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SB Nation NBA Power Rankings: Playoff Picture Taking Shape as Regular Season Dwindles Down

With approximately three weeks left in the NBA regular season and a fresh batch of power rankings straight from our SB Nation oven, the NBA playoff picture is becoming clearer every day, and is headlined by the usual suspects. Teams are jockeying for position in each conference within those top eight spots, with some teams sit right on the verge, trying to sneak their way in. 

Like last week, the San Antonio Spurs still maintain the NBA number one ranking, but may start to tumble with the loss of Tim Duncan last night to a sprained ankle against the Golden State Warriors. The team hasn't set a real timetable for his return, but it may run into the postseason, where the Spurs can ill-afford to lose the Big Fundamental for any length of time. Gregg Popovich is one of the best at figuring out how to win with what he's been given, and I don't seem the Spurs slipping too far, but I do think they will relinquish their number one spot some time soon. 

The spots that I have real beef with on these rankings are once again the placement of the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. The Heat currently sit in second in the power rankings while the Lakers are in fourth, which in my opinion should simply be swapped straight up. SB Nation's Tom Ziller called his placement of the Heat a "predictive ranking" with a rather easy schedule ahead and another meeting with the Boston Celtics on April 10th, but with Kobe playing hurt yet still producing, Bynum playing better than I've almost ever seen him (minus his flagrant foul on Michael Beasley), and with still only one loss since the All-Star break, the Lakers are hands down the hottest team in the NBA. Miami needs their easy schedule to bolster their rankings while losing to all the elite Eastern teams with regularity. Just sayin. 

As for the 'bubble' teams such as the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns out West and the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats in the East, they are all within 2 games of the eighth spot in their respective conferences, and will more than likely come down to the wire to see who gets in. The team than continues its majestic free fall is the Utah Jazz who have only won only 5 games since trading away Deron Williams. They went from being a foregone conclusion in the playoffs to a trainwreck on the court, and are three games out of the playoffs as of now. Where's Jerry Sloan when you really need him? Maybe he's golfing or something....

And just in case you were wondering, the Sacramento Kings moved up from 27th to 25th, while the Golden State Warriors slid from 21st to 22nd. Yippie.