NBA Power Rankings, Playoffs: Celtics, Sixers, and Nuggets rule!

The 2023 NBA playoffs are underway, and the battle for the Larry O’Brien trophy has begun. With sixteen teams vying for the title, the competition is sure to be fierce. While many teams have a shot at glory, there are a few teams that stand above the rest. Buckle up and get ready for a wild ride, because this year’s NBA Playoffs are sure to be one for the ages. Let’s take a look at where the 16 postseason teams stand in our NBA Power Rankings with the first games of the postseason in the books!

The Boston Celtics reign supreme and continue to stay atop the NBA Power Rankings. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets sit pretty at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots respectively. Following them are the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings.

Perhaps the biggest surprises at the start of the playoffs are the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Miami Heat. Keep in mind that the Knicks just won on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the Lakers and Heat both survived the Play-in Tournament and also won their respective Game 1 assignments.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Memphis Grizzlies sliding down big time after losing Game 1 and watching Ja Morant suffer a concerning hand injury.

How about the other teams, though? Where does each team stand when it comes to the playoff edition of our 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings?

Remember that this edition of our NBA Power Rankings will take into account various factors, including recent performances and net rating differentials.

Previous 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings: Week 26 | Week 25 | Week 24 | Week 23 | Week 22 | Week 21

Now without further ado, let’s look at our 2022-23 NBA Power Rankings after the first few days of the playoffs!

1. Boston Celtics (no change)

They’re not the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but they showed their firepower in Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks. We expected the dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to score heavily, and they did just that, combining for 54 points. However, Derrick White was a huge X-factor too, as he tallied 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting, four of which were threes, in addition to seven assists and two blocks. Oh, and don’t forget that Tatum and Brown both grabbed double-digit rebounds as well.

It just seems like this Celtics team is really built for the postseason. It’s no wonder that they’re in their ninth straight postseason. That’s the longest active streak for any current NBA team, by the way, and they have shown no signs of relinquishing the top spot in our NBA Power Rankings.

strong start

— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 16, 2023

2. Philadelphia 76ers (+1)

Maybe in an alternate universe, the Sixers would have lost Game 1 against the Brooklyn Nets. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, we live in this one. Not surprisingly, Joel Embiid was unstoppable in Game 1. He had a modest 26 points and 5 rebounds, but he also shot 11-of-11 from the free throw line and had two blocks. More importantly, he played only 33 minutes, which means he should be relatively fresh for Game 2.

James Harden also showed flashes of his past MVP form. He had 23 points, 13 assists, and seven threes to help the Sixers prevail in Game 1. Meanwhile, Tobias Harris stepped up in a big way too with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field.

3. Denver Nuggets (+6)

Are the Nuggets just too good for the Minnesota Timberwolves? After Game 1, we certainly think so. Yes, Nikola Jokic did struggle, scoring just 13 points before fouling out. But the Nuggets playoff opener was all about their depth, which on paper isn’t really their strong suit. Six Nuggets finished with double-digit points, including Bruce Brown, who came alive off the bench to score 14 points on an efficient 5-of-8 from the field.

Jamal Murray was solid here, if a little inefficient. He shot just 9-of-22 from the floor, but had a game-high 24 points when all was said and done. He also had eight rebounds and eight assists for good measure. Meanwhile, Michael Porter Jr. put up a nifty 18 point-11 rebound double-double. If both of those guys can consistently put up that kind of production, the Nuggets might be able to go on a deep run.

4. Milwaukee Bucks (-2)

Despite losing Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first half, the Bucks hung tough in Game 1 against a determined Heat squad. It’s great news that Giannis’ x-rays came out negative, and we all hope he’ll be back in Game 2.

Even without Giannis, though, the Bucks can still win. Khris Middleton dropped 33 points on 12-of-20 shooting in Game 1, while Jrue Holiday also did well with 16 points and 16 assists. Bobby Portis chipped in 21 points off the bench too, but it’s clear that Milwaukee is going to need their star in Antetokounmpo if they want to achieve their main goal this postseason.

5. Sacramento Kings (+6)

The Kings are a stubborn bunch, and we all love them for it. De’Aaron Fox’s first postseason game was amazing, as he dropped 38 points to lead all scorers. It also helped that Malik Monk had a career-outing in a game that Sacramento won by just three points. Monk had always been explosive, but it’s worth remembering that he averaged just 11.3 points per game in April. To explode for 32 points off the bench in Game 1 against the defending champions? That was a huge boost for the Kings here.

We also love how Domantas Sabonis outplayed and outmuscled Draymond Green throughout this one. Sabonis had a quiet 12 points, but he did haul in 16 rebounds and nab three steals to boot. These Kings might just not be done yet.

6. New York Knicks (+1)

Knicks fans are pretty pumped, and to be honest, their team is looking really good and mighty dangerous. In fact, they’ve been one of the best teams in the league since trading for Josh Hart at the trade deadline. Speaking of which, Hart came off the bench to drop 17 points on the Cavs in Game 1. How’s that for a lift from the Knicks’ second unit?

While Hart was great, so was Jalen Brunson. Sure, he didn’t exactly match Donovan Mitchell’s output point-for-point, but Brunson’s first playoff game as the top-scoring option went quite well, as he led the Knicks with 27 points. Julius Randle, meanwhile, had a 19 point-10 rebound double-double, and outplayed young buck Evan Mobley in the process.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (-3)

Speaking of Mobley, the sophomore surely needs a bounce-back game for the Cavs. Mobley had a rough go of it for Cleveland in Game 1, scoring only eight points on just 4-13 shooting from the field. He also had no blocks against a team where he averaged around 2.5 per game in their previous meetings.

We did love seeing Mitchell pop off for 38 big points, though. He also had six triples, eight assists, and three steals. However, his backcourt mate, Darius Garland, struggled with five turnovers against just one assist. The Cavs obviously need a huge Game 2 win, as traveling to a rowdy Madison Square Garden toting a 0-2 deficit could be a death sentence.

8. Los Angeles Clippers (+5)

Playoff Kawhi Leonard is a very scary dude. Leonard dropped 38 points in his first postseason game since 2021, and nobody on the Phoenix Suns looked capable of stopping him. The Suns also couldn’t stop Ivica Zubac, who stepped up big time in Game 1. The Croatian big man had 12 points and 15 rebounds on an efficient 5-of-8 field goal shooting to help LA grind out a big victory here.

Russell Westbrook also had a solid game with a near triple-double (nine points, 11 rebounds, eight assists), while Eric Gordon came up huge with 19 points of his own. If Kawhi & Co. keep this up, they could be a dark horse team in the West.

9. Los Angeles Lakers (+4)

Who had Rui Hachimura scoring 29 points in Game 1 for the Lakers? He’s the best Asian player on the planet right now, and he sure proved that in their win over the Grizzlies. He almost scored a point per minute while on the floor in this one!

In addition, Austin Reaves also stepped up big time, dropping 23 points on the back of three triples while shooting 8-of-13 from the floor. If the Lakers can win without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, or D’Angelo Russell leading them in scoring, then the rest of the NBA better watch out.

10. Miami Heat (+6)

We’re tempted to bump the Heat up more. However, they did win mainly because Giannis got injured. Also, their own guy, Tyler Herro, suffered a broken hand. We feel like the tables are set to turn in Game 2.

Still, stealing Game 1 was no small feat for the Heat. Jimmy Butler went absolutely bonkers with 35 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, Bam Adebayo was the best big man on the floor, finishing with 22 points, nine boards, and seven assists. He thoroughly outplayed Brook Lopez around the basket in this one.

Waking up 1-0. How we feelin’ today, #HEATTwitter?

— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) April 17, 2023

11. Phoenix Suns (-1)

Four Suns scored 18 or more points, but they still lost on their home floor in Game 1 to the Clippers. Chris Paul was great in terms of rebounding (11 rebounds) and playmaking (10 assists), but the Suns need more scoring punch from their floor general, as his seven points in 39 minutes just won’t cut it.

Also, Phoenix’s bench was practically non-existent in this one, as they were outscored 31-10 by the Clippers’ second unit. That’s going to have to change if they want to even the series in Game 2.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (-7)

Memphis, your guys are in big trouble. We already knew the Lakers would be tough. But now, the Grizzlies face the possibility of not having Morant available for their next few games. Are we writing them off prematurely? Maybe. Can you fault us for doing so? Nope.

Despite playing in front of their home crowd and receiving 53 combined points from Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, the Grizzlies still lost by 16 points. That’s not a fluke. It’s called getting flat-out beaten.

13. Golden State Warriors (-7)

In any other game where Steph Curry scored 30 points and four other Golden State Warriors players scored double-digits, the Dubs would win. Game 1 in Sacramento, however, was not that kind of game. Despite their scoring binge, the Warriors just could not steal the game from the determined Kings.

The champs definitely have to fix two things — their rebounding and their defense. They were -9 on the glass and gave up 32 free-throw attempts. That’s just way too much in the playoffs.

14. Brooklyn Nets (+4)

We love the fight in Mikal Bridges. He dropped a 30-piece in his first playoff game as the de facto No. 1 option for his team. His 12-of-18 shooting from the field was also very impressive indeed. Other guys, however, needed to step up, and they didn’t, which is why they are down 1-0 against Philly.

Spencer Dinwiddie shot just 5-of-12, while Nic Claxton had no answers against Embiid. Unless something drastic chances, this pattern could repeat itself throughout this series

15. Minnesota Timberwolves (+2)

So the Timberwolves had a huge offseason trade, a huge mid-season trade, and had to survive the Play-in Tournament. Their prize? A 29-point beating by the Nuggets in Game 1. Outside of Anthony Edwards, nobody scored more than 12 points for Minnesota. That’s just deplorable.

They shot a paltry 37 percent from the field and finished -16 on the boards. For a team that has both Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns, that’s just unacceptable. It’s not even entirely their fault, though, as Gobert and KAT paired up for 23 of Minnesota’s 38 boards, which might even be more concerning.

16. Atlanta Hawks (+3)

We’re not saying the Hawks are just happy to be here. What we are saying is that they should be happy to be here. They should also soak it in as much as they can. We have a feeling their stay in the postseason won’t go past five games max against the locked-in Celtics.

The post NBA Power Rankings, Playoffs: Celtics, Sixers, and Nuggets rule! appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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