Road wins carry Heat to top

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Every team has nights when the shots aren't falling and the rhythm is skewed. For newly formed teams without a history of success together, this is the time you begin to find your mettle, to discover how much you want to triumph over the grind.

You get the impression that Miami entered the next phase of its development last week, when a team that had been rather routinely blowing out opponents dug down for back-to-back gritty overtime road wins against painstaking, well-coached teams in Milwaukee and Portland. Both victories were about persistence and will power as much as talent.

While their rivals for best team -- Boston, San Antonio, Dallas and the Lakers -- have been waylaid recently by injuries and/or upsets, the Heat have won 21 of 22 (Orlando, an exception to that group, has won nine in a row and is on the rise). And for the first time during the regular season, Miami has climbed to the top of the Power Rankings.

(All stats and records are through Jan. 10.)

NBA Power Rankings