After Saturday's holiday loss in Orlando, the Boston Celtics stumbled backwards a step in the latest edition of ESPN.com's NBA power rankings. We'll let curator Marc Stein explain: "Dallas has returned to the top spot of the rankings for the third time this season largely on the strength of its 12-3 mark against teams currently at .500 or better and the 10-1 road record it takes Monday night to Oklahoma City. The Celtics drop to No. 2, with San Antonio and Miami holding firm at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively."
As for Boston, which watched its 14-game winning streak go up in smoke in the loss to the Magic, Stein writes: "I knew the Celts had been good before Christmas in the KG era, but I didn't know they were this good until Elias informed us that Boston's 94-14 mark is the best pre-Christmas over any four-season span in NBA history."
In John Hollinger's computerized power rankings, the Celtics have slipped behind the Heat (but remain comfortably ahead of the Bulls, Mavericks, Spurs, and Lakers).
Over at NBA.com's power rankings, the Mavericks also vault to No. 1 with the Celtics falling back to No. 2. Writes curator John Schuhmann: "Boston still has a strong argument when it comes to the No. 1 spot. The Celtics have lost just one game in the last 35 days, and they led that one (on the road against a top-10 team) with less than two minutes to go." Later he adds, "It's hard to stress one loss with the way the Celtics have played this season. But it would be good if they didn't continue their pattern of playing much worse after Christmas Eve (107-59 over last four seasons, including Saturday) than they do before (94-14). It would also be good if Rajon Rondo could get and stay healthy."