These Guys: Sixers-Celtics for First Time in '11-'12

These Guys: Sixers-Celtics for First Time in '11-'12

We thought it was safe—well, borderline safe—to bury the Celtics earlier
in the season when discussing the Atlantic Division race. The C's were
5-9 through 14 games while the Sixers were 10-4, and the C's were 15-17
through 32 games while the Sixers were 20-12. But now the Celtics have
won five in a row while the Sixers have lost eight of their last ten
(yikes!), meaning that now the two teams are separated by just a game in
the Eastern Conference standings. Yup—if the C's beat the Sixers
tonight, they'll be tied on top of the Atlantic for the first time since
the second week of the season. Spooky.

Reports have it that Nik Vucevic and Evan Turner will be starting for
the Sixers again tonight, as they did in Milwaukee. [UPDATE: Thad Young is sick and will not play this evening, so Coach Collins said he will start Tony Battie to face KG and bring Nik off the bench] To say that the
experiment was not a resounding success on Monday would be a definite
understatement—the two went a combined 4-20 from the field for eight
points in a combined 49 minutes. Howard Eskin
reports that Turner, whose 32 minutes and 1-12 shooting night accounted
for most of that inefficiency, is now going to be a starter for the
remainder of the season—an oddly timed decision if true, considering not
just his lousy Tuesday performance but mysterious concurrent reports from Stan Hochman of the Daily News about "an explanation for Turner’s inconsistent play" which "one of these
days, the team, with Turner’s permission, will reveal...and then the
criticism will back off." Yeah, that's not weird or intriguing or anything.

Both Turner and Coach Collins addressed the mysterious reports before tonight's game, shooting them down entirely.

The Sixers have somehow avoided facing off against the Celtics thusfar
this season, but the two squads will of course meet four times before
seasons' end, and with the gap between the two not being as great as we
may have previously believed, the Ballers' performance in those four
games may end up deciding which of the two teams wins the Atlantic and
guaranteed home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The
C's have won the division easily in every season since Kevin Garnett
joined the team in 2008, and even though their team is older and much
thinner this year than in seasons past—especially up front—they still
have the Big Three and Rajon Rondo, who have proven over their five-game
winning streak to still be deadly when firing on all cylinders as a
foursome. (New add-on Brandon Bass, jump-shooting power forward, is
pretty good too.)

7:00 tip from the WFC. To win this one, we're gonna need a big
rebounding effort up front and some major defensive scrambling against
the prolific and ball-sharing C's—not to mention some much-overdue
late-game offensive production. “We shot 13 for 49 from the floor in the
second half," Coach Collins pointed out about Tuesday's performance in
Milwaukee. “I
mean, come on. Who are you going to beat?” Not many teams, and certainly
not the reigning Atlantic champ Celtics. Gotta beat the man to be the
man, ya know.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets crush Islanders, 7-0

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Unlike some other NHL teams coming off their bye week, there wasn't a spot of rust on the sleek Columbus Blue Jackets.

In their first game following a five-day break, the high-energy Blue Jackets blew out the New York Islanders 7-0 Saturday as backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo earned his first career shutout.

Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, and David Savard had a goal and three assists. Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored to help the Blue Jackets end New York's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Zibanejad scores in OT to help Rangers beat Devils again
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Rangers are finding ways to win, and the New Jersey Devils just aren't.

Moments after goaltender Antti Raanta stopped Kyle Palmieri on a breakaway, Mika Zibanejad scored 1:16 into overtime and the Rangers rallied to beat the Devils 4-3 on Saturday.

"I had to redeem myself after that letdown on the breakaway the other way," said Zibanejad, whose mistake gave Palmieri a chance to complete a hat trick. "Rants came up big and it's nice to see that puck cross the goal line once again and win the game."

The goal was Zibanejad's first in 16 games and it gave the Rangers their ninth win in 11 games (9-1-1). Struggling New Jersey got its fourth loss in five games (1-3-1) (see full recap).

Shaw's OT goal gives Canadiens 14th straight win over the Leafs
TORONTO -- Andrew Shaw scored 1:06 into overtime and the Montreal Canadiens beat Toronto 3-2 on Saturday night for their 14th consecutive victory over the Maple Leafs.

Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk had the other goals for the Canadiens, who increased their Atlantic Division lead to four points over Ottawa and five on Toronto. They are 3-7-1 in the last 11 games and 2-2-0 under new coach Claude Julien.

Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, including a breakaway by Auston Matthews in overtime. The 19-year-old Matthews scored twice to reach 30 goals in his rookie season, and Frederik Andersen was sharp with 25 saves for Toronto (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

Best of NBA: Noel scores 9 points, grab 10 boards in Mavs debut

DALLAS -- Harrison Barnes scored 19 points and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 points and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks ended a three-game losing streak by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 96-83 on Saturday night.

The Pelicans fell to 0-2 since trading for DeMarcus Cousins and pairing him with Anthony Davis.

Davis had 39 points and 14 rebounds but scored only 12 in the second half. Cousins finished with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Seth Curry scored 10 of his 13 in the fourth quarter to help Dallas pull away. His 3-pointer with 4:49 to play gave the Mavericks an 84-72 lead, and the Pelicans never got closer than six after that (see full recap).

Harden leads Rockets past Timberwolves in 142-130 shootout
HOUSTON -- James Harden had 24 points and 10 assists to lead the Houston Rockets to a 142-130 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves as both teams set season scoring highs in a Saturday night shootout.

Houston won for the sixth time in seven games, handing the Timberwolves their first road loss in more than three weeks.

Minnesota committed a season-high 25 turnovers that led to 38 points for the Rockets.

Playing against Houston's guard-heavy rotation, Minnesota went inside all night and outscored the Rockets 68-44 in the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns had 37 points and 22 rebounds, and Andrew Wiggins added 30 points (see full recap).

Bulls benefit as James sits with strep, beat Cavs 117-99
CLEVELAND -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points and Jimmy Butler recorded a triple-double, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 117-99 victory Saturday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played without LeBron James.

James missed the game with strep throat, and coach Tyronn Lue said he wasn't sure how long the Cavaliers would be without the four-time MVP. Cleveland struggled as it often does without its star - they are 4-19 without him since he returned to Cleveland in 2014, including 0-4 this season.

Chicago has won all three games against Cleveland this season. It took advantage of James' absence to win its fourth straight overall (see full recap).

George ejected, Heat stay hot with 113-95 win over Pacers
MIAMI -- Paul George had another frustrating night in Miami.

Hassan Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Dion Waiters added 22 points and the red-hot Miami Heat pulled away late to beat the Indiana Pacers 113-95 on Saturday night. Miami outscored Indiana 42-22 in the final 16 minutes, all with George watching from the Pacers' locker room after an ejection.

"It felt like a playoff-type game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said (see full recap).