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NBA Highs & Lows: Nets, 76ers Threatening Celtics in East

Bucks Tumble from Top Five

With the New Year, the NBA begins to intensify. Everybody’s hurt, everyone’s tired and many of us on the sidelines are looking for a bet online to make. In the interest of looking a bit deeper at the current climate in the NBA, read on for our latest power rankings.

Let’s check the latest NBA picks, stats, injury reports, and NBA predictions. We’ve plenty of NBA expert picks for you to consider.

Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks back towards fans after a foul is called against him during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks
Todd Kirkland - Getty Images - AFP

Top Five

1. Boston Celtics

They righted the ship with four straight wins to finish a long homestand but then opened a long road trip with a loss at Denver, so the hold on the top spot isn’t strong. For now, however, nobody is on par with the best offense in the game.

The Celtics averaged 125.5 points during their four-game win streak while allowing 109.8. That’s a pretty stark demonstration of dominance. Boston’s players shrugged aside the preseason drama surrounding Ime Udoka and they kept the machine buzzing when interim head coach Joe Mazzulla was forced to miss time with an eye injury.

Going into their road trip, nobody in the NBA had played more home games than the Celtics. There are three more games on this road trip and another stretch later this month in which they play six of seven on the road. It’ll be interesting to see if they can stay atop the heap through a challenging portion of the schedule.

  • +375 NBA Championship Odds

2. Brooklyn Nets

The winning streak is up to 11 and the sheer dominance on the offensive end is somewhat jarring. Consider the fact that the Nets have shot 54% from the floor over a 20-game span, which is a pretty substantial sample. That figure is at 55% during the winning streak and 57% over the last seven contests.

This team, for the past couple of years the most tumultuous on the planet, has finally found calm waters, and their voyage just might end with a championship.

“You see, at this point now towards the end of the year, you start to see us come together and perform what we’ve been looking to do these last couple of years, which was a solid team that plays hard every night,” Kevin Durant told the media. “So we went through a lot in this calendar year, but we’re looking for bigger and better things in 2023.”

  • +700 NBA Championship Odds

3. Denver Nuggets

The top team in the West (barely) has won 10 of 12 and has a ton of home games on the horizon as it crawls out of a road-heavy start to its schedule. Michael Porter Jr. recently returned from a long layoff, which gives this squad a solid degree of health and depth.

A great example played out in the 123-111 win over the Celtics. Point guard Jamal Murray was given the night off for injury maintenance on his knee, and Bones Hyland filled the void with 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench.

Nobody has an answer for Nikola Jokic and it stands to reason that a player of his stature will be on a championship team at some point. The pieces are there for this to be the year, and the improving Las Vegas odds are one indication of that.

  • +1400 NBA Championship Odds

4. Philadelphia 76ers

Like the Nets, this team is soaring up the charts in the Eastern Conference. Others have better records, but the 76ers have won nine of their last 11 and have the right mix to go far.

They’ve accomplished their recent surge with Tyrese Maxey – the man Joel Embiid called the best on the team – on the sidelines with a foot injury. James Harden was out for a while as well, but the train keeps rolling in Philly. At some point everyone will be on the floor together and clicking, and this could emerge as the best team in the East. As it stands, only one team (Cleveland) has a better defensive rating, and the Cavaliers don’t have Embiid, who – like Jokic – figures to be on the big stage in June one of these years.

Sixers-Nuggets best-of-seven? Could be.

  • +1800 NBA Championship Odds

5. Memphis Grizzlies

Desmond Bane is back from a long layoff due to a toe injury and, once he gets his stroke down, this team is going to soar. As it stands, they’ve won 11 of their last 15, including a recent 116-101 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, one of the other teams we considered for this week’s top five.

After rallying to knock off the Sacramento Kings on Sunday (with Bane resting), the Grizzlies get to play their next five against teams with sub-.500 records. Let’s see if they can climb the charts next week.

  • +1400 NBA Championship Odds

Bottom Five

26. Minnesota Timberwolves

There could be a time later this season when the Timberwolves run through opponents with ease, but with Karl-Anthony Towns out and the team in freefall we figured we’d take a few shots at them when we can.

Minnesota’s losing streak is at six games and the latest was a 12-point home loss to the team with the worst record in the NBA, a 116-104 setback against Detroit on Saturday. A players-only meeting was called.

“I mean, I feel like every team does at some point,” forward Naz Reid said of the gathering. “So, moving forward, I feel like we could be heading in the right direction. I feel like we had the right conversation.”

Many an NBA betting expert had the Timberwolves as a favorite in the West, or close to it. They’re now approaching the midpoint of the season with not much working. They don’t shoot all that well from the perimeter, their opponents always seem to, and they turn the ball over quite a bit.

Jaylen Nowell #4 of the Minnesota Timberwolves / Stacy Revere – Getty Images – AFP
  • +10000 NBA Championship Odds

27. San Antonio Spurs

This team opened the season 5-2. Then it lost 16 out of 17 games. Then it went 6-6 in its next 12. It’s hard to say what the Spurs really are, but the overall picture is of one that will finish out of the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

  • +100000 NBA Championship Odds

28. Charlotte Hornets

The way LaMelo Ball is playing, there figures to be some better days on the horizon for the Hornets. As it stands, they’re 3-7 since he returned from an ankle injury, with some impressive wins at Sacramento and at the Los Angeles Lakers. Additionally, to check out more specific information about the NBA props available for the Suns vs Mavericks matchup.

Charlotte is last in the East in field-goal percentage (44.5) and last in the NBA in 3-point percentage (32.2). Until some shots begin to fall at a better rate, they’ll be in our bottom five.

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29. Houston Rockets

It wasn’t long ago the Rockets were starting to pick off some of the better teams in the league on a consistent basis (Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Phoenix twice), but they’re mired in another tailspin.

Houston is 1-8 in its last nine games and it lost by 20 to the New York Knicks to open its current homestand. The Rockets’ 88 points in that loss left them with a scoring average of 109.4 points – lowest in the West. They’re also last in the NBA in field-goal percentage (44.3), assists per game (21.7) and turnovers per game (16.4). That’s not a great combination.

  • +100000 NBA Championship Odds

30. Detroit Pistons

They’ve won two of the last three on the heels of a six-game losing streak, so perhaps things are looking up. It’s hard to imagine it will be sustained very long, as the Pistons allow the most points in the East at 118.5 points per game.

Detroit has three wins in its last 13 games and the three wins were against teams that entered Monday a combined 33 games under .500.

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