Celtics ranked fifth in ESPN's latest power rankings

The Boston Celtics are starting to turn some heads, and they should.

After winning ten of their last twelve games, dropping only a pair to the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers and a Russell Westbrook-playing-like-a-man-possessed led Oklahoma City Thunder, you'd have to be in a cave not to notice Boston's rounded into the team we expected them to be at season's start. Marc Stein has ranked the squad fifth in his latest power rankings on ESPN.

Key to Stein's assessment of the Celts' surge? Guard play. Isaiah Thomas, of course, is the primary focus of Stein's analysis - this is what happens when you tie your record for 30-point games before the midway point of the season just after dropping 52 points on a hapless opponent - but Avery Bradley has been no small part of that surge, reflected by his placing tenth in recent All-Star voting.

Only the Cavs, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Golden State Warriors (in that order) rank higher than the Celtics in Stein's estimation. The question now is - what does Boston have to do to take the next step? A lax schedule in terms of both opponents and frequency - there are only 16 games scheduled in January - suggests the team should mostly continue its winning ways, with only the Toronto Raptors and Houston posing serious challenges for the remainder of this months's schedule. Winning those two matches and seeing a third player step up - likely Al Horford, who has struggled of late - would probably do the trick, and the former won't likely occur without the latter.

All said, recognition is nice, but winning is better - let's hope that's what we're talking about come February.

For more stories about Marc Stein on Celticslife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.

Photo via Getty Images/Boston Globe
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