Can anyone catch the Boston Celtics?

While the Celtics have made a four-game margin between themselves and the second-seed, There are plenty of teams in the chasing pack.

Despite a head coach change in the offseason and injuries to key players, the Boston Celtics haven’t shown any sign of a Finals hangover. In spite of their shock loss against the Orlando Magic on Monday, the Celtics are four games clear of the second-placed Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

Here’s what Eastern Conference NBA standings look like right now (Jan. 23):

  1. Boston Celtics — 35-13
  2. Philadelphia 76ers — 30-16
  3. Milwaukee Bucks — 30-17
  4. Brooklyn Nets — 29-17
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers — 29-19
  6. Miami Heat — 26-22
  7. New York Knicks — 25-23
  8. Atlanta Hawks — 24-23
  9. Indiana Pacers — 23-25
  10. Chicago Bulls — 21-24
  11. Toronto Raptors—21-27
  12. Washington Wizards — 20-26
  13. Orlando Magic—18-29
  14. Charlotte Hornets — 13-34
  15. Detroit Pistons—12-37

At 35-13, The Celtics not only have the best record in the Eastern Conference but the best record in the entire league.

Can anyone catch the Boston Celtics in the NBA standings?

While the Celtics have made a four-game margin between themselves and the second-seed, There are plenty of teams in the chasing pack. At this stage of the season, there are realistically four other contenders for the No. 1 seed: Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, and Cleveland Cavaliers. All four of these teams are within two games of each other and within six games of the Celtics.

Since Oct. 24, The pole position for the Eastern Conference has been with the Bucks or the Celtics. The Bucks last had the first seed on Dec. 22nd with a 22-9 record. Since then, they’ve had a middling record of 8-8 as they’ve fallen to third in the conference standings. Four of their losses came in games where they were missing superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Three-time All-Star Khris Middleton has only played eight games and is expected to play a much bigger role in the second half of the season.

The Celtics have had injury woes of their own. All-Defensive big-man Robert Williams has been restricted to just 15 games and six starts while the Celtics continued their recent winning streak of nine games, despite Jaylen Brown missing three straights.

The current second-seeded Sixers have been on a great run lately with an 18-4 record in their last 22 games. The Sixers have managed the second-best record in the conference despite missed time from star players Joel Embiid and James Harden, who will be hoping for a healthier second half of the season.

Heading into January, the Nets looked like a serious threat to the first seed after losing only two games between Nov. 25 and Jan. 11 as they climbed from the No. 10 seed to the No. 2 seed. However, their momentum has been stalled since, as Kevin Durant picked up an MCL injury and is expected to miss a few more weeks.

The Cavaliers have been part of the chasing pack for most of the season, ranging between No. 2 and No. 5 since Oct. 23.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, the Celtics are forecasted to win 58 games on their way to leading the East and the NBA. According to this model, the Celtics would finish seven games ahead of the second-seed Sixers, who will be closely followed by the Nets, Bucks, and Cavaliers respectively.

If we take a look at the Strength of Schedule Model by Tankathon, the Celtics are in the middle of the pack with the 16th-toughest strength of schedule left. The Cavaliers, who are six games behind the Celtics at the moment, have the second-easiest remaining according to the same model. On the other hand, the Sixers have the second-hardest remaining strength of schedule. Milwaukee and Brooklyn also rank in the top 10 hardest schedules with the Bucks in sixth and the Nets in eighth.

While the Celtics are the firm favorites to keep the top spot, they should remain cautious of another team potentially catching fire in the second half of the season, something they’re all too familiar with themselves.

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