We were witnesses to how the Eastern Conference can matter again. All we need is for Boston to play a little better. The season has been humming along with a clear top-two strata in the East. It's been hard to see how any team may wedge in there along with New York and Miami.
Is it possible that the Celtics have entered the sweepstakes? They look a lot better since Avery Bradley's reentered the lineup. Meanwhile, the Knicks look worse since incorporating a certain power forward.
My, that was a testy game between New York and Boston. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Garnett were jawing and shoving throughout the 102-96 Celtics victory, and it culminated in a heated fourth-quarter exchange:
Apparently, it didn't end there. According to Al Iannazzone of Newsday, Anthony had to be restrained outside the Boston Celtics locker room after the game.
So long as the anger stays contained and the violence is only implied, this is a fun development. Also fun: Paul Pierce seems to relish trolling the Knicks with his celebrations after made shots.
If these teams meet again the playoffs, it could be legendary. Of course, the Celtics have to make it to the playoffs first.
Free Gordon Hayward already. I can't take it. Somebody, please explain why he's playing behind Marvin Williams and Randy Foye.
Check that, don't bother—it's inexplicable, as Hayward demonstrated loudly (again) on Monday night. The young Utah Jazz swingman claimed 27 points on 14 shots and was the main reason his team triumphed over the Dallas Mavericks.
Not only did Hayward key Utah's offensive attack, but he also made his team's block of the season:
This kid clearly has a lot of promise, and, like so much of Utah's roster, could become a star with big minutes. Keep tabs on Hayward.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a tough team to watch. They got killed by the Chicago Bulls, 118-92, while making many a miserable play. I'm recalling a sequence where Dion Waiters ignored a wide open Kyrie Irving, so as to go one-on-five and wildly miss.
On the bright side, Tristan Thompson is really coming along. I feared that the 2011 No. 4 pick might be a bust, on account of this strange tic where he always brings the ball down low after catching it.
He's weeding that flaw out of his game and looking a lot more fluid with the basketball. Thompson had 14 points on 50 percent shooting against a tough Bulls defense. He's averaging 14.6 points and 13 rebounds over the past five games.
Well, that was unexpected. After correctly relegating Amar'e Stoudemire to the bench, the Knicks seem to be softening on that stance.
This Beckley Mason tweet should make every Knick fan cringe:
Big crunchtime minutes for STAT alongside Melo and Chandler. Sign of things to come?— Beckley Mason (@BeckleyMason) January 8, 2013
Stoudemire was decent offensively, but his defense hurt the Knicks. More importantly, perhaps, was that his presence appeared to hurt Anthony's production.
Anthony missed 20 of his 26 shots against a rough Boston defense. When Stoudemire rides the bench, the floor is better spaced for what Melo wants to do. When Anthony doesn't get his space, he's more liable to, say, miss 20 of 26 shots.
It would be mighty interesting to see the Knicks toss out a Finals trip so as to spare STAT's feelings. It would also be mighty frustrating for New York fans.
Celebrate away, Washington Wizards fans. Don't mind me—you have every right to savor your team's fifth victory and not listen to my grousing.
My issue with the Wiz beating the Oklahoma City Thunder was in how they did it. OKC had plenty of wide open three-pointers, and simply missed in their 101-99 loss Monday night in Washington.
It was not unlike how the Wizards survived a barrage of wide open corner threes from the Miami Heat. Even in their victories, you can see just why the Wizards lose so much.
At least Bradley Beal gave even a hardened cynic like myself a reason to smile. Pretty cool game-winner from the rookie.