If the season ended Monday, the Boston Celtics would face the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs.
Which might not be too much of a surprise, unless we told you Boston was hosting Game 1.
Yes, the Celtics are sole possessors of the East’s No. 3 seed after winning nine of their last 10 games in a stretch that started with a victory over the Bulls and included a buzzer-beating win over the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
And yes, the Bulls have dropped all the way to No. 6 in the East thanks to a rash of injuries, including a recent scare involving star player Jimmy Butler.
Of course, the season doesn’t end Monday, and it’d be foolish to overreact to recent runs. But the play of the Celtics and Bulls certainly has shaken up the NBA hierarchy as we enter the All-Star Break.
For a look at what the rest of the league is up to, check out our Week 15 NBA Power Rankings, which account for all games played through Sunday, Feb. 7.
1. Golden State Warriors (46-4): The Warriors held off a very strong effort from the Thunder on Saturday night in what we really hope is a playoff preview. Last week: 1
2. San Antonio Spurs (43-8): San Antonio will be without Manu Ginobili for at least a month after a very painful injury, but the Spurs kept rolling this week with four more wins. Last week: 2
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (38-14): Russell Westbrook had his streak of three consecutive triple-doubles snapped with a 27-point, 12-assist performance against the Warriors. So lame. Last week: 3
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (36-14): The Cavs fell to the Hornets and were shocked by the Celtics, cutting their lead over the Raptors in the East to just two games. Last week: 4
5. Toronto Raptors (34-16): The Raptors finally had their 11-game win streak snapped — by the Nuggets, of all teams — but still look like legitimate contenders in the East. Last week: 5
6. Los Angeles Clippers (34-17): The Clippers are 7-3 in their last 10 games and sit comfortably in the West’s No. 4 seed. Unfortunately, cracking the top three will be a very tall task. Last week: 6
7. Memphis Grizzlies (30-21): Despite an overtime loss to the Mavs on Saturday, the Grizzlies have continued to play very well thanks Jeff Green’s inspired play off the bench. Last week: 7
8. Boston Celtics (31-22): The Celtics were a .500 basketball team a few weeks ago. Now they own the East’s third-best record and have an All-Star on their roster. Not too shabby. Last week: 11
9. Atlanta Hawks (30-22): The Hawks steadied the ship with three consecutive wins, but their loss to the Magic on Sunday forced them out of the No. 3 seed and into the muddled middle of the East playoff picture. Last week: 12
9. Miami Heat (29-23): The beast that is Hassan Whiteside recorded a triple-double with points, rebounds and blocks Friday and now is averaging four blocks per game. Last week: 9
10. Dallas Mavericks (29-25): Dallas faced a tough schedule this week and wasn’t up to the challenge, falling to the Hawks, Heat and Spurs before downing the Grizzlies in OT on Saturday. Last week: 8
11. Chicago Bulls (27-23): Things aren’t looking too good in the Windy City, as the Bulls have lost four of five to drop to No. 6 in the East. The good news: Jimmy Butler’s scary-looking injury doesn’t appear to be that serious. Last week: 10
12. Indiana Pacers (27-24): The up-and-down Pacers were just that this week, beating two teams below them in the standings (Brooklyn, Detroit) but losing to two above them (Cleveland, Atlanta). Last week: 13
14. Detroit Pistons (27-25): The magic of Detroit’s promising start has worn off a bit, as the Pistons have lost four of their last six. They still own the No. 8 seed in the East, though. Last week: 14
15. Houston Rockets (27-26): Only in Houston can the Rockets beat a hot Miami team by three then score 79 points in a loss to the Blazers four days later. At least they’re consistent about being inconsistent. Last week: 15
16. Utah Jazz (25-25): The Jazz are giving up 86.5 points point per game in their last six — all wins. And one of those games went to overtime. Last week: 20
17. Charlotte Hornets (25-26): The Hornets have regained their sting a bit, winning six of their last nine and sit just 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot in the East. Last week: 17
18. Portland Trail Blazers (25-27): Portland’s only loss in the last two weeks has come against the red-hot Raptors, as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum continue to steal the show. Last week: 19
19. Washington Wizards (22-27): John Wall gave Stephen Curry and the Warriors a run for their money in an awesome game Wednesday, but a loss is a loss, and the Wizards have six in their last eight games. Last week: 18
20. Orlando Magic (22-28): The Magic dropped three straight to the beasts of the West — the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers — but salvaged a two-point win over the Hawks on Sunday. Last week: 21
21. New York Knicks (23-31): The All-Star break can’t come soon enough for the Knicks, who have won just one of their last 10 games to plummet to twelfth in the East. Last week: 16
22. Sacramento Kings (21-30): Seven losses in eight games reportedly has George Karl’s job in jeopardy, although the Kings coach said Sunday he’s not concerned with the rumors. Last week: 22
23. Denver Nuggets (21-31): The Nuggets ended the Raptors’ win streak, toppled the Bulls and knocked off the Knicks. Oh, and their NFL brethren won a Super Bowl. There have been worse weeks in Denver. Last week: 25
24. Milwaukee Bucks (20-32): The Bucks lost three games to three teams under .500 this week and could earn themselves a higher lottery pick if they keep it up. Last week: 23
25. New Orleans Pelicans (18-32): The Pelicans took a bit of a nosedive this week by dropping four in a row, including a defeat Thursday at the hands of the lowly Lakers. Last week: 24
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (16-36): If we told you the Wolves would end their five-game losing streak with back-to-back wins over the Clippers and Bulls, would you believe us? Well, you should, because that happened. Last week: 26
27. Phoenix Suns (14-38): The banged-up Suns continue to lose games at an impressive rate and now are just one game ahead of the Nets for the fourth-worst record in the league. Isn’t this exciting?! Last week: 27
28. Brooklyn Nets (13-39): Brooklyn is doing its best to hold onto the third-worst record, especially after losing Saturday to the Sixers in what we’re sure was a thriller. Last week: 28
29. Los Angeles Lakers (11-42): The Lakers had a two-game winning streak at one point this week. So, there’s that. Last week: 29
30. Philadelphia 76ers (8-43): Philly kept its streak of one win per week alive by taking down Brooklyn on Saturday. Last week: 30
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
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