NBA Eastern Conference power rankings: How does past week affect Sixers, Celtics?


In this edition of our Eastern Conference power rankings, how has the Sixers’ tough week and the Celtics’ uptick affected things?

1. Bucks (49-16) Last ranking: 1 
Milwaukee bounced back from a brutal loss to the lowly Suns — see, Sixers fans, good teams lose to bad teams sometimes! — with a win over Pacers. The pickup of Nikola Mirotic looked like a big one, but he’s been up and down since coming over from New Orleans. It could be a calf issue still lingering. If he returns to form, the Bucks become even scarier.

2. Raptors (46-19) Last ranking: 2
Toronto has lost two in a row, but that was off the heels of them winning nine out of 10. They appear locked into the two seed and probably locked into the No. 2 spot in our power rankings. Much like Mirotic for the Bucks, Marc Gasol has been up and down for the Raptors. It’ll be interesting to see how that trade affects them in the playoffs.

3. Sixers (41-24) Last ranking: 3
We’re keeping the Sixers here despite late-game collapses against the Warriors and Bulls. They’re 4-3 without Joel Embiid since the All-Star break, who will be out again Friday night against the Rockets. The three seed is still well within their grasp and if Embiid returns Sunday against Indiana, that could be a huge boost for that cause. Yes, Boston has beaten them three times this season, but if Embiid is healthy, that March 20 matchup could look a lot different.

4. Celtics (40-26) Last ranking: 4
Give credit to Boston. The Celtics were imploding and it looked like their season was going to spiral out of control. Instead, they crushed the Warriors and held off the pesky Kings to begin their West Coast swing. I still think they’re a better team — and match up better against the Sixers — without Kyrie Irving. We’ll see.

5. Pacers (42-24) Last ranking: 5
Speaking of teams that deserve credit for hanging in there, Indiana is still clinging to the three seed without Victor Oladipo. The Pacers have come back down to earth, but neither the Sixers nor the Celtics have been able to take advantage. With that said, Indiana’s remaining schedule is tough and the Sixers can win the season series with a win Sunday.

6. Nets (34-33) Last ranking: 6 
Brooklyn won two in a row after dropping three straight. More importantly, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert are back and starting to round into form. The Nets aren’t likely going to upset a three seed, but they’ll be a pesky out.

7. Pistons (32-31) Last ranking: 7
Detroit is on fire, having won 10 of its last 12. The Pistons’ supporting cast is finally starting to give Blake Griffin some help. Reggie Jackson looks like the player he was when he first got to Detroit. Jackson is averaging 18.9 points while shooting 50 percent from the field and 49 percent from three over his last 13 games.

8. Heat (30-34) Last ranking: 10
Miami has won three in a row and is currently winning the race to be swept by Milwaukee in the first round.

9. Magic (30-36) Last ranking: 9 
Orlando had a couple impressive wins and gave the Sixers a game Tuesday night, but have lost two in a row. With how volatile the teams competing for the final seed are, the Magic are still very much in it.

10. Hornets (29-35) Last ranking: 8
Charlotte has lost seven of nine and I continue to feel so bad for Kemba Walker.

11. Wizards (27-37) Last ranking: 11
Ditto, Bradley Beal. But at least they got out of Otto Porter Jr.’s contract! Wait … Porter is playing the best basketball of his NBA career and the Bulls are showing signs of life? Oh.

12. Hawks (22-44) Last ranking: 12
Atlanta is the best of the worst and Trae Young continues his upward trend. Since the All-Star break, Young is averaged 28.5 points and 8.6 assists while shooting 44 percent from three.

13. Bulls (19-47) Last ranking: 13
Chicago is nipping at Atlanta’s heels. The Bulls are 7-3 with Porter Jr. in the lineup and Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen are showing off their offensive talents. Chicago has a little something going here.

14. Cavs (16-49) Last ranking: 14 
Collin Sexton looks like he may be legit. That’s all I got.

15. Knicks (13-52) Last ranking: 15 
They’re officially eliminated from the playoffs, but in the driver’s seat for Zion Williamson.

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