The Boston Celtics have sprung back into the NBA elite.
The C’s sit in fourth place in NBA.com’s and third in ESPN’s latest NBA power rankings this week. Both of Boston’s new positions in the pecking orders are higher than last week’s — fifth place in ESPN’s and eighth in NBA.com’s — and they reflect the Celtics’ wins over good Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets teams last week.
ESPN’s Bobby Marks on Monday credited the Celtics’ new “Big Three” for the team’s climb from fifth to third place.
“The wins over Miami and Denver last week further cemented the status of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum as Boston’s new Big Three, a trio that could also represent the Celtics in Chicago for the All-Star Game,” Marks wrote. “The three players combined to average 72 points out of the team’s 110 during those two games, and Brown had his breakout performance of the season, averaging 26 points (on 51.4 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3) and 5.5 rebounds and committing only two total turnovers.”
The Celtics improved from eighth to fourth in NBA.com’s power rankings, and writer John Schuhmann highlighted the team’s increased efficiency to justify its rise.
“After scoring less than a point per possessions over a 2-3 trip, the Celtics have scored 113.7 per 100 over a 5-1 stretch, capped by big wins over a couple of top-10 defenses (those of the Heat and Nuggets) to stay undefeated (9-0) at TD Garden,” he wrote. “Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have all averaged between 22 and 24 points over the six games, and Tatum’s 15 assists over their three-game winning streak are the most he’s had in any three-game stretch in his career.
“The Celtics have actually seen drops in ball movement (from 354 to 334 passes per 24 minutes of possession) and assist percentage (from 62 percent to 59 percent) from last season. But there’s a bit more balance in the usage rates of their top three guys and they have three of the 24 players (Marcus Smart, Brown and Walker) with an effective field goal percentage better than 50 percent on at least 50 pull-up jumpers. The wins over Miami and Denver (in which the Celtics had a rest advantage both nights) were also the first time they’ve held two straight opponents under a point per possession.”
The Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, and they’ll visit the Indiana Pacers and host the Philadelphia 76ers before NBA.com and ESPN update their power rankings again. The Celtics undoubtedly will hold their positions by beating their Eastern Conference foes. They might even climb higher.