NBA Power Rankings, Week 20: Boston Celtics still top 5 and ascending

The Boston Celtics showed this week that they are an NBA Finals contender and remains in the top 5 of the Week 20 NBA Power Rankings.

Overall, the Boston Celtics are still looking up at the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference standings, but they proved on their recent West coast trip and their last game against the Houston Rockets that they are a legit threat.

In the Week 20 NBA Power Rankings, the Celtics come in at No. 4 behind the Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Rockets.

Despite losing the overtime thriller to the Rockets on Saturday night, the Celtics continue to play tough against the top teams in both conferences, especially against the west where they have split with both the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.

They lost both games to the Rockets, but the last game is one they should’ve won, and they were still not fully healthy entering that game without Kemba Walker.

Speaking of Walker, the Celtics other All-Star Jayson Tatum has been ballin’ without him, which makes fans eager to see what this team can really do when fully healthy, which is something they haven’t been most of the season.

Still, with a 41-18 record and ranking in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating, Brad Stevens has his squad proving they are a legit threat, even without an impactful big man.

That is just how effective Daniel Theis has been coming off his best week ever. With Robert Williams set to rejoin the front court rotation, the Boston Celtics are prime for a deep run anchored by the core of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart.

Speaking of that group of five, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann could onl gush about how fun it would’ve been to see the Celtics best-five lineup against the Houston Rockets on Saturday:

“It would have been fun to see the Celtics’ small-ball, best-five lineup — Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum — for extended minutes against the Rockets on Saturday. But Walker, dealing with a sore left knee, hasn’t played since the All-Star game. All five of those guys have been available in just 14 of the Celtics’ 59 games, and they’ve played just 15 total minutes together.”

Top performance of the week

Who else but Jayson Tatum.

Leading the Boston Celtics with 32 points against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, Tatum perhaps had his best overall game collecting 13 rebounds, dishing out 5 assists and collecting two steals.

But that wasn’t his most effective game.

In fact, Tatum followed up his 41-point performance against the Lakers with back-to-back 30-plus point nights in wins at the Portland Trail Blazers and at the Utah Jazz.  His shooting touch was on in those games and he led the Celtics to two eye-opening wins on the road.

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In all, it was superhuman month for Jayson Tatum, one that should earn him NBA Player of the Month.

What’s next for the Boston Celtics

With Kemba Walker expected back, the Boston Celtics take on the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday with Kyrie Irving of course sidelined for the season.  They then travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers before returning home to take on the Utah Jazz on Friday.

Next: Selecting the Boston Celtics All-Time starting lineup

After the recent stretch against playoff caliber teams, this next stretch should be somewhat of an easier task for the Celtics in their quest to catch the Toronto Raptors for that No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

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