Celtics currently sixth in Eastern Conference, Knicks in third place
Let's take a look at the current position of Eastern Conference teams in the NBA:
Cleveland Cavaliers - Okay, that's to be expected
Toronto Raptors - Alright, not surprised
New York Knicks - Huh?
Chicago Bulls - Huh? Weren't they supposed to be really bad? Guess Rondo is working for them
Charolette Hornets - Sleeper pick. Ok.
Boston Celtics - Aren't we supposed to be second in the East?
The New York Knicks awoke Monday with a share of the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 12, 2016
The Boston Celtics at 13-11 are currently ranked three spots below a divisional foe that was slated to win 40 games and finish in ninth place in ESPN preseason forecasts. Now, obviously it is extremely early in the season but so far the Knicks, 14-10, have been exceeding expectations and their division rivals, the Celtics, have come up short living up to the preseason hype they received after signing free-agent Al Horford.
However, matchups and schedules are everything and the Knicks have had things work in their favor for the most part this season. Of their 14 wins only three have come against teams currently with a winning record - Memphis, Charolette and Chicago.
So, needless to say their winning record is a bit inflated but at the end of the day a victory counts the same. Surely the Knicks may not be able to stay in the third spot in the East but it's worth keeping an eye on them as the season rolls on.
On the other hand we have the Boston Celtics. Again, this team as currently constructed has been a bit of a disappointment to fans and pundits. Similar to the Knicks they've gotten most of their wins against bad teams and come up consistently short against quality teams. To their credit they haven't had a fully healthy squad against most of these teams.
Can't escape the Celtics' struggles vs. top tier. Have now played Cavs, Warriors, Spurs, Raptors, Rockets: 0-5.— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) December 10, 2016
Also, much like the Knicks, two of their quality wins have come against Chicago and Charolette. Besides that they've beaten up on teams like the Nets and Pistons and barely eked out wins against teams like Philadelphia and Minnesota.
It's easy to say that coming into the season the Knicks and C's were seen as two franchises going in two totally opposite directions. Many saw the acquisition of former All-Star Derrick Rose and defensive MVP Joakim Noah as 'too little too late' signings since both players had a noted injury history and were well past their primes.
Then we had the young, up-and-coming Celtics who had just signed Al Horford and had one of the best defenses in the league. A second seed and a conference finals showdown with Cleveland was predicted across the board for Boston. But for right now everyone can and should pump the breaks on any further predictions.
At this point, 24 games into the season, the Celtics need to iron out some more kinks. Yes, they've gotten unlucky with their injuries. Yes, they've failed to close out games against good teams (the Thunder game comes to mind). And yes, they've generally looked a little out of sorts at times as they nail down their go-to rotations. But the C's should figure it out soon, get everyone healthy and start making their way up the East ladder. No need to get flustered. It's still so early.
Photo credit: Charles Krupa/AP
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