It certainly is up for debate, to say the least, but the most die-hard Celtics fans will appreciate this.
In The Athletic’s weekly NBA Power Rankings, Boston jumped from No. 7 to No. 2 in the bubble after going 3-1 on the week entering final seeding game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
First on The Athletic’s list are the Toronto Raptors, who fell to the Celtics on Friday night. The Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks round out the top five–and yes, in that order. For further reference, the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed Los Angeles Lakers and No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers are ranked seventh and ninth, respectively.
Here is their reasoning for having the East’s third-place team so high in the power rankings:
They really are in a good spot. It seems like Kemba Walker is progressing, and the Boston Celtics can throw four monster perimeter scorers at any team they face. The loss to Miami this week was tough, but they rallied by demolishing Toronto. That felt like a statement game, even if it’s a mostly meaningless seeding game in the bubble. Boston still needs to find ways to minimize its lack of size and rim protection in the playoffs, but Brad Stevens has this team playing pretty well at the right time.
If you’ve been watching this team game to game, you’ve probably wondered if the Celtics’ uncharacteristically poor bubble defense will keep improving as the stage gets bigger, like we saw against the Raptors. It feels like it will, or at least that they’ll play well enough in the postseason to give their high-producing offensive quartet a cushion.
But still, take this ranking with a grain of salt. The list’s No. 4 team may not even make the playoffs, despite how hot the Suns and Devin Booker have been.
All things considered, the Celtics certainly are looking pretty good, and they also made a jump up in ESPN’s rankings. There shouldn’t be a team in the NBA who wants to go through Boston in its playoff run.