Nov 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) takes a shot while guarded by Detroit Pistons point guard Ish Smith (14) during the fourth quarter at TD Garden.  The Detroit Pistons won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Avery Bradley is one of the Celtics leading the 3-point barrage this season. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The 3-point shot is the home run of basketball. It’s a play that can get you back in a game and one that can close the door just as fast. 

Stevens, who earned three letters apiece in high school basketball and track, also earned on in baseball in his days at Zionsville, Indiana. On Wednesday, he used a baseball metaphor to make his point about shot selection and tempo. 

Brad Stevens, the man who wore No. 31 in high school after idol Reggie Miller, certainly saw the down side of it on Wednesday in a 121-114 loss to the Pistons, during which his team took 42 shots from beyond the arc. The Celtics made a reasonable number (15) and percent (35) but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His team committed just six turnovers and shot 44 percent. 

“I think we’re taking care of the ball, pretty obviously, really well. I wasn’t overly happy with some of our shots. I felt like some of shots were rushed. But again, when we play good offense we’re really good on that end of the floor. But we have a tendency when teams are making runs against us or things aren’t going our way to try to get it all back at once, and you just can’t do that. You have to keep hitting singles.”

The problem Wednesday wasn’t the 42 threes the Celtics took. It was the 27 misses. Long shots usually lead to long rebounds, and that’s a problem for a team that can’t rebound. The Celtics were battered again on the glass Wednesday (52-33) and many of those were Detroit hauling in the long rebounds from the missed shots. 

While Stevens indicated that he wanted more “singles” after Wednesday’s game, he seemed to clarify that before Friday’s game with Sacramento, suggesting the Celtics were taking the right kind of threes.

“They are,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, we want layups. If we don’t get layups, we want the floor to be shrunk. The defense shrinks in and you’re able to touch the paint and kick it out, in two of our last three games, maybe three of our last four games, two-thirds of our possessions we’ve touched the paint or shrunk the defense with a roll. That’s kind of our objective. Hey, we’re not a team that gets to the foul line a lot, we’re not a team that rebounds at a high rate, and we haven’t scored it in transition so to be able to be sitting where we are, offensively, I think a big reason is because we space the floor.”

Stevens insisted, despite long dry spells like Friday night in the first half (nine points over nine minutes), he’s happy with most of what the team is running offensively.

“I feel good. Offense can come and go, your hitting shots can come and go,” he added. “As far as like quality of shots and where we are now versus where we’ve been the last couple of years and moving forward, I feel really good about it.”

Clearly, the Celtics were more intent on getting Horford more than five shots Friday. He took nine shots and made six in the first 20 minutes. Horford finished with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-7 from the field in the 97-92 win. 

“No more so than the other day,” Stevens said after the win. “He got the ball multiple times in the post to start the other game and they just doubled him.  [Friday], when you’re playing with traditional bigs against him, he’s going to have more perimeter options, less post options.  And I think one of the things that he’s done a really good job of is continue to improve and stretch his range, so that he could be good against either matchup.”

“Yeah I think I got a lot of early looks in the game and like I said on Wednesday I think the Pistons did a good job defending and doubling and forcing me to pass the ball. Tonight I had more opportunities to be aggressive.”

Stevens said good shot-taking and making is all relative. 

“We threw it in the post, I think, four or five times in the first six or seven minutes [on Wednesday], and they doubled it and he made the right play,” Stevens said. “There’s always a right play to be made, it doesn’t mean that he’s always going to get a shot. I think five is too little; I don’t think there’s any question about that.

“But sometimes you just gotta find other ways and maybe that means that we run a different kind of action other than a post-up or other than a pick-and-roll to get him looks. We took some tough shots the other night at times but when you give up 121 — that’s the deal. I think that we scored at a pretty good rate. I’m not as concerned right now about that as I am about making sure we shore up those individual correctable things and, again, try to get better on the defensive glass.”

Horford the history-maker: Al Hoford’s 26-point night against DeMarcus Cousins in Friday’s 97-92 win wasn’t just impressive, it was historic. The Celtics big man also had six blocks, four 3-pointers and two steals, the first such stat line in NBA history. 

“I thought there were a couple huge plays that he made, blocking shots: the one when he trailed from behind and blocked the shot in transition, and you know, the one thing about Al is he’s always in a stance,” Stevens said. “His arms are always long. He takes up a lot of space and then he reacts quickly to what’s going on.”

“I think playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford added. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Can Boogie really help? The hot subject before Friday’s game was the man in the purple uniform wearing No. 15. DeMarcus Cousins has long been rumored as one of the missing pieces that would send the Celtics over the top. This thinking has been picking up steam steadily since the summer when the Celtics came away with Al Horford but not Kevin Durant. Then the Celtics started out the season playing inconsistently (in very large part because they didn’t have the services of the injured Horford and Jae Crowder).

The Celtics can’t rebound very well and they have trouble scoring in the paint. Put Cousins on the Celtics with Horford and Crowder and you have a front court as dynamic as any in the NBA. The Celtics already know what Cousins can do and Brad Stevens has tremendous respect for how disruptive he can be. The issue will be whether the perennial rebuilding Kings want to trade their franchise piece and how much they could get back in return. Clearly, they’ll want at least one first-round pick (possibly the protected lottery pick the Celtics have) and an established player. Why so much? Because Cousins has one more year after this one left on his contract at $17.5 million per season. Attitude and professionalism has always been what has scared away teams from pulling the trigger on any kind of deal for Cousins. And on a young team like Boston, one has to seriously wonder who might have his ear. Obviously, Isaiah Thomas played with him for three seasons from 2011-12 through 2013-14.

Following Friday’s 97-92 loss in Boston, the Kings fell to 7-12 on the season. In seven seasons in Sacramento, Cousins has never enjoyed a winning campaign, averaging 25 wins, with just one season of 30 or more wins (last year).  

“It is almost like we have to get hit first for us to react,” Cousins said after Friday’s game. “That has kind of been the struggle the whole year. It’s not good for us. We’re in the situation where we have to come out and be the aggressive team every night…if we don’t figure this thing out we’re going to continue to have these types of games. Like I’ve been saying all season, if we want to change thing whole thing around then we have to hold ourselves accountable and take responsibility for our effort.”

Asked about Cousins Friday, Crowder told reporters that he was “my guy… he’s a good friend of mine, we’ve become friends inside the lines.”

Jerebko hot: Jonas Jerebko came into Friday’s game on quite the streak. In his previous three games, the Celtics reserve had connected on a remarkable 20 of 24 shots, including eight threes. Jerebko, a career 46 percent shooter from the field, is over 50 percent 18 games into his seventh season. He’s 44 percent from beyond the arc, nine points above his career average. 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings made it a lot more difficult than the Celtics had hoped Friday night but in the end Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas were enough. Mike Petraglia has the recap inside TD Garden.

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Blog Author: 
WEEI

For the first time in four games, the Celtics held their opponent to under 100 points, defeating the Kings 97-92 and snapping a 3-game home losing streak.

The Kings couldn’t get much going throughout the game, shooting 37.9 percent from the field, highlighted by a disastrous 6-of-26 from behind the 3-point line.

Dec 2, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes up for a shot against Boston Celtics center Al Horford (42) during the first half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins (15) goes up for a shot against Celtics center Al Horford during the first half Friday at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

For the first time in four games, the Celtics held their opponent to under 100 points, defeating the Kings 97-92 and snapping a 3-game home losing streak.

The Kings couldn’t get much going throughout the game, shooting 37.9 percent from the field, highlighted by a disastrous 6-of-26 from behind the 3-point line.

The Celtics weren’t much better, as they shot 40.9 percent from the field, but their 3-point shooting (39.3 percent) is what proved to be the difference.

Al Horford led the way for the C’s, scoring 26 points (including 4-of-7 from 3-point range), grabbing eight rebounds and blocking six shots, including the game-winner. Jae Crowder also played well, shooting 6-of-12 from the field for 16 points.

Despite shooting 10-of-26 from the field, DeMarcus Cousins was the only reason the Kings were in the game down the stretch, making several key plays, including scoring 5 points in the final minute of the game.  

The C’s jumped out to a 29-16 lead, led by a 5-of-7 12-point first quarter from Al Horford—two more shots that he took all of last game.

The Kings responded with a 13-0 run to close the quarter however, and the margin would stay within 8 the rest of the game.

Down 2 coming into the fourth quarter, the C’s outscored the Kings 28-20 in the final period, with the biggest play coming from Horford: blocking a potential game-tying three from Demarcus Cousins with 5.8 seconds left in the game. Free throws from Isaiah Thomas and Horford helped seal the deal.

In an ugly game featuring 23 lead changes, the Celtics found a way to get it done. 

For a complete box score, click here.

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Stud of the night: Al Horford

While I could’ve chosen the C’s defense, Horford had his best game of the year, scoring 26 points, blocking six shots—including the game-winning block—and making four 3-pointers—all season highs. 

Dud of the night: The Kings 3-point shooting

The Kings shot 23.1 percent from 3-point territory—12 points lower than their season average—led by Cousins and Rudy Gay, who went a combined 3-of-14 from deep. On top of that, Cousins was the only King with more than 1 3-pointer. That’s just not going to get it done.

When the game was won: Al Horford’s block with 5.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter

Down six points, DeMarcus Cousins raced down the floor and cut the Celtics’ lead to 3 with 39.1 seconds left in the game. Moments later, Cousins tried to elicit a 3-point foul, but Horford had none of it, blocking his shot and sealing the win.

Blog Author: 
Manny Gomez

Nov 28, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) shoots over Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) during the second half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Cousins is the most dominant offensive big man in basketball. (Brad Mills/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics will get an up close-and-personal look at the player many believe is the biggest hope for them to transform their roster into an instant contender. 

DeMarcus Cousins entered Friday’s game fifth in the NBA in points (28.7) and rebounds (10.4) points while dishing out 3.2 assists per game. Before making just one of six from 3-point range against the Wizards last Monday, Cousins was on fire from deep, hitting 15-of-25 in his previous four games. He’s doing every any NBA team would want from a big man. In fact, he is arguably the most versatile big man in basketball. 

“He’s playing in space and attacking the basket and I think his 3-point percentage is pretty high in the last four games also so it becomes a kind of pick your poison deal when he’s out on the perimeter,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

“He’s a tough guy to guard,” added Brad Stevens. “A good example is, in a simple pick-and-roll what do you do? Usually with guys who shoot 40 percent (from three) you switch or mix in switches. With his size it becomes a lot more difficult because he can bury you in the post. He’s a great low post scorer and a good offensive rebounder, especially against guys who are smaller. He’s a handful.”

Cousins is under contract for this season and next, averaging $17.5 million per season. Cousins is averaging 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in his eight-year career. That puts him in hall of fame company over the last 20 years. Only Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson have averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for their career. 

After giving up 121 points on Wednesday to Detroit, Brad Stevens was asked before Friday’s game how comfortable he is with his team’s overall defense. 

“In the last three weeks we’ve actually been a little bit better,” Stevens said. “We were better on Wednesday than the score indicated, after I watched it. There were a few missed contests, a couple of moments in transition that were poor. But I thought it was pretty good. Detroit made great plays. Looking at it objectively with the sound off it was pretty obvious they played a hell of a game and we didn’t play quite as well. We’re focused on the things we can control. We have to shore up the rebounding. Then there’s little correctible things.”

Don’t blame the Kings if they were looking at the parquet a little suspiciously before Friday’s game. The last time they tried to play the court in Philadelphia was too wet from condensation to hold a game and the game with the Sixers had to be postponed. As a matter of fact, the Kings haven’t played since Monday when they lost in overtime at Washington, 101-95.

“We hadn’t played in two days so tried to scrimmage a little bit and keep our timing as much as possible,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. 

Joerger also praised the play of Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, who entered play Friday averaging 26.1 points, ninth in the league.

 

“He’s a good player. I’m very impressed with what he’s become as a player,” Joerger said. “He plays in a lot of space because their bigs kind of invert the floor being able to step out and shoot. So they have an open court. They don’t post up a lot. They play their post-up game and scoring in the paint off of drives and playing in space.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Kelly Olynyk drives against Andre Drummond (0) during the third quarter Wednesday at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Kelly Olynyk drives against Andre Drummond (0) during the third quarter Wednesday at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Don’t look now, but Kelly Olynyk has become an integral part of the Celtics offense.

Now the second-longest tenured player on the Celtics in his fourth season in the league, it appears as if the growing pains are starting to diminish by the game, with Olynyk finding ways to execute on both ends of the floor.

He furthered validated his value in the Celtics’ loss to the Pistons Wednesday night at the TD Garden. With 19 points, he was second-highest on the team in points, behind only Isaiah Thomas. In the process, he went 7-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 from 2-point territory.

“Felt good, got some open looks and kept rolling from there,” Olynyk said following the loss.

The 25-year-old Canadian’s style of play has always been something of an enigma. Standing at 7-feet, Olynyk has always been best utilized as a perimeter player. He led the Celtics in 3-point percentage last season, but can still pose a threat in the paint. That is often lost when judging Olynyk, largely because of the unsettling feeling of a 7-footer being best served as a perimeter player, especially on a team that gets dismantled nearly every night on the glass.

With that in mind, Olynyk’s game has never been to be a massive body in the paint. From his days at Gonzaga through his time in Boston, he’s a perimeter player who can stretch the floor and sidle into the paint and make plays.

“His ability to stretch the floor is big for us and he’s doing a pretty good job of picking his spots as well on seals and different post ups,” said coach Brad Stevens. “But at the end of the day what makes him different is his ability to stretch the floor.”

Averaging 23.2 minutes per game so far this season, Olynyk has found himself in double figures in half of his 12 games since returning to lineup after missing the first six games while rehabbing his partially separated right shoulder.

In the past two games alone, he’s scored 14 and 19 points respectively while shooting a combined 75-percent from the field, 71.4-percent from deep.

“It’s great to see,” said Al Horford. “He’s shooting the ball really well and he’s also a great passer, so it’s good to see him coming off the bench and having an impact like that.”

Added Jae Crowder, “He’s in a good groove right now, he’s spacing the floor and getting aggressive off the bounce, doing everything we need him to do. I think he’s playing really well for us right now and he’s been a spark off the bench.” 

It didn’t take long for Olynyk to find a groove, posting 19 points in his second game of the season. But now that his point-scoring has become more of a pattern, it’s becoming more and more clear that not only is his shoulder feeling fine, but this could be the version of Olynyk that will be showing up on a nightly basis.

“Yeah I mean I haven’t played basketball in six months. It takes a little to get back into it,” Olynyk quipped when asked if it took him a while to find a groove. 

Part of the solid stretch of late, however, has been his combination play with Jonas Jerebko. Both have found themselves in solid form off the bench, and it can be attributed largely to their synergy with one another.

“I think people are figuring out how to play and play together and anytime you can do that, that’s better,” Stevens said prior to Wednesday’s game. “[Jerebko] and Kelly have been a good combination for a while now, and I think that they kind of play and feed off each other.”

This season is an interesting one contractually for Olynyk. He was not signed to a long-term contract by the Oct. 30 deadline, an indication the Celtics are waiting to see how this season plays out before making a long term investment in him. 

“I didn’t expect to get (an extension),” Olynyk said following practice on Nov. 1. “We’re in a good position as a team here and got some room to do stuff in the offseason. It is what it is.”

If the former 13th overall pick keeps playing the way he is, he may give the Celtics no choice but to further their investment of him.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Nov 30, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics forward / center Al Horford (42) puts up a shot while guarded by Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) during the third quarter at TD Garden.  The Detroit Pistons won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Al Horford takes one of his only five shots Wednesday night in a loss to the Pistons. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

The first stat that jumped out at Brad Stevens when he looked at the white piece of paper with the box score on it was in the middle of the line for his $113 million man. 

The Celtics were able to get Horford just five shots in 31 minutes of play in his first game back from becoming a father for the second time. He wasn’t tired. He just didn’t get the ball. Why?

“That’s a good question, and that’s the first thing I saw when I looked at the stat sheet,” Stevens said following a 121-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons at TD Garden. “It’s not enough. I know that. So we need to do a better job of making sure that we help put him in position to be successful.”

Jae Crowder termed five shots for his fellow big as “unacceptable,” noting the team has to find better ways for Horford to get his shots. 

Horford had one most assist (4) than shots made (3). Horford’s a great passer for a big man but that’s not what they’re paying him for. 

“Yeah that has happened before,” Horford said. “I think that I probably could’ve got more shots but at the end of the day we needed to be better on the defensive end and we just didn’t get the job done on defense.”

The last time Horford playing a full game and took so few shots was last March 4 with the Hawks on the road against the Lakers. He was 2-for-5 in 26 minutes.  

The Celtics took a stunning 42 3-point field goal attempts on the night, including 10 from Jae Crowder (2 made) eight apiece from Marcus Smart (2) and Avery Bradley (4). Horford sensed that Detroit, with its bigs like Andre Drummond, were intent on doubling him in the post and allowing the Celtics to fire away from deep.

“It was probably the way that they were playing us a little more,” Horford said. “They would double me a lot and forcing me to pass the ball out or on the pick and pops when we’ve been able to give me the ball up top their guards were even switching that tonight. I think it was just a mixture of that. As a team we just have to make sure that we move the ball. When we have high assists usually we have good nights.”

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

The Warriors are currently the best team in the NBA. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

The Warriors are currently the best team in the NBA. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Here are this week’s NBA power rankings (as of Nov. 30).

1. WARRIORS (16-2): The collective fears of the 29 other NBA franchises upon Kevin Durant’s signing have all seemed to be well founded. This team looks superior to the 2015-16 version that set the NBA regular season wins record. The dubs have ripped off 12 straight wins, and sit firmly atop my power rankings.

2. CAVALIERS (13-3): The defending champions certainly have a strong argument for the top spot in the power rankings. Kevin Love has had a basketball renaissance of sorts, averaging 22.3 points per game, six points higher than last season. This team is far and away the class of the Eastern Conference.

3. SPURS (15-4): The retirement of Tim Duncan has had seemingly no affect on the Spurs in terms of them being right in the thick of the best teams in basketball conversation. Kawhi Leonard is a top-five player in the NBA, and few players can impact the game on both sides of the ball like he can.

4. CLIPPERS (14-5): The Clips hot start has taken a hit with a three game road losing streak, including an inexplicable double OT loss to the lowly Nets. Despite that, the Clippers have too much talent and are too well coached to not bounce back.

5. RAPTORS (12-6): Demar Derozan has come back down to Earth a little bit after a torrid scoring start to the season. The Raptors boast perhaps the second best backcourt in the NBA to the Warriors, and will go as far as Lowry and Derozan can take them.

6. ROCKETS (11-7): The James Harden point guard experiment is off to a rousing success. The Beard is averaging a league best 11.9 assists per game, and scoring in the top-five as well. The problem for Houston though is after Harden, the cupboard is pretty bare.

7. THUNDER (12-8): Oklahoma City’s success begins and ends with Russell Westbrook. Fortunately for them, Westbrook is in the midst of what could be a historically great individual season in the NBA. Westbrook is averaging a triple-double, something that has not been done this late into a season since the great Oscar Robertson in the 1963-64 season.

8. CELTICS (10-8): An up-and-down start to the season due mostly to injuries to Al Horford and Jae Crowder seems to be turning itself around as the C’s have won four of their last six games. Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley are enjoying career years, but the Celtics inability to rebound could prove to be this team’s undoing.

9. BULLS (10-7): The Bulls have fared better than many pundits expected at this point in the season, largely in part to another leap in the game of Jimmy Butler. Butler is fifth in the league in PER, ahead of players like Steph Curry, Chris Paul, and Lebron James.

10. JAZZ (11-8): The Jazz might be a little too low on this list, but I’m not convinced yet. A recent four game losing streak was followed by a four game (and counting) winning streak. Offseason acquisition George Hill is averaging a crazy nine points better than his career average, if that lasts, the Jazz will rise quickly.

11.GRIZZLIES (11-8): The Grizz have been playing excellent basketball of late, including a recent 6 game win streak. However their hopes to stay alive in a highly competitive Western conference just took a major hit with the announcement that point guard Mike Conley will miss at least six weeks with a fractured vertebrae.

12. HORNETS (10-8): The fighting Michael Jordan’s, like several other teams on this list, started hot and have cooled off of late. Kemba Walker is playing at an all star level, but the Hornets are in desperate need of a second reliable scorer.

13. PACERS (9-10): A trendy pick for a bounceback season, the Pacers have been the model of inconsistency. Losses to the Nets, Suns, and 76ers have been paired with wins over the Cavs, Clippers and Thunder. Larry Bird is probably tearing what’s left of his blonde locks out

14. HAWKS (10-9): The Hawks have dropped six of their last seven games on the road and their quick 9-2 start to the season is starting to seem like a distant memory.

15. LAKERS (10-10): Some argued that Luke Walton should have had some coach of the year consideration last season in his stint filling in for Steve Kerr. This season, with a team all of his own, coach Walton should be the early front runner for his work turning around what was an awful Lakers team last year.

16. PISTONS (10-10):The Pistons have been a superb 7-2 at home this season, the only problem, they’ve been an abysmal 3-8 on the road. The return of point guard Reggie Jackson who just was cleared to practice should help.

17. BUCKS (8-8): A team that some thought might make a leap has remained pretty much stagnant this season. A gruesome injury to Khris Middleton that may keep him out all year certainly didn’t help, but the fact that the Bucks are getting next to nothing from Greg Monroe is a killer.

18. KNICKS (9-9): I’m not sure this is what Derrick Rose had in mind when he dubbed the Knicks as a super team. If anything, the Knicks are a super average team. Carmelo can still score, Porzingis is absolutely the real deal, but it seems to be increasingly obvious the mix of players in New York is not a good fit.

19. TRAILBLAZERS (10-10): Out in the pacific northwest, the Blazers were hoping to build on a 44 win season. Thus far though, the Blazers haven’t been able to find their rhythm. The Lillard and McCollum backcourt is still giving teams fits, but Portland lacks any real quality wins since early November against the Grizzlies.

20. PELICANS (7-12): There are one man teams, and then there is the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis is doing all he can night in and night out to try to drag this Pels team to victory. Unfortunately for him he’s not getting much help. Sixth overall pick Buddy Hield shooting 23 percent from three certainly is not getting the job done.

21. NUGGETS (7-11): The Nuggets find themselves in a place they’ve been many times before…the dreaded no man’s land territory of the NBA. They aren’t bad enough to be amongst the bottom teams, and they aren’t good enough to make a playoff run. Strong starts to the season by youngsters Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray certainly gives Denver fans some hope for the future.

22. KINGS (7-11): New season, same story line for the Kings. Will Demarcus Cousins be traded? The All Star center continues to put up great numbers but the team can’t convert that into wins. It’s looking more and more apparent that Sacramento might be best off blowing it up and starting from scratch.

23. TIMBERWOLVES (5-13): The young and extremely talented T-Wolves are still very much a work in progress. While Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns continue to shine night in and night out, the losses keep piling up.

24. WIZARDS (6-11): On paper the Wizard’s starting 5 actually looks pretty good. John Wall and Bradley Beal are both scoring in the 20’s and Otto Porter has been contributing. The issue for Washington, is that when they turn to the bench, all hell breaks loose. The Wizards’ bench is averaging 23.7 points  per game, second-worst in the NBA.

25. MAGIC (7-11): A recent four game skid was stopped by a very impressive win in San Antonio. That however doesn’t change the fact that the Magic lack a true scoring threat, and until they acquire one (or two), they’ll continue to struggle.

26. HEAT (6-12): This Miami team is virtually unrecognizable from the Heat teams of recent years. With Dwyane Wade gone to Chicago, Hassan Whiteside is the alpha dog in South Beach. Injuries to Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow have hampered them, but even when fully healthy, this Heat team just isn’t very good.

27. 76ERS (4-14): The team that has been the laughing stock of the NBA the past few years, is for the first time showing signs of life. Not many signs mind you, the basketball equivalent of the wiggle of a big toe, but it’s enough to keep them out of the bottom three of the rankings. Philadelphia fans can thank the play of Joel Embiid who has been nothing short of phenomenal in his rookie season.

28. MAVERICKS (3-14): The Mavs will almost certainly finish the season under the .500 mark for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. Despite major offseason additions of Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes, Dallas seems destined to finish the season towards the bottom of the standings.

29. SUNS (6-13): Nobody expected the Suns to be good this year, and they are dutifully complying with that assessment. Losses to Philadelphia and Brooklyn should probably put Phoenix in the last spot, but the talent they have in their backcourt just squeaks them above the Nets.

30. NETS (5-12): Some early victories had Celtics fans in a state of shock, that quickly wore off however after a 7 game losing streak. Even a gutsy double OT win over the Clippers can’t mask the severe lack of talent on this team. Expect Brook Lopez to be on the move soon, leaving Brooklyn with even less NBA level talent.

Blog Author: 
Jet Striar

The Celtics take a remarkable 42 3-point shots and play little defense and a home-court loss to the Pistons Wednesday night at TD Garden. Mike Petraglia and Josue Pavon have your recap inside TD Garden.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Celtics pushed and pushed, but couldn’t break through enough to take control, falling to the Pistons at home Wednesday night 121-114.