Celtics remain No. 1

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Magic fall out of top 10 for first time this season

Magic fall out of top 10 for first time this season

After giving the Eastern Conference its first top-ranked team of the season last week, the Boston Celtics have held on to the spot for Week 9's Athlon Sports Power Rankings.

The Celtics defeated New York, Atlanta and Indiana last week as part of their current 13-game winning streak.  

The top four from last week all remain as the top four.  in the same spots. Dallas, winner of nine of its last 10, remains at No. 2. San Antonio, winners of nine in a row, still hold the third spot. Miami, which had its 12-game winning streak snapped by Dallas on Monday, is still No. 4.

The Lakers and Jazz flipped the Nos. 5 and 6 spots, L.A. moving into the five-spot as winners of eight of its last nine games.

The Orlando Magic, who had been a top-five team a majority of the season, fall out of the top 10 for the first time this season. However, after a major overhaul of the Orlando roster due to trades last weekend, the Magic will have to get their chemistry together before making the push back up to Eastern Conference elite.

And there's no time like the present for the new-look Magic to get started.

They are currently mired in a three-game losing streak and losers of seven of their last eight. Orlando's schedule this week is probably the toughest schedule any team has had this season in relation to the Athlon Sports Power Rankings — and last week was no cake walk, either.

After losing to Denver, upstart Philadelphia and No. 10 Atlanta, the Magic get Orlando Tuesday night, San Antonio Thursday and Boston on Christmas Day. As the Magic begin to develop a chemistry with this roster they can at least take solace in the fact that all three of this week's games are at home where they have won nine of their 16 games.

Christmas Day is certainly where the marquee matchups of the week are. But before we get to the NBA's big day there are also two games on Wednesday that are intriguing. No. 8 Oklahoma City Thunder travel to Madison Square Garden to take on a Knicks team that was riding high this time last week.

The No. 12 Knicks faced Boston, Miami and Cleveland, and what was an eight-game winning streak before Boston has turned into a three-game skid entering the OKC game. It is not going to get any easier for New York as the next 10 games are a gauntlet — OKC, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Indiana, San Antonio, Phoenix, Lakers, Portland and Utah.

Also on Wednesday, the Spurs play host to No. 9 Denver. The two teams met on Dec. 16 as the Nuggets fell 113-112 at home.

Back to Christmas Day. There are five games on the NBA schedule, all televised on ABC/ESPN.

No. 7 Chicago, which is down Joakim Noah (hand) and a concussed Taj Gibson, travels to Madison Square Garden to tip off the day. The Knicks, behind 16 3-pointers, won the first meeting in Chicago 120-112 on Nov. 4.

Boston travels to Orlando in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics are the hottest team in the league, while Orlando's roster readjustment issues have been addressed.

Miami travels to the Lakers for the third game of the day. This was the one everyone was waiting for when the schedules were announced. Many people, myself included, thought the Lakers would barely have a blemish on their record when they reached this game. And many others, myself not included, thought Miami would be well on its way to surpassing 72 wins by Christmas Day.

Neither has happened. The Lakers are 21-7 going into the Dec. 21 game with Milwaukee. They have really put it together over the month of December, answering a four-game losing streak by winning eight of their last nine.

The Heat were in the same boat — why aren't they running roughshod over everyone? It took some time for the roster to mesh, but they entered December 10-8 and will go to Phoenix Dec. 23 at 21-9.

Denver, which has no trouble scoring as evidenced in its average of 117.2 over the last five games, will travel to Oklahoma City for the second-to-last Christmas Day game. The Thunder are averaging 107.2 points per game over their last six outings.

Closing out the NBA's Christmas festivities are Portland, which enters the week as the eighth-best team in the Western Conference, going against Golden State, which couldn't even claim to be eighth-best in the Eastern Conference. The two teams just met on Dec. 18 with the Trail Blazers winning 96-95.

Finally, on Dec. 27, the Thunder play host to Dallas for their second meeting of the year. Dallas won the first meeting 111-103 on Nov. 24. OKC begins this week off a 113-110 loss to Phoenix, which snapped a five-game winning streak for the Thunder.

— Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter to send any comments or questions

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