|NBA power and sour rankings: Top 5, bottom 5||11.05.14 at 10:13 am ET|
In the NBA, the worst place to be is the middle of the pack. If you are not contending for a championship or tanking, in my mind, you are not relevant. Because of this, each week I will rank the top five and bottom five teams in the league. The rankings are based entirely on my own observations and opinions, so please feel free to call me names in the comments section.
1. Warriors (3-0)
Klay Thompson continues to score on and off the court. He dropped 41 points on the Lakers, signed a four-year max contract extension and, as recently reported, started dating Instagram celebrity Hannah Stocking. Personally, I would be more impressed if it was revealed Thompson was dating #AlexFromTarget. That dude got over 500,000 Twitter followers in about three days, which is damn impressive.
2. Grizzlies (4-0)
The Grizzlies are all about attitude, and it shows on the defensive end of the floor. They beat the Hornets 71-69 then held the Brow and the Pelicans to only 81 points. The Mike Conley injury is cause for concern, but the video of Tony Allen randomly smacking a cameraman is hilarious.
3. Spurs (1-1)
Even though they haven’t been spectacular during their first two games, the Spurs still are the reigning champs. Interesting storyline to pay attention to. The Spurs did not sign Kawhi Leonard to an extension before the deadline on Friday, allowing him to become restricted free agent at the end of the season. If I am Danny Ainge, I am offering Sugar K Leonard anything up to and including my daughter’s hand in marriage to get him to sign in Boston. Although there is little chance Pop and the Spurs let him go, a man can dream.
|Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter too much for Rajon Rondo, Celtics||02.09.14 at 8:17 pm ET|
Dirk Nowitzki scored 20 points and Vince Carter added 14 off the bench to help the Mavericks pull away for a 102-91 win Sunday night at TD Garden. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game win streak, which was one shy of the four straight at the beginning of the season.
That win streak in November put the Celtics at 4-4. Sunday’s loss dropped Boston to 18-34.
The Celtics were led by Jeff Green with 18 points while Rajon Rondo returned from a night off Friday and scored 15 with 12 assists. Green was rumored to be trade talks between Atlanta and Celtics vice president of basketball operations Danny Ainge while Rondo’s name was again in trade rumors involving the Knicks.
The Celtics could not overcome dreadful shooting Sunday night. They were down just six at the half, 44-38, despite shooting just 27.1 percent (13-of-48) from the floor.
The Mavericks pulled away in the third quarter, outscoring Boston 28-18 to take a 72-56 lead into the fourth. Avery Bradley (2-for-13), Jared Sullinger (4-for-13) and Green (6-for-15) highlighted the struggles of the Celtics. Sullinger extended his string of double-doubles to five games with 12 rebounds and 11 points, scoring a basket late in the fourth quarter to keep the streak alive.
Chris Johnson, signed to a multi-year deal on Friday, had a career high 14 off the bench for the Celtics.
Nowitizki had been averaging 28 points a game in his last six games entering Sunday’s contest but Dallas didn’t need him to be spectacular against a Celtics team that couldn’t find its offensive rhythm all night. Nowitzki was 7-for-16 from the field and his his three with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter put Dallas up, 81-58.
Dallas would build the lead to 24 in the fourth before a late Celtics run, sparked by the bench, cut the Mavs’ advantage down to nine, 98-89, with just over a minute left.
The Mavericks, who entered Sunday in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are making a push in the highly competitive conference. Sunday’s win on the parquet was their fourth straight and six in their last seven as they improved to 31-21.
The Celtics return to action Monday night in Milwaukee against a Bucks team that is currently leading the NBA Lottery race with a league-worst 9-41 record.
|Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley return for Celtics against Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas Mavericks||at 6:01 pm ET|
Rondo and Bradley both missed Friday’s win over the Kings, which ran Boston’s winning streak to three games, one shy of their season high.
Rondo sat out with general soreness after returning from ACL surgery while Bradley missed the game after twisting his right ankle against the Sixers last Wednesday. With the team traveling to Milwaukee for Monday night’s game, it’s unlikely Rondo will play in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
“That’s an above-me question,” Brad Stevens answered when asked when Rondo might be cleared for such activity. “Our trainers and medical staff and [Rondo will] get together. I would think it would be sooner rather than later, but I don’t know want to project a timeline.”
As for Bradley, he turned his right ankle in only his second game back from a five-game absence due to a sprain of the same ankle.
“I think he just twisted it again on Wednesday,” said Stevens before Sunday’s game. “He was 100 percent when he was playing Sunday and Wednesday, then twisted it or whatever, so it’s almost like, instead of a reoccurring injury, he just injured it again. I don’t think it’s a lingering thing by any means.”
Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 23 points in three games in February and has led Dallas to five wins in their last six games. He scored 38 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the team’s only loss (vs. Houston) in that stretch. How do the Celtics or anyone go about slowing him down?
“Nobody can answer that question with a straight face,” said Stevens. “Don’t know that anybody has, don’t know that anybody can. You have to mix up your matchups. You have to have different people guard him. You have to guard his pick-and-rolls differently. He presents a problem if you guard it in a traditional way, just because he’s a great shooter.
“He’s a great pull-up shooter and he’s probably one of the best two-point long-range shooters in the league — one of the very few guys that’s probably a great great shot for. Yeah, he’s a tough one to guard and he’s really playing at a great level right now, at whatever old he is, what is he 35 years old? He’s not showing signs of that right now.”
Vitor Faverani (knee) will miss his fifth straight game.
|Shortfall: Celtics come up short again in loss to Mavericks, Courtney Lee injures left ankle||03.22.13 at 11:12 pm ET|
Dirk Nowitzki scored 22 points and Brandan Wright added a team-high 23 – 16 above his season average – as the Dallas Mavericks handed the Celtics their third straight loss, 104-94, Friday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Celtics have lost five of seven and three straight for the first time since losing six in a row between Jan. 16-25.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass each scored 16 for the Celtics, who fell to 36-31 on the season. Adding to Boston’s misery was a left ankle injury to Courtney Lee, who rolled the ankle late in the fourth quarter. He had to be helped off the court and to the locker room and did not play in the final minute.
In his return to Dallas for the first time since signing with the Celtics as a free agent last summer, Jason Terry was held to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting. The appreciative Dallas crowd gave Terry a standing ovation when he checked into the game for the first time with 3:57 left in the first quarter. His former Mavericks teammates also applauded his returned on the Dallas bench.
The only Celtics player in double figures in the first half was Brandon Bass with 10 points. Boston had no answers for Vince Carter off the Dallas bench. Carter had 12 points in 12 minutes, a big reason the Mavericks were able to take a 55-44 halftime lead.
The Mavericks built their lead to as much as 14 twice in the second quarter.
Jordan Crawford hit a baseline three early in the third quarter and followed that up with a steal and reverse layup with 10:19 left in the fourth to cut Dallas’ lead down to six, 81-75. Crawford hit another tough shot – a baseline fadeaway – to keep the Celtics within six, 83-77, with just over nine minutes left.
But the Celtics couldn’t keep the Mavericks from responding and building the lead back to 11, 94-83, with three minutes left. Pierce hit a straightaway three with 2:59 left to cut the Dallas lead down to eight, 94-86. Green’s layup with 1:51 brought the Celtics within five, 97-92. The Celtics forced a missed shot by Carter but Knight got the rebound and kicked it to Carter, who then found O.J. Mayo, who knocked down the three to push the lead back to eight, 100-92, with 1:21 left.
Mayo then stole a pass on the next Celtics possession as the Celtics lost their third straight.
The road gets no easier on Saturday night, as the Celtics travel to Memphis to battle the Grizzlies. The Celtics return home for a Atlantic Division showdown with the Knicks on Tuesday night at the Garden.
For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.
|Talking Hoops, Episode 7: Bethlehem Shoals||06.18.11 at 10:15 am ET|
On the latest version of the Talking Hoops WEEI.com’s Paul Flannery is joined by Bethlehem Shoals the founder of FreeDarko.com and co-author of The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History.
Listen here: Talking Hoops, Episode 7
|Jason Kidd might just get another chance at a ring and C’s might get another chance at Mavs||02.05.11 at 10:53 am ET|
Ray Allen and the Celtics weren’t and neither was Kidd, who downplayed it afterward.
“It’s just two good teams playing and you just hope you can find a way to win on the road,” Kidd said. “If this were June, it’s a different story. But it’s only February.”
The Celtics saw history repeat itself as the Mavericks did to them on the road what they were able to do down in the heart of Texas on Nov. 8 – stop the C’s from running their offense down the stretch and execute theirs. The Mavericks won that game, 89-87.
The Celtics were up 87-82 with 1:58 left before the Mavericks ended the game on a 7-0 run.
“We were in the same position at home,” said Kidd. “We were down and we found a way to get some stops and made some big shots at home and that’s what guys were talking about on the bench, that look, we’re in the same position we were at home against the Celtics and we found a way to make some big shots down the stretch.”
None bigger, of course, than Kidd’s dagger with 2.5 seconds remaining. And now, Kidd and the Mavericks could be in the midst of another run at an elusive title. Kidd was with New Jersey when they lost in the 2002 and 2003 NBA finals to the Lakers and Spurs, respectively. The Mavericks were done in by Miami in the 2006 NBA finals.
Another reason is Dirk Nowitzki, who scored 14 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter. The Celtics had a 95-89 lead with just over three minutes left before Dallas ended the game by scoring the last 10 points and holding Boston scoreless on its home court for the final 2:43.
Tyson Chandler could very well be a missing link that 2006 team didn’t have. He was huge inside for the Mavs, who improved to 34-15 on the season. The big man finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds as the Mavericks swept the season series.
“You’ve got so many players that have been through it on this team, and been in that moment that any time any of those guys can step up,” Chandler said. “Jet [Jason Terry] has hit game-winners, Dirk has hit game- winners, Jason Kidd has hit game-winners. We’ve got options to go to down the stretch.”
The Celtics know all about options and could easily be seeing the Mavs again come June. Then, Kidd can talk even more about big games.
|Game 49: Mavericks at Celtics||02.04.11 at 11:19 am ET|
The Dallas Mavericks have been doing this for a long time. They have been a playoff team every year for the last decade, the second-longest current streak after San Antonio. Their run coincided with the emerge of Dirk Nowitzki as a big-time player and over the years he has remained the one constant.
Steve Nash gave way to Jason Kidd. Michael Finley and Josh Howard were eventually replaced by Jason Terry and Shawn Marion. Through it all, Nowitzki has remained, and despite his MVP season, he remains one of the NBA’s underappreciated superstars.
Nowitzki is having another phenomenal season, perhaps his best since his MVP days. His impact can be seen through his +/- numbers where the Mavericks are more than 22 points better with him on the floor, the highest margin in the league, according to Basketball Value. His impact was even more obvious when he missed nine games and the Mavs went 2-7 during that stretch.
They have since won seven of their last eight and are re-establishing themselves as one of the Western Conference’s prime contenders along with the Spurs and Lakers.
As great as Nowitzki has been, the biggest change has come from the Mavs’ never-ending search for the right complimentary players to put around him. That would be Tyson Chandler.
“He’s the biggest change on their team,” Rivers said. “Chandler has made them a defensive team. They have an anchor now. Just think, they have [Brendan] Haywood coming off the bench. That’s a big, deep basketball team.”
Chandler gives them 10 points and nine rebounds per game, while shooting 66 percent from the floor on a limited arsenal of dunks and put-backs. But it’s his defensive presence that has been the biggest factor, especially in their zone defense.
The Mavs are ninth in defensive rating, up from 12th the season before and 17th the year before that. Additionally, they only give up 20 shots a game at the rim — the second lowest total in the league after Orlando where Dwight Howard patrols the paint.
This may be the same old Nowitzki, but it’s not the same old Mavs.
Offensive Rating: 108.1 (Points scored per 100 possessions, 11th)
Defensive Rating: 104.8 (Points allowed per 100 possessions, 9th)
Pace: 90.2 (Possessions per game, 23rd)
Likely Starters: Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, Dirk Nowitzki, Brian Cardinal, Tyson Chandler
Injuries: Caron Butler (Knee, out), Roddy Beaubois (Foot, out), Peja Stojakovic (Knee, out)
Offensive Rating: 108.1 (12th)
Defensive Rating: 100.1 (2nd)
Pace: 90.8 (21st)
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