Updated: Feb. 1, 2007, 6:18 PM ET

This division is laboring

I can't remember when a division has been this down. There's a very good chance the Atlantic Division winner will finish the season below .500. All five teams were in action Wednesday, and three lost. Not a bad night for a shipwrecked division.

Which team will emerge from the wreckage that is the Titanic Division?

I like how Toronto is playing now, hitting the .500 mark at 23-23 with a win over the Wizards, led by a great player in Chris Bosh (34 points against the Wiz). I like their energy and enthusiasm, but I think the Nets (now 22-24 after absorbing a 24-point loss to Detroit) will be the better team down the stretch. Once they get Richard Jefferson healthy to complement Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, the Nets are still capable of playing great basketball.

The Celtics are the worst team in the worst division after taking their 13th straight loss, at the hands of Kobe's Lakers, falling to an NBA-worst 12-33. Draft day can't come soon enough for the green, right?

Yes, Celtics fans have long memories and know it can turn around quickly. The team was terrible in 1978 but that changed fast with the way the team assembled Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish and rebuilt a dynasty.

Those days seem far off now. The young players aren't progressing as fast as they hoped, and when they are ready, Paul Pierce may not be Paul Pierce. When I was in Denver we traded Antonio McDyess, Raef LaFrentz and Nick Van Exel. I know what Celtics president Danny Ainge is facing when he thinks about moving Pierce.

Boston is crossing the same nail-bitten fingers for Greg Oden or Kevin Durant that it once crossed in vain a decade ago for Tim Duncan.

And if the Celtics keep Pierce, they hope the development of the young guys intersects with Pierce playing at a high level.

On another note, it must be pointed out that Celtics announcer Mike Gorman actually said, "Back to Scal, he's got the hot hand ... he floats in a runner." Scalabrine scored 17 points.

Here's an interesting fact -- Brian Scalabrine possesses the top brain type for basketball, according to brain researcher Jon Niednagel. That's one of the reasons Ainge got him -- Scalabrine has a brain type similar to Jerry West, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan.

Heady company. But there haven't been enough smart moves in this division lately. Got some gray matter to offer the Knicks, now 20-28 after losing at home to the Bobcats?

The Knicks have to keep focused on Eddy Curry as their low-post threat and run their offense through him, remembering that Stephon Marbury has to return to being Starbury. Isiah Thomas has done a good job coaching this team. They've won a lot of close games and all their overtime games. That's not easy to do. David Lee has been a savior -- a double-double guy coming off the bench.

What should the 76ers, now 15-32 after beating the Hornets, do with Andre Miller?

They have to make a decision about Miller, a very underrated player. He's one of the top six or seven point guards and can be a valuable addition to several teams right now.

The Sixers probably would want to send him out West. They might look at him in a similar way that the Celtics are looking at Paul Pierce. Are you better off moving him now and maybe acquire a little cap space and add another choice? To me, that could be a viable option. It all depends where you think you are with your players.

So, could a Titanic team actually win a playoff series?

Any team from the Atlantic is dangerous because you might overlook them.

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We Can Kick, Stretch And Kick
Big
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun
The New Jersey Nets seniors dance team makes its debut performance during the Nets' 113-89 loss to the Pistons. Maybe Uncle Cliffy will join the action.


Boston's Run Of Shame

The Celtics have now lost 13 straight and the schedule is about to get tougher.

Most consecutive games lost (over two seasons)
24 Cleveland (3/19/82 - 11/5/82) (last 19 games -- 1981-82; first 5 games -- 1982-83)
Most consecutive games lost, one season
23 Vancouver (2/16/96 - 4/2/96)
23 Denver (12/19/97 - 1/23/98)

The Schedule:
FEBRUARY
Fri 2: LA Clippers
Tue 6: at Detroit
Wed 7: Miami
Fri 9: New Jersey
Sun 11: at Minnesota
Wed 14: Milwaukee
Tue 20: at Sacramento
Wed 21: at Phoenix
Fri 23: at LA Lakers
Sat 24: at Utah
Mon 26: at Houston
Wed 28: New York

-- ESPN



Just Like Peyton

Danny (Roswell, NM): What in the world were you thinking putting Phoenix ahead of the Mavs? Haven't you realized that the Suns are the Colts of the NBA?

Committee's counter: You know we don't follow American football, so we have to double-check this: Aren't the Colts one win away from a championship?

Logan (Rexburg, ID): The Suns are the only team in this league that has not lost a game by 10 points or more this year. They've either won or had a chance to win at the end of every game.

Committee's counter: Sounds like a bit of a reach, but an interesting reach.

See the full Marc Stein blog


Records At A Glance



Okur Keeps Utah Centered

Jazz top Spurs in battle of strong West teams


Bosh Power
Chris Bosh
Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images
Raptors forward Chris Bosh (34 points, 15-for-19 FG) stretched the defense in a 119-109 win over the Wizards.The All-Star forward even threw in a buzzer-beating heave from 56 feet after stealing an inbounds pass, giving Toronto a 17-point lead after three quarters.



Extreme Behavior
Mehmet Okur

Wednesday's Best
Jazz center Mehmet Okur: Steps up big with no Boozer. Drops in 31 points, including a key late 3, pulls down 11 boards in the win over the Spurs. Now that Dirk's stopped shooting 3s, perhaps the pre-eminent shooting big man.

Dwight Howard

Wednesday's Worst
Magic center Dwight Howard: Had six points and seven rebounds in a foul plagued 22 minutes. Fortunately, Darko and Bat Man bailed him out, and the Magic weren't tragic, topping the Bucks, 98-73.

Quote of the Day
"It would have been nice, but I don't think we need Dr. Phil to come talk to us."
-- Raptors coach Sam Mitchell noting Jose Calderon's absence from the sophomore All-Star team.

See how all 251 who played stacked up
Playoff matchups if season ended now

-- Andrew Ayres



Warriors Playing Like A Lottery Team

If the Warriors have any hope of repairing their 4-17 road mark and making a playoff push, they have to improve their defense.

Now.

Two games into a six-game road trip, Golden State is teetering on the brink of disaster because of its inability to stop anybody. The Warriors allowed 124 points on Tuesday to a LeBron-less Cavs team, and Wednesday they followed it up by allowing 115, including 70 in the first half, in another blowout loss in Atlanta.

Golden State played a soft, inactive 2-3 zone for nearly the entire half, standing with arms at sides while Atlanta's normally docile offense (which came in ranked 29th in Offensive Efficiency) piled up 67 points in the first 21:48.

In truth, a good offense might have put up 80 -- the Hawks missed several wide-open shots. Warriors coach Don Nelson insisted afterward that his team played hard and gave the Hawks the credit, but Golden State's veterans seemed miffed by the team's lack of energy.

On paper, the Warriors have four winnable games left -- Philadelphia, Charlotte, Indiana and Minnesota. But they don't stand a chance if they defend the way they did the past two games. And if they can't come out of this trip with a W, they'll return home 21-29 and headed for their annual lottery trip.

-- John Hollinger in Atlanta



For Suns, Hawks Are The Right Kind Of Bad

Chalk up one baby step on the road to respectability for the Hawks -- Wednesday's win gave them their first winning month of the Mike Woodson era at 8-7. This is good news for the Hawks . . . and great news for Phoenix. The Suns own Atlanta's first-round pick from the Boris Diaw trade, but it's protected if it's one of the top three picks. With the Hawks at 17-27, they're right where the Suns want them -- in the lottery, but likely not high enough to keep the pick.

-- John Hollinger in Atlanta



Elias Says

Ray Allen scored 36 points in the Sonics' loss at Houston and finished January with a league-high 30.4 points per game scoring average for the month, besting Dwyane Wade (30.3). Allen Iverson topped the charts with his 31.7 ppg average during November and Gilbert Arenas (34.1) was the NBA's scoring leader for December.

It's not unusual for a different player to lead the NBA in scoring average in each of the first three months of a season. In fact, it happened in both 2003-04 (Iverson, Peja Stojakovic and Tracy McGrady) and 2004-05 (Kobe Bryant, Iverson and Jermaine O'Neal).

But since 1975-76, there's been only one other season like this one in which the NBA had a different scoring leader in November, December and January, each with an average of at least 30 points per game. That was in 1983-84, when it happened in each of the first four full months of the season: Adrian Dantley in November (30.2 ppg for the Jazz), Mark Aguirre in December (32.3 for the Mavericks), George Gervin in January (30.6 for the Spurs) and Bernard King in February (32.9 for the Knicks).

Elias Says

 

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