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NBA Power Rankings: Boston Celtics Rise, Miami Heat Fall

Stan Son updates his 2021-22 NBA power rankings.

Utah Jazz v Boston Celtics Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are no longer the little engine that could. After trudging down the tracks for much of the season, they began to pick up speed a few months ago and started choo-chooing up the rankings. Now, they have lifted off the tracks and are flying like Falkor in the Never Ending Story. Since late January, they have not had a losing streak and are 23-4. They are 5-0 over the last week with wins over Utah, Denver and Golden State. They have been tops in both offensive and defensive rating. Fly, Falkor, fly!

Falkor is a fickle beast because he was taking the Miami Heat towards the heavens just a few weeks ago. The Heat did get to No. 1 in the rankings but have now “tumbled” down to 7. As I wrote last week, the top eight teams are interchangeable, so if you’re a fan of one of those teams, fear not. Falkor can return once again. I still think the Heat are contenders because they are top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating, have shooting, veteran leadership and championship pedigree. They have been dealing with injuries, though, as Jimmy Butler has been in and out of the lineup. Over the last five games, the defense has been 11th but the offense has been 20th. They lost to Minnesota, Philadelphia and Golden State, so a “tumbling” down the rankings they go.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are an intriguing team. They lost to Dallas and Phoenix (no shame in that) but they defeated Miami and Milwaukee over the last week. Impressive. The defensive rating hasn’t been good at 21 but they can score with anyone (5th offensive rating). On the season, though, they have the 11th-ranked defense, so this could be a dangerous team if they get hot and things break right.

The Brooklyn Nets creep up the rankings a bit. That was expected after the crash down was a little too violent. They defeated Utah while losing to Memphis and Dallas over the last week. Their other wins came against Orlando and Portland, so they do not deserve to be higher. That said, buying a ticket on the Brooklyn Express may not be a bad thing since Kyrie Irving has been cleared to play home games.

What to do with the Chicago Bulls? They’ve lost nine of their last 12 games which included games to Memphis, Miami, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Utah and Phoenix. Add in a loss to Sacramento. Yuck. Over the last five games, they’ve been 29th in offensive rating and 27th in defensive rating. They’ve been poor against the top teams all season and the defense has been middling at best. I should give them the Nets treatment from a few weeks ago and that may be arriving sooner than later.

NBA Power Rankings: Week 24

1 Memphis Grizzlies 2
2 Phoenix Suns 1
3 Miami Heat 4
4 Dallas Mavericks 6
5 Milwaukee Bucks 3
6 Boston Celtics 5
7 Philadelphia 76ers 7
8 Denver Nuggets 8
9 Toronto Raptors 9
10 Brooklyn Nets 10
11 Utah Jazz 11
12 Atlanta Hawks 16
13 Golden State Warriors 12
14 Minnesota Timberwolves 13
15 Chicago Bulls 14
16 Charlotte Hornets 15
17 Los Angeles Clippers 18
18 Cleveland Cavaliers 17
19 San Antonio Spurs 19
20 New Orleans Pelicans 21
21 Washington Wizards 22
22 New York Knicks 20
23 Sacramento Kings 23
24 Houston Rockets 28
25 Detroit Pistons 25
26 Orlando Magic 26
27 Los Angeles Lakers 24
28 Indiana Pacers 27
29 Oklahoma City Thunder 29
30 Portland Trail Blazers 30

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