Going into the season, it seemed that the teams in the Central Division would pose the biggest threat to LeBron James' and the Heat's hopes of three-peating.
With one of the league's most underrated superstars in Paul George, the Pacers are off to a league-best 17-1 start this season. Before losing the Central Division's other superstar, Derrick Rose, for the season, the Bulls were expected to be a legitimate contender to get to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Now the Eastern Conference is clearly the Heat, Pacers and everybody else. In fact, the Heat (14-3) and Pacers (16-1) are the only teams in the Eastern Conference with a winning record through Sunday's games.
Things are especially bad in the Atlantic Division as the Raptors (6-10, .375) have a half-game lead over the Celtics (7-12, .368) in the division.
Fueled by the great start of rookie Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers were a surprise 3-0 to begin the season, but they have since lost 12 of their past 15 games. That said, they are middle of the pack in the division.
The biggest surprises are the Nets (5-12) and Knicks (3-13).
With a Coke-spilling first-year head coach in Jason Kidd and veteran additions like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, it's understandable if it takes longer for them to gel. In addition, Deron Williams has played in only nine games this season and now the Nets will be without Pierce (hand) for a few weeks.
The Knicks have lost nine consecutive games, which includes a franchise-worst seven straight games at home. Interestingly enough, it will be the Nets that host Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks on Thursday for a chance to extend their losing streak to 10 games. Glass-half-full view: One of these two teams has to win the game.
The Nets and Knicks are the 23rd-ranked and 27th-ranked teams, respectively, in our updated power rankings.
- See full power rankings here
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