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NBA Power Rankings, 2/3

02.03.11 at 6:14 pm ET

The Celtics haven’t claimed the top spot in our NBA Power Rankings since Jan. 6, but as Paul Flannery wrote following the C’s 109-96 victory against the Lakers on Sunday, “The Celtics’ performance proved that as of this moment they are the team to beat in the NBA. On their best day, and this may have been it, no one can even come close to matching them.”

There are four other legitimate contenders for the 2011 NBA title — the Spurs, Bulls, Heat and Lakers — and the Celtics have beaten all of them, recording six wins in seven games against those teams. That’s kinda good.

The C’s have now defeated 23 of the 29 other teams in the league. The only two teams they haven’t faced yet are the Clippers and Warriors. They’ve lost their only games against the Mavericks, Suns, Rockets and Hornets so far, but they get their respective shots at revenge on Friday, March 2, March 18 and March 19.

In short, pretty much everybody has praised the Celtics as one of, if not THE best in the league. Kevin Garnett might be one of the most disliked opponents in the league, but the C’s are getting their share of respect. That’s why we’ve decided to highlight the best quotes about the Celtics from opposing coaches and players in this week’s edition of the Power Rankings. Without further ado, here goes …

1. Boston (37-11): I don’t care that the Celtics have lost to the Wizards, Pistons, Raptors and Cavaliers. I don’t care that they scored only 71 points against the Suns. Four of those losses occurred on the road after playing the previous night, and the other came at 1 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. When the Celtics are motivated, they’ve been almost unbeatable. Just ask the Spurs, Lakers and Heat.

2. San Antonio (40-8): Spurs coach Gregg Popovich after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 5, 105-103: “It’s just frustrating that we’re a definite, significant notch below the big boys — of course, Boston being one of the big boys — come playoff time if this continues. You know, Boston is third in field-goal percentage ‘D,’ and first in defensive rebounding. Those are the kind of stats we used to have defensively to do what you need to do to be the last team standing.” (via Sporting News)

3. Chicago (34-14): Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau after losing to the Celtics in overtime on Nov. 5, 110-105: “They’€™ve got a lot of weapons, they’€™re experienced, they know how to work the game and they’re hard to guard. I think the thing that often gets overlooked with them is not only their individual greatness but their collective greatness and willingness to share with each other. ‘€¦ It puts enormous pressure on your defense. Your defense can’€™t get set, and that’€™s something we’€™re striving for.”

4. Miami (34-14): Heat forward LeBron James on Wednesday: “We’re way behind [the Celtics]. Just look at the number of games played, the number of playoff series those guys have had. We’re only a few months in together — 40-something-plus games. I’ve seen the statistics. Boston has like 250-plus games played together. We’re way behind those teams.” (via

5. LA Lakers (34-15): Lakers coach Phil Jackson: “I personally don’t think [the Heat] can get by Boston. I think Boston is too good a team. I think a team is still going to win.” (via

6. Dallas (33-15): Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle prior to their game against the Celtics on Friday night: ‘€œBoston’€™s record speaks for itself. They’€™re hammering everybody out West, which is not easy to do.’€ (via Dallas Morning News)

7. Oklahoma City (31-17): Thunder coach Scott Brooks after losing to the Celtics on Nov. 7, 92-83: “In order to play with a team like the Celtics, we have to play good basketball for 48 minutes.”

8. Orlando (31-18): Magic coach Stan Van Gundy after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 17, 109-106: “The thing you need to remember about Ray Allen — and it’s a lesson for players in our league — is all the work he has done to keep himself in shape and maintain such a high level of play. He’s playing now at an unbelievably high level. There aren’t many shooters playing who are better than Ray Allen. That’s why he’s going to the Hall of Fame.”

9. New Orleans (32-19): Hornets coach Monty Williams after beating the Celtics on New Year’s Eve, 83-81: “Well, when you play this team in Boston you not only need big plays but you have to be poised. … Against this team, if you lose sight of winning, you give up big plays.”

10. Atlanta (31-18): Hawks coach Larry Drew after losing to Celtics on Dec. 16, 102-90: “They just have too much depth in the end. They can put a pretty good team out there when they’re not healthy. Their depth is obvious.”

11. Denver (29-20): Nuggets coach George Karl after losing to the Celtics on Dec. 8, 105-89: “To beat a Celtics team you need three or four guys playing at a high level.”

12. Utah (29-21): Jazz coach Jerry Sloan after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 21, 110-86: “You can see why they’ve been so good. They’ve got guys that can get up and do that. If you’re going to compete against them, you’d better be able to take it, and like it and get up and do it yourself.”

13. Memphis (26-24): Grizzlies guard Tony Allen after losing to the Celtics in overtime on Nov. 13, 116-110: “This is a team that has their mind focused on championships and pretty much knows they are going to the playoffs. A team that knows a lot about winning basketball.”

14. Portland (26-23): Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 27, 88-78: “They showed why they’re champions. They played championship basketball. They do a good job of taking away the paint. … They’re one of the best teams at not letting you get to the basket.”

15. New York (25-23): Knicks point guard Raymond Felton after losing to the Celtics on Dec. 15, 118-116: “Real basketball players and people who understand the game know we have a good team and we can play with anybody. We lost a tough one against possibly the best team in the league.”

16. Phoenix (23-24): Suns guard Vince Carter after beating the Celtics last week, 88-71: “They’re an aggressive team and you have to match their aggressiveness. They play with a lot of fight and playing against them, you know what level you have to play at and we were able to really match it and really just show we’re very capable of playing at their level.”

17. Philadelphia (22-26): 76ers coach Doug Collins after losing to the Celtics on Dec. 22, 84-80: “I just told them against this team you have to be aggressive. You have to hit them before they hit you and I mean that in a good way. You have to be able to create some contact.”

18. Houston (23-28): Rockets coach Rick Adelman after beating the Celtics on Jan. 10, 108-102: “That team’€™s had a lot of success, and [Von Wafer]’€™s got to figure out that he’€™s on a really good team with a chance to win a championship.”

19. LA Clippers (19-29): The Celtics play the Clippers for the first time in Los Angeles on Feb. 26.

20. Indiana (19-27): Pacers (former) coach Jim O’Brien after losing to the Celtics on Dec. 19, 99-88: “They’re a heck of a basketball team, and they’re stingy in the fourth quarter.”

21. Charlotte (21-27): Bobcats forward Kwame Brown after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 14, 99-94: “[Shaquille O’Neal]’s a Hall of Famer. He still knows how to get it done. He’s been around so long, you can’t let him get going.” 

22. Golden State (20-27): The Celtics face the Warriors for the first time in Oakland on Feb. 22.

23. Milwaukee (19-28): Bucks coach Scott Skiles after losing to the Celtics in overtime on Nov. 3, 105-102: “If you want to be a great team on the road, you’ve got to make those plays, so we still obviously have a way to go.”

24. New Jersey (15-35): Nets coach Avery Johnson after losing to the Celtics on Dec. 5, 100-75: “They jumped all over us in the second quarter and we never recovered. They looked like a championship team out there. They didn’€™t come here looking to mess around. They took it to us. We were on our heels the whole game.”

25. Detroit (17-32): Pistons center Ben Wallace after losing to the Celtics on Nov. 2, 109-86: “You can say you’re disappointed, but when you come out and play the way we played, what do you expect? Especially against a team like Boston. You can’t have that type of effort.”

26. Sacramento (12-34): Kings coach Paul Westphal after losing to the Celtics on Tuesday, 95-90: “In general that’s probably the best team in basketball, and it felt like a playoff game to us, and I felt like they really had to dig to win that game.”

27. Minnesota (11-37): Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 3, 96-93: “The fact that we’re right there against one of the best teams in the NBA, I do see growth, but I’m tired of just being there. I want to win.”

28. Washington (13-35): (former) Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas after losing to the Celtics on Nov. 17, 114-83: “They’re built for a championship; we’re rebuilding. These are the games when you’re on the playground and you beat somebody up, and then the real bully comes and beats you up. We played great last night … and then the big fish came and whooped us up.”

29. Toronto (13-37): Raptors coach Jay Triano after losing to the Celtics on Jan. 7, 122-102: “When you look at that team, there’s a reason why they’re the best team in the East right now. They’re physically stronger then us, or quicker than us at all five positions. They go where they want to go offensively, they know how to use screens, set screens, and for some of our young guys and our guys battling injuries, we can’t match up with that, that physical play, it makes for a long night.”

30. Cleveland (8-41): Cavaliers coach Byron Scott after losing to the Celtics on Nov. 30, 106-87: “When you’re playing against great teams — and I do consider that Celtics team a great basketball team — the one thing you’ve got to do, especially on the defensive end is you’ve got to trust each other.”

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