Coming at The King and missing produced a mixed bag for the Boston Celtics.
The C’s rose one place in ESPN’s latest NBA power rankings but fell one spot on NBA.com’s list, after a post-All-Star break stretch in which Boston defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves but narrowly lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The results changed the Celtics’ record to 39-17. Boston maintained its grip on third place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Celtics climbed from No. 5 to No. 4 in ESPN’s NBA power rankings, with NBA analyst Bobby Marks reserving praise for Jayson Tatum’s fine play in the absence of Kemba Walker.
“If there is a silver lining to the Celtics’ two-point loss to the Lakers on Sunday it is that All-Star Jayson Tatum continues to emerge as a franchise player,” Marks wrote. “While Kemba Walker missed the game with a sore knee, Tatum scored 41 points in the loss. Though the Celtics are 7-3 in games Walker has been out, keep in mind that only one win has come against a team (Philadelphia) above .500.”
The Celtics fell from No. 3 to No. 4 in NBA.com’s latest power rankings. Tatum also earned the admiration of John Schuhmann, but the NBA.com writer noted an area in which the Celtics star can improve.
“The Jayson Tatum Evolution did not lose any steam over the All-Star break,” Schuhmann wrote. “The third-year forward matched his career high with 41 points in L.A. on Sunday, forcing the Lakers to send double-teams at him for much of the second half. At times, he scored around or through those double-teams, but more attention from opposing defenses will put the spotlight on Tatum’s playmaking. His assist ratio (11.4 per 100 possessions used) ranks 41st among 43 players with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher.
“Despite the two-point loss to the Lakers (without Kemba Walker), the Celtics are 12-10 in games played between the 13 teams with winning records. After they visit Portland on Tuesday, they’ll play six of their next eight games within the group, a stretch that includes two games against the Jazz and a chance for revenge against the Rockets on Saturday, having suffered one of their seven double-digit losses two weeks ago in Houston.”
The Celtics’ schedule in this particular NBA power-ranking period includes a visit to the Portland Trail Blazers, a trip to face the Utah Jazz and a home tilt with the Houston Rockets. Boston might be able to overtake the Toronto Raptors for second place in the Eastern Conference standings and third place in the NBA power rankings by running the table against Portland, Utah and Houston.