NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Celtics dealing with a little drama

Noah Levick
NBC Sports Philadelphia
In this week's Eastern Conference power rankings, we note a couple of similarities between the Sixers and Celtics. By Noah Levick

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Celtics dealing with a little drama

In this week's Eastern Conference power rankings, we note a couple of similarities between the Sixers and Celtics. By Noah Levick

NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: Celtics dealing with a little drama originally appeared on

In our Eastern Conference power rankings this week, we look at a couple of similarities between the Celtics and Sixers

1. Raptors (31-12) Last week: 1
After falling in Kawhi Leonard's return to San Antonio, the Raptors have ripped off three straight wins, including a victory in Milwaukee on Saturday night despite 43 points and 18 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo. It'll be interesting to see how Patrick McCaw, who the Raptors signed to a one-year, veteran minimum deal, fits into Toronto's rotation.

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2. Bucks (29-11) Last week: 2
The Bucks picked up a nice win Thursday night at Houston behind another incredible Antetokounmpo performance (27 points, 21 rebounds). They've gone from having the fewest rebounds per game in the league last season to the most this season.

3. Celtics (26-15) Last week: 3
Almost a week after the report that Jimmy Butler reportedly "aggressively challenged" Brett Brown, two Celtics, Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown, had a heated confrontation on the bench during Thursday night's loss to the Heat, which ended Boston's  four-game winning streak. The two had to be separated by Marcus Smart. Philadelphia isn't the only place where spirited conversations take place in the NBA …

Still, the Celtics are a good, deep team with a significantly easier schedule than the Sixers' over the next month.

4. Sixers (27-15) Last week: 4 
Wednesday night's loss in Washington was a bad way to end the Sixers' four-game winning streak. Yes, it was on the second night of a back-to-back and JJ Redick was out, but it was a sloppy performance. The Sixers turned it over 24 times, seven apiece for Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and many of them were highly avoidable. Things are very tight near the top of the East, but the Sixers' lack of depth continues to hold them back. 

5. Pacers (27-14) Last week: 5
Indiana currently sits third in the standings, but losses this week to the Raptors by 16 points and the Celtics by 27 ensure the Pacers stay at the No. 5 spot in our rankings.

6. Miami (20-20) Last week: 6 
It turns out Justise Winslow can shoot a little bit. The 22-year-old has thrived as a point guard in Goran Dragic's absence, and he's shooting 35.8 percent from three-point range on 3.5 attempts per game, by far a career high.

7. Nets (21-22) Last week: 8
That seven-game winning streak in December doesn't appear to be a fluke. Brooklyn has been beating the teams they're supposed to beat, and guys like D'Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris are still having the best seasons of their careers. 

8. Hornets (19-21) Last week: 7
Charlotte could steal a game or two in a first-round series, thanks to Kemba Walker, but it's difficult to envision the Hornets beating one of the top-five teams in the East four of seven times.

9. Detroit Pistons (17-23) Last week: 9
Remember when the Pistons beat the Warriors on Dec. 1 and were on a five-game winning streak? Since then, Detroit has won four of its last 19 games. The Pistons are shooting 43.5 percent from the floor, second-worst in the league. 

10. Wizards (17-25) Last week: 11
The Wizards are 4-3 since John Wall was ruled out for the season. I'm still amazed by the stat, courtesy of NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig, that the Wizards haven't lost yet since this season when they've out-rebounded their opponent. The thing is, they've only done that nine times. 

11. Magic (17-24) Last week: 10
There's not much to be encouraged by for the Magic, who have lost four straight games and have the Celtics and Rockets up next.

12. Hawks (12-29) Last week: 12
There's a good chance Jeremy Lin and Dewayne Dedmon, both veterans on expiring deals, are on the move to contending teams before the trade deadline. It also wouldn't too surprising to see Vince Carter, who turns 42 on Jan. 26, head to a team with championship aspirations, either via trade or buyout. 

13. Knicks (10-31) Last week: 13
Kevin Knox's development continues to be a bright spot for the Knicks, who have lost 15 of their last 17 games and have a 50.2 assist percentage, by far the worst in the NBA.

14. Bulls (10-31) Last week: 15
As with most of these teams at the bottom of the conference, a big part of this season is about figuring out which players should be part of their future. NBC Sports Chicago's Mark Strotman thinks backup point guard Shaquille Harrison is worth re-signing in the offseason for Chicago. Strotman writes, "Harrison is the best defender the Bulls have had since Jimmy Butler."

15. Cavs (8-34) Last week: 14
Eleven straight losses for the Cavs. Enough said. 

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