. DeMarcus Cousins' numbers are down across the board this season and his three suspensions and countless other boneheaded incidents (like elbowing Mike Dunleavy in the head) have made this dismal year even worse.
28 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 25
Since: 0-4
Remember the Titans. The Pistons made the playoffs every year from 2002 to 2009, highlighted by a championship run in 2004, but have missed the postseason every year since. The glory days of Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups are gone, but the team is trying to resurrect its rugged image around the young post duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, who is still recovering from a stress fracture.
29 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 29
Since: 1-2
The Hangover. You had to expect this type of year after the Magic gave into Dwight Howard's trade demands. Orlando has at least seen strong play from some of the pieces acquired in that deal -- Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic -- but there are only two cures for this type of hangover: cap room and lottery picks. Luckily for Orlando, it's assembling the pieces needed to shake this one off.
30 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 30
Since: 1-2
Groundhog Day. The Bobcats keep living the same bad dream over and over, losing again, and again and again. For the eighth time in their nine-year existence, the 'Cats have lost at least 47 games. And their winning percentage (21.9) is the second worst in franchise history, behind last season's record futility. Eventually, the 'Cats will wake up and it will be a new day. Just not anytime soon.
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