Two months later, still Celtics!

December 31, 2007 6:01 AM
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The NBA season is two months complete and the story continues to be the play of the new-look Boston Celtics.

After playing a relatively soft early schedule it was expected that we’d learn more about the Celtics once they headed out West and played teams from the stronger of the two conferences.

Well, Boston began their Western swing with wins at Sacramento, Seattle and Utah heading into Sunday night’s game at the Lakers. That game was their fourth in five nights, providing even more of an early season test as to the legitimacy of Boston as a title contender.

Detroit appears to be the biggest threat to the Celtics for domination of the East. The Pistons showed their might in dealing Boston one of their three losses with their 87-85 win in Boston two weeks ago. The teams meet in Detroit this coming Saturday. The Pistons and Celtics are the only Eastern teams to have fewer than double-digit losses.

These teams have each won 9 of their last 10 games beginning the week but neither is the hottest team in the league. That distinction belongs to Portland.

The young Trailblazers begin the week riding a 12-game winning streak and just 1 behind Denver for the lead in the Northwest Division.

Only two Western teams, San Antonio and Phoenix, have also lost fewer than 10 games. The dominance of the West is again illustrated by the fact that 10 of the 15 teams are playing at least .500 basketball, compared to just six such teams in the East. Of course, the worst team in the league, Minnesota, plays in the West.

The Atlanta Hawks continue to play well and their 15-13 record has them with the fourth best record in the East. That fact may say more about the state of basketball in the Eastern Conference than it does about Atlanta’s improvement.

Here’s a look at three games to be played over the first weekend of the New Year.

Hornets at Warriors (Fri): Both teams are playing winning ball and are led by outstanding backcourt play. Baron Davis keys the high powered attack of Golden State while Chris Paul directs New Orleans. The Hornets are much better defensively than the Warriors yet both teams have been involved in considerably more UNDERs than OVERs in the past few weeks. UNDER.

Celtics at Pistons (Sat): This should be another preview of the Eastern Conference finals in the spring as the Pistons and Celtics have distanced themselves from the rest of the conference. We may get some insight into the mentality of the Celtics as they play on the road with revenge for a two point home loss to the Pistons in mid-month. Both teams have put up outstanding defensive numbers this season and come off Friday night games. The Celtics have the easier foe and are more likely to be the fresher team. And they should be small underdogs. CELTICS.

Cavs at Raptors (Sun): Cleveland has been a disappointment thus far and in fact would not make the playoffs were they to start based on the current standings. These teams have met twice this season with the home team winning both times, although the Raptors covered each game. Teams are content to give the Cavs’ LeBron James his points, but limit the output of his less talented teammates. Toronto has its own stud in Chris Bosh and fared very well at home over the past few seasons in these matinees. RAPTORS.