In this edition of our Eastern Conference power rankings, the floundering Celtics fall a spot behind the Sixers.
1. Bucks (47-14) Last ranking: 1
Milwaukee has won six straight and 12 of its last 13 games, and Giannis Antetokounmpo shot 40 percent from three-point range in February. There’s little doubt they’re currently the best team in the conference.
2. Raptors (45-17) Last ranking: 2
Like the Bucks, Toronto just doesn’t lose very often. The Raptors have won eight of their last nine games, including a 23-point victory over the Celtics on Tuesday. The Raptors have averaged just 11.2 turnovers per game during that nine-game stretch.
3. Sixers (40-22) Last ranking: 4
Though Joel Embiid’s health is a concern, the Sixers should be satisfied with 3-1 mark without the big man since the All-Star break. Sixers fans who weren’t too familiar with Tobias Harris are learning just how well-rounded an offensive player he is. Harris is averaging 21.9 points on 55.1 percent shooting since he arrived in Philadelphia.
4. Celtics (37-25) Last ranking: 3
After four straight losses, Boston has 20 games left to find a little confidence and stability heading into the postseason. “This team is better off figuring things out and being a 5-seed then being an inconsistent mess and earning the 3,” writes NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg.
5. Pacers (41-22) Last ranking: 5
If you’re the Sixers, would you rather play the Pacers or Nets in the playoffs? Brooklyn’s guards have torched the Sixers this season, but the well-balanced Pacers shouldn’t be overlooked, even without Victor Oladipo. A playoff series against the Pacers would be a grinding, physical challenge.
6. Nets (32-31) Last ranking: 6
Spencer Dinwiddie is set to return from his thumb injury Friday night, which is very good news for Brooklyn. The Nets have gone 6-8 without him.
7. Pistons (29-31) Last ranking: 9
The Pistons had a nice month of February, going 7-3. They still aren’t well-equipped to make noise in the playoffs.
8. Hornets (28-33) Last ranking: 7
Charlotte has the most drastic home/road disparity in the conference — 20-12 at Spectrum Center and 8-21 away from home. The Hornets have won just one of their last six games and are in this spot mainly because there’s always the threat of Kemba Walker going off for 40 points.
9. Magic (29-34) Last ranking: 10
The last NBA game for Markelle Fultz was still on Nov. 19 of last year, but the Magic’s fortunes have changed since Fultz’s arrival. Orlando is 6-2 since the Fultz trade, including a win over the Warriors on Thursday night.
10. Heat (27-34) Last ranking: 8
Speaking of the Warriors, Dwyane Wade’s game-winner Wednesday against Golden State was a pretty cool moment. But Miami is now a game behind the Magic for the eighth seed in the East.
11. Wizards (25-36) Last ranking: 11
It’s just hard to trust Washington to put together a sustained run of good basketball. The team doesn’t have a winning streak longer than three games this season.
12. Hawks (21-41) Last ranking: 12
Remember Trae Young’s early-season struggles? They’re very much a thing of the past. With 36-point performances Monday against Houston and Wednesday vs. Minnesota, Young became the first rookie with back-to-back 35-point performances since Allen Iverson in 1997.
13. Bulls (21-41) Last ranking: 13
Chicago has played well lately, with the highlight a win over the Celtics on Feb. 23 in which Zach LaVine torched Boston for 42 points.
14. Cavs (15-47) Last ranking: 14
In a much-anticipated battle Thursday between the two worst teams in the conference, the Cavs beat the Knicks.
15. Knicks (13-49) Last ranking: 15
Mitchell Robinson was a steal for the Knicks at No. 36 in the draft. Over his last 10 games, Robinson is averaging an incredible 3.4 blocks in 23.6 minutes per game.
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