Power Rankings, Week 18: Celtics lead, Wolves surge after All-Star weekend

A year ago, the Denver Nuggets came out of the All-Star break with a four-game lead in the loss column atop the Western Conference. They still had some work to do, but that was a nice cushion with which they were operating.

This year, the defending champs come out of the break three games in the loss column behind the first-place Minnesota Timberwolves, with two other teams in their way, and having lost three straight games.

Denver isn’t the only contender that should have a sense of urgency as the season restarts on Thursday. The Milwaukee Bucks are 3-7 under coach Doc Rivers and are in danger of slipping out of the top four in the Eastern Conference. The Philadelphia 76ers, no matter when they’re getting Joel Embiid back, need to find their footing. And the Phoenix Suns need to put their foot on the gas as soon as possible.Read More

Further down the standings, teams like the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat need to make a push if they’re going to give themselves a chance to replicate last year’s postseason success.

As we come out of the break, the season is exactly two-thirds complete, with 820 of 1,230 games in the books. Given how many teams need to get back on the right track, we should have some great basketball ahead of us.

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