The Boston Celtics will begin the new year on solid ground.
NBA.com and ESPN ranked the Celtics No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, Monday in their latest NBA power rankings. The Celtics’ positions in the run-downs are the same as they were last week, and their unveilings follow a stretch of days in which Boston beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and split two games against the Toronto Raptors.
In his assessment of Boston’s recent games, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann highlighted rebounding as an area of concern for the Celtics in 2020.
“The tantalizing run of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum — a combined 52.4 points per game on an effective field goal percentage of 61 percent over a five-game winning streak — hit a speed bump against Toronto on Saturday, when the two combined for just 29 points on 8-for-19 shooting,” Schumann wrote. “The Celtics still outscored the Raptors, 92-90, on initial opportunities thanks to a big advantage at the free throw line. But they were outrebounded 53-31 and outscored, 23-5, on second-chance points as the Raptors exacted some revenge for the Christmas Day thrashing the Celtics handed them. Rebounding hasn’t been a huge issue for the Celtics, but their everybody’s — healthy starting lineup — Kemba Walker, Brown, Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis — ranks 39th in rebounding percentage (46 percent) among 51 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together. The Cs will play eight of their next nine games against teams that currently have losing records, and they’re 14-1 against that group thus far.”
ESPN’s Bobby Marks emphasisez the positive aspects of the Celtics’ recent games, particularly Jaylen Brown’s standout performances.
“If the All-Star voting concluded today, the Celtics would be represented by three players — Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown,” Marks wrote. “Though the pick of Brown might not be popular outside of New England, consider what he has done in the past five games before the team’s loss at home Saturday to Toronto. During the Celtics’ five-game winning streak, Brown averaged a team-high 26.4 points, 60.3 percent shooting from the field, 47.2 percent from 3 and 7.6 rebounds.”
The Celtics end 2019 on Tuesday afternoon with a visit to the Atlanta Hawks. Boston will tip off 2020 on Friday at TD Garden against the Atlanta Hawks, then travel to Chicago to face the Bulls the following day.
Boston won’t catch the No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA power rankings, but the Celtics could climb into the top-four positions in next week’s pecking order by mounting another winning streak.