It's hard to believe the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks were a combined 54-110 less than two seasons ago -- especially when you consider that they have combined to win 39 games already this season.Starting with last season's first-round playoff series, any matchup between these two teams should officially be considered must-see television and Wednesday night's game in Atlanta was no exception.
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- Rosen: Howard gets better of Duncan
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- Rosen: Hawks not title ready yet
- Galinsky: NBA Power Rankings
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Through their first 25 games, the Pacers have already played the Celtics three times and the Cavs, Pistons, Magic, and Nets twice. They have also played home games with the Lakers, Hawks, and Suns and road games against Miami, Dallas, Houston, and Chicago.
The next eight games will be crucial to the Pacers postseason hopes because afterward they embark on a five-game West Coast road trip against the Nuggets, Suns, Lakers, Warriors, and Jazz starting January 5.
Paul Millsap recorded his 13th consecutive double-double in helping the Utah Jazz overcome a horrendous first quarter and a 22-point deficit and beat the New Jersey Nets 103-92 in East Rutherford, N.J. on Wednesday night.
The Jazz scored only seven points on three field goals in the first quarter but more than made up for it with a 72-point second half.
Millsap has been filling in admirably for the injured Carlos Boozer, who missed his 15th straight game with a strained left quad.
Millsap, the 47th pick in the 2006 Draft is a restricted free agent this summer and Boozer and center Mehmet Okur have opt-outs that would allow them to test the open market as well.
The question is not only whether or not the Jazz plan to re-sign all three but if they will instead choose to keep Millsap and allow Boozer to leave. Millsap is about three years younger than Boozer and wouldn't cost nearly as much -- allowing the Jazz the financial freedom to keep Okur as well.
Boozer has long been rumored to be heading to Miami but after signing James Jones over the summer the Heat would need to move either Jones, Udonis Haslem, Mark Blount or Marcus Banks to have any significant amount of cap space with which to sign Boozer -- even if Shawn Marion decides to play elsewhere.
Boozer made it known on Wednesday that he will opt out of his deal and test the free agent market where only a handful of teams currently have the type of cap space to offer Boozer a deal equal to or greater than the $12.66 million he would have made had he exercised his option with the Jazz for next season.
Portland, Atlanta, and Detroit will all have cap space but Portland and Atlanta already have young power forwards taken with the first few picks in the draft and Detroit might prefer to wait until 2010 and go after Amare Stoudemire.
Memphis and Oklahoma City will have cap space but would they choose to spend their money on Boozer? And would he really leave Utah to play for either of them? Wouldn't those teams be better off trying to sign Millsap to an offer sheet and having some money left over to sign another free agent?
Even if the Jazz were to re-sign Boozer I don't think it would discourage them from matching any offer that Millsap might get from another team. The question would then become whether or not the Jazz would be willing to pay such an exorbitant luxury tax bill for one season or if they'd prefer to either trade Andrei Kirilenko or allow Okur to leave should he decide to opt out as well.
As great as Millsap has been, the Jazz are only 8-7 with Boozer out of the lineup.
Vince Carter led New Jersey with 32 points. Next up for the Nets is a home game with the Mavericks on Friday in what will be Jason Kidd's first game against the team he led to consecutive Eastern Conference titles in 2002 and 2003.
It Takes a Thief
Chris Paul set an NBA record on Wednesday night when he recorded at least one steal in 106 straight games. Paul broke Alvin Robertson's 22-year-old record just before halftime.
Paul scored 19 points and dished out 12 assists in leading the Hornets to the 90-83 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. The Hornets entered the fourth quarter trailing 70-63 but managed to outscore the Spurs 27-13 in the final frame.
Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points and Tim Duncan had his own history-making night. Duncan grabbed his 10,000th career rebound and become only the fourth player to record 18,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 2,500 assists, and 2,000 blocks. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Shaquille O'Neal are the only other members of that prestigious club.
New Coach, Same Result
The good news for the Toronto Raptors was that they scored 33 points in the first quarter of their game with the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. The bad news is that they only managed to score 53 points in the remaining three quarters.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points and pulled down 10 boards and Jason Terry had 27 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds in the Mavs' 96-86 victory. The Raptors have lost three straight and are now 10-15.
The pressure is on Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo to make a move.
Josh Howard scored 20 points in his second game back since injuring his ankle in mid-November.
Jose Calderon extended his streak of 62 consecutive free throws made this season. The record is 97, set by Michael Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1993.
Next up on the list for Calderon is Calvin Murphy, who is in third place with 78 consecutive free throws made.
Elsewhere Ben Gordon connected on a four-point play near the end of regulation to help the Bulls force overtime against the Clippers in Chicago. The Bulls outscored the Clips 9-3 in the extra period and won 115-109. Marcus Camby had 19 points and 27 rebounds in the losing effort. Zach Randolph added 30 points in what would have been the Clippers fourth consecutive win.
Instead the Clippers are now 7-18 and 1-1 on their current four-game road trip. They finish up the on the road with a back-to-back Friday and Saturday against the Pacers and Bucks. LeBron James received a standing ovation from the Minnesota crowd in the Cavs' 93-70 win over the Timberwolves. James scored 32 points on 14-for-20 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. Al Jefferson led the Wolves with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Cavaliers improved to 21-4 while the Wolves dropped to 4-21. Elton Brand left Wednesday night's game between the 76ers and Bucks after dislocating his right shoulder when he landed on Bucks rookie forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
The Sixers bench stepped up in Brand's absence by scoring 49 points in the 93-88 victory. Lou Williams led all scorers off the bench with 25 points and Tony DiLeo improved his record to 2-0 as the Sixers interim head coach. Brand was scheduled to have an MRI on the shoulder after the game. The Detroit Pistons won their third consecutive game and improved their record with Allen Iverson to 10-9 in beating the Washington Wizards, 88-74. Iverson scored 28 points and Rodney Stuckey added 18 points while tying a career-high with 11 assists. Recent acquisition, Mike James, led the Wizards with 16 points in the loss.
One More Thing
After firing coach Reggie Theus, the Sacramento Kings seem to be headed nowhere fast. There are reports that general manager Geoff Petrie may try to trade Brad Miller, who has one more year on his contract after this one.
Wouldn't it make sense for Petrie to trade Miller and the final year-and-a-half of Kenny Thomas' horrible contract to the Knicks for Stephon Marbury?
The Kings can just release Marbury but they would get immediate salary cap space this summer in a market where most teams are trying to save money for 2010. There are going to be free agents this summer like Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom who the Kings would have a chance at signing. By trading Miller, the Kings could open up more minutes for Spencer Hawes and rookies Donte Greene and Jason Thompson to develop.
In keeping with their current strategy the Knicks would get two players with contracts that expire after next season and one in Miller, who might thrive in Mike D'Antoni's offense.
The Knicks currently owe the Jazz a first-round pick that's top-22 protected in 2009 but is unprotected in 2010. Since the Knicks won't finish with one of the NBA's top eight records it's safe to assume they'll be hanging on to this summer's pick. They should have no problem including the pick if Sacramento asks since whoever they get will only cut into their cap space for 2010 anyway.
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