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C's hold steady in power rankings

The Boston Celtics remain at No. 2 in the latest ESPN.com NBA power rankings, stuck a spot behind the likewise streaking Dallas Mavericks (12 straight wins). Writes curator Marc Stein: "Boston still has to guard against another post-Christmas tumble, but if you'll permit a brief follow-up to last week's stuff in this space: No team in history before these Celts had ever started 16-4 in four seasons running." Riding an eight-game winning streak of their own, Boston's next opponent, the New York Knicks, climbed to 10th overall, about as close as an Atlantic Division opponent has been during the Big Three era.

In John Hollinger's daily computerized rankings, the Celtics are clawing to the top spot, a mere half point in front of the surging Heat (another streak squad with eight straight wins). Boston's thrashing of Charlotte Saturday helps it remain on top by bumping up that margin of victory.

NBA.com's latest rankings have the Celtics on top again, with the Spurs and Mavericks still chasing. Curator John Schuhmann writes, "The Celtics have done a great job of integrating Shaquille O'Neal, but they're still 6-1 without him. They're also 3-1 without Rajon Rondo. Jermaine O'Neal, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins have played a combined 12 games. As Paul Pierce said last week, 'It's going to be scary when we get healthy.'"